I’ve known Mike Pappas for a long time. For several years he was the general manager of a sweet club located in downtown Minneapolis called Club 3 Degrees. Under Mike’s tutelage the bands on my roster enjoyed several sold out shows and the ease that comes from a deftly executed event.
Some time ago Mike told me that he grew up in downtown Minneapolis. Knowing that Mike was a cool guy who could borderline pull of those calf high pants that were in fashion circa 2004 I had immediately envisioned him in Minneapolis’ version of NYC in a condo with super cool parents and a nanny.
I was lifting weights with Mike the other day and started asking him questions about his downtown living. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He did in fact live downtown but he did so because his parents bought a duplex and operated it as a safe haven type ministry for inner city kids. Mike had grown up in a world where he had been stabbed, shot at, and witnessed several of his young friends lives ended early by violence. All before he was 18.
Instead of living in a high rise condo and going to prep school, Mike was side by side with kids whose lives were in danger, and his parents fought a seemingly losing battle to save them. That is Mike’s story, and it made me respect him and was in awe of parents faith that was so strong that they did the opposite of what I have done and moved their family closer to the inner city, not further away. God truly did move in their lives.
In Exodus 18 Moses father in law Jethro showed up. Moses told him what happened in Egypt and their escape. Like any great story there were life and death situations, there were insurmountable odds, an underdog that came out on top, and a hero who saved the day. (a hero named Jehovah) Blown away by what he had just heard, Jethro replied: “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods” (exodus 18:11). Moses didn’t try to close the deal with Jethro with excellently worded arguments for faith., he simply told him his story.
Paul did this in Acts 22. He was being arrested and asked for a chance to speak to the people in Jerusalem. He uses the phrase “this is my defense”. The word defense in the Greek is apologia from which we get our word apologetics. When I think apologetics I think of smart guys like Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel. These are great men who have forgotten more stuff than I’ll ever know and have done some amazing things for the Kingdom.
It’s interesting to note that Pauls “apologia” or defense wasn’t to prove the existence of Jesus or the resurrection through intricate arguments and logic, instead Paul tells his story. Here’s what happened to me. Here is how God changed my life. Here is what Jesus did in me.
Just a few chapters earlier in Greece Paul stood up and gave an excellent sermon with culturally relevant arguments. He tied in the names of the Greek gods and used intellectual arguments to prove their inadequacy in the face of Jesus. It is one of the best sermons in history from a purely historical and well written format. And yet, the response was at best underwhelming. No church was started there.
Perhaps that’s why he opens up his letter to the church at Corinth saying that I have not come to you with “eloquence or superior wisdom” but rather he came to them with “Jesus Christ and him crucified”. (2 Cor. 2:1) The story of Jesus was Paul’s story. It ought to be my story too. Maybe Paul learned a lesson that day.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to two disciples. They didn’t recognize Him at first until He took them through the prophecies that pointed to who He was. Suddenly their eyes were opened. (Luke 24) To you and me that is a theological apologetic proving the validity of Jesus. To Jesus however, and think about this, that was His story. He was sharing His story with them. And that opened their eyes.
We all have them. We all have a story; a story that is still being written. The medical diagnosis, the tragedy, a relationship that didn’t work out, the job that ended as well as the relationship that did work out, the new job you just got, the recovery. Now that I’ve gotten a little bit of life under my belt I have come to understand that each one of those things that didn’t kill me not only made me stronger, it is one more page, one more chapter in my story.
Growing up in church we had testimony time. Testimony is just a very spiritual sounding term for a story of God coming through. I wonder if there’ll be testimony time in heaven. Someone would stand up at the front of church and tell their story. It would resonate with us, it would encourage us, it would bolster us. That’s something we could use more of.
We’re all a sucker for a story with a happy ending, and Heaven is full of happy endings of life here on earth. Revelation 19 records that we’ll be around the throne saying “righteous and true are your judgments”. (rev. 19:2) In other words, right on God, you got it right. I can almost imagine each and every person there getting their turn to tell their story, their redemption and salvation and then our response, simply put is “right on God, you got it right.” That was a nail biter, I didn’t know how that one would end, but the Hero really did save the day.
When I’m facing difficult circumstances, when I’m facing insurmountable odds, I’m in perfect position for a big story. The news of what happened to Israel managed to travel all the way to Jethro with no internet, no cable news, and no phones. A story that amazing has to be told.
(for those thinking of sending me an email, I’m not trying to downplay the importance of good doctrine, rather I’m trying to play up the power of what God moving in your life. It’s not just an academic exercise, it’s God being real and relevant in yours and my lives. )
Your story is your best apologia. If you’re like me and you’re not a big time smart person with lots of eloquent arguments for faith. That is really great news.
In Revelation John also talks about a book of life in which are recorded names. It’s a book full of names. Each name represents a life lived, a story that unfolded. Our ending life here on earth is really just the completion of our story this side of heaven. Mike Pappas name and story are there. Mine is, and I pray yours is too.
John also records that one day He’s going to give me a new name. One that only He and I know. I think it’s He’s going to give me a new name. a new story that will start then. Until that moment, embrace the story that God is writing called “Darren Tyler” or “Mike Pappas” or whatever your name is.
Tomorrow night is Exodus 19. Israel’s collective story is unfolding in a Mountain called Sinai. You might remember a little something called the 10 commandments. We’re getting warmed up, quite literally, for that.
We meet on Mondays at 7:30pm at Journey Church in Franklin. Hope you can join us.
BE A PART:
$15 feed a child in Haiti for a month. Be a part of their story and have them be a part of yours. you can donate online at http://www.conduitmission.org. We are a Conduit and not a pond; the money flows right through. By this time next month it’ll be feeding children in Haiti who have no other means to support themselves.
It’s been fun to have folks joining us from all over on http://www.mogulus.com/conduit it’s not fancy or high tech but it seems to work. Maybe some day we’ll invest in some foliage and televangelist hairstyle for me. In the meantime if you can join us, we start the webcast at 7:30pm Central.