Under the Radar

He was the commander of the king’s army. The king had great admiration for him. He was, after all, the king’s right hand man. He had the king’s ear. And his trust. He had secured great victories against their enemies. But this man suffered from leprosy.

One of this man’s conquests was raiding the land of Israel with his army. And with this mighty victory, they brought home prisoners of war. This great leader placed a young girl in his home who served his wife. She was a servant. A slave. One of the spoils of war. But what he didn’t know was that she had great faith in the God of her ancestors. And when she saw him suffering from this incurable disease, she told his wife that he could be made whole if only he paid a visit to the prophet Elisha in Israel.

So Namaan took a trip to Israel to find out about the healing that was spoken of by this lowly foreign slave. He eventually made his way to the home of the prophet where he was told to go dip himself in the muddy Jordan River seven times. He was insulted and said no. But the army officers with him convinced him that if he was told to do something great he would. So why not try it. And when he came out of the water on that seventh dip, his skin was cleansed of the deadly disease. Namaan had been healed.

He now believed in the God of his stolen slave girl. He now believed that the foreign gods he had been bowing to were worthless. He must now only bow to the God who created the universe.

So he made a trip back to pay respects to Elisha. He wanted to honor his new found faith and offer gifts to the one who had a hand in his healing. He felt indebted to the giver of new life. But there was a problem.

Namaan worked for the government. He spent time with the king on a daily basis. There was no way he could escape his responsibilities as he served the king. And the king bowed down every day to a false god. Namaan was expected to do the same. And now that his allegiance had turned from a false god to the One True God, he knew that in his heart he couldn’t bow to the king’s idol. He must only bow to his Creator. But how could he do that when he was expected to honor the king’s wishes? How was he to show that his faith was now in his Heavenly Father while bowing to a manmade object? How is it possible to do both? And he knew that would be a problem.

He had to keep his faith a secret in order to keep his job. Could he do it? By keeping quiet about his faith, would he lose his faith? Speaking openly about his newfound trust in God Almighty could prove the downfall of his career. Was he willing to risk it all for his faith? Could he be a light in the darkness that surrounded him?

Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord . However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.” “Go in peace,” Elisha said. So Naaman started home again. 2 Kings 5:17-19

Read 2 Kings 5:1-27 to read Namaan’s story.


I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. John 17:14-15


Christians today are having to make a choice of whether to speak up at their workplace about the cultural lies being forced on them. They don’t know if it could cost them their job or not. Some choose to fly under the radar and not make waves. Because really. If they aren’t being forced to state their pronouns or wave a pride flag, why speak up. I don’t know the right or wrong choice. I’ve not be placed in that situation. I haven’t been mandated to do anything. But what I believe is that this issue must be between each person and God. With much prayer and even fasting, God will make it clear to each of us how we should live and work in a world surrounded by those who are against God. And therefore, they are against us.

We must be concerned about what God thinks of our presence in a world full of sin. Oh. We can’t escape this world and remain alive. So while we’re still breathing and moving about on this planet, our desires must be centered on pleasing God while surrounded by the enemy. No. It’s not an easy task. No one said it would be. We can read of many examples in the Bible of great people who failed miserably. Some of them got up and dusted themselves off pledging their faithfulness to God Almighty. Others wallowed in their sins and never repented. I pray that we will be like the former and not the latter.

We know that we must live in this world as it is today. It’s our responsibility as believers to be in the world but not of the world. We must live in a way that honors God and his message of truth, hope and salvation. We must live for the eternity that awaits us in light of the forgiveness of our sins and our commitment to serving God and only God.

Consider those who live in distant lands where living their faith openly is in defiance of their government. They go about their work and live quiet lives. Yet they meet in secret with fellow believers and they hide their Bibles in out of the way places. Oh. They know full well what they’re facing if discovered. And yet they’re willing to practice their faith in private. They perform their work, even if it is back breaking and hard labor. They don’t give up their faith because their lives are hard. Their faith thrives in spite of their very difficult circumstances. In spite of being quiet in their workplace, their faith is firm. Can we do the same?

When God Ordains Hard Things

We know that bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to bad people. And good things happen to good people. All these happenings are fore-ordained. They’re known ahead of time by God Almighty. He allows all things. All circumstances. All the time.

Matthew 5:45 tells us that our Father in heaven gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means that everyone on this earth can plan to have some good days and some bad days. There’s no way around it.

What does it mean that God ordains all things? You ask. What does it mean that he ordains our days?

Ordain: To order or decree by virtue of superior authority. To issue an order. To order or command.

He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts of the Apostles 17:24-28

If you’ve read the story of Job, you know that he lived through one very difficult time. According to the Bible, he had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Read Job 1:2-3. The Bible doesn’t say specifically how long his troubles lasted, but in the course of one day he lost everything. Literally. His donkeys and oxen were stolen and some of his farmhands were killed. Only one escaped to tell the story. All of his sheep and shepherds were burned in a fire. Only one shepherd escaped to share the news. All of his camels were stolen by raiders, who killed the servants. Only one servant escaped to give a report. Then a powerful storm blew down the house where his children were partying, where they and all the servants died. Only one servant survived to give an account to their parents.

And just when Job was wallowing in grief, he was hit with boils all over his body. He was miserable. He wanted to die. He asked God why he had even been allowed to be born. And his wife suggested that he curse God and die. But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. Job 2:10


His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him–though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27


How do parents respond when they lose a young child? Because we know that it’s not in the course of natural events for a parent to outlive their child. The heartbreak and disappointment can be crushing. The grief and pain of loss is devastating.

These past two years have brought many deaths and disabilities from a new virus. The pain and suffering have been immense. No population on the earth has been left untouched. How are we to process this event? What does normal even look like anymore? Can we adjust to a new normal that is full of roadblocks?

There are Christians in other lands who are hunted, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. They’re living for God, but they’re in the minority in their land. And those hunting them are determined to rid their world of anything godly.

Consider the police officer who accidentally killed someone when she pulled her gun instead of her taser. And then there’s the cop who killed a child when his bullet ricocheted off a wall. These are hard times for these two individuals and their families. And also for the families who lost loved ones. No one is a winner here. The lives of all of these people are changed forever.

Then there are women and girls being trafficked for sex by ungodly people. They’re sold for their bodies to be used against their will. They have no say in the matter. They can’t escape the abuse on their own. They’re held prisoner by unlawful people.

We may wonder why God allows such evil to happen. After all, he is a loving God. Why do bad things happen? We can question God, but he doesn’t always provide the answers we long to hear. We don’t always learn the reason of the whys that we ask. We may never know.

We’ve been given the ability to choose how we live our lives. We can decide to do good or evil. We can chose to treat others with respect or not. We can choose to hurt others and ourselves. We can choose to deny that God exists. We also can choose to walk in step with Him.

If we choose to walk our own path, then our life will reflect those choices and consequences. And we live that life on our own. We live that life without the comfort or strength that only God can give.

If we choose to walk with God, He walks with us through the valleys and mountaintop experiences. He never leaves us. He will give us strength to face each new day, whether that day brings rejoicing or sorrow. Even when days are hard, and there will be hard days, God is with us.

For some, the suffering and struggles may be lifelong. Even if we are Christ followers, we may live hard lives. We aren’t promised an easy, rose colored life.

Oh. We can grovel and complain and moan and groan. We can question God and curse him. We can cry and destroy ourselves. All in the name of suffering. But suppose we stopped and quieted ourselves. Suppose we listened for the still small voice of God. Suppose we reached out to Him at the darkest moments of our lives. And just suppose He brought peace in the midst of suffering. Because it is possible.

Some of the things that you’ve lost in your life, God is not going to bring them back in the exact same way.

Havilah Cunnington

To experience joy in our struggles and difficulties, we must first acknowledge who God is. Everything but God is secondary in our lives. Everything else is secondary. Yes. That’s right. It’s tough to hear, but God must be the priority. Even during times of intense suffering and grief. If we focus on God, we will see that He is supreme. His love is never ending. His compassion knows no boundaries. His mercy is new every morning. His grace is all sufficient. His power is all encompassing. He is the alpha. The omega. The beginning and the end.

So when the thing we have always feared happens to us, we can have peace and quiet and perfect rest in God our Maker and Redeemer.

Practice the Truth

He said he felt sick to his stomach. Oh. I said. Are you not feeling well? Then he proceeded to tell me about an event his employer was planning for the community. This event was geared very specifically to support a group with a social agenda. And this man was sickened by the thought that his Christian employer might be getting involved with social justice issues that are not biblically based.

What does a person do? What does a believer do when they’re faced with a challenge such as this? When their employer, whether Christian or not, supports issues that go against the employee’s moral, ethical or biblical values. What do you do? How do you deal with that? How do you work within that system and remain employed? Do you keep the truth to yourself? Do you speak up? Do you build a campaign against the cause, creating your own cause? What’s the right thing to do? What’s the wrong thing to do?

How do we as believers today stand for truth at the risk of being canceled?

How do we speak biblical truth in a world that doesn’t want to hear it?

Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? Galatians 4:16

If someone shows no concern to submit to God’s commands, even— indeed especially—when these commands cut across our cultural ideas or our comfort, we must question the spiritual state of that person.

Unknown

As I was reading in 1 John last week, a verse jumped off the page at me. It said that if we claim to know Jesus but continue to sin, we are not practicing the truth. As believers, we must practice the truth. No matter the cost. To our liberty. To our status. To our career. To our livelihoods. Are we willing to pay the price if it comes down to it? It’s a sobering thing to consider. What would we rather lose, though? Every earthly possession? Or every eternal possession?

Our soul could be at stake if we don’t stand for the truth. If we give in to the lies that we’re being sold in social media, in the news, in Hollywood, in Washington. Where do we draw the line? What hill are we willing to die on?

Now we may not know what hill we’re willing to die on until we’re faced with it. And we may not know how we’re going to deal with it until that day comes. I totally understand that. Because honestly. I’ve not yet come to that hill in my life.

The question is. How do we as believers stand for the truth? How do we stand against certain social ideals that aren’t truth? They’re just others’ opinions, and those opinions are loud. They’re much more vocal than those who hold biblical truths but remain silent. How do we believers stand against those ideologies and maintain our Christian integrity? How do we maintain a strong relationship with God if we don’t speak up for his truths?

That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. How do we maintain that strong relationship with God, if we can’t stand for truth when the fight at this point in our culture may seem minimal? Our lives are not at stake. But at some point, our livelihood could be. How do we stand for that? How do we participate in the truth? How do we practice the truth without living a lie?

Because, the truth is, both sides believe they’re speaking truth.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

We’re told we live in a postmodern world. That means that some believe truth is open to interpretation. Some view truth as a fluid, moving option. How can that be? How does truth change?


So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 1 John 1:6


It’s known that some individuals and corporations bend the truth instead of practicing it. What a shame. Why is truth not applauded and rewarded? Why is truth something we try to hide these days? Why do we seek a convenient and comfortable truth, when it isn’t truth at all?

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a restaurant with a friend. We were having a great conversation, when we suddenly lowered our voices. We were saying words that might be offensive to our neighbors at the surrounding tables. And it dawned on us. Why should we have to lower our voices when we’re having a private conversation about our faith, about our beliefs, and even about politics? Why should we have to lower our voice in public? Why can’t we speak truth around others who may not agree? Because, perhaps, the table next to us might be speaking their beliefs. And they might be in disagreement with ours. Why can’t we sit table to table and speak in private conversations without the fear of being persecuted?

This is America. This is a free country. But we’re living as if it’s not. We’re living in fear. Fear can be healthy. But we need to stand for truth, regardless of that fear. Our faith is important. Our beliefs are important. Our politics are important.

I’ve been reading about Christians in the underground church in Communist countries. These believers, who have developed a strong faith in spite of horrible persecution in their home countries, continue to share the Word of God with unbelievers. Because in those countries, people are hungry for the truth. They want to know the truth, and they’re willing to learn it at all costs. By meeting in private homes. By going out into the forest with a few people to share the gospel and to fellowship and worship in private, secluded areas. Knowing that they could be arrested at any moment.

But they do it anyway.

They share the truth. They live the truth. Even with the possibility of being arrested, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, drugged and brainwashed. They’re willing to lose everything, including their lives, to continue standing for the truth.

I don’t know if I’m that courageous. But I know that I need to be. I know that I need to be willing and able to stand for biblical truth with the realization that I could lose everything that is most important to me.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9

We as believers in this country have had it easy for so long that we don’t know what it’s like to risk everything for our faith. Our churches don’t know what it’s like to be shut down. Our pastors don’t know what it’s like to lose their livelihood and be at risk if they preach a strong biblical message.

I fear that day is coming for us. When I see young children and new babies, I wonder if they are the generation who will be put to the test. I wonder if they’ll be the ones who will be persecuted and imprisoned and tortured and beaten and drugged and brainwashed because of their faith. Oh. I hope not. I hope they don’t meet that type of persecution. But as I look at their parents, I pray that they are strong in their faith today and are teaching their children the Word of God. I pray that they are teaching their children how to stand for truth, how to identify truth among the lies, and how to speak the truth. I pray that those parents teach their children to stand strong and to be bold, regardless of the cost. And I pray that they will realize the cost is worth it to stand for Christ.

I don’t know when that level of persecution will begin for us. I pray that we are prepared and ready. I pray for strong Christian parents to teach their children biblical truths and to engrain it into their hearts. And to have the biblical stories interwoven into their childhood memories, so they can pull out those biblical truths when they need them most. My prayer is they will be unopposed as they stand for truth. May God be with them and help them.

May God help us all.

Two Sides of the Story

There are always two sides to every story. Like it or not. If it’s your story, you will tell your side. And someone else will tell theirs. How often do both stories match? It’s hard to say. Stories are open to interpretation.

 Both sides of the story can hold truth. It’s not that one side is all lies and the other side all truth. There could be a little of both woven into each story. Or perhaps one party is just outright lying. And they aren’t concerned about getting the facts right.  Perhaps their motives and allegiances are less than honorable.

 Time will tell which story is true. Perhaps the truth isn’t made know in the time frame needed. But there will always be a day of reckoning. Sometimes sooner. Sometimes later.

There are those who don’t seek the truth. They’re looking for ideas of convenience.  Stories that suit their evil intentions. They don’t care who is harmed or whose life is ruined. Revenge is fair game. In their mind. 

I see that happening in a story I read recently. A man was unfairly accused of an act he didn’t commit. Many believed the false charges. Others helped bring him down. In fact, they killed him. By throwing stones at him. His dying wish was that they would not be held accountable for their actions.  Such forgiveness.  Such mercy coming from a dying man. There was another man in the crowd.  He stood by silently watching. He held the coats of those throwing stones at the innocent man. His deafening silence was approval. 

Perhaps if he had spoken up, the man’s life could have been saved. But it wasn’t to be. He remained silent. I wonder if that scene ever kept him awake at night.

You can read the entire story in Acts 6-8:1.

I wonder how many times I have remained silent when I should have spoken up. How many wrongs could I have helped right by moving out of my comfort zone. By putting my reputation on the line. By telling the truth when lies were being spread.

I see this world. This country. In chaos. We’ve lost sight of our Christian values. Why have so many of us who live those values kept them to ourselves? What are we afraid of? Being canceled? It is a real thing. Speaking in opposition to current cultural norms can ruin a person’s livelihood these days. 

Sometimes coming to the truth is a process. It’s a study of the evidence.  Not giving up or making a decision until all the facts have been presented and weighed. 


Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12


Stephen was one of seven men chosen to help distribute food to the widows. In doing that, he had opportunities to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He spoke the truth and was arrested. Some men began to lie about him. They invented stories and accusations against this man who was living in obedience to God. And then he spoke the story of God’s love and plan of redemption for his people. He shared how his Jewish ancestors had followed God’s plan at times. And other times, they deliberately disobeyed him. Stephen pointedly called the Jewish leaders heathens and stubborn people. He accused them of being deaf to the truth. He reminded them that they had deliberately disobeyed God’s laws. Obviously, they were outraged. They seized him and had him stoned to death.

Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. Acts 8:1

I am struck by this Bible verse everytime I read it. It speaks so of humanity. Thinking we’re doing the right thing when we’ve not accepted truth. We’ve accepted information that doesn’t give us pause. We choose convenience over fact finding. We obey lies and are comfortable doing it. Shame on us. We must ask ourselves some hard questions. What if speaking the truth causes persecution? What if we suffer for speaking biblical truth? Are we up for the task? Oh. Scripture says we will suffer. We’ve been exempt for so long that we bristle at the thought of being on the wrong side of the law when we’ve not committed a crime. But it can happen. It already is in some places.

I speak only for myself when I say I’m happy with an easy life. I enjoy being comfortable. I don’t want to be persecuted or canceled. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law for being obedient to Christ. But what if it comes to that? Will my faith hold strong? Or will I wilt under pressure? I pray my faith holds me to the end.

For Saul, it seemed simple. At first. He hunted and persecuted those who believed that Jesus was the Promised Messiah. He did not believe, and he fought it with all his might. Then a strange thing happened. He had a roadside experience where the truth was revealed to him by none other than Christ himself.  It was so powerful that he couldn’t deny or ignore it. He realized he had been living a lie. He had been hunting and killing innocent people. Oh. The remorse. But he was now a changed man. He was one of them. He was a believer. As he studied and examined the Scriptures, he learned the error of his ways. He now made it his mission to tell others the Good News. Regardless of the cost. And it did cost him. He was imprisoned. He was beaten and stoned. He eventually paid with his life. All for the sake of Christ.

Choosing the easy way may pay for a time. But when eternity is at stake, let’s choose to pay the cost. There’s no turning back once we cross the finish line. We’re in eternity for eternity. There’s no going back. Let’s get our story right and stick to the truth.

Praise be to God for his indescribable gift.