Gary Bower Posts

If God Is Saying “Go,” Why Am I Stuck Here? by Gary Bower

Tyndale Kids

woman-sitting-against-wall

It was a beautiful July evening, back in the olden days before GPS and cell phones. The weather was perfect as we left the rustic lodge in the foothills of Appalachia. With my new bride in the seat beside me, I was enjoying gorgeous scenery inside and outside the vehicle while we drove to a special event. The winding road threaded through a dense forest of hardwoods, and with every twist and turn I became a little more unsure of my bearings. Somewhere along the way I missed a turn, and we became lost among the trees, unable to find our way out of the park. The signage was poor, and there were no hikers to ask for directions. I could have kicked myself for leaving the lodge without my park map.

As a Christian, I have a map, directions to help me navigate my way through thick forests. It’s called the Bible.

Same week, same honeymoon, different region. In a sparsely populated area known for its countless inland lakes, we found ourselves, once again, driving along a winding road, this time with a map in hand. But a few miles from our destination, around midnight, all the lights of our 1967 Plymouth suddenly went dead. We pulled over and sat in darkness wondering how to find our way, until a friendly local stopped to offer help. After hearing our situation, she said, “I know the place. Follow me.” For the remainder of the dark journey, her tail lights gave the guidance we desperately needed.

winding-road-in-forest

As a Christian, I have a mentor, a guide to lead me through places that are so dark I struggle to see the map clearly. He’s called the Holy Spirit.

Moses received his directions, his map, when God spoke clear instructions to him at the burning bush and again, later, on the mountain. Moses also had a guide—his mentor—in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so he and the people could keep going even in the dark. After all the opposition they had faced in Egypt, Moses and his people were finally making some real progress, heading down the road toward the destination God had for them. Except for one problem: They ran out of road.

You’ve probably been there. I know I have, trying to follow God’s Word and seeking Him for guidance. And just when you think you’ve received your directions and you’re heading down the path He has for you, you hit a brick wall (or in Moses’ case, a sea). There simply is no more road. The career door closed. The ministry opportunity ended. The family plan dissolved. The medical options ran out. The money dried up. You’ve taken the last step you can take, right up to the water’s edge, and the hostile army is closing in. Here’s how I describe it in my kids’ book The Hurry-Up Exit from Egypt: “[This is] the sea that made them all cry, ‘We’re trapped here like rats, and we’re all gonna die!’”

the-hurry-up-exit-from-egypt

Sometimes, I’ve found that same mentality in me. I’ve followed my map and my mentor right up to what seems like a brick wall, and here I am at the end of the road. But God had a third “m” for Moses: a miracle. While hundreds of thousands looked back at the approaching terror, Moses looked forward and watched the Waymaker make a way. God used a tremendous wind to heap up the waters of the sea like a wall on each side. Extraordinary! Truth really is stranger than fiction.

And while this was a truly incredible miracle, it was by no means the only miracle God did for His people. How about water in the desert . . . out of a rock? (Exodus 17). Or defeating an innumerable army while standing still and singing? (2 Chronicles 20). The Bible is filled with mind-blowing miracles done for the helpless in times that were hopeless. It tells us repeatedly to remind ourselves and our children of the wonders God has performed (Joshua 4:21-24; Psalm 78:2-7; Psalm 105; 1 Chronicles 16:8-12; Isaiah 43:16-19). These reminders build faith in our children. They build faith in me. And as my faith starts to swell again, I realize that, with God, not even the sky is the limit. You never know what He might do! After all, many years after He parted one sea, He simply chose to walk on top of another one.

I’m not exactly sure why my painful losses tend to be easier to recall than the incredible answers to prayer I’ve experienced. Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to tell and retell my children about God’s wonderful deeds. I can’t afford to let myself forget the miracles God did yesterday; I may be needing one tomorrow.

I’ll continue to look to my map. I’ll try to keep up with my mentor. And sometimes, when I run out of road, I’ll just have to remember to ask for a good old fashioned miracle.


Gary Bower is an award-winning author, speaker, and ordained minister. His many years of experience pastoring small children, tweens, teens, and adults have helped him develop a rare ability to touch hearts of a wide age range simultaneously. He is the author of sixteen books, including Perfect Christmas. His books have received high praise from Gary Smalley, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries, and the Duggar family. Gary speaks all over the Eastern United States at homeschool conventions, churches, and MOPS groups. He loves to read to his children and grandchildren.

Ebenezer: Memorial Stones to Guide Our Children by Sarah Rubio

Tyndale Kids

memorial-wreath

Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day. If you visit or drive by a cemetery or war monument, you’ll see wreaths and flowers laid to honor and you’ll remember those who sacrificed their lives while serving in our country’s armed forces. These flowers, and the stones they decorate, serve as memorials—reminders—to those of us who have benefited from that sacrifice.

Thinking about memorials reminds me of my favorite biblical monument, the one Israel’s last judge, Samuel, called Ebenezer: “Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means ‘the stone of help’), for he said, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us!’” (1 Samuel 7:12).

ebenezer-stone

The Ebenezer monument commemorates a miraculous victory God won for his people against one of their greatest enemies, the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 7:3-13). Following Samuel’s instructions, the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah to recommit themselves to God. The Philistines got word of this convocation and decided to attack. The terrified Israelites begged God to save them, and the Lord responded in dramatic fashion: “The Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them” (1 Samuel 7:10). After the battle, Samuel set up the Ebenezer stone to remind Israel of their God’s faithfulness.

I think remembrance is one of the most important reasons we start recounting the Bible’s historical narratives to our children from such a young age—not just because they are entertaining, or an engaging entry point into Scripture, but because of what they help us remember about God. The creation account reminds us that God is our Source, that he is joyful and creative, that he delights in what he has made. The story of Noah and the Flood reminds us that God preserves even as he purifies. In the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, we remember that God provides (see Genesis 22:14); his provision of a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place foreshadows his greatest provision of all—Jesus, the perfect sacrifice and substitute.

It has been my privilege in recent years to edit some beautiful Bible storybooks for Tyndale Kids—books that I use to set up “memorial stones” for my own children, and that I hope and pray will become such memorials for thousands of other parents and children. Here are some of my favorites:

 

god-made-the-world-sarah-jean-collins

God Made the World by Sarah Jean Collins—Author/illustrator Sarah Jean Collins celebrates God’s artistry with her beautiful geometric illustrations. The fun shapes and bright colors are a feast for grown-up and tiny eyes alike, and the sturdy board-book pages are easy for little hands to turn. This is the perfect first Bible storybook for babies and toddlers. (Releasing October 2017.)

 

the-hurry-up-exit-from-egypt-gary-bower

The Faith that God Built series by Gary Bower—These four cumulative rhyming stories (The Beautiful Garden of Eden, A Patch on the Peak of Ararat, The Hurry-Up Exit from Egypt, and The Frightening Philippi Jail) commemorate big moments in the history of God’s people in a fresh way. Each book points the reader back to the Book with a key Scripture verse and a reference to the entire passage the story is taken from.

 

the-story-travelers-bible-tracey-madder

The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder—This 85-story volume is a great entry into the world of the Bible for young grade-schoolers. Kids join Lana, Munch, and Griffin on an epic adventure to find out more about the people, places, and events of the Bible. The book includes informational features, application points, and memory verses to help kids go deeper, and each story includes its biblical source reference.

It is good and right for us to place or contemplate one of the memorials honoring our fallen soldiers this weekend. But I pray that you will also take some time to place a memorial of God’s faithfulness in the life of a child dear to you. “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”—and because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)—we know that he will help us through every point ahead.


sarah-rubioEditor Sarah Rubio grew up as a missionary kid in Ecuador and holds a bachelor of arts in communication from Wheaton College. She joined Tyndale’s editorial team in 2007, working mainly on Spanish books until transitioning to English nonfiction and children’s in 2014. One of the first Tyndale products she encountered was a One Year Bible that her father read with her every year from the age of eight to eighteen. Sarah loves challenging authors to be better writers while they’re challenging her with the ideas in their books. She lives in Chicago’s northwest suburbs with her husband and children.


Find more #tyndalekids books today for your young readers at tyndale.com/youth.