Have you been in a circumstance where no matter which way you turn, it’s still hard? You are trapped, caught, stuck “between a rock and a hard place,” and it’s extremely uncomfortable!
This old idiom confirms any circumstance where you face equal unsatisfactory options for an outcome. Basically meaning… you’re in a no-win situation, my friend.
No-win situations stink!
Especially stinky, when your situation produces hard consequences, not of your own making. When you are required to pay a harsh penalty for someone else’s selfish, immoral or illegal choices –this just seems wrong, doesn’t it?
Nevertheless, you may find yourself today right in the middle of a hard place, a really hard place… where you can lose. It. all!
The Bible tells a story in Luke 18. I’m sure you’ve heard it. It’s the one about the young rich man.
We listen to this sermon, or read these familiar verses –nod our heads. Then, we label this wise resource, placing it in the “love of money” folder. We keep it handy, in case we should ever find ourselves with more money than we can use. Our brain retains the message, yet misses the point entirely.
We’d be wise to pull out this folder, dust it off and take a second look –because this lesson is about so much more.
This rich young man asks Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus tells him, “…keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus gives him the short list:
- you shall not murder
- you shall not commit adultery
- you shall not steal
- you shall not give false testimony
- honor your father and mother
- love your neighbor as yourself
Looks like the young rich man is a shoo-in for the pearly gates, since he has kept all these rules his entire life. And as a result, this guy is way up on the corporate ladder. He receives a good wage for his efforts. He is responsible with his money. Pays his bills. Helps his neighbor(s). He goes to church. Gives his tithes. Serves as a Deacon. He has a good sense of humor. A man of great reputation. His credit score is pristine. His 401K, life insurance, a burial plan are well ordered. He has a growing college fund for his three kids. His personal gym provides means to stay physically fit. He adores and cares for his beautiful wife. He never forgets to walk his golden retriever, named Lucky.
Life is good –right?
Knowing these things about himself, really his next question for Jesus is more of a lure for affirmation, as he fishes for a complement –a nod and a pat on the back from the big boss.
So that’s it then, Jesus? I’m good to go – right… all. the. way?
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
Boom! There it is. Did you hear the thud! This guy just fell hard (from a lofty position) right down in between a rock and a hard place.
We don’t know why Jesus requires this sacrifice from the man. Perhaps Jesus wants to prepare him for something he will face on the road ahead. Maybe it is a matter of wasted talent. Jesus wants to put to better use elsewhere. Maybe Jesus just wants to spend more time with the guy, and the wealth is distracting. We don’t know.
The rich guy doesn’t understand either. I’m sorry –what Jesus? I’m not sure I heard you correctly?
You want to take away everything I’ve worked for? You want to wipe away all my dreams, my vision, and my life plan. MY identity?
The Bible says, the young rich man went away, sad, sorrowful, grieving. That is just too much to lose.
Thanks, but no thanks, Jesus.
One thing for sure, this lesson is not about money.
It’s about reality’s raspy whisper saying, “Moving forward from this is utterly impossible!”
It’s about the huge lump of fear lodged tightly in your throat, at the very thought of it.
This is a lesson about giving up your “everything.”
Here’s the part we seem to always skim over.
In our brokenness, shock, anger, disappointment, bitterness and depression we just “go away sad.” We don’t wait around long enough to hear the answer to the question our heart cries. “You want to take my ‘everything’, Jesus?”
No Sir, I truly do not, but the thief does.
No Sir, I will not … but the drunk driver will.
No Sir, not I, but the diagnosis…
No Sir, but the tornado…
No, but the accident…
No, but the …
Here’s the point.
We will all get caught! There is a rock and a hard place with our name on it.
But the hardest place of all isn’t when you’re stuck in the reality of your greatest fear. The hard place is when you miss the truth about the only rock that can break you free from it (Psalm 18:2).
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this (situation) IS impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
You see, the rich guy missed it too! It’s not about money, but it surely is about wise investments. It’s about where you deposit your faith. Where are you storing your treasure? Who you trust with your “Now what?”
If you want to insure your assets, if you want to prevent losing “everything,” then set up a living irrevocable trust fund. May I suggest you consider Jesus as your Trustee? I hear he gives great returns on investment.
Guaranteed! (Matt. 6:19-21)
A dozen-plus years ago, inspired by Ty Pennington, I convinced my sister to assist me with a little home makeover project. Obsessed with refurbishing the hard wood floors in my home, I couldn’t wait no longer.
After scrummaging around for capable tools, we began the job. First, we tore out a built-in buffet cabinet – along with a good amount of the plastered wall. Undaunted, we next removed the old vinyl flooring, uncovering the original wood beneath. However, this too proved more challenging than expected.
Armed with a crowbar, and other handy gadgets, covered head-to-toe in plaster dust, dirt and sweat, the two of us stepped back to survey the damage. We could see all the way through, down into the basement – it’s not too terribly bad. Okay… no, it is really, really bad! We managed to remove the vinyl along with the sub flooring to which it is attached!
Now, at this point you might think “WOW, she has one big mess on her hands.” However, the real mess hasn’t even shown up yet. The real mess is sitting in Owen Field, deeply engrossed in the 3rd quarter of the OU vs. Nebraska football game. The real mess doesn’t arrive until about 20 minutes later – when my husband picks up his Nokia 3310 in response to my call for help.
The short walk home from the stadium gave him just enough time to become totally aggravated, since he could hear the rumble of the cheering crowd behind him along the way. Rounding the corner from the dining room, he got a solid look at the goings-on in the kitchen ….
Wait for it – Boom!
Now you can go ahead and say it! I had one BIG mess on my hands!
Such good intentions! Such great expectations!
As I read the 18th chapter of John during my morning Bible study, this memory compels me to think about all of my big messes. Oh, I’ve had a few on my hands over a lifetime. Mostly resulting when my good intentions and great expectations have been derailed. How about you?
The disciples of Jesus probably think they had a mess on their hands, the night Jesus was arrested.
John tells us the disciple who betray Jesus has a squad of soldiers and police to accompany him when showing up at the olive grove. Jesus fully realizes all that is going to happen to him. Verse 5 says, “Stepping forward to meet them he asks, ‘Whom are you looking for?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said. And as he said it, they all fell backwards to the ground! Peter grabs his sword and slashes off the right ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant.” Jesus reigns him in telling Peter in verse 11, “Put your sword away. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?”
Late in the third quarter of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter appears to be knee deep in a mess of his own. But actually, his big mess doesn’t truly arrive till after they arrest Jesus and take him away. A few of the disciples follow after Him. One, being Peter. The short walk to the court yard of the High Priest gives Peter just enough time to become completely and totally aggravated, since he can hear the rumble of the angry crowd behind him along the way.
Verse 17 says, “While Peter stood outside the gate… the girl watching at the gate, let Peter in. The girl asked Peter, ‘Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?’”
Now wait for it … here it comes.
“No,” Peter said, “I am not!”
There it is!
Now we can all say it together… “Peter has one big mess on his hands!”
I mean, really, think about this. Knowing Jesus, then knowing you have made a complete mess out of your relationship with Him has GOT to be the biggest mess of all.
Peter is asked this question twice more, by different people, and each time the answer is the same. “No, I don’t know Him!”
After hanging out with Jesus the Christ for three years, learning from him, witnessing miracles of all kinds by Him, loving Him and being loved right back –how can Peter grab his crowbar and proceed to pry himself away from the firm foundation to which he is attached.
Why would he do this?
In my opinion, for many of the same reasons we continue to do this today; fear, doubt, disappointment, anger, hurt, shame or regret.
When our great expectations are not met, when good intentions fail, when Jesus doesn’t behave according to our well devised plans, we too grab our crowbar –separate ourselves.
We deny Him through our:
- Misplaced priorities
In times like these, while sitting in the dusty mess of our testimony, we can certainly use a makeover of our own. Ty Pennington is good y’all, but he has nothing on Jesus when it comes to restoring and renovating our hearts.
After being arrested, Jesus is sentenced to death by the Jews, beaten, mocked, crucified, put to death and laid in a tomb. Right about here it definitely looks like, not only Peter, but the world has a big mess on its hand.
But, three days later after rising from the grave, John 20: 19-23 tells us Jesus completes His ministry. On this particular evening, the disciples are meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus is standing there among them! After greeting them, He shows them His hands and side.
And how wonderful was their joy as they saw their Lord! He spoke to them again and said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and told them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”
Peter probably is praying really hard for an extreme makeover about now, as he is convicted and compelled by the Holy Spirit. An extreme makeover (or should I say “do-over”) is exactly what Peter gets.
This is how it happened after His resurrection, when Jesus appears again to the disciples beside the Lake of Galilee. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come too,” we all said. We did, but caught nothing all night. At dawn we saw a man standing on the beach but couldn’t see who he was. He called, “Any fish, boys?” “No,” we replied.
Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get plenty of them!” So we did, and couldn’t draw in the net because of the weight of the fish, there were so many! …Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said; and none of us dared ask him if he really was the Lord, for we were quite sure of it. Then Jesus went around serving us the bread and fish.
This was the third time Jesus had appeared to us since his return from the dead.
Here is where Jesus gets to work. He picks up His crowbar and walks over to Peter and begins to complete a little restoration project of His own.
Beginning in John 21:15, “When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said to Him, ‘You know that I love You.’
“Feed My lambs,” He told him. Jesus ask two more times, and the answer is the same. “Yes, Lord!”
Peter is grieved that He asked him the third time. “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”
With his heart, faith, and relationship restored once again, he follows Jesus.
Jesus’ renovation project separates Peter from the love of self and restores in him a heart after God’s own. Because of Peter’s love for Jesus, and through the power of the Holy Spirit within him, Peter gets it.
He understands when we pry ourselves away from Christ, no matter how big of a mess we make of our lives, Jesus is always there waiting to dust us off and bring us back into relationship with Him.
So if you are like Peter, or my sister and me, you too may have a mess on your hands right now. Jesus says “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live” (John 14:3-4).
Go ahead give Him a call! Let Him start your personal restoration.
I can’t wait to see the extreme makeover Jesus has for you (and me)!
Can’t you just see it…? Ty and Jesus standing there together with big ol’ smiles on their faces, waiting to see our reaction?
Everybody shout “Move that bus!!”
Wait for it …
Where do you want to eat?
Oh, I don’t care … Where do you want to eat?
Oh it doesn’t matter to me -just pick a place.
OK…how about Joe’s Crab Shack?
Oh no not there, I can’t eat seafood!
OK well then where…?
Oh just pick somewhere, it really doesn’t matter to me, I’m easy.
OK… how about Cool Greens?
Oh no, I’m not one for salad, or sandwiches, but I’ll pretty much eat anything else – just pick a place.
Does this scenario have your name written all over it? Obviously, having trouble picking a restaurant after church on Sunday, may not alter your life (unless you’re with your spouse) however, there are certainly decisions we make daily that can. Let’s face it some choices are just plain hard.
I would guess you’ve made a decision or two which didn’t work out the way you intended. You may have even made a decision, or two, which absolutely altered your entire life (for the good and bad).
Think about the toughest decision you’ve ever faced? How did you decide what to choose?
I mean think about it…which methodology should you rely on when choosing:
- the love of your life
- to reach out to the hurting
- to BE a Parent (not to just ‘have’ a kid)
- to hop on a particular career path
- to sign on the dotted line
- to tell the truth
- to live this kind of lifestyle
- to care even when it hurts
- to let your guard down
- to move the family
- to forgive
- to believe in this God, or believe in nothing at all
Some folks rely on just following their gut (feelings). Some rely on the opinion of friends. I’ve heard stories about people using Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and astrology charts. There have been a couple of instances where a decision is made by flipping a coin. No matter which system of choice you choose, choice happens, even when you choose not to choose anything at all. So on one of those days ahead when you must choose –which method of choice will you rely on to settle the decisions that settle your life?
“On one of those days… Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated Apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
This scripture is just one example of the many decisions Jesus of Nazareth faced daily, which not only altered his life here on Earth, but choices which changed your life and mine for eternity. The decision regarding who he will entrust the gospel, and the entire future of the Christian church, doesn’t get much bigger. Yet, in all of these life altering moments he knows exactly who to turn to for good guidance. He finds a secluded place and he prays for direction from the one and only omniscient God!
Got a big decision to make today (don’t we all)? What will you do?
May I suggest you wisely follow the example of the only person to ever get it all right, all the time?
Start with “Choosing” a quiet place, then prayerfully seek advice from the Creator of the Universe.
We certainly won’t get it right all the time, but seeking advice from the Lord, through prayer, is never the wrong decision.
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 HCSB)
Choose Godly wisdom today.
Then, this Sunday when the topic of food comes up, and another argument breaks out over paper, rock, and scissors – just stop … take it to your Heavenly Father, after all, Scripture says (unlike some people) He doesn’t criticize.
Who holds the record in your house – for being grounded, having their smart device confiscated or sitting in time out? Who in your family is the rebellious one?
Growing up, the trophy in this particular category belonged to me. I constantly found myself on the wrong side of the house rules, and right in the middle of natural consequences.
I can still hear my mom saying, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you…”
Such a bewildering statement – since I’m the one crying!
Years later, while raising three children of my own, God revealed the truth in her words.
I remember a particular rough patch where one of our children continually suffered harsh consequences as a result of their bad choices. My husband and I were both weary from never ending disciplinary tactics, harsh warnings, tough love, and so on. You haven’t lived until you share space with a “grounded” child who has no phone, video game, computer or extracurricular activity. Heaven help!
Seriously… watching the impact of real penalties and punishment accumulate through rebellion and disobedience on the life of a child you love is heart breaking. We couldn’t seem to change the behavior, so we locked our focus on changing the rules.
We all do this though, don’t we?
Our immense love for our children, spouses, friend or neighbor tugs hard at the heart, pulling us off the firm foundation of God’s truth. Never wanting the sum of our bad choices to equal the truth of our consequences when controlling the behavior of loved ones is not an option. The only choice is to change the truth!
Little by little we loosen the reigns. We began watering down the law and manipulate the truth to accommodate (and justify) poor choices. This is done in an effort to avoid painful consequences for those we love, and honestly to Just. Keep. The. Peace!
The real truth is, there is no peace found in sin and rebellion.
Our choices, good and bad, still hold consequences. Even when we can’t manage it, even when we try to manipulate it or even if we don’t acknowledge or believe it at all, the truth is still the truth.
God loves us too much to give up – or give in. He loves us too much to bend the rules.
We see this in the example shown through the life of Jeremiah the Prophet. God, through Jerimiah, confronts a nation in regard to their rebellion – for not following the house rules. The people respond by attacking Jerimiah, ignoring God’s message, and destroying the “Rule Book.”
Not much has changed since 637 B.C. It’s still a tough duty to live authentically, in the truth, with those you love. People today still ignore God, challenge His rules and then blame others for the consequences.
It’s messy. It’s exasperating. It’s exhausting!
Life is much more pleasant when we avoid all things awkward and confrontational (especially with our children). Often times, it’s easier to ignore, justify or even accept a watered down version of the truth, than to admit who we are in our sin.
But, like Jerimiah, you too have the power to stand firm on God’s truth.
For love’s sake, you must do just that! Here’s why:
The real truth says there is another way
- “You have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom. 8:12-14).
- “‘For I am with you to take you out of trouble,’ says the Lord. Then the Lord put out His hand and touched my mouth, and said to me, ‘See, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jer. 1:8-9).
God has also put word(s) in the mouth of his children – truth spoken from the overflow of our heart. His purpose is for us to know it, believe it, share it and live in the freedom (and peace) of it.
Speak it boldly over those you love!
- Because, if when we KNOW what lies ahead (for all eternity) for those we love, living outside the truth, and we say nothing … this knowledge should “hurt us more!”
Yes, often times, the revealing light from the truth of God’s word, does hurt … but stand firm anyway!
We can’t give up. We can’t wear out. We can’t compromise.
Sometimes… Love just hurts.
And thank you Lord… for loving me until it hurt You more!
Recently, I read an article in the Health section of NBCnews.com. I can’t say I am surprised by what I read, since the piece is entitled The ‘new normal’: Cohabitation on the rise. Research shows “Nearly half of women in ‘first unions’ with men – 48 percent – moved in with no wedding vows, according to interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010, up from 43 percent in 2002 and 34 percent in 1995.” “It’s becoming more acceptable to be in a long-term relationship without a legal document,” says Pamela J. Smock, director and research professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Statistically, “By the time they’re 20, 1 in 4 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. have lived (cohabitated) with a man.”
One woman interviewed went so far as to reveal personally, “It was definitely a no-brainer for me. It was always something I planned to do.” Cohabiting was a way to make sure they were ready for the daily challenges of marriage, she stated, adding that “most of the young women she knows feel the same.”
For those surveyed, living together is merely an expected part of the journey. It is a test drive. A trial run. This way, if it doesn’t “work-out,” …
Where do we point our finger? What is perpetuating this warped ideal?
We are a generation of instant gratification, “brought to you by…” every commercial, movie, news broadcast, Facebook post and tweet showing the perfect relationship. We all want that!
And, that Pinterest perfect family is surely hassle free, right?
Our consumeristic hearts have added peace, joy and happiness to the list of things which can not only be easily shopped for and purchased, but can just as easily be returned and/or replaced.
Customer beware! Less than half of these “partnerships” survive.
According to Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a member of the James Madison Society at Princeton University, cohabitation is worse than divorce on kids.
Wilcox’s research found teens living in a cohabiting stepfamily were more than twice as likely to use drugs, compared to teens living in an intact married family, even considering differences in income, education, race and family instability.
In fact, children in cohabiting stepfamilies rated worse on drug use than children in stable single-parent families.
Evidence further suggests that the most dangerous situation is one where a mother cohabits with a boyfriend. A recent federal study, by the Administration of Children and Family Services, found that children cohabiting with a parent and an unrelated partner (usually a boyfriend) are about 10 times more likely to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused, compared to children living with their own married parents.
The research suggests that cohabitation almost doubles a child’s risk of negative outcomes like poor school performance, psychological problems and delinquency/drug use. This is probably because cohabiting relationships tend to be characterized by less commitment, less sexual fidelity, more domestic violence, more instability and more insecurity, compared to married relationships. Needless to say, these kinds of relationship factors don’t foster an ideal home environment for children.
Finally, according to the American College of Pediatrics (March 2015), cohabitating partners are at a greater risk of sexually transmitted disease, due to a higher percentage of multiple partners and incidence of infidelity.
Are you surprised by these findings? Are you saddened by them? The consequences for families surviving these living situations is heartbreaking.
What is the alternative? What option is available for a future cohabitant who, like the woman in the article, plans to put their consumer cart before the proverbial wedding carriage?
- The Bible says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Stop shopping for love in all the wrong places.
- Secondly, Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Stop test driving love and happiness before you commit. This will never prevent hills, curves, fender benders, or roll-overs. The road is narrow and hard to travel. Jesus wrote the manual, and He will be there with you until the journey’s end.
- Lastly, live your life with Jesus. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 34:4. Align you heart with His. He will supply all your needs, no matter what lies ahead. He will never leave you or forsake you!
A recent Bible study reveals, “God’s message is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” That is the message of faith that we preach. If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from death, you will be saved. For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved. As the scripture says, “Everyone who calls out to the Lord for help will be saved,” (Rom. 10:8-13).
Now, these are statistics we can actually “live with”…
The one who calls us is faithful! Yes Lord, “I do.”