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? 

Swaying Trees

We live in a neighborhood that backs up to a wooded area. It is breathtaking to gaze out at the trees in bloom in the springtime. And in the autumn, the colors of the turning leaves are a showstopper. Nature at its finest is my backyard.

The ground drops off to a ravine that ends in a small creek. To know that deer and fox and coyotes run loose in the space is thrilling, to say the least.

But it’s the trees that catch my attention on this day.

We’re having a windstorm and the slender trees are swaying in rhythm with the breeze. The beauty of the rhythmic swaying is almost tranquil, if I wasn’t aware of the damage one strong wind could cause.

In a wooded area, the older trees have much larger trunks than the young saplings. They’ve had the time and space and light to grow wide and tall. But the younger trees are a different story. They are thin and reedy. Wispy and willowy. They sway easily with the wind. They count on their roots to hold them steady.

The small trunked trees must grow tall in order to catch the sun’s rays. Their trunks don’t reach a fully mature size, due to the space and light restrictions. So when the windstorms come, these small trees sway with all they’ve got. It’s amazing and frightening at the same time to watch them bend with the wind. And yet, somehow at the end of the storm, they stand tall and strong. They’ve learned resilience. And strength. Their trunk may be small, but they bend as the force pushes.

But I’m wrong when I think that the wispy trees are strong and steady because of their roots. Just this morning, I noticed a casualty from the windstorm three days ago. One tiny but tall tree had been easily uprooted by the wind. The exposed roots told the story. They weren’t deep and broad. They weren’t made to withstand the strength of the wind. The tree was lying on its side among the leaves and branches fallen from another day’s wind.


Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakeable foundation. Matthew 7:24


I work for a consulting firm that helps hospitals and other healthcare organizations prepare for and guard against disaster. Not just one kind of disaster, but many different types. Ransomware. Hacking. Phishing. Environmental. You get the idea.

This year has been a true test for our clients. It began with the pandemic. These clients had to pivot practically overnight to be able to provide care for patients infected with an unfamiliar virus. They sent some workers home to avoid exposure. They lost revenue due to canceled procedures and strategic plans gone awry. Now, just as they thought they were turning the corner, they’re facing another round of the virus.

And to top it all off, some hospitals have been hit with a disastrous ransomware attack. The bad actor, as it’s called, is unknown at this point. But it’s causing procedures to be canceled. Entire email systems have been shut down in order to avoid spreading the attack to other hospitals.

My job is to help make sure they are aware of these attacks and to fight against them. That means they should have a plan in place so they’re ready at a moment’s notice. We’ve advised clients to pull out that unused plan and dust it off. Put it into action to see if it really works. We’ve told them that now is the time to act. Don’t wait until disaster happens to start preparing.

You can’t wait until the storm comes to build a boat.

Tara Leigh Cobble

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. Matthew 7:24-27

I find that life is the same as the trees. We sway with the winds of change. We bend low when the momentum of the moment takes us beyond our comfort zone. We don’t know where to turn. We’re tossed on every side. And we’re unsure which is the right path. Confusion and doubt set in. We question everything that we once knew to be true.

But what have we done to prepare for the storm? Have we stored up supplies and built a reserve? Have we, through the years, held fast to our faith and followed God’s path? Have we dug into the Word and studied as though the final exam is tomorrow? How deep do our spiritual roots really go? Are we susceptible of being toppled, roots and all, from the least bit of tests and trials that blow our way? And then what? Do we still have faith to hold on?

Or. Have our roots grown deep and wide in the soil of faith? Have we built our spiritual house on rocks that won’t budge when the mightiest winds blow our way? Do we have a band of fellow warriors holding us accountable and praying for us? Do we hold onto the pylons of God’s goodness, knowing he is with us in every step of our battle?

Swaying is fine. It builds strength and perseverance. When the waves of doubt come, it’s time to dig deep to find truth. Hold onto hope. Giving voice to those doubts and looking for answers are stepping stones to building a strong faith. Don’t give up. Give in to God’s goodness and love and ride out the storm in his arms.

After we moved into our house, the city planted a tree in the green space between the sidewalk and the street. The previous tree had died, and the city replaced it. Free of charge. Oh. We didn’t get our choice of trees. It was a freebie, after all. And the next year, a city worker came by and added a stake to stabilize and straighten the small, crooked tree. This poor tree needed help as it was growing. It had begun to lean to one side and needed support in its formative years. The stake is still in place, and the tree is still leaning. But it’s growing. Perhaps, the leaning will be its signature story of its survival.

The neighbors have a tree that is leaning precariously toward another neighbor’s house. It was hit with an onslaught of wind last week, and I’m afraid one more strong burst of wind will topple it. I don’t think there’s a chance of recovery. I’m afraid it will soon be turned into mulch. While the tree looked strong and healthy, one windstorm has shown the true story of this tree’s struggle for survival.

Trees face an uncertain future if they haven’t grown firm, strong roots. Even then, the winds and storms can destroy them in one fell swoop.

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If a person is struggling and holds in all their doubt, does it mean their pain isn’t real?

It’s in these struggling moments that we need to be prepared. We can’t wait until the storms of life are upon us to start preparing. We must act now. It’s never to late to strengthen our faith. Let’s dust off that Bible. Let’s fall on our knees and pray. Let’s attend church and fellowship with other believers. Let’s ask those questions of doubt and seek answers until we find the truth.

A house built on sand will not stand. But a house built on rock will stand strong. What is your house built on?

Stand Lest You Fall

Peter and John had healed a man in front of the temple.  As they spoke to a crowd of people who had gathered, they were confronted by the temple leaders and guards about their teachings.  Peter and John were arrested and put in jail overnight.

The leaders could see the man who had been healed. I wonder if they recognized him as the lame man who had sat outside the temple for years. Had they ever given him money? Or had they ignored him as they walked past? They couldn’t deny that this was the same man. And here he was made whole. He was standing and walking around. He was praising God. They couldn’t deny that a miracle had happened. And they were furious.

The next morning, the council of all the rulers, elders and teachers of religious law met to discuss what to do with Peter and John.  The high priest and some of his relatives were involved in the meeting.  These were important people.  Or so they thought. 

I can only imagine the conversations of these high and mighty men the night before as they plotted their strategy to take down these two disciples.  They were furious that Peter and John were teaching that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.  But did they know that 5,000 people believed the story?  Did they know that the news of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection was spreading like wildfire?  What were they really afraid of here?

By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?

When confronted about their teachings, Peter and John didn’t hold back.   They were commanded to stop preaching about Jesus, the one who had been killed for claiming to be God Almighty.  Instead of cowering and backing down, they stood and boldly spoke the truth. 

The leaders tried bullying the two men, but they stood their ground.  Their faith was strong, and their commitment was unwavering.  They were fearless.


The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace. Psalms 29:11


I wonder.  If I was confronted about speaking the truth of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection to a group of people, what would I do?  Would I cower?  Would I change my story?  Would I cover up the truth?  Would I give in and walk away?  Would I stand up for my beliefs in the midst of possible persecution? Would I boldly speak the truth?  What would I do?

These two men were just ordinary men.  They had no special training in the Scriptures.  What they did have was an intimate knowledge and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  They knew this Jesus.  They had walked with him.  They had talked with him.  They had eaten with him.  They had served the crowds miraculous food when there was no food.  They had seen Jesus at his best and at his worst.  They witnessed his arrest. Peter witnessed his trial, trying to blend in with the crowd. There was that time that he wasn’t willing to boldly stand for Jesus. There was a time right before Jesus was nailed to the cross that Peter had denied knowing him.  Not once, but three times.  All in the matter of a few short hours.  But he repented of his ways and became an outspoken teacher of Scriptural truths. 

So when he was asked to never speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again, what do you think he said?  Of course, he boldly took a stand for truth. His life had been changed. He was a forgiven man. He would not be quiet about his faith and trust in God.

Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? –Peter

Would I be so bold?  Would I be willing to risk my life in order to stand for Jesus? 

Peter and John didn’t know that they would later pay the price for continuing to share the Gospel.  Peter was crucified upside down.  John was sent to live in exile on an island, because he preached about God. While he was alone, he wrote one of the most profound books of the Bible. You can’t tell me that even in the midst of persecution, God isn’t present. You can’t tell me that God isn’t with us in our suffering. God is with us even in the most difficult, trying times of life.

What would I be willing to give up in order that others might hear the truth?  Would I be willing to risk everything so that others could enjoy eternal life?  Would I be willing to stand when falling to peer pressure would be an easier path to follow? Am I willing to stand?

When I Am Weak

I thought my heart would shatter into a million pieces when I heard the words. Today is your last day.  I felt a huge silent sigh escape my lips.  It was not a sigh of relief.  I felt I could no longer breathe.  My mind went blank.  My mind whirled with a thousand thoughts.  Why is this happening to me?  Again?  I wondered.  Oh.  I had been laid off before.  Twice before.  But years went by between each layoff.  And birthdays occurred.  I was older each time.  And this time, I wondered if my career was over.  It happens.  Older workers have a harder time than younger workers finding jobs.  It’s a fact.  Oh.  They won’t say you’re too old.  They can’t.  But they can hedge.  They can find other reasons not to hire someone “past their prime”.

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives us. That’s what the song says.  That’s what the Bible says.  Why did I suddenly feel powerless? Why did it feel as if my power had just been taken away?   Where is my identity anyway?  Is it in a job?  A title?  A paycheck?  I don’t like to think so.  But when those things are suddenly gone, what’s left?  Power is one thing.  But so is security.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Sounds like an oxymoron. Feels like an impossible stretch.  But the apostle Paul knew how that felt.  Oh.  He begged God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh.  But God never removed it.  So Paul learned to rely on God’s power.  He learned that he must depend on God in those moments of weakness.  Not on himself.  He was strengthened by God through his weakness.  But what does that mean?  What does that look like?  Is that even real?  Or possible?  Can I do this?


I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12:9


I remember when I took swimming lessons.  It was a 6-week course.  The first thing we needed to master was floating face down.  I’d never been in a pool.  Being in a body of water where I couldn’t touch the bottom was unnerving.  Floating face down was frightening.  Very frightening.  I was taught to relax.  It’s easier said than done.  Because this thing could kill me.  Literally.  So I learned calmness and relaxation.  I let myself go and float face down.  The master teacher was always nearby.  Ready to catch me if I needed help.

One lesson in particular I remember.  We floated down the pool and around the bend.  The lesson that day was to learn to get myself in an upright position after floating face down.  I was having trouble.  I couldn’t master the act of bringing myself to an upright position.  I was struggling.  Oh.  I knew the steps it took to move into the position, but I wasn’t strong enough.  I tried over and over.  At one point, it felt as if I was going under and never coming back up.  Where was my instructor?  I thought.  It felt as if I was drowning.  It was a feeling of total helplessness.  Will she let me drown?  I wondered.  By some miracle, I was finally able to get myself in an upright position.  Coughing.  Sputtering.  Deep breaths.  I now knew the feeling of drowning.  It wasn’t good.

She never came to rescue me.  Oh.  She was watching.  She was close by.  But she allowed me to struggle until I had the strength to endure and survive.  I had to dig deep and find the will to conquer my fear and trust myself and the water.  It was a hard lesson.

I never went back to swimming lessons.  Oh.  I had my reasons.  Petty excuses.  I never learned to swim.  I still remember that helpless feeling of sinking in the water.  The water that could cause my demise.  Oh.  I would still love to learn to swim.  But now I know the cost.  The price I must pay in order to feel comfortable in a situation beyond my control.  Where the monster.  The beast.  Is bigger than me.   It’s bigger than life. It’s ever moving and flowing all around me.  Where it engulfs and consumes me. Where the current can take me out to sea.  I don’t like that feeling.  I like to be in control of my situation.  So I gave up.

I now find myself in a situation that’s out of my control.  Oh.  I have good days.  I have not so good days.  I’m learning to float face down in God’s love.  I’m learning to let go and face my fears. I’m learning to breathe underwater.  It doesn’t feel good.  It’s not my comfort zone.  Sometimes I wonder if the struggle will ever end.  But I keep doing the work I need to do to get to the other side of this battle.

I know my God is watching.  He’s close by.  Oh.  I know he could rescue me in an instant if he chose.  But he’s allowing me to struggle.  I don’t know how long this will continue, so I have to be prepared for the long haul.  I have to dig deep in God’s love and learn to relax and not fight what I can’t control.  It isn’t easy.  I have to trust that God’s power is working through me.  It’s in the struggle that strength is born.