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God's Story, Your StoryThe Story
By Max Lucado
ZondervanCopyright © 2011 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhen God's Story Becomes Yours ...
The pint-size Joseph scurries across the church stage, wearing sandals, a robe, and his best attempt at an anxious face. He raps on the door his dad built for the children's Christmas play, then shifts from one foot to the other, partly because he's supposed to act nervous. Mostly because he is exactly that.
The innkeeper answers. He too wears a tow sack of a robe and a towel turned turban. An elastic band secures a false beard to his face. He looks at Joseph and chokes back a giggle. Just a couple of hours ago the two boys were building a front-lawn snowman. Their moms had to tell them twice to get dressed for the Christmas Eve ser vice.
Here they stand. The innkeeper crosses his arms; Joseph waves his. He describes a donkey ride from Nazareth, five days on the open road, a census here in Bethlehem, and, most of all, a wife. He turns and points in the direction of a pillow-stuffed nine-year-old girl.
She waddles onto center stage with one hand on the small of her back and the other mopping her brow. She limps with her best portrayal of pregnant pain, though, if pressed, she would have no clue about the process of childbirth.
She plays up the part. Groan. Sigh. "Joseph, I need help!"
The crowd chuckles.
Joseph looks at the innkeeper.
The innkeeper looks at Mary.
And we all know what happens next. Joseph urges. The innkeeper shakes his head. His hotel is packed. Guests occupy every corner. There is no room at the inn.
I think some dramatic license could be taken here. Rather than hurry to the next scene, let Joseph plead his case. "Mr. Innkeeper, think twice about your decision. Do you know whom you are turning away? That's God inside that girl! You're closing the door on the King of the universe. Better reconsider. Do you really want to be memorialized as the person who turned out heaven's child into the cold?"
And let the innkeeper react. "I've heard some desperate appeals for a room, but God inside a girl? That girl? She has pimples and puffy ankles, for goodness' sake! Doesn't look like a God-mother to me. And you don't look too special yourself there ... uh ... What was your name? Oh yeah, Joe. Good ol' Joe. Covered head to toe with road dust. Take your tale somewhere else, buddy. I'm not falling for your story. Sleep in the barn for all I care!"
The innkeeper huffs and turns. Joseph and Mary exit. The choir sings "Away in a Manger" as stagehands wheel out a pile of hay, a feed trough, and some plastic sheep. The audience smiles and claps and sings along. They love the song, the kids, and they cherish the story. But most of all, they cling to the hope. The Christmas hope that God indwells the everydayness of our world.
The story drips with normalcy. This isn't Queen Mary or King Joseph. The couple doesn't caravan into Bethlehem with camels, servants, purple banners, and dancers. Mary and Joseph have no tax exemption or political connection. They have the clout of a migrant worker and the net worth of a minimum wage earner.
Not subjects for a PBS documentary.
Not candidates for welfare either. Their life is difficult but not destitute. Joseph has the means to pay taxes. They inhabit the populous world between royalty and rubes.
They are, well, normal. Normal has calluses like Joseph, stretch marks like Mary. Normal stays up late with laundry and wakes up early for work. Normal drives the car pool wearing a bathrobe and slippers. Normal is Norm and Norma, not Prince and Princess.
Norm sings off-key. Norma works in a cubicle and struggles to find time to pray. Both have stood where Joseph stood and have heard what Mary heard. Not from the innkeeper in Bethlehem, but from the coach in middle school or the hunk in high school or the foreman at the plant. "We don't have room for you ... time for you ... a space for you ... a job for you ... interest in you. Besides, look at you. You are too slow ... fat ... inexperienced ... late ... young ... old ... pigeon-toed ... cross-eyed ... hackneyed. You are too ... ordinary."
But then comes the Christmas story—Norm and Norma from Normal, Ohio, plodding into ho-hum Bethlehem in the middle of the night. No one notices them. No one looks twice in their direction. The innkeeper won't even clean out a corner in the attic. Trumpets don't blast; bells don't sound; angels don't toss confetti. Aren't we glad they didn't?
What if Joseph and Mary had shown up in furs with a chauffeur, bling-blinged and high-muckety-mucked? And what if God had decked out Bethlehem like Hollywood on Oscar night: red carpet, flashing lights, with angels interviewing the royal couple? "Mary, Mary, you look simply divine."
Had Jesus come with such whoop-de-do, we would have read the story and thought, My, look how Jesus entered their world.
But since he didn't, we can read the story and dream. My, might Jesus be born in my world? My everyday world?
Isn't that what you indwell? Not a holiday world. Or a red-letter-day world. No, you live an everyday life. You have bills to pay, beds to make, and grass to cut. Your face won't grace any magazine covers, and you aren't expecting a call from the White House. Congratulations. You qualify for a modern-day Christmas story. God enters the world through folks like you and comes on days like today.
The splendor of the first Christmas is the lack thereof.
Step into the stable, and cradle in your arms the infant Jesus, still moist from the womb, just wrapped in the rags. Run a finger across his chubby cheek, and listen as one who knew him well puts lyrics to the event:
"In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1).
The words "In the beginning" take us to the beginning. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). The baby Mary held was connected to the dawn of time. He saw the first ray of sunlight and heard the first crash of a wave. The baby was born, but the Word never was.
"All things were made through him" (1 Corinthians 8:6 NCV). Not by him, but through him. Jesus didn't fashion the world out of raw material he found. He created all things out of nothing.
Jesus: the Genesis Word, "the firstborn over all creation" (Colossians 1:15). He is the "one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life" (1 Corinthians 8:6 NLT).
And then, what no theologian conceived, what no rabbi dared to dream, God did. "The Word became flesh" (John 1:14). The Artist became oil on his own palette. The Potter melted into the mud on his own wheel. God became an embryo in the belly of a village girl. Christ in Mary. God in Christ.
Astounding, this thought of heaven's fetus floating within the womb. Joseph and Mary didn't have the advantage we have: ultrasound. When Denalyn was pregnant with each of our three daughters, we took full advantage of the technology. The black-and-white image on the screen looked more like Doppler radar than a child. But with the help of the doctor, we were able to see the arms and hands and the pierced nose and prom dress ... Wait, I'm confusing photos.
As the doctor moved the instrument around Denalyn's belly, he took inventory. "There's the head, the feet, the torso ... Well, everything looks normal."
Mary's doctor would have made the same announcement. Jesus was an ordinary baby. There is nothing in the story to imply that he levitated over the manger or walked out of the stable. Just the opposite. He "dwelt among us" (John 1:14 NKJV). John's word for dwelt traces its origin to tabernacle or tent. Jesus did not separate himself from his creation; he pitched his tent in the neighborhood.
The Word of God entered the world with the cry of a baby. His family had no cash or connections or strings to pull. Jesus, the Maker of the universe, the one who invented time and created breath, was born into a family too humble to swing a bed for a pregnant mom-to-be.
* * *
God writes his story with people like Joseph and Mary ... and Sam Stone.
In the weeks before Christmas 1933, a curious offer appeared in the daily newspaper of Canton, Ohio. "Man Who Felt Depression's Sting to Help 75 unfortunate Families." A Mr. B. Virdot promised to send a check to the neediest in the community. All they had to do was describe their plight in a letter and mail it to General Delivery.
The plunging economy had left fathers with no jobs, houses with no heat, children with patched clothing, and an entire nation, it seemed, with no hope.
The appeals poured in.
"I hate to write this letter ... it seems too much like begging ... my husband doesn't know I'm writing ... He is working but not making enough to hardly feed his family."
"Mr. Virdot, we are in desperate circumstances ... No one knows, only those who go through it."
All of Canton knew of Mr. Virdot's offer. Oddly, no one knew Mr. Virdot. The city registry of 105,000 citizens contained no such name. People wondered if he really existed. Yet within a week checks began to arrive at homes all over the area. Most were modest, about five dollars. All were signed "B. Virdot."
Through the years, the story was told, but the identity of the man was never discovered. In 2008, long after his death, a grandson opened a tattered black suitcase that had collected dust in his parents' attic. That's where he found the letters, all dated in December 1933, as well as 150 canceled checks. Mr. B. Virdot was Samuel J. Stone. His pseudonym was a hybrid of Barbara, Virginia, and Dorothy, the names of his three daughters.
There was nothing privileged about Sam Stone. If anything, his upbringing was marred by challenge. He was fifteen when his family emigrated from Romania. They settled into a Pittsburgh ghetto, where his father hid Sam's shoes so he couldn't go to school and forced him and his six siblings to roll cigars in the attic.
Still, Stone persisted. He left home to work on a barge, then in a coal mine, and by the time the Depression hit, he owned a small chain of clothing stores and lived in relative comfort. He wasn't affluent, or impoverished, but he was willing to help.
Ordinary man. Ordinary place. But a conduit of extraordinary grace. And in God's story, ordinary matters.
Chapter TwoWhen God's Story Becomes Yours ...
YOU KNOW SATAN'S NEXT MOVE
If I were the devil, I'd be ticked off. Ticked off to see you reading a Christian book, thinking godly thoughts, dreaming about heaven and other such blah-blah-blah.
How dare you ponder God's story! What about my story? I had my eyes on you ... had plans for you. That's what I would think.
If I were the devil, I'd get busy. I'd assemble my minions and demons into a strategy session and give them your picture and address. I'd review your weaknesses one by one. Don't think I don't know them. How you love to be liked and hate to be wrong. How cemeteries give you the creeps and darkness gives you the heebie-jeebies.
I'd brief my staff on my past victories. Haven't I had my share? Remember your bouts with doubt? I all but had you convinced that the Bible was a joke. You and your so-called faith in God's Word.
I'd stealth my way into your mind. No frontal attacks for you. Witchcraft and warlocks won't work with your type. No. If I were the devil, I'd dismantle you with questions. How do you know, I mean, truly know, that Jesus rose from the dead? Are you sure you really believe the gospel? Isn't absolute truth yesterday's news? You, a child of God? Come on.
I might direct you to one of my churches. One of my "feel good, you're good, everything's good" churches. Half Hollywood, half pep talk. Glitz, lights, and love. But no talk of Jesus. No mention of sin, hell, or forgiveness. I'd asphyxiate you with promises of pay raises and new cars. Then again, you're a bit savvy for that strategy.
Distraction would work better. I hate spiritual focus. When you or one like you gazes intently on God for any length of time, you begin to act like him. A nauseating sense of justice and virtue comes over you. You talk to God, not just once a week, but all the time. Intolerable.
So I'd perch myself on every corner and stairwell of your world, clamoring for your attention. I'd flood you with e-mails and to-do lists. entice you with shopping sprees and latest releases and newest styles. Burden you with deadlines and assignments.
If I were the devil, I'd so distract you with possessions and problems that you'd never have time to read the Bible. especially the story of Jesus in the wilderness. What a disaster that day was! Jesus brought me down. Coldcocked me. Slam-dunked one right over my head. He knocked my best pitch over the Green Monster. I never even landed a punch. Looking back, I now realize what he was doing. He was making a statement. He wanted the whole world to know who calls the shots in the universe.
If I were the devil, I wouldn't want you to read about that encounter. So, for that reason alone, let's do.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
"'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. MATTHEW 4:1-11
Jesus was fresh out of the Jordan River. He had just been baptized by John. At his baptism he had been affirmed by God with a dove and a voice: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). He stepped out of the waters buoyed by God's blessing. Yet he began his public ministry, not by healing the sick or preaching a sermon, but by exposing the scheme of Satan. A perfect place to begin.
How do we explain our badness? Our stubborn hearts and hurtful hands and conniving ways? How do we explain Auschwitz, human trafficking, abuse? Trace malevolence upriver to its beginning, where will the river take us? What will we see?
Excerpted from God's Story, Your Story by Max Lucado Copyright © 2011 by Max Lucado . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION When God's Story Becomes Yours ....................17
CHAPTER ONE ... Ordinary Matters....................27
CHAPTER TWO ... You Know Satan's Next Move....................39
CHAPTER THREE ... You Find Your True Home....................53
CHAPTER FOUR ... You Hear a Voice You Can Trust....................65
CHAPTER FIVE ... You Won't Be Forsaken....................79
CHAPTER SIX ... Your Final Chapter Becomes a Preface....................91
CHAPTER SEVEN ... Power Moves In....................105
CHAPTER EIGHT ... The Right Doors Open....................119
CHAPTER NINE ... All Things Work for Good....................133
CHAPTER TEN ... God Will Come for You....................149
CONCLUSION ... You Will Finally Graduate....................161
Discussion and Action Guide....................171