EPIC Part 7 - The Story You Tell

February 18, 2018


In this message you will learn: We write our stories one decision, one choice at a time.

The Story You Tell

Epic Part 7

February 18, 2018


If your new, 1) You’re surrounded by people just like you. 2) Because of that, you’re story is safe here. 3) You don’t have to believe what we believe to belong here.

I hope you've already felt and experience that and it makes you want to come back and do this all over again, hopefully even next week.

Special shout out and welcome always to all of our friends who can't be here but are tuning in to watch us online. And to all of our regulars, it is great to have you here again today.

We spent the last seven weeks talking about that, but the question, this final message is, where do we go from here? Where do we go from here? Well, before we start into that, good morning.

As we reflect back on our journey over these past seven weeks in this EPIC series, we've been challenged, we've been encouraged, we've been inspired. There's been all these incredible truths and principles to help us in our journey with God as we learn how we could love God and live free. But here's our challenge. It's one thing to hear it. It's another thing to apply it. I mean, there's some challenging stuff here for us to apply. Well, me too. Me too.

When we kicked off this series, we started with the idea that we as church people, don't typically understand the significance of our story, that in order for us to grow that we have to go back into our stories, go back into our wounding, and ask God to meet us there to help us to heal in that. It's something that we do continually over and over again throughout our whole lives so that we can keep growing. The journey in life that we're looking for requires us to always journey back and to go back into our stories.

As we come to this last message in the series, I want us to think about our stories as we move forward. What's tomorrow going to look like? What story am I going to tell going forward? We are who we are and where we are in our journey, for the most part, because of the choices that we make in our daily lives. 

I mean, let's be honest. Our greatest regrets are connected to some of the choices that we've made. I'm sure most of us would love to be able to go back and redo some of those decisions that we've made. For the most part, we don't really fully grasp what hangs into balance in terms of the implications of some of those choices and decisions that we make on our futures. We don't really fully grasp the implications of some of the choices we make in our kids' futures. I mean, think how differently your life might've been had your parents made some different decisions. Think how differently our life might've been had your parents not split up is one example.

What we do know is that personal choices and private decisions impacts the story that we're going to tell. 

We all have choices to make, don't we, in terms of even how we're going to respond and react to the series. I mean, you can take this or leave it.

I have been a pastor for 25 years, but when I came to NEXT LEVEL, there's something different about this place. There's something different with how we connect with God, something different about going after the heart. 

Maybe you have seen it too. Especially if you have been on one of our Captivating Ladies Retreats or one of our Ultimate Guys Weekend Retreats.

At those, we have a way of drilling into our stories. And that has come from Jody and I both learning and understanding that, really, my story has so much to do with my journey with God. 

10 years ago I did not realize that. I mean, I grew up in some great churches, great church background, but a lot of the focus was on managing my sin and doing better and not screwing up that I had missed the significance of my own story.

But 10 years ago, I began taking a look. I began taking a look at some of the wounds, some of the limps that I didn't even realize I had. 

As one example, I didn't realize the depth of my insecurities as a child. I was always the smallest kid in class and because of that, I always felt I did not measure up. So it caused me to try harder to make up for it. Which was exhausting.

I saw how, even through my adult life, how it developed this insecurity in me. There'd be times and certain circumstances or conversations with people where that insecurity would surface. I just, I really didn't know what to do with that, but then I drilled into my story. There, I could find that God could meet me in that insecurity, and I found that He would help me. I could take it to Jesus, and He would give me right perspective about myself and who I am. He worked on my heart. 

There's a lot of healing going on there. No longer do I need to prove myself to me or anyone else. God has given me what I needed.

The question that I want us to wrestle with today is, 

What story do I want to tell?


What story do I really want to tell as we're moving forward? Think about this. We can choose to ignore our past. We can choose to ignore our stories and our wounds and hurts and all those kind of things. We can choose not to get in a group. We can choose to not go on one of the retreats. We can choose to not help others in their journey as we continue to drill in our own story so that we can keep growing. 

What story do I want to tell? What is true of yesterday doesn't necessarily have to be true of tomorrow.

We're not the first generation to have to wrestle with this. There's a familiar story in the Old Testament about a young boy who is an extraordinary example of how he looks into his own story with some choices and decisions that he has to make in his own journey. 

A little context here. This happened in 1850 BC. Joseph is the teenager son of Jacob. Joseph is one of the sons of the 12 sons of Jacob, but as the stories goes, Joseph's brothers were extremely jealous of Joseph's, because his dad loved him more than his sons, his 11 sons. One day, the 11 brothers are out in the pastures and Jacob send Joseph to check on them.

Genesis 37

18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”


They see Joseph coming across the field, and in that moment they decide together that they're going to act on what they've been feeling for a long time against Joseph, that they're going to kill him. 

Now, as Joseph got closer, they lost their nerve, and so instead, they just throw him into a well before they try to decide, "What are we going to do with this guy permanently?" I mean, and you thought your older siblings are merciless? I mean, look at this.

Joseph, he gets a break. It turns out some slave traders, they come by. They're on their way to Egypt. The brothers, they decide, "You know what? I think it'd be more profitable to sell Joseph into slavery as opposed to kill him." They sell him off to slavery. They go home. They tell the parents that a wild animal has eaten him. Of course, it breaks their parents' heart. I mean, it really breaks the heart of their father, but now, they have a secret they're all forced to live with the rest of their lives. 


This makes them liars for life.


If we were able to drop in on those brothers before they made that decision and say, "Hey, guys. Before you do something rash here, do you really want your story to be this, to say, 'Yeah, when I was in my mid-20s, I was so jealous of my younger brother based on the fact that my father loved my brother more than I did, which when I think of it, it really has nothing to do with him. Really, I mean, I hate him, but it's not really his fault, but anyway, I was in my mid-20s, and my dad really loved him. He loved him so much and ... But I hated him so much that I sold him to slavery. I told my parents that he was taken out by some wild animals. I spent the rest of my life lying about him because I was mad him for, well, if I'm honest, really just because I was jealous of him.'"

It's like, really, guys? Is that the story you want to tell? I mean, we all have parts of our stories we don't want to tell. There's parts of all of our stories that we're ashamed of or embarrassed about, and fortunately, we can take that to the cross, we can take that to God, and he can forgive us. He forgets, even though we might not and even though we might have to still deal with some of the consequences and some of those choices and decisions that we've made. 

But, we are writing our stories, aren't we? How we treat our family members and how we treat the people in our lives, we are writing our stories as well. How are we treating our kids? How are we treating our coworkers? How are we treating the people that are in our lives? 

As I've drilled back into my story and some of the wounding and some of the hurt, it's given me some insight into myself in terms of how I've treated people. It's kind of embarrassing. Some of that wounding creates some triggers and pushes some buttons and wakes up some sleeping dogs in me. There's just defensiveness sometimes that surfaces, and it's troubling. 

The way I get defensive, and unfortunately, it happens mostly with my wife. She might challenge the way I'm thinking about things or maybe I feel like she's questioning my intentions or my heart or something. Then, all of a sudden, all this stuff surfaces up and I get defensive. 


Sometimes I just go quiet. I freeze her out. Sometimes I get really angry. I get frustrated. Sometimes I say things that are inappropriate. I get condescending with her. I have to grow in my awareness of this defensiveness and how it relates to my story. 

Going forward, what story do I want to tell? Do I want to have a story about my defensiveness? Really? Am I willing to just keep drilling into my story to get understanding, to get that awareness to understand those sleeping dogs and those buttons that get pushed?

Anyway, as the story goes, Joseph ends up in Egypt. He's on the auction block. A man by the name of Potiphar buys him. Now Potiphar, he happens to be the captain of Pharaoh's palace guard. Very high position there. Joseph has a choice to make. He can run away as a slave. He can do like what all the other slaves do. He could have a bad attitude. He could just try to get by with as much as he can get away with. Or, he can throw himself into this slave situation and give it everything he has. 

Before long, Potiphar notices Joseph. He begins to give Joseph more and more responsibility. In fact, it says in verse 6 of chapter 39. He says, “6 So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!”


Our small daily choices can make a big difference in how our story reads. 


The choices of how I'm going to connect with my heavenly father everyday. 

  • The choices of how I'm going to develop a servant's heart. 
  • A choice of who I'm going to hang out with. Who are the people that are going to help me grow and develop in my faith, in my journey? 
  • The choice of drilling into my own story, to drill into some of those wounds, and maybe even to share in that with someone else to help them on their journey, to help them along.

In Luke 16 Jesus tells us that If you're faithful in the little things, you'll be faithful in much. Here we see Joseph, he's making good choices. It's a good story. There's some good outcomes here. He's making those small daily choices.

But at this point in the story, there's a change in the soundtrack here. Things start to get really interesting for Joseph. In spite of Joseph's diligence to make some good choices, he finds himself in a no-win situation despite the fact that he's making good choices. 

He's faced with yet another choice. He's going to have two options ahead of him, and really neither one is going to turn out very well for Joseph. Here's the setup of what happens next. Imagine the change in the soundtrack here, okay? 

Verse 6. Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, 7 and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded. 

Now, this is so fascinating. Here's Joseph, he is far, far away from home. He's probably 19, 20 years old. It looks from all practical purposes that his God has abandoned him. He's in a foreign country. There's no accountability. No one's really watching. Here he is. His boss' wife asks him to go to bed with her. He knows that there's a lot at stake. He has a choice to make. The text says he refused. But, what Joseph does next is really what I want us to learn… 

Here’s what he does. Joseph begins to rehearse his story out loud. He doesn't allow this powerful temptation or this terrible circumstance to overshadow the broader context of his story, which is what we've got to learn to do. It's such a powerful idea. 


We need to remind ourselves of the broader context of our story.


Joseph, he actually reviews the broader context of his story right there in front of Potiphar's wife. Allow me to paraphrase. His story goes something like this. He says, Mrs. Potiphar, I came to this land as a slave. I had absolutely no rights. I had no future. Then, your husband purchased me and he treated me like one of his own. He treated me with kindness and he gave me an opportunity to serve him and to serve the family. I've worked hard and I've done everything that you've asked me and required of me to do. With my God's help, I've worked my way to the point where your husband trusts me. Look, he's put me in charge of his entire household. 


Then, he says this and I quote, 8 “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. 9 No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.”


Implication, Mrs. Potiphar, do you really want to have an affair with a Hebrew slave? Do you really want that on your resume? Are you sure you really want that to be part of your story? 

Then, Joseph, he asks this amazing question. He says, "In light of all that's happened, in light of all that your husband has done for me, in light of God's confidence and grace to me, “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God." 

In other words, do I want my story to be hey, your husband gave me an opportunity that I never thought would come my way. I took advantage of his generosity. I took advantage of my position. I took advantage of the influence that he gave to me, and I slept with his wife, dishonoring both him and my God. 

Then, the author of Genesis continues. This is amazing. He says in verse 10, “She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible.” 

This is humiliating to Potiphar's wife, isn't it? Chances are she had probably slept with a lot of Potiphar's slaves. Though she had approached Joseph day after day after day and he refused to go to bed with her and so she's hacked. What does she do? She falsely accuses Joseph that he was trying to rape her. She's mad. 

Now, Potiphar her husband, he's in a tough situation. He has no choice but to respond to his wife's accusation here. He punishes Joseph. 

It's many people's opinion that Potiphar would've normally had Joseph executed right there on the spot. But, they believe that he did not believe his own wife and the story that she was making up. But, his hands were tied. He had to do something, and so he throws him into prison.

Now, despite this setback, the writer of Genesis says something very interesting here. He says, 21 But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love.

I'm thinking what? The Lord was with Joseph? This is so strange. We think okay, if the Lord was with Joseph, then none of this would've happened from the beginning, right? Joseph wouldn't have been kidnapped and thrown in a well and sold to slavery and now this? Interesting thing is that Joseph's story isn't over yet, is it? 

Here's something to think about. Regardless of what we're going through, regardless of how bad our circumstance might be, no matter what, our story is never over. Our story isn't over no matter how bad the circumstance might be. It was a story that Joseph wrote. One decision, one choice at a time, no matter what the circumstance was.

We write our stories one decision, one choice at a time.

The truth is we all have an opportunity, we all have our own story to tell. And it comes down to the choices that we make every day. I still have a choice every day, even with all that's been given to me. 

Do I want my story to be about God's purposes or do I want to live for my own purposes? You know, Joseph, he decided early on in life that he was gonna live a story that was worth telling. He didn't want revenge. He could have had revenge on his brothers. He had the opportunity. 

And so the story ends up that Joseph, he ends up being prime minister of the country of Egypt. In fact, he rescues the land of Egypt from seven years of famine because of his leadership. And then he rescues his 11 brothers and their families, and invites them to live in the country of Egypt to save them from starvation and from the famine. 

Think about the contrast for a moment between Joseph and his brothers. His brothers  spent their entire lives hiding a story that made them liars for life. Year after year, they had to continue to deceive their father, their parents about the fate of their younger brother, Joseph. 

But Joseph, on the other hand, he had a story that he was proud of. It was a story he wrote one decision, one choice at a time. And some tough decisions in there that he had to make. I mean, little did Joseph know, little did he know, it's amazing to think about this, little did he know that thousands of years later we'd still be telling his story.


What story do you want to tell going forward? 


You know, as you sit here today, I may not know you, but here's what I know to be true of you. You were born into a great story. This started before the dawn of time. A story of adventure, risk, betrayal. It's a dangerous story. A story of the good warring against evil, and you have a destiny. You have a very unique role that you could choose to play in that story, an incredible place in that larger story. 

And there are passions that are written on your heart. There are things that just come alive that make you want to pound your fists on the table, those passions. The movies that you love, the stories that you hear, that move you to tears. The roles that you want to play when you hear those stories, they're all a clue. 

Deep within the heart of every man, of every boy that's in this room, there's this core desire. There's a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue, an adventure to live, but misplaced, forgotten, misdirected, they go underground, but they're gonna surface later. They surface later in addiction, in compulsion, in anger. And throughout the course of his life, he's haunted by a question, do I have what it takes to be a man? 

Deep within the heart of every woman and every girl that's in this room there's this core desire to be romanced, to have an irreplaceable role to play in this great adventure, this great larger story. A unique beauty to unveil and gifts and abilities to be desired, to be captivating. But they get misplaced and forgotten, misdirected and these desires simply do not go away either. They go underground. They surface later in addiction, control and shame. And throughout the course of her life, she's haunted by a question, does anyone really delight in me? Will I be chosen, wanted, seen, and fought for?

The things that have been done to us, the things that have been said about us, they make our stories significant. They're evidence of an enemy who is trying to prevent us from playing our roles in this incredible larger story. And the story of your life is the long and sustained assault that's on your story, on your heart of the one who knows who you could be and he fears you. He does. It's your story. It's my story. 

So maybe you are here and you love God, but are you living free really? I mean we just started this journey in this series. We're just scratching the surface here in all this. So what are you gonna do? What story do you want to tell? Do you really believe this stuff? I mean, what do you have to lose? Are you gonna choose to engage in it? 

The video said there's something missing in all of us. We were meant for so much more and we know it. The voice is real, but you have to make the call. You have to take that step. What is that next step for you? What story are you gonna tell about your one and only life? What story do you want to tell going forward?