Living Truthfully

Daniel and three of his friends were taken captive when the Babylonian army invaded Jerusalem. They were among many young men of the royal family and other noble families who were forced to serve in the Babylonian king’s court. Yet they were foreigners. They spoke another language. They worshipped a different God. They followed different customs. They observed Jewish holidays. They ate a restricted diet. Yet God allowed them to be placed, exiles though they were, in a precarious situation.

Early on in their new roles, these four young men faced challenges. Their Jewish names were replaced with Babylonian names. Yet they chose to continue to follow the customs of their Jewish heritage instead of abandoning it for the sake of fitting in to a new environment. Instead of hiding their dietary customs, they chose to speak up and ask for a different food allotment. And it was granted for a period of testing. Of course. God was with them during the test, and they passed with flying colors. Their act of bravery, unbeknownst to the king, gave them favor with the chief of staff, the king and most definitely with God. They dared to speak up without knowing the outcome. With this test diet, they outperformed all the other trainees. And as they continued in their training, their wisdom and knowledge far surpassed anyone else’s. They remained true to their faith, yet they were given choice positions in the king’s service.

Later, the king built a gold statue for everyone to bow to in worship. Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to bow. They served the one true living God and would bow to no other. Someone reported this act of defiant bravery, and they were thrown into a hot burning furnace. Yet they survived the fire. In fact, an angel of the Lord joined them in the fire. Although the king acknowledged the presence of the living God, he didn’t declare his allegiance to God.

By the time Daniel was an old man, a new king had risen to power. Daniel had had great success in his career, and his coworkers were jealous. He was being promoted again, and he would serve over the entire Babylonian empire. Those green with envy were determined to bring him down. Oh. They knew his track record on the job was spotless, and there was nothing to criticize. They decided to fight him where it hurts. His faith. They knew his Jewish faith was the one thing that set him apart, so they set up a challenge. A diversion of sorts. They challenged the king to create a law that required everyone to bow down to him only for thirty days. Worship of other gods was forbidden, or the offender would be thrown into the lion’s den. Of course. Daniel continued to pray at his open window three times a day. Nothing changed for Daniel. But then they came for him. And he was thrown in with the lions. But God wasn’t finished with Daniel just yet, so Daniel’s life was spared. When Daniel was removed from the den the next morning, there was no sign of a struggle at all. The lions’ mouths had been shut by God.

For the full story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, read Daniel 1-6.

Then there was Esther. The Jewish girl who was thrust into the harem of an ungodly king who was looking for a new queen. The current queen had refused to play his games and publicly humiliate herself. In her refusal, she humiliated the king. So he was on the hunt for a new queen. The audition: Give up your virginity to the king.

After four years of deflowering young women, the king still hadn’t found one he fancied. But then. Esther’s name was called. It was her night. And if she pleased the king, she would be crowned the new queen. In her humble act of selflessness, she won the king’s heart. Esther was now the queen. But the king didn’t know that his new wife was of Jewish descent. And when a mortal enemy of the Jews wrote a proclamation that all Jews were to be annihilated, the king gave his written permission. The law could not be changed. So Esther’s uncle went into action and let her know that her time had come to defend her people. And boy. Did she defend her people. Through God’s help, the enemy of the Jews was killed. And on the day the Jews were to be killed, they were allowed to defend themselves. No Jew was harmed on that day. Esther’s brave act of courage and selflessness saved the chosen people of God.

For Esther’s full story, read the book of Esther.


If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? Esther 4:14


We as believers must be willing to face the consequences of living truthfully. Of living biblical lives not only in private, but also in public. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. Do we trust our heavenly Father even when life is tough? When life calls for us to declare our faith publicly, will we stand? Or will we be silent and look the other way?

We don’t know what the cost might be, but we must be willing to pay it. Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den. And he survived. God spared his life. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace. And an angel of God joined them in the fire. They survived without a burn on their bodies. Not a hair on their head was singed. Esther was forced to give up her virginity to the king not knowing if he would choose her to be the queen. God used her impossible situation to eventually save her Jewish people.

These brave people didn’t flaunt their faith in public. They quietly lived their lives in obedience to God. They acted publicly on their faith at times when a tough decision was required. Esther kept her Jewish faith quiet for a long time, never letting her husband know of her heritage. She spoke up when her life and the lives of all Jewish people was at stake. She didn’t make a scene. She trusted that God would pave the way as she spoke and acted in faith.

We may think these kinds of situations will never come our way. Hopefully, they won’t. But other situations will arise. We are at a crossroads in this country, and we have no idea what lies ahead for us. We may be commanded by those in authority to bow to their gods and their demands. We too may have to choose who will will serve. Will we bow only to God? Or will we dip the knee to a smaller, lesser fake god who can’t save us, let alone hear us?

Being faithful to living biblical truth doesn’t mean you won’t be burned in the fire. Or that you won’t be eaten by lions. Or be forced to give up a sacred piece of yourself. But being faithful at all costs will reap eternal benefits. And that is our ultimate goal. Regardless of how difficult life may get, God is in those days with us.

Life is difficult. You can’t do life without God. Take your pain, jump into his lap. Let him cradle you through it. Let him be your mighty warrior. Expect beauty out of ashes. There are God stories in each of our days.

Judy Squier

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.

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.

Prisoners of War

There is a movement. An uprising, if you will. Trying to silence those who don’t agree with certain social and political ideals. It seems to have come on suddenly, but really. It’s been years in the making.  The social and political ideals have been formulated by ones who have taken a stand against biblical truths. They’re fighting for justice. They say. They are silencing those who don’t fall in line with their agenda.

We think this type of persecution is new. It’s not. It’s been happening for centuries. Just not in our country. It’s a new thing for us. We’ve always had the freedom to say what we want. Now the belt is tightening, and we’ve begun to squirm with a new, unfamiliar discomfort. 

When will things return to normal? We ask. I’m afraid we’ve awakened a new normal. And there’s no going back. There are those who won’t ever let us go back. All in one fell swoop, this country has lost its innocence. We can no longer claim to be accepting of differences of opinion. It’s only one way or be canceled.

 Reminds me of a story I read recently in Daniel 1-3 in the Old Testament.


Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord : He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. Psalms 91:1-2


The city of Jerusalem had been conquered by the Babylonians. The best of the best Jewish people were taken prisoner. Their biblical names were exchanged for pagan names. They were forced to learn a new culture, along with the pagan customs and lifestyle. Indoctrination was the name of the game. They were tested on their acceptance of their new lifestyle. If they passed, they were promised careers in the royal palace. They were treated like royalty with the idea that they would discard their childhood learning and customs.

The lesson: Beware when your enemies try to become your friends.

But some of the young men didn’t forget their rich heritage.  They remembered their Jewish customs and remained faithful to the One True God. In their hearts, they were Jewish regardless of where their next meal came from. They were God’s favored people living in exile in a foreign land.

Oh. It was their country’s fault. Their country had forsaken God and his commands. And not just for a couple of years. They ignored God’s leading for hundreds of years. They ignored the warnings he spoke through his prophets. So He allowed hard times and persecution to come their way. But even though not all the people had forsaken God, they all still suffered. And they were captured along with those who had turned their backs on God.

There’s a lesson we can learn from these young men. Oh. We’re not out of the fire yet. The embers are just getting warm.  But this nation still has time to repent and return to God. Will we do it or will we continue down the path of sin?

If we as believers have prepared ourselves, we can face the fire head on. Just as the three men did. They were able to stand for truth. At all costs. Without fear of what lay ahead for them. They would not and did not back down from their decision to disobey their orders. 

If you read their story, you know that there was an extra person with them in the fire. They weren’t alone in their suffering. They stood true to their beliefs. They didn’t waver in their faith. And God was with them each step of the way. In the most difficult moment, they knew they were in God’s hands. Regardless of what happened. If they survived or not, they would stand true for the Living God as they stood in the fire. And He stood with them.

It’s a necessary reminder for us as we travel difficult paths. We aren’t alone. We don’t have to bow to those feeding us lies. We can stand strong in our faith. And regardless of the outcome, God is with us.

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalms 16:8

If we don’t stand for truth and speak up, we may begin to hear the rocks speak out for us. What fools we would be. Do we want to gain the world and lose our souls? 

Favored or Not

The popular Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know” asks Mary if she knows what she is getting into by giving birth to the Son of God. When the angel of God appeared to her, he said that she had found favor with God. She was bewildered. What had she done to be noticed by God? Scripture doesn’t say why God chose her.

When Jesus was 8 days old, an old man named Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her very soul. He said this God child would cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. This babe had been sent as a sign from God, but many would oppose him. And as a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts would be revealed. She realized her days would not be easy.

As a twelve year old, Jesus was a growing boy. As he grew physically and spiritually, he found favor with God and man. That favor lay upon him as he matured and began his ministry, but it didn’t exempt him from terrible abuse and suffering at the hands of his accusers. Favor led him straight to his death on the cross.

Mary had pondered many unanswered questions in her heart ever since she found out she was going to be a mother. After all, this God child was born from her virgin womb. How is that even possible? Did Mary feel favored when she searched frantically for her twelve year old son who disappeared for three days while meeting with leaders in the temple? Did Mary know that favor meant that she would endure the most heart wrenching days of her life as her son was tortured and killed? Did she ever wonder if God’s favor was supposed to be so difficult? I wonder if she pondered what kind of favor this was meant to be, since it caused some of the most heartbreaking times of her life.


Don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. Luke 1:30


At times, we pray for favor. We ask for God’s blessing on our lives. We’re asking for health, wealth and happiness. We’re hoping bad times escape us. We hope the trials of life somehow miss us. We want our blessings to be just that, blessings with no sort of hurt or trouble in the mix.

Does the mother of a special needs child feel as if she’s found favor when her responsibility for her child is as overwhelming as her love is? Does the grandchild who’s caring for their elderly grandmother feel favored when time and funds are in high demand and short supply?

What is God’s favor anyway? Do we think God’s favor has been removed from us when we suffer? When we endure hardships or trials? Paul wrote that we are to rejoice when we run into problems and trials. Don’t we know that those trials will produce endurance? Endurance develops strength of character. Strength of character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. God says this hope will not lead to disappointment. I see favor written all over our suffering. Favor that God has paved a way for us straight to Calvary. He hasn’t forgotten us or abandoned us. He who suffered for us is with us in our suffering.

For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:1-2, 5

Undeserved privilege. Favor. Mercy. Peace. Joy. Confidence. Because of God’s great love for us, we can confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing His glory. But if we say we want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead, why do we try to avoid the fellowship of suffering that comes with it?

Fellowship of Suffering

What does it mean? The fellowship of suffering? I thought fellowship was a coming together of like minds. Enjoying the company of common ground. A friendly association with someone of like interests. But suffering? I’ve not really bought into that.

Honestly. The suffering that I’ve experienced probably isn’t true suffering. Compared to what I see and know of others. My life is mild. Oh sure. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. Fears. Loss. Discouragement. Trying times. Typical life difficulties.

But I’ve never hung on a cross and died. For myself or for others. I’ve never been spat on. I’ve never been stripped naked and forced to carry a heavy cross on my raw beaten back. I’ve never worn a crown of thorns. 

I’ve never received a life altering diagnosis.  I’ve never been handcuffed and stood before a judge.  I’ve never been served papers.  I’ve never been beaten.  I’ve never lost everything. Oh.  I’ve lost.  I’ve lost family members.  I’ve lost jobs.  I’ve lost friends. 

So what do I know of suffering?

I’ve never been put on trial for crimes I didn’t commit. And then sentenced to death. My mother never wept for my cruel death. 

Oh. I’ve been betrayed by those I thought I could trust. I’ve been handed over to others who carried out their own plans for me. I’ve had cruel words spoken to my face. I’ve been bullied.

But have I really suffered? Is it suffering when someone publicly outs me for words spoken in private? When I’ve felt safe to express my opinion but then publicly called on the carpet for it?

Where is the glory in suffering? Where is the fellowship? Is my suffering a product of my own doing? Or of my own undoing?


And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17


Elisabeth Elliott says that suffering is never for nothing.  There are hard lessons to learn during the time of suffering.  She says that suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.

I have to wonder if I’ve caused some of my own suffering. Am I my own thorn in my side? Do I blame God and others when I need to remove the mote from my own eye? Is my suffering another name for the thorn in the side I’ve been given? And can I get past the bitterness in order to use that thorn as a source of ministry to others just like me?

Will I look back on these days in awe and wonder that I survived without a scratch and thank my heavenly Father that I didn’t really suffer? Or will I realize that what I thought was suffering was not even a drop in the bucket of misery?   Only time will tell. 

What if my suffering is still in front of me. What if my current state of suffering really isn’t suffering at all.

I have to ask myself the question. What does my suffering produce? Does it lead to anger and bitterness? Lashing out at others about the unfairness of God? Trying to punish God for treating me so poorly? How could a loving God allow this? Or do I surrender in knowing that my God is carrying me through the depths of pain and loss and uncertainty? Do I find joy in a closer relationship with a God who loves me even when unexpected twists and turns come in life? Do I allow myself to be wrapped in the sweet arms of Jesus and just be held?

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? Romans 8:35

It’s in the surrender and acceptance of my situation that leads me to fellowship.  Once all the thought of getting even or standing my ground passes, the knowing of God’s love gives the sweet peace that nothing else matters.  The pain.  The loss.  The heartache.  The hurt.  The healing.  The new normal.  The surrender of my will to a loving God brings a sweet fellowship that surpasses everything else.  The trust that God will be with me every step of the way gives a calming peace to my soul.