Who’s your god?

The bulk of today’s post is about Christianity. But if you follow me for writing, I highly recommend reading this long, but informative piece: Publishing’s Parallel Universe by Louise Merrington, which talks about her experience with both traditional and indie publishing.

Now onto faith… To highlight the point I’ll be making in this post, a passage from The Heavenly Man which I gushed about earlier. This is a section written by Deling, Yun’s husband:

God helped us greatly while my husband was in prison. There are two special miracles that I’d like to share with you from this time.

With only Yun’s mother and me left to run the farm, things were desperate! We had no clue what we were doing. We decided to plant sweet potatoes, but didn’t know how to do it. I found out later that we should have planted the roots about two feet apart. I had planted them just a few inches apart!

All summer long our neighbours who heard about my foolishness mocked us and made fun of us! The news spread rapidly and I was the butt of many jokes.

Then in autumn, all our neighbours started cursing because they had very poor yields from their harvest. Their sweet potatoes were only the size of tennis balls.

When we pulled up our sweet potatoes, we found they were almost the size of basketballs! It was a great miracle and everyone knew God had taken care of us. Our neighbours respected us more from that moment on and they didn’t view my husband as a cursed criminal any more, but as a man who’d been unjustly incarcerated.

Our neighbours saw “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:18.

The second miracle took place when Isaac was three. We had to exchange a portion of whatever crops we produced because we owned no animals or fertiliser. Therefore it was imperative we had a good harvest, or we would not be able to buy food to eat or the other items we needed to survive.

This time I didn’t know how to plant wheat seeds. I placed them so close together that they carpeted the soil!

Just a week before the wheat harvest, a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of tennis balls fell from the sky. I rushed outside when the hail started and could already see that some of our neighbours’ wheat fields had been completely flattened by the storm. Yun’s mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, “God, have mercy on us!”

A great miracle happened. Our field was the only one protected by the Lord. All our wheat was standing upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone else’s fields in the whole area had been obliterated.

People came out of their homes after the storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus Christ had protected us. It was another powerful testimony to them.

While we enjoyed thick, healthy wheat that year, our neighbours had no harvest and were forced to use what was left of their crops as food for their animals.

Looking back, despite the hard times, the Lord was faithful to us!

As most Christians understand, knowing God doesn’t mean your life is suddenly gold. It is fantastic in many ways, but it doesn’t spare you all of the hardships like some kind of mystical genie. As was the case for Deling above – her husband was still in prison, and she still struggled to survive. (The majority of us in the affluent West don’t understand what it means to literally be desperate. [Desperation is not waiting for your internet to buffer]).

Thinking that you’ll suddenly be prosperous and have everything you need is at the far end of the scale. But the other end of the scale is equally wrong: thinking of God with a little ‘g’. God doesn’t confer a small advantage in life, he’s the only advantage you’ll ever need.

It also shows that he’s a God who cares about the individual, and our earthly circumstances. Not only does he want to protect us from the ravages and consequences of sin (e.g. the woman caught in adultery), and pain but he knows us intimately even down to how many hairs are on our head.

Deling and her mother-in-law couldn’t just sit back and wait for rescue – they did what they can, and asked God to help. Note that God came through at the end which is so typically God. He didn’t have someone helpful come along and explain how to farm, but instead worked a miracle to show his power.

If we are being obedient to his call in our lives, then we can be confident that he will look after us. That doesn’t mean we will be saved from incredible hardship, but that he will help us through the hardship. It is, after all, what we’re called to do.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

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A Treasure of a Book

As I begin rereading The Heavenly Man, the story of Chinese Christian “Brother Yun” I am deeply stirred.

heavenly manWithin the pages is a man who has experienced the power and miracles of God in modern-day. He has been faithful under incredible persecution and his continuous joy is proof of a deep relationship with God. Expressed clearly is his motivation: an abiding love for God and people.

As his co-worker acknowledges:

Yun’s testimony is written with blood and tears; his journey has been one that encountered many bitter struggles. Instead of complaining and grumbling, he learned to tackle all obstacles prayerfully, on his knees with God. … In the Chinese church I have seen many of God’s servants come with great power and authority, but with brother Yun I saw a servant of Jesus who always came in humility and meekness, reflecting the heart of the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life.

The words of his testimony are like being touched by a red hot coal. Instantly it grabs your attention and calls for a response.

Honestly, with all of the distractions in the Western world I could ignore the call. The safest route for “self” would be to discard the book. However I began the book knowing it would light a spiritual fire under me. I want that fire, I crave it’s heat. Yes, it will burn and at times be uncomfortable, but it is also a purifying flame. It will burn away that which does not belong.

As a Christian I made a commitment that Jesus Christ would be Lord of my life. He’s in control, not me. And yet, as a human, I often wrestle for control, in varying degrees. Or like a woefully out-dated navigation system, I offer ludicrous suggestions on which way to go.

What burns most is the knowledge that my relationship and experience of God isn’t as strong as Brother Yun’s. And that’s on me. The truth is my relationship with God is only as good as I want it to be. The Bible is clear: God wants a relationship with us, and has done all of the necessary work. And yet he will not impose himself. If I give him a fraction of my day and then shut my heart – intentionally or not – I’ll enjoy only a fraction of what the relationship could be.

It’s like this… The King has adopted me. Not because of who I am or what I’ve done but because of his nature of love. Not only do I have a relationship with him, but he also has appointed me as an ambassador on his behalf. As son and ambassador I have unparalleled advantage; wealth and purpose.

None of that potential is fulfilled if I choose to stay locked in my room, or act in a way that doesn’t represent the King.

[Marie] Monsen told the Christians it wasn’t enough to study the lives of born-again believers, but that they must themselves be radically born again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. With such teaching, she took the emphasis off head knowledge and showed each individual that they were personally responsible before God for their own inner spiritual life.

Just as I am personally responsible, as are you.

If you haven’t read Heavenly Man I strongly urge you to do so. Why not read along with me, and let me know your thoughts on it?

The Plea of God

If you can’t tell by the title, this is a post directed at any Christian readers, unrelated to writing. If this doesn’t interest you, click along and have a great day… 🙂


The other day I was praying and felt led to turn to Deuteronomy chapter 30. I have to admit that it’s been a while since I’ve read that part of the Old Testament: Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy tend to get skipped, like the unwanted dish at a buffet.

I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the riches of Deuteronomy 30 for so long! I know I’ve read it before but it deserves a place if not in memory, then on my heart.

Continue reading

Easter Sunday 2016

The bloody cross was the way a lost humanity could be reunited with a holy God.Jesus was scourged with a whip because our sins required punishment. He was executed upon a cross because our sins required atonement. He – the Son of God – was willing to provide it.

In doing so, he made a way for us to be restored to God.

…Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)

Isaiah 53:10-13 completes the prophetic passage that refers to Jesus: mentioning his death, resurrection and the relationship that is offered.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

 

Researching ‘Conviction’

Part of me just wants to start writing Conviction but I did promise to blog as-I-went-along and I made my writing goal to be following the writing process. (Whatever that is… now in hindsight maybe ‘the writing process’ is whatever works for you, and I’m still in the midst of finding mine).

Fair warning: Conviction is a story about the Islamic State. It will be a faith-based story. (Oh, and this contains SPOILERS to the story).

The three key aspects of any story are Setting, Characters and Plot. All three of these elements have a symbiotic relationship in the story.

Plot

Let’s address briefly the plot first, because that impacts Setting and Characters.

As yet, I haven’t defined much of the plot. I know I want my main protagonist to be a Christian, captured by IS. That’s the sum total of what I have so far; I need to do more work on plot.

But I needed to know that much in order to be able to pick a setting.

Setting

The setting (or location) for the story will be Karamlish, Iraq. (Note there’s alternative spellings of the town’s name).

Location
via Google Maps

In finding a location I didn’t want it to be a major city, but preferably close by. I know that I wanted some Western military personnel in the story, so I have to give them plausible access. It is also quite close to non-IS controlled areas (as shown by the green shading below), where I can base them.

From Institute for the Study of War http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%20Sanctuary%2070812-01.pdf
From Institute for the Study of War http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%20Sanctuary%2070812-01.pdf

When you’re writing a ‘real life’ fiction, it is much harder to do setting than writing a fantasy story: the settings should be as authentic as you can get it. By choosing a near-to capital city it should be easier to do further research than choosing some town out in the middle of nowhere.

The town is currently under the control of IS and has an incredibly rich Assyrian history, being conquered by numerous empires. It also has (had?) a large christian population, which fits the bill.

Characters

One of the articles or books that I read (and now can’t find) mentioned that naming characters because of the meaning of the name was not wise. The premise was that chances are the meaning of the name will not be mentioned in the book, so it’s something only the author can appreciate.

I did this in Vengeance Will Come for two of my antagonists.Regent Menas Senay is a ruler so his name Menas (‘A Great King to which the horizon bows down) and Senay (‘Gift from Above’) fits his role. His number one (somewhat psychopathic) henchmen is named Terefi (…which I now discover I transposed…) Teferi ‘Is Feared By His Rivals or One Who Is Ferocious’.

Perhaps naming characters this way is considered wrong by some, but it works for me… so for Conviction:

The protagonist’s family

  • Amir (main protagonist, major character) whose name is Arabic meaning “prince”. Amir will be 17 and a Christian.
  • Oda (grandfather of Amir, medium character). Oda is a Christian and his name means “servant of God”. He is 68 years old, infirm. He was previously an archaeologist and worked for the previously famous Mosul museum (which has been destroyed by IS), after being educated in England. He is the patriarch of the family.
  • Laleh (Amir’s mother, minor character). Aged 47, her name means “Tulip flower.” She wasn’t a Christian when she married Amir’s father, but has become one since. (Amir’s father is deceased).
  • Istir (Amir’s sister, minor character). Aged 14, her name relates to the biblical Esther.

The French journalist

  • Henri, aged 43. He will either be a prisoner of IS, or embedded as a reporter with them – I haven’t decided yet.

The Western Military – I haven’t identified these yet, but there will probably be two: a Private Military Contractor and his friend, a base commander.

That’s it for today’s post.

A few sources I have found helpful so far have been: