Thursday, February 23, 2017

Prayer is the ultimate act of REBELLION!

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" 'Prayer is the ultimate act of rebellion'?  Really?"  That's what you are thinking, isn't it?  I know it is, not because of my amazing Professor Xavier mind-reading skills, but because that's exactly what I was thinking when I heard it.

Back up a little, the article I ran across was "Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo" by Professor David Wells.  (Christianity Today, Vol 17, issue 6, Nov 2, 1979)

Rebels, man, REBELS!  Interesting tidbit, some of most famous TV rebels of all time, the Dukes of Hazzard, would premiere only two months later.

Dem Duke boys: that I have no problem seeing as rebels (after all, they were "in trouble with the law since the day they were born"), but... praying?  Okay Dr Wells, you're going to have to help us out with that one.
"What then is the nature of petetionary prayer?  In essence, it is rebellion -- rebellion against the status quo, the state of the world, and in its sin and fallenness.  It is the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is completely abnormal.  It is the rejection of every agenda, every scheme, every opinion, that clashes with the norms that God originally established."
Back in the 1980's the band Petra sang "Get on your knees, and fight like a man!".  The more I think about Dr Wells' words, the more this strange, quixotic saying holds true.

He goes on to point out that this is not the case of all religions.  Far from it.  Most worldviews accept things the way that they are, rather than even suggesting that they could be any different (let alone crying for them to be changed).

Consider the Chinese yin-yang philosophy.  Like the swirling symbol suggests, light and dark / good and evil are forever part of the picture -- forever in balance.  Only Christianity has the audacity to say that even death and Hell itself will one day be destroyed! (Revelation 20:14)  There is nothing natural about evil.  Evil is an enemy that can be, has been (in part), and will one day be (fully) conquered.

So knowing all this, what then has changed?  What practical difference does it make?

A lot, I think!  Before we had an image of prayer as some cutesie Precious Moments figurine with folded hands.  Even the famous Arnold Friberg painting of George Washington kneeling at Valley Forge has an ethereal sereneness to it.

But now we have a different (and I daresay, more accurate) picture.  Now Washington isn't enjoying the peace and stillness of a crisp January morn, but is instead fighting furiously on the field of battle!

When we pray we aren't peacefully succumbing to what the world has to offer, but actively defying it!  We're declaring "This thing is NOT right and we actively oppose it."  More than that, "Using our new authority as sons and daughters of the King, we are calling out all the forces of Heaven to fight against it as well."

That's important, so I'll go ahead and unpack it one more level.  Prayer immediately taps us into exponentially more power than we could ever have on our own.  James 5:13-18 makes some pretty intense statements about that, but none so bold as Jesus himself, when He said, "truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."  (Matthew 17:20)  Full disclosure: I'm not there yet.  Not even close!  (But we'll work on it, yeah?)

So how else can I end a post like this, but to admonish us all to take a bold stand against the pain and injustice of this world by laying it before the court of Heaven.  No more pushing prayer off into a corner as a last resort, or relegating it to the "if I think about it" portion of our day.  It has to be a top priority.

Let's fight back against the darkness.

Grab you're switchblade, Jimmy, and crank up the Harley, cuz the Devil's gang is in town and we're ready to rumble!

--E.L. Fletcher

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Juggernaught: Chapter 15 - Gran Prix, Bosnia

In the confusion that washed over the dig site, the teens all scattered.

Wendell, Jack, and Misty made for the archeologist's Jeep.  The all piled in, and Jack cranked the waiting key.

"Buckle up!"  he cried.

"There are no buckles." observed Wendell.

"Then hang on!" Jack shouted back as he slammed the gas pedal down.

Despite the advice, Wendell wasn't hanging on, and found himself thrown down into the ridiculously tiny back seat.

As Jack made his way through successively higher gears, Misty could have sworn she heard a buzz noise.  Michael had repeatedly told the kids to listen closely to their senses, but they were still no good at it. 

The noise grew louder until it was too loud to be ignored.  Misty finally turned to her side to see Howell zipping along on one of the mo-peds from the security shack.

Steering with one hand and gesturing with the other, he gave her the universal  "pull over" gesture.

She shook her head, "no".

A quick glance to the opposite side showed Lola and Irmgard a little behind but closing fast.

Pinning a wind-blown hair back, Misty called over to Jack, "We got company!"

He nodded and jammed the fifth and final, gear into place.

Their British counterparts may have been right about leaving the situation well enough alone, but any lingering doubt was replaced with the thrill of the hunt when they saw the back end of the thieves' truck drawing closer.

Actually, it was drawing closer, fast!  Jack realized all too late that the thieves hadn't counted on persuit and were going only a fraction as fast as the speeding Jeep.

He almost stopped in time.


In the back of the truck sat three para-military dudes in baggy camo, but none were facing the Jeep so they never knew what sent them flying.  It would take several seconds for them to get their limbs and guns sorted out enough to pose a threat.

Jack looked over to ask Misty what their next move might be, but she was already out on the hood, arms extended for balance, and riding it like a surfer catching a wave.

She gestured for him to get closer, which he did (more slowly this time).

Misty was into the truck bed in a flash, but it took a lot longer to get back being such a small person encumbered by such a heavy stone idol.

Wendell stepped into the front seat and leaned far out over the windshield to help her with it.

A bang was heard and the Jeep balked.

Misty fell, and the last thing Jack remembered seeing was the hideous stone face of En coming through the windshield right at him.

Misty kept tumbling, slipped up and over the windshield like a wet fish, and was barely  snagged by the ankle by Wendell in the midst of taking flight.

He fell back, bumped the (now unconscious) Jack's arm, which, in turn, jerked the wheel.

The Jeep turned, knifed, and flipped, throwing the Bible Study in all directions like popping corn kernels.

Wendell remembered landing, palms-first, in a loose patch of gravel, pain raking his forearms and flinging a spray of rocks into his vision before all went black.

Wendell groaned.

"Pain" was the first part of his brain to come back online, but "fear" was a close second.

Roll-over accidents, he knew, could be very dangerous.  Rich Mullins, one of the greatest Christian musicians of the century, had died in a similar accident.

"Misty!??  Jack!??" he called out, mustering every bit of strength to pull himself onto all fours.

He heard a pair of footsteps behind and was immediately relieved.  He looked back under his quivering arm.  (Because dropping his head was easier on his aching neck than raising it.)

Army boots.

"Oh.", he said in disappointment, just as a savage kick to the ribs knocked him back into unconsciousness.

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!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Juggernaught: Chapter 14 - Stolen Artifact

They were supposed to tour an archeological dig.  That was the plan.

Misty could see that Howell's eyes seemed to grow far off as they pulled into the dirt parking lot of the dig site.  In fact, they had grown more and more so during each passing mile this morning, almost as if the ghosts of the past were calling to him.

The bus pulled up next to a shack marked security, in several languages with line of half a dozen mo-peds out front.  What kind of security a rent-a-cop on a mo-ped could provide was up for grabs.

"Archeology.  Must be pretty boring, huh?", she probed, trying to bust Howell out of his shell.

He turned and gave a curt smile.  "On the contrary.  Nothing could excite me more."

She couldn't tell whether he was being sarcastic or simply British.  Still, the fact that something was going on inside his mind was self-evident.  Rather than dwell on it, she simply took his hand as he marched off the bus, but even that was cold and unresponsive, almost like it belonged to another man.

The group followed Yvonne as she walked up to a topless WW-II Jeep with the dig's official tour guide waiting inside.  She wore heavy laced boots, knee-length cargo shorts, and had hair every bit as light brown as the sandy soil in which she dug.

She sprung lightly out and, and no sooner had her boots hit the ground when Yvonne was already introducing her to the group.  Avani was her name, and after a brief run-down of her academic qualifications, Yvonne handed over control of as guide.

Avani guided them along the official tour route of the archeological dig.  She transformed an otherwise dull subject with her infusion of personal passion.  Here was a woman who loved sifting the dust for the forgotten secrets of the past, and it was hard not to feed off her zeal.

Soon the group halted to look into one particular pit, in which the majority of the archiologists seemed interested.  Even the indefatigible Avani seemed to take it up a notch as she spoke of it.

"And here", said the archeologist with no small note of pride in her voice, "was the site of an ancient battleground where we unearthed many important finds, including the prize of the project, a rare sculpture of En, god of the Sardeate, or perhaps Daradanian people group who lived in this region, in their day, known as Illyricum."

Jack raised his hand.  "Illyricum?  Weren't those guys into human sacrifice?", he asked.

At the time, he'd questioned the extensive amount of study that Dr Puttery had been pounding into his brain, but now it was finally taking on a practical relevance.

"Some were..." began the host. She was truthfully a little impressed by the question.

As Avani explained the nuances of the Sardeate subculture, Howell shifted his weight uneasily, and exchanged glances with another member of the tour group who was doing the same.

When the questions ran out, Avani directed them to the next step on the tour.

"Up next, we'll have a rare look at En himself.", she said with excitement.

Wendell turned to the others and whispered, "Why bother?  You've already got a guy who's chiseled, right here."  He flexed to (allegedly) prove it.

Irmingard stuck her tongue out at him.

As they made their way to a large canvas tent nearby, the tour guide continued her running commentary.  "The idol you are about to witness is being painstakingly restored by a team of six world-renown archeologists as part of the Seebeck team.", she pulled aside the tent flap, "You'll notice with how much care it takes to properly clean and preserve such an important find like..."

All at once her prepared and oft-repeated speech died on her lips.

"How strange.", she said, "Looks like nobody is here at the moment."

She looked around behind her as if looking for confirmation that all was right with the world.  She got none.

Even as she said it, her stomache filled with butterflies. 

She swallowed them back down, put on a professional face, and continued,  "Well, what you would be normally be seeing is how carefully they..."

Yet again, she found herself at a loss as she noticed an even more disturbing absence.

Though the tables were littered with all the tools of the trade... En himself was missing!

"Perhaps he is being studied elsewhere." she ultimately decided.  She was trying her best to lie to herself, but this time not even she could make herself believe it.

"Excuse me", said Avani, and ran outside to yell for the nearest security guard.  She was about to open her mouth to do so,  but found that somebody else had beaten her to it.

"Help!  Somebody help!  Professor Kolo is murdered!" came a cry from the other end of the site.

The tour guide held up a hand that the group should remain where they were.  The Moast  and Howell teams made for the direction of the shouts anyway.  Young and eager for action, they were not to be dissuaded when there was trouble afoot.

Out of clueless curiosity the other tourists followed as well, leaving poor Yvonne bringing up the rear and shouting very good advice that nobody was listening to.

They soon arrived at the scene, an outdoor parking area with a man in a white coat soaking the hard earth with his own blood.

The professor was not actually dead, but the bleeding was quite serious.  Howell immediately ordered one of his team to fetch a first aid kit while he did his best at staunching the flow.

Wendell and Misty did their best to quiet the hysterical undergrad assistant who had found him that way.  They knew full well that her going into shock could be even more deadly then the other man's bleeding.

The professor's eyes suddenly opened, so Jack moved closer to ask him some questions.

"What happened here?"

"Somebody took it in the truck.  I tried to stop 'em.  Maybe I shouldn't have."  The professor laughed a little at the last statement but immediately winced in pain.  "Guess now's not the time to make jokes." he observed.

"Who was it?", asked Howell. "Have you ever seen them before?"

"No.  Never.", said the professor.  "They looked like pretty average guys.  Five of 'em.  They just lifted the statue into the back, pretty as you please, just like they had a right to it.  When I tried to say something, they just shot me and drove off."

"Which way?", asked Wendell, who had apparently left the assistant to Misty's care and had been listening in.

The professor pointed.

They thought they might be able to see a plume of dust in the distance, but it was so faint that it could be no more than their mind playing tricks.  Either way, the truck was now too far gone to even think about catching on foot.

On... foot? Jack's mind raced.

Lola placed a hand on his shoulder and pleaded,  "No, don't!"

In retrospect, he should have probably listened to that.

Instead, he grinned and ran off.

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!