Between A Rock & A Hard Place

I read a verse in the Bible which I think may have been the origin of the cliché: “We are between a rock and a hard place.”

Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.

Well, except the Israelites would have said, “Remember that time we were stuck between Migdol and the sea?”

The cliché implies that neither of my options are very pleasant. In fact, it really doesn’t matter whether I choose the rock or the hard place, there is going to be some pain involved in my choice. One way looks bad, and the other way looks just as bad.

Ever been there?

The rock and the hard place the Israelites found themselves between was the onrushing, ticked-off, fearsome Egyptian army and the un-crossable Red Sea. ″Let’s see, would I rather have death by the sword or death by drowning?″

Between a rock and a hard place for sure!

But it gets even worse when the Israelites stopped to think, “How did we end up here? Oh, yeah, God told us to encamp here!”

Sometimes I end up between a rock and a hard place—an angry army and an uncrossable ocean—because of my own stupid choices. I can accept that. But it’s a little harder to accept my predicament when I realize that God put me here.

Why would God do this to the Israelites? Why would He do it to me? Here’s what God said:

But I will gain glory for Myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.

Is this a scary place to be? Yep! In fact the Bible says the Israelites were terrified!

But here’s the really great news: When I realize that God has put me between a rock and a hard place, stay calm! Because He brought me here, He is going to do the heavy lifting.

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.

God shattered the rock by wiping out the onrushing Egyptian army.

God made the hard place smooth by parting the waters of the ocean.

God was glorified and all people knew He was God.

Are you in a tough spot? Are you between a rock and a hard place? Do you feel like God put you there? If so, it’s time to stay calm. He’s in control. If He put you there, let Him fight the battle for you. Let God be glorified in smashing your rock and making your hard place smooth.

Good Friday

My favorite weekend of the year is here! I love remembering what Christ did on Calvary, and then celebrating His resurrection. Please make plans to join us for two special services this weekend—

Good Friday Service at noon on Friday, April 2. We’ll reflect on the meaning of the Cross, especially focusing on exactly what was nailed to that old rugged Cross.

Conspiracy! An Easter Breakfast Drama at 9am and 11am on Sunday, April 4. Join us for breakfast, an original Easter drama, uplifting music, and a look at what really makes our hearts feel alive.

Looking forward to celebrating with you this weekend.

Should We Fire God? (book review)

Probably like me, the first thing that caught your eye was the title. Jim Pace didn’t entitle his book Should We Fire God? just to be provocative. It’s a legitimate question. In fact, it’s a question that so many have wrestled with for centuries: How can God allow bad things to happen?

It’s one thing when we in America are asking this question about the genocide in Darfur, or the earthquake in Haiti, or a famine in the Middle East. But what about when it hits so much closer to home?

Jim Price was pastoring at Virginia Tech University, when on April 16, 2007, a lone gunman opened fire on the campus killing over 30 people, including himself. Immediately Jim was forced face-to-face with this age-old question: How could this happen?

Some thought, “If God couldn’t keep us safe, perhaps He’s not up to the job. Should we fire God?

Carefully, honestly, loving, Jim addresses this question. For him, this is not some theoretic exercise. It’s personal. The emotion comes through raw and real. After weighing all the evidence and considering all of the possibilities, Jim reaches the conclusion that…. Well, you’ll have to read Should We Fire God? for yourself and come up with your own conclusion.

If you’ve ever faced heartache, if you’ve ever wondered how God could allow something tragic to happen, if you’ve ever wrestled with the thought of firing God, you will find some great thinking material in this book.

I am a FaithWords book reviewer.

YouVersion

As readers of this blog know, I love to read. But hands-down, no-comparison, head-and-shoulders above any other book, my favorite book is the Bible.

One of the best apps I have added to my iPhone is YouVersion. I love being able to read the Scripture in different translations, but I especially love the daily reading plans. There are lots to choose from. Currently I am reading through the wisdom and insight of the “Psalms & Proverbs” reading plan.

Good news… even without an iPhone or other smart phone, you can still access YouVersion via your computer.

Better news… if you have a smart phone, your computer access and phone access are synced.

Best news… YouVersion is free! Thanks to the incredible folks at Lifechurch.tv who have made this available to anyone anywhere.

Go ahead, dive right into the Bible. Once you start reading it, I’m sure it will become your favorite book too.

Guard These Bones

Here’s an odd one. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for a long, long time. God does these miraculous things, culminating in the death of every firstborn child in Egypt who’s not in a house covered by lamb’s blood. Pharaoh has finally had enough, “Quick!” he shouts, “Get out of here now! Leave this country!”

So the Israelites pack up as quickly as they can to leave before Pharaoh changes his mind. And then this odd statement appears, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.”

Seriously? Bones? We’re kinda in a rush here!

Well, they’re not just any bones. It’s not like they’re just loose bones lying around. They’re in a mummy case.

Yeah, and…?

They were the bones of Joseph. The one who foresaw the coming famine. The one whom Pharaoh put as second-in-command to make preparations for the famine. The one who saved the Israelites from starvation. That Joseph. Just before he died he made his family take an oath that when they left Egypt, they would take his bones with them (Genesis 50:25-26).

They took the oath. And for the next 430 years someone had to watch over the bones. Through about twelve generations, from father to son, from son to grandson, from grandson to great-grandson, the oath was passed: “Guard these bones. When we leave, the bones go with us.”

So when they left Egypt, Moses took the bones with him. But then the Israelites sinned and had to wander in the wilderness for another 40 years. Another whole generation died, and still the oath was passed: “Guard these bones.”

The Israelites finally re-entered their home land, but had to defeat their enemies that had taken possession of their land while they were in Egypt. For about 30 years the Israelites fought. And still the oath was passed: “Guard these bones.”

Finally as a postscript to Joshua’s account we see Joseph’s bones being buried in Shechem, nearly 500 years after Joseph died!

For 500 years they kept the oath; they guarded the bones.

Do you realize that the way you are living today could be the answer to a 500-year-old prayer? Just like the Israelites who kept their eyes on God, you and I must live today with a purpose and with a mission. When we live godly lives, we are guarding the bones of prayers that were prayed, the bones of petitions that were made, the bones of oaths that were requested and honored.

What are you doing today to guard the bones of your ancestor’s prayers?

Don’t Just Sit There

I’m convinced that in my pursuit of a deeper relationship with Christ, neutral is the most vulnerable position I can take.

I can pursue God with all I’ve got. Every day I can learn a little more what it means to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength.

Or I can make a decision that I’ve gone as far as I can in my relationship with Jesus. I can say, “I’m not willing to be stretched any further. I’m comfortable with where I am.” But when I get into this neutral position, I’m more likely to slide away from God than I am to move closer to Him. It’s hard to even stay where I was. Check this out:

BLESSED—HAPPY, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable—is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly—following their advice, their plans and purposes—nor stands submissive and inactive in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down to relax and rest where the scornful and the mockers gather.

It’s when I become inactive that I am vulnerable to ungodly counsel.

It’s when I sit down to relax that I can easily slip into the cynical banter of the scornful.

If I want to avoid the downward slide away from God, I can’t just sit still. I’ve got to be actively, passionately, wholeheartedly moving toward Him. Solomon wrote:

Make your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and incline and direct your heart and mind to understanding—applying all your powers to the quest for it.

Don’t just sit there! Keep on moving closer and closer to Jesus every day.

A Day In The ER

Betsy had been experiencing a lower back pain for a couple of days, but yesterday morning it really intensified. She made an appointment to see her doctor, and after just a few minutes of being examined her doctor announced, “I need to send you to the ER. I think you might have a kidney stone.”

So I swooped in, picked up my bride, and off to the ER we went. After the tests there, the doctors believe that it is not a kidney stone but a severe muscle spasm.

I’m grateful for…

  • …the fact that ER trips for our family are few and far between.
  • …relatively easy access to medical care.
  • …the wisdom of doctors.
  • …the kindnesses of nurses.
  • …the genius of scientists who design medicines.
  • …health insurance.
  • …technology that allowed me to communicate with family during this time.
  • …friends who pitched in to help.

I’m not anxious to make another ER trip anytime soon, but it was a good time to look around and recognize how much I have to be grateful for every single day.

What are you grateful for today?

Yeah, But…

You know the story, or maybe you’ve even seen it portrayed on the big screen, where God appears to Moses in the burning bush. God handpicks Moses to lead His people to freedom. He assures Moses, “I AM the One who is sending you with My authority.” God shows Moses these miracles that He is going to do through him.

And how does Moses respond? “Yeah, but….” Sadly, this is how I usually respond too.

“Yeah, but who am I that You would handpick me?”

  • I don’t have the right credentials.
  • My family is dysfunctional.
  • I’m not comfortable with risk.
  • I’ve never done anything like this before.

“Yeah, but how do I really know this is You, God?”

  • I need a sign.
  • I’ve made mistakes before when I thought I was following You.
  • Have I mentioned I’ve never done anything like this before?

“Yeah, but what if this doesn’t work out?”

  • I need assurance.
  • I want to know where this is going to end up before I get started.
  • What happens next?

“Yeah, but how will I know what to say or do?”

  • I don’t want to look like a fool.
  • I don’t want to be embarrassed.
  • I want to be in control.

It’s interesting to see that God patiently answered all of Moses’ “Yeah, but” questions. It was only when Moses reached the conclusion “You’ve got the wrong guy” that God became angry.

Moses’ first response was his best response: Here I am.

This is what usually happens to me. God calls me to do something or say something for Him, and I immediately say, “Here I am.” Then I begin to think about what I just committed to. It’s then that I come up with all my “Yeah, but” reasons why I can’t be the guy God thinks I am. In other words, I think my way out of God’s plan for me.

Here’s what I need to remember: If God calls me, it’s only because He has already equipped me.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

No more “Yeah, but” second-guessing, I’m just sticking with “Here I am.”

What’s So Amazing About Grace (book review)

Philip Yancey calls grace “the last best word,” and I quite agree. What’s So Amazing About Grace is a challenging read because it is so painful. The truth of our almost daily practice of ungrace is confronting and convicting.

Throughout this book I wanted to say, “I’m glad I don’t behave that way.” And then I’d get a quick glance of myself in the mirror and realize how easily I slip into the same ungraceful behavior I despise. I so desperately want to be a grace-filled man.

Here are just a few of the passages that I’m meditating on, and trying to apply to my life:

  • “I yearn for the church to become a nourishing culture of grace.”
  • “Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?”
  • “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” (Dorothy Day)
  • “In a brilliant stroke Jesus replaces the two assumed categories, righteous and guilty, with two different categories: sinners who admit and sinners who deny.”
  • “Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our Need, a joy in total dependence. We become ‘jolly beggars.’” (C.S. Lewis)
  • “Having spent time around ‘sinners’ and also around purported ‘saints,’ I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think He preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had not pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged Him, and sought to catch Him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.”

If you are challenged about living grace-filled in an increasingly grace-less society, you will find ample help in reading this book.

Comparative Religion Class In Sudan

Guest Author: Dick Brogden

There is a wonderful Egyptian Mission agency active in Sudan that exists to give Christ’s living water to the last, least, and lost.  One annual ministry they provide is a Book and Bible exhibition in the middle of downtown Khartoum.  They sell Christian books and Bibles, show Christian films, and host lectures on aspects of the Christian faith.  The exhibition is set up in an empty lot that opens on the major downtown avenue and is open to all.

Last month during the exhibition, five buses pulled up and 150 veiled-to-the-eyes Muslim women plodded out.  They were the first year students from a local Islamic University.  Their professor of comparative religion, Dr. Yathrub, decided they needed to interact with some Christians.  The 150 women were respectful, participated in the events, and took home some free literature as a gift.  Dr. Yathrub asked if she could return with the 4th year students.

A couple days later, five more buses, and 150 more Muslim women, most veiled-to-the-eyes showed up.  One hundred of them marched right to the lecture tent and asked if the lecturer could address the issue of the unity of God and the Trinity.  The staff obliged and a wonderful question and answer time followed.  Again, all the students were kind, earnest, and respectful in their interaction.  They too were given a free Christian book titled, “Did Jesus ever claim to be God?” and went home happy.  Dr. Yathrub asked if she could bring the entire year 2 and 3 students, and of course the staff of the event agreed.

The next day Dr. Yathrub called to apologize.  She could not make it nor bring the other students.  Evidently, 300 veiled Muslim women marching around the campus happily reading, discussing, and sharing Christian material was too much for the administration and they opened an investigation of censure against Dr. Yathrub.  To her credit she did not back down, insisting that in comparative religious studies you must be free to compare religions.  A novel and dangerous idea.

Would you join us in praise and prayer.  Praise God that 300 Muslim women were gracious and brave enough to visit the exhibition.  Pray that the words they heard, and the literature they now posses, would be used of the Holy Spirit to delight their hearts in Jesus and unveil their spirits.  Praise God for the courage for Dr. Yathrub.  Would you pray with us that God would reward her with Himself and unveil Jesus to her.  Praise God for the Living Water Team.  Please pray that they continue to be bold and loving in witness and that as a result they too experience a mighty refreshing.

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