Below is a speech I recently gave to my class about storytelling, our stories, and how Jesus redeems it all. As the fourth anniversary of the death of Rachel Daggett occurred last Sunday, December 9th, I’m reminded that even in tragedy, Jesus is always working.
I had a previous speech written up on why we should care about the achievement gap. But then I realized that as passionate as I am to helping inner city school children, this will be my last speech in our Comm. 100 and subsequently, this will be my last opportunity to persuade you about anything. Today I want to tell you why telling stories matters, and why being an effective communicator can literally change the course of history. I hope that by the end of my speech, you will realize that we are called to be storytellers, and that our stories matter. I will go over three points: how stories can capture attention, how stories can quickly change directions, and ultimately, how story telling can save lives.
“I once knew a girl with girl with the bluest of eyes, the brightest of smiles, and the emptiest of hearts.” Beginning a story can gain attention like no other. You can instantly gain credibility and the attentive ears of your audience. Geoff Livingstone, author and public speaker known for his book, “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” describes this as the “personification method of story telling.” He says, “Well executed, the person and their audience can share experiences together.” By starting off my story with the overture of love, most of you can instantly relate to a Jr. high or high school love story. Or Taylor Swift songs. By gaining attention for the right reasons, we can use our stories to change the direction of our audience.
“Her name was Rachel. Rachel cursed like a sailor and was thirsty for truth. She had a jolly and obnoxious laugh, and she sat next to me in my 5th period economics class.” Stories, as I just mentioned, have an usual way to change directions very quickly. In the Bible, Joseph and Mary had a pretty typical story. Joseph was to be married to Mary, be a good husband and future dad, work hard and be a good Jew. But the story changes. “The angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child will be born and will be called holy – the Son of God.’” You see, just like Mary and Joseph, stories with unusual plot changes can help us realize that indeed, our personal lives aren’t unusual – and as our lives turn and twist, sometimes tragically, we can relate. As Pastor Tim Chaddick of Reality LA said at a College Conference last January, “We must realize the importance of our identity…and realize that it changed the moment we accepted Jesus into our lives.”Our stories change, and it’s important we recognize change and call it as it is in our storytelling. If we can recognize change, we can realize our storytelling can literally change lives.
“Rachel always had questions about the Bible, even saying, “I don’t know if I believe, but I know the verses you share make me feel better. Make my day seem like it’s worth it.” Indeed, story telling can change lives. You see, Rachel was a classmate of mine. We did indeed sit together in economics. The girl was a hurricane, a culture shock, and the most loveable human being I ever met. But she didn’t know Jesus. And I’m going to tell you now the rest of this story, and why my storytelling mattered and still matters. I went to a public high school with one of the worst drug problems in the state of Oregon. Rachel was a big time drug user crushing up prescription pain pills known as oxycodone and smoking them through tin foil. And every class she asked me, begged me, to send her verses and to take her to church. I could see the pain in her eyes but my own selfish pride and fear were more evident in mine. I knew my story at the time was a joke. I promised Rachel I would take her but my shame wouldn’t let me. The story Rachel needed to hear was that God loved her so much he came and died so she wouldn’t have to. She needed to see that from my life, but the truth is, my life was a wreck. I was choosing a lifestyle with my teammates and friends that didn’t show I loved or followed Jesus. I was living in sin with my girlfriend at the time, being a stupid 18-year-old boy. So instead of sharing my story with Rachel, I took her trust and put it in my back pocket. And subsequently, she became apart of my story. I remember it was November of 2008, and I told my friend Aaron that Rachel would come to our church retreat a few months later, find Jesus, and change our drug culture forever. I’ll never forget that on December 9th, four years ago last Sunday, he called me. And he said three words I’ll never forget: “Matt…….Rachel died.”
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church recently said, “The genealogy of Jesus includes Bathsheba to show that God can work through our mistakes and our sin.” just like us, Jesus’ story involved a lot of sin-filled people. But he didn’t stop telling his story. I want you guys to know as I close up, that not a day goes by where I don’t somehow think about Rachel. That I wish I had known these facts about story telling. Because instead of being apart of my story, Jesus could have used mine in hers. That my sin hindered and perhaps ultimately deterred her from knowing Him. I want to encourage you guys and let you know that no matter where you are coming from: sexual sin, sexual addictions, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, abusive parents, sexual abuse, anger, pride, anything and everything. That Jesus died for you, so you don’t have to. There is no shame in the Gospel. So don’t live in fear, but live in outspoken humility because your story matters. Thank you.
The past few weeks have been rather stormy at Biola University to say the least.
Everyone who attends this university is aware of the situation at hand, but for those who don’t know what happened, I’ll briefly cover the situation before going into this blog.
A few weeks ago, a group came forward anonymously, calling themselves “Biola Underground.” While claiming that they are students, staff, and faculty from Biola, they also state that the group is not claiming affiliation with the university itself.
They have come forward, as Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, and Queers, desiring to have acceptance and to some degree, equality amongst students. They want the freedom to be open about their lifestyles and choice of sexuality.
Until Friday, Biola had no official announcement other than claiming that it is a serious matter and they wanted to think through all aspects before making a statement.
On Friday, Dr. Barry Corey, our university president, spoke at chapel. While I wasn’t there personally, I heard he openly defended the school’s stance against homosexuality, as our school’s beliefs with the Bible align with a position against it.
I commend DBC for his words, and I look forward to watching the video myself – I will post it as soon as it is made available.
As a person who grew up in the ultra-liberal city of Portland, Ore., I was exposed to the issues of homosexuality early, know many homosexuals personally, and have witnessed the churches in Portland handle the issue both with grace, conviction, and truth as well as bitterness, hate, and shame.
This has provided insight and perspective, and I hope this blog provides both to you, the reader, as we wrestle through this issue together.
When it comes to any controversial issue of society, I believe that as Christians, we must ask three vital questions in order to properly evaluate where we should stand with our opinions on it.
1. What does the Bible, and subsequently the creator God and his son, Jesus, say?
2. How do we react in light of biblical-truth as Christians, as a church, and as people living in the world but not of it?
3. What should our actions be towards those who do not agree?
These questions are baseline, pivotal, and should lead us in our processing and decision making over hot topics within the church. If we don’t start here, we don’t start anywhere. It starts with God, his Word, and the church, and ends with Jesus, the cross, and the Gospel message.
I will divide this into two portions, first talking to homosexuals and about homosexuality, and secondly to Christians, my peers at Biola, and what I think we should do as believers.
To the Underground
First, I commend you for bravery for writing, posting, and stepping out with a convicted voice over this issue. You’re right – as a church, university, and believers, we have failed to make your voice known and have failed to be open to conversations over this controversial and heavy topic.
Being taught in Psychology and haven taken many steps in readings of research, I want to first say that I agree with you on some crucial points: God does not make mistakes, there is evidence homosexuality is part of humanity and not as much of a choice as believers argue, and that although many have tried, sometimes you can’t change your desires.
I hope that those reading understand that I’m very open when it comes to this discussion – I want all people to be pushed towards Jesus, the Cross, and His gospel message. I desire all to be freed in Christ, to spend eternity with Him, and to live a life that allows them to flourish for the Kingdom.
Many people are arguing that the fundamental issue is that the Underground has not admitted wrong or come forward with repentance and that it needs to be addressed as a sin issue (more on this later). This too, is true.
What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
The Bible is littered with passages on homosexuality including many passages from the Old Testament (Gen 19:5, Lev. 18:22, 20:13) and how it led to destruction (Sodom and Gomorrah). Genesis 2:24 explicitly states that God created man to be with woman,that he would leave home and his family to be joined with her.
In the New Testament, Paul writes explicitly in Romans about homosexuality, stating “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:26-27).
These are arguments in scripture that very openly state that homosexuality is not natural, that God considers it an abomination and sin, and that if we are to believe and follow Christ we must “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).
The Bible, and God, very openly states that homosexuality is a sin. So, what do we do with that knowledge?
First, if you truly want to be in communion with Christ, you must first admit that homosexual desires are not natural, and actions because of the desires are sinful. Just like premarital sex, lust, pride (more on this later), and legalism, it’s a sin we must put to death in order to live with Christ.
I’m not stating that if you become a believer, you’re biological DNA will morph and you will be a heterosexual. Albeit, there are cases and stories where individuals found Christ, put their sins to death, and move on to become married and have a family – but I’m not saying that you must follow the same path.
Much like a man who needs to die to his lustful desires everyday, or someone who struggles with judgmental pride, sin is sin, and we must die to it. God didn’t necessarily intend for you to be homosexual, as he doesn’t intend people to be prone to pornography and lust, but yes, part of who you are may be that your DNA is wired for homosexuality.
However, I know that it won’t be an easy journey. We do need to be open as a campus to this discussion. For homosexuals, be filled with grace and love that you may discover truth through scriptures and know Jesus. Be willing to talk about truth from a biblical standpoint, and be willing to accept what God says as truth. That’s your responsibility as an individual within the homosexual community-seeking acceptance from the church.
After reading through you’re website, there are no biblical claims to why you think homosexuality is not a sin. I would love to read your thoughts and have subsequent biblical proof. My fear is that, like many issues in the church, we as humans are prone to manipulate scripture into something we want it to be, instead of taking it is as truth for what it says.
Now onto the “fun” stuff.
To Biola University Students (and some staff and faculty):
How do we react in light of biblical-truth as Christians, as a church, and as people living in the world but not of it?
Answer: not as most of you have.
The past few weeks have become a mudslinging battle. When uncomfortable topics are brought up, the worst comes out in Christians. We tend to either run and hide (sins of omission) or go on the offensive and belittle, destroy, and condemn those living with sins (sins of commission). To say that I am embarrassed, hurt, and disappointed in fellow Biola students is an understatement.
Yes, homosexuality is a sin as I just stated above. Yes, The Underground did not come out with a heart of repentance. Yes, Biola University stands on Bible and it’s doctrines. Yes. Yes. Yes.
The immediate scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 12:34 when Jesus lashes out against the scribes and the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
The hearts of many were exposed the past few weeks, and those hearts are full of ignorance, hate, and anger.
How can we expect to take a progressive lead in discussions on homosexuality when we are condemning them to hell, as if it is our job and not God’s?
Refresh my memory, but if you’re story is anything like mine and those in the church, Christ met you where you were, not where you are now.
By God’s grace, I was brought into salvation when I was 14 as a young man who was suicidal, addicted to pain medications, and whose pride and lust reeked from my soul. It hasn’t been the easiest journey, but it’s been a beautiful one of sanctification and God’s grace.
If you forget this, you forget and reject the message of the Gospel – Christ came to save sinners like us and bring us into redemption (1 Tim. 1:15).
We cannot expect homosexuals to be willing to talk if we are taking the role of the Creator to condemn His creation.
Yes, stand upon moral and scriptural convictions.
Yes, the homosexual community (if they want to live in communion with Christ) must recognize homosexuality as a sin.
Yes, God hates all sin.
But most importantly, God loves His people and His creation so much so that He sent his Son to die on a cross (Jn. 3:16 if anyone needs it…).
So, what should our actions be towards those who do not agree?
1. Be loving. Don’t condemn sinners to hell because that’s not your job. You’re calling is to passionately pursue Jesus, seek the Kingdom, and make disciples and plant churches.
2. Be grace filled. Don’t come out lashing in anger and hate, or even blunt truth, conviction, and correction if you’re heart isn’t first filled with a burning passion, love, and sadness over the sin of our student body (all sins, not just homosexuality). A hard heart with soft answers does more damage than good. A soft heart with hard answers is accepted as genuine, because it comes from a source of love and care.
3. Be willing to talk, and do you’re homework. Don’t blindly argue with stale old biblical points and cliché sayings, “It’s a choice not the way you are born!” – Read up on psych articles, including articles by Christians who are smarter and wiser than you, before you make a stand.
Finally, reflect Jesus. Our goal, mission, and passion should be that we push people to Jesus and the Gospel message of the cross. Are you doing this by ridiculing or making fun of The Underground?
Realize that this is a conversation that is going to take place whether we like it or not and we have two options: make it better or make it bitter (Pastor Mark shout out.)
Just as with all sins, we need discipleship, training, love, grace, and Jesus to overcome it. We can not just sweep it under the rug anymore.
I have one more challenge, and that’s that you pray. Pray unceasing, pray for homosexuals, pray for the sins of our university and our churches, and most importantly, pray God takes charge of your heart. You may find, that you too do not know Jesus or are not walking with him.
Matthew is a senior at Biola University. Originally from Portland, Ore., he has resided in Los Angeles for the past three years. For more information or for questions, you can contact him via email and you can follow him on Twitter (@mattfier).
The purpose, mission, and goal of this blog is to provide perspective to Christians and push people towards Jesus and the Gospel message of the cross.
To my wonderful friends:
Wow, what an exhilarating ride.
From the very beginning, I told Ann Marie the following.
1. We weren’t going to care about what everyone else was doing – we would worry about ourselves.
2. We would take the high road, not participating in mud slinging and if anything from our (specifically my) past came up, we would use it to point people to Jesus.
3. We needed to realize that the lessons and experiences weren’t going to come from winning the election, but instead the journey up until the election.
In hindsight, I’m humbled, by God’s grace, to say that all three proved to speak volumes of truth into our lives.
I tweet a lot. This time it cost much more than a few people getting angry at me.
Rick Warren (@rickwarren) tweeted and said to shoot him any prayer requests. Without thinking, I responded that I was running for AS President, I tagged Biola, mentioned other capable leaders were also running, and asked for wisdom and humble hearts.
That’s it. I didn’t tell people to vote for me, I didn’t campaign, but I did break a rule.
I need to stress that it was a complete accident, a simple but monumental mistake, and it cost us a chance at the election. I didn’t do it from a heart of cheating or trying to sway votes. Trust me, as the AS Election Board agreed, one tweet wouldn’t sway an election of 4,000 undergraduate students.
As I said above, I take complete and utter responsibility. I tweeted, I broke a rule, and I am at full fault.
When I got the call from AS, I felt terrible.
First, I felt immense stupidity for doing something so careless.
Second, I felt like I just lost the election.
Third, I felt like I let everyone down, starting with Ann Marie and leading to you guys. So many people put in so many hours of hard work, prayer, and time into our campaign, and with 140 characters, I completely threw it away.
I spent time on the phone with my parents, first throwing up dinner from the stress (sorry for the visual) and secondly weeping for you guys. We wanted to do a good work for Christ and His kingdom at this school reaching the lost, and I felt that we let a lot of people down in doing so.
I am extremely sorry. Words cannot express my deep and honest sorrow for letting you guys down. Each of you has played an integral part in my life during the last three years, and I was running first to serve Jesus and second to honor my friends. Because of this, my heart aches. It wasn’t about winning, but serving, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to fully serve you guys to my fullest ability.
How Jesus Redeems:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18.
Ironically, this was straight out of our campaign “chapter of scripture.” And it proved to be very true. This was a humbling experience, and I want to apologize for my arrogant and proud self.
However, I can tell you this – Jesus redeems us. After our meeting with the election committee, where I basically laid out what I am writing to you, I was filled with immense peace. Just as I told Ann Marie that it would be the journey and not the results that would provide lessons, God showed revealed a lot about His character and mine.
He showed me my depraved nature in a very applicable and tangible way. My proud and arrogant beliefs about myself reeked from my soul throughout this process. Much like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, I was beginning to love my biggest enemy.
For that, I want to apologize. At times, I know I have let my pride overrun who I am. I have worked hard to be exposed in community at church, Biola, and by Jesus. This time, I was full of myself, and although many of you might not have noticed, many did, and thank you for pointing it out and helping me seek Jesus in a deeper way.
“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13
Keep desiring, pursuing, and exploring righteousness and holiness.
I’m supporting Chris Yim and Laura in their bid for presidency. Getting to know Chris and already having known Laura, I trust their character, heart for Jesus, and believe they will be the best team to lead this campus back to a heart for the Gospel message of Christ.
I don’t know what God has in store for me, but for one of the first times in my life, I’m very at peace about it. I plan to explore my options in AS and SMU, as well as at returning to coaching football.
I ask for your prayer, for myself, Ann Marie, and the teams still going through the election process.
Please vote for whomever you feel the Holy Spirit is leading you to. This is still important. Be active and involved, and make a difference.
As a final note, I want to stress this:
My mistake was stupid. But it’s a great opportunity to point people to Jesus, share the gospel message of grace, and leave a legacy for His Kingdom.
If you believed in our campaign, you simply believed in two people wanting to love Jesus more deeply, intensely, and bringing people up to speed on the vision of leaving a legacy. We can still do that together, not as AS President and VP, but as always, brothers and sisters who want to bring redemption to this world.
In love, peace, and grace,
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.