Market, Money, Time and Faith Porn Fiction

I am in the process of writing a very fun sci-fi suspense trilogy. I call it Pogland. Fun and challenging and time-consuming (which is why I’ve been off of social media). 

If you know me, you know I have some strong views on the role theology needs to play in fiction. I came across a Christian sci-fi/fantasy: “How to write and be published” video this morning which at first I was thrilled about, but soon found to be very disturbing.

I was flabbergasted! What a role money plays in the Christian publishing industry!

Now I understand not everyone can write just to write, or write what needs to be available. Or publish just any book. Publishing comes down to the bottom line, profit.

On a secular forum board recently a writer posted that they were nervous about having to write a sex scene for the very first time. Instead of just saying nothing, I replied. I suggested that he didn’t actually need to bend to the bandwagon. If he’d never felt the need to write such a scene before, he could still write an excellent book without it. And even appeal to a larger audience because he didn’t.

As a Christian, by my comment I meant so much more. But secular fiction is moved by secular values. And he wants to write what sells.

It’s the same for “Christian” fiction. Christian fiction is moved by Christian dysfunctions.

Now it might be true that dysfunctional marriages lead Christian women to escape into “Christian” romantic fiction. But that’s not always the case. Strong Christians read and write Christian romance novels.

Francine Rivers and Redeeming Love is the epitome of Christian faith fiction. I am also especially appreciative of authors Elizabeth Maddrey and Chautona Havig‘s real-life Christianity in the context of their romance stories.

But theirs is not the common denominator in Christian fiction. The common denominator is a dummied-down nominal Christianity. That’s where the money is.

  • For people who don’t want to grow in their faith through their time in fiction.
  • For people who don’t want to be challenged in their free time.
  • For people who want only to be entertained.

 .

Dysfunctional faith leads people to escape into borderline fiction.

Dysfunctional faith will earn a writer money. Take Love Comes Softly as an example. It’s a great series, but it’s great in a “it’s not dirty” kind of way. It’s wholesome. But is that what we should be doing? Is that ALL we should be doing? 

Just writing Little House on the Prairie Christianity? Wholesome fiction, get-away, beach-reads? Escaping from this world and its duties fiction? 

Case in point, alcohol is a gift from God.

The book of Proverbs and the gospels show us that wine is a gift for man to enable them to get a buzz, a bit of euphoria. That buzz helps us get through the low times of life, through the busy, hectic times of life. I live in Europe where the view on alcohol is not burdened by the judgmentalism of the Prohibition movement.

But while alcohol is a gift from God, we see as early as Noah’s time, that getting drunk is shameful. Too much alcohol is a sin. Elders and deacons and their wives are measured by this. And their standards are our standards. Not just “if” you want to be in leadership, their standards are the bare-minimum for the mature faith.

So too much alcohol–too much of this world–is a sin. Just as too much reading or too much entertainment is a sin. If it produces nothing but entertainment, it’s overdosing on buzz.

Do I have a Bible verse to back up this rant?

Yes. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Sins of omission.

How is reading frivolous wholesome fiction a sin of omission?

Because you have not used those hours of your life for the betterment of your relationship with God, or the betterment of the world.

The two greatest commandments, upon which the Law and the Prophets rest

It’s like sleeping your life away, and while sleep is necessary, and we can even say rest is necessary, oversleeping is a waste of the most precious resource we have: Time.

On the interview I mentioned earlier, the publisher said they are not looking for books with overt Christian message, but only those with a hidden Christian message. They intend to be cross-over books. As an example, she says, read any of Christ’s parables.

We don’t want Christian words, she says, we don’t want Christian messages. No conversions. No preaching. We want…good wins over evil, and be kind to others. Oh, and werewolves and vampires are okay, as long as they are the bad guys.

I couldn’t watch the rest of the interview.

I asked my husband, why is it that they want books that do not grow the reader in their faith through fiction? Why do they want hidden faith, covert messages?

Money, he said. That’s where the money is. It’s how the market of Christian fiction has to function.

And so we come to the faith porn industry. To make money, Christians sell out message for money.

Well I suggest that when Christianity loses its message, it ceases to be Christianity. “Authors have to make a living,” they may say. So they prostitute the name of Christ, and promote a lie.

When the message is traded out for things that are universally acceptable, like “good wins over evil,” it takes the beautiful name of Christ and drags it into the dregs of common-ism. It makes light of the cross. It should cease to use the name of Christ in its label and should be honest and upfront. It is moralistic worldly wisdom. Humanism.

To use the parables of Christ as an example of how to hide the message forgets the very cut-throat effect of his parables.

  • I am the good shepherd, read the message: “I myself am Yahweh of Ezekiel 34!” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.
  • A certain man built his house on sand, another on rock, read the message: “My words are equal to the entire Law and the Prophets, if you reject me you reject God himself.” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.
  • The prodigal son looked at the pigs around him and fled home, read the message: “You religious leaders have no compassion for the lost.” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.

.

The parables are not happy wholesome secret messages. They are cut-throat. They divide between self-righteous God-haters and trembling beggars kneeling before God. Separation filters, each of them. Sorting people. Left and right, like sheep and goats.

Yes, we need more Christian science fiction and fantasy. But not by circumcising the gospel out of it.

I’m not saying I’m the best author who knows how to do this perfectly. I am not. I tried with Trunk of Scrolls, and for what it is I think my story’s beautiful.

But I have a vision, “I have a dream,” you could say, that Christian fiction would be a way for Christians to use their down time to be entertained into new growth in their faith. New avenues they hadn’t considered. New insights into the beauty of Christ.

I know it’s not only me who talks with others about these things. Bringing Heaven’s eternal conversations into the here-and-now.

I know what it’s like to build faith in someone face to face. Can’t we make the Christian fiction industry into THAT kind of thing?

So I’m starting a list of writers whose works are not ashamed of the Christian message and promoting true Christ-loving life. Please post the names of this caliber of author below along with titles you recommend, and add a blurb about why you think this qualifies. 

Thanks! 

–Darlene


“I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” Jewel the Unicorn in C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Heartache, Broken People

Mental problems are probably the most feared type of issue Christians face. Yes, we’re afraid of hunger and pain. But God will provide and God will comfort, and eventually these kinds of sufferings will be solved. But problems like we see in Broken Pieces are the ones nobody would choose. It doesn’t easily fit into our understanding of the victorious Christian life. Simonetta Carr’s Christian biographies for young readers first brought me into her reading circle. But this book, a cross-section of her personal life, brought me into her life.

The story is a life crisis with the following characters 1) a teenage Christian young man who comes down with sudden schizophrenia his first months at college, 2) his Christian mom and dad who want to honor God with every breath as they pursue every means of help for their son 3) a group of elders at a reformed Church who likewise have to balance the young man’s sinful choices with his mental circumstances. The third element was especially impactful for me.

As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen my share of people with mental problems come in and out of the church door.  In our experience, people with this disease have hunted us down, stalked us, and threatened us, and one even killed the girl who broke up with him. Their parents have come to us and either told us to leave them alone “this is not a real conversion,” or have warned us, or have blessed our efforts to make their son feel accepted.

It is never easy to know how to protect the flock while loving the sick person—especially one who refuses to take his medication—which is very common. But compassion is difficult to muster when faced with the threats.

This book should be read by every man who desires to pastor a church and by everyone who desires to be a functioning part of their church. We need to understand in order to help. In order for the church to help both them and their families, we need to see it “happening” from inside a Christian family. This is what Simonetta Carr is able to do in her present-tense narrative.

We see that life is made of those little faith-spun choices, where we aren’t sure if we’re doing the right thing but we trust in the sovereignty of God who is bigger than our mistakes. We see that God has given us our “burden that is not too much to bear” so that we can prove faithful in that. Simonetta Carr’s example of a faith-driven life is inspirational, empowering, and reassuring. We’re all tromping down this same path in a broken heartache world.

 Because mental issues are so fearsome, it seems people with these sicknesses are pushed away for “someone else” to deal with.

Thankfully, medication and counseling can help. The last chapters of her book deal with practical helps for those struggling with these issues. But since laws allow for autonomy of people over 18, and 18 is the age when this disease begins to hit, often the sick person is not enabled to will themselves toward healing.

While there is no hard and fast rule or steps to fix it that can be presented to church leaders, this book is a helpful model of how to face this as a church body. Reformed faith in practice.

What is this thing called schizophrenia, nobody knows. But what is a Christian to do? How can a Christian BE schizophrenic? And how can the church contribute to healing, both for the sick person and for his or her family? These are the questions that are analyzed in this book.

Broken Pieces is a story, but it’s more than a story. It’s is A CASE STUDY OF FAITH IN THE TRENCHES, of the Church in the trenches of this horribly broken world.

Please read this book. There are many families hiding their “shameful” struggles with mental illness who need the support of Christ-followers who care enough to face the bias and fear. Once you read this book, you will gain compassion for them, for what they’re going through. You can be the one that makes a difference in their battlefield of the mind.

Here’s a link for how to order your copy from the publisher today. I just saw, it’s $10 preorder!

Preorder information: CBD Preorder,Amazon Preorder

You Are What You Do

SEPARATING SHEEP FROM GOATS

Separation filters are things in this life that prove what you are. They are tests, opportunities, situations, scenarios that require you to take a step one way or another. The step you take shows what you are.

In Biblical Hebrew there is no distinction between the being and the doing. How we BE is WHAT we are. And we ARE what we DO. Food for thought.

Habakkuk 2:4

“Behold, his soul is puffed up;
it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.

The righteous shall live by his faith—each of these words work together to emphasize the deep point of this verse. It is so significant, it is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

1. THE

THE righteous (as opposed to those whose soul is puffed up) is the one who is humble, who trembles at His word. Not A righteous man–meaning anyone who does things that would be considered right. A pulls the point away from the covenant context.

Instead it says THE–as in the ones we have already spoken of, the ones the entire Bible is speaking of. God’s ones.

2. RIGHTEOUS

In this passage especially, the righteous refers to those who are NOT the cause of the punishment on Israel. The RIGHTEOUS is used as a noun and an adjective. The adjective represents the class of individuals. This class is known by their deeds. 

“In Western thought, we are taught to make a distinction between what a person does and who he is. However, in Hebrew, it is difficult to articulate that distinction.” (Rabbi Berger) You are what you do.

3. SHALL

This form is often used by Jesus when referring to things that will happen anyway. It is a statement, not a command. If you love me, you will keep my commands. You will certainly. See John 14:12, 23-24 compared with John 15:10–the keeping and the doing are connected with the essence of the person. As Jesus said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him [the Father].”

Shall-“used to say that something certainly will or must happen, or that you are determined that something will happen.” The separation filter pivots on this word. The righteous will be this way, sure as the sun will rise. (See above).

4. LIVE

How does one live? Shall-live is actually the Hebrew word. So what is meant by living? As seen above, living is the way we exist. What we do, in life, is what we are. How we BE is WHAT we are. Living is abiding, it is the use of our breath and heartbeat. A tree exists, and does what a tree does.

There are ultimately two kinds of people, God’s people and not-my-people. The righteous-being  and the unrighteous-being. So what of those who live righteously before men but not humbly before God? Are they righteous or unrighteous? This is where the next section comes in.

5. BY

There are many angles that can be represented with the word “by.” The agent, the method, the position, not-later-than, part of a measurement, during or within.

Agent: by VanGogh, by a thermostat

Method: by train, by herself

Position: by her side

Not later than: by five o’clock, by dinner

Measurement: ten by ten, by the hour, minute by minute

During, within, according to: by night, by nature, fine by me

So how does one live “by faith” Which kind of by?

Is faith the agent, the faith enables the living?

Is faith a method, the faith brings the person to living?

Is faith a position, the person lives next to the faith?

Is faith a goal, in that a person finishes living if he arrives at faith point?

Is faith a measurement, in that living happens from faith to faith?

Is faith a comparative measure, in that the action of living happens within the state of faith?

In Hebrew, the proposition is connected to the word faith. It is not a separate word as it is in English. So “by-his-faith” is one word.

6. BY-HIS-FAITH

Interestingly, the exact same phrase by his faith occurs only in one place in Scripture, and this is a very relevant place.

Ps 96:12-13: “let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness

Here, it’s a measure by which something is judged, and it is a state of being and a means. In Ps 96, the peoples will be judged by means of God’s faithfulness and because of God’s faithfulness.  Of Ps 96:13, Matthew Poole in his commentary writes, “With his truth; or, in his faithfulness, i.e. so as he hath promised to do. He will certainly and abundantly fulfil all God’s promises made to his people.”

Using the same implications, the righteous will live by means of their faithfulness. The righteous will live in the state of fulfilling their covenant-promises.

The righteous shall live-by-faith.

The righteous ones will most assuredly be characterized by a certain manner of faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding.

New Testament Ethics

Jesus Christ lived-the-faith God required, for me. He said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

And since he also died the death-I-deserved, for me, my faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding in Christ will count me as one of “the righteous.”

This is why Paul said that Abraham was justified by faith…

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:3-8).

But James as well can say the seeming-opposite, that Abraham was justified by works…

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God (James 2:18-23).

The righteous are saved by their faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding in Christ.

The Hem of the Savior’s Garment

Chickens, Boaz and Tears: Three Things that will Save your Eternal Life.

Have you ever seriously considered the verse, “Away from me, I never knew you!” ?

The Lord Jesus uses this warning in Matt 7:21-23 to show that not everyone who thinks they are saved will actually be saved.

But have you ever thought that MAYBE you might hear those words from the Lord’s lips? Does the thought strike fear into you?

In our Social Studies class this month we are studying the American Colonial times, and of course the Salem Witch trials come up. Many people accused of witchcraft were excommunicated from the Church, namely being told they were no longer saved.

In our PostChristian environment today, most people don’t give credence to the right of the Church to excommunicate its members.

But Scripture shows the authority Spirit-filled church leaders have to turn their members “over to Satan.” So those in 1692 Salem accused of witchcraft and their families all believed the convicted had likewise been deprived of salvation.

Can that happen? Really?

Another big question is about the “unforgivable sin.” Maybe you think you have committed it. You may be asking yourself, “Have I committed the unforgivable sin? Is what I have done too big now for Christ to forgive?”

What do I have to do to lose my salvation? What does one look like who will hear on Judgment Day, “Away from me, I never knew you”?

Or, more likely what you are asking, “How can I make sure that’s not me?”

I have good news for you today. You can know and be sure that you will never be discarded by God. You can have certainty. But it is costly and it is hard.

The answer is in the idea: Up is Down and Down is Up. But to understand this, we must understand Covenant.

A key aspect of the Bible, God’s Covenant with us, is expressed vividly in the Old Testament. Nature provides many examples of God’s principles (because Heavens Declare the glory of God).

One of the most poignant images, used repeatedly in Scripture, is that of the wings of God, which metaphorically represent his protective covering.

 

WINGS

Behold what Psalms says:

Ps 91:1–2
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Ps 17:8
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,

Ps 57:1
…for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,

Ps 61:4
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah

Ps 63:7
…for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

Christ’s Desire

Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he spoke of his desire to bring comfort and safety to God’s people. He used the same imagery used of God in the OT.

Mt 23:37
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Lk 13:34
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

 

GARMENT:

The word for wing is also the word for garment. In Hebrew the word is kanaph (כָּנָף).

So we see in Ezekiel 16:8:
I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.

 

 

The Sick Woman

The story of the sick woman taps into this same imagery.

Matthew 9:20-21
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

Mark 6:56
And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Reasons for the sick touching the edge of Christ’s robe.

Several places in Scripture show us the thought behind sick people trying to touch Christ’s garment.

Zech 8:23
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'”

As we saw above, the Hebrew word for robe matches the word for wings, repeated many times in the Psalms. Taking hold of Christ’s robe was an ancient analogy for “attaching oneself to the party of his lord.”

They were humbling themselves before God, asking for mercy.

Down is Up. This is another way of saying “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet 5:6, NIV).

Bend down, bow, kneel, humble yourself…admit you are inadequate to the task…confess that HE is your only hope. Go down. God gives grace to the humble. But he opposes the proud. (1 Pet 5:5, James 4:6). Up is Down and Down is Up. If you go UP–if you insist on doing it your own way, sure you can do it yourself, lifting your chin and defying your need for God, that is the surest way “DOWN” to death and destruction, in the end.

But if you go Down, he will lift you Up.

Which means he will bring you into his eternal Covenant.

Nowhere is this more clear than the story of Ruth and Boaz.

Ruth

The Book of Ruth holds the greatest clue for us, showing the relationship between redemption and the edge of the garment. Showing the certainty of the Covenant.

It’s a strange story, and one scandal-seekers love to point at while wiggling their eyebrows. But Ruth’s visit to the threshing floor was a demonstration for us of what a kinsman-redeemer is for humanity.

Ru 2:12
The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Already, Boaz had raised the topic of coming under the “wings” of God. Now, Naomi encourages Ruth to demonstrate the need for Boaz’s specific “wings,” as her protector, redeemer, and savior.

Ru 3:7–9
[Boaz] went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”

She had put herself under the edge of his garment. She desired covenant.

She desired him to be her guardian, her lord, her escape from a helpless situation.

Do you See it Yet?

It’s your only escape. The world may condemn you, they may falsely accuse you, or rightly accuse you. You will also accuse yourself of committing the unforgivable sin.

But where is your hope?

We will never live up to the life Christ lived. That’s the reason we needed a Savior.

But where is your hope?

Do you, after needing Christ for salvation, now attempt to reach perfection by works? (Gal 3:3) It won’t happen. We will produce fruit only as the Spirit enables us. As we abide we will be changed into his image.

But we are all going to fail this broken world.

You will have some up days, and down days. But as Billy Graham said, most of life is the valleys. We are not building our kingdom here. This broken world is not our home. We have hope in a kingdom not built by human hands. (Heb 11)

And when we consider Judgment Day…

…when we consider if he might could possibly accuse us of not being his,

…there is only one safe place to be found.

There is only one place to hide safely:

One vantage point from which to view the Great Assize, the Great Courtcase.

HIDE UNDER THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS.

PULL HIS GARMENT OVER YOU AND HIDE. 

Hide from sorrow. Hide from failure. Hide from the law of sin in you waging war against the law of grace.

He is our only hope.

Under his wings we will find refuge. Hide under the edge of his garment.

On Judgment Day, DIVE DOWN under his garment. For under his wings you will find refuge. Under his wings you will be safe.

So What About Being a Witch?

We all are witchy. We, none of us, will ever satisfy God completely and thoroughly. We are broken people in a broken world.

Say to yourself out loud, “I am not my hope.”

They will not be pleased with you. Your righteous desires will not be pleased with you. God will not be pleased with “you.” 

But when the Father sees you, hiding there under the shadow of Christ’s garment, hiding under Christ’s righteous garment, he’ll shine his face on you.

That’s where the Father and the Son and the Spirit wanted you all along.


For more amazing Bible verses on this topic, click here: Shadow of the Almighty

 

Use the Rainbow, Please!

In the name of one thing, they hang a banner declaring the character of God, his BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, PATIENT LOVE.

The problem with society’s use of the Rainbow today is the ironic REAL DECLARATION they unknowingly make.

If you fly the flag, you preach the Bible to all God’s faithful people. You are reminding us to pray for you, and hope for you, and to hope for us all.

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Gen 9:12-13

The Rainbow is a Promise that He Will Be Patient with Us.

Even when society becomes as those in the days of Noah, as Christ warned, where “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” Gen 6:5–even then, God will be patient. As Saint Peter said:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” 2 Peter 3:9

With every use of these beautiful colors, the LGBT community is reminding the rest of us that God is patient and loving, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. You say nothing else.

Patience Means Waiting for Change.

Use the flag, dear friends, declare your hatred of him-whom-you-do-not-know, because it makes us love you even more. It makes us care even more to tell you what the Rainbow really means for you. 

He’s giving you a chance. 

He’s giving you time.

But don’t waste your time, don’t waste this chance.

The Rainbow Belongs to the Covenant Community

It belongs to those whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It always has. It’s his Rainbow we will see for eternity, around the Throne in Heaven. 

You have rightly taken it, for in it, the beautiful sovereign God has given his people another reminder. A banner of hope. He will not yet sweep his punishment on this world. Not until the last preChristian repents, as Peter shows. Your flag is a modern-day miracle for us. From God. To remind us.

Use the Flag

Use the flag. And know, you declare with those lovely colors “GOD IS PATIENT WITH ME. GOD GIVES ME LIFE. GOD IS GIVING ME TIME TO REPENT.”

Use the flag. But with each flutter, remember your moments are ticking down. You are mortal and have the wonderfully long but painfully short life to figure this Rainbow out.

The first half of the Rainbow promise was that God would not flood the earth again. Peter continues with the second half of the Rainbow promise:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation. 2 Peter 3:10-15

What Kind of People Ought We to Be?

We all have these desires waging war in us to do this thing or that. These desires all feel natural. But natural does not by nature mean good. 

One sin is not worse than any other. What matters is that we see it as sin. Jesus loved sinners, but not the sin. He called sin sin, and even turned away those who had eager hearts but were not willing to let go of the smallest of sins.

“Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21

Look at the things on this list. Nobody is exempt:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor IDOLATERS, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the GREEDY, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6

We are all greedy, holding on to our “PRECIOUS” like Gollum. We are all idolaters, worshipping ourselves narcissistically rather than worshipping God. None of us qualify to enter the Kingdom of God unless we call sin sin and look to the cross of Christ as our only escape from that dreadful day.

You May Hate Me for What I Say.

You may do all sorts of things against me because the beautiful Rainbow flag you use speaks to me of God’s great promises for the world.

But you won’t stop the direction my mind goes when I see the flag. It is etched into my soul. The Rainbow is God’s signature on a contract. God is patient, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

Thank you for reminding me!

(video) Big Questions 2: What Has God Written on the Wall?

This world is filled with Big Questions.

People who know their God can understand the Big Questions, like Daniel could read the Writing on the Wall: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.” God wrote two books. Both books give the same message, both together answer all of the Big Questions of life.

–Video 2 in the Writing on the Wall (Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin) series, unlocking the Big Questions

–How can we know God? If the Bible is a self-revelation of God to man, what does he say about himself through the Bible? Why do some people hate the God of the Bible, and others adore him?

We will investigate in this video series thematic lines running through the Bible. We will learn to highlight the amazing continuity of these 10 ideas God is conveying to us. Since the goal of reading the Bible is knowing God and since this is why he gave us a book, knowing who he is and his purpose and plan for the world is foundational.

This second video introduces the Big Questions in light of God’s 10 strand “rainbow-scaffold” of self-revelation in the Bible.

SUBSCRIBE to my Youtube channel today. Don’t miss any episodes.

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

 

Separation Filters: Isaiah 7

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.


King Ahaz has an amazing opportunity. He meets with Isaiah not only to hear the direct word from God, but also to respond. As Joshua had commanded the people, “choose this day whom you will serve,” Ahaz is given hope and a choice. Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub comes with him to the meeting, his very name that of hope: “a remnant shall return.”

Isaiah presents to Ahaz an opportunity to prove his mettle. Pleasure and peace or war.

“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two…” (v4).

We hear echoes of Moses and Joshua speaking to trembling Israel.

“Do not be dismayed or discouraged for the Lord is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God recognizes the enemies are fearsome:

“two smoldering stumps of firebrands…fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah…. Syria has devised evil against you” (v4).

In spite of this God presents Ahaz with a great opportunity to throw in his hope onto God’s side.  This is his only opportunity for success.

“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (v9).

Then King Ahaz is given the option of choosing proof. Like with Gideon, God condescends to strengthen the faith of Ahaz with a sign of God’s presence.

“Let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (v10).

How many of us would love such an opportunity for divine proof? Yet Ahaz declines.

So God gives a promise that will come about in double-time:

“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (v14).

The child will be named “God with us.” Can you hear Handel’s version of this playing in your head?

The immediate fulfillment of this proof happens in the next chapter, but with a twist. God tells all the signs of sorrow and suffering that will come upon Israel, with Sheer-jashub standing right there. To the hope of the remnant is added the hope of God with us.

What will Ahaz do? His decision is our decision. His choice pushes us to look inwardly. What would I have done? What do I do in my desperate times?

Ahaz is being sifted, shaken, stirred. How does he come out in the face of suffering? Ahaz chooses to put his faith in Assyria. This nation promises to help Israel against Rezin and Syria, but Israel has not considered the dear cost.


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9