2018.01.06 | What's Your Story? | Pt. 2, Every Story Has Characters

What’s Your Story | Pt. II, Every Story Has Characters

Before we start the sermon, like we said last week, we actually have all the sermon topics for the year prepared. So let’s give you a brief look at what we are covering this month in this series: 

12/30 Every Story has a Beginning

1/6 Every Story has Characters

1/13 Every Story has Conflict

1/20 Every Story has a Message

1/27 Every Story has an End

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

            27       So God created man in his own image,

      in the image of God he created him;

      male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

We started a new series last week and we are continuing it throughout January, “What’s Your Story?” And this sermon series is also our theme for the first half of 2019. And during this sermon series “What’s Your Story?” we are hoping to understand how our story connects with His story, how our lives connect with His truth, and how our world intersects with His Kingdom. The theme of this series “What’s Your Story” Finding my story in His story.

And we hope that this sermon series that we understand not just the theological story, but our personal story. Who are you? What are the components of your life that you need to understand with His truth for you to understand yourself? What is your personal story in God’s story?

Last week we started with Every Story has a Beginning. And we examined our beginning together. We examined the good and the bad, the pain and the values we’ve accumulated through our experiences. And we talked about how God might be using it to shape as today for His Kingdom. That none of our pain is meaningless, but meaningful in His eyes.

This week, we are moving on to the second part. Every Story has Characters. 

Today we are going to be talking about all the Rons, Hermoines, Dracos, and Hagrids

all of the Team Rockets, Nurse Joys, Officer Jennys, and Professor Oaks

all of the Regina Georges, Gretchen Weiners, and Karen Smiths

all of the War Machines, Pepper Potts, and Spider Mans.

Stories are filled with Characters. Life is full of people. And each person is unique. Have you ever sat down and wondered, “How is everybody I know so different?” Or do you have any friends that you just stare at and wonder, “How in the world did we become friends? We have nothing in common?” Have you ever thought about how wonderfully unique people are? It’s truly amazing and beautiful.

Even people who have common interests. Have you noticed how different everybody in the Bible is? You have Diligent Nehemiah, Brash Peter, Calculating Philip, Fierce Deborah, Sneaky Jacob, the Cowardly Streaker Mark, the Faith Filled Syro-Phoenician Woman, the Lilliputian Zacchaeus, and Mighty yet Hollow Samson. Everyone in the Bible is so different.

It’s no accident that God fills life with people, different and unique people. God made everyone so wonderfully unique. And He fills our lives with unique people, different people to teach us something. But what? What are we supposed to learn about God’s story and our story through the characters, the people, in our lives? And how should that change the way we understand our story and live in this real world?

1. For the Mind: The Trinity Loves Community

When I first became a Christian, I was an undergrad in College. And I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be a serious Christian! Not a lukewarm worldly Christian, but a serious Christian!” And I looked down on other Christians. “Oh they are so lukewarm! Look at them hanging out and having fun when this world needs Jesus! Shame!” And I would rebuke them and shame them and judge them. Because instead of hanging out, I was always spending time alone reading the Bible and praying. And I thought I was so much holier.

And for a time, I really grew spiritually. Because there is so undeniable power when spending time with God. But the spiritual growth quickly turned into spiritual death. At first, I was growing in my devotion to Jesus, but it all turned bad quickly. Soon, I was condemning others, judging others, looking down on others. I felt like other Christians, “less serious Christians”, were just holding me down! My intention was to draw nearer to God’s heart, but ended up getting further from His heart. If we are not careful, private devotion quickly turns into spiritual isolation. And the more I “devoted” myself to God, the more I distanced myself from people. And at the time I couldn’t see it in myself, but I was actually getting worse spiritually.

One day I was reading the Bible, and as I went through the Gospels and looked at Jesus, I noticed that I looked nothing like Jesus. Because Jesus genuinely loved people. Everywhere Jesus went, He genuinely loved people. I was the opposite. I was genuinely annoyed by people, bothered by people, and even condemning people. But Jesus genuinely loved people. I was disillusioned with people, discouraged, even disgusted by people. But Jesus delighted in people. My private devotion turned into spiritual isolation, my spiritual isolation led to spiritual death because I forgot something very important: Community is in the nature of the Trinity

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 

27       So God created man in his own image,

      in the image of God he created him;

      male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

Notice how God says “us” make man in “our” image. God references Himself in the plural form. Now, grammatically, this does not once and for all prove God’s Trinitarian nature. Because grammatically, the Bible could just be using the plural as a way to honor God. However, theologically, this fits into what we know about the Trinitarian nature of God as expressed in other places in Scripture. So by itself, this one verse does not grammatically prove the Trinity. But theologically, when we look at the entire Bible, we see that this verse does carry Trinitarian implications.

We see a similar thing in 1 John 4.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8

You can’t say, “I am a generous” if you were the only person in the universe. You also can’t say, “I am vengeful” if you were the only person in the universe either. Because these need descriptions need recipients. You can’t be vengeful if there is no one to avenge or no one who wrongs you. You can’t be generous if you there is no one or nothing to receive anything from you.

And in the same way, you can’t be loving if you are the only person in the universe, you need someone to receive love for you to be loving. And the Bible teaches over and over that God is love. If God is fundamentally loving, that means God fundamentally had a way of giving and receiving love, fundamentally, before Creation, before anything else existed. God fundamentally had a way of giving and receiving love. And if this is fundamental, before any type of Creation, this is only possible through His Trinitarian nature. God the Father loves God the Son, God the Son loves God the Spirit, God the Spirit loves God the Father. Love is fundamentally part of the nature of God. Therefore, Community is fundamentally in the nature of the Trinity.

And that’s why I was spiritually falling apart when I cut myself off from community and tried to grow in spiritual isolation.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3

This is eternal life, knowing God. By rejecting community, I was refusing to know God. When I rejected community, I rejected part of the essential nature of God Himself. Because God is a community.

Now, having said that, I know sometimes we feel like, “Fine! I guess the Trinity is a community! Then why do I still have to spend time with people and love people? If I need community, then why can’t I just join the Trinitarian community and ignore the human community?” Right? Wouldn’t it be cool if you and the Trinity had your own special club with no one else allowed? Why do we need a human community when we already have a Divine community>

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

It’s because the Trinitarian community loves humanity. And it’s mindblowing. Because many times, I don’t think I am worth the love of the Trinity. I am so evil and wicked and sinful. And when I see what humans do to each other, what I do to others, I can’t help but hide in shame when I think of His love for me.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

But the Trinity loved us, even when we were still in our sins. Even when we couldn’t offer Him anything, He still loved us. Even when He would receive no benefit from me, He loved me. The Trinity loves humanity, not because we deserve it, but because He is love.

Going back to my opening example about myself and my spiritual isolation, that’s why I weakened spiritually. It’s because I was rejecting a central part of God’s heart: love for community. Those who truly love community understand God’s heart. And I cannot stress this enough. And I want you to understand how strongly God Himself stressed this. It doesn’t matter how mature you think you are in God. If you are immature in love, if you are immature in community, you are immature in knowing God and devoting yourself to God. 

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…

 

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7-12, 19-21

You cannot separate loving God and loving people. Because the Trinity loves Community.

So let’s just start there. God brings people into our lives, different unique characters it seems, so that we can share and experience what He has in the Trinity: Love and Community. And through Community, the Trinity is teaching us what love is and how to share and receive love. The Trinity wants us to join in God’s nature, join in God’s love, join in God’s fellowship, join in God’s friendship. Community is about recreating and experiencing the life within the Trinity.

So that’s the first point. This is why God brings so many people into our lives. So we can share that love that He has with each other. That we can experience the love and joy and holiness and goodness He experiences within His triune nature. Our relationship with people are actually opportunities for us to share “God-like” love together. 

2. For the Heart: Isolation Does Not Heal Heart Issues

Ok, if love and community are necessary, not optional, for healthy spiritual growth, how do we do it? Because it’s hard! Let’s be very real. When you open your heart to people, it’s going to get hurt. Sometimes you open your heart to people and they deeply wound you. Other times, you open your heart to someone, and they love you back, but then they are taken from you through either loss or other circumstances. How can we open our hearts to people knowing that pain is inevitable?

Now that we see that love and community are necessary, not optional, parts of growing healthy spiritually and that isolation hurts our growth, how do we do it?

Well let’s look at an unhealthy way first.

Last year Feb 2018, National Geographic explored the life of people in Japan called Hikikomori. According to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the guideline and definition is “a situation where a person without psychosis is withdrawn into his/her home for more than six months and does not participate in society…” A large part of this isolation, avoidance of social interaction, escape from social situations. These are people who have completely isolated themselves from society and withdrawn themselves into their rooms. There are more than 550,000 documented Hikikomori in Japan, but since they avoid social situations, there are estimates close to about 1 million.

And notice that the Japan’s Ministry of Health makes it clear, that it’s not because of psychosis. Many times, it’s the pressure, the stress, the expectations, the burdens, the pains, etc. Isolation just seemed easier than confronting life and society.

Now when you look at these photos, I want you to feel love and sympathy. I want you to try to understand them. These are not weirdos. These are real people, normal people who broke down. I have a lot of sympathy for them.

Haven’t we all had moments in our lives when we just wanted to completely isolate ourselves? We know it’s unhealthy, but haven’t we all had moments when we wanted to reject all community, society, and just live in unhealthy isolation. We know it is unhealthy. But it’s tempting right sometimes? It’s so tempting to just raise all the walls and shut everyone out.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

1 Kings 19:1-4 

Long story short, Elijah just did an amazing miracle before King Ahab. And Elijah was hoping this would make the nation of Israel and everyone turn back to God. Israel doesn’t turn back to God. And King Ahab, instead of repenting, tells his wife Queen Jezebel. And King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are notoriously wicked. And instead of repenting, they decide that we need to kill Elijah. Now notice Elijah’s reaction. Elijah just stood against Ahab and Jezebel and did a miracle. Elijah should be full of faith. He should be like, “Ya, want round 2?!”

But this time Elijah was discouraged and disappointed. You see in verse 4, “Lord, take my life. I am no better than my fathers.” Elijah is discouraged because the people didn’t turn back to God. He is disillusioned because of the people. He is so disillusioned and so despairing that he just says, “God, kill me.”

And to pause and I want you to see how real the Bible is. The Bible is talks about real heart issues, real pains. The Bible really understands our discouragement with people. And notice who is despairing. It’s not some wishy washy lukewarm backsliding believer. This is the great Elijah, one of the greatest Prophet in the Old Testament. And he is so disillusioned that he wants to just die. Elijah ends up abandoning his ministry and heads on an isolated and unauthorized journey to the Mountain of God. Elijah leaves everyone behind. He isolates himself and leaves everyone behind and goes to Mt. Horeb. And when Elijah arrives, God confronts Elijah, “What are you doing here?” God is asking this question not to gather information, but to confront Elijah. “Elijah, why are you here? You have a prophetic ministry down there. Why are you here? 

13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

1 Kings 19:13-18 

And you see some very deep things here. First of all, God is saying, “You can’t be a prophet if you aren’t with the people. Elijah, if you are here, then who is doing the work of ministry down there, where they need you?” If you look carefully, this is actually the end of Elijah’s prophetic ministry. That doesn’t mean that God leaves Elijah. Later on God actually honors Elijah with a supernatural honor, and God does it twice, once at Elijah’s “death” and the second at Jesus’s transfiguration. So God still loves Elijah and honors Elijah. Yet at the same time, this is the end of Elijah’s ministry as a prophet.

And notice the last thing God says. There are 7,000 other believers in Israel. And Elijah kept saying, “I am the only one! I am the only one!” But Elijah was just focused on himself and isolating himself that he wasn’t looking at every one else who was also trying to live faithfully. And in his self pity and isolation, Elijah abandoned all of them when they needed a leader. Self-pity and isolation kept Elijah from finishing his ministry well. Elijah abandoned his people and his ministry when he became disillusioned with them. He hardened his heart and isolated himself.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

C.S. Lewis 

So how can we open our hearts again to people, knowing that they will disappoint us, hurt us, and even leave us? How can we deal with our heart issues so that we can embrace love and forgiveness instead of isolation and self pity?  

16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me…

2 Timothy 4:16-17

Paul was in prison. This is the last letter Paul is going to write before he is executed. And in this moment of need, on his trial date, no one showed up to support him. Everyone deserted him. Now imagine how much Paul sacrificed for the Church. Imagine how much he gave, not just his money and resource, but his very life for the Church. And no one showed up. How much that would discourage Paul, disillusion him, deeply wound him. But look at Paul’s response! “May it not be charged against them!” Paul

Paul is full of love and forgiveness. How? The Lord stood by Him and strengthened Him. And we get a glimpse into Paul’s world in an earlier letter Paul wrote. He wrote it to the Philippian Church.

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

Philippian 3:10 

Paul learned that his sufferings, even his sufferings with people, are not fundamentally his cross to carry. Rather his sufferings with people is actually just a glimpse into Jesus’s sufferings. Paul in his moment of pain, that the focus is not getting Jesus to understand Paul’s pain, but Paul to understand Jesus’s pain.  

Because Jesus knew the pain of being deserted. Paul was deserted by other Christians. But Jesus was deserted by His disciples, His best friends, His creation. Jesus, is God, but on the cross He died, deserted by humanity. And on top of that, on the cross of Christ, Jesus experienced God turning away from Him. And imagine how much that hurt Jesus. Forsaken by God.

And that is how the Lord Jesus strengthens Paul when he is hurt by people. By letting Paul draw a little bit deeper into Jesus’s own heart. By letting Paul understand a little bit more of Jesus’s hurt, Jesus’s experience. That Paul has the honor of sharing even a small intimate experience with Jesus.

Elisabeth Howard was a powerful woman of God. She always wanted to be a missionary. She married a young man Jim Elliot. They served together as missionaries after they got married. They were powerful for the Lord. The two of them, along with several other missionaries friends, worked with the native tribes to share the Gospel. 2 years into their ministry and marriage, Elisabeth became pregnant and gave birth to their daughter, Valerie Elliot. However, less than a year later, Jim Elliot was murdered by the tribe he was evangelizing to. Valerie was only 10 months old and Elisabeth was now a widow.

Elisabeth chose to stay on the mission field, evangelizing and raising her daughter. She eventually returned to America and eventually remarried a seminary professor. He passed away too after only 4 years. She kept going and she became a professor as well. She continued to live powerfully for the Lord and became a writer and speaker, faithful till the end. 

To love means to open ourselves to suffering. Shall we shut our doors to love, then and 'be safe'?

Elisabeth Elliot

The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.

Elisabeth Elliot 

When you open your heart to people, you will be hurt. Whether it is through their sins, unmet expectations, or through losing them. Open your heart to people and it will be hurt. But the safest place for your heart is not in isolation, but in Christ.

3. For the World: Life is about Love

Ever since I became a Christian, I try to be very diligent and hard working with how I spend my time. The book of Proverbs told me to not be sluggard. And I read a bunch of Christian books that told me things like, time is a resource that could not be saved, only spent; therefore, spend it intentionally and wisely. We are all born with a limited amount of time, and no one knows how much we have left. Therefore, there is nothing more precious than my time. I had to guard my time to guard my life.

On top of this need to protect my time, I am also a very focused man. This is one of the reasons why I do not like being interrupted while I am working. I love working and being productive for the Lord. I love to produce good things to help others. Interruptions break my focus, break the flow I was in, and rob me of my precious time. 

Unfortunately, my mom is very different from me and finds no problem in interrupting me. A while back, I just finished Finals in Seminary and I was tired but I had to keep working on a lot of Church work and Retreat preparations when she burst into my room (unannounced as usual) and said that I had to make kimchi right now. I tried to ignore her. But she said, “You have to come down right now! It’s important! I bought way too much cabbage! We need to do this right now!” And so I quickly prayed, “God, what do you want me to do this in this moment?” Sure enough, when I went downstairs, there was a miniature mountain of cabbage waiting for me in the sink. I was livid.

I kept washing the infinite supply of cabbage while my mom danced around singing songs, pleased with the free labor from her son. In my frustration, I refused to speak. However, after about a half an hour, I started to relax. I was getting good at washing cabbage. By the end of it all, I realized it wasn’t so bad. It only took an hour and my mom was happy and deep inside, I think I was too. And when I went back to my room, I prayed. And I realized what God was teaching me.

29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:29-31

Before this time, I was so focused, so angry, so uptight in guarding my time. By rejecting people and avoiding people, I was not guarding my life, I was guarding myself from life. Life is about relationships. And our verse in Mark reminds us of that. Our goal in life is to love God and love people. Life is a relationship with God and people. That’s all it is.

In 2017, the Today show did an episode about the top regrets senior citizens have. It was compiled by a gerontologist at Cornell University. And it went over their biggest regrets in life. I wrote down the 8 that they put in their article and I summarized it so that it fit their descriptions and so it is easier to understand.

1.     Not Being Careful Enough When Choosing a Life Partner

a.     This one might be because this generation that was interviewed still has a reputation of getting married after like a week or a month of knowing the person. Anyway, what they said was that they wish they were more patient and less impulsive.

2.     Not Resolving a Family Estrangement

a.     This one was things like when they have a rift with a child or a cousin or a sibling and they drift apart. A fight or argument that seemed so big at the time doesn’t seem so big by the time you are 80 years old, and they wish they forgave each other instead of drifting apart.

3.     Not Expressing their Love and Gratitude

a.     This one was actually a big regret among older men, because they didn’t say “I love you” enough to their wives. And they regretted how little they expressed their love. They wish they could have asked for forgiveness, apologized, or expressed gratitude when they still had the time.

4.     Not Traveling Enough

a.     They said travelling is something we usually put off until we have a lot of time and money. But that almost never happens. And if it is after retirement, then we can’t really enjoy it. Travel.

5.     Spending Too Much Time Worrying

a.     The elders regretted spending so much of their lives worrying about things that never happened or things that they had no control over.

b.     “Life is so short. What you will regret is weeks or months of the kind of mindless, self-destructive ruminating worrying that people do,” many told Pillemer. “You’re going to wish you had that time back.”
Karl Pillemer

6.     Being Dishonest

a.     The elders really regretted lying and deceiving others, being untrustworthy. Be honest.

7.     Not Taking Enough Career Risks

a.     They said that you are much more likely to regret not making a move than making one and having it not work out.

8.     Not Being Healthier

 

Now when you look at that list, isn’t it interesting? And when you look over similar lists of senior citizens or the old and even when talking to people on their death bed, none of them ever wish that they had spent more time in the office. None of say, “I wish I was more successful. I should have invested more in Amazon.” None of them wish they had more money while they were dying. None of them wish they were more famous. So often, our biggest regret in life is not appreciating and loving others until it was too late. We would gladly trade all our money away just to have one more moment with the people we love.

Life is about relationships. Relationship with God and relationship with people. That’s it. It’s amazing how quickly I forget this. American Society makes an idol out of productivity. We are so productivity driven and so focused on progressed that we think this is what life is about. But if I really think about it, I would have another hour with Colleen than all the money in the world. We would gladly trade all our money, success, and fame away just to have one more moment with the people we love. The problem is that we often realize it too late.

I’m going to be open to you guys. When we were in Japan last year for missions, there was this one moment where we were all tired. We just finished an entire week long VBS and we were exhausted, working all day with just 5 hours of sleep a day. And we were drained. And there was a heat wave so it was humid and hot. And we just wanted to rest after a job well done.

When we got to the train station, I shared this story last time, all of a sudden the station alarms went off. And we had no idea what was going on. We turned around and we saw that someone fell onto the train tracks. So I started to run towards that section of the station. I saw the body on the tracks, I wasn’t sure if the person was alive or not. And then while watching him, I began to process it in my heart. “I need to jump. This person might still be alive. I need to jump onto the tracks and get this body out.” And as I was about to run and jump onto the tracks, a few Japanese people ran onto the tracks to help the person. And that was much better, because they could communicate and see what was wrong. And they got the person up, used the defibrillators and brought the person came back.

I shared that story before. What I didn’t share was what went through my heart afterwards. Once everything was settled, I had time to process. And what I felt when I was about to jump onto the tracks was fear. But it wasn’t fear of danger. It wasn’t fear of death. It was fear of dying before I got to truly appreciate Colleen. It was fear of dying full of regret, regretting how little I appreciated Colleen and how little I let her know I loved her. It was fear of leaving Colleen without fully showing her how much I loved her. Regret that I focused so much on work and so little on her.

Brothers and sisters, don’t miss this important part of the story of your life. The people in your life are not just random side characters, getting in the way, bothering you from your goal. The people in your life are a big part of what makes your life your life. And our goal in life is simple. God just calls us to love God and to love others. But we spend so much time chasing other things, other selfish fantasies, we fight and argue and hate each other because we forget how life is so short. And we don’t realize how quickly we could lose each other. 

When I think about the people who have moved on in my life, the biggest regret is everything I wish I said. I wish I appreciated them when I still had them. I wish I let them know how much they meant to me. And for the ones that I had a hard time with, I wish I reconciled with them. I wished I reconciled with them before they were gone.

Brothers and sisters, embrace the world with love. Life is too short to hate. Love God and love others. How quickly we forget what really matters in life. And how quickly we forget how short life truly is. Embrace the people in your life. You never know when they will exit your life. Simplify your life. Make it all about loving God and loving others. And only then will you start to understand and appreciate why God has placed people in your life story.

Conclusion

When you think of what’s your story, you cannot exclude other characters. You cannot exclude people. And it’s because community is fundamentally part of the Trinity. It is in God’s nature and we were made in His nature. Therefore, we community is a necessary part of our identity. 

However, it’s hard because we are sinners. When we open our hearts to other people, they leave scars in our story. How can we continue to open our hearts in a way that honors God and experiences God in the midst of imperfect people? We need to heal our hearts, not through isolation, but through intimacy, intimacy with Christ. Intimacy with Christ who understands our pain. And through that, we will be able to truly live this life full of love and relationships. Because ultimately, love alone will remain.

 

Questions

1.     Who are some people who made an impact in your life?

a.     What did you learn from them?

b.     What are some similarities that these people have? What are some differences? What made them unique?

2.     What are some things you wish people knew about you?

3.     What are some reasons you want to close your heart to people?

4.     Who are some people God is telling you to reconcile with?

5.     Who are some people you don’t appreciate enough? Why do you take them for granted?

a.     What are some reasons you are thankful for them?

b.     What are some ways you can express appreciation to them?

6.     What are some ways you need to grow in loving others the way the Trinity loves humanity?

7.     What is God teaching you about your story through the people He brings into your life?