Need A Little Fiction Help


I originally started this blog for those interested in fiction, to discuss the way writers can show through stories the truth about the world, which of course includes the truth about God. I’ve branched out, as anyone who stops by here regularly can see. I write more now about how God works in and through us to touch the world.

But every once in a while I come back to my fiction roots. After all, I am still committed to story as a vehicle for the truth.

Today, I want to ask for your help. All of you, but especially those who love story.

At the team blog, Speculative Faith, where I write every Monday, I run a contest twice a year called a writing challenge. I give a first line, and then anyone who wants to, can enter the contest by writing what comes next, either a complete short piece of fiction or the beginning of a story. The entries are short—between a hundred and three hundred words. (A computer-generated double-spaced page is usually 250 words).

We accepted entries, had an evaluation period, and pulled out the top three stories. Monday I created a poll and readers are voting on the one they like best. All good, except at this writing, the three entries are DEAD EVEN. I mean, even, even. No difference. I said in case of a tie we’d do a coin toss, but I hope it doesn’t come down to that. So I figure, the best way to deal with this is to have more readers, more voters.

So my request: do you think it would be possible for you to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to read the entries and to vote for the one you like best?

None is perfect. I mean, writers had only a limited amount of time and no say so on what that first line would be. Essentially I chose the verb tense and the point of view and the main character and to a lesser degree, the setting. I think it’s remarkable how the various writers pulled from their imagination and wrote such different stories or story beginnings.

But none of that helps separate who will win this year’s summer writing challenge. Please help. Please?

A big, huge thank you to all who are able to help out. Nothing helps more than readers who are unbiased and honest. You all will gain a few minutes of enjoyment, I think, but you’ll help me make this contest something that is valuable to writers. I appreciate you.

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Published in: on August 14, 2019 at 4:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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Voting As A Christian


The_Good_Samaritan008I recently read a thought-provoking opinion piece in the Christian Research Journal (Vol. 39, No. 4) by Andrew Bullard entitled “Social Movements and God’s Kingdom: Which Cause Matters Most?” I couldn’t help but apply what Bullard said to the upcoming US Presidential elections, especially after watching the Monday debate.

Actually a lot has gone into my thinking: what I read in Eric Metasax’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a biography written by Elisabeth Elliot on Amy Carmichael, any number of Facebook posts and comments, things I’ve read in Scripture, and conversations I’ve had with friends.

But honestly, I felt Bullard gave some clarity to my thinking, except I don’t really know how to apply what he said, though I agree whole-heartedly.

His basic premise is that Christians belong to God’s kingdom and as such we should be about Kingdom business. Here’s the core of his position:

Consider this question: is it right for a Christian to be completely devoted to a cause at the risk of alienating those who need to hear the message of Christ? This question is applicable to any social movement and ideology. How you answer this tells others where your true values lie. (This quote and those that follow come from the article mentioned above, unless otherwise indicated).

In other words, as followers of Jesus, our chief assignment is to tell people about the Messiah. But if we are sold out to a social movement, of any kind, such that we offend those on the opposite side of the question, how can we expect to represent Jesus to them?

So, if Jesus is your King, then you’re expected to take on the character and conduct of a citizen in His kingdom. It means you now serve Him. It means you allow this King to dominate every aspect of your life. You have voluntarily given up your personal freedoms for a better life under King Jesus.

I understand the principle, and I even agree with it, as I mentioned above. I think the Bible teaches this truth unequivocally. The problem I have is translating the principle to everyday life.

Take this example, for instance. Scripture teaches us to care for the needy: specifically the orphan and widow and stranger. We’re to love our neighbor as our self, as the Samaritan did when he helped the traveler who had been mugged. Today, however, there are people who masquerade as homeless people, who beg for handouts when they don’t really need money, who lie about their circumstances. There are also people who beg so they can feed their chemical addiction. What is the “Christian” thing to do, then, when someone confronts you in a grocery store parking lot and asks for a handout?

I think if I asked twenty people that question, I might get twenty different answers, and I don’t know which one would be the “right” one. There might not be a right one, but I do think there’s a wrong one: if we say or do something offensive that would close the door to the opportunity to represent Christ to that person, I think that would be a wrong choice.

All this ties in with the upcoming national election because I think the principle—Christians behaving like members of Christ’s kingdom—should guide us. I know a lot of believers want to follow this tenet, though they may not have articulated it as clearly as Bullard.

The problem, as I see it, is knowing how to apply this truth.

Bullard closed his article with this:

None of this is to say it is inherently wrong to advocate for a social movement or political ideology. However, we must keep eternity and the Kingdom of God in mind when choosing which social movement and ideologies to align ourselves with and how devoted to them we become. It is possible to advance God’s kingdom and support a social movement or be active in a political campaign. Yet, we must be wary our devotion to movements and candidates does not replace our mission—advancing the Kingdom of God.

What does a Christian do when neither of the two major party candidates would qualify as leaders who would enhance our mission?

Sec. Clinton talks a great deal about social justice, and Mr. Trump has indicated he would bring conservative judges to the Supreme Court. As near as I can tell, these are the two most positive things about both candidates.

Both candidates apparently have no compunction against stretching the truth:

In the first debate between presidential contenders Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump repeatedly relied on troublesome and false facts that have been debunked throughout the campaign. Clinton stretched the truth on occasion, such as when she tried to wiggle out of her 2012 praise of the Trans Pacific Partnership as a “gold standard.” (“Fact-checking the first Clinton-Trump presidential debate,” By Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post

Mr. Trump has said egregious things about women, about illegal immigrants, about politicians who ran against him. Sec. Clinton has barely avoided indictment for her handling of her email correspondence when she was Secretary of State. Both hold policies that seem contrary to Scripture.

In other words, neither seems to be a candidate that would make America a place where Christians can pursue our true kingdom work without bumping into government policy that conflicts in some way.

Are we to weigh one idea over against another: it’s more important to advocate for the unborn than to treat the immigrant fairly?

Honestly, I have more questions than anything, especially in light of the Bonhoeffer biography which brought out the struggle and conflict segments of the German church went through as Adolf Hitler put into place his anti-Jewish policies. They waited too long to act; by the time they woke up to the danger, the Final Solution which cost six million Jews their lives, was in place.

Is our situation in America anywhere close to that of Germany in the mid 20th century.

It might be.

Should Christians Vote For Christians For President?


Marco_Rubio_August_22,_2015Not every person who professes to be a Christian is a Christian. That’s just a fact. Some have been raised in a culture of Christianity—their parents took them to Sunday school and church when they were little. Everyone they know goes to church at least a few times each year, and they have basic values that align with Christianity—they’re in the family values camp, in other words. They also read the Bible stories and probably have at least one Bible in their home.

But those behaviors do not define what it means to be a Christian.

Christians first and foremost are people who identify as sinners. Yep, sinners. Not people who do good or who are good. We actually know that we are not now, nor can we ever be, good enough to satisfy God’s standard. Because we admit who we are, we also have embraced the gift God has offered us—forgiveness for our sinful condition and the particular sins we commit. We recognize that God made forgiveness available to us because He accepted payment for our sins from His Son, Jesus.

Forgiveness affords us a lot of benefits. The greatest is a close relationship with God. We are adopted into His family, and His Spirit now lives within us, empowering us to “walk in a manner worthy” of our new family tie.

So as we grow and mature, we will take on more and more of the family traits—a sold-out love for God, love for each other, love for our neighbors, love for our enemies.

Some of the Presidential candidates say they are Christians; others say they are and act like they are by displaying the family traits.

In considering the question, should Christians vote for Christians for President, I think it’s clear that no one should vote for someone just because he claims to be a Christian. It’s too easy to say the words, even the right words, and none of us can see what another person’s actual relationship with God is like.

However, we can see the family resemblance.

Of course, being a Christian isn’t the only concern when it comes to deciding who to vote for. The President has to be a leader, and not all Christians are leaders. He or she needs to be a good judge of character because the President has to put together a Cabinet and make any number of appointments. He needs to know how government works and needs to understand foreign policy.

If all these things are in place, should it matter if the candidate is a Christian?

I think so.

No candidate is going to be perfect. None will have exactly the same ideas on every issue that I have. None will always make the right decisions or listen to the advice I wish he’d listen to. What counts in the end is that he is a person of integrity and that he lives out his faith. Yep, lives it out. I actually got that idea from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who answered a question from an atheist during one of his town halls in Iowa before that caucus.

Below is the video of that exchange. It’s influenced my thinking on this question.

Published in: on February 26, 2016 at 6:10 pm  Comments (4)  
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