Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: The Ishbane Conspiracy





The Ishbane Conspiracy
By Angela, Karina, and Randy Alcorn
ISBN: 9781576738177

Cover description:

Sneak a peek over the enemy's shoulder as Lord Foulgrin describes his plan to capture the souls of four young friends. Picture-perfect Jillian is terrified of getting hurt. Tough-talking Brittany trusts nobody. Successful athlete Ian dabbles in the occult. And former gang member Rob struggles with old guilt and new faith. Will they resist temptation?

Here's the deal:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnFX20phQ3j/Any instagrammies (insta... grannies?  What??) reading this will recall I recently made out like a bandit at a library book sale.

Well, one of the things I came away with was The Ishbane Comspiracy by Randy Alcorn.  (Third book down in the far left stack.) When it happened, I was a little short of time, so I saw "Randy Alcorn", grabbed it, and kept right on swimming through the book table like Scrooge MacDuck.

It, in fact, is not only written by Randy Alcorn, but also his two daughters Angela and Karina.  Truth be told, it was probably written entirely by them, only leveraging their father's name to get ahead...  which I don't begrudge them.  It's is nice work if you can get it, right? ;)

Anyway, I didn't realize until I finished it, that this is technically a sequel to another book called Lord Foulgrin's Letters.  You can very well read Ishbane all on its own as I did (it stands alone fairly well), but I believe reading the other first would give some helpful backstory on the Foulgrin vs. Ishbane conflict as well as what happened with Mr Jordan Fletcher, the father.

Yep, the family's name is Fletcher.  Good name. :)

On to the review:


I honestly didn't know what to expect going into this.  It seemed more like a This Present Darkness straight-up spiritual warfare story, but turned out to be more like The Screwtape Letters.

[Aside:  For those who don't know C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters is about a demon writing to his nephew/apprentice about the best ways to beat you up and kill you.]

The first book even brands itself as "a screwtape letters for our day", which, yes and no.  I have to say that a lot of the "our day" stuff was a little dated, even for the 2001 printing date.  But hey, if you write it off as the world the book is set in, you can move right along, no problem.

As to the screwtape letters angle, I liked that they intermingled a narrative story with the letters between the two demons.  Unfortunately, they chose to always include one letter per chapter.  The chapters themselves were short and sweet (if you've read my stuff, you know I like that model).  But mix the two things together, however, and you have a lot of demon banter that is simply there for filler.  As the book progresses you come to dread getting to the end of the action because you know that you'll have to wade through two pages of Hell's politics before getting on with the story!

And to make matters worse, demons, as it turns out, always seem to speak in mixed-metaphors.  Why?  Well that brings me to...

The biggest problem, however, can be seen before you even get to chapter 1.  Just take a look at the acknowledgments page.  Usually, it's a one liner, like, "I want to thank God and Uncle Jessie for always standing by me." ;)  This book lists over a full page of people who all threw in their ten cents!

So what does that mean in a practical sense?  It means that they tried to cram in every possible thought about Christianity as it relates to the modern world.  I mean, to their credit, they get it all right.  Flat out nailing that many culture/worldview issues is no small fete!  But the thing is, doing it all in one book... that's a bit much.

No.  Strike that.  A Kendrick Brothers film covers a bit much.  This is like four Kendrick films smooshed together.

For instance, this book tackles: underage drinking, drinking and driving, drug abuse, new age, tarot, oiji boards (giving us a full chronological history), transcendental meditation, crystals, homosexuality, abortion, wicca, teen sex, school shootings, relativism, metaphysics, suicide, pop music, irreducible complexity, heaven, bullying, harry potter, peer pressure, media bias, college anti-christian prejudice, down syndrome babies, out-of-body experiences, liberal parenting, familiar spirits, and, of course, the meaning of salvation.

And this is just a sampling off the top of my head!

All those things are great topics that need to be discussed.  But pick ONE!  (Maybe two or three at most.)

Of course, this is the reason behind all of the mixed-metaphors that I was complaining about earlier.  It's this continual shifting from one great analogy to another without a clutch that's really grinding my gears. (Now how's that for a metaphor!  No?  Okay, moving on...)

Finally by the time we reach the major climax of the book (I won't spoil it) we have one -- count 'em, ONE -- chapter for the characters to come to grips with what happened.  You know how in my review of Haunted House Flipper I applauded the author for having such a clean, tight ending.  Well, that's doubly to his credit if even the Alcorns have a hard time getting it together.

At this point I want to pause my ranting and call a time-out.   In these reviews I'm always worried that people will read all of my negative comments and go, "Wow, thanks, I sure don't want to read that one, then!"

I mean, some of them are that way, but if that's the take-home, I'll definitely say so.

This book... erm...
Well, read the summary and find out.

Summary:

I would recommend reading the first book if you can.  If not, don't sweat it too much.  Go ahead and grab this one anyway.  It stands well enough on its own.

As far as the book itself:  It's good, but it does cover a lot of ground.  I think if you know that going into it, and you're ready and willing to take that journey, no problem. 

If, on the other hand, you're not feeling up for that and want something with a clear, straightforward theme...  Well, I wouldn't say don't read it.  I'd rather say, keep it on your shelf until the day you are in the mood to chew through it.


Live YOUR adventure!
  -E.L. Fletcher


P.S.

Interestingly, one of the metaphors in chapter 3:
"No I mean it.  I'm not in control.  Neither are you.  We can do what we can do, but let's face it, we don't pull the strings of the universe.  It's like we're on a big ship crossing the ocean and we can do certain things on board, like eat lunch or play shuffleboard or take a nap or read a book.  But we can't make the ship go wherever we want."
I noticed must have come directly from the A.W. Tozer book I recently reviewed! Concerning the sovreignty of God, Tozer says:
On board the [ocean] liner are several scores of passengers.  These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree.  They are completely free to move about as they will.  They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward to a predetermined port.
How's that for good timing?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Review: Haunted House Flipper

ISBN: 978-1983682025

Cover Description:


Ray is a friendless realtor who stumbles on supernatural tools that get rid of demons. He decides to flip haunted mansions by ridding them of demons, renovating them, then selling them for a hefty profit. Discover a new world within our own as Ray learns how to use his supernatural tools, fights demons, makes new friends, & outsmarts new enemies.

Background:

So here's how it happened.  I was just hanging out on the socials, trying to keep up with all that rigamaroll, when a guy on Instagram starts talking about this strange new book he's reading about a "haunted house flipper".  (Much the same as the description above.)  I was intrigued by the concept and started asking more about it.

Turns out the author himself was lurking on the conversation since his name was @ tagged.  He was like "here, lemme send you a copy".  And I'm all like, "Kay."  -- Though the conversation may have been less teenager-y than that, that was the jest of it.

He sent me the ebook, not asking for a review or anything, just, "here you go".

But I liked the story and thought I'd write a review anyway, so here goes...

Review:

First the cons:

As far as the technical craftsmanship, a couple of things fell a little short. 

First off, the cover.  I mean, it works, and it isn't MS Paint by any means, but it does seem a little lacking when compared to many so-called "professional" designs.  Maybe a B- project in Photoshop class.  Especially surprising since the author is not a bad artist, so I assume part of this could be a "personal taste" factor at play here.  Anyway, I had the ebook, so it really wasn't front-and-center to bother me regardless.


The other thing that seemed to fall a little short was in the writing.  Though in many ways very well done, the author's tendency to re-use the same word over and over got a little monotonous.  Again, a passing grade by all means, and like the cover design, your average reader not being so obsessed with the minute details of the craft probably wouldn't notice.

This problem was further compounded by the choice to write in the first person.  Not an easy undertaking, but in doing so, every sentence tends to go I... I... I...  And with the two together we arrive at:  I needed to ride the bus so I went to the bus stop and I waited for the bus.  When the bus came I got on the bus... I, bus, I, bus, I, bus... Sheesh!

All that nitpickery aside, none of this amounts to much of a handicap.  The critical part of any novel is always the story, and this one turned out to be engrossing enough that after a couple of chapters the writing style became irrelevant.  And that's really where it counts, #amiright?

The story, though everything the description promises, wound up having several eyebrow-raising twists and facets to it, which were delightfully clever and unexpected.

For instance, when I heard about the concept of casting out demons and turning a profit from it, I wondered, "Interesting idea, but would that really be ethical?"  The author has a creative, and again, unexpected, way of addressing that.

Not to spoil it, but as a teaser (and probably the defining quote of the book IMO), at one point Ray says:
"I only knew how to serve myself so that's what guided my decision.  I would get rid of that demon all right, but I would do it so I could flip that mansion and make a huge profit from it."
In fact, whenever the plot ran into any questionable situation, the author did a great job of putting it right in terms of a proper Christian worldview -- yet at the same time not painting a false picture of the world as being all saccharine and Kumbaya.  The story doesn't spare the blood and grit of real life, which I truly appreciate.

The characters also really grow on you, and the excitement and peril keep you sucked in and always wanting to know what happens next.

Side note: I don't how to work this into the course of the review.  In fact, I don't even know if this was cleverly intentional, or just a mere coincidence, but I noticed that the first demon battle occurred in chapter 13!  How apropos!

Finally, although the ending in many indie books tends to be either either rushed or left unresolved, this one is orchestrated perfectly.  The plot is all tied up with a neat little bow, yet with just the few unexplored dimensions to make you wonder, "Gee, I wonder what happens next?"

In Summary:

Even though I spilt a little of the proverbial red ink at the beginning of this review, in the end I can honestly say that this is a delightful story which I'd recommend for anyone to read.

That is doubly so if you have friends who are realtors or even full-blown house-flippers.  In which case, you absolutely MUST get them a copy of this book!  They'll love it!

Más Awesomesauce:

(Yeah, I've been hitting the Duolingo Español a little heavy lately.  Cut me some slack.)

I don't usually give props to the author's website itsself, but this one is worth looking at.  It is rich with other audiobooks and short stories, many of them FREE for the downloading.  Check it out:
www.DanDanTheArtMan.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Writer's Power-Tip: How to get away with anything you want!


Okay, so I thought I'd check in here and give my fellow writers one of the most valuable and revolutionary discoveries I've found while learning the craft of fiction writing.

Suppose, say, you are fact-checking your novel and realize, "wait a minute, that can't happen because    X   !"  Whatever X is.

Now, if X happens to be a continuity problem within the story itself, then the real and preferred solution is to go back and rewrite such that everything fits together nicely.  (There is another option which I'll get to later.)

But what if X has to do with a physical real-world fact which you have no control over?  Then what do you do?  Again, you could go back and change the story to fit, and in many cases, should.  But another, and far more interesting option I've found is to instead incorporate the dilemma itself into your story world.

For example, in the book I'm working on, my MacGuffin contains a specific type of gemstone.  (Hence the article image above.)  The only problem is: this mineral is not found in the region that the item is supposed to originate from!  Oops!

Well, I could have done the obvious thing at this point and gone back and changed the type of gemstone (to something nowhere near as cool)  or even changed the setting to somewhere the gem is found.  What I did instead is, as aforementioned, incorporate that "mistake" into my worldbuilding.

There could be a lot of different ways to do that.  One way I could have used is to make the item's real origin (the place where the mineral is found) into a mystery that the characters must uncover along the way.

What I chose in this instance was to make a secret deposit of the valuable mineral in the area.  Not only did this explain away the issue, but it also added an entirely new dimension to the plot, in effect, upping the ante!  Now, not only would victory mean the characters' survival (always an option I hope to pursue in my personal life as well) but also, the reward of untold riches!

"Oh, come on," you protest,  "an amazing undiscovered mineral suddenly popping up in the middle of noplace.  Are people really going to buy that tall tale?"

I suspect so, considering the $202 million bucks that Black Panther brought in on opening weekend.  (You know, that one story about an undiscovered mineral, vibranium, suddenly popping up in the middle of noplace...)

The thing is, writing is not a linear deal.  You can go back any time and re-craft your world in any way that you need to such that the story works out the way you want it.

Finally, before I go, I promised to give another option besides revising to plug continuity problems in a story.

In another example, in the Queen of Atlantis, I wrote myself into a pickle where the team is assembling the gear for their adventure and Michael takes away Jane's camera demanding that it be left behind.  The idea seemed straightforward, but upon writing it down... here he's ready to hop in the van and leave... but now he's got this thing in his hands.  Awkward!

"So, hold on everybody.  Stand there and chew some bubblegum, talk amongst yourselves, while I run this inside."  -- Well that sure doesn't work, does it?

Ah, I have it.  He turns around and hands it to his butler to take care of.  Problem: solved!  ... or is it?  But who is this guy?  Where did he come from?  Now I need to introduce him somewhere else in the story (which is already lagging) and then make sure he's there that morning... give him something to do... ugh!  And all that for very, very little payoff just to have an "extra" standing there at the right moment.

So how did I solve it?  I completely wrote it off!
She reluctantly unslung the padded camera bag and handed it over to him.

Michael, in turn, handed it to a servant who Jane hadn't noticed a moment earlier.  "I'll hang onto it for you.  You can come back here and get it when you return."
In two sentences an unnamed servant materializes out of thin air, performs his one reason for existing, and is gone.  Yup.  A total cheat.  But it works and (unless you read this beforehand) you'd probably never even notice the phantom butler.

I think the lesson I'm learning through all of this is that, so long as you explain it to the reader, whether it's a full-blown plot device as in the first example, or even the almost scandalous, "oh, I never noticed that guy standing there" from the second,  you can basically get away with anything you want!

This is very good news for us authors, and, I hope, another valuable tool that you can keep in your bag of tricks.


Keep writing and,
Live Your Adventure!
    - E.L. Fletcher

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Journal Update: I Melted.

With all the summer heat I've melted away into a puddle.  Bye bye.  All gone.

No, not really.  But I have been very bad at getting the blog updated.  Sorry for that.

As far as life goes, we got the kids a new/used playground.  All assembled and painted, and just in the nick of time, too, for a wind storm came up and smashed the old metal tube one like it was made out of soda straws!

Yeah, we get a lot of wind here.

I also had the wooden recycle center I'd made out on the back deck awaiting minor repairs.  Now it's all down the hillside and needing *major* repairs!

As far as old man news goes, since the snow melted, my back/shoulder has been killing me.  Long story, but, back when I was a wild and crazy kid in Boy Scouts I had a falling railroad tie clobber me there.  At the time I shook it off like, "I'm invincible." but nowadays... not so much.  It could even be coincidence, but I'm thinking there may have been some fracture that's coming back to haunt me now.

My wife and I are arguing whether I should go to see a chiropractor, which, frankly, I consider one step above a witchdoctor on the scale of quackery.  Yet the constant, chronic ache has almost driven me to it.

Who knows?  Maybe I'll be proven wrong, as I have with some other alternative medicines.

What do you call that look?
Johnny Cash meets flamingo??
Also, those who follow me on the socials might have seen that she did talk me into getting some new, higher quality shoes. →

So far they've been helping out my feet immensely.

*sigh* Nobody ever warned me that getting old would be this hard.  Well, at least nobody that an indestructible youth would listen to. ;)

Anyway, enough over-the-hill talk.


Let's talk books!

I have two books out in the hands of alpha readers: Moast Unusual #2 and, what should have been #3 but is probably more like #1.5, because it looks like it may make it first.  No matter.  I'm trying to make the "series" more like a syndicate novel, like a Hardy Boys or Louis L'Amour, such that the reader can start anywhere.  Doing so, it is also helping me out since I can release whichever gets done first.


While waiting impatiently for the readers, I've started another novel (also set in fictional Santa Augusta, California, because, why re-invent the wheel?)

← Again, social media followers may recognize this.  About which I was asking:
Hello all, I need a character name for a story I'm planning.
The protagonist is a working mom in her mid 30's with a life, which, although hectic, is unbelievably dull. She frequently sighs in frustration and asks herself, "Is there life out there?"... until one day she finds out... in a big way!

I want something contemporary-sounding that feels like dull/in a rut. Some thoughts I've had:
Doris
Toni
Terri
Sam
Paige
Ann (without an 'e', if you get the reference ;) )
 
Despite a number of great responses, I'm still leaning towards Doris because I've found it easier  to make fun of her.  (Poor gal.)

I also needed a best friend for her, who I initially named Pat.  But Pat turned out to be more generic than "dull" Doris, so, having already recycled the location, I decided to make Melinda Moast her bestie instead.  It's turning out to be kind of a delightful cross-over, with both lady out having secret adventures that the other knows nothing about.

Currently standing at about 20k words, and most of that action, peril, and double-crosses.  Needless to say, I'm pleased with how it's coming together.

And, hey, I finally gnawed my way through that A.W. Tozer book and posted a review.  Yay!

Now only two more to go.  *sigh*

Who knows? Maybe I'll get a handle on my life and get caught up yet.

"Maybe".

Well that's enough chitchat for now.  Stay cool, and...

Live YOUR adventure!
- E. L. Fletcher

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A.W. Tozer review 1 of 3


Title: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume: The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God's Pursuit of Man
Author: A.W. Tozer
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1861-6
Publisher: Moody Publishers (April 2018)

Cover Description:

Encounter God. Worship more.

What Tozer lacked in formal education, he more than made up for in experiential wisdom.  Tozer was a man who really knew God, and it showed. People came from all over to hear his sermons because they knew they would go home more in awe of God.  That's why millions keep coming back to his writings, but particularly these three books.

Considered to be Tozer's greatest works, Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God's Pursuit of Man are now available in a single volume.  In 3 Spiritual Classics, you will discover a God of breathtaking majesty and world-changing love, and you will find yourself worshipping through every page.  Encounter Tozer and the God worth worshipping today.


Introduction: 

I recently hopped on a book review site to see if they had any new freebies. (Disclaimer: this review is in exchange for a free copy.)  When I came across an A.W. Tozer collection, and I snapped that one right up!

I mean, that's right up there with Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and Ravi Zacharias.  If I come across a book with their name on it... I grab it!

The first thing that surprised me was the manner in which it arrived.  I opened the mailbox, pulled out a hand-addressed bubble envelope with an obvious book shape inside it.  Since I'm also on paperback swap, I figured that some person was sending me a book from my wish list. 

I mean, I've done reviews for other publishers such as Tyndale and Bethany House, and they came just as you'd expect:  professional business packaging with corporate logo.  But this one (from Moody press) was all hand-written.  It just felt... good.

The personable feel was only enhanced by the fact that the sender had amazing penmanship.  And that's a rare quality these days!  I feel like whomever it was deserves a raise based on their handwriting skills alone.

Anyway, none of that's relevant to the review.

Since this volume contains three books, I'll review each individually as separate blog posts.


Book 1: The Knowledge of the Holy

(cover from another edition)

Jumping into this book is a lot like running full-tilt into the ocean.  The wave hits you like a wall, and you realize that stuff just got real!

He doesn't pull any punches, or ease you into his level.  Immediately from page one Tozer starts lobbing grenades like:  No culture can rise above its religion, and no religion can rise above its concept of God.

Bwam!

It took a long time to wade through it all.

Transcendent

First, and foundational to all that comes next, Tozer pauses to reflect on the fact that God is transcendent (something high above us and far beyond our understanding), and therefore our feeble attempts to define Him, fail at best, and quickly descend into sheer idolatry from there. 

This kind of rubs me the wrong way as a man with a science degree and decades in the field.  Even without all that I think we all feel this way in an age where human intellect is regarded as supreme.

Yet, logic itself shows how ridiculously untrue that is.  The human brain is under 4 pounds, most of that being plain old water, rather than logic.  And yet we consider it somehow "logical" to prefer that minuscule amount of thought power as more reliable than faith in the Omniscient One!?? [see Omnicient, below.]

The point is, how can we even have a book called "The Knowledge of the Holy", when God is beyond knowing?  Good question.  The answer that the book proposes is, while we can't comprehend the whole of God, we can understand certain things about Him by His revealed attributes.  That's what the remainder of the book is about.

But why even try?  Besides the quote at the beginning, Tozer also explains, "Because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that ALL of our problems and ALL of their solutions are theological in nature." [p55]

I'll now proceed to lay down an overview of what stood out to me, in no particular order.

One interesting overarching theme is how he quotes Nichoas of Cusa, saying, "All theology is said to be established in a circle, because any one of His attributes is affirmed by another." [p136]   This in itsself is an interesting study so I'll keep that in mind  for each topic as well.

Infinite and Eternal

Upon reading Tozer's book, these two terms strike me being the same thing (though he separates them).  As physics sometimes refers to time as the "fourth dimension", then what is "eternal" besides being infinite along the time axis?

"To Him magnitude and distance have no meaning.  To us they are useful [only] as analogies and illustrations." [p121]

The way I look at it is this.  Many people picture God like one of these:


When, as I ascertain from the book, we should be thinking more along these lines:
 * "Please excuse the crudity of this model.  I didn't have time to build it to scale or paint it."
-- Doc Brown

An interesting side-effect of this is that speaking of any thing created in infinite terms "always","best","most" is always a gross exaggeration.

Omniscient

God is omniscient because:
  • He is outside of time "knowing the end from the beginning" [Isaiah 46:10].  (Note from the illustrations that "outside of" means "beyond the bounds of", not "separated from")
  • He is infinite - as Bill Murry says in the movie Groundhogs Day, "Maybe God isn't [omniscient]. Maybe he's just been around so long, he knows everything."  Well, knowing everything actually is the definition of omniscient, but that aside, the two things definitely go together.
  • He is creator - that is, He knows how it works because He built it!

And it also means:
  • When you argue with God, you're always wrong.
  • He is never surprised
  • You can hide nothing from Him 

 

Creator

Tozer states that, "The world is spiritual:  it originated in spirit, flows out of spirit, is spiritual in essence, and is meaningless apart from the Spirit that inhabits it." [p131]

If God is the Creator, then he is also:
  • All powerful - because power within everything that exists is derived from His power.
  • Almighty - because there is more to Him than there is to everything else, combined!
  • Omniscient - he knows what everything is, because He created it Himself.

 

Unchanging

God is unchanging because, among other things:
  • He is outside of time so there can be no progression.
  • He is infinite and is already perfect, therefore...
  • He is perfect and need not change.  What, for example, would He change into when He is already maxed out at 100% and can never be anything less?
  • He is all-powerful and cannot increase... because He (to be redundant) already has all power.

We use terms like "exalting", "magnifying", or "glorifying" God, but we cannot literally do any of these things because he is already, and has always been, the the maximum of all these things.  What we do is restore (as best as possible) the proper level of exaltation, immensity, and glory in our own minds.

"One who can suffer any slightest degree of change is neither self-existent, self-sufficient, nor eternal, and [therefore] is not God." [pp90-91]

"To be made for eternity and forced to dwell in time is for mankind a tragedy of huge proportions.  All within us cries for life and permanence, and everything around us reminds us of mortality and change." [p76]

Self-Existent

God is complete in and of Himself, therefore:
    1) He didn't need to create you
    2) He doesn't need you now, his completeness and His work in the world carry on with or without your help
    3) If you reject Him, only one of you is injured by that action


Omnipotent / All-Powerful

Regardless of your beliefs, there must be some un-caused root cause to creation. And whatever this is, it must be powerful enough for all subsequent events to be derived from (aka all-powerful).

"Man, for all his genius is but an echo of The Original Voice"

We are made in the image of God.  This means that all of our attributes are a reflection, a hint, a mere Costco taste-test, of the real thing.  Therefore the person who says "you believe in God, but I believe in logic" couldn't be more wrong.  More accurately put, "you believe in the embodiment of all logic, but I believe in the mere subset of it".  Doesn't sound so great that way, now does it?


Problems pop up like whack-a-moles when we, who are a mere sampling of what God is, try and take over His throne.

Proving, over and over, we can't manage to run our own life, let alone our world.



If God is all-powerful and you find yourself underpowered to face your situation, well... I leave you do the math on that one.

Something more to think about, from basic science, we know that all things require something outside of themselves to exist (air, food, water, ...).  What does this aspect of natural revelation represent?  (In terms of our relationship to God?)

Anyway, God's infinite nature absolutely defines Him as also unique [see Triune, below].  "There cannot be two unlimited substances in the universe." observes Tozer.  That is, all power residing in one god would be power that the other god does not posses.

Maybe that's why God is so strict on the subject, starting out the 10 Commandments with, "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)  Anything else is an affront to His very existence!

Furthermore, Tozer points out that since God is all-powerful, He does not and cannot give His power away, lest He become less than He eternally is.  Any scant power we have, or even contained within the entire universe, is not surrendered power, but delegated power.

A note on "the fear of the Lord":

I need to unpack this more sometime, but, personal righteousness is directly proportional to the fear you have of the Lord!

Q.  If "perfect love casts out all fear" and "God is love", then how do we fear God?
A. "T'was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." -- Amazing Grace, by John Newton

Omnipresent

Omnipresence means that, "God is at once far off, and near."  It sounds strange and even self-contradictory, but it is both true (e.g. Psalm 139:7-12) and important to get the proper picture.

Tozer quotes Novalian, saying, "Could we conceive of His greatness then He would be less than the human mind which could form the conception." [p82]  This is so true of many of His attributes, and being all places at all times is one of them.

If this is difficult to grasp, I refer you back to the diagram earlier.  The realm of God's authority overlaps and envelops every place and every thing.

Faithful and True

Jesus' very name given in Revelation19:11 is "Faithful and True".

God is Faithful to His promises because:
  • He is unchanging (never changes His mind)
  • All-knowing so there is never any reason to change it
  • And all-powerful so no possible circumstance can derail His plans

Both Goodness and Justice

Goodness:
  • He is creator, and therefore the definer of the meaning of "good"
    "He does not conform to a standard.  He is that standard." [p181]
  • This ingrained, universal, unwritten definition is the only way that we can even discuss "good" and "evil". 
  • Justice - because He is good, He cannot allow evil to run rampant and unpunished.
Justice:
  • Because He is righteous and good, He is also impartial and non-hypocritical.
  • Because Hi is unchanging, He is faithful to His promise of retribution. [Romans 12:19]
  • Because  He is sovereign, He alone has the authority to be ultimate judge.
  • Because He is omniscient, He has all the facts -- there is never a mistrial or misunderstanding.
God is both the Lawgiver and Grace-Winner, which seems contradictory, but as you can see above, like His other attributes, each of these is necessary to the other.  Even the Law is not the opposite of Grace, but a manifestation of it.

This "Grace" thing is the only answer to what happens when Justice, Mercy, and sin collide.

One last note concerning the law:

"In the moral conflict now raging around us whoever is on God's side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win.  Here there is no chance, no gamble." [p192]

I find this is particularly annoying when I wind up in a disagreement with God.  You try to argue your point and justify it in your own mind, but deep down there's always that nagging kernel of truth, warning you that, regardless of how solid your case, you are, by definition, going to be wrong.

Love

"God is love" is the rally cry of the marginal Christian.  It is true, of course, but when ripped out of context and taken as a feel-good replacement for the entirety of all that God is, it makes for a mighty poor substitute.  Tozer spends a lot of words correcting this poor thinking.

"The words 'God is love' mean that love is an essential attribute of God.  Love is something true of God but it is not God.  It expresses the way God is in His unitary truth.  Because God is immutable He always acts like Himself, and because He is unity, He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another." [p169]

Furthermore...  "If love is equal to God then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical.  Thus, we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all [of] His attributes save one, and that one we substitute for [all] of God." [p168]

Love:
  • Casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)  Atheists, if they dare to think about their plight, get to live in nothing but fear, for how much love is present in their creator, the Big Bang?
  • Implies sacrifice (agape) love.
  • Implies blessings (see Matthew 7:9-11) and compassion.  (Both in the receiving from God and in passing along to others whom He loves.)
  • Implies pleasure.  God is pleased.  Ever think about that?  "Hell is a place of no pleasure because there is no love there." [p175]
  • Implies that whatever would harm that which you love (in God's case, called "sin") is a hated enemy. "God's wrath is His utter intolerance of what degrades and destroys.  He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that takes the life of her child." [p182]

Love leads to BOTH justice AND mercy and it stems from:
  • God's Goodness 
  • God, being creator, loves that which He made.  In fact over everything He makes in Genesis 1, God declares, "It is good"

 

Sovereign

Sovereignty means that God answers to no one. 

This is related to His other attributes because:
  • All-knowing - If there were any wisdom beyond Him, then that is wisdom which He could not exercise.  He might make the wrong decision, in which case another knows better.
  • Creator - for anything that God does not own is outside of His jurisdiction. 
  • All-Powerful - in that He not only gives the orders, but has the authority to back it up. 

Triune

Tozer describes the Trinity ("Tri"=3  + "Unity"=1) as many others have done, but I found it interesting how he notes the interchangeability of roles.  I'm sure there are others, but a quick list: [p48-49]
To this I would add off the top of my head:
  • Final Judgement - 2 Timothy 4:1, John 5:22, John 8:50
  • Jesus called "everlasting father" -  Isaiah 9:6
  • In fact,  who is "The Lord", anyway?  Too many references to count since it seems to change depending on what the situation calls for.

None of this is incorrect or even unexpected, since some level I think we already realize it.  Even though the textbook form of prayer is: by the Spirit, to the Father, in the name of the Son, we still find it perfectly valid to say:
  • "Holy Spirit, rain down."
  • "Come quickly, Lord."
  • or even to cry "Help me, Jesus!"
Therein lies the discrepancy.  If we go off  of what "makes sense" then the three-in-one thing is gone right out the window, but if we instead choose to rely upon what God clearly and repeatedly says, however...

But is abandoning our logic, logical?  Well, actually, yes!  Clinging to our comparatively feeble understanding is what doesn't make sense.

"It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God's self-revelation such features as he, in his ignorance, deems objectionable." [p138]  This is very appropriate when trying to wrap your mind around concepts beyond human comprehension such un-createdness, self-existence, or the Trinity.


Summary:

To sum it all up, I wasn't disappointed, only overwhelmed.  All this and more from the book more than lived up to my expectations!  I'd recommend this to anybody.

I hope my little book report provided some food for thought.  Or, if my yammering lost you, why not read the book for yourself!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Juggernaught: Chapter 40 - World's Worst Chaperone


The the following is the next exciting next chapter of the ongoing eBook:
Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study.  If you just tuned in, start reading here!




The three teens ran down the main street of town banging on doors and shouting for people to get out.

It didn't take long before they had quite a confused crowd gathering in the road, including two or three local police officers.

Spying them, Wendell said aside to his friends, "What country do you think we're in, anyway?  Bulgaria?  Any of you guys speak Bulgarian?"

"If not, we're close enough they probably understand it." added Jack.

"I got a little."  said Misty and then turned to the crowd.

"Ima golyam--" she started strongly, then hesitated.

"Doesn't sound like you've got any."  said Wendell.

She spun on him.  Her finger shot out in the direction of the coming threat.  "I don't even know what to call that thing in English!"

"Okay, okay." he backed off.

"Ima golyam..." She tried again.  People hung on every word. "chudovishte!"  (a monster).

At that, everyone panicked and began to flee, crying.  "Toi se e vurnal!  En se e vurnal!"

" 'En'?" Misty said aloud, surprised to hear the idol's name and not knowing enough of the other words to decipher what it might mean.

A woman and her pretty young daughter rushed past with old, worn, hard-shell suitcases bumping along behind.  "Wait!" cried the younger one.  She was about the same age as the Americans, perhaps only a year or two younger, and spoke English very well.

She looked up at Jack in awe.  "Are you the one whose coming the prophecy foretold?"

Jack tried to speak, but Wendell stepped in front of him.  "Why, yes", he said with a sly voice, "Yes I am."

There was a long silence.

"Wait.  This is a good prophecy, right?" he asked the older woman.

He only got a confused look in return.

"Because, the um, 'good' prophecy:  That one's me!

"Not the other kind.

"Help me out here, Ma'am, does this involve locusts... in any way?"

Jack shoved him away.  "Pay no attention to him.  We're just visitors, but we've got a plan!"

"Do we?" said Misty out of the side of her mouth so she wouldn't be noticed.

"Kinda." Jack mumbled back.

Just at that moment their conversation was brought to a screeching halt by an explosion and a geyser of dirt.

"Woa!"  shouted Jack.

"They're heee're." observed Misty.

"To... the dump truck!"  Wendell shouted with much more zeal than the statement normally deserved.  It even caused him to hesitate a moment, but then he shook his head and ran off behind the others.




Just as they rounded a stand of aspens, a sudden crack and shower of splinters brought Jack up short.  The other two ran into him from behind.

They all dove for cover, mostly in the direction that the fall was already taking them.

The heavy-set sniper stepped out from her concealment behind a boulder, nestling a high-caliber hunting rifle in her chubby arms.

"Surin' I'm sorry about that Jack.  Ye, kinda startled me there."

"M-McCready?" he stumbled to nobody.  Then, once he'd heard the name and judged it to be true, he said to the others, "Hey team!  It's Ms McCready!"

The teens untangled themselves and made their way back to their feet, spitting and dusting off detritus and pine needles as they went.  Misty had a stinging new abrasion on her elbows, but other than that they were mostly unharmed from nearly having their heads blown off by friendly fire.

Wendell glanced nervously in the direction of the dump truck and the mobile battle fortress that was drawing ever closer.

"What are you doing here, anyway?"  Jack asked.

Ms McCready shifted her weight and said, "Ah, there's some bad shenanigans goin' on in this part o' the world and Michael and them sent me t' keep an eye on you guys.  Make sure you didn't do anythin' stupid or whatnot."

Wendell snapped his fingers and pointed.  "Hate to cut you off here Miz M, but me and the guys need to cheese it so we can chase down a gigantic armored war machine with a stolen dump truck."

The three started to run off, but she held her hand out, blocking their way.  "Woa, woa, woa woa!"

"What?  You mean you're going to stop us over that?"

A mischevious smile spread across her face.  "Course not, but m' Jeep's faster.  Plus I brought extra weapons."

The bounding off-road drive to the dumptruck gave the team time to gear up on firearms and explosives, as well as to reflect on the deeper issue: whether making Ms McCready a chaperone was such a good idea on Michael's part.

NEXT CHAPTER ... COMING SOON!


The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Juggernaught: Chapter 39 - When Titans Collide


The the following is the next exciting next chapter of the ongoing eBook:
Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study.  If you just tuned in, start reading here!



Upon returning to the scene of yesterday's fiasco, the adventurers stood in awe of the monstrosity of death looming before them.

Each became literally dumbstruck in the light of the impossible immensity of their foe.

Wendell was the only one with the power of speech.  (Which certainly didn't help matters.)

"Don't worry compadres, it's always darkest just before the dawn."

Tension slightly eased from Lola and Irmingard's shoulders.

"When you hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up."  he added, and then, "Keep calm and carry --"

"WENDELL!"  snapped Misty.

Jack placed a restraining hand on her to halt the imminent pummeling, "Yeah, bro, we'll need more than mixed-metaphors to get out of this one.  Start thinking."

He scratched his chin for a moment and then snapped his fingers.  "Of course!  That mining operation we passed.  They must have dynamite or something."

An allowing expression came across Misty's face.  "Say, that's not half bad.  You know, that's the first non-insane thing you've said all morning."

A crazed grin spread across his face.  "Wait till you see me with dynamite!"

"Oh, please no."



A few minutes later they lie at the cusp of a ridge, with Jack inspecting the mining operation far below through a pair of binoculars.

"What do you think?" asked Misty.

"I don't see anybody around."  He swept the scene once more to be sure as he said it.  "Looks totally abandoned to me."

Misty nodded.  "I guess that's not too surprising.  Most of the workers probably lived in that wrecked village."

"Anything that looks like explosives storage?" asked Lola, then surmised, "I think it would be far away from everything, with big red signs all over it."

"No..." he said, trailing off.  "Nothing like that.  Here.  You look."

He passed Wendell the binoculars.  And for good measure he tossed the strap around his neck, Wendell being, after all... Wendell.

Misty admitted, "I don't know much about mining, but maybe with the way they're going about it they don't need to blast?"

"I knew that."  said Wendell.

"You did not!" she snapped back.

Lola interrupted the ongoing bickering, "Come on guys.  There has to be something down there you can use."

"Nothing interesting down there but one little dumptruck." said Wendell.

"What kind?"

"I dunno.  It says model '6ENA3'."

Lola added, "That's in Russian, dear.  'Belaz', is the name of the manufacturer."

He looked up.  "Oh.  Try '75710', then."

"No!"  Jack grabbed the binoculars back away from him.

Wendell lay half-strangled by the strap, continually kicking and slapping his arm.

"It is!  That 'little dumptruck' of yours is one of the biggest machines ever made!"  He handed the binoculars back to Wendell, much to the other boy's relief.

"Not fast though."  said Irmingard, "That beast will only go about 60 kilometers an hour."

Jack looked at her.

"Oh yeah.  Yanks.  Say... a little under 40 miles per hour.  (And that, on a good day.)"

"Wendell.  Map."  Jack snapped his fingers.

Without taking his eyes off the scene below, Wendell brought a folded map out of his back pocket and passed it over. 

Lola unfolded the map on the ground.  It wasn't ideal.  It had come from the glove box of the army truck and wasn't written in English.

"K.  So, we're here."  Jack gestured with a stick.  "And the ruined town is over here." he made a circle in a general area.

"That must mean they're going that way."  Misty pointed, then scratched her chin.

A chill ran up Jack's spine.  "Towards former Yougoslavia."

"Ooh.  That's not good." said Irmingard.

"What?  Why?"  asked Wendell.

"Kosovo... Serbia... Montenegro... those guys all hate eachother!"  He clapped Wendell on the shoulder.  "Hence the word, 'former'.  There's a reason the country broke up, dude."

"They mean to start a war."  said Misty in awe.

Lola caught her sister's eye and they both nodded.

Jack pointed.  "And look here.  There's another town right in their path."

"We've got to get ahead of the war machine and warn 'em!"  declared Misty, and they all knew it was so.

"Okay, you Brits go 'borrow' that dump truck.  The rest of us will take the troop transport into town and evacuate the place.  We'll meet up just outside of the town.  I don't know if we can make a dent, but we can at least give those cannons something else to shoot at.  -- Hopefully give people a chance to escape."

"Sounds good."  said Lola.

"Yeah." said Wendell.  "All but that last part.  You know, the bit about them shooting at us..."

His objection fell on deaf ears as they all broke huddle and moved off to intercept the mighty Juggernaught.  -- A desperate course of action which, to all observers, could very well spell their doom!


The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Juggernaught: Chapter 38 - Airplane


The the following is the next exciting next chapter of the ongoing eBook:
Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study.  If you just tuned in, start reading here!





Another woman struck up a conversation with Niñera.

Despite grandmother's rural, careworn appearance and the woman's clean and modern outfit, she was either bored enough or intrigued enough by her appearance to break the silence.

"I'm visiting my kids." she offered.  "They live with their father in Los Angeles, and I don't get to see them much.  How about you?"

"I am searching for a man.  I have a message God told me to give him.  Have you ever had a prophetic vision from God?"

"Um.  God and I aren't exactly on speaking terms."

Niñera was confused.  "Why ever not?"

"Just... I don't know... He really doesn't approve of the way I live my life."

"Sin?"

The woman scowled.  She objected to the word on a deep level.  To have some old lady just throw it up like that came across as supremely offensive.  Yet...

The other didn't seem to be judgmental or anything like that.  In fact, her face seemed just as soft and kind as before.

She shrugged.  "Yeah.  I guess you could say that."

"Then I will pray that He would draw you close by His great mercy and then give you the power to overcome this stronghold Satan has over your life."

The woman's mouth opened and closed several times as if she was trying to say something but couldn't decide on what that should be.  "Thank you." she finally said.

Niñera smiled and nodded.

At that moment the intercom came to life.  "Hello, this is your captain speaking.  I regret to inform you, we are experiencing mechanical problems and your flight will experience a lay-over."

Antonio didn't understand the word, but gleaned that it must be a bad thing by that fact that everybody aboard groaned in unison.

'Lay-over'? he thought, What would be so bad to lay-over?

He determined that whatever people were being asked to lay over it must be something very uncomfortable. He also decided that, unlike the other passengers, he was glad he'd remembered to bring his bed roll.




The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

Also, don't forget to subscribe to the email list so you never miss a thing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Juggernaught: Chapter 37 - Another Way


The the following is the next exciting next chapter of the ongoing eBook:
Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study.  If you just tuned in, start reading here!





The team used the cover of the setting sun to slowly fade back into the woods.

It was a long and meloncholy walk to get to a safe distance from the encounter.  This, being made all the longer because this time Wendell insisted on better precautions for their camping arrangements. 

"If Misty is right and they have choppers, then the last thing we want is for them to spot us from the air!"

It took some extra time to find, but they soon discovered a narrow little valley which provided excellent cover for the light of their campfire.  Within it lie a small open patch with a pair of fallen logs that would make great seats.

The group began building a traditional fire ring, but Misty stopped them.  "You know..." she said hesitantly, "If you really want to go undetected, we should dig a Dakota fire hole."

Most of the group seemed bewildered by the phrase, but Jack nodded.  "I think I remember that.  The Dakota Sioux were masters of woodcraft and stealth.  They used to build a their fire in a deep pit, fed by an outside air tunnel."

He continued, "If I remember right, the ground insulates the fire and the fresh air feeds it so it burns hotter, causing almost no visible smoke to rise."

Wendell fell to his knees and began clawing at the ground.  "Neat idea!  Irm?  You want to help me out?"

She smiled but gave an apprehensive glance at Lola, who answered for her, saying, "No thank you.  We'll go gather some firewood.  That'll be hard enough on the manicure."

The two faded back into the forest as Misty dropped down next to Wendell and started digging.  " 'That'll be hard enough on the manicure.' "  she mocked in a high-pitched, nasally voice.  "Sheesh.  Sometimes I don't quite know about those two."




The girls wandered deep into the forest gathering logs.

When they were far enough from the campsite, Irmingard piped up.  "Okay, sis, what's the deal?"

"I'm worried.  We've played this cat-and-mouse game long enough.  Time that kitty be fed and be done with it."

"Nah.  You worry too much.  You saw what happened out there today.  These kids got nothing on Seebeck.  Why, they don't even know that Howell's alive, let alone that he's a Grand Master in the Cult of En."

"You think they suspect us?"

She gave the same winsome smile that, had the boys as putty in their hands.  "Not a chance, girl.  Not a chance."



By the time they returned to camp, the fire was already lit.  Meanwhile, night had descended in earnest and the beaten warriors were all too happy to have a respite from the day's efforts.

"Well, that was a complete waste of time."  Misty pointed out.

"Yes.  Completely, complete."  Agreed Wendell.  He tried to laugh, but winced.  A bullet had hit his shoulder with a glancing blow.  Though the bleeding was nothing worth worrying about, the wound was still starting to bother him. 

How do people in the movies do it?  he asked himself,  Stallone or somebody could be shot a dozen times and keep fighting.  Me?  I'm all done.

Irmingard eased his pride a little when she pointed out, "Well, we did go up against an invincible killing machine with nothing but hand weapons."

"And no plan."  added Jack bitterly.  The group was looking to him for leadership, but, "It was all my fault.  Sorry I let you down."

Lola placed a hand on his back, but he pushed it away.

She persisted.  "Nobody is blaming you!"

"Yeah.  Nobody's blaming."  said Wendell, slowly standing.  He nodded for the woods and excused himself, muttering something about a dry tree.

"I was trained for this sort of thing.  I should have known better." Jack replied to the group, "So yeah, I think I am the one to blame."

"Well, you're wrong then."  She gave him a playful shove.  Perhaps a little too playful.  He went over backwards off the log he was sitting on and smashed against the ground.  Golden stars sparkled in his vision.

The fall did not improve his melancholy mood.  "Figures."  he said, looking up at the first stars appearing through the treetops.

She smiled and patted him on the shin.  (The only part of him still within reach.) 

Then she noticed her sister stood with folded arms on the far side of the circle, lost deep in thought.  It could only mean one thing.  Her smile faded.

"What is it Irm'?" she barely dared ask.

"The plan failed.  Our enemies are still on the loose.  It's time to return back to Seebeck tower."  She stared across the circle at her sister, flickering fire illuminated her face from below, giving it an evil visage.

"No!" Lola mouthed silently, but the other girl's gaze was hot as the flames themselves.

She was right.  It was time.  Lola grew even sadder.

"Okay, so... why would we want to go back there?"  asked a confused Misty.

Lola did a double take at the new question.  "Oh, to use the phone and notify the authorities."  She came up with the lie and gave it without missing a beat.  She was proud of that.

They heard the snap of a twig off to the left.

"Uh oh." said Lola.  "There goes that plan."  Her meaning, totally different to the various listeners.

Jack pulled her and Misty to the ground next to him.  "Quiet!  We're surrounded!" he whispered emphatically. 

They all looked around.  The echoes of the rocky valley made it difficult to determine from which direction the sounds were coming from.

Suddenly, a thud and a crash were heard in the undergrowth.  Then a deafening volley of gunfire shattered the still night.

Jack and the girls peeped cautiously up over the log to see what had happened.  Across the way, Lola did the same.

A chilling thought struck Misty.  It flew out of her mouth at once.  "Wait a minute!  Where's Wendell!??"

"Over here."  said a grunting voice.

They turned to see him painfully dragging something in each hand.  In his right he was dragging a sub-machinegun by its strap, difficult because of the wound.  In his left was a human wrist, difficult because of the weight of the body dragging behind it.

The team all ran to his side.

"What happened?"  asked Misty.

"Well, I was out takin' a..."  He caught sight of the attractive young ladies and tweaked his story,  "I was out patrolling our perimeter, when I spotted a couple of Seebeck's goons sneaking up on us."

Irmingard smiled, compelling him to continue.  "Clubbed this guy, and let me tell you how bad that hurts when you're wounded."

He was finally getting some sympathy now and he liked it.  "Plus, let me tell you, firing one of these things,"  he tossed the gun in the dirt at his friends' feet, "with a bum shoulder is no picnic either."

Despite all the pain he claimed, Wendell did not immediately sit down, but started to rifle through the man's clothing.

Lola shot Irmingard a worried look. 

The latter rushed to his side and started fawning over him,  "You must be exhausted.  Come sit down by me and let my sister do that."

Wendell allowed himself to be led away, but also said, "Don't worry.  I already found what we needed."  He held up a satellite phone.

Lola bit her lip.

"Hey!  Way to go, Wendell!"  declared Misty cheerily.  "Now we won't have to go back to Seebeck tower after all!"

Lola's shoulders slumped.  So much for that plan.

There was nothing for it, though.  They'd go after the Juggernaught again.  She knew that much.  And if they started making headway against Seebeck's plans, well...

Either way, the real battle was about to begin!



The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

Also, don't forget to subscribe to the email list so you never miss a thing!