Monthly Archives: February 2017

Xposure

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Twilight.

The moment when men dream dreams, and choices, like the sun that melts the morning fog, became clear.

This was Stan’s favorite time to be in the woods.

Not quite awake or asleep, the forest had yet to come together and gel. The gloom that had swallowed it whole at sunset would recede and release its leafy captives to the few who like Stan, had sacrificed their sleep to witness it. Held since dusk, they’d step out of the dimness, free again. It was a special time, a time suspended between worlds, and relished by sportsmen.

There was duplicity, though, when truthfully it was still all undecided. In the wavering darkness, for half a heartbeat, a victor had yet to be announced; the moon was supposed to yield, trees should show themselves, ferns, bushes, and rocks usually took their form, or at least always had. When they eventually coagulated, it was pure tranquility. Yesterday didn’t matter; the world began anew in this moment. The sun always rose and Stan loved the quiet feeling that he never knew anywhere else. In the twilight’s gleam he glimpsed it.

Peace.

He shifted the call to the roof of his mouth and pressed his tongue against it.

Yoke, yoke, yoke, yoke, yoke, yoke.

“You’ll only get one shot, Nick.”

“My butt hurts.”

“Squeeze, don’t pull. Let it surprise you when it goes off.”

A hard gobble, less than 30 yards away, ripped the chilly Pennsylvania air.

“I remember,” he said, and shifted his 161 pounds from one cheek to the other. “He’s still coming, huh, Stan?”

“Steady,” he coached. “Don’t shoot till you see his beard.”

Nick nodded. “He’s close,” he said, adjusting his facemask and lifting the shotgun.

“Not yet, bud,” Stan whispered and pressed the barrel gently down with one hand. “One last cluck. Let’s be sure he’s on the hook.”

Enticed by the soft, sexy clucks from Stan’s mouth call, a sturdy gobble erupted once more. And then again. He was close. And hot! Just beyond that clump of Mountain Laurel, by the fallen Hemlock, the leaves crunched like Will Kellogg’s invention. The sound fell silent, and then rustled again. Louder.

Shush, shush, shush…crackle…Shush, Shush. Shush, SHUSH…SNAP!

Stan hadn’t noticed Nick’s breathing before. He knew his brother’s first bird was only yards away now. The dawn crept closer and a whippoorwill whistled its approach. A vole tunneled softly through the oak leaves below. The woods that the Stanislaw family had owned for almost half a century, that Stan knew like his own bedroom, began to come alive, and out of the milky May mist, Oaks and Maples and Hemlocks thickened to encircle “the arena,” a tiny meadow in the midst of the forest that magically pulled gobblers to it every spring. These 39 acres had given up plenty of grouse, rabbits, and some nice bucks over the years, but this spot was the honey hole for big toms. Stan was glad the old man didn’t sell it when they moved to Detroit. Originally he had gotten it from Milo Neff, who still owned the original 200 or so at the back end of their property, bordering state game land on the leeward side of the mountain and an old apple orchard on the other. Now Nick was about to enter the record book, to have his name scrawled on the cabin door as well, carefully etched in the wood under his father and brother’s annual triumphs, a testament to the hunting prowess of the Stanislaw clan.

“Too bad Pop isn’t here,” Stan whispered. “He’d like to see this.”

“Yeah,” Nick agreed, trying to whisper. “Getting old is…there he is! I see his head.”

Shhh. When he turns, get the gun up. He can’t see behind with his tail fanned out in full strut, but be fast.”

Nick waited for the moment. The turkey strutted proudly, made his next half circle and the boy wedged the Benelli’s butt end firmly into his shoulder, with the barrel rested on his knee, and leaned into it. Stan heard the faint metallic click as Nick’s finger slid the safety off.

“I see his beard.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The bird was magnificent!

His intense blue head dipped back and forth, up and down, fitfully searching the woods for the hen that had lured him from his sleepy roost, stepping closer and closer to the camo clad brothers; oblivious, yet instinctively wary. He leaned his head back against his feathers as they inflated to three times his normal size, tucked his beak into his chest, and tried hard to impress the lucky lady who surely waited for his services just ahead. Glossy black plumes, with an iridescent sheen of blues and greens and purplish oranges, were layered upon layers of heavy feathers, fully pumped into the classic butterball from a Pilgrim’s dream feast. His snood dangled off his beak like some mangled worm, the powerful wings dragged the ground, caruncles on his neck engorged with the hot blood of a lover’s zeal, a scorching red. The massive tail, fanned out wide in a chestnut brown display, trimmed in black and tan, completed his spring ensemble. He was stunning and his dance superb!

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Stan glanced down at Nick without moving his head, then back at the tom, and wondered. Could Nick really….

WHAM!

The gunpowder ignited, filled the air with sulfur, and ruptured the moment. Feathers flew. He was down, on his side, flapping awkwardly on the leafy floor. Nick racked the pump and a red three-and-a-half inch Winchester casing popped out of the gun, harmlessly dropping in Stan’s lap. It was over.

…pull the trigger?

“WAH-HOO! I got him Stan! I got him!” Nick was up, pumping one fist in the air and shouting, while holding the shotgun aloft with the other. “YA-HOOOOO! Did ya’ see that, Stanley? I’m on the door!”

“Nice shot, killer. The Pine Grove Palace door awaits your trusty blade with bated breath. You’re in the club, bud.” His smile faded as he watched Nick run to his trophy.

Stan knew that Nick had the Stanislaw will to kill, adopted or not. Nick was no longer a boy. He was 18, off to Grove City Bible College in the fall, and his future all but decided.

Now Stan had to decide about his own.

(Chapter One of my novel, XPOSURE, available on Amazon)

 

 

 

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Hunter or Hunted? Part Two

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My brother Jack, four years before his death in 1978.

(In order for this article to make sense, read Part One first.)

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you (John 14:17).

Last time we discussed Satan’s hunting schemes and how he’s fooled millions into thinking they’re good enough to get into Heaven (1 Peter 5:8). And we asked the ultimate diagnostic question, “Where is the Holy Spirit right now?” Your response will determine your eternity.

If your answer wasn’t “He’s inside of my body,” then stop kidding yourself about Heaven. You are not a Christian. Like the 329,000 deer killed last year by Michigan hunters, you’ve been tricked too.

A true believer knows that the Holy Spirit is literally in them…because at some point they surrendered to Jesus Christ in genuine remorse and asked the Holy Spirit to come inside and take over. Simple. God made authentic saving faith easy to grasp. Consider Paul’s take in Ephesians 2:8-9,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Being good, doing good deeds, or adhering to religious rituals is all based on you and your work. That’s religion, man’s effort to get to God. Christianity is God’s effort to get to you, dying in your place, to bring you back to God…. and nothing else. It’s an undeserved gift of pure grace.

What’s grace? It’s washing and waxing your car after you smash out all the windows in my car. You don’t get what you deserve. You get grace. And then I pay off your car loan too! I spit in God’s face with a selfish and sinful life, and despite that, He dies for me and pays for my sins anyway.

It has nothing to do with being good; “it is the gift of God.” What do you need to do to accept a Christmas gift? Just receive it. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).” Now that’s a Christmas gift!

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Hunter or Hunted?

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My brother with a nice Grayling eight-point buck in 1974.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”

The guns of autumn ring early and often these days, signaling Michigan’s firearm deer hunt is underway. I’ve hunted for over 40 years and learned some tricks that make the difference in success or just guarding trees.

According to Peter, our adversary hunts too, and you’re his prey. Satan’s the king of tricks, the Great Deceiver, and the thing about deception is that you don’t even know it. You’ve been fooled. Like the 329,000 deer killed last year, the crosshairs are on your chest before you realize it.

The first scheme to be alert to is to not fool yourself into thinking you’re safe. ALERT! You are already dead, spiritually dead. He doesn’t want you to know that. As Bob Dylan sings, “I was blinded by the Devil, born already ruined; stone cold dead as I stepped out of the womb.” Paul said the same in Ephesians 2:1, “and you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”

Thinking you’re okay (good enough to get into Heaven), like the 329,000 deer thought they were safe, is his best trap. Your sin demands righteous judgment. A close friend passed away last week and she was excited to see Jesus because she knew 100 percent sure she was going to Heaven. Did you know you could know for sure? How can you know you’re no longer “dead in your trespasses and sins” and share her eternal confidence?

It has nothing to do with being good; it depends on your answer to this question: “Where is the Holy Spirit right now?”  More on that in part two of Hunter or Hunted?

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Wreckognized

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At the studio gates with Jack.  Recognize him?

And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown (Luke 4:24).’”

“Wait! I know that guy! What movie did I see him in? Ah, this is gonna bug me.”

As a screenwriter, I’m always trying to recognize a familiar looking actor in a movie from a former role, trying to recall where I saw them before. It wrecks me when I can’t identify the actor when I know I know them so well.

When Jesus came back home to Nazareth where He was brought up, well known by everyone as Joseph’s son, the kid around the corner, no one recognized Him for who He really was…the long-awaited Messiah! They knew of Him…but didn’t know Him.

Granted, spotting the Creator-in-the-flesh, literally, is a bit new for sure, but how strange that those who knew Him so well, intimately, who were so used to Him, so familiar with Him, didn’t recognize Him?

We have that same myopia here in America. Jesus is so well known, that we ignore Him. Most of us have grown up in a church and heard His name almost daily. We know Jesus inside and out. We are very familiar with Him, so much so that we don’t actually know Him. The “kid around the corner.” We politely ignore Him.

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The synagogue where Jesus lived and taught at Capernaum.

I was in Israel last year on a writing assignment for the Israel Ministry of Tourism and stood in the very place where Luke chapter 4 records Jesus’ miracles in His local synagogue in Capernaum (v.23). It was a chilling experience to stand where He stood!

Another thing amazed me in Israel. Everywhere you go there are Orthodox Jews who still do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They study the Torah for 14 hours a day, phylacteries wrapped on their heads and arms, praying daily (even on our flight), inspecting ingredient labels to eat only Kosher foods, dressed in black, trying to keep their 613 commandments, with long peyots and beards, etc. Truly impressive devotion!

Look at what Matthew recorded in chapter 15 about Jesus’ reaction to those who professed to knowing God, who were experts in His Law, who saw Him face to face, knew His name, and still missed the point:

“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:

      ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,

            BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.

      ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,

            TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’”

Just because you put a mouse in a cookie jar, it doesn’t make him a cookie. Don’t assume because you know of Him, that you know Him. Crack open the New Testament and meet the Man who stood in Capernaum. I bet you won’t recognize Him.

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Why Be Thankful?

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Some stuff my Dad made.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”

–King David (1 Chronicles 16)

On October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln did something radical that no American President would dare to do today…he declared a national holiday to thank God for His love and blessings on America, despite a raging Civil War with thousands of dead Americans.

Lincoln knew that we were forgetful and focus on the bad things in our lives. He wanted us to remember God’s true character ­­that He is good, loving, and sovereign. Lincoln knew we needed that reminder in a world broken by sin where people have the free will to choose to do horrible things (two months earlier, Gettysburg had over 50,000 casualties).

Despite our wickedness, God remains good and loving toward us. He proved that by sacrificing Jesus to save us (Romans 5:8). When we thank God for His many blessings, it changes our mindset to be positive despite our woes (Philippians 4:8). We are quick to forget that He is in charge and He will ultimately triumph over every wrong.

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Perhaps the greatest President who eventually broke to acknowledge Him.

After mentioning all the good things Americans could be thankful for as a nation, Lincoln went on to say this:

“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

 

 

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What Does Satan Believe About Our Election?

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[on looking into a mirror, on her own deathbed]: “If this is what virus pneumonia does to one, I really don’t think I shall bother to have it again.”  –Gladys Cooper

 “It’s better to go to funerals, than parties because Death is the end of every man and the living take it to heart.”    –King Solomon

On January 5, 1962, one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes aired when I was not even a year old with Rod Sterling’s raspy introduction.

“An old woman living in a nightmare, an old woman who has fought a thousand battles with death and always won,” croaked the familiar voice. “Now she’s faced with a grim decision—whether or not to open a door. And in some strange and frightening way she knows that this seemingly ordinary door leads to the Twilight Zone.”

“Nothing in the Dark” told the story of an old woman who would not open her door for fear it would be Death, and if Death touched her she would die (Ironically, Death was played by Robert Redford, who is now 80 years old, and the role is quite reversed).

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Gladys and Robert Redford in 1962

What does this have to do with Satan and our polarizing presidential election? Everything. Like the magician’s ploy, it’s all misdirection so we don’t see the real trick.

Clive Staples Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters in 1942 as a series of letters from an old, retired demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a neophyte demon still learning his job…how to distract us from our real issue of sin and death and judgment.

Here’s a sample of their scheme to keep us from our real problem, as sick patients:

My Dear Wormwood,

 Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control.

 Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing.

 Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

 Keep up the good work,

Uncle Screwtape

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

So fight and argue about “people you’ve never met,” and ignore the real issue that if you die in your sins tonight, without the saving grace of Jesus Christ’s death as your payment, you will be lose much, much more than an election.

As Jesus Said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Here’s the 1965 episode link: Nothing in the Dark

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The Wait is Over!

SAM_1082.JPG Outtakes from our Christmas newsletter

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning.”  –King David (Psalm 130)

You’ve heard it said, “Death and taxes,” but I think we can add one more certainty in life…no one likes to wait. No one. Especially at Christmas when gifts flood our living rooms on December 25th.

In the Old Testament this is a very common theme, to “wait for the Lord.” Wait for what? Technically it’s on His coming through for you because of His love and goodness toward you, but the culmination of that was in His coming to Bethlehem (Matthew 1:23).

As Isaiah prophesied about 700 years before the Star appeared in Israel’s tiny town, the wait would finally end on the first Christmas:

“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

The One waited for, for thousands of years by the Jewish people, arrived, in the flesh, as a tiny baby boy. Literally God in the flesh! His miracle birth goes back all the way to the very beginning in Genesis with Abram’s promise (Genesis 12:3),

“…. in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

In the line of Abraham’s descendents, the Jews, God Himself would appear and save the world by blessing “all the nations” with a second chance. Forgiveness of all our sins. God sealed the salvation covenant with Abraham by walking through a cut up sacrificial animal. He literally “cut a deal” with Abraham (us) based on death and blood (Genesis 15).

Most objections to Jesus being the promised Messiah, Immanuel (God with us), as a human being cite biblical logic…all men are sinners and therefore the man Jesus could not be God. A logical objection that we experience daily since we have all sinned (Roman 3:23).

But in the objection is an objection to itself.

If all men are sinners (agreed we have all failed God’s standard), then we are prone to error, mistakes, and wrong reasoning. Namely, if God wants to appear to us as a mouse or a kumquat or a donkey…He has the right and power to do so.

Coming to us as a human being would seem to be the most logical way to communicate His ways and desires for us as one Himself. If He wanted to communicate with ants, He’d come as an ant, right?

And furthermore, if He came to break the death sentence of Sin, to end the blessing wait “for all nations,” it would be a perfect form to meet the requirements of the Passover sacrifice as a perfect lamb to be killed, providing He did live a perfect life.

The Christmas deal that God cut with His own blood, from Abraham to Bethlehem to the cross means the wait is over, but like all Christmas gifts you have to receive it.

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 “Safe?” said Mr Beaver…”Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).”

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