Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Other Can Save



“for no other god can save in this way.”
Daniel 3:29b (NIV)


The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, captive young Israelites who dared to defy King Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to worship his golden idol, ends with a very exciting conclusion. After being bound and thrown into a fiery furnace for disobeying the king, our three friends are seen by an amazed Nebuchadnezzar walking around unbound in the fire, along with a fourth friend. The king calls them out of the fire. Everyone saw that not only were these young men unharmed, but they had no smell of smoke on them. The king declared that no one would be allowed to speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar was amazed not only by their devotion in the face of horrific consequences, but in their God’s ability to save them.

It is amazing to think that three young men, captives living in a foreign land, were able to make such a deep impression on the pagan king. Their stand of obedience and devotion to God in the midst of severe trials caused Nebuchadnezzar to declare the ability of God to save. So therein lies the question for me.

Some days, life is hard. Sometimes, I struggle with doubt when things are not going according to my plan. But if a pagan king can declare God’s unique ability to save, what business do I, a child of God who has seen His mighty power in my life, have ever doubting that God will provide deliverance?

How about you? Where can you, along with Nebuchadnezzar, declare aloud your belief today in God’s ability to save you in whatever area you need deliverance?

No God can save like ours.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Able


If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and
He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
Daniel 3: 17 (ESV)


Daniel, chapter 3, contains the exciting story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three young men who had been taken captive from their native Israel to serve the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. The king had built a golden idol and required everyone in the land to bow and worship his idol, but our young friends refused to obey. When Nebuchadnezzar furiously demanded a change in their behavior and threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace if they disobeyed, the men responded that they did not need to answer to the king. Our young friends went on to address the king in our verse above by telling him that their God was able to deliver them.

How many things in our lives would be different if we could simply absorb and confidently state this truth during our struggles?

Unemployment or underemployment in a tough economy? Our God is able.

Illness of a loved one or ourselves? Our God is able.

Heartbroken, lonely or sad? Our God is able.

Struggles with our children? Our God is able.

Frustrations of daily life? Our God is able.

Life can be difficult and challenging. Though there are often no easy answers to our struggles, how awesome is the truth that our God is able?

Where is your heart and mind struggling today? Ask God and He will help you rest your trust in His abilities today. He is able.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No Need to Answer


Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered and said to the king,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.”
Daniel 3:16 (ESV)


Have you ever felt out of your element and/or under the gun? I wonder if that is how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego felt in our verse today. Young men of Israel who had been taken captive and brought to the homeland of a pagan king, these individuals were being asked to bow down and worship an idol. When the king discovered they were disobeying his order, he raged and asked them who was going to deliver them from his hands. Our verse today was their reply.

What was the cause for such bravery? Nebuchadnezzar (the pagan king) was known for his fiery temper and extreme consequences for those who disobeyed his orders. (Daniel 1:10; 2:5; 2:13) The young men had been warned that refusal to worship the idol would mean being thrown into a fiery furnace. They had good reason to be afraid. As we look closer, we see that their bravery was not based on guarantees of their safety, but belief in their God. They would give their allegiance to no one but Him. He was the only one to whom they had to answer.

What a powerful response. How much I want to follow their example. Though I have never faced a pagan king or the threat of a fiery furnace, situations do arise in my daily life which call me to be brave. At these times, the only safe haven of confidence I have is knowing the power of the God I serve. My fears may taunt me, but I have no obligation to answer them.

What about you today? Are there fears in your heart and mind that seem to be demanding a response from you? Why not take some words from our young friends and tell your fears that you have no need to answer them? Your God is able.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sassy Struggles


“And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Daniel 3:15b (ESV)


The story of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego has always been one that intrigued me. Imagine being separated far from your families and culture, finding yourself in a strange place you never imagined you would be, and having to learn new ways to live out your life. Isn't that a difficult concept to wrap your brain around? For military wives and others living overseas, it is part of their every day life.

When asked to bow down to a statue of Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon, these brave men simply said, “No. We worship God alone.” While I will probably never be physically dragged in front of a gold statue and asked to kneel, I do face daily struggles in my life. And sometimes, these struggles get just as sassy as Nebuchadnezzar and begin to taunt me.

“Things are not going to come together this time.”

“Neither you nor your family will survive this season of struggle.”

“No one is going to deliver you.”

Here is the good news. My sassy struggles do not have the ultimate power over me. The United States military does not have the ultimate power over me. My husband’s next assignment or deployment does not have the ultimate power over me. None of these things have any more power over me than Nebuchadnezzar had over Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Sure, they can create a lot of smoke and drama. But ultimately, I don’t have to listen to their sass because they have no ability to stand against my God. My Father has the ultimate power over me.

Begin fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.
Romans 4:21 (NIV)


So which of your struggles is giving you some sass today? Remind yourself and that struggle that God has the power. :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

But


I have been blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law. Through the years we have had glorious times laughing with and at each other. Like the time we decided to perm each other’s hair and instead of adding relaxer in the final step, my mother-in-law put more permanent solution in my hair. True story. Ridiculous hair, but really good times.

Known as Deedah to our family, she has always been great about allowing us to tease her. One of our favorite things to tease her about was giving advice to us. You always knew when you were going to get advice from Deedah. She would preference her words by saying, “Now I don’t want to be bossy but . . . . “ These words would always be followed by ideas about which she totally wanted to be bossy – or at least heard.

Sometimes, God says “but” when talking to his children also. However, when God says “but,” it tends to have totally different implications than giving advice.

"I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on the earth will perish.
But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark-you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you."
Genesis 6:17-18 (NIV)


God is talking to Noah about building the ark in this passage. He is warning Noah that everything on the earth will perish. But, in the midst of this everything proclamation, God lets Noah know what he is willing to do for him and his family.

Many of us, like my Deedah, tend to use “but” to say we did not really mean what we said in the first place. When God says “but,” it tends to be His deliverance of a totally new option. God tends to deal with us in His ability to reverse our situation. You deserve _____________ or you could be experiencing _______________, “but,” says God. Suddenly a situation that seemed poised to be a negative for us is changed. Because of His grace, His totally unmerited favor in our lives, God steps in and takes what was meant to be a negative and turns it into a positive.

Today, I want to remember and think about the times God has said “but” in my life. Times when the world or my circumstances pointed to a negative, or maybe even horrific, outcome, but God stepped in to deliver another option. I want to tune my ears to hear what He has to say when it appears that things in my life are going downhill. How about you? Does God have a “but” coming just around the corner that you need to hear? Why not ask Him today?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jigglypuff and the President


Every year at Halloween, our church hosted a community fall festival event. Children dressed in costumes and came with their families to play games, chase greased pigs, and eat candy and junk food. Since this particular October fell a few days before a presidential election, some elected officials were scheduled to stop by and speak briefly to the crowds.

The event was a fairly large-scaled one. It was tough for us and our friends to keep track of our kids. When the officials were getting ready to speak, the children were asked to huddle in the front of the crowd. Being as short as Zaccheus must have been, the large crowd on flat ground meant there was no way I could see my daughter or her friends. So as my husband and our friends kept guard around the back of the crowd, I circled up to a nearby hill and kept watch on the kids from a higher level.

The main speaker of the evening was former President George Bush. After several officials spoke and shared their message, the president stepped to the podium. During his speech, he addressed the children in their different costumes, mentioning several of the characters they represented. Our daughter, dressed as a round, pink Pok√©mon character named Jigglypuff, began yelling “Jigglypuff”, hoping the president would call her character’s name. Much to our surprise, the President stopped his speech, acknowledged Jigglypuff and invited her to join him on stage. As I looked on, my daughter was shuffled by Secret Service agents until she stood onstage between Barbara Bush and the mayor of Orlando.

When the President finished his speech, he turned, bowed and began to have a conversation with our daughter. As I watched from my perch, unable to coach or give any quick lessons about how to properly address the President of the United States, Mr. Bush turned to the microphone and asked for everyone’s attention again. He then picked Libby up in his arms and held her up to the microphone while she sang a song about Jigglypuff. Yes, our six year old actually asked a former President of the United States to pick her up so she could sing a song. Trust me, Zaccheus was falling out of her tree.

As a six year old, our daughter had basically no fear. She seemed to feel everyone was equally accessible and did not hesitate to ask much of anything from much of anyone. Her life verse in those days could have been:

Yet you do not have because you do not ask. James 4:2b (NKJV)

While her encounter with the President was both thrilling and unnerving for me as a parent, I have to admit I loved her spirit in the whole event.

I have a Father in heaven that has both made me and bought me. And He has called me to ask Him for what I need.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7 (NIV)


My problem is that too often I find excuses to keep my needs to myself or share them in sad tales to my friends and family who truly have no power (outside of prayer, of course) to do anything for me but graciously listen. Too often, I forego the total access I have to the Creator of heaven and earth that has all authority and has already told me to ask Him about my needs. No Secret Service to scoot through. No yelling my name just waiting to be called. No protocol lessons necessary. All the requirements have already been met for me by Jesus, when He hung on the cross.

How about you? What do you need to ask your heavenly Father for today? You will need no clearance or have to wait to be noticed. He waits to hear your requests and answer your prayers. And when He does, it will be even more exciting than Jigglypuff meeting the President.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Surgery

On a regular mom day, many years ago in our home, my son came marching through the kitchen with his toy tool box, followed by his best friend from next door. They looked like very determined little men as they paraded through with eyes straight ahead. I was working at the sink, but paused long enough to ask them what they were doing. My son kept walking without a response or a moment’s hesitation, but his friend quickly called out, “Surgery.”

Deciding this was a comment worth pursuing, I paused in my work to follow them. When I arrived in the den, I saw my son standing on the back of the couch removing his father’s stuffed duck from the wall while his friend was getting out the plastic saw. Apparently, the decision had been made that their toy tool box contained the proper tools for performing an operation, needed or not, on my husband’s treasured wall hanging. After some words along on the lines of “stop” and “don’t” echoed through the room, the duck was returned to its rightful place on the wall and the boys set off, looking for their next victim.

I’m not sure what surgical success they could have actually attained with a plastic saw, but they were very serious about their work. And that’s when I was reminded of some habits in my own life.

God means what He says. What He says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.
Hebrews 4:12 (The Message)


Sometimes, I long to see changes in my attitudes or behaviors or sometimes I am looking for answers to questions and concerns in my life. I run around, kind of like a chicken with my head cut off (as my momma used to say), asking advice, researching books and hunting for answers. Often, these efforts are about as effective as surgery on an already dead duck with a plastic saw.

When I choose to go to God’s word for my counsel, life change, attitude adjustment or new thought pattern, I find a tool that has real power for achieving actual results. I love that the book of Hebrews tells us His word is powerful enough to cut through everything, even my doubts and defenses. As I read God’s word, copy it, meditate on it, say it aloud, pray it and memorize it, the power only a real tool can deliver is at my disposal.

So how about you? Where are you struggling today? Are you choosing to work diligently, but using ineffective tools? What if you put away the plastic saw of your own efforts and starting using the powerful scalpel of God’s word? God’s word is a powerful tool for whatever surgery your life needs today.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making Mistakes


There were those big brown eyes. You could get lost in the pools they formed. There were the chubby cheeks and the delightful thunder thighs. There was the perpetual smile on his face. He was the most precious thing I had ever laid my eyes on and God had given him to me. How could I be anything but totally and completely in love?

My firstborn son caused emotions to rise in me I did not even know existed. Yes, I was crazy about his father but, wow. These mom feelings were a whole new ballgame. And out of all that love and emotion came a deep desire to be the best mother I could possibly be. Parenting was something I desperately wanted to get “right.”

But here is my sad news. I didn’t. That sweet baby boy God gave me was completely deserving of the perfect mother, but frequently I just did not manage to get it right. I made mistakes. Lots of them. When people ask about my mistakes as a mom, my first response is always, “Would you like them alphabetically or chronologically?”

So what happened? Did I channel my tiger mother too much? Or not enough? Did I not have enough knowledge of parenting? Did I not love him enough?

Have you ever asked yourself similar questions? Have you ever, like me, wanted so badly to get something right? Did you also find yourself on the failing end of that equation? If so, I have some good news for you.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Before my son was ever born, God knew I would make mistakes. He understands all of my weaknesses better than I understand them myself. And like any loving parent, I think my heavenly Father smiles at my attempts to get it “right,” even if that means I make a big mess in the process. He graciously comes alongside me and says, “It’s okay Bettina. My power is made perfect in your weaknesses.”

So how about you? Where are you frustrated today that you have not been able to get something “right” that you desperately wanted to do well? You only need to open your hands to God who wants to use the very places where you are making mistakes to show His strength in you.

That precious baby boy who had such a mistake ridden mother? He is an incredible man today that makes his mom smile. If you asked him about the mistakes, he would probably softly chuckle and smile and tell you he didn’t remember any. That’s just the kind of man he is – a man who had a mistaken ridden mom and a God who showed off His strength in those very weaknesses.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Excitable


As the kids were growing up, one of the comments we received repeatedly was, “It must be so interesting living at your house.” Trust me; this was rarely issued as a compliment. We were/are loud. Passionate. Argumentative. And definitely, excitable. Yes, there are wildly different and varying personalities within the group, but over all - well, it’s interesting. Just ask my poor daughter-in-law.

Some of this can be delightfully fun. Something wonderful happening in your life? We will party and celebrate with you till the cows come home. Going through a difficult time? We consider it a privilege to walk by your side with empathy. But sometimes, in the midst of all the drama and excitement, details do get overlooked.

In the book of Acts, there is a wonderful story about Peter’s escape from prison. Peter had been arrested by Herod and was surrounded by four squads of soldiers. During the night, an angel came to the prison and brought Peter out of prison. After realizing he was not dreaming but truly had been set free, Peter went to the house where other believers were gathered and praying for him. When Peter knocks, our excitable sister Rhoda comes to the door.

When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back
without opening it
and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” Acts 12:14 (NIV)


“Without opening it.” Boy, can I relate to this girl. Begging God for change in my life or in the lives of others, asking for Him to do what only He can do, but so excited and overjoyed when He moves, I forget to answer the door. Why is that? Am I in shock? Did I have too little faith? Did I doubt God wanted to move in my life? Or am I just aware that what I ask for may not be what I need? Understanding my motives is not something that comes easily.

You will be happy to know that Acts 12 tells us that while Rhoda tried to convince the house that Peter was really there, he continued to knock until the door was opened for him to come in. In my excited moments, I have to remember to continue to open doors. Often, when God moves in my life, He then asks me to follow with choices of obedience.

No matter the motivating behaviors behind my shock, I think being excited and overjoyed can be a positive thing. How often, as adults, do we become so mired down in the struggles of our life that we forget to be excited over the things God is actually doing in our life? Are we so depressed over the difficult realities we are facing that we miss the joys of everyday things?

So how about you? Where are you struggling today to see any excitement in your life? Can we both work to open our eyes just a little wider? Maybe, in the midst of struggle, we have missed seeing the hand of God at work in our lives. When you see what He is doing in your life, get excited, but also remember to open the door. Walking the excitable life, you never know what interesting days God might have in store for you.