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This is the first in a series of four historical novels covering the period of time between AD 284 – 384. Depending on your viewpoint, this century was either the best thing that ever happened to the church, or the worst.
Over the past several decades, I have taught a number of writing classes. I thought you might like to meet some of my students. Some were outstanding because of their talents, but I remember most of them best for other reasons….
Student No. 1
I have experimented over the years with journal writing in various classes. Allan was in one of those. I wish you could have met Allan, since he was one of those people who were genuinely spontaneous and interesting. I always knew when Allan had arrived at school because he was always talking. But the unusual thing about Allan was that his conversation was always interesting. Not always worthwhile, mind you, but always interesting.
Allan always had a crowd around him, and he was a loquacious story teller. But when journal period rolled around, Allen met his Nemesis. His innate creativity floated out the window as soon as he looked at a sheet of paper He could not and would not write. His quota for 15 minutes was about two sentences.
I had some fairly good writers in the class, and often after we were finished writing, I asked various students to read their creations to us. Poor Allan. He hardly ever had anything much to contribute.
But one day, Allan made a discovery. He discovered somehow that writing a story was simply talking on paper. He also discovered that he could get the same kind of attention for his written stories as he did for his verbal ones.
I have never ever seen such an enormous change in a student as I did in Allan. All of a sudden he looked forward to journal classes. And whenever it came time for Allan to read his journal to the class, everyone sat up and paid attention.
Again, what he wrote wasn’t always worthwhile, but mark it down, it was always interesting!
Student No. 2
Sue was different from Allan. Her talent for writing was well developed when I first met her. Her characters were so realistic that they practically came alive and walked around on her paper when she wrote about them. In fact I would say that Sue had tremendous potential as a writer.
But Sue had one problem. She had never learned to use her talent to the glory of God. She wrote because it was fun, and to impress her friends. She enjoyed the writing class—writing classes are always more interesting than doing actual writing.
I haven’t met Sue since that class. I don’t know where she went from there. But I have never seen her name on a story or book. I wonder if she is still just writing for the fun of it, or whether the fun got stale.
Student No. 3
As I recall him, Sam was a lot like Sue. He too had real potential. He was a thinker and could write penetrating essays that made issues come alive. He knew words, and just where to put them. I was quite impressed with his assignments.
But I had a rude awakening one day. I discovered that Sam would only write when it suited him, or when he felt like it. He too had never learned that God gave us our talents to use for His glory. I am still not sure whether Sam was just moody, or whether he was lazy. Perhaps he was both.
Student No. 4
Amy was more difficult to evaluate. She was a very serious minded girl. She was also very tender hearted, and had evidently been raised in a very sheltered environment. But she put her heart and soul into her writing, and because of this it was good.
She had talent too. But it takes more than talent to make a good writer. A good writer must be able to put his soul into his writing. When you read a book by a writer like this, you feel like you have made a close friend.
Amy was that kind of writer. She lacked only one thing—experience. This made her writing a bit naive. It was easy to forgive her for this, but I was troubled at what I knew Amy would face in life when it finally caught up with her. The time was coming that a world full of troubles was going to bombard her, and she was going to realize for the first time what life was all about. I hope the Lord is gentle with her.
I haven’t seen any writing by Amy either. But I think the Lord is educating her. When He has taught her some of the lessons about life she needs, I think she will remember her writing talents and start to put some of those lessons on paper. I will buy her books, because I know they will be good reading.
It is amazing how you can get to know someone in a writing class. Most of my students would have been a bit shocked to know how well I could read them. Each of the students I have highlighted here had potential as writers. Yet each had areas they needed to work on to become the kind of writer that the Lord could really use.
Perhaps you have seen yourself in one of these profiles. If so, allow the Lord to do His work in your heart and make of you the writer that He wants you to be. God will only do so much for you. He gives you the seed of a talent, but He expects you to invest the effort necessary to make it useful for him. It would be very sad indeed to get to the judgment only to have God tell us that we buried our talents in the sand.
Maybe you like the praise of others, and when you don’t get it, you give up. Maybe you are just out to have fun, and don’t feel like getting serious. Or perhaps you are too lazy or moody to put yourself into developing your talent. Take time to read Matthew 25:14-30 and take it too heart.
I want to give you one more example. I never had this brother for a student, but I want to tell you about him anyway. When I met John, I didn’t think of him as a potential writer. He was friendly and conscientious, but I never thought of him as a writer. However, he had a secret urge to write. If I recall correctly, he worked at writing for around ten years before anyone ever accepted an article or story from him. He had disappointment after disappointment but he persevered, and he finally accomplished his goal.
John had less talent than any of the students I mentioned above. But he has accomplished more with writing than all of these others put together.
All of the people I have told you about are about the same age. You will probably note, as I did, that the factor that makes a successful writer isn’t necessarily exceptional talent. It is perseverance and a dedication to bringing glory to God.
That is the most important lesson that any writer can learn.
I wrote a column entitled Literary Spectrum for a (now defunct) paper for youth called the Vineyard Laborer a number of years ago. I took this post from one of those issues.
If you see the extortion of the poor, or the perversion of justice and fairness in the government, do not be astonished by the matter. For the high official is watched by a higher official, and there are higher ones over them! The produce of the land is seized by all of them, even the king is served by the fields. (Ecc 5:8-9, NET)
Solomon looked at this subject from a philosophical perspective, not a human rights perspective. The poor were oppressed by those who were stronger than they were or who had more authority. Those people in turn were oppressed by those above them. The chain of oppression reached all the way to the top and may have even included the king.
The perversion of justice is common. In some countries of the world, a person is better off to accept oppression than to report it or to try to get justice. Solomon wasn’t commenting on the right or wrong of this (it is obviously wrong). Instead, he was describing a basic reality of life along with giving a little lesson on economics.
Solomon used a field as a simple example of economic supply and demand. Many people needed to live from the economic product of the field. The people who planted the field, watered it, and harvested it were the most obvious economic beneficiaries. In Bible times these people didn’t own the field or finance the crop, they were just laborers who were paid for their work. So they needed to get enough of the field’s economic product to live on, probably in the form of wages. The man who owned the field financed the crop and paid the laborers. He too needed to receive a benefit because he also had to eat and probably had a family to support. He may have sold the crop to a miller, who produced flour from it. That man also needed to make some income from the field’s product to feed his family. So he sold the flour to a baker, who baked bread and sold it to a local store. The local store finally sold it to the person who ate it. So the laborers, the farmer, the miller, the baker, and the store all needed to have a share of the economic product of the field to live.
But the process goes beyond that. Some of these people might have borrowed money to finance their operations, so the economic product of the field also paid the interest on their loans. And finally, the government collected taxes from these people. So even the government lived from the field’s economic product.
Now none of this is wrong. But it does give a lot of opportunity for doing wrong. At any link of this economic chain, someone could oppress the person who depended on him for his income. The most obvious point was at the bottom of the ladder. If the farmer was greedy and many people were looking for work in the fields, he could make extra money by paying unfair wages. The laborers had little recourse because they had less money and less authority and fewer powerful friends than the farmer did.
Some people try to take advantage of others by bribing them. Some threaten them by using their authority. And on and on it goes. The king (i.e., the government) was at the top of the ladder and had the most power and authority of all. It is very easy for government to use this power to take advantage of the population.
The process of corruption is prompted by greed, of course. But it is also prompted by the fact that the economic resources of the field are limited. Finally, you can only stretch a natural resource so far. The people in the line for getting a piece of the pie are afraid that the economic profit won’t reach around, and so they fight over it. In cases like this it isn’t the early bird that gets the worm. Rather, the biggest bird gets it, even though he may the last one to reach the table.
People living in democratic countries like to think that these things only happen in third world countries or countries run by dictators or crooked governments. But anyone studying the effects of capitalism, lobbying, and big money in our time will soon realize that these things happen to us as well.
Corruption is one of the realities caused by the love of money. If we depend on money for happiness or meaning in life, we will be disappointed—which, I believe, was Solomon’s point in these verses.
Watch for more excerpts from this book in future blogs...
The hardest questions in life cannot be answered by science or philosophy. To discover what makes life worth living, we need to go to the Bible. To discover where we come from, and why, we need to go to the Bible. To discover who God is, what heaven is, what good is, or what evil is, we need to go to the Bible.
Do you wonder, like Job did, why life isn’t fair? And why good people need to suffer? The Bible has the answers. You may read CS Lewis’s book, The Problem of Pain, and it will help you because—and only because—it takes you to God and to the Bible for answers.
Don’t look to the theologians and the philosophers. They are helpful only as they take you to God and His Word. Human reason, philosophy, and logic don’t have answers, only questions. If you want to study apologetics, focus on the ones that show that the Bible’s message is authentic, genuine, and inspired. Once you have established that, you can go to the Bible for the other answers.
The big question you need to settle first is God. Once you experience God, you have a foundation that you can trust. Once you realize that God is real and that the Bible is the expression of God’s Truth, then you have an invincible fortress to protect you from sin and Satan and Agnosticism.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jesus Christ)
This book includes a short summary and introduction of every book in the Bible. It also gives a brief introduction to Bible study methods. If you want to know more about the Bible this might be the book for you.
I’ve tried different ways of tracking my time. But I finally found a good app for it. It’s available for Windows and Android, and maybe more. It shares from device to device using either Google Drive or One Drive clouds. I just installed it on my phone and “bingo” — my data was there.
… over the question of suffering and evil. They ask, “Why would a goodGod allow such badthings?” They assume that this question forces us to accept that either God isn’t good, or He isn’t God.
But it isn’t good for finite people to make rash assumptions about an infinite God. We end up either making fools of ourselves or turning God into an enemy. So, let’s consider this question for a bit.
We live in a broken world. But it is a world that looks forward to better things. Pain, evil and suffering are merely the birth pangs leading to a better world. (See Romans 8:16 – 22)
Romans 8:16 – 23
… uses the concept of suffering to explain what it is like to be a Christian. It also gives us some reasons why suffering is important. Notice the two pictures that Paul gives us here. On the one hand we have suffering Christians. On the other hand we have nature, also suffering.
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Rom 8:16-23 NLT)
Here are some concepts
… from this passage.
If we expect to share in the glory of Christ, we need to accept his suffering. Why should we expect the one without the other?
Any suffering we might face is nothing in comparison with the glory we look forward to. So why should we balk at paying the price?
God had created man and woman perfect. He had also created nature perfect. In this perfection there was no evil, no pain, and no suffering.
Sin changed it all. It broke us, and we died spiritually. God also cursed nature, because broken humans needed a broken home to live in. Now nature is broken too. Broken beings and broken things suffer.
God told Eve that she would be saved by child birth. I’m sure that every time that she conceived a child she looked forward eagerly to her labor pains. Maybe this child would be the savior! Nature too is suffering labor pains. Suffering reminds us of better things coming. It is a very foolish mother who thinks that she can have the joys of child-birth without suffering labor pains.
It is through suffering that we give birth to the glory in store for us. Nature will also be reborn someday and will be part of a new heaven and a new earth—perfect once more. It will the perfect home for a perfect people who have been reborn with perfect bodies and perfect, sin free spirits.
No mother enjoys the pain of delivering a child. But through that pain she receives a “new” son or daughter. It makes her a mother!
My grand daughter was delivered by C-section. She didn’t go through the pains of being born. But the painful experience of birth is necessary for the health of a child. She suffered later because she didn’t suffer those pains. Even so, we wouldn’t become perfect people living in glory without the labor pains we suffer here on earth.
Join the society of the broken
… living in a broken society on a broken earth. But birth pains never last forever. The time is coming, and coming soon, when the pain will burst into GLORY!
Every writer knows that active voice is better than passive voice. The same is true in our spiritual life. Here is a short list of spiritual active voice elements and their passive voice opponents. Let God work in your heart to eliminate your passive defaults.
Darkness is not the opposite of light. Rather, it is the absence of light. God is the source of all light, and He wants to share His light with you. In turn, you should share light with those around you, so that darkness can be driven out of their lives.
"You are the light of the world.... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mat 5:14-16)
Evil is not the opposite of good. Rather, it is the absence of good. Just like light will always overpower darkness, so good will overpower evil. So if you struggle with evil, allow good to fill your life. If you feel as if darkness is taking over your life, flood your life with light!
Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (Rom 12:9)
Hate is not the opposite of love. Rather, it is the absence of love. Like light overpowers darkness and good overpowers evil, so love will always outdo hatred. Allow God to fill your heart with his love and hatred will need to flee.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1Co 13:4-8)
Turmoil is not the opposite of peace. Rather, it is the absence of peace. Like light, good, and love, peace is active and will always overpower turmoil. Let the peace of God fill your heart, and turmoil will go.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:27)
Where God offers good things to us, the devil usually comes up with a counterfeit to sidetrack us. He gives us positive thinking instead of good, and transcendental meditation instead of peace. He promotes toleration to replace love, and social reform to replace goodness.
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” (Mat 24:36-42 NLT)