The Mission Field

The Mission Field

Micah 2:10 (HCSB)

Get up and leave, for this is not your place of rest,

because defilement brings destruction—a grievous destruction!

Kit pulled the reigns back hard, stopping the horses short. Carolyn had been napping inside the wagon, but the shift woke her.

“Is something wrong?”

“It’s nothing, go back to sleep.” Kit knew it was a bold faced lie. He wanted to save his wife from the sight in front of the wagon.

“What is it?” Kit knew the question needed an answer, but what could he say? A moment later he heard a shrill gasp and he knew he was too late. Carolyn had seen it. Two poles crossed and with a dead man tied to them.

“Who would do such a thing?” It was another answer he would rather save her from hearing.

After a moment of silence, he glanced back and found her staring at him. He spoke quietly. “It’s the Apaches.” He turned back forward and drove silently. For a moment he wondered if she had heard. Then her sobs muffled in the blankets, confirmed she had. Even when she broke into hushed prayers he couldn’t turn aside the guilt he felt.

This was his fault. He was headed to the California mining camps. He wanted to bring God to the West. He had felt the call, but now he doubted himself. They were separated from their train. Alone. Afraid. They were beyond the point of no return, so what else could they do?

After another hour they came across a little Apache girl. She was dried up and called out to the wagon pitifully. Kit knew she was calling for help, but hesitated.

“Stop.” Carolyn said as she jumped. For about an hour Kit paced while Carolyn doctored. The girl improved with water, and improved more with food.

Kit thought aloud, “The Apaches will kill us if they find her with us.”

“We can’t leave her.”

“We can’t take her.”

“Would you rather stay here until she heals?” So they took her along, fearing discovery, but moving. Three days later they were found, and quickly surrounded by natives. Carolyn tried to hide the child, but it was impossible. She climbed out the back and into the arms of a chief.

Kit and Carolyn both cringed, but the girl interceded for them. Turns out the Navajo girl had been kidnapped by Apaches. The Navajo were grateful, not angry.

Kit got his wish to minister in the West. He started a mission in Northern Arizona.

 

This story was written as a sample for Christian Flash Weekly. This will be a new weekly flash fiction challenge, with a specifically Christian bent. The web site will be www.christianflashweekly.wordpress.com and it’s first challenge will run from Feb. 7-10.  Anyone and everyone interested in Christian writing is encouraged to enter. Winners will get an E-badge to display on their blog, website, Facebook or wherever. 

 

Personal Holiness

Personal holiness is a difficult and somewhat unpopular topic. Roughly defined it is the ability to keep oneself from the stains of sin. But this is far easier said than done. Our world is very good at throwing all manner of temptation our way. And without a definite plan to stay away we will be negatively affected.

So what kind of a plan can we develop that is Biblically accurate and theologically sound. Here is a three part plan.

First there is a need to deal with our past sins. Scripture tells us we were born sinners, but even if we reject that principle, we have to admit we found plenty of sin on our own along the way. It’s too late to avoid it, but Christ went to the cross to provide forgiveness for it. This salvation is offered to us as a gift. We just have to be willing to receive it. Christ will cleanse the stain by the blood He shed on the cross.

But after being cleaned up we need a strategy to stay clean. If we do not change our patterns of behavior we will simply mess up our nice clean status by going back to sin. This change of pattern is repentance. While it is a lot of difficult work, it’s worth it. This change will be a big part of what improves your life.

But even when we are striving hard at repentance, we will fall short. We all still mess up—a lot.  But Christ still has us covered. Just like we were saved by grace, He will continue to forgive us. All we have to do is to go to Him and confess our sins. And then He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.

So here is my three part plan. Get saved by grace, strive at repentance, and continue in grace through confession of sin.

Theology for Christian Writers

Today I want to point to the blog for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.  I have a guest post up today on their blog called Theology for Christian writers.  I hope you go, read it, enjoy it and share it with all your friends.  I have only been to a few Christian Writers Conferences but these individuals impressed me so much that I enjoy looking for other opportunities to work with them.

Mallard

Mallard

You have probably seen a male mallard before. They are the most common puddle duck across America and probably the most commonly recognized duck.  It is a dappling duck similar to the wigeon, and unlike the ring-necked duck it has a visible ring around its neck.

This particular one was not dappling for its dinner but instead was begging from people on a city park pond. The shine on the feathers is from the oil the duck uses to waterproof its feathers.  You can tell how well it works by the droplets of water hanging on here and there, but never soaking in. It’s the same principle you go after when waxing a car. This trait is why we developed the saying, “like water off a duck’s back.”

This waterproofing is important for dappling ducks, because they use their buoyancy in the feeding process.  They don’t exactly swim like diving ducks, they float instead.  When they tip up and have their heads far underwater with their tails sticking straight up, they are still floating.  But if they were to become soaked, or waterlogged, it would interfere with their feeding.  They would also have trouble maintaining their body heat. This ability to repel water is crucial for their survival.

Christians need to have a similar trait. We reside in a world which can steal away the warmth of our spiritual fervor. It will permeate our lives and hearts and defeat us internally, if we allow it. In order to thrive in our current environment we must learn how to keep the bad stuff out, even though we are fairly well floating in it. Failing to guard ourselves from this world will allow us to become saturated in worldliness, and in this state we will be less effective for the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 4:23, quoted here from the HCSB, is one of my favorite verses to help us to understand this problem.  “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” The human heart becomes corrupted by the world if we are careless about it. Then the life which flows from it will not be the life of Christ intended for us to live.

The State of the Union

President Obama is set to give a state of the Union address tomorrow. Since we have entered a very difficult period of history, I thought I might offer him some suggestions on things he might want to say.

“Jobs have continued to decrease in the United States. Nevertheless we have followed a path of regulating the remaining jobs out of existence. This is a part of the change we can be proud of. We have leveled the playing field in America by pulling more and more of the middle class down into poverty. A major portion of this leveling affect has been the mandates of the Affordable Care Act. This law has pushed employers to decrease hours of their workers in order to avoid paying the unwieldy mandated benefits.

“There are more people on public assistance in this country than ever before, which we also claim as a victory. Nothing makes a voter come to be in favor of welfare as much as being a recipient. No one should go hungry in this, the greatest nation on earth. Neither should we the policy makers miss a chance to make hungry voters dependent upon us and our policies.

“Millions of people have been dropped by their health insurance, but we have successfully made them dependent on the government by making it impossible to pick up private insurance. They now must rely on a chaotic, expensive, unreliable government system for their healthcare. This too is a part of the change we are proud of. We can point to several hundred people who were benefitted, and the millions who were called on to make sacrifices should be proud to do so, or face the political name calling of left.

“This overhaul of the healthcare system is going to be the legacy of my administration. Nothing leaves the brand of change quite as deeply as voting for laws we don’t understand and have not discussed. As this law is phasing its way into implementation, we have guaranteed the ripples of change will continue to reverberate through our economy.

“The financial adjustments necessary to pay for these changes drove up our national debt in astronomical ways. This is another first of this administration. We can truly say we have driven the United States up to the brink of default without accepting blame. In fact we have managed to lay the blame for every battle at the feet of our opponents.

“In summary we have created new formulas for political success, for suppressing political opponents, and for restructuring American society. All we really promised was change, and everyone must agree, we have blindly and foolishly followed a policy of change.”

Kilkian Alignment

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, and Lunch with Aliens. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

Following the meal they talked again about the Kilkian king.

“It had always been the kings desire to reveal himself to the human colonies. This revelation had to be handled carefully because he wanted to preserve the freedom of the humans. They were more than welcome to form their alliances with the Kilkians, but he wanted that choice to be a matter of their individual decisions expressed through free will. He didn’t want them to do so out of fear or necessity.”

They learned the war with the Dibolocos created additional difficulties.

“The Dibolocos had practically no recourse against us or our kingdom. They could not physically harm us, they could not disrupt our society or economy, nor could they destroy our properties. The one thing they could do was interfere with the king’s purposes. This was their initial motivation for harming humans. With the passing of time, they have begun to take great pleasure in enslaving, hurting and killing humans. On the other side of the equation though the Kilkians have found their existence to take on deeper meaning and greater joy by serving, healing and helping humanity.”

Jamison and Chambers both came to understand the decision to align with the Kilkians, was to align with the Kilkian king rather than with the Kilkians. The citizens of that kingdom do not have desires and wishes separate from the will of their king. They are unlike humans in that each member is not a holder of free will so much as a messenger within the greater will of their king.

The king would be found trustworthy, but they had to place their trust in him in order to be able to understand his good intentions.

“Trusting our king is more than a mental affirmation. If you believe his intentions are good then you must also commit yourself to doing good in order to be aligned with him. This includes no longer doing the things which bring harm to yourself or others.”

“The king is working for good, and you will have the privilege of working with him, but often the best things must be built. This labor will produce conflict with the Dibolocos, and they will produce pain and suffering in response to it. This is the nature of the warfare. Yet, as you trust the king and allow him to work over time, your world will be transformed.”

Then finally they were told how to accomplish the alignment. It was almost silly how simple it was. They would simply speak to the king, even though he wasn’t present he would hear, and he would answer by aligning with them. In a sense they were doing nothing but accepting the offer the king extended. The exact words in this transaction were not so important. What was important was their intent and their commitment.

Jamison went first. He stood before the group and said, out loud. “Sir, I offer my life, my strength and my abilities to your service. I regret I misunderstood your purposes at first, and ended up fighting for the Dibolocos in my stubbornness. But now I want to make up for it, and if you will have me, I want to be aligned with you.”

Jamison wasn’t sure what he had expected, probably nothing. But instead of nothing he felt a change come over him. He felt warm at first, then he felt broken by his past, but this hurt was quickly substituted by a positive exhilarating rush of some kind. The process only took a couple of seconds, but when it was done he felt strong, capable, pure and true.

Chambers went next. “King, will you be my king, please? I thought I was on your side and I hate that I was wrong. I don’t want to be fooled anymore. I don’t want to serve the wrong, so I choose to serve you. I want to be yours and to make a difference for the right.”

Jamison watched her as she melted into a sudden storm of tears, but quickly he could also see the tears changed somewhat and he could see what had started as tears of pain had become tears of joy. In her joy she hugged Jamison. And then the two of them made an ill-fated attempt to hug the two Kilkians in the room.  This failed since their embrace fell right through their mentors. A fact that made all four of them laugh.

“What was that rush?” Chambers asked breathlessly.

“It was the presence of the king coming to you. He has started the work in you which you gave him permission to do.”

Jamison felt such adrenaline that he let out a whoop. He and Chambers hugged again and danced around the room. Eventually they settled down and took their seats again. He wasn’t quite sure where this excitement came from but he liked it. And yet he also wanted to settle down. He had a task to do. He was ready for his life to take on new purpose.

Colofen addressed them both. “You will stay here at the lake house for the next few weeks.  We will train you with skills available to those aligned with the king. These skills will be necessary in the future as you take on your new assignments. We will also instruct you in regard to your assignments. You will have separate responsibilities in the times to come. Before winter sets in we will all be picked up by a colony ship and you will be taken home.”

Chambers caught it first. “Separate responsibilities? You mean we will not be together?”

Jamison felt a distinct heartache starting as those words sank in.

“It is not my place to reveal everything to you. But I can tell you this—you will always be important to one another. Your relationship will be a source of strength to you both. But you will not always be together.”

They were not sure if this proclamation was reassuring or heartbreaking.  Neither of them understood what they wanted their relationship to be. They were more than friends, but not exactly a romantic couple either. At least not yet. But they could wait and see what happened.

Colofer spoke now, “You have won the first battle—the battle for the mind. You have made a decision, and the right one. You will have other battles to fight, and starting in the morning we will prepare you for them.”

 

This concludes the first of the three battlefields in the collection, Jamison’s Battlefields.  I anticipate taking a couple weeks off and then starting the second battlefield as the serial continues.  In the mean time I will put other things on the blog on Fun Friday. 

Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual Gifts are discussed in several places in the New Testament. But in terms of belief and practice they are one of the points of doctrine with the highest variation.

As for me, I do not believe that Spiritual gifts existed only for the age of apostles and went away when the last apostle died. This is one of the rarer perspectives on gifts, and in some people is adopted as a weapon to use against Pentecostalism rather than a thought out belief. But it was one of the perspectives which was historically strong.

I do not believe that speaking in tongues is a sign given to prove a person’s salvation. Some believe if you do not speak in tongues you are not saved, nor that tongues is necessary to qualify for vocational ministry. I do not believe every person who speaks in tongues does so through the Holy Spirit, nor do I believe every person who speaks in tongues does it falsely. My reading of Corinthians indicates Paul would prefer that we desire other gifts over tongues. Therefore it should not be treated as the highest gift.

I think we make a mistake when we get hung up about tongues. It would make more sense to be most concerned about the gift of prophecy. Regarding prophecy I do not believe it should be equated with preaching, nor do I think preachers should strive to sound prophetic. Instead we should strive to be exhortative.

I do believe that gifts reflect God’s design for the local church. Even in churches which ignore the idea of gifts, God has given different people in the congregation different abilities to design the ministry in the manner He chose.

I believe every Christian has at least one gift, and that most have a lot more than one. I believe we should be careful to limit the concept of gifts to certain Biblical lists, but we should also stop calling whatever we want to do, a gift.

I believe a person’s giftedness may change according to God’s will. This may include both adding gifts and losing gifts in different seasons of life.

Finally I believe it is a mistake for any church to fault another church on their handling of gifts. Those churches will answer to their Master in eternity and to their own circles of accountability while on earth.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

This is an American wigeon. It is a dappling duck which is found through much of the West, and sometimes beyond. Dappling is a word for the ducks which tip up and feed by pulling up the shoots and aquatic vegetation found in shallow water.

One of the noticeable features of this duck is the shorter bill. This allows it to have greater leverage than other dabbling ducks and therefore it can get to food they will miss. This difference also makes it more capable of grazing on land, so occasionally they will leave the water and uproot plants on the ground.

These capabilities allow it to fit a specific niche in God’s design. Different creatures feed in different ways. If they all followed the same feeding patterns the world would be considerably less diverse, as well as unable to support itself. Food sources would run out and all the creatures would die. But God’s plan was for different animals to feed on different things, allowing for a self-perpetuating cycle. Diversity allows for survival better than a lack of diversity.

In the Christian church we have a similar circumstance with Spiritual gifts. God designed different believer’s with different capabilities. The diversity of gifts in the church allows the church to function by allowing different persons with to serve the church in different ways.

One of the things every believer should do along the way to maturity is to consider how they were designed as individuals to accomplish their part in building up their church. This includes personality, experience, passion, and giftedness.

When considering Spiritual gifts we often think first of 1 Corinthians 12, but another passage worth considering is 1 Peter 4:10 (HCSB) “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.”

The War on Poverty

Recently President Obama addressed the fifty year anniversary of the war on poverty. This phrase was initiated by Lyndon Johnson as he instituted several actions to address poverty in America. The goals of this war on poverty include things like ending hunger, housing the homeless and education programs. These actions were intended to extend opportunities to all people.

Food programs ranging from neighborhood food banks to food stamps accomplish a lot to prevent hunger, but also have fostered an entitlement attitude. Educational programs have managed to get every school district in America dependent on federal dollars to operate. These dollars have had little success at raising the quality of education in lower income districts. Housing projects were built to provide good quality housing for the poor. But all over the country these projects dilapidated into horrible places. They quickly became the face of poverty in their time.

I suggest that the most important thing we can do to battle poverty is to bring jobs back to the country. When we give people public assistance they often just fit a different niche in the bigger picture of poverty. Jobs give people dignity and a desire to earn their way into higher positions.

But the government practices and policies currently in place have decreased the number of jobs, and made them less likely to provide adequate wages. The decreased number of jobs and increased enrollment of government programs has created a heavily divided society. Some feel America must be great enough to take care of its impoverished. Others feel they are unfairly burdened for others and left without a means of caring for themselves. Hostility between the two groups has been steadily growing.

Take note though, this aspect of the problem of poverty was created by the war on poverty. The disparity between haves and have nots should be addressed first by creation of jobs, not the creation of additional public assistance.

Lunch with Aliens

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake House, and Dancing with Egopods. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

The Kilkian began their conversation by introducing himself. “I am Colofen. I was sent here for the purpose of training you in the ways of the Kilkians, and especially to train you in the purpose our King has for you.”

Jamison spoke out loud to be sure Chambers was included. “I am glad you are here. I have been looking for a chance to align myself with the Kilkians.”

“I am sorry, Jamison. But you misunderstand me. I included you to be polite. But I am here to allow Chambers to align with the Kilkian King and to train her.”

Jamison was embarrassed for a moment, but then another thought occurred to him. “What about me?”

“There is another who will be in charge of your training. I believe you have already met Colofer.”

“Yes, I have.” He surprised himself by how excited he was to hear about meeting Colofer again. In his last few weeks in the pod he had begun to feel he had not treated her as he should have. This would be his chance to apologize.

“You will have your chance to tell her about your regrets, but don’t worry, she always knew you would become aligned with us. You too have a special purpose from our King.”

Chambers spoke up, “I don’t understand, I aligned myself with the Kilkians over a year ago. I thought you would know that.”

“I know you thought you did. You visited a center in the city that advertised they could help you to align with us, your intentions were good, but in reality they had nothing to do with Kilkians. They charged you a fee, and have enjoyed a portion of your paychecks ever since. This was their real motivation, not a desire to aid the Kilkian cause. These false ways have led many to believe they were safely aligned with the Kilkians. Much of what they taught about us was true, but not all of it. Most importantly though, our King was not in any of their activities.”

Chambers looked like she was about to burst into tears.

“We should return to your lake house. Colofer is waiting for us there.”

With this Colofen started up the hill side. Jamison and Chambers started around the little bluff they plummeted over during the egopod adventure. But when they glanced back Colofen was walking straight up it. His body protruding straight out from the face of the rock. Apparently gravity wasn’t an issue for him.

They approached the lake house quickly, it was just over a hill from where they started. When it came into sight he noticed Colofer standing on the deck reeling in a fish.

Colofer greeted Jamison in his mind, as he approached from the woods. “It is good to see you again Jamison, when you get here wash up and I will have a nice lunch ready for you by the time you are done.”

“Thank you, I am very glad to see you again.”

“And I you. We will talk in detail after lunch.”

They entered the lake house and took turns washing up in the restroom. As they stepped back to the main room they found Colofer already setting out the fish perfectly prepared. The fish was glazed with a sauce made from the local berries and herbs. There was a side dish of some kind of vegetable which complemented the fish very well.

Colofer and he spoke casually during the meal. Watching Chambers and Colofen, he was pretty sure they were also talking. That was when it occurred to him their names were so similar.

“In Kilkian society we bear similar names if we are related. Colofen is my son. Our king decided I would have him so both of you would have your own mentor.”

“Is it normal for people who align with the Kilkians to have a Kilkian mentor?”

“Yes, but most of them are not afforded the privilege of seeing and interacting directly with us as the two of you will do.”

“So they are being guided but they do not know by what?”

“Not exactly, they understand that to align with the Kilkians is to align oneself with the Kilkian king. So they trust that the king is leading them, they may or may not understand that Kilkians are at work around them constantly.”

Jamison had a feeling he had a lot to learn about Kilkians.

“Yes you do,” Colofer answered, “but it is far more important that you learn about our king.”

As the meal concluded Colofer said aloud, “I have brought something special for dessert.”

She went to the chilled cupboard and withdrew four servings of chocolate covered moss. As Jamison ate it he remembered the last time he had this dish a Dibolocos showed up and tried to kill him.

“Dibolocos will try to kill you many, many times in the years to come. They will feel that you are a threat, although you will not be a threat. It will be our king working through you. But our king has already determined that you will never die at their hands.”

“Good to know.” Jamison thought before he could catch himself.

Colofer had caught the thought though and answered it. “That doesn’t mean you will not have hardship and pain along the way. You must be prepared to be tested in ways none of your people have experienced before you.”

This time Jamison was careful not to allow the thought to jump into the center of his mind. But he knew that in the back of his mind her words had scared him.