Have you heard this story . . .
There was a man who was traveling from one town to another. And along his journey a group of kids ran out to the road and began to mock him. They started calling him "baldy".
Now the man was tired and he didn't want to have to put up with the antics of these young kids, he just wanted to get to the next town and get some rest. He tried to avoid them but the more he tried to get away, the more they jeered and the more they jeered the more self conscious he became about his balding head.
He was embarrassed and he just wanted the kids to go away but they wouldn't.
And so he decided to call down a curse on the kids and at that moment, two bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the kids. And then he went on his way.
Now that is a great story line . . . justice at its finest.
But listen to this one . . .
There was a man who had a double edged sword that was about a foot and a half long and he carried this thing with him wherever he went. He had a special holster that he kept on his right thigh so that the sword could easily hide under his clothes. Yes, he carried with him a concealed weapon - he was a big NRA advocate.
One day, he went to king to pay tribute, to offer his respects.
Now, this king was fat. I'm not talking about a little overweight or big boned. I'm talking about morbidly obese. And he would sit on his oversized throne to receive the tributes of his people.
After the man had given his gift, he said to the king "I have a secret message for you but I can't tell you until everybody is gone . . . . this is top secret stuff"
The king dismissed the room of people and when they were alone the man came closer to the king and the king stood up in order to hear this secret message.
And as the man leaned over to whisper the secret message into his ear, he reached under his clothing, pulled out the sword and he plunged it into the belly of this king. He pushed it in so far that even his hand went into the king's belly. Not wanting to make a big mess, he quickly pulled his hand out but he left the sword inside and as he did, the fat closed in over it.
Well, there was nothing more that he could do - he couldn't get his sword back, so he just left, closing and then locking the door behind him.
Now that is a great story line . . . if you like gory stories.
But if you don't like gory stories than maybe you will like this story . . .
One day a speaker came to a house to give a lecture. Now this house was enormous. It was three stories tall and big enough to fit a few hundred people comfortably.
At the top of this room were windows to bring light into the room and the window sills were large enough for people to sit in and give a bird's eye view of the speaker. In some sense, it was the best seat in the house.
As the speaker began to talk and talk and talk, one of the men sitting in the widow sills began to dose off. The longer the speaker talked the more heavy the man's eyes became. The heavier his eyes became, the more his head began to bob and drop until finally he was in a deep sleep.
Now, this isn't good because he was three stories up and before anyone knew it, the man fell from the window sill "plop" right to the ground and he died.
Well, obviously the room became in disarray and like any good speaker who didn't want to lose control of his audience, the speaker began to make his way to where the man fell saying, "Don't be alarmed, don't panic, everything is going to be ok".
When he got to the place where the man was, he put his arms around him and somehow the man came back to life. Then they did what every man with a good story does . . . they grabbed a bite to eat, had a good laugh about the situation and everybody went home happy.
Now that is a great story line . . . everybody loves a happy ending.
But I have one more story I want to tell . . .
There once was a man who was imprisoned for what he believed and for what he was teaching. A group of his closest friends began to hold vigil for his release. Day in and day out they would pray to God above that he would be released.
One night when they were praying, they heard a knock on the door. They couldn't imagine who it could be- was it a friend coming to join the vigil or perhaps the police coming to arrest them for having the same beliefs.
One of the girls, who had been at the vigil, went to the door to see who it was. Now she didn't open the door in fear that it was someone she didn't want to let in but instead in a quiet voice she asked "who its it?" and to her surprise, it was the very man that they were praying about. He had been released from his bondage.
Well, you would think that she would open the door, let him and the party would begin but instead she was so excited that she left him standing outside as she went to the room full of people to tell them that their prayers had worked.
So he continued knocking, hoping that someone would let him in. Until eventually someone else came to the door and then the part began.
Now that is a great story line. . . not only is it humorous but it also has a happy ending!
I love stories because they have a way of capturing us and drawing us in. They have the ability to touch us in deep and personal ways.
While facts can give us information, stories have a way of piercing the soul because they address us on every level. They speak to our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our spirit, and our will.
In every story there are characters that we can connect with or situations that we can identify with - even if we aren't like that character or have never been in that situation. Because stories can unlock the imagination and they allow us to dream about what was previously unimaginable.
There is power to every story line.
Even God recognizes the power of story. Instead of giving us a book of facts, His word was given to us in the form of narratives and poetry. Even the writing of the law took place in the midst of the deeply compelling story of God's redeeming his chosen people.
And when the word became flesh and dwelt among us, He used stories.
Matthew 13:34 says, "Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable".
These parables were not simply cute stories created as good illustrations in a three point sermon. They weren't used to punctuate a point. The stories themselves revealed the hidden mysteries of God.
They didn't tell people what to think, they allowed people to unlock their imaginations and to connect to God in a real way by thinking for themselves.
Through story lines, God becomes more than just a distant character, he becomes alive and real.
Every story I told a few minutes ago, is found in the Word of God. And every one of these stories was intentionally put there for us to understand the character of God. Through these stories, we can see a God who is jealous to love his rebellious people. Who goes to great length to draw them closer to Him.
But through all of these stories we are reminded that we too are a part of this greater narrative.
You see, when we invite God into our lives through his son Jesus Christ, he gives you a story.
A story that is unique and powerful because your story, like the other stories found in his Word, is a pathway to creating faith.
People in our culture don't want to be told what to believe. They want to find out for themselves what truth is.
People in this culture don't want a list of facts that tries to convince them that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he longs to have a relationship with them.
People in our culture don't need us to argue with them about doctrine and theology. I can tell you from experience that it is a dead end road, which leads to claims of intolerance.
What people in our culture need are powerful stories about journeys of faith and struggles with God. Stories that bring meaning and understand. They need stories that they can identify with. Stories that are real.
And when you tell your story, you tap into the most powerful force of faith. As your story of redemption through Jesus Christ becomes their story.
So, what is your story line?