What is a parent to do?

Some years ago I witnessed a father taking this priority seriously during a Sunday morning worship service. As we took communion, I heard a small boy asking, “What’s that, Daddy?” The father explained the meaning of the bread and then offered a prayer. The boy was quiet until the cup was passed. Then he asked again, “What’s that, Daddy?” The father began again, explaining the blood and the cross and how the wine symbolizes Jesus’ death. Then he prayed.

I chuckled at the colossal task the father was tackling. When I turned to give him a knowing nod, I realized the father was David Robinson, NBA basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs. Sitting on his lap was his six-year-old son, David Jr.

Less than twenty-four hours earlier David had led the Spurs in scoring in a play-off game against the Phoenix Suns. Within twenty-four hours David would be back in Phoenix, doing the same. But sandwiched between the two nationally televised, high-stakes contests was David the dad. Not David the MVP or Olympic Gold Medal winner, but David the father, explaining holy communion to David the son.

Of the events of that weekend, which mattered most? The basketball games or the communion service? Which will have eternal consequences? The points scored on the court? Or the message shared at church? What will make the biggest difference in young David’s life? Watching his dad play basketball or hearing him whisper a prayer?

Parents, we can’t protect children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of life. We can entrust our kids to Christ. Even then, however, our shoreline appeals may be followed by a difficult choice.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Jesus is walking on top of their problem

But when you feel like all is lost, that is the time to open your eyes the widest. You never know what you might see on a dark night. As we discovered when we read through the passage earlier, Jesus came to the disciples walking on the waves at night.

Jesus’ solution is both strange and intriguing. Jesus came into their chaos by walking on the water. He entered their struggle while walking on the sea. I don’t want you to miss this point, because Jesus walking on the water is the point.

Jesus is walking on top of their problem.

Their problem was the water. Jesus walked right on it. Water whipped by the wind had created havoc in their environment. Yet Jesus Christ came to them on top of the very thing that was causing them so much fear.

When we are in a trick bag, we generally look for God to take us out of our situation. That is a normal response because we don’t want to be in conflict, confusion, or pain. But what God often wants to do is to join us in the trick bag.

Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The God of the Extraordinary

How do you know when God is ready to break through your rock-and-a-hard-place situation? He will invade your ordinary with something extraordinary. He will create a scenario that doesn’t make sense.

When God creates a scenario that doesn’t make sense, it is not supposed to make sense. Don’t ignore God showing up in a way that you can’t explain. The reason you can’t explain it is because it is God showing up in it. The Bible is replete with examples of a person or a group of people wedged between a rock and a hard place who saw God show up in a way that their human understanding couldn’t explain.

If you are between a rock and a hard place and can’t find a good way out of what seems like a never-ending situation, look for God to show up in a way that you can’t explain. His ways are not your ways. His thoughts are not your thoughts (read Isaiah 55:8—9). God is not like you or me. If God were living in the era of soul music, His favorite song would be, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)?” Didn’t I show up in a way that you couldn’t explain? That’s what God does. Look for it.

Moses saw the bush that wasn’t burned up and probably thought, I don’t understand. I’ve been out here for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I must turn aside, because I can’t ignore what I can’t explain. So he turned aside.

Please note from Exodus 3:4 that God did not reveal Himself to Moses until Moses turned aside to look. In other words, Moses had to act before God acted. Remember what we learned from the life of Abraham? Much of what God wants to do with us will take place when we move. Your movement will incite His movement. In our last chapter, we read, “When Israel cried to the Lord, He remembered His covenant.” And in our current passage, we see, “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called …”

Until Moses responded to what God had placed before him, God wouldn’t give him more. A lot of us want more from God, but we haven’t turned to look at what He’s already doing. We haven’t responded to what He’s already done. We don’t do anything, and then we wonder why we aren’t getting more.

We aren’t getting more because God doesn’t see us doing anything with what He’s just given us. He just gave Moses something that he had never seen before—a bush that would not burn. He couldn’t ignore that. When something cannot be explained in our lives, we need to turn aside and take a look at it as well because it could be God trying to show us something at another level.

Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Eight steps to worrying less than you do

Here are eight worry-stoppers to expand your tally:

  1. Pray, first. Don’t pace up and down the floors of the waiting room; pray for a successful surgery. Don’t bemoan the collapse of an investment; ask God to help you. Don’t join the chorus of co-workers who complain about your boss; invite them to bow their heads with you and pray for him. Inoculate yourself inwardly to face your fears outwardly. “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him . . . ” (1 Peter 5:7 AMP).
  2. Easy, now. Slow down. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7). Imitate the mother of Jesus at the wedding in Cana. The reception was out of wine, a huge social no-no in the days of Jesus. Mary could have blamed the host for poor planning or the guests for overdrinking, but she didn’t catastrophize. No therapy sessions or counseling. Instead, she took the shortage straight to Jesus. “When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine’ ” ( John 2:3). See how quickly you can do the same. Assess the problem. Take it to Jesus and state it clearly.
  3. Act on it. Become a worry-slapper. Treat frets like mosquitoes. Do you procrastinate when a bloodsucking bug lights on your skin? “I’ll take care of it in a moment.” Of course you don’t! You give the critter the slap it deserves. Be equally decisive with anxiety. The moment a concern surfaces, deal with it. Don’t dwell on it. Head off worries before they get the best of you. Don’t waste an hour wondering what your boss thinks; ask her. Before you diagnose that mole as cancer, have it examined. Instead of assuming you’ll never get out of debt, consult an expert. Be a doer, not a stewer.
  4. Compile a worry list. Over a period of days record your anxious thoughts. Maintain a list of all the things that trouble you. Then review them. How many of them turned into a reality? You worried that the house would burn down. Did it? That your job would be outsourced. Was it?
  5. Evaluate your worry categories. Your list will highlight themes of worry. You’ll detect recurring areas of preoccupation that may become obsessions: what people think of you, finances, global calamities, your appearance or performance. Pray specifically about them.
  6. Focus on today. God meets daily needs daily. Not weekly or annually. He will give you what you need when it is needed. “Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy and in his grace find timely help” (Heb. 4:16 NEB).
  7. Unleash a worry army. Share your feelings with a few loved ones. Ask them to pray with and for you. They’re more willing to help than you might imagine. Less worry on your part means more happiness on theirs.
  8. Let God be enough. Jesus concludes his call to calmness with this challenge: “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matt. 6:32–33 NLT).

 

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

PRAYING ACCORDING TO OUR LEGAL RIGHTS

One of the most important things that we can do as Christians is to pray in line with our legal rights. But we often don’t do this because we misunderstand what prayer is. Prayer is not simply talking to God. Rather, prayer is asserting earthly permission for heavenly interference. Prayer is earth giving heaven authorization to intervene in the affairs of earth as heaven has previously stated that it would. That permission is granted based on your legal position and rights. That’s why it is essential to study the Word of God and to know the rights that He has granted you through His Word.

When Israel cried out to God, He remembered His covenant. God engaged the terms of His covenant because of their appeal to Him. This principle can be applied to our lives when we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place like Israel. We too can appeal to God. Israel’s dilemma centered around a form of bondage. Our bondage might not be the same as it was for the Hebrew slaves. But it can be any kind of stronghold that holds us captive. This might be a stronghold of addiction, food, sex, unhealthy relationship patterns, low self-esteem, materialism, elitism, or any number of things.

Egypt illegitimately held Israel in bondage. Israel cried out to be delivered from that bondage. God heard Israel’s cry and responded to them based on His covenantal agreement with them. If you are being held in bondage by an illegitimate force in your life, cry out to God. Pray to God for deliverance by appealing to Him based on your covenantal rights. There is a legal obligation that God has: to respond to you based on the fact that you have a legitimate agreement with Him found in His Word.

Go through the Scriptures and read everything that relates to your stronghold and pray it back to God. When you do that, prayer is no longer just a spiritual exercise or something to check off of your “Christian List of Things To Do.” Rather, prayer becomes a legal meeting where you and God get together in agreement on the same covenantal arrangement. Prayer becomes an act of holding God accountable, in the right sense of the word, to what He holds Himself accountable: His Word.

When God heard Israel cry out to Him, He “took notice of them” (Exodus 2:25). While He always knew what was happening, He heard their sigh and their cries and saw them from a covenantal perspective.

Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Are you afraid of disappointing God?

To sin is to disregard God, ignore his teachings, deny his blessings. Sin is “God-less” living, centering life on the center letter of the word sIn. The sinner’s life is me-focused, not God-focused. Wasn’t this the choice of Adam and Eve?

Prior to their sin they indwelled a fearless world. One with creation, one with God, one with each other. Eden was a “one-derful” world with one command: don’t touch the tree of knowledge. Adam and Eve were given a choice, and each day they chose to trust God. But then came the serpent, sowing seeds of doubt and offering a sweeter deal. “Has God indeed said . . . ,” he questioned (Gen. 3:1). “You will be like God,” he offered (Gen. 3:5).

Just like that, Eve was afraid. Some say she was pride filled, defiant, disobedient . . . but wasn’t she first afraid? Afraid that God was holding out, that she was missing out? Afraid Eden wasn’t enough? Afraid God wasn’t enough? Afraid God couldn’t deliver?

Suppose she and Adam had defied these fears. Refused to give soil to the serpent’s seeds of doubt. “You’re wrong, you reptile. Our Maker has provided for each and every need. We have no reason to doubt him. Go back to the hole from which you came.” But they spoke no such words. They mishandled fear, and fear did them in.

Eve quit trusting God and took matters—and the fruit—into her own hands. “Just in case God can’t do it, I will.” Adam followed suit.

Adam and Eve did what fear-filled people do. They ran for their lives. “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid’ ” (Gen. 3:8–10).

Fear, mismanaged, leads to sin. Sin leads to hiding. Since we’ve all sinned, we all hide, not in bushes, but in eighty-hour workweeks, temper tantrums, and religious busyness. We avoid contact with God.

We are convinced that God must hate our evil tendencies. We sure do. We don’t like the things we do and say. We despise our lustful thoughts, harsh judgments, and selfish deeds. If our sin nauseates us, how much more must it revolt a holy God! We draw a practical conclu-sion: God is irreparably ticked off at us. So what are we to do except duck into the bushes at the sound of his voice?

The prophet Isaiah says that sin has left us as lost and confused as stray sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). If the prophet had known my dog, he might have written, “All we like Molly have gone astray . . . ”

For such a sweet dog, she has a stubborn, defiant streak. Once her nose gets wind of a neighbor’s grilling steak or uncovered trash, no amount of commands can control her. You don’t want to know how many times this minister has chased his dog down the street, tossing un-minister-like warnings at his pet. She “sins,” living as if her master doesn’t exist. She is known to wander.

Last week we thought she’d wandered away for good. We posted her picture on bulletin boards, drove through the neighborhood, calling her name. Finally, after a day of futility, I went to the animal shelter. I described Molly to the animal shelter director. She wished me luck and pointed toward a barrack-shaped building whose door bore the sign Stray Dogs.

Warning to softhearted dog lovers: don’t go there! I’ve not seen such sadness since they shut down the drive-in movie theater in my hometown. Cage after cage of longing, frightened eyes. Big, round ones. Narrow, dark ones. Some peered from beneath the thick eyebrows of a cocker spaniel. Others from the bald-as-a-rock head of a Chihuahua. Different breeds but same plight. Lost as blind geese with no clue how to get home.

Two terriers, according to a note on the gate, were found on a remote highway. Someone found an aging poodle in an alley. I thought I’d found her when I spotted a golden retriever with salty hair. But it wasn’t Molly. It was a he with eyes so brown and lonely they nearly landed him a place in my backseat.

I didn’t find Molly at the shelter.

I did have a crazy urge at the shelter, however. I wanted to announce Jesus’ declaration: “Be of good cheer. You are lost no more!” I wanted to take the strays home with me, to unlock door after door and fill my car with barking, tail-wagging dogigals. I didn’t do it. As much as I wanted to save the dogs, I wanted to stay married even more.

But I did have the urge, and the urge helps me understand why Jesus made forgiveness his first fearless announcement. Yes, we have disappointed God. But, no, God has not abandoned us.

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Some things God doesn’t know

Yet while God knows everything actual and potential, we need to remember that God does not necessarily know everything experiential. Now wait, before you close this book and run off to send me a long, heated e-mail about what I just said, track with me a bit. For example, what if I were to ask you, “Does God know how it feels to commit a sin?” I would suggest to you that He couldn’t tell you how it would feel for Him to commit a sin because He has never experienced committing a sin. When Jesus bore our sin on the cross, He bore our sin. God has never had the experience of committing a sin.

Does God know what sin is? Absolutely. God knows all there is to know information-wise about sin, except for the doing of it. Because He’s never done it. So when the Angel of the Lord says to Abraham, “Now I know …”, He’s not talking about informational knowledge. God is omniscient with regard to information. What God is saying to Abraham is, “Now I have experienced that you fear Me.”

God is a God of information and knowledge, but God is also a God of experience. He enters into our emotions, to use human terminology. And so He listens in to our praise. Why doesn’t He just sit back, relax, and say, “I know what praise is. I have all of the information on praise available to me. In fact, I know who is going to praise me, who is praising me now, and who has praised me in the past—what’s more, I know who means it. I don’t need anyone to praise Me since I already know everything there is to know about praise.” Yet the Bible tells us that God is enthroned upon the praises offered to Him (see Psalm 22:3). To be enthroned on something is to be in the midst of it, a participant in it. God purposefully and willingly participates in the experience.

Why did God become a man? Not only to redeem us from a life of eternal punishment and separation, but also to participate in the human experience. Because it is through Jesus Christ becoming a man that He is now able to sympathize with us. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus can sympathize with us because He has gone through everything that a person goes through, except for sin.

So when the Angel of the Lord says, “Now I know that you fear God,” it is because He has now taken part in experiential participation. God enters into that moment in time when He experiences and feels the love that we sing, speak, and think about.

“You say that you’ll give me your son?” God asks Abraham. “Now I know. I know it experientially. You chose Me over what you love more than anything else in the world.”

One reason God puts you and me between a rock and a hard place is to give us that opportunity to enter into a relational experience with Him. He puts us in a trick bag so that He can ask us to give up our own “Isaac.”

What is your “Isaac?” It is anything that you love, treasure, or value most. God desires that we esteem Him above the most valued thing in our lives. This is when the abundant life comes, when we experience a side of God that very few people ever know. We discover things about God that others never get to enjoy, just like Abraham did.

Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Do you matter?

Do we matter? We fear we don’t. We fear nothingness, insignificance. We fear evaporation. We fear that in the last tabulation we make no contribution to the final sum. We fear coming and going and no one knowing.

That’s why it bothers us when a friend forgets to call or the teacher forgets our name or a colleague takes credit for something we’ve done or the airline loads us like cattle onto the next flight. They are affirming our deepest trepidation: no one cares, because we aren’t worth caring about. For that reason we crave the attention of our spouse or the affirmation of our boss, drop names of important people in conversations, wear college rings on our fingers, and put silicone in our breasts, flashy hubcaps on our cars, grids on our teeth, and silk ties around our necks. We covet some stilts.

Fashion designers tell us, “You’ll be somebody if you wear our jeans. Stick our name on your rear end, and insignificance will vanish.” So we do. And for a while we distance ourselves from the Too Smalls and enjoy a promotion into the Society of Higher-Ups. Fashion redeems us from the world of littleness and nothingness, and we are something else. Why? Because we spent half a paycheck on a pair of Italian jeans.

But then, horror of horrors, the styles change, the fad passes, the trend shifts from tight to baggy, faded to dark, and we’re left wearing yesterday’s jeans, feeling like yesterday’s news. Welcome back to the Tribe of the Too Smalls.

Maybe we can outsource our insignificance. By coupling our identity with someone’s Gulliver-sized achievement, we give our Lilliputian lives meaning. How else can you explain our fascination with sports franchises and athletes?

I am among the fascinated: an unabashed fan of the San Antonio Spurs. When they play basketball, I play basketball. When they score a basket, I score a basket. When they win, I dare to shout with the seventeen thousand other fans, “We won!” Yet how dare I make such a statement? Did I attend a single practice? Scout an opposing team? Contribute a coaching tip or sweat a drop of perspiration? No. I would if they asked. But I’m too insignificant, slow, old, uncoordinated.

Still, I hook my wagon to their rising star. Why? Because it separates me from the plebeians. It momentarily elevates me, knights me.

That philosophy motivated my fourth-grade friend Thomas to keep Dean Martin’s cigarette butt in a jar next to his bedside. Dean Martin crooned his way into the heart of 1960s America via television, radio, and nightclubs. He shared thin-air celebrity status with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. We lowborns could only admire such nobility from a distance. Thomas, however, could do more. When Dean Martin graced our West Texas town by appearing in a charity golf tournament, Thomas and his father followed him in the gallery. When the icon flicked his cigarette to the side, Thomas was there to snag it.

Who could forget the moment when we, the friends of Thomas, gathered in his bedroom to behold the holy stogie? We cashed in on the trickle-down principle of celebrity economy. Dean Martin was a star; Thomas owned Dean Martin’s cigarette; we knew Thomas. We were down-the-line beneficiaries of Dean Martin’s stardom.

Connect to someone special and become someone special, right?

Or simply outlive life. When the billionaire realizes that he will run out of years before he runs out of money, he establishes a foundation. No doubt some altruism motivates the move, but so does a hunger to matter.

We have kids for the same reason. Giving birth gives meaning to ourselves. Although parenthood is certainly a more noble reach for significance than showcasing Dean Martin’s cigarette butt, it is still, in part, just that. One day, when we die, our descendants will remember “good ol’ Dad” or “sweet ol’ Mom,” and we will extend our lives via theirs.

Italian jeans. Dean Martin’s cigarette butt. Foundations. Legacies. Forever looking to prove Bertrand Russell wrong. He was the fatalistic atheist who concluded, “I believe that when I die my bones will rot and nothing shall remain of my ego.”

“He can’t be right,” we sigh.

“He isn’t right!” Jesus announces. And in some of the kindest words ever heard, he allays the fear of the Stiltsvillians. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29–31 NIV).

What’s more inglorious than hair? Who inventories follicles? We monitor other resources: the amount of money in the bank, gas in the tank, pounds on the scale. But hair on the skin? No one, not even the man with the expanding bald spot, posts tiny number signs adjacent to each strand. We style hair, color hair, cut hair . . . but we don’t count hair.

God does. “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


I have 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

 

Between a rock and a hard place

A good friend of mine is an assistant football coach for the University of Texas, and he’ll call me during all hours of the day or night when he’s facing one of these trials. He calls me to talk through his trial, or as he puts it, the “trick bag.” In fact, he calls me so much about his “trick bags” that I’ve now nicknamed my friend “Trick bag,” and I call him that every time I see him.

A trick bag is a catch-22. It’s where you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Your back is up against the wall, and no matter how hard you try, there seems to be no visible solution. The only way to get out of your scenario would be illegitimately, because there is no valid way out.

When you are in a trick bag, you feel trapped, stuck, and tired of where you are. You either don’t know what to do, or you don’t know how to legitimately do what you feel you need to do. You are like Israel when they faced Pharaoh on one side and the Red Sea on the other, and certain death was upon them.

A trick bag is a lose-lose deal. If it were a clear win-lose deal, then you would know how to choose and where to turn. But what do you do when you’re caught between a rock and a hard place? What option do you choose when both options are bad? Have you ever been in a situation where all of the ways that you turn to are problems, and you are just trying to find the least possible problem to choose as the solution?

I’ve been in situations like that and it’s not fun. It’s about as fun as huffing and puffing on that treadmill in my doctor’s office during my annual physical exam. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that God has a purpose for these times in our lives. Just like my doctor is not a mean man for putting my body through all of that stress, God is not a mean God when He decrees that we go through trials.

When God wants to reveal the real condition of your heart to empower you toward His plan for your future, He puts you in one of these kinds of trials. And when God puts you in a certain kind of trial, trick bag, catch-22, or between a rock and a hard place, He is getting ready to do something significant in your life. That’s the conclusion of this book, and it comes at the beginning.

Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010).


Check out the 6-week Bible Study based on Tony Evans, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Fear never wrote a symphony

Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.

Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?

Imagine your life wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, and doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, absent the dread of failure, rejection, and calamity. Can you imagine a life with no fear? This is the possibility behind Jesus’ question.

“Why are you afraid?” he asks (Matt. 8:26 NCV).

At first blush we wonder if Jesus is serious. He may be kidding. Teasing. Pulling a quick one. Kind of like one swimmer asking another, “Why are you wet?” But Jesus doesn’t smile. He’s dead earnest. So are the men to whom he asks the question. A storm has turned their Galilean dinner cruise into a white-knuckled plunge.

Here is how one of them remembered the trip: “Jesus got into a boat, and his followers went with him. A great storm arose on the lake so that waves covered the boat” (Matt. 8:23–24 NCV).

These are Matthew’s words. He remembered well the pouncing tempest and bouncing boat and was careful in his terminology. Not just any noun would do. He pulled his Greek thesaurus off the shelf and hunted for a descriptor that exploded like the waves across the bow. He bypassed common terms for spring shower, squall, cloudburst, or downpour. They didn’t capture what he felt and saw that night: a rumbling earth and quivering shoreline. He recalled more than winds and whitecaps. His finger followed the column of synonyms down, down until he landed on a word that worked. “Ah, there it is.” Seismos—a quake, a trembling eruption of sea and sky. “A great seismos arose on the lake.”

The term still occupies a spot in our vernacular. A seismologist studies earthquakes, a seismograph measures them, and Matthew, along with a crew of recent recruits, felt a seismos that shook them to the core. He used the word on only two other occasions: once at Jesus’ death when Calvary shook (Matt. 27:51–54) and again at Jesus’ resurrection when the graveyard tremored (28:2). Apparently, the stilled storm shares equal billing in the trilogy of Jesus’ great shake-ups: defeating sin on the cross, death at the tomb, and here silencing fear on the sea.

Sudden fear. We know the fear was sudden because the storm was. An older translation reads, “Suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea.”

Not all storms come suddenly. Prairie farmers can see the formation of thunderclouds hours before the rain falls. This storm, however, springs like a lion out of the grass. One minute the disciples are shuffling cards for a midjourney game of hearts; the next they are gulping Galilean sea spray.

Peter and John, seasoned sailors, struggle to keep down the sail. Matthew, confirmed landlubber, struggles to keep down his breakfast. The storm is not what the tax collector bargained for. Do you sense his surprise in the way he links his two sentences? “Jesus got into a boat, and his followers went with him. A great storm arose on the lake” (8:23–24 NCV).

Wouldn’t you hope for a more chipper second sentence, a happier consequence of obedience? “Jesus got into a boat. His followers went with him, and suddenly a great rainbow arched in the sky, a flock of doves hovered in happy formation, a sea of glass mirrored their mast.” Don’t Christ-followers enjoy a calendar full of Caribbean cruises? No. This story sends the not-so-subtle and not-too-popular reminder: getting on board with Christ can mean getting soaked with Christ. Disciples can expect rough seas and stout winds. “In the world you will [not ‘might,’ ‘may,’ or ‘could’] have tribulation” ( John 16:33, brackets mine).

Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, and battle addictions, and, as a result, face fears. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm: an unstirred Christ.

“Jesus was sleeping” (v. 24 NCV).

Now there’s a scene. The disciples scream; Jesus dreams. Thunder roars; Jesus snores. He doesn’t doze, catnap, or rest. He slumbers. Could you sleep at a time like this? Could you snooze during a roller coaster loop-the-loop? In a wind tunnel? At a kettledrum concert? Jesus sleeps through all three at once!

Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).


I have 6-week Bible Study based on Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon. It is also available as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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