AD 284: Countdown

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From TGS International

A Time of Testing

Mark had heard stories about the persecutions of the past. But all he had ever known was peace, and in his youthful innocence, he didn’t realize how quickly this could change.

In AD 284, Diocletian was crowned emperor of Rome. Almost two decades later, just as Mark was starting up his own home, Diocletian set loose the demons of hell on the Church. The persecution lasted less than a decade, but it was the worst that Christians had ever experienced. And Mark and his wife Lydia were caught right in the middle.

They had a choice. They could give up their faith and live. Maybe even prosper.

Or they could stand firm. And die…


The Century of Crisis: How did the Christian church go from being a persecuted church to being a persecuting church within a century? This is the first of four books in this series, and tells the story of Christians living under the rule of Diocletian. The second book tells the story of Christians under the rule of Constantine. The third book takes a look at Christians under Julian (the apostate), and the fourth book will look at them becoming the state church under Theodosius.


Why God, Why?

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From TGS International

Understanding God when He doesn’t seem to understand you

God, I have so many questions. So many things I don’t understand.

  • God, you promised me a Christian husband and family, but I’m getting too old.
  • God, you gave me the desire to be an engineer but haven’t given me the money I need to go to university.
  • God, why did you let my mother die after I claimed your power to heal her?
  • God, I’ve prayed and prayed but you still haven’t given me the money I need to pay my gambling debts.
  • God, I prayed but you didn’t answer. In fact, I’ve prayed for years, but you just ignore me.
  • God, why did my innocent little girl have to die? Why did you allow someone to kidnap her and rape her?
  • God, my baby is sick and needs an operation. Are you punishing him because of my sins?

The seed for this book came from questions like this written by people like you. I have struggled along with many of you, trying to answer that question: “Why Lord?” Understanding God’s answers, or lack of answers, can be hard.

In this book, I’ve tried to cast some light on this. It’s just a little bit of light because in many ways God is beyond my understanding.  Yet God doesn’t want you to wallow in a slough of despair. If you are drowning in the mud of doubt and misery, I hope this book will give you a glimpse of something better. And help you to understand God better.

Robins and the Kingdom of God in 2020


What do Robins have to do with the Kingdom of God?


The 2020 War of the Robins

We have an ongoing war in our backyard. Every year, our choke cherry trees become the focus of pitched battles and outright murder.

Nature operates under a fixed law known as the survival of the fittest. God had good reasons for putting this law in place. It keeps nature from degenerating and ensures that species will survive and thrive. But its not pretty. Nature isn’t the peaceful, benign, inoffensive entity we imagine it to be as we admire a sunset, or a baby fawn. In reality, nature is cruel and selfish, destroying the weaker members of its population.

That is why we have a war in our back yard. One pair of robins has claimed it as their territory and any other bird they catch eating from “their” trees is in trouble. In fact if they were the size of eagles instead of robins, I’m not sure it would be safe for us to go out there.

I was watching this process this morning and thinking about the similarities between robins and humans. Especially unregenerate humans.

The Kingdom of God in 2020

Jesus described the kind of citizens the Kingdom of God consists of in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mat 5, 6, 7). He introduced His explanation with the Beatitudes…


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
(Mat 5:3-10 CSB)


Think about robins again for a moment. These verses describe some very “unrobin-like” characteristics. If robins fit this mold, they would have died out millenniums ago. Nature would have destroyed them.

This is one argument that some Christians try to use. You can’t live by the sermon on the mount, they say. It’s impossible. So they try to push it out into some “magic” dispensation where the laws of nature apparently are suspended.

But Jesus makes several things clear in His teaching.

  • The Kingdom is NOW (Mat 3:2; 4:17, 23; …)
  • Everyone is invited into the Kingdom (Luke 14:16)
  • Riches are a hinderance to entering the Kingdom (Luke 18:16 – 25)
  • Joining the Kingdom may cost you everything you own, and everyone you love (Luke 18:29, 30)

Read the Sermon on the Mount carefully. Read the Gospels carefully. Jesus’ teachings will turn your world upside down. We don’t hear these concepts preached in our churches very often. We don’t see them in the lives of our fellow Christians.

You will not find robins in the Kingdom of God. They don’t fit. They would destroy it. But people can become citizens of the Kingdom if they are willing to put aside the things most of us think we have a right to have. Riches, fame, self-defense, selfishness, pride, arrogance, and such like need to go.

The important question is: Are you part of the Kingdom? Or are you a robin? You can’t be both.

I took these photos through a window using a Samsung Note 10+. I had to stretch the resolution further than I like because robins don’t like photographers.

Scene Two

AD 361: Sabotage

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FLAVIAN NEVER FORGOT THE FIRST TIME he treated a patient totally on his own. Damian, the old army doctor who was his mentor, had gone to help with an emergency, leaving Flavian to look after any walk-in patients by himself. He was only twenty-three and had been helping Damian for a few years.

Scene Two

The Doctor is In

Blendina rubbed her eyes as came through the door leading to Damian’s quarters. Already in her forty’s, she had kept up with the work at the clinic so far, but a few more years would finish her. She slept in a corner of the main room behind a curtain and made breakfast and supper for Damian on top of the other work she did.

Today Flavian had arrived before Blendina finished her morning work. He looked up as she entered the room. “Damian coming in today?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Not this morning. He’s not feeling well. He might come over later if he feels better.”

Flavian frowned, and contemplated asking another question, but she shook her head and put her finger on her lips. “We’ll talk later,” she said quietly. “He didn’t have a good night and he’s finally sleeping now.”

She moved over to the instrument storage and started to pull out the tools they commonly used, arranging them carefully on a basket for sterilizing. She had started the charcoal fire under the sterilizer earlier, and the water was almost boiling. Flavian made a few extra entries in yesterday’s diary.

“We’ll need to prepare more ointment to use for burns and wounds,” he said. “I noticed yesterday that we were getting low.”

This was one reason he liked getting to the clinic early. He could relax and get ready for rush that was sure to start soon.

This morning was no exception.

“Bang, bang, bang.” He lifted his eyebrows and rolled his eyes at Blendina. “Hold on, I’m coming,” he said. “Don’t break the door down, or we’ll have to charge you extra.”

The banging stopped abruptly, and he unbarred the door and pulled it open. He recognized the patient at once. “So, what’s the problem today, Junia?”

Junia burst through the door. Damian had called her a walking tub of blubber one time, and the description was hardly an exaggeration. Her flesh bounced while she walked, and she was always sweating profusely, even today in the morning coolness.

She gasped for breath and almost stuttered. She must have run most of the way to the clinic. “I’m dying,” she said, her voice escalating up the scale in both pitch and volume. “I think my husband is trying to poison me.” She gasped again and flung her arms around Flavian. “You have to help me.”

Flavian pried himself loose and barely avoided the temptation to hold his nose. The woman smelled like a horse. No, like a pig. Or a combination. One of the negatives of being a doctor was dealing with people who seldom or never took a bath.

Blendina had joined them by now and took Junia by one arm, while Flavian took the other one. “Sit on the bench over here and tell us what’s wrong,” he said.

Junia had triple chins and no neck. To add to the effect, bristly sprouts of hair had sprung up on her chins here and there and her hair was oily and frizzled. Her robe was dirty and ill-fitting. She looked indignant, as if Flavian had already told her there was nothing wrong with her. He remembered that Damian had told her that the last time she was here. His advice had been very blunt, and Flavian really had not expected her to ever come back. He could scarcely hold back a grin at the memory.

Damian had wagged his finger under her nose and glared at her fiercely under his bushy black eyebrows. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he said. “At least nothing that wouldn’t go away if you ate less, exercised more, and took a bath oftener than every other month. You look like a pig and smell like one too.”

The look on her face as she waddled out the door had been priceless.

But he had no time to reminisce. Junia moaned and shed alligator tears. “My belly hurts and I’ve had the runs for days. I’m sure I’ve been poisoned.”

Flavian put on his most practised look of concern. He put his hand on her forehead. “Hmm. A bit of fever,” he said. “Are you drinking lots of water?”

Junia shoved out her lower lip. “I hate water,” she said. “I never drink anything but wine if possible.”

Flavian raised his eyebrows and made a meaningless notation in the scroll on his desk. “Any vomiting?” he asked. “Any bleeding from your bowels?”

Her mouth dropped open. “Vomiting? Bleeding?” her voice sounded weak.

Flavian nodded seriously. “If you were poisoned, those would be amongst the earlier symptoms,” he said. “Along with weakness, and not being able to sleep. And a fever and sweating.”

He already knew what her symptoms would be the next time she came. He needed to do something drastic. Something memorable. Something…

Then he knew. “Blendina, bring me a bucket,” he said. “And some feathers from the medicine storage.”

He turned back to Junia. “Did you have a big breakfast this morning?”

She blinked. “I suppose some people would call it big,” she muttered. “I’d starve on what some people think I should eat.”

Flavian shook his head solemnly. “Feeling hungry all the time is a sure sign worms,” he said. “I’m going to purge you and see if that helps.”

He washed his hands vigorously in a bowl of water Blendina had prepared earlier. He picked up the feathers and soaked them in olive oil, then turned back to Junia. “This calls for drastic action,” he said. “Open your mouth wide.”

Junia looked a little non-plussed but complied. Flavian sniffed at her breath and shook his head again. “Bad breath,” he said. “A sure sign.”

He picked up a clump of feathers, dripping oil, and pushed then into her mouth and as far down her throat as he could. “Swallow!” His voice was sharp, and he jumped back as she gagged, spewing up her entire breakfast and what was left of her supper and probably a midnight snack or two.  Most of the mess, though not all, landed in the bucket.

Slimy and half-digested food coated Blendina’s hands and wrists and she gagged at the smell. Unlike Flavian, she was holding the bucket and had not been able to move back out of danger.

“Good, good,” Flavian said. “That should help a lot. I think we got all of that poison out before it could do much damage.” He looked around and noticed Damian in the doorway, grinning.

“Dump the bucket on the garbage heap out the back door. Then clean her up, and wash your hands and arms,” he told Blendina cheerfully. “I’ll get some worm medicine from the back room while you do that.”

Blendina glared at him but did as he told her.

Junia seemed to have swallowed her tongue. When Belinda had finished cleaning her up, she rose to her feet slowly.

“Now listen carefully,” Flavian told her. “If you don’t want to die of your ailment, you must eat only a small portion of food three times a day. You must drink a lot of clean water and not drink any wine. You must walk briskly for an hour every morning and evening. And you must take a twenty-minute bath in cold water every morning, and in hot water every evening. If you do this for a year, I think you will be surprised at how much better you’ll feel.”

And you’ll smell better too, he thought. He watched her leave, then turned to look at Damian.

Damian snorted. “Well, I see there is some hope that you will make a good doctor,” he said. “I wouldn’t have missed that scene for a week’s wages.”

Flavian glanced at Blendina. “Not sure if Blendina feels that way about it,” he said. “I’m afraid I owe her some big favors for this.”

He would have said more, but a mother with a sick baby came through the door at that moment.

Beauty is…

In the eyes of the beholder

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: (Ecc 3:1)

. . . and right now is the best time of the season to enjoy my wife’s Mock Orange bush. My mother always had one of these when I was a boy.


He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecc 3:11)

God’s Signature

Writing on Stone Provincial Park
Milk River, AB


New Book

Available from TGS INTERNATIONAL

Description

The twenty-eight chapters in this book each include a chapter from the Gospel of Matthew in the World English Bible. The commentary and questions guide the reader to understand who Jesus really is. An excellent ministry resource for mass distribution or to give to your neighbors.

New Book

Available from TGS INTERNATIONAL

Description

Life isn’t meant to be hopeless or meaningless. God has answers. Solomon had every material thing he could wish for, yet he lacked one thing: meaning in life. To find it, he went on a quest. This book is a study of Ecclesiastes and was previously published under the title Where Is God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense?

HAS THE SKY FALLEN?

It Will Never Happen to Us

The World Health Organization told us a long time ago that a major health pandemic was overdue. But few of us expected it to happen. Not right now, anyway. It might happen in ten years, or fifty years, but not this year. And certainly not to North America.

We should have known better. All of us learned about the Bubonic Plague and the Spanish Influenza pandemic in our history classes when we went to school. Both caused millions of deaths at a time when the world’s population was a lot lower and much less mobile than it is now.

But those are just statistics from history textbooks. Right?

But Then it Did Happen

My wife and I were over 2,000 miles from home helping care for her parents when the bubble burst. We knew China had some cases of COVID-19 a month of so before we left. We learned that our country had a case a week before we left home. The first death took place during the middle of our stay. A few days later we attended a program put on by the students where our daughter taught. I don’t think we seriously considered the possibility of that being dangerous.

But over that weekend, the sky fell, or so it seemed. We listened to announcement after announcement, each with progressively worse news. For a while we wondered if we’d even be able to fly home again.

We did get home. Our plane was only half full. Half of the passengers seemed to be hiding sniffles or coughs. Some of the passengers were university students trying to get home before events became even worse. It was a serious flight. I overheard little conversation and no laughter and joking or carrying on.

I think all of us were in a state of shock.

What Now?


We are self-quarantining for the recommended two weeks. By the end of the month we should know if we have the dreaded COVID-19 or whether we managed to navigate three airports and two flights safely. We have family to bring us groceries for now, and I already work from home.


But this is only the beginning for all of us. Some people still aren’t taking this seriously. However, most people are realizing that this is serious business. The jokes and the light-hearted remarks are fading away on social media.

Did God Do This to Us?

I’ve already gotten some emails and comments from people looking to start a campaign against God. Is this God’s fault? Really?

No. We are part of a broken world because of sin. We brought this on ourselves, since we are the sinners. We deserve much worse than this! Someone, somewhere, dreamed up the idea that God owes us an enjoyable time here on earth. He owes us a guaranteed income and a middle-class lifestyle. A lot of people, including a lot who should know better, have picked up on this idea. Unfortunately, the last several weeks have pricked our collective, complacent balloons and given us a good dose of reality.

What About the Future?

I don’t know the answer to this. I suspect that things will get worse before they get better. Perhaps even much worse. I listened to an online seminar hosted by six experts who talked about these things. All were hesitant to put a definite date on the end of it. One said six weeks. Another thought it could go on for twelve weeks. Apparently, some government contingency plans extend the possibility to eighteen months.

In other words, we really don’t know. China has apparently peaked at close to 12 weeks, but the aftermath could still continue for months.

I’ve faced the fact (or tried to, at least), that I might not be around to enjoy the return to “normal” life. For various reasons such as age, underlying health factors, and immunosuppressant medication, I am in a high risk brackets. I would guess that the chances are pretty high that I’ve been exposed. If so, I might not survive this. In the meantime my wife and I are isolated together

Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen, however, if you’re ready for it. But a lot of people aren’t ready. You probably know if you are or not. If not, the nice thing about this scenario is that you have lots of time to think about it and get ready. Take a close look at your life and your future.

One of my favorite Bible passages is found in Matthew 11:27 – 30. It’s an invitation. It promises rest. Even in times like this, or worse, you can have rest.

Are you Anxious? Concerned? Worried?

Here is your answer. Straight from Jesus Christ…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
(Mat 11:28-30 NKJV)


Pardon Me

Your Thoughts are Showing…

Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditations of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord,
my strength and my redeemer

Did You Know?

<> Your thoughts guide your values

<> Your values guide your decisions

<> Your decisions guide your destiny

But what guides your thinking?

  • The novels you read?
  • The teachers you listen to?
  • The denomination you are part of?
  • The music you listen to?
  • The friends you hang out with?

All of these points will influence your thoughts. But the only way to really change your thinking is found in 2 Cor 5:17. Ask God to make you new! He’ll do that if you’re serious.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”