Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When You Need to Humble Yourself (Daniel 5)

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to emphasize: worldly governments and individuals are temporary. (another take on Oct 6 file)

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Every earthly kingdom will fail and will fall when the Most High God says it’s time, when He decrees it to be so, but the Kingdom of God will last forever!

Dannah Gresh: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, for October 5, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Did you know everything you have has been given to you by God? Do you see it that way? Sometimes our pride gets in the way. We forget how dependent we really are on God. Today, Nancy is going to show us what happens when our pride takes control as she leads us through Daniel chapter 5.

Nancy: Yesterday as I was working on this session, a random email showed up in my inbox with this heading: “What was the day that changed your life in a way you would never have expected when you woke up that morning?”

I turned around and read it to Robert, and I said, “This is a great introduction to the passage we’re looking at in Daniel today!” I don’t know where that email came from. Nothing’s random—Heaven rules, right? But what was the day that changed your life in a way you would never have expected when you woke up that morning? 

Today we’re going to look at a day that changed the life of a Babylonian king and his subjects in a way they could not possibly have imagined when they woke up that morning.

As you’re following along with us in this study of the book of Daniel, in each chapter we’re seeing another encounter between the highly visible kingdom of man and the mostly invisible kingdom of God. These are kingdoms in conflict. There is a war for worship. There is a battle between these kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. In each of these encounters, God’s goal is to make it clear that—what? Heaven rules.

Today we’re looking at Daniel 5. Let me invite you to turn or scroll there in your Bible, and let me give you a little backdrop before we jump into the text. 

We’ve been looking at King Nebuchadnezzar over the last few days. He was succeeded by another Babylonian king named Belshazzar. The two stories of these two kings are eerily similar. They had a lot of things in common. 

  • Both were idolaters; both worshiped false gods. 
  • Both flaunted their wealth and their influence to build their own brand, their own kingdom. 
  • Both Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar failed to recognize the source of their greatness, and so they took glory for themselves that didn’t belong to them. 
  • Both ruled their kingdoms by force and by fear, doing away with anyone who got in their way and rewarding anyone who bolstered their ego and supported their regime.
  • Both these men had a high view of themselves; both considered themselves the supreme ruler. 
  • Both learned the hard way that God is able to humble those who walk in pride. 

That’s the last verse of the passage we looked at yesterday, Daniel 4:37. God is able to humble those who walk in pride.

For Nebuchadnezzar, there was time to repent and humble himself; for Belshazzar, it was the end. God did humble him in a final way because of his walking in pride.

  • Pride kept these kings from seeing that everything they had—wealth, influence, power—had been given to them by God. 
  • Pride kept them from seeing that God was the sovereign, supreme ruler of the world, and that they were dependent on Him for their very breath and existence. 
  • Pride kept them from seeing that God had lifted them up, and God could just as easily bring them down. In fact, one day He would do just that.

Pride is a deadly, deceptive, destructive sin in anyone’s life, but I think it’s particularly glaring and revolting in someone who’s been gifted by God with position and power and privilege. God gives them these gifts, these strengths, this influence, but they take the credit for themselves and are proud.

Now, Daniel chapter 5 jumps ahead in the chronology of Daniel to the dramatic end of Belshazzar’s reign in 539 B.C., approximately twenty years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. The name Belshazzar is actually a prayer to the Babylonian god named Bel. The name Belshazzar means, “Bel protect the king,” or “Bel save the king.” We’re going to see in this chapter that when God said, “Your time’s up,” Bel was powerless to protect and save the king.

Chapter 5 opens with Belshazzar throwing an extravagant banquet. It reminds you a lot of the banquet that King Ahasuerus threw in Esther’s day, some years later. Both these banquets were intended to showcase the king’s power, wealth, and glory. Read with me in Daniel chapter 5, beginning in verse 1.

King Belshazzar [Bel protect the king, Bel save the king] held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine in their presence. Under the influence of the wine [that’s a lot of wine, alcohol flowing in this story, so you can imagine some of what also happened], Belshazzar gave orders to bring in the gold and silver vessels that his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, wives, and concubines could drink from them. [We know there were a thousand nobles; we don’t know how many wives and concubines were in the mix here.]

So they brought in the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem [in a humiliating defeat to Jerusalem years earlier], and the king and his nobles, wives, and concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. (vv. 1–4)

Stop right there. Score a big win for the enemies of God and a humiliating loss for the people of God. Here are these pagans, these idolaters, drinking from the vessels that they had stolen from the temple before they ransacked it. They had taken the people and the vessels from Jerusalem to Babylon, made them captives, and now they’re using these sacred vessels in the worship of their pagan gods. It looks like the pagan gods have won.

But, Heaven rules. Don’t forget it. Jehovah is the Most High God. He is the Creator; He is the Author of human history. All of this was a part of God’s sovereign plan to destroy the wicked, to bring down the pride of man, and to rescue, redeem, and restore His people and bring them up from their captivity.

These are two threads that run all the way through the Scriptures: judgment and salvation. God judges the unrepentant wicked and God saves those who believe in Him and turn from their sin. Judgment and salvation. God uses these circumstances where it looks like hell has won and heaven has lost. Heaven hasn’t lost anything. God is using these circumstances to show that heaven really does rule and that He will judge the wicked and He will save the righteous.

Belshazzar throws this lavish party. There’s alcohol flowing; they’re drinking from these stolen containers from the temple in Jerusalem while praising the gods of Babylon. Suddenly, the God of heaven, who was nowhere on their minds, interrupts the scene. The wild partying comes to a screeching halt, as all partying on earth will do someday when God says, “It’s time.” Heaven rules.

At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself and his knees knocked together. (vv. 5–6)

I’m reading from the Christian Standard Bible. I don’t know what your translation says, but it wasn’t a pretty picture. The presence of God struck terror in the heart of the king. He was undone, and suddenly all his riches, his power, his influence were useless. His gods were useless. The one who had controlled (or thought he did) the lives and fates of his subjects was now under the control of the one to whom all creation is ultimately subject. Heaven rules. Don’t forget it. We see it all through Daniel, but we see it in our world as well.

The king shouted to bring in the mediums, Chaldeans, and diviners. He said to these wise men of Babylon, "Whoever reads this inscription and gives me its interpretation will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around his neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom." So all the king’s wise men came in, but none could read the inscription or make its interpretation known to him. [This is like what happened with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream earlier in the book of Daniel.] Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered. (vv. 7–9)

Like the wise men in Nebuchadnezzar’s day (chapter 2), these so-called wise men were as clueless as the king. They had no idea. They were in touch with demonic, occultic powers which false gods are connected to, but they could not do anything that God did not allow them to do. They had no clue what this meant or what was going on. Their weakness, their impotence showed up in this critical moment.

Because of the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. "May the king live forever," she said. "Don’t let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale. There is a man in your kingdom who has a spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your predecessor he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods." (vv. 10–11)

How did she know about this? We don’t know, but the stories must have been told. Maybe she had been alive in those days. But somehow she knew what Belshazzar didn’t know or had forgotten.

"Your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him [this man] chief of the magicians, mediums, Chaldeans, and diviners. Your own predecessor, the king, did this because Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and intelligence, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. [That’s the man we need right now! So she says] Therefore, summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation." (vv. 11–12)

Daniel was known. Daniel is now an older man. He was young, maybe in his teens, when the book first opens and he’s taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. He’s now maybe in his seventies. Daniel was known to have a spirit and wisdom and ability that was greater than that of the king’s wisest counselors.

Those who have the Spirit of God should be known for their insight, intelligence, and wisdom. Proverbs 2 tells us, “The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth [from His Word] come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright” (vv. 6–7). Those who are righteous in Christ should be the ones who have the wisdom for their times; who know what to do, what to say, how to understand what’s happening in our world. So she says, “Summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation.”

When the world’s “experts,” so-called, can’t figure out what to do about a marriage that’s in trouble or a teenager who’s in rebellion or a governmental or political issue that is crying to be dealt with; when the world can’t figure out pressing issues and concerns, who do they call? Do they call you in your world? Do they call you to help them find answers? “I don’t know about all this religion stuff you have, I don’t know about all this Christian stuff; I don’t know about all that.” Maybe they’re not Christians at all, but they’ve seen that your marriage, your life has answers, has wisdom. Not that everything goes easily, but they’ve seen that you have understanding and insight and wisdom.

Listen, the world’s finest wisdom will always be limited and insufficient for the world’s problems. Those of us who know the God of heaven need to be prepared when called upon to speak His wisdom into the situation.

Let me say, I feel like I’m harping on this a little bit, because I said something about it in the last session. But the way that some believers deal with social media, some of the kinds of comments that are plastered by Christians on social media, do not help the world have any interest in knowing the wisdom we have. They make people mad at us, but they don’t cause people to come and say, “Can you help us solve these problems? Can you help us deal with these issues?” There needs to be wisdom with grace, the wisdom and grace of God.

Then Daniel was brought before the king. The king said to him, "Are you Daniel, one of the Judean exiles that my predecessor the king brought from Judah? I’ve heard that you have a spirit of the gods in you." (vv. 13–14) 

He didn’t even know how to explain it. All he knew were these gods; he didn’t know Jehovah, he didn’t know the Most High God. He didn’t know enough to ask the question right, but he knew enough to know who to ask the question of. “Are you Daniel?” 

"I’ve heard that you have a spirit of the gods in you, and that insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom are found in you." (v. 14)

You’ll never have that wisdom on your own. You’ll never know what to do about people’s problems and the world’s problems if you’re not saturating yourself in this Book and its wisdom. That’s where you get wisdom.

The wisdom of the world always is going the opposite direction of God’s wisdom, so be prepared if you have God’s wisdom about a situation to have people mock it or think that you’re crazy, because the wisdom of God is infinitely different than the wisdom of man. But if they see a mighty spirit, the world at certain points and times will want to know, “How can we get the insight that you have?” 

Now, God set the table by having this handwriting on the wall come about. God created the circumstance that made the king so terrified he was ready to listen to anybody who had an iota of wisdom! His men didn’t have it, his wise men had nothing to offer. So now he’s in a desperate case, a desperate situation, and he says, “I’m ready to listen.”

When the world is ready to listen, when the people around you are ready to listen, make sure you’re ready with the wisdom of God. If you haven’t been getting the wisdom of God daily throughout your life, if you haven’t been soaking in His Word, if you haven’t been listening to His wisdom, don’t expect that when somebody needs an amazing answer to their problem that all of a sudden you’re going to have the wisdom you need. You need to be living in that wisdom, growing in that wisdom, growing in grace, soaking in God’s Word, so that when the opportunity comes we can give a reason for the hope that lies in us and we can explain to the world what it is they need to hear.

[The King said,] "Now the wise men and mediums were brought before me to read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not give its interpretation.’"(v. 15)

The impotence of the world’s wise men. The world’s counsel is foolish, but God’s wisdom is wise.

"However, I have heard about you, that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around your neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom."

Then Daniel answered the king [and I love this, because Daniel’s humility is such a contrast to the arrogance of these Babylonian kings], "You may keep your gifts and give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him." (vv. 16–17)

There’s a quiet, humble confidence there. Daniel wasn’t looking to get anything out of this; he wasn’t looking for personal gain or for a higher position. He was a servant of the Most High God! You can’t get any higher than that. You can’t have any better position than that. You can’t have any better real estate than that. You can’t have any better inheritance than that. He was a servant of the Most High God! What could the king give him that he didn’t have better than what the king could offer? He didn’t need the king’s reward, so he refused to take rewards or honor for himself. That gave him freedom to speak truth to power without holding back.

Listen, if you’re looking for credit or for likes on your social media, or you’re looking for influence or for everybody to love you, then you’re going to be scared to say things that need to be said sometimes in our world. You’re going to be scared to speak the truth, because you’re afraid of losing something. Daniel had nothing to lose; he had nothing to gain that the king could give him.

Daniel rehearsed for Belshazzar the rise and fall of his predecessor. Verse 18: “‘Your Majesty, the Most High God . . .’” He didn’t hesitate! Belshazzar says, “The spirit of the gods is in you,” like there’s this hocus-pocus whatever. But Daniel’s not mincing words. “There is one God; He is the Most High God. Whether you believe in Him or not, whether you know anything about Him or not, I believe in Him, I know Him.” There’s no apology for his confidence in the Most High God.

"The Most High God gave sovereignty, greatness, glory, and majesty to your predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. Because of the greatness he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages were terrified and fearful of him. He killed anyone he wanted and kept alive anyone he wanted; he exalted anyone he wanted and humbled anyone he wanted." (vv. 18–19)

Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was so great, that he had ultimate power, but what he didn’t realize initially was that all that power he had was given to him by God. He had nothing apart from what God had given him.

"But when [Nebuchadnezzar’s] heart was exalted and his spirit became arrogant, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken from him." (v. 20)

You exalt yourself, God will humble you. It is a truism. It’s true in all ages, in all seasons, for all people. You lift yourself up, God will put you down. That’s what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. 

"He was driven away from people, his mind was like an animal’s, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky . . ." (v. 21)

He was pushed down as far as down can go. As we saw in the last chapter, he lost his mind, he lost his reason, he lost his power, he lost his glory. He lost everything. He lost his sanity until what? 

". . . until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over human kingdoms and sets anyone he wants over them." (v. 21)

This is a message that keeps going through the book of Daniel. If you think you’ve heard that before in this series, it’s because you have. It’s a message that’s repeated in Daniel. But it’s not just for Daniel’s era, it’s for our era. How we need to know that Heaven rules, that God’s kingdom is above all, that He is the ruler over human kingdoms, and that anyone who is in office is there because God has set him there for at least this time? God raised Nebuchadnezzar up. God made him great, but when he became proud, God brought him down. God stripped him of his glory and reduced him to nothing until he came to his senses and acknowledged that Heaven rules.

"But you . . . Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens. . . . [Y]ou have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in his hand and who controls the whole course of your life." (vv. 22–23)

You’ve exalted yourself, and when you exalt yourself, you pull God down off His throne (or attempt to do so; you can’t really). Deifying self, humanizing God, pulling Him down to our level. You have not glorified God, and God holds your very breath in His hands. You couldn’t breathe; you can’t live if God doesn’t let you do it. He controls the whole course of your life, and you think you’re in charge?

Listen, this is the fundamental sin of the human race. Romans 1 talks about it, that we don’t glorify God as God, the God who holds our life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of our lives. Failing to glorify God is at the heart of my sin; that’s at the heart of your sin; that’s at the heart of all sin. It’s at the heart of kingdoms and nations and cultures that are running pell-mell from God, installing themselves and their own rulers and their own systems and their own kingdoms. They’re thinking, We are it! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Verse 24 reminds us that the very God the king had failed to acknowledge was the God who had sent the hand that had written the inscription. “You don’t think there is a God in heaven? You don’t think there’s a Most High God? He’s the One who sent that hand to write on the wall.”

"This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN." (v. 25)

We could spend a lot of time on getting into linguistics and all of that, but I just want you to get the big picture here. 

"This is the interpretation of the message: ‘Mene’ means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end." (v. 26)

Scary thing to tell the guy who thinks he’s God, unless you know that your God is the Most High God. Then when it is time to say that, you can say it.

"'Tekel' means that you have been weighed on the balance and found deficient. 'Peres' means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (vv. 27–28)

Talk about a day that changes the course of your life, news you weren’t expecting when you got up that morning! “The days of your kingdom have been numbered by God, and it’s over. It is over. You, King Belshazzar, have been weighed on God’s balance, and you’ve been found deficient. You think you’re so great, you think you’re so mighty, you think you’re so impressive. 

“You are nothing,” says the handwriting on the wall. Your kingdom that had been such an awesome, amazing world power, the head of gold, the Babylonian kingdom, has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” The thing that God had told Nebuchadnezzar years earlier would come true is now coming true. God used Daniel to show the king that this message applied to Him and His kingdom.

That’s the calling of a servant of God, to help people see how God’s Word applies to them and their lives and their situations. God is saying this to you. That’s what we ought to do when we’re teaching the word. Whether you’re discipling a small group or mentoring somebody, you open God’s Word, you take people to God’s Word, and you say, “This is for you! This is what this means. This is what this says.” Sometimes you have to say hard things, because sometimes God’s message to hardened hearts is a hard thing. But you have to be willing to say it.

Then Belshazzar gave an order, and they clothed Daniel in purple, placed a gold chain around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. (v. 29)

Talk about rearranging the furniture on the Titanic as it’s sinking? It’s like, who has time for this? But somehow the king kept his word. Was it because he didn’t believe that this would come true? We don’t know. He did what he said he would do.

“That very night . . .” Now, Nebuchadnezzar was given a whole year; for Belshazzar, it’s over. God knows, God decides. That’s why it’s not best to try the patience of God.

That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of sixty-two. (v. 30)

Belshazzar learned that his kingdom was over, that it was going to be taken over by the Medes and the Persians, and his response was not to humble himself and repent. How might this story have been different if he had? But he didn’t.

What did we see in the last chapter? Daniel 4:37, "God is able to humble those who walk in pride. "Just as God had said, that night, Belshazzar was killed, and a new king took his place.

Friends, Heaven rules. Heaven rules over kings and empires and presidents and nations and powers and federations. Heaven rules, and every earthly ruler and kingdom will fail and will fall when the Most High God says it’s time, when He decrees it to be so.

But—here’s the part of “Heaven rules” that makes our hearts jump with joy—the kingdom of God will last forever. Of His rule there will be no end! Every earthly kingdom is doomed, it will fail, it will fall. The Kingdom of God will be forever.

Are you building the kingdom of man or the kingdom of God? In your work, your relationships, are you worshiping and serving the kingdom of man or the kingdom of God? Are you walking in pride or are you walking in humility? Are you exalting yourself or are you exalting the God of heaven?

Listen, this little drama we’ve just read about, this great drama we’ve just read about, this can be lived out in little ways every twenty-four hours in the four walls of our own homes. When we become little, mini Nebuchadnezzars and Belshazzars—“I will have my way or off with your head!”—that’s exalting self, and God is able to humble those who walk in pride. Are you glorifying the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life?

Oh Father, may people see in us those who take no credit for what only You can do, those who seek not to build our own kingdoms, our own empires, those who are humble. Even when it seems that the humble get stepped on, we know that in Your time, in Your way, the meek will inherit the earth. 

We know that heaven does rule and that You hold our very life-breath in your hand. You control the whole course of our lives. So forgive us for living like egomaniacs, like it has to be our way or no way. Oh God, may Your people—may we, may I—be humble servants of the Most High God, so all the world will know that Heaven rules and will worship the Most High God. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: Are you listening to the wisdom of the world, or to the wisdom of God? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us how Daniel’s wisdom from the Lord made a big impact. This message is part of the series, “Heaven Rules.” If you’ve missed any episodes so far, you can find them all on the Revive Our Hearts app or at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Daniel was a man who kept His eyes on the Lord. His confidence came from knowing God and believing His promises. Do you ever need to be reminded of God’s presence? That He is with you, and that His promises are sure? As Advent season is approaching, we want to help you dwell on these truths. Fix your eyes on Jesus with our new, 31-day Advent card set. These displayable cards will prompt you to steady your heart on Christ no matter what you’re facing. You’ll receive this beautiful set of cards as our way to thank you when you give a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959 and request your copy of the Advent card set.

Daniel is a good example for us of what it looks like to be grounded in wisdom. Later this week, we’re going to focus on what it means to be grounded in Christ at our Revive ’21 conference! This world is constantly shifting, and if we’re not grounded in the Lord, how will we stand? Join Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Mary Kassian, Chris Brooks, Susan Hunt, and me, along with several others as we learn how to stand firm in a shaking world.

Revive '21 is happening this Friday and Saturday. If you haven’t made plans to attend already, it’s not too late to sign up for our online option! Find out all the details on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. I hope you can join us.

Now, I want to ask you, Which kingdom are you serving? Nancy challenges you to consider this.

Nancy: I'm stunned; I'm in love with how God uses these encounters between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God to bear His arm, to show the world that heaven rules. It would be easy to say the the world needs to know that Heaven rules, but the world is not going to see that Heaven rules until they see in us the submission to the rule of heaven in our own lives. That's what we see in Daniel and in these three Hebrew young men who said, "We won't bow, we won't worship and serve anyone other than the God of heaven.

Dannah: We’ll see you here tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth calls you to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.