Prophet Trilogy

And today’s special feature is … The Prophet Trilogy!

With COMES THE DRAGON recently released, I thought this would be a good time to ruminate on where this series came from.

Comes the Dragon ecoverOf course, no book comes from one thing alone. Stories develop when a lot of smaller streams flow together into something that develops a current and carves out a place for itself. The Prophet Trilogy came out of years of reading and studying the Bible, with a more recent spate of studying the OT prophets more intensely. (I got tired of never knowing what they were talking about, so I started reading commentaries.) It also came out of the popular trend these days of expecting Jesus to return imminently or else expecting judgment to come.

I do of course realize that Jesus may return at any moment and that judgment may, in fact, come. But it bothers me a little that we seem to see that as the first option, rather than the last. Sometimes I feel like we are quicker to shake our heads and pronounce doom on our society than we are to actually PRAY for it, to believe that God is a God of mercy and compassion, long-suffering and slow to anger, who is not willing that any should perish but wants all to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Maybe it’s easier to believe in a God who can send earthquakes and economic catastrophes than it is to believe in a God who can change hearts — who can turn a whole cultural tide through a few faithful people who pray, and sow, and speak the truth.

It was while mulling over all of that one day that I read the book of Joel, one of the OT minor prophets. Joel is full of extremely detailed, terrifying visions of a judgment to come, vivid and assured. Read it in the King James: who can stand before the power of all those “shalls”?

But what particularly struck me was that AFTER these predictions, we read this:

“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?” (Joel 2:12-14, KJV).

Those verses are the heart of The Prophet Trilogy. I started thinking about what it would be like to have received those prophecies of Joel’s, but then to have that challenge: No matter how sure these prophecies sound, God may yet change course if we do.

Abaddon's Eve ebook coverThe characters in the trilogy all have this prophecy of doom hanging over their heads, but they respond in different ways. The two “prophets,” Kol Abaddon and his apprentice, Alack, are very different in how they deal with it. Alack becomes a prophet in the first place because he wants to save his people. If there’s any hope at all of turning the tide, he wants to help do it. So he comes at the whole thing with hope right from the start. By contrast, Kol Abaddon (whose name means “Voice of Destruction”) dismisses any idea that things will change and the judgment be held off. Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that Kol Abaddon’s certainty of this comes out of his own heart — for personal reasons, he wants judgment to come. It’s not until he’s willing to save his people that he begins to realize the Great God is willing to do so as well.

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If you haven’t yet read The Prophet Trilogy, start with Book 1, ABADDON’S EVE. The other two books are COMES THE DRAGON (available now) and BELOVED (coming soon!). I hope you enjoy them!

Name Him Jesus; Call Him Immanuel (Gospel of Matthew Series Pt 5)

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After Mary his mother had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel.”

(Matthew 1:18-23, HCSB)

manger photo
Photo by Tobyotter

They named him Jesus — Yahweh saves.

They called him Immanuel — God with us.

God, our Creator, become one of us.

God, our Deliverer, enacting salvation by himself and in himself.

(He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.

He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.

Isaiah 59:16-17, ESV)

Son of God become Son of Man, blurring the lines eternally.

(Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9, ESV)

The Son of David sitting on the throne of the kingdom of God forever, because he is himself God even as he is himself man and son of David’s line.

(Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;

you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

Psalm 45:6-7, ESV)

We’re told often that all religions are the same. That if you dig deep enough, you’ll find they share the same core, making everything else just chaff.

But that is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christianity, at least, is.

Yes, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that most religions share a core system of moral values. (Of course, you’ll find that most HUMANS share that core system, regardless of religious beliefs. C.S. Lewis unfolded this brilliantly in his classic MERE CHRISTIANITY. Pretty much all of us think it’s wrong to steal, murder, cheat on your spouse, etc. — at least when someone’s doing it to us.)

But that isn’t what Christianity is about. Morals are important. But they are not the point.

The point is who Jesus is.

The point is that YAHWEH saves — not our efforts, our rituals, our “spirituality,” our good deeds.

The point is a Person.

The point is, further, that salvation ultimately takes the form of relationship.

Jesus is God with us.

He is the Creator returned to his creation and in fact immersed in it.

He is invisible Spirit forever dressed in skin and bones.

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I talk about this a lot. The incarnation. The central mystery of our faith.

Can we please agree that “Immanuel” is not something we should ever, ever, ever get used to?

The prophet Ezekiel looked into heaven and saw a Man on the throne.

(Ezekiel 8:2)

This is what the kingdom of God means.

Trust in Jesus — Yahweh saves.

Walk with Immanuel — God with us.


Once there was an army, a mighty band of joyful warriors who had come together under the banner of a Captain they loved. By His side they toiled and fought; through days of rain and times when the sun beat down mercilessly on their heads. But the Captain’s smile and the Captain’s love burned brighter than any desert sun, and all sacrifices were counted as joy by the soldiers.

One young soldier could think of no happier life than his. To him, the dirt on his face was like a crown, and every bit of work he could do for his Master was sheer joy. When he fell asleep at night, his Captain’s face graced his dreams, and though he was often exhausted, he slept the sleep of the faithful.

soldier photo

One day, as he was out on a scouting mission, a stranger appeared. He was impressive to look at, well-groomed and not so muddy as most soldiers. As the young man worked, the stranger began to speak to him. A suggestion here, a comment there—the young man was impressed with the stranger’s evident concern for his welfare. The young soldier concluded, after a while, that the stranger must have been sent by the Captain.

Every day, the stranger worked with the young soldier. Over time, the stranger’s ways became more and more attractive to the young soldier. Dirt under his fingernails no longer seemed like a mark of honour, and the stranger showed him ways to work while looking out for himself, too. Ambitious dreams of personal glory tugged at the young man’s heart, and his sleep became restless and troubled.

The companions who had once seemed glorious now appeared foolish and ignorant, and the young man sometimes blushed with shame at the thought of being counted among them. He began to withdraw from them, and when one day a fellow soldier made a sharp remark to him, the young soldier hid in his tent and stewed, while the stranger stroked his pride and told him what a fine fellow he really was.

One night an order came from the Captain:

“Get up and follow Me at once. We must journey through the Valley of Suffering.”

valley photo

The young man groaned and started, slowly, to get up. Then he heard the stranger’s voice.

“He does not mean for you to go now. The Captain knows that you need your rest. Besides, the Valley is such an unpleasant place. The Captain loves you so much, He would not ask you to go through it.”

The young man thought that the stranger’s words rang true. The Captain did not really mean for him to go, not now. So he rolled over and went back to sleep.

So it happened, more and more. The Captain’s orders came, and then the stranger’s—and the young soldier’s allegiance, once so strong and undivided, began to waver. Things that had been black and white turned a fuzzy shade of grey. The young man’s work became shoddy and his enthusiasm half-hearted, and his fellow soldiers often suffered for his carelessness.

Then one day, the Enemy charged the camp. The Captain’s orders were clear—“Stand and fight!”—but the stranger said, “Run.” And the young soldier, who now knew that allegiance can only belong to one, turned and ran. An arrow from the Enemy’s bow struck his back and pierced him through, and the young soldier fell dead on the ground. And the stranger, whose name was Flesh, slowly faded away.

The Christian Church today is a victim of divided allegiance.

In our society of rights and privileges, we have come to believe that we owe ourselves something. Forgetting that the call of Jesus is to lose our lives for His sake, we press on through the confusing muck of a battle in which two opposing captains give orders.

Recently my family and I have been fighting a difficult battle. Throughout, some of the hardest fights have been connected to that other captain, Flesh. Words were spoken to us that hurt, and Jesus said, “Forgive them, love them, and continue to be faithful.”

Immediately, Flesh stood up and told me to be offended. “Forgive in word, but put up a divider between you and them. Hint to people about what a martyr you are. Cause people to take sides, and work for your ‘enemy’s’ destruction and humiliation.” There was a choice to be made, between the cross of Christ and the feather bed of self-indulgence.

My dad often says that the opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness. The Bible makes it clear that as Christians, we have a responsibility to deny the flesh in every situation, and follow the Lord who loves us. Christian have no personal rights. We are owned by Christ, who bought us with His own blood, and so it is His right to defend us, justify us, provide for and uplift us—not ours.

The Flesh is a tempting master. He offers comfort and self-satisfaction, and likes to pretend that he is making you more fit to serve the King. He seems to inspire, though in truth he is a coward and a manipulator. He dreams of glory, yet he creates only shells of men; whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones. His whispers are enticing and deceptive, for “There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.”

But the real Master, the True Captain—nothing can be compared with His service! The Flesh tells you that you are beautiful—the Master’s smile, reflected in your face, makes this so. The Flesh promises false happiness—the King exudes joy like the flowers produce perfume.

flowers photo

The Flesh wants to lift you high, but it’s a precarious platform, because the King is down in the mud. He is working alongside His children. And when the day comes that He is exalted before all men, He will take His own with Him. In the heat of the battle, when the Flesh says that you are weak and useless, the Captain says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

When the going gets tough, we will listen to the voice whose commands we are accustomed to obeying. Fences cannot be sat on for long, and true allegiance is never really divided.

Whose commands are you listening to?

Excerpt from Letters to a Samuel Generation

The Riddle of 13

Critics of the theory of biblical inerrancy will point to “inconsistencies” in the text, seeking to debunk its reliability as the Word of God. Frankly, some of those are just cheap shots. Others deserve to be wrestled with.

One significant “problem” shows up here in the first chapter of Matthew, in the genealogy itself — where it seems Matthew can neither read nor count.

That charge is earned because:

1. He skips four kings in the second portion of the list, though they are plainly listed in every Old Testament record.
2. He proudly declares there are “14 generations” in the third portion of the list, but anyone who counts can see he only listed 13.

Error? Or something else?

There are various theories for the strange discrepancies in the genealogy; most are willing to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt. The man was clearly a capable writer, and as a former tax collector we presume he could count. Most theories have to do with ancient conventions for genealogies (he isn’t required to list every single person in a lineage, and the wording can indicate a grandson or descendant, not just a direct son) and counting (it may be conventional to lump the last name in the second list in at the beginning of the third list, thus making it 14.)

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Photo by Ken and Nyetta

Or maybe Matthew is doing something else.

Maybe the genealogy is a riddle.

Several years ago, William Struse, a fellow writer from Arizona sent me a manuscript to edit called THE 13TH ENUMERATION. The book is a thriller and well worth a read as such, but it lays out a fascinating case for the riddle of 13 found in this passage and what it might mean in the larger context of biblical prophecy, chronology, and eschatology.

Just as a teaser, Bill noticed that the “missing kings” of the second portion of the list are divided in groups of 1 and 3 (and the name of the 1 means “Yahweh raises up.”) Convinced that Matthew was highlighting the number 13 for anyone who would pay attention, Bill went searching for any significance in the Old Testament surrounding that number.

I’d say he found it, but check it out for yourself. Bill posts a ton at his blog, and his series of thrillers (the story has continued since that first one!) has been joined by a series of nonfiction books so you can check out the theories at more depth for yourself. He gives the introductory one away as a PDF, so check it out today.

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(Note: Bill also found fascinating corroborence in prime numbers, various astronomical phenomena, historical dates, and a lot of other fun and cool stuff. This is not necessarily a full endorsement of all his theories, but check it out for yourself. I have learned that God is a riddle-master, one who — as the Bible says — is glorified in hiding a matter, while our glory is to search it out.)

The Kingdom at Hand (Gospel of Matthew Series Pt 4)

“Repent,” John the Baptist cried in the desert, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

In other words, it’s HERE. The kingdom has arrived. It has come. It is no longer far off, but at your fingertips.

Jesus, Matthew tells us, preached the same thing. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. The Bible calls this “the gospel” — the good news — “of the kingdom.”

In our day “the gospel” has become this very narrow, very personal thing: The gospel is that Jesus died for our sins so we can be forgiven and go to heaven when we die.

But the biblical gospel is the gospel of the kingdom.

abundance photo

It’s individual, yes. It’s personal, yes. The invitation to enter the kingdom is an invitation to be born again; it does not get more individual, more personal, than that.

But it doesn’t end there. This is a kingdom that sets up shop in the hearts of men and women, reigns there, and spills over into the world like yeast in a batch of bread dough. It starts as the tiniest of seeds but eventually becomes a great tree, giving shelter and refuge to all. It starts as a handful of fishermen following a wandering rabbi and ends as a city descending from heaven to earth and filling the world with its light.

Ultimately, that’s why I’m passionate about the kingdom of God. Because it ISN’T just about me.

bread photo

Years ago in the entrepreneurial household where I grew up, my dad taught us the importance of setting up rewards for ourselves as a means of motivation. (God is in favor of rewards, by the way; he uses them to motivate us all the time.) Since I grew up to be an entrepreneur, I use those principles and build rewards into my life, be it a donut at the end of the day or a trip to Disney World next year. They keep me going.

But a funny thing happens: if I focus too much on those rewards — if life becomes all about them — I get “me burnout” really. fast.

It turns out we need something bigger than ourselves and our own comfort to find real happiness and fulfillment.

Maybe that’s because the God in whose image we are created is always doing things with mutual glory in mind: he glorifies himself, he glorifies us, he glorifies creation. He’s all about magnification and multiplication and blessing.

The kingdom is not just about me getting a ticket to heaven. It’s not even just about me and my relationship with God.

It’s about all of creation coming under the lordship of the Blessed King. It’s about the world being anointed with the glory and goodness of God until our cup runs over. It’s about good triumphing over evil — in my heart, in your heart, in my life, in your life, in our society, in our descendants, ad infinitum.

“Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as it is heaven.”
(Matthew 6:9-10, HCSB)