Bible Quotes for Writers

Purpose for Writing: The Glory of God

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  Psalm 45:1

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:1-4**

Gospels & Acts

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“’Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'”  Luke 12:22-31

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

NT Epistles

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”  Ephesians 6:7

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12:12-13

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5**

OT Psalms & Proverbs

“I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”  Psalm 16:3

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

“The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.”  Psalm 34:19

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”  Psalm 37:23-24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

The words of the mouth are deep waters,
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”  Proverbs 18:4

OT, Pentateuch, Historical & Prophetical**

“The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.”  Deuteronomy 28:12

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8**

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow ofmy hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16**

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.’” Jeremiah 30:2** 


Ultimately, the Word of God is the Bible alone. To be pleasing to God, any outflow of this (life, writing, or ministry) must conform strictly to the Biblical worldview and teachings.

**Exegetical note: BEWARE:

Spreading the gospel–which God has given–by means of our writing is a valid application of these verses. But…

Thinking that our writing in itself IS the “word of God” is a dangerous heresy. The only Word from God is the Truth of Scripture. Likewise, the truth of our words must match the integrity of our life, the gospel lived out of faithful living. As we teach, so must we live.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Ezekiel 33:31

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord. Isaiah 59:21

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. Psalm 49:3 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Christian Dragons & Fairies & Droids, Oh My!

Magical Creativity in Christian Fiction

A Christian Approach to Alternate Reality Stories


Recently, I was asked on Quora about Christian use of magic and alternate reality in fiction. After thinking about it for a while, I wrote to a guru on the topic, Steve Laube.

Steve began Enclave Publishing to build credibility for a uniquely Christian spin to the popular but strikingly non-Christian realm of speculative fiction.

“Enclave is a place where authors and fans of Christian Fantasy and Christian Science Fiction can come together and then go out and make a difference through worlds of words. Our stories can seem strange but underneath they contain powerful expressions of Redemption, Truth, and Hope.” (Enclave’s vision)

In a series of emails this spring, I was able to glean from Steve an insightful perspective on using speculative worlds in Christian fiction.

With his permission, I have pulled together his answers here. I hope his words can encourage and inspire other Christian writers in their pursuit of promoting intelligent Christianity in the medium of fantasy, sci-fi and speculative fiction.


Steve, I would really appreciate hearing your perspective on Christianity and fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian fiction. I notice you are specific that the books you publish are “Christian.”

Do you have a list of guidelines you use or do you “wing it” and take each story in its own world? In other words, how do you make sure you are honoring God in what you are promoting/publishing when it comes to alternate realities, be it sci-fi or fantasy or dystopia?

  • What is the principle you use as you assess novels for legitimacy firstly as a representation of Christianity and secondly in the Christian fiction market?

You’ve asked a loaded question, to be sure. It is one we’ve worked through for a long time.

I’m often asked “What makes Enclave books Christian? After all you have a book (Knife) where the main character is a Fairy!”

My answer is “The author does.” Our authors write out of a deep Christian worldview.


I think most people would agree that “if there is a creator God” referred to in a story, it would be heretical to change him and his ways.

So Tolkien, for example, changed the laws of his universe so he had NO God referred to. It became generic good vs evil.

Lewis, on the other hand, had Aslan (and the Emperor over the Seas) whose character matched the biblical God though with different manifestation.

  • So how does Enclave approach the use of God in an alternate reality?

The challenge with science fiction and fantasy is that Jesus simply does not “show up” in natural conversations. However, the characters wrestle with faith (the Fairy worships “The Great Gardener” for example) in creative situations. It is how they redeem those situations that point to our Faith as real and life-changing.

Kathy Tyers’ FIREBIRD series, for example is set in a universe where Jesus has not yet come the first time, and yet humanity has spread through the stars. There is a planet where a people live who believe that a Messiah will come through the line and lineage of their king. So, how can that be a Christian novel when there hasn’t been a Jesus yet? The author does it though the power of her story telling and exploring how God reveals Himself. (Book five is the Messiah novel, in case you are interested.)

See our interview with R.J. Anderson, the author of Knife.


In your interview, RJ mentions that Christian publishers were initially reluctant to publish her Christian “fairy” story. Even your name Enclave hints to the friction from within and without.

It seems that up to this century Christians have been afraid to touch the fantastical genres. Yet you have taken this on as a personal project. I’m sure most believers are afraid of challenging the prohibition of magic in Scripture, so of course this is probably the most critical subject.

  • How do you weigh the use of magic in light of God’s absolute prohibition of this in Scripture?

I’ve been involved in this type of storytelling in some form or fashion for over 20 years. I’m quite comfortable with the conversation. In Fantasy there is the device of “magic” in many forms. In Sharon Hinck‘s Deliverer series it is found in Music. In Gillian Bronte Adams‘ series it is in the power of Song. In Lindsey Franklin‘s book, Story Peddler, it is in the power of story telling.

You mention that the Bible prohibits magic. That is a simple way to put it, but the context of each prohibition needs to be reviewed. Below is the text of an article from Marshall Shelley, a conservative leader/writer who has been a part of Christianity Today magazine for a long time. It may help clarify a balanced approach to the subject.

//Sorcery is condemned in the Bible (Leviticus 19:26), but I don’t believe God is against card tricks, illusions, special effects, or the other elements of a magician’s show. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading fictional fantasy stories about boys and girls with superpowers or magic wands (yeah, you know who I mean). After all, if you’re going to avoid all depictions of magic, you’ll have to avoid the Bible because it includes stories about people who practiced magic and sorcery. And in the Bible, not all magicians are viewed as evil.

Remember the three wise men of the Christmas story who brought gifts to baby Jesus? They were Magi. Historically, Magi weren’t known for pulling rabbits out of hats, but they were a part of a long line of consultants to kings who worshiped various gods, practiced the occult, studied the stars, foretold the future, interpreted dreams, and probably experimented with spells, potions and elixirs.

Then around 600 B.C., the Old Testament prophet Daniel was put in charge of the Magi of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). That’s when there was a noticeable shift in how the Magi of Babylon worked. They operated more like a priestly order, became monotheistic (worshiped one God), and even sacrificed animals for their sin. Daniel no doubt turned them to depend upon God for their powers.

So while sorcery is condemned by the Bible, not all the magicians in the Bible are “bad guys.” The difference? The three wise men bowed before Jesus, and Daniel was clear that he could interpret dreams by God’s power, not his.

What the Bible warns against is interacting with powers of the spirit world without God being a part of it.

God outright forbids worshiping other deities (goddess worship, animism), using divination (fortune-telling, psychics, tarot cards, numerology), interpreting omens (astrology, horoscopes), consulting mediums (channeling spirits, contacting the dead), and practicing witchcraft (spell-casting, shamanism).

The Bible wouldn’t warn against these things (Deuteronomy 18:10) if their dangers weren’t real. So what’s wrong with them? Two things.

First, contacting evil spirits places us under the influence of the Evil One. Remember, Lucifer is known as “the father of lies.” This means he usually makes things look harmless or fun—for a while. And fortune-telling, curses and horoscopes can seem harmless at first. But the longer we dabble in Lucifer’s laboratory, the more likely it will affect our faith and thinking.

Second, a deeper danger is your motivation for dabbling in such things. Doing magic tricks like “the disappearing coin” may be just a fun way to entertain your friends, but people who get into real sorcery do it to exercise power over other people, to influence them to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise, or to get knowledge that isn’t humanly available.

This is what God forbids. In fact, the Bible tells about one sorcerer named Simon, who was willing to pay cash to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-24). But the apostle Peter saw through to his motivation, and harshly condemned him for trying to use the good side of the spirit world to gain control over others.

Only God has the right to enter another person’s heart and mind and soul. When a person tries to do that, it’s another way of trying to become like God, which is the sin that got Lucifer kicked out of heaven in the first place.// Marshall Shelley

His best quote is this “What the Bible warns against is interacting with powers of the spirit world without God being a part of it.Therefore I have no problem depicting magic in our novels. If it is used for evil we make that crystal clear (like the white witch in Narnia). If it is for good (like Aslan in Narnia) that is crystal clear.

I did a youtube video which explains it in a different way: 



Two of my favorite quotes from your Youtube video say:

“I happen to believe that science fiction and fantasy is the one genre of all genres in fiction that reflect the creativity of God.”

and

Fairies, animals that talk, time travel, using “things of that nature is one of the most incredible opportunities for those who write science fiction and fantasy to express the creativity of God.”

  • Which writers do you think express this creativity especially well?

As a literary agent I have the privilege of representing some of the finest authors in the Christian market who write this type of book, some of whom also now write for Enclave. Check out Lisa Bergren, Chuck Black, Patrick Carr, Ronie Kendig, Kathy Tyers, Sharon Hinck, Gillian Bronte Adams, Morgan Busse, Nadine Brandes,Karen Hancock, etc.

Thank you to Steve Laube for his very helpful and inspirational answers. We would love to hear your comments below.

Separation Filters: Isaiah 9

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


The first verses of Chapter 9 parallel last three verses of Chapter 8.

There is the remnant again! And the remnant, those who know their God, goes through the same dark anguish common to all of humanity. All mankind fell into a state of sin and misery. We were all of the same lump of clay (Rom 9). We all live in a broken world. Yet the anguish results in a different set of deeds.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish,” it says (v1).

Then there are some cryptic words about Galilee:

“He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (v1).

There is a group of people in this world whose hearts leap with the name of Galilee.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…”(Luke 1:26).

People who know Jesus see him already here in verse one.

What happens to this group of people as they are in the darkness? They have the dawn.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (v2).

This group of people does not curse God. The light shines in their hearts because God has “shone his face” on them, as is prayed for in the Aaronic blessing. As a result of God’s face shining upon them, sorrow turns to joy and the speeding spoils takes a completely different turn.

“You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy. They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil”(v3).

Upharsin + Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Here, both concepts are tied together in the dawn of God’s shining face. In the Immanuel, darkness brings light, for very soon we hear the words:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”(v6).

In the Nativity story we see this dawning.

Zechariah’s prophecy after the birth of John makes this connection:

“because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

And Simeon said when he held the Babe in the temple,

“my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:31-32).

Isaiah speaks of the Immanuel, God-with-us, who is born. This one whose birth earns him David’s throne forever, the promised one who is born (earthly) and given (divine). And if that is not clear enough, he declares the name of the one who is born:

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v6).

Isaiah, who urgently called people away from idolatry and to worship the living and true God, would not have accidentally called a born-man “God.” Rather, through Isaiah’s amazing prophecy, God intentionally made this truth of a coming God-man known to those who listened to Isaiah.

But as we saw earlier, the truth of Immanuel would become a sanctuary or a stone of offense (8:14-15). Immanuel’s nature would sift people in to two camps.


“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy,
and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev 22:11)


In Isaiah 7-9 we clearly see God using suffering as a separation filter, sorting people into his sheep and the goats. We see the fists lifted in defiance and the faces hung in despair. People are given a choice to trust or not. They are culpable for their choices, and they choose exactly what they want. But we see, too, that only if God shines his face on people will they see the great light.

Thus we see that a suffering world is the venue to sort people, both by their deeds and by their God-given faith.


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9

 

 

Separation Filters: Isaiah 8

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


Maher-shalal-has-baz. Isaiah’s son, born as the first proof of God’s being with Israel, is named “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.”

What kind of name is this? What kind of hope is here? The proof Ahaz got is this: the one you trust will betray you. This happened in the lifetime of Ahaz.

God had offered his presence as proof, and had promised consistent covenant provision if Israel would choose to trust his Character. As Christ had promised “living water” to those who came to him, here God refers to his faithful covenant-keeping acts as “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently.”

Yet in the face of suffering, Israel is being sifted. The test proves their mettle:

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently…therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River” (vv6-7).

Two waters: peace or war. They refused peace, so war will come. And it comes from the hand of God: “the Lord is bringing up against them” (v7) this consequence. God is like a parent who consistently disciplines his children to teach them the wise and prudent way to go.

So does this prove God is a dictator and a monster? Why doesn’t he just let them be the way they want to be?

If you notice, he does let King Ahaz, and all Israel, “choose this day whom [they] will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Interestingly, or purposefully, the meaning of Maher-shalal-has-baz is equivalent to the third part of the warning Belshazzar himself heard at his blasphemous feast.


Mene: You have been measured.

Mene: You have been measured.

Tekel: You have been weighed.

Upharsin: You will be divided.


The Upharsin judgment of losing one’s home, life or kingdom is the ultimate consequence God may decree upon any man or king.

“The spoil speeds, the prey hastens” sounds like the tension that makes our hearts race in a suspense or horror film.

Loss of everything is coming, and there is nothing you can do about it.

“The spoil of Samaria will be carried away by Assyria” (v4) because their time is up, because they trusted Assyria instead of trusting in God’s promise. Man will betray them.

This example is for us. Israel’s remnant lived through these difficult times to prove its faithfulness. They went through this for us: so we would weigh our own lives in comparison.

The remnant clings to hope that the three names give. Even though the spoil speeds and the prey hastens, the remnant will return and God will be with us.

Yet remains the second fulfillment of the prophecy. There has been great debate as to the definition of “virgin” in the Immanuel prophecy. As is often the case, God uses one word to pivot two-prophecies in one. Only when we see this scene from a New Testament perspective can we understand it in fulness.

In Chapter eight, the Messiah is presented as one who will also be born, along with Isaiah’s son. “God with us” yet of a technical “virgin.” Maher-shalal-hash-baz comes up wanting.

King Ahaz has made a decision the remnant does not agree with. He trusts in “horses and chariots” but they trust “in the Name of the LORD” (Ps 20:7; Is 31:1). Those who believe in Immanuel are themselves called Immanuel (v8). Even as the destruction comes, God will keep his promise. The enemy nations will be broken and shattered.

They will “take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (v9-10).

Those who know their God know this: though the nations rage, God will never break his covenant with true Israel.

It is time for the great sorting.

“Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (vv12-13).

This is the call to return to the covenant. The first and second commandment.

And after the call to return comes the sifting. Two groups will respond to this call:

“And he will become a sanctuary,”

(Rock of Ages, cleft for me)

the first response is juxtaposed against the second response:

“and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap. And a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken” (vv14-15).

Either you hold firmly to the covenant promise of “God with us whatever happens,” or you will trip and fall and be broken. The very promise of the Messiah is a separation filter. Sheep from goats.

But people will be what they will be. Some will be blind to the word of God. Isaiah says,

“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” (v17).

Obviously God was not hiding his face from Isaiah. The remnant alone, whose choosing proves their loyalty, can see the face of God. The Who of God is known by his people, and “whatever happens” his people will keep believing in his Character. To others, God is unseen and unknown.

“Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples,” God says (v16).

In Chapter 6, this is the very call God put on Isaiah’s life;

“Go, and say to this people:
Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy
and blind their eyes.”

The absence of seeing God’s face or hearing his word is equated as being in the darkness. Instead of seeking God’s voice, Israel seeks messages from mediums and necromancers. Isaiah begs them to look “to the teaching and to the testimony!” (v20). But then he says

“If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn”(v20).

The dawn has not lit them from inside. They cannot because they have no light. And the lack of light in itself sorts them into certain types of deeds:

“They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (v21-22).

They have no hope in the promises of God, because they do not know God. The suffering has sorted and sifted them. It has proven the fact that they were not true Israel in the first place. The suffering will cause them to shake their fist at God, to “speak contemptuously against…their God.” To hate him.

And we look upon this story and we ask ourselves, which group am I in? How do I respond to difficulty? Do I cling to the hope given that “the remnant shall be saved”? Or do I conclude that since I suffer, therefore there is no God?


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9

 

That Darn Tree-Objections

That Darn Tree outlined step by step the argument explaining why it was always God’s Plan A to have suffering in the world.

Since he made the world, he determined the weight of carbon and the location of earth in this neighborhood of the universe. The Goldilocks Zone for life in astrophysics parallels the Goldilocks Scenario for life in the intraphysical world, the battle between good and evil opened by That Darn Tree.

I’m sure there are hundreds more objections readers may have to the purpose of God behind suffering. I believe most objections by Christians will be satisfied by considering the Lamb on the Throne. In any event,  if you have objections, and are sincerely seeking Truth, I would love to hear from you.

Please detail your objections in the comments below.

 

That Darn Tree–Objections.

That Darn Tree outlined step by step the argument explaining why it was always God’s Plan A to have suffering in the world.

Since he made the world, he determined the weight of carbon and the location of earth in this neighborhood of the universe. The Goldilocks Zone for life in astrophysics parallels the Goldilocks Scenario for life in the intraphysical world, the battle between good and evil opened by That Darn Tree.

I’m sure there are ….Keep Reading

Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Final Episode

THE SECRET OF ZEFF

Episode 8

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and AD 33

Amber’s Rules to Live By #354: If a Pea-Green Coat Guy climbs in your window, it might mean something big is going to change in the world.

—–

Amber is rolling out a circle of dough for the top crust of apple pie. She looks at her time-travel watch. People will be here for Thanksgiving in five hours still. Plenty of time.

“Honey, don’t forget to cut out little leaves to put on top of the pie crust.” Mother hands her the small leaf-shaped cookie-cutter.

She wipes her loose hair back with her shoulder and rolls the dough again, to make sure it is even.

An urgent knock on the door takes her attention.

“Mom, my hands are in dough. Can you get it?”

A minute later, Lacey is in the room. Lacey pulls Amber in a hug. “I had no idea,” she whispers. “Thank you so much.”

Amber hugs her friend back, trying to keep her hands from making handprints on her friend.

“Thank you for what?”

“For inviting me to church. And to Bible study. Oh, everything!”

Amber grins. “That’s great. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it.”

Lacey holds up her phone. “I need to show you something. It’s about Thanksgiving. Can you—can you finish the pie later?”

Mother nods and takes the rolling pin out of Amber’s hands. Amber washes, then dries her hands and goes up into her room with Lacey. They sit on the bed and Lacey starts typing something into her phone.

Amber cringes. Not Candy Crush again.

“Okay. Listen.” A familiar horse-trotting sound comes into the room with a little song. She knows this. It’s the White Horse Inn!

“Have you been listen—“

“Shhh. Listen. He says it right away.”

They turn their attention to the podcast. Michael Horton is saying, “In the Bible we learn that God’s Word alone delivers salvation to us. Sola Scriptura. A salvation that is by God’s initiative and grace alone. Sola Gratia. Through faith alone. Sola Fide. In Christ alone. Sola Christo. So that God may receive all the glory. Soli Deo Gloria.

Amber smiles, remembering Augustine and Luther and Calvin themselves talking with her about these principles. Lacey’s finger is still raised to keep Amber from speaking.

A few minutes later Michael Horton is speaking again about the glory of God, “Idolators lay their gifts at the feet of their speechless idols. And many professing Christians in the world turn God into an idol they think they can pacify and control. This is good news for image bearers who are weary of trying to earn God’s favor.”

Lacey pauses the podcast, and grabs something out of her pocket. She wipes her tears with a tissue.

“That’s me. That’s been me. I’ve been thinking like that. And I’m that weary person. I’m so tired of trying to be as good as my mom. But that’s not what God wants. He said it at the beginning. God’s word alone delivers salvation. And it’s in Christ.”

Amber put her arm around her friend.  Lacey leans into Amber and wipes her nose.  “Wait. Another thing. Right away. At like the seventh minute. Hold on.”

Lacey and Amber listen to the podcast, and Amber notices her watch begin to glow.

That’s the whole story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God wants to be with us. But he can’t without destroying us because of his holiness and our sin. And so he takes on our humanity. Without sin. Comes into our world. Takes on our impurity, carries it off like the scapegoat, comes out the other end in the Resurrection, alive—as the first fruits of the New Creation.”

“What is this podcast, Amber? Every minute is like pumpkin pie with whipped cream. A feast. Really. He even mentions that here. Listen.”

Michael Horton’s voice raises in joy, “But what can we say in response to this but live a life of thanksgiving and gratitude—pointing everybody in the world to God in Jesus Christ.

Amber laughs. She had also been listening more over the past weeks since she first had heard about it. Yes. Perfect for Thanksgiving Day.

Lacey hugs Amber again. “Thank you. For inviting me to church. For still inviting me when I only wanted to play Candy Crush. What was I doing with my life? When there is a Bible like this to read, why would I waste my moments on that?”

Amber shrugs her shoulders. “A new friend I met,” Zeff, she says to herself, “showed me that I should not just live my life for myself, either. And I wanted you to know Jesus.”

“These have been the best days of my life. Ever. What a perfect Thanksgiving Day!”

~~~

Amber closes the curtains and changes her clothes out of her Thanksgiving outfit. Her stomach is stuffed. It feels good to change into sweats. She hangs the clothes up and catches a glimpse of the pea-green coat. Pulling it out, she lays it on her bed and stares at it. Zeff. The curtains rustle. Amber looks just in time to see the Pea-Green Coat Guy come into her room. He grins, runs over to Amber, and pulls her into a hug. Amber is a bit shocked at first but then she smiles and pats his back.

“You did it,” Zeff whispers, pulling back.

“I think I understand. But I’m not sure.”

“Lacey is…or will be…my mother. And she became a Christian because of what you did.”

“I hate to disagree with you, but she became a Christian because of what Christ did. Solus Christus. Do you forget?”

“RIght. You’re right. But God uses people. And he used you to get her the gospel. So thank you so much. Mission accomplished.”

“It was fun,” Amber says, looking up at him. “I’d gladly do it again. You probably want your coat.”

She hands it to him and he pulls it on.

“But what was with all those dates? Why didn’t you just ask me?”

Zeff crosses his arms, grinning down at Amber.

“Who are you?” she asks.

“I am also a Reformer. But from the future. I was here to reform you.”

“So that’s why you had me meet Luther and Calvin and Wycliffe and Bunyan.”

“The Bible says the truth sets you free. And you needed to find the freedom of that truth.”

“That makes sense,” Amber laughs. “I was so tied-up inside, and was afraid to tell her, afraid of what she’d say, of her rejecting me. But actually the truths those men told me made sharing Jesus the most natural thing.”

When she says the name of Jesus her heart began to race. The watch had been glowing since she had been listening to White Horse Inn. Zeff starts to grin. Zeff glances at the watch on her wrist.

“I know what you’re going to say.”

Amber sighs, looking down at the watch. Maybe…just maybe…maybe it will work this time.

“You want to go to Jesus one more time?”

Amber nods emphatically.

“It will work one last time. I’ll be waiting here.”

Amber twists in the date AD 33. The watch’s blue light stops flashing. Despair settles in Amber’s mind after a few moments pass. Then, the world spins. Yes! Yes!

Amber looks excitedly up at Zeff and then down at the watch again. The blue dome surrounds her and everywhere goes dark.

Amber wakes up. It’s bright. She’s on the side of a hill. Several people are sitting around and there’s a man in the middle. Jesus! Amber bites her lip but approaches him. Jesus turns around and looks down at Amber, smiling. Amber takes a deep breath, her heart beating violently against her chest.

“I’ve been waiting to talk to you for so long!” Amber says, her whole face glowing. “Since I saw you on the Emmaus Road I’ve been wanting to come back. I tried every day. But I finally told Lacey, Jesus!”

A disciple comes up to them and gently tries to push Amber away.

“I’m sorry for her disturbance, Lord” he says. “Come, girl. Away from the Master.”

“Why are you bothering this young woman? She has done a beautiful thing. Let her be,” Jesus gently rebukes him.

The disciple nods and takes a step back. Amber’s eyes are shining as she looks up at Jesus.

“I told Lacey,” she breathes, eyes wide, “I took her to church and I gave her a Bible and she said she’s going to read it every day and…” She notices the crowd pressing in. She only has a few seconds left with him. “…and she loves her Bible, Jesus. Oh, and she listens to White Horse Inn! Jesus, I’m so thankful for you! You did this for her…” Amber trails off, too excited to say anything else.

“Well done, my good and faithful Amber,” Jesus says, his shining face on her. He stands up and places his hand on her cheek. “I’ll be back soon.” He winks at her and turns to face the people. Her heart clenches excitedly at the thought of his return.

Hundreds of people are crowded around them. Jesus leads them to the top of the hill, then turns to face the people. Amber bites her lip, watching him intently. He outstretches his arms.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As he is speaking, a mist floats around Him and His feet rise from the ground. He slowly ascends into heaven. Amber feels tears in her eyes as she watches him go. She wipes her eyes and sniffs. Jesus fades away into the sky. All is silent. A blue light surrounds her, pulsing in her ears. The disciples are gone and the ancient countryside. Everywhere is dark.

Amber wakes up in her room. Zeff is sitting on the bed, waiting for her.

“Go where you needed to go?” he asks, looking over at her.

Amber sighs and unstraps the watch from her wrist. She stares at it for a few seconds and then hands it to Zeff.

“Yes,” she said, nodding.

“Thanks, Amber. You’ve been a great help.”

Zeff gives her one last hug and then fades away as well. Amber can hear the neighbor dog barking and the birds chirping. The leaves rustle in the wind. Taking out her Bible, Amber lays down on her bed and begins to read Psalm 138:

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

THE END

HAPPY THANKSGIVING
from Amber, Zeff, Lacey, and S. Nicole Bocek

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 5

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1517

 

Sometimes you have to open your mouth to change the world.

Amber holds tight onto the coat as the world spins around her.

The Pea-Green Coat Guy, Seth, stops struggling to free his coat.

The world goes dark and then everything is bright again. She has arrived. But where? And when?

Amber opens her eyes and realizes he is gone. The coat guy is gone, slipping away and leaving his pea-green coat in her hands.

The air is chilly, so Amber wraps the coat around herself and begins to look around. The place is similar to 1522.

So where am I now? She looks down at her watch. 1517. Well Seth—or whatever his name is—is here, and I’ve got to find him.

Hesitantly, she approaches a vendor. “Excuse me,” she says.

The vendor scans Amber’s coat and then looks into her face.

“Yes?” he leans forward. “Wanna buy an indulgence?”

“A what? Where am I?” Amber cringes at her question.

The man snorts.

Yeah, I get it, stupid question.

“Wittenburg.” He points at the center of town.

“Thanks,” Amber turns around, studying her surroundings. Wittenburg.

In the center of town is a large church with a wooden door. Several people mill about, reading notices on the door and talking. Then Amber notices a man striding up to the church.

He’s wearing a long black cloak. And he seems familiar. She’s seen him before. In his hand is a long paper and in the other a hammer.

She knows who it is! She’d seen him from the rafters! Amber watches him set the paper on the church’s wooden door, on top of other notices, and then pound a nail through it.

This is the moment! This is Luther and the Wittenburg Church door! The Ninety-five Theses! She feels like she is going to faint. This is that historic moment!

Luther steps back and looks at his paper. Then, with a nod to himself he walks away.

She moves forward to talk to him but then suddenly two men behind him approach the 95 Theses. One of them is wearing a high hat. They study it and next thing she knows, they tear the paper off the nail.

She stands, frozen in her track.

What?! They are undoing it! They are undoing the Reformation!

The men start running away with it.

No! They can’t do that! Amber watches the, mouth wide open. No! The world will be destroyed if they take that! What will the world be without the Reformation? I’ve got to stop them!

She starts to run and trips on the long bottom of the pea-green coat hanging down around her ankles. She falls face-forward into the mud.

Her front is filthy now. She looks up just in time to see the men turn a corner. So Amber picks up the hem of her coat and takes off helter-skelter after them.

“Stop! Thief!” she cries. Nobody seems to notice.

Amber shoves through the crowd and turns the corner, catching sight of the high hat again.

Hurry! The Reformation has to happen! If the people of Wittenburg don’t see this paper, they’ll never know about Jesus, Augustine, Calvin, any of them!

She trips over the coat and sprawls on the ground, landing in mud again. She ignores the mushy grossness and stands up again, dodging around a horse. The world depends on people reading that paper!

The men go into a small house. Amber catches up to them, panting hard, and flings the door open. The four people inside look up in surprise.

She brushes off the mud on her front, knowing how ridiculous she looks.

“Y-you can’t—” Amber wheezes, “You can’t take the 95 Theses! Put it back! The world will be destroyed if you throw it away!”

There is silence for a few seconds and then the man on the left begins laughing, the others joining in quickly. Amber just stands there, very confused.

“I mean it!” she says, stomping her foot.

The man on the right finally stops laughing.

“We absolutely agree with you. This is world-changing.”

“We’re not destroying this, child,” says the second man, pointing to a large machine. “We’re going to make copies of it with the printing press so everyone can see it.”

The printing press! That’s right. Amber feels weak with relief. She leans against the doorframe, trying to catch her breath. Thank goodness. Thank you Lord.

“Thank you,” Amber mouths, closing her eyes.

There’s that familiar wind in the air, blue silence, and then the loud noise of the lawn mower.

Amber blinks, opening her eyes. She’s back in the garage. The door opens and Father steps through.

“Amber?” he looks down at her, confused.

“Hey, Dad,” Amber waves.

“What are you doing in the garage?”

“Uh…” Amber looks around and grabs a can of gold colored spray paint. “This.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Spray-paint a leaf I found.”

“Uhm…” Dad tilts his head and then shrugs. “Okay then. Have fun.”

Tilting his head he looks at her muddy green coat.  “Where’d…How…” he starts to say, but he looks at her face then changes his mind. “Oh, never mind.”

Amber slides around him and hurries to her room.

She shuts the door, tosses the muddy coat off and onto the floor, and flops on the bed.

Dad probably can tell I’m feeling bad.

It is more than embarrassment in her heart. More than feeling silly telling some grown men to put back Luther’s Theses. It is a worry. A growing concern in her heart. What if Luther had never nailed that to the church door? What if Augustine had never spoken? What if Calvin had never spoken? The world changed because they did not keep silent.

But I am silent. This is why I feel bad. I want to share my faith with Lacey.

She fingers the corner of the pillow, a sense of guilt overwhelming her. But I can’t…it’s embarrassing. Lacey will laugh at me. I’ll be shamed.

Guilt burdens Amber down like metal chains.

But I have to! She groans, hiding her face in her hands.

I can’t. I don’t want to. A tear slips down Amber’s cheek. Ugh! Since when did this get so hard?! I can’t do this…

Amber decides to pick up her room instead of moping. She gets as far as picking up the coat. She studies it and gasps. Grasping the tag, she reads the name again, eyes widening.

ZEFF.

Amber scratches the back of her neck and drops the coat on her bed.

Zeff? Grabbing her phone, she texts Lacey.

Are you really serious about the name Zeff?

Lacey’s response is almost immediate.

Oh yes! Most definitely! I’m gonna name my kid Zeff someday.

Amber turns her phone off and stares at the coat.

This coat belongs to Seth. Not Zeff. Unless Calvin mispronounced the name.

She sighs and picks the coat up, shaking off the dried mud outside the window then hanging it in her closet.

If Zeff, or Seth, wants his coat back, he’s going to have to come and get it. Then maybe I can get some answers.

Amber finishes her room and goes down to dinner, peeking at the next date as she walks down the stairs.

1382.

That’s a hundred years before Columbus! I wonder who lives then?

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 4

 

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1536

We always hope that the last time we see someone isn’t the last time we see someone…

“Mom! I’m going out with Lacey,” Amber yells up the stairs.

There is a moment of silence and then footsteps on the steps as Mother comes down.

“Where are you going?” Mother asks.

Amber sighs. “To the mall. But her mom is stopping by their church first.”

Mother frowns a bit, “Isn’t her family Mormon?”

Amber nods.

“Are they going to their church for classes or teaching?

“No. I don’t think so.” Amber hopes her mother doesn’t stop the plan.

Mother sighs. “Well, alright. Just be home before lunch.”

Amber nods and tromps outside to meet her friend at the pond. After a few minutes, she arrives and sees Lacey waiting on the bench, tapping away at her phone. Amber stealthily sneaks up to her and grabs Lacey’s shoulders. Lacey yelps, dropping her phone. Laughing, Amber slides into the bench next to her friend.

“Filthy Hobbitses,” Lacey hisses good-naturedly, bending over and grabbing her phone.

“Ah, gets you every time,” Amber grins. “How’s life?”

Lacey smiles. “Great. But I’m just stuffed with cookies. I brought you some.” She hands Amber a sandwich bag with chocolate chip cookies.

“Wow. Thanks!” Amber starts eating one right away.

Lacey looks down at her phone and then out at the pond. “My mom made them for the church bake-sale. Mother’s really a good woman. And such a great person. Dad’s so pleased with her. I hope I’m half the woman she is when I grow up.”

Amber frowns, touching the edge of the bench with her fingertips.

Lacey continues to prattle on about everything her Mother did. Amber becomes uneasier by the second, especially when she hears the words, “I’m sure God is pleased with her as well.”

Luther’s words ring in her mind. “Not by works, but by grace. We are saved by grace alone.” Maybe I should say something.

But she does not know how to open the topic. “Oh,” Amber says instead, interrupting Lacey. “Have you studied for tomorrow’s chemistry test?”

Lacey rolls her eyes. “I tried. All I can remember is Zeff.”

(Zeff)

“Ugh, you’re really stuck on that word, aren’t you?” Amber snorts, remembering her science class.

 

“So what? It’s cool! It sounds sci-fi and futuristic and stuff like that!”

“Yeah, sure.”

Lacey’s mother honks the car horn and the girls climb into the back of their car. The trip to the mall is shadowed by Amber’s fearful silence about God. But gabby Lacey hardly even notices Amber’s silence. She has so much to say about other things. When they arrive home, Amber opens the car door.

“See you later, sneaky booger,” Lacey snickers.

Amber smiles and runs up the front steps.

She’s been waiting for this moment for so long now. At least when she’s time-traveling she doesn’t feel so guilty.

Going into the garage, she checks herself to make sure her clothes are normal, and then she twists the date 1536 onto the watch.

The blue portal surrounds her. This time she feels an electric buzz, and then nothing. Amber opens her eyes in the midst of falling forward. She squeals and catches herself against a door. There’s shuffling inside the room and then the door opens.

The man opening the door has a long beard and is wearing a funny hat and a long, fur-lined cloak. His eyes widen.

“I saw an ethereal glow under my door,” he whispers, “and then you knocked on my door.” His gaze roams around and then settling on Amber’s watch. “Like that blue light! What is that bracelet?”

Amber’s eyes widen. Say something! Say something! Her gaze roams into the room and she sees a bunch of papers on the desk. “Oh!” she hurries over to the papers. “Are you a writer?”

The man looks surprised for a second and then walks over to her. “Yes, I am.”

Amber looks at the papers, almost choking on her breath when she saw the name on the front page. John Calvin!

“John Calvin? The reformer?”

“Yes, I suppose I am trying to reform things. Though that is a strange word to use.”

Amber’s mind races as she looks down at the papers. Jesus. Augustine. Luther. Now Calvin! “What are you writing?”

“I am writing The Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin replies, brushing his fingertips over the papers. “What’s your name, child?”

Institutes. Calvin’s Institutes…Dad always talked about those.

“Oh. Sorry. I’m Amber.” They shake hands and smile at each other.

Amber’s eyes return to the papers. “May I ask? What are they about?” Amber tilts her head a bit.

“Well…” Calvin looks down at the desk, “It’s everything about being a Christian.”

“You’ve got a lot of papers here. So, can you summarize it? Like Institutes for Dummies or something like that.”

“For dummies? Oh. Are you learning disabled?” He tipped his head and studied her, then with a laugh added. “I see. Simple terms. Okay, then. Let’s put it this way. The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”

Amber nods, her interest piqued. The gospel should possess the whole soul and heart.

“Having then used the Law to tell us of our weakness and impurity, the Lord comforts us through trust in his power and mercy. And,” Calvin lifts his finger, “it is in Christ, his Son, that he reveals himself as being benevolent and favourably disposed to us.”

Amber scratches the back of her neck. “Favor means grace, right?”

“Yes. His grace comes through Christ. Christ alone. In the Law, God only appears as the rewarder of perfect righteousness—of which we are completely bereft—and, on the other hand, as the upright and strict Judge of sins, in Christ, his face is full of grace and gentleness, and shines on miserable, unworthy sinners.”

“That sounds nice. His face full of grace and gentleness. It reminds me of Aaron’s blessing, ‘the Lord make his face to shine upon you…’”

Calvin smiles warmly, “Exactly. For this is the admirable display of his infinite love that he gave to us: he delivered up his own son for us and, in Him, opened to us all the treasures of his mercy and goodness.”

“So, is everyone allowed to go to heaven then?”

Calvin’s slight frown and shake of his head drew her in to his words. “No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own belief.”

“So we must believe and call upon God. And then we can be saved. But what if we’re very good and everything? Doesn’t God expect us to be good?” Amber asks, remembering Lacey’s words about her Mom.

“Deeds do matter. But the more eminently that any one excels in holiness, the farther he feels himself from perfect righteousness, and the more clearly he perceives that he can trust nothing but the mercy of God alone. Are you following me so far?” Calvin looks down at Amber.

Amber nods. “You mean that when we realize we are sinners we lean more on God’s mercy. In a sense our good deeds should show us we are not good enough.”

“Right. As believers are every day involved in many faults, it will profit them nothing that they have once entered the way of righteousness, unless the same grace which brought them into it accompany them to the last step of life.”

“So being good is not good enough. It has to be goodness on the path of Christ.”

“Why do you call yourself a dummy? You know the gospel, my child. This is from Psalms. ‘Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’” Calvin smiles and nods. “Psalms 32 verse 1 to be exact.”

“But how can we have perfect faith? I feel like I can never do the right thing when I should. I should have shared with Lacey about Jesus, but I didn’t… Lacey’s my friend. Her family’s Mormon.”

“Mormon? Is that in India?”

“No. It’s—It’s…”

“Never mind, Amber. You ask about perfect faith. A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”

“We are?”

“Yes. You see, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous.”

“So if Lacey’s family believes they have to be perfect to go to heaven, they’re wrong. She has to have faith in the deeds of Jesus Christ. She has to be an actual believer in his deeds for us in order to go to heaven. But being a real believer is more about grace than deeds. Our failing good deeds prove we need Jesus. I really should tell my friend Lacey.”

“Right. You’ve got it! It’s by Christ’s deeds alone.” The reformer smiled.

“By Christ alone. By faith alone. By grace alone.”

“That’s sounds catchy!” Calvin laughs. Suddenly his attention is drawn to the doorway. “Oh! And there’s my good friend!”

Amber turns and locks gazes with the Pea-Green Coat Guy at the door, who has a giant smile on his face.

Calvin looks back at Amber. “This is my good friend Seth.”

Seth?

“Uh…I’ll catch you later,” Seth says, taking a step back and darting off down the hallway.

I can’t let him get away!

“I have to go, too,” Amber tells Calvin, pushing past the reformer and swinging around the doorway down the hall.

The patter of fast footsteps ensues until they reach downstairs. Seth darts away full speed down the waterfront.

Amber follows him, panting already. This is not going well.

Seth ducks under a cart. The donkey brays. Amber slips back and runs around the animal. Come on. Come on. You ran a marathon last year; you can do this.

Seth’s green coat is nearing. Amber pants. Hurry. Hurry.

He throws down a barrel of apples in front of her. She stumbles to avoid stepping on them.

“Hey! Who’s going to pay for those! Don’t step on my apples!”

Amber looks with apology at the angry greengrocer, but picks up speed again and with a burst of energy catches up to the green-coated young man.

“Wait!” She pants. “I just want to ask you something!”

She reaches out, almost able to touch the coat, to grab him. She has too many questions. “Why can’t you just stop?”

Just a bit more. Amber strains herself. At the last second, she slips on a rock and she’s propelled forward. Grabbing the green coat, she holds on. The coat slips off of Seth.

He makes a grab for his coat, but the world is spinning. Both of them are pulled into a glowing blue portal.

Amber feels like a ton of bricks is being pushed against her mind. Everything turned blue now goes black.

She has no idea where she has ended up this time.

She is lost in time….

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 3

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1522

Sometimes who you are in the inside matters more than what they think you are on the outside….

~~~

Amber walks down the sidewalk, hands in her pockets. She strolls over to the school park where her best friend, Lacey, is sitting on the monkey bars and checking her cellphone.

“Hey,” Amber smiles.

Lacey waves. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Nothing much.” If she only knew. Amber’s mind is swirling with Jesus, Augustine, and that strange pea-green coat guy.

“Hmm, nice watch! Where’d you get it?”

If she but got started, the story would never end. Amber decides against even starting. So she shrugs and sits down on the swing next to her best friend.

Lacey jumps down from the monkey bars.

“Speaking of watches! School’s going to start.” She wipes her sweaty hands on her pants.

“Let’s go then.” Amber jumps off the swing and follows her friend.

The two girls hurry to their chemistry class. The teacher, Mr. Jones, is already inside and so are the other students.

“You’re late,” the teacher says.

Amber flushes red and glances at Lacey.

“Sorry,” Lacey apologizes.

“You have missed the beginning of the lecture. Get out your notebooks. We’re talking about Zeff and its role in chemistry.”

Amber and Lacey sit down. After a few moments of listening, Lacey leans toward Amber, grinning. “Zeff is a super cool word. If I ever have a son, I’m going to name him Zeff,” she whispers.

Amber rolls her eyes. “Yeah right,” she whispers.

“I’m serious!” Lacey murmurs, incredulous.

She grabs her pen and writes in the corner of the notebook, Zeff. She surrounds the name with a heart. Laughing inwardly, Amber concentrates on listening to Mr. Jones.

The watch hums, drawing her attention. She pushes a button to try to get it to stop making noise.

“Amber?” Mr. Jones says. “If you can’t keep your watch quiet, do not wear it to school.”

“Yes, sir,” she answers. Somehow it stopped its noise.

~~~

Amber does the finishing touch of make-up on her face. She stands up and studies herself over the mirror. Practicing for Halloween, she had made fake scars and stitches on her face with make-up. Just like a zombie. She had even dyed the tips of her black hair red. Sitting on the bed, Amber grabs the watch and puts it on.

What was that next date? She thinks for a couple seconds and enters in, 1522. Someone knocks on the door. Amber lifts her hand off the watch and looks up. “Come in!”

Mother enters the room and upon seeing Amber, her happy expression falls.

“What?” Amber tilts her head.

“I thought you were going to the Reformation party,” Mother says quietly.

Amber groans and rolls her eyes. “Really mom? No way! I don’t want to be the only one in my class not going trick-or-treating.”

Mother frowns. “Honey, if you’re going to dress up, at least don’t look like death itself.”

Amber laughs. “This is the most popular fashion for Halloween. Get with the times.”

“Anyway,” Mother sighs. “Go do your chores, dear. You still have several days to decide. And don’t come to dinner with that on your face.”

Amber nods and strolls out of her room. She goes to the garage, yanking the handle of the dumpster to pull it out to the street. Noticing her brother Andrew playing with his skateboard, she chuckles to herself, chin elevated and eyes narrowed.

“He never does chores. That kid’s on his way to hell,” she murmurs, strutting down the sidewalk.

She leaves the dumpster for the trash truck and goes back into the house. Next thing she knows, she is tumbling head-over-heels. She has stepped on her loose shoelace. As she lands on the ground she falls on her wrist.

“Owww…” Amber groans.

But it’s too late. The blue light is all around her. Wha…what’s going on? The lights go out. After a couple minutes, blinding light causes Amber to close her eyes. Voices surround her and then there’s some silence.

“It’s a witch!” someone screams.

What? Who’s a witch? Amber opens her eyes and blinks, realizing the people around her are staring at her. The woman who screamed is pointing to her. Me? A witch? I’m not a witch.

“I…I’m not a—” Amber tries to protest but she perceives some men running for her.

Jerking herself to full consciousness, she shoves past some people. Women scream. Men shout. Amber’s heart rate rises.

Where am I going? What am I doing? Where am I? She trips over a stool but quickly scrambles back to her feet. The cobblestone pathway is making it hard for her to run, as well as the carts. Christmas Day, 1522. That was the last date.

A horse rears up in front of her, neighing loudly. Amber squeals and jerks herself backward to avoid the flailing hooves and falls to the ground. Two men grab hold of Amber, hauling her to her feet.

“I’m not a witch,” Amber gasps, trying to catch her breath.

“Burn her!” a woman shouts. “Look at her hideous face! Look at her clothes!”

Others agree with her. Amber looks down at her black hoodie and sweatpants.

“I’m not a…I’m not a witch! It’s my Halloween costume!” Amber says but everyone else’s voices are drowning hers out.

The two men are dragging her away. Amber feels a rush of adrenaline. She stomps hard on the left man’s foot and bites the right man’s wrist. They let go of her and she darts away again, heading for a church.

She stealthily slips inside without anyone noticing her. She hurries up some stairs to the very top of the church, to the rafters. Amber sits on the rafters, catching her breath. A voice drifts into her ear. It’s a man preaching.

Christmas morning! How could they treat me like this on Christmas! What kind of Scrooge-people are these?

“So he discards all boasted free will, all human virtue, righteousness, and good works.”

Good works. The words bring Augustine’s words to mind about the babies. Is this the reason these dates are connected? Is this why I was given the watch?

The priest continues, and Amber settles in to listen. Somehow the people she is meeting and the big words she is hearing has to do with the watch and saving that guy’s life. She concentrates.

“Paul concludes that these good works are all nothing and are wholly perverted, however brilliant and worthy they may appear, and teaches that we must be saved solely by the grace of God, which is effective for all believes who desire it from a correct conception of their own ruin and nothingness.”

What was it Jesus had said, about this same topic? She struggles to remember. How were Jesus’ words related? She can not figure it out.

“He who does not receive salvation purely through grace, independently of all good works, certainly will never secure it. Truly, then, we are saved by grace alone, without works or other merit.”

Amber’s heart finally calms down and she sits on the rafters with a pinched face, thinking about the man’s words. Not by works but by grace…?

“A witch!” A scream shakes Amber out of her thoughts. “Brother Martin, it’s a witch!”

Someone is coming up the stairs. Amber balances herself on the rafters and moves toward a window. She opens it, almost losing her balance, but she manages to right herself. Taking hold of the rooftop, Amber slowly inches herself up, closing the window behind her. Her hands are shaking.

Come on, go away. Go away. Just leave me alone. People are staring at her from below. Why is it so complicated this time?

Amber inches upward again. The wind whistles in her ear. Her hands are sweating. “Leave me alone. I’m not a witch,” she whispers. Amber rests her forehead on the roof.

Suddenly, her foot slips and she tumbles backward. It all happens so fast she has no time to scream. Feeling herself fall, she closes her eyes. Amber’s back hits the pavement and she blacks out.

Silence. Amber groans and opens her eyes. She’s lying on the pavement back at home where she had tripped. Gosh, why does my back hurt so bad? Oh…right. She stumbles to her feet, trying to gain hold of her balance.

Once Amber can stand, she slowly limps back home and up to her room. Mmphf, hurts so bad, she thinks, rubbing her leg. The man, the priest’s words come to her mind again.

They had called him Martin. Brother Martin. Grace alone. I’ve heard those words before. Dad read it to me. I think it was…I bet it was Luther preaching. Amber smiles, almost forgetting about the pain in her back. So it’s not by works that we get into heaven?

Her words from this morning come to mind. “Road to hell.” She blushes with shame, even though no one can see her. Luther had said, “These good works are all nothing and are wholly perverted, however brilliant and worthy they may appear.” 

I guess I was wrong. Andrew and I are really equal before God. It’s not by works God accepts us and saves us. It’s by grace.  Amber stands up and goes downstairs to her Mom.

“Mother?” she says, approaching her.

Mother looks down at her, frowning. “You look like a mess. What did you do?”

“Never mind that,” Amber smiles. “Mom, I think I’ve decided to go to the Reformation party next week. I’ve had enough of witches and zombies.”

Mother’s eyes widen and she stares at her daughter for a couple seconds before slowly nodding. “Oh…yes! Of course!”

Amber hugs her mom. “Thanks, Mom. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” Mother says, though still perplexed.

Behind Mother’s back, Amber unravels the yellow note. The next date is 1536.

Note to self: Amber, wear normal clothes next time.

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What do you think? Who is the Pea-green Coat Guy? What are these dates? Write your predictions below…