The small town of Hope is shaken when teenagers Kelsey and Harmonie uncover its skeletons of the past. Will those secrets tear the town apart, or will they become a path to healing? Meanwhile, it appears someone is willing to use any means necessary to take over their town. The girls look for new allies to save Hope. A House of Prayer arises to confront demonic forces, leading to glimpses of angelic activity. As the intensity of the warfare increases, people on all sides are being pushed past their limits. The future of Hope hangs in the balance.
The Hope Trilogy is written for those who are hungry for God’s revival and transformation of their communities.
Check out these readers’ comments on the Hope Trilogy—
“Very good example of redemptive Christian fiction.” –Nike Chillemi, Christian mystery author
“Gripping…I read it in one day…I could not put it down.” –Carol Brown, Christian author
“I instantly fell in love with the characters Kelsey and Harmonie. Every time I thought I had the answer, I’d find out a new twist which would lead me in a different direction. I loved every minute of it!” –Tiffany Hersh, Christian book reviewer
If you’ve read book #1, please post your own comments below!
With one deadly snap of his fingers, Thanos turned half the world—and half of my favorite characters—to dust.
If you’re a Marvel fan like me, the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War (Part 1) felt like someone threw me over the cliff and I’d have to wait a year to hit the bottom. I laid awake nights trying to figure out how my favorite characters could come back to life again.
Whether you’re a fan of movies like Avengers or Harry Potter, TV shows like Game of Thrones or Heroes, or books like Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring trilogy, you’ve no doubt come across the cliffhanger ending. You want to scream at the writer for making you wait for the resolution. But you also feel the anticipation build as you can’t wait to see or read the next part of the series.
Suspense writers often employ this technique at the end of chapters, to convince the reader to keep reading just a little bit longer. So do TV shows, hoping you’ll binge watch just one more episode.
Would God ever do such a thing?
The Gospels all end with Jesus coming back from the dead—what might he do next? Acts answers that question, but leaves us with Paul sharing the gospel in prison—then what? Will he make it out alive?
In my HOPE Trilogy, I’m trying to develop this part of my writing craft. So for those who finish a book and want to scream at me, I know your pain! But I hope the excitement it builds in you to read the next book is worth it.
Anticipation can become a complaint of how long we have to wait, or a wide-eyed wonder of what surprise might come next.
Remember when you were a child, how excited you felt on Christmas Eve? It’s the child’s annual cliffhanger. It holds the promise of something wonderful tomorrow.
We all understand what the Psalmist felt like in Psalm 13 when he cries out, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
looking for a job
longing to be married, or to have children
desperate for this COVID-19 lockdown to end
Even the earth is living in a cliffhanger moment, according to Romans 8:18-21 (The Message):
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
For those who live in “joyful anticipation,” cliffhangers prepare us to fully appreciate the reward when it comes.
What if on the other side of COVID-19 there is revival? a great harvest? “glorious times ahead”?
So whatever it is that you’re waiting for, why don’t you engage your imagination, excitedly wondering what might happen next . . . and get ready for the big reveal!
Have you ever clicked something on your computer, then suddenly realized that you made a horrific, disastrous mistake? At first you freeze, your mind scrambling for some way to take it back. Then you panic. You want to scream, cry, punch something, swear, or run away and join a monastery.
But eventually, you find a way to continue on with life.
That’s how I felt this week. Literally. With one click, I lost the first 20 chapters I’d written for my next novel, HOPE IN THE BALANCE. After a few moments of pure insanity, I spent the rest of the day trying to get them back. But all the king’s recovery programs and all the king’s tech experts couldn’t put my manuscript back together again.
One expert’s wisdom: “Unless you have a time machine, it’s gone.”
So I went for a run, showered, went to bed, and woke up the next day resigned to my loss, wondering the question we all wonder in those moments—“Why?”
Before I opened my Bible for my morning reading, I asked God to take me to a passage that would give me some perspective. In my spirit, I heard him whisper, “Jeremiah 18.”
In chapter 18, God tells Jeremiah to go learn a lesson from the potter. When the pot he’s forming isn’t turning out the way he desires, he flattens the clay, and uses the same clay but with a fresh start.
God tells Jeremiah, “Don’t I have a right to do the same with my people, Israel?” (my paraphrase) He’s our Creator. When we get off track from the beautiful design and the eternal purposes He has for us, doesn’t it make sense that He should give us a fresh start?
We tend to think of the Old Testament as only about God’s relationship with Israel. But Jeremiah 18 is one of many passages that gives us clues about His dealings with the rest of the world. He tells Jeremiah that He has been and continues to do this process with all the nations.
I’ve heard pastors refer to this moment in history as a divine “reset.” It’s certainly an opportunity for us to reevaluate our lives, and make a fresh start.
This is the final week of my 40-day fast as well. I’ve joined hundreds of thousands globally in a Jesus-fast for the End Times Harvest. Every day I’ve tried to read Isaiah 58, God’s heart for true fasting. From these verses, I’ve taken my 5 Areas for a Fresh Start.
In Isaiah 58, God corrects His people for being too busy with business and religious activities. Do any of us relate? The result of that busyness is
not being available to family
not noticing or helping the hurting ones around us
not guarding our rest and health (Sabbathing)
not trusting God with our finances (while we rest, He still provides; when we give generously to others, He provides us with more)
All four of these areas are being highlighted as the corona virus has forced us to shelter in our homes, many of us unable to work or go to religious meetings. Could it be that God is offering us a fresh start in one or more of these four areas? What new habits could we establish now to bring us back to God’s design and purposes when the crisis is over?
My fifth chance for a fresh start goes back to the Jeremiah 18 passage—
having a heart for the nations.
The corona virus has alerted us to the suffering of nations all around us. Have our busy daily lives so consumed us, that we’ve lost our influence as global citizens? Maybe this is a good time to reengage with the nations—through prayer, giving to charity work, or planning a trip to serve others. The end of World War II saw a massive missions movement in America, especially sending people to Japan. Could we believe God for a similar response to this world crisis?
I hear people using the phrase “God’s judgment” in ways that make it sound like He’s against us. That’s not true. He is for us! I’d love for us to understand the word “judge” in terms of “to analyze, evaluate, weigh.” When God judges that His creation has strayed from His intended beautiful design and eternal purposes, it’s His mercy to use the same “clay”—us—and give us a fresh start.
I’ve no doubt my next version of my twenty chapters will be even better than before. May our post-Corona version of our selves be even better than before as well.
Please click on the COMMENTS button and tell me your thoughts about a fresh start. I promise that click will be a painless one. J
The dawning sun did its best to peek through the clouds as I prayerwalked my neighborhood this morning. I prayed that all of my neighbors would wake up feeling a supernatural peace, and a trust that God was for them, not against them. I prayed that as the world is being shaken, they would hold tightly to what is unshakeable.
I also meditated on our newest buzzword, “social distancing,” and decided that Jesus would not have been a fan of it.
In the New Testament, it was the Pharisees who were the champions of social distancing. Whether for purposes of protection (from lepers) or purity (from Gentiles, sinners—basically anyone not like them), they prided themselves in keeping their distance.
Jesus was the opposite. He intentionally touched the leper—and healed him. He healed all kinds of diseases and demonization through the power of touch. He also went to foreign lands to seek out Gentiles, and went to the parties where the “sinners” gathered. Pharisees like Simon found Jesus’ lack of social distance offensive when Jesus praised a prostitute who kissed his feet.
The Pharisees were afraid of disease touching them; Jesus knew the healing power inside of him was stronger than any disease. The Pharisees were afraid that Gentiles or sinners would contaminate them; Jesus knew that the goodness inside of him was stronger than any sin.
“But we’re only human, not like Jesus,” some might argue.
When Susie is a little girl, we tell her, “Don’t go to Jill’s house for a week or you’ll get chicken pox.” When Susie becomes a woman, she sets aside her fear to work in a hospice serving HIV patients.
When Johnny is a teenager, we tell him, “Don’t go to the red light district or the temptation could cause you to stumble.” When Johnny becomes a father himself, a greater passion governs him, and he starts a ministry rescuing children from prostitution in Thailand.
Growing into maturity in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t understand the dangers around us. It means we have enough faith to believe that the manifestation of Jesus’ healing power and compassionate goodness through us is stronger than anything we’ll face.
Social distancing is one effective solution to slowing the spread of the corona virus. But it can create new problems if it results in fear or lack of compassion to those around us.
When someone asked Jesus what it meant to “love your neighbor,” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. A Jew lay by the road, beaten and robbed. Other religious Jews, worried about either protection (from robbers) or purity (touching a corpse), or perhaps just busy with their religious activities, kept their distance. But a Samaritan traveler stopped, treated the man’s wounds, and took him to a hotel, even paying for his stay. He took a significant risk, and paid a significant cost, to love a stranger.
If this story were set in modern-day Beverly Hills, a rich white man would have been robbed and beaten, his body tossed behind a night club. The other guests would have been afraid to get involved. But a young African-American getting off work late would have seen the man, picked him up and carried him to his car, and driven him to a hospital, and offered to pay the bill. What a risk! Anyone seeing him carry the man to his car could have assumed the wrong thing. If the man was a tourist with no insurance, it could have set him back financially for a long time.
But that’s what “loving your neighbor” is all about.
I also prayed for my nation this morning. I prayed that in our desire to limit the spread of the corona virus through social distancing, we would not go too far and limit our love for those around us. Plenty of people need our help. We need to love without fear, trusting that the Christ in us has more than enough healing power and compassionate goodness to overcome anything we face today.
Let Christ guide us when to close that social distance, and be available to help someone today.
I’m happy to announce the release of my newest novel, the first in a new trilogy with the theme of pursuing revival and societal transformation in America.
As always, the truths I want to present are woven into an entertaining suspense story, this time set in rural Colorado.
The hope for revival rests upon several ordinary people: a frustrated pastor, his daughter who doesn’t like church, her fearful best friend, an idealist teacher with a poor track record, and an ex-crusader journalist ready to quit.
But the main character is really the town of Hope–a dying town that has lost its sense of destiny. Much like many towns and cities in America, the town has a few rich and powerful people who are heartlessly sucking the life from everyone else, and a majority of the population who are just struggling day to day to survive.
There are “giants” in the land. No one carries enough faith to believe that the town could significantly change.
But God answers prayer, and when He starts showing up in unexpected ways, His light exposes the darkness, and the battle begins…
I hope you enjoy this new series, and share your thoughts about it either directly with me or with the world through a review on Amazon, your social media, or anywhere else.
And I hope this series stirs you to pray and believe that the next 20 years in America will see many towns and cities transformed by authentic revival.
What does revival look like? How might a true revival transform our society?
When I was young, I read everything I could about historic revivals. Here are just a few of my heroes—
I was enthralled by the courage of men likeJohn G. Paton who led an entire island of cannibals to Christ—after the first missionary sent there, a fellow named James Harris, achieved a career lasting only minutes before he was eaten! Paton and his colleagues saw a massive transformative move of God across many South Seas islands.
After young Evan Roberts (namesake for our firstborn!) sought God and received visitations of the Spirit, he led a small group of mostly youth to spread the fire of God all over Wales. In some communities the crime rate dropped to zero, and the police spent their time forming worship choirs. Evan got to see his nation transformed before his very eyes.
Tommy Hicks was an unknown preacher God sent to Argentina with a word that a man named Peron would help him open a stadium to preach in. Peron turned out to be the president, and when he was dramatically healed as Tommy prayed, the stadium and the nation opened to the Gospel.
Duncan Campbell, who saw a supernatural visitation of God in the Hebrides islands that lasted 30 years, where most of the bars had to close because everyone was more concerned about things of great worth, said this: “Revival is something altogether different from evangelism on its highest level. Revival is a moving of God in the community and suddenly the community becomes God conscious…”
All over the world today, the Lord is stirring up this God-consciousness wherever people are seeking His face and taking His Kingdom into every sphere of society. Evidences such as miracles happening in the streets, breakthroughs in social justice, and unity in diversity demonstrate that God’s reviving touch isn’t confined to what happens inside a church building. His Kingdom rule and reign is changing everything.
Yes, I’m still on a quest to see revival and transformation happen where I live, even in the Muslim world.
And I want to invite you on a journey with me.
Soon I’ll be launching a new series of suspense novels called the “HOPE Trilogy.” These three books will distill all that I’ve learned from my years of research, from being part of a sovereign visitation of God in Pasadena, California back in the 90s, from my involvement in starting 3 houses of prayer, and from what God is speaking to me about these issues currently.
The first book will be published in February 2020. I hope you’ll plan to read it. Perhaps it’s time for you to ask God with me for something truly big, and time for you to receive a clearer revelation of where you fit in what He’s about to do.
As I’m working on writing my fourth novel, starting a new trilogy on the topic of hope, I’ve been studying Johnny Enlow’s RISE teaching on bringing God’s kingdom into the 7 mountains of culture: government, business, education, religion, media, arts & entertainment, and family. As a teacher, I’ve been especially fascinated by his ideas on education.
Today one point that jumped out at me was when Johnny wrote that the student is always more important than the information. How many of us have had teachers who made us feel like our lack of mastery of the material made us sub-human and destined for an insignificant life? Hopefully all of us also had at least one teacher who lovingly modeled that the information was only important as it helped us move forward into a life of significance and destiny.
This reminds me of how God relates to His rules and to us. Have you ever felt that your lack of mastery of God’s rules put you on His naughty list and kept you trapped on the sidelines of life?
The reality is that Jesus declared, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The person is always more important than the rules to God.
Or how about one of my absolute favorite Scriptures, the story of the woman caught in adultery? (John 8:1-11) Those who saw the rules as most important wanted to stone her; Jesus talked to her as a person needing his mercy.
I had an opportunity to practice what I was learning recently as someone threatened me with a lawsuit regarding something I’d mistakenly posted on my blog and promptly removed over a year ago. At first I was shocked by the person’s aggressive and unreasonable demands. I went to the Prayer Room and spent some time discussing it with God. His word to me was that the person was more important than the negotiations. Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” isn’t about Americans trying not to hate ISIS who live far away—it’s about loving the people around us who don’t treat us the way we’d like.
Our negotiations lasted about two months, because I was in no hurry. I needed time to pray for the person each day and ask God what I could share to help them return to His path of significance and destiny for their life. I have no idea if anyone else was praying for them, but at least for this season they got one faith-filled intercessor on their side. I hope I was just the voice they needed at the time they needed it.
I’m writing this in the midst of a busy Christmas season. Is it just me, or can the holidays bring out the worst in us? Could we take a moment to prepare our hearts for all the people we’ll meet this Christmas? How beautiful it would be if we could remember that the overwhelmed cashier is more important than the mistake on our bill; the mother juggling packages and a crying baby in the post office line is more important than the delay to our packed schedule; our impossible-to-please relative is more important than our desire for a “perfect” Christmas.
Perhaps a moment when we make them feel important again is the gift they really need.
Remember that God sent His Son to us at Christmas not because we were well-informed or well-behaved, but because in spite of us being NOT well-informed or well-behaved, He chose to love us anyway. He chose to see each and every one of us as precious, significant, diamonds-in-the-rough, people with a glorious destiny.
Now it’s our turn to see the same in all the people we’ll meet this Christmas.
My American friends who take a walk through their neighborhoods today will be greeted by an assortment of scary decorations in front of their neighbors’ homes: carved pumpkins, skeletons, witches, ghosts, gravestones, giant spiders, black cats, even skulls placed on a stick. In American culture, decorating homes like this is a fun way to celebrate a holiday that is mostly focused on children dressing in costumes and getting free candy.
I sometimes wonder how a new immigrant to America might respond when he sees this. Imagine someone fleeing a war-ravaged nation where gravestones and skeletons are reminders of the horror they left behind. Suddenly they have to face the same images every day in their neighbor’s front yard.
I also wonder why Americans enjoy these macabre decorations. Is it because these are things we no longer fear? Perhaps generations past were haunted by such realities, but now we feel safe in our modernity?
If so, maybe these decorations serve a positive purpose—to declare our victory over the horrors and fears of our past. We can use Halloween to remember that we’ve been brought “from darkness into light” as the Bible says.
But I’d like to encourage us on this holiday to also remember those who are still traumatized by recent horrors, and offer a prayer for them.
Living in Indonesia, we’ve had to deal with 8-inch spiders invading our home, a ghost haunting our school, and real witchcraft destroying people’s lives. But even worse, the image of a skull on a stick reminds us of the horrific genocide that occurred the year our daughter was born.
A conflict between the indigenous Dayak people of the interior of our island, and the immigrant Madurese, turned into a vicious ethnic cleansing of the central province, sending tens of thousands of Madurese fleeing into our port city and then fleeing our island altogether. Roughly 100,000 people ran for their lives with what they could carry on their backs. We helped feed some of them at the harbor waiting for boats to take them off-island. It broke our hearts to hear that some of them were offering their children for sale for the price of a meal because they couldn’t stand to see their children starve.
But the worst memory for many people in our area was that the main road between our city and the central province was lined with spears, each spear holding a severed human head. This was not even 10 miles from our home.
Thank God, today the Madurese are slowly trickling back into the central part of our island and are at peace with the Dayaks. God’s healing power is stronger than man’s evil.
But let’s remember the suffering people of the world today—in Syria, Congo, the Rohingya of Myanmar—there are many for whom skeletons may represent their own loved ones.
As you bless the costumed children of your neighborhood with candy, please pray a prayer of blessing for a hurting world still trapped in the darkness, for those who long for a day when the horrors of the past are far behind them and they can experience true peace. Make this a Halloween to remember them.
How should the majority religion treat those of minority religions in their land?
My experience in both my home nation of the United States and my residence nation of Indonesia is that those of minority religions are often treated unjustly:
It is difficult to get permits to build houses of worship
Minority houses of worship are often protested, and sometimes vandalized or forcibly closed
It is more difficult to rent a home or get a job
Anyone leaving the majority religion to join a minority religion may be persecuted
The government is quick to address perceived threats from the minorities, but sometimes overlooks both threats and actual violence from the majority faith
In other nations which are less pluralistic, such as certain places in the Middle East, discrimination against the religious minorities is even more apparent, and at times, deadly.
If only there was a standard of conduct towards religious minorities that all nations and communities could agree on…one in which the majority religion agrees to protect the minorities’ homes, their houses of worship, their jobs, their legal status, their freedom of worship, their freedom to choose their own religion, their right to be conscientious objectors in time of war, their freedom from any compulsion by the majority…but what national or community leaders would dare teach their majority constituents such a standard? Would your pastor or mayor speak out in support of this? Would your imam or ayatollah bravely take a stand?
There is one religious leader who has courageously stated and enforced such a code, and it might surprise you who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the Prophet Muhammad.
One of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world was built at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Egypt, St. Catherine’s Monastery. The monks claim that Muhammad visited them several times and maintained friendly relations. Muhammad wrote a letter to them now known as the Ashtiname, or Covenant of Muhammad, and this document has become the basis for much modern-day peacemaking discussion, especially by Muslim religious leaders, and even cited in a controversial case in Pakistan defending a Christian on trial! Here’s what one translation of the letter says:
“This is a message from Muhammad, son of Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation of (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
In all my years living in Indonesia, oh how I have longed for a Muslim leader to start a speech like Muhammad’s letter above: “Christians, we are with you!” Muhammad’s Ashtiname—a Persian word meaning “Book of Peace”—is the standard Muslim majority nations and local communities should aspire to in how they treat religious minorities.
The standard for Christian majority nations and local communities comes from Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself…love your enemies…do to others as you would have them do to you…by welcoming the stranger, you welcome me.” (Matthew 22:39; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:31; Matthew 25:34-45) In other words, “Muslims, we are with you!”
If you live in a community where you are in the religious majority, I appeal to you to consider the religious minorities in your midst and care for them with the high standards set by Muhammad and by Jesus
A Pew Forum study of nearly 11,000 Americans done this year found that most of us can’t even correctly answer half of a basic world religions survey.
Think you can beat the average? Take the survey here.
I thought I should take the challenge since I teach a World Religions class to high school students. I was relieved to get a perfect score. 🙂
Besides teaching, I am also involved daily with Muslims in Indonesia, and occasionally take time to chat on issues of faith with an online interfaith discussion group. I’ve learned a lot from those interactions that I never learned in books.
Here are my 3 takeaways from the survey results—
Most of us don’t know much about the beliefs of those of other religions.
In fact, as a Christian I’m embarrassed to say that in general, Jews, atheists and agnostics know more about others’ faiths than we Christians do.
Why? Pew Forum found that it wasn’t related to Jews, atheists and agnostics having higher education (though they do). I suspect that it comes down to who we choose to interact with and whether we’re willing to ask honest questions.
The #1 greatest factor discovered by Pew Forum backs up my theory: personally knowing people from other faiths is the single most significant determining factor as to understanding the beliefs of other faiths. Out of 32 questions on the full survey, those who only knew members of 0-3 other religions scored an average of 8.6 right answers. But those who knew members of 7-9 other religions scored a whopping 19.0 questions right, far above the average.
How this connects to peacemaking is also interesting—Pew Forum added a “feeling thermometer” of how respondents felt about those of other faiths. Not surprisingly, the more we know about another’s faith, the more warmly we feel toward them; and the less we know about their faith, the more cool or even suspicious we might feel toward them.
If we apply this principle to social issues such as the anti-Semitic graffiti in Santa Monica this week, or the 26 times mosques have been targetedin liberal, multi-cultural California in the last decade–with everything from arson to death threats to bomb threats to actually stabbing a worshiper–my guess is that whoever is behind such horrendous deeds has never tried to make a Jewish or Muslim friend.
While taking a World Religions class can be helpful, the most meaningful thing we can do toward building a world of understanding and peace is to make a friendship with someone who believes differently than we do.
Watch for opportunities this week—if your heart is open, you might be surprised at the situations God will bring across your path to meet someone different than you. Or if you’re really adventurous, go on a John 4:4 adventure, and intentionally go where people are different than you. Then write and tell me what happened!
[The complete summary of the Pew Forum survey can be found here.]