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Tag Archives: salvation

Storytelling Well Done

T. C. Southwell, Children of Another God (The Broken World Series, Book 1) Smashwords, 2010 Format: ebook (97,613 words) Free

In order to research the genre of science fiction and fantasy novels in preparation for writing one myself, I’ve been reading the novels of others. This  book by T. C. Southwell is a good example of self-published sci-fi novels that are readily available today. Southwell has 31 novels available on Smashwords.com. They aren’t all free, but Children of Another God will give you an excellent sample of the genre. I recommend buying more if you like this volume.

Children of Another God tells the story of Chanter and Talsy. Chanter is a Mujar, a race of beings who can assume various forms, such as an eagle or horse, dolphin or human. A Mujar lives a hundred years exactly and cannot be killed for any reason, although they can be imprisoned in the Pits. Humans use and abuse Mujar for their own selfish or terrible ends, yet they hate Mujar because they have no emotional attachment to anyone or anything.

Talsy is an eighteen year old woman who desperately longs for adventure and freedom from the conventional human lot for women who are treated as little more than cattle. When her father captures Chanter and uses him for his own ends, then intends to imprison him in a Pit, Talsy rescues the Mujar. Then begins their complicated relationship which leads to surprising ends and to the potential salvation of the human race, which is not guaranteed by the end of the novel.

Southwell’s storytelling is well-done. The author’s considerable imagination concocts a world, or rather worlds, that reflect a dual judgment on humanity. People are truly evil but are capable of great good, and people can rise above their base nature with difficulty. One reviewer complained about Talsy’s deliberate endangerment of others by her actions, suggesting that this detracted from the story. For me, this was the heart of the story. Talsy represents those who want to be more but are bound to their debased humanity. It takes great effort for her to learn and rise above herself. Kudos to Southwell for telling such a story!

Another reviewer demurred the “blatant” Christian imagery. For me, the Christian character of this book was a pleasure. It was wonderful to see an author who used the Christian gospel as a tool to present the story of humanity and salvation without bludgeoning the reader with a gospel mace. The same reviewer felt that the picture of human beings as a pack of dogs was overdone. As a Christian, I felt Southwell did a tremendous job showing the reader how far the race of men can fall, how horrible its actions can be, when people operate on the level of the flesh alone. I suppose how a reader reacts to the Christian message behind the book depends on where he or she stands in relation to that faith.

All in all, if you want to read a valuable book, I recommend this one, but I add a couple of warnings. First, Southwell sometimes drags out an aspect of the characterization or plotting, and this can be a bit tedious. I prefer novels to make their point and move the action forward quickly, but that’s a personal preference. Second, Southwell spent too much time describing a gruesome dissection of the Mujar by men searching for knowledge but succumbing to brutality. The Mujar lived and survived with Talsy’s help, but the detail almost made me stop reading or skip ahead. An author should not do this to the readers. Yet, in the end, I admit the long scene was critical for the storyline. So, if you read it, persevere. You’ll be satisfied when you do.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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God and Evil, and Human Beings

A blog I recently read made the point that evil is the absence of God. I responded to it, and I thought I’d also share my answer in this blog. So here it is…

Evil as an absence of God. This is certainly true. But the presence of God would also be the absence of evil. The two thoughts in tandem explain why human free will is so risky. By acting in an evil fashion, a human takes himself out of the presence of God. He is too holy to tolerate evil in his presence. However, does choosing good automatically bring a person into the presence of God? Perhaps not. It at least allows God an opportunity to admit the human being to his presence, but something more appears to be required: a cleansing. The evil that was chosen must be purged, because it has left a mark upon the human soul. Christ enters to provide this cleansing, along with the Holy Spirit to help maintain the purity and expand it throughout the whole human character. This is a signal of the sovereignty of God. By his trinitarian actions, he restores the human to relationship with himself and makes possible a consistent choosing of the good. Yet this work of deity is not completed until a period beyond human time-bound experience. Until then, we continue to struggle with good and evil.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in FaithLife

 

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Why I Like Winter

Is winter ever mentioned in the bible? This question came to me. So I looked up the word winter in my Bible. In the New International Version, it occurs only seventeen times. God promised Noah, after the flood, that as long as the earth endured, he’d be certain to send humanity seedtime and harvest. He’d give us times of cold and heat, the seasons of summer and winter. Even day and night would never stop happening. (See Genesis 8:22.) Isn’t wonderful that we can count on the seasons to turn every year? It’s a sign of the Lord’s commitment to us.

The ancient poet who wrote Psalm 74 also considered how God watches over humanity:

          It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
                                                              Psalm 74:17 (NIV)

The psalmist praised God’s creativity, especially as it related to the seasons. The Lord made summer and winter.

And this is one reason I live in the northeastern United States. I love my seasons! One of my daughters has lived in Arizona for most of her adult life, and I love to visit her any time of year. But I’d rather live where frequently in winter the snow falls and the winds blow cold. (I know Arizona gets snow sometimes, but not often enough for me.)

With the ancient poet, I rejoice in God’s creativity.

When God was angry with Israel for its sinfulness, the seasons figured into the background. Through the prophet Amos the Almighty said:

           I will tear down the winter house
               along with the summer house;
           the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed
               and the mansions will be demolished,”
                                          
declares the Lord.
                                                      Amos 3:15 (NIV)

Owning a summer and a winter house was a sign of the luxury in which many Israelites lived, but when they forgot God, they’d have to surrender their summer and winter luxuries—a warning about the season of wrath and judgment. Even Jesus used winter as a warning of impending disaster. Speaking about the end times, the Savior said, “Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath” (Mt. 24:20, NIV).

I have no idea where these thoughts are leading, except to say that winter is a gauge for human spiritual vitality, just as much as it’s a sign that changes come. In winter, one day may be dreary or rainy, snowy or sunny. The only sure thing is that tomorrow will be different. Winter weather is difficult to predict. And so is life…and judgment…and much more.

Winter teaches me to trust God better, and to be prepared for the day of judgment by the goodness of my life now.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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Maturity

Oswald Chambers wrote what it means to be mature in Christ: “The surest sign that you are growing in mature appreciation of your salvation is that as you look back you never think now of the things you used to bank on before. Think of the difference between your first realisation of God’s forgiveness, and your realisation of what it cost God to forgive you; the hilarity in the one case has been merged into holiness, you have become intensely devoted to God who forgave you.”

 
 

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Is God Ever Mean?

Now this is a loaded question: Is God ever mean? People, whether Christians or not, don’t like hearing that God might be hard to get along with. They want the divine to be manageable. They like a God who obeys the laws as they understand them, who doesn’t get frustrated or angry. Unfortunately for such people, God’s own revelation of himself is different. God can appear to be very mean to us humans who become subject to his wrath, even if we live according to all the rules.

I’m not speaking of his wrath focused on people who don’t choose to follow Jesus Christ. I’m thinking of how mean God can seem to those who do choose God’s Son as Savior and Lord. When adversity comes upon them, Christians sometimes ask, “Why me, Lord?” After all, if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we’re redeemed people. So where is the power and gift of redemption when fatal illness comes over you or unemployment overwhelms? Adversity seems to fly in the face of promises that life goes better with Jesus in it.

Yet God promises to be mean to his rescued people if they should sin. To the Israelites of Moses’ time, he declared,“Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you” (Dt. 12:47-48, NIV). There is no way around it: God is mean to his people when they need it. If they sin, he will punish them.

“Wait a minute!” you say. “That was the Old Testament. God isn’t like that now. Saved in Christ now, our sins are all forgiven. Grace is ours always.”

Do you really believe that it makes no difference how you live after coming to faith in Christ? Does your conduct not matter? Can you do anything you want? I doubt it. Our activities must line up with God’s grace in Christ. If Jesus has redeemed us, we have to live as redeemed people. When we don’t, God is good and right to be mean toward us. He can send—actively send—trouble our way.

The adversity you experience may be the simple result of living as a faithful Christian in a world that wants nothing to do with godliness. You’ll have to grin and bear such trouble. Yet it is possible that some of your adversity is God’s deliberate action toward you which is aimed at dealing with a new or recurrent sin in your life. You should not grin and bear this trouble. You should examine it and learn if you have transgressed. You ought to admit whatever sin brought this trouble from God. Indeed, the only way out of the trouble, could be confession and repentance.

The apostle Paul taught this clearly in Romans 2:9-11, when he wrote, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (NIV). Adversity comes to everyone, to the Jew first, that is, to those who are chosen and blessed, to Christians. Hard times are not only for faithless people. The faithless get what they deserve, but the believer who sins gets what he needs, help toward repentance.

Will God not judge the actions of those whom he loves and calls according to his purpose? I believe he will. I believe he does.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in FaithLife

 

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Have you read Jonah lately?

Jonah 1:1-4:11

The prophet Jonah got me into trouble once. I preached a series of sermons on his prophecy, and I made the “mistake” of referring to the whale as a big fish. But I was simply quoting the Bible translation we used in the pews. A woman in the church became angry with me for changing the Bible. She was in charge of VBS that year, and we covered the story of Jonah and the whale. As an award to the teachers, which she made sure I received, she gave out pins in the shape of a whale.

But Jonah’s message is so much more than a debate over what kind of aquatic animal swallowed him. The prophet was a Galilean, same as Jesus, and he tried to run from his call as a prophet by taking a ship to Tarshish, Spain, all the way across the Mediterranean Sea. This guy wanted to get away from the Lord, as far as he could! But he succeeded in running smack into God, and he had face up to his divinely given responsibility. He was supposed to preach repentance and salvation to the Ninevites, archenemies of his nation.

Jonah is about the unlimited grace of God. He cares for all humanity, and reaches out to every one of us all the time. The Lord wants to redeem us from our own bad behavior and morally corrupt nature. The mercy of God is far-reaching and encompasses even the people we would exclude.

This is not the ordinary way of seeing the Old Testament. Many people think the Old Testament God is a beast, eager to chew on anyone who strays from a narrow path. But the Lord is a God of grace in the Old Testament just as he is in the New. The prophecy of Jonah revealed this about God, as do other writers from the first two-thirds of the Bible. God is merciful. He is merciful to righteous and unrighteous.

He is not, however, nothing but mercy. The threat of judgment is firm in Jonah’s prophecy. If the Ninevites didn’t repent, they’d come under his wrath. Jonah’s own life was an illustration of the truth, too. He could not escape the Lord’s anger. He went into the water and the belly of the huge fish. His “leafy plant” was chewed up by a worm, also a punishment, although it was meant to lead Jonah to discover God’s compassion. The Old Testament God is not what people expect. He’s so much more.

Jonah’s character was a mixture of muscle and frailty. He walked in faith, and he vacillated in commitment. He was both a godly man and obstinate. He could be obedient to the Lord, though it might take a reprimand from God to get him to behave. He was childish and childlike. Jonah was a lot like me, and you, and many people.

Jesus said that the only sign people would have is the sign of Jonah. Matthew explained that as a reference to the resurrection, because Jonah was in the fish’s belly three days (see Mt. 12:39-42). But Luke took a different approach. He pointed out that it was the prophet’s preaching and the Ninevites’ repentance which is the sign. He didn’t hint at the resurrection. Perhaps the sign Jesus referred to was the amendment of life and attitude that comes when people who hear the gospel preached also repent.

It seems to me that’s what Jonah learned and taught.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2011 in Behind the Bible...

 

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