I grew up in the wilds of Eastern Oregon. It didn’t phase me to hike up behind our house to the rock bluff where rattle snakes hid in the cracks and stare down at the valley with the river cutting through it. It was nothing to sleep outside under a black blanket sky with pinhole diamonds that sang as loud as the coyotes near the river’s edge. Cougars with their elusive ways made my senses alert when tromping through the trees, but the knowledge of them didn’t stop me. The smell of fresh cut alfalfa or juni and sage after a hard rain on the high desert calmed me; the sight of bright burning lightning that ripped through the atmosphere, thrilled me; all of it roared like an orchestra of a thousand instruments giving glory to God and it stirred my human soul for something greater. The feel of dirt between my toes and on my face as my cousins and I built a tree fort out of old boards and rusty nails and fresh imagination; the poisonous spiders, bloody knees, splinters…adventure. And nothing felt lonely though everything was. Eastern Oregon can be the loneliest place—a rugged haunt for those who don’t have the pioneer blood in their veins. Old miners lived there once and dug up all the treasure they could find. It was rich with gold at one time, rich with adventure. But miners found the limit and soon were just old men. Alone. Desperate. Gone. The land still groans with the ache of their bones. Gold dried up way back when, and dreams dried up too and I don’t think of grace when I consider my homeland. I think of survival. But back then, when I was a young kid before it was cool to leave, I had simple faith in that land of dried up dreams. I didn’t see the predators and heartless landscape. I saw adventure.
There are times I’ll be rolling along in my adult life and a smell will hit me, taking me back to my youth. A time when things that could have troubled me, didn’t. I knew God even back then and naturally applied my knowledge of Him to my daily existence. Then as time went on, things got harder. The cry of the old miners reached my soul and in the land where nothing felt lonely though everything was, I began to feel the creeping desperate sense of loneliness. Zits popped up on my face and bullies popped up in school. Anxiety surged in my being and I became unrecognizable to myself overnight. And like the old miners, what was an adventure in my youth spurred on by simple faith, turned out to be a land full of predators, disappointment, loneliness and depression. And that frightening new belief gave way to desperate forms of self-preservation and survival. But the Lord was still the same God even so.
We live in a time of predators and heartless land. A troubled time. A lonely time. These times have been upon humanity since we believed the enemy and had to leave Eden, but I will say the past couple years have been a bit more overwhelming, for most. There is something frightening cutting through our sky, howling at night, waiting to strike, bristling the hair on the back of our necks…and it can’t be shrugged off as easy as ignorance would allow, and it doesn’t feel like adventure.
Whether it is the strange reality that our rights as individuals are being taken one illegal board move at a time by a corrupted government, or that we are being blatantly brainwashed as a collective into accepting a standard that goes against creation and the Creator, or that we are simply at a broad stroke turn-point that started hundreds, thousands of years ago and is coming to a global climactic pinnacle—unavoidable, horrific, wondrous—whatever it feels like, the reality stands and has always stood. The dark danger that lurks in the desolate, arid loneliness of this world has always been there. And Jesus has always been God, and He’s coming back, what rejoicing that should bring our souls! But in our complacency and weakness, in our giving in to fear, in our feeble attempts to hold on to comfort, we are overwhelmed by what we see and hear and feel. What is adventurous is now hostile, and what is lacking is our simple faith in Jesus.
From personal observations, the Church, primarily the US church, seems to be largely and overwhelmingly just as terrified and brainwashed as the rest of the world. And as I have encountered first hand, appears in certain circles, to be feeding the hysteria. Through Christian organizations and churches, I’ve personally been involved in social justice movements and rings of leadership all making global impact for the good of humanity. I was privileged to tell stories that were ultimately meant to bend your emotional ear and break your giving heart. It started off feeling like the early Church of Acts in my soul, adventurous and abandoned to self, and then it turned. Don’t get me wrong, like I’m saying, intentions started off good I believe, but then gave way to a desperate, growing (some might say, “woke”) agenda that increasingly dismissed the Gospel. At the lowest points, in hindsight, there was a good chance I was nothing more than a willing tool for propagating a worldly agenda of hysteria guised as social justice guised as spreading the Gospel. All that said, because of this backdrop, I have first hand knowledge of the many terrors that lurk on the global stage, screaming for justice. However, to me, the horror no longer seems to be that said terrors truly exist (as they always have). It is that we have accepted the terrors as part of our existence and in some twisted way become comfortable with them, slipping into roles either as raging justice fighters or as complacent, compassion-fatigued settlers. Regardless, it’s possible that some of us (including myself at one time) have thought or think that we are standing for something great, when in reality, we are bowing to an agenda, at worse case, a maniacal and dark one.
Many of us in our Christian circles have become more fear driven and rageful as the lens we are looking at the world through has become tainted by the enemy. We should always view social justice and all things through the lens of the Gospel, not the other way around. And I didn’t fully know that, sadly, until I had found myself compromising Godly character for the sake of a creeping, worldly agenda.
Here we are, in a time that is quite adventurous for humanity and more so for those who have given their lives to Jesus, and yet we as a Church are all too often caught up in the hysteria, feeding with the rest off the terror, rage and injustice dished up on the world stage. We have become complicit and complacent. Where do we really stand as questions scream from all sides about the normalization of gender reassignment/body mutilation, pedophelia and pornography, the killing of babies inside and outside the womb? Where do we stand as our rights as parents are being stripped while our children are indoctrinated by a scholastic system controlled by an anti-moral government? Where do we stand as leaders of this world usurp laws meant to protect society and enforce a vax that doesn’t fully thwart a virus and and at worse case has, on account, caused death?
It’s possible the adventure has turned terrifying and lonely and our simple child-like faith has turned lukewarm or cold. Now is the time to ask these questions of ourselves. Because this is an hour that is testing the fiber of our faith. What are we teaching/showing our children (the next generation) if we ourselves cannot stand up for the Gospel in a tyrannical world?
Three men stood once. And it left an eternal impact on history.
One of the most notable “stands” in the Bible comes from the book of Daniel, chapter three. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who were all officials over the providence of Babylon, the greatest empire in the world at that time, were faced with government persecution for their beliefs. But before that fateful hour arrived in their lives, they were already set on the living God. They knew there was nothing greater than Him, no government, no mandate, no evil force. So when their king, Nebuchadnezzar, built an image of gold and commanded that all in the land kneel when the symphony sounded throughout the land, or be thrown into a fiery furnace, the faith those three men already had, built through studying the Word of God and keeping themselves from being polluted by the generation, the fear of powerful men, the propaganda, was put to the test. And with ease, they stood. Each had already built his own character into that of fearing God over man. Each hadn’t bent in small ways in their youth so they weren’t going to bend in big ways, even if their earthly lives depended on it. Inevitably, providentially, accusers saw them standing and ratted them out for not kneeling. Ponder it for a moment, they stood while an absolute sea of people, even their own brethren, bowed, and for doing so they faced an infuriated king with a horrifying edict, who was willing to give them one more chance if they just did what he wanted.
Now, standing is one thing, but the most profound part to me is what they said in response to the imminent, hateful threat that faced them:
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
But if not… there it is, simple faith of profound magnitude, capable of seeing the adventure of their lives in the face of evil, above all capable of understanding their purpose beyond this earth. I heard it said once, the Lord will save you before the fire, in the fire, or by the fire, either way, He’s with you and will save you. They knew, without a doubt, that their lives (and possibly the lives of their dearly loved families), didn’t end in that moment even if their bodies did. They knew God was capable of saving them from the fire, absolutely, but even if He didn’t, even so, they wouldn’t bow. They knew, because of their faith in God, He would be welcoming them into His Kingdom if the fire took them. They just simply knew.
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”
They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
And remarkably, the Lord met them in the fire, showed His glory in that moment, and saved them. And because of their faith, the most powerful king of that time was awe-struck by the living God.
28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
See, when we are called to stand in righteousness in the face of evil tyranny, others are watching. Our children are watching. Leaders are watching. Our neighbor is watching. The “simple faith” we show today reflects in eternity.
So personal disappointments, global crisis, economic mayhem and spiritual oppression have contributed to the dire sense that faith is hard. But truly, those things have always been here. Maybe it’s just time to wake up and evaluate the cost of standing, and ultimately submit that to the Lord. Maybe it’s time for us to get back to that simple faith that takes Jesus and the knowledge of His Truth at face value, uncompromisingly so. It’s the little ways we don’t compromise our faith today, the ways we resist the enemy, that build our faith so that we can stand in the face of evil that has been around us since the beginning.
Paul penned this to the Ephesians in chapter six:
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
And in 2 Corinthians 4:17 reminds us: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
In the end, I suppose this simple faith I’m talking about doesn’t come easy. It’s the death of the flesh. But in light of all the hysteria, evil and confusion that is swirling around us, all the lies that pound and the threats that hound, all that is evil calling itself good, don’t you ache like I do for that quiet, resolute knowing? The faith that no matter how compromised and horrific the land around us appears to be, we belong to Jesus and abounding in His Love and Truth, with simple faith, are capable of standing for Him. Do you wish to see the adventure in it all again, and not just the hostility? We should be excited and count it all joy, Church, this is an adventurous time.
In this troubled world take heart, if you belong to the Lord, you belong to the only One Who has overcome the world. This is the adventure of your life. STAND.
There are times I’ll be rolling along in my adult life and a smell will hit me, taking me back to my youth. A time when things that could have troubled me, didn’t. A time when I took Jesus at face value—His infallible Truth—no skepticism, no lurking self-serving agenda, no fear of man. A time when I knew the world I lived in could hurt me, and that fact didn’t stop or scare me one bit. I was a kid with a simple faith once, just adventuring a fierce land. I’m still that girl. And He’s still that God.