A Hymn from Charles Wesley

This Sunday morning, consider the poetry of Charles Wesley as we participate in the life of God and the Kingdom through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

“Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,
Let every soul be Jesu’s guest;
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bidden all mankind.

“Sent by my Lord, on you I call,
The invitation is to all:
Come, all the world; come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.

“Come, all ye souls by sin opprest,
Ye restless wanderers after rest,
Ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.

“Come, and partake the gospel feast;
Be saved from sin; in Jesus rest;
O taste the goodness of your God,
And eat his flesh, and drink his blood!

“Ye vagrant souls, on you I call;
(O that my voice could reach you all!)
Ye all may now be justified,
Ye all may live, for Christ hath died.

“My message as from God receive,
Ye all may come to Christ, and live;
O let his love your hearts constrain,
Nor suffer him to die in vain!

“His love is mighty to compel;
His conquering love consent to feel,
Yield to his love’s resistless power,
And fight against your God no more.

“See him set forth before your eyes,
That precious, bleeding sacrifice!
His offered benefits embrace,
And freely now be saved by grace.

“This is the time; no more delay!
This is the acceptable day,
Come in, this moment, at his call,
And live for him who died for all.”

Amen.

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An Excerpt from “An Intertwined Reality: Short Stories for the Already but Not Yet”

The following piece is one of 14 short stories I’ve included in my most recently published book, “An Intertwined Reality: Short Stories for the Already but Not Yet.” It will be available soon for $7.99 in paperback and $4.99 as an ebook on both the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites! Read more about it and my other book, “The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906,” here.

Share this short story with your friends and family; let’s build excitement for “An Intertwined Reality”!

The Ammonite Messenger

Nehemiah squinted his eyes as he scanned the far reaches of the horizon. The small outline of a man riding a horse appeared, silhouetted against the reddening sky. The rider was still a good distance away; if it was not for the setting sun casting shadows over the landscape, Nehemiah would have been able to see the entire expanse clearly in the dry air.

The horse kicked up a cloud of dust as the rider disappeared below the horizon, blurring the sharp contrast between him and the sinking red desert sun. Nehemiah faintly discerned their shape racing toward them among the shadows. They were at the borders of what was, to Nehemiah’s ancestors, once the northern kingdom; it was now divided between various pagan rulers as the conquering Persians split up their territories. First the Assyrians swept over the land, then the Babylonians, and then the Medes, and then the Persians. The Babylonians transported much of the southern kingdom’s population back to their capital and into diaspora; the Persians, generations later, allowed the exiles to finally return to their home.

Nehemiah, serving in the court of the Persian King Artaxerxes, petitioned the ruler to allow him to return to the land of his ancestors in order to rebuild Jerusalem. The King even gave Nehemiah, along with the others going with him, several of his prized Persian horses for their journey home. The Babylonians and the Persians, extending their empire to the west, brought many more of these exceptional animals with them into the area.

The pounding hooves thundered closer. “Halt,” the rider yelled. “Halt!” The horse, a large, black, muscled beast, finally stopped in front of Nehemiah and the others. The trail of settling dust stretched all the way back to the horizon; the bottom edge of the sun was just beginning to dip below it. “You are now in the land of Ammon. By order of the governor of the land, Tobiah the Ammonite, installed by the Persian king himself, you must make yourself known!”

Nehemiah did not speak a word, but looked sternly at the rider from atop his own horse. He knew that the surrounding provinces would not like the idea of Jerusalem’s restoration. And even despite Artaxerxes’ blessing, Nehemiah realized that the bordering territories would do everything they could to stop them. They did not want to see the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.

Nehemiah reached into the pouch beside him and pulled out a piece of parchment. As he handed the letter to the man on the black horse, the rider recognized Artaxerxes’ seal. Lifting it up to catch the remaining sunlight so that he could read, the man began to speak.

“To the governors of the province Beyond the River; to Sanballat the Horonite; to Tobiah the Ammonite; to Asaph the Keeper of the King’s Forest:

“My servant Nehemiah has served with much honor in my court as my cupbearer. He has asked me to allow him to return to the land of his ancestors to rebuild their city of Jerusalem. Because he has demonstrated nothing but great loyalty to me, I have granted him this request.”

The rider stopped reading out loud and studied the remainder in silence. Nehemiah continued to look at the man as the sunlight waned.

A minute later, the rider stopped reading the parchment. He had a disgusted, almost angry, look on his face.

“It appears you have done well for yourself in Artaxerxes’ court, Nehemiah. The King’s favor is upon you and this little project of yours. I hope you know that, because his favor is going to be the only favor you will get. Tobiah the Ammonite will grant you safe passage through his land, but you will get nothing else from him. And you will not get any help from Sanballat the Horonite either. Whether you have this letter or not, we do not want you Jews rebuilding Jerusalem. We will do everything we can to stop it from happening. We will wage war against you if it comes to it. Try to move one stone in place and we will attack.” The rider paused, shoving the letter back into Nehemiah’s open hand. “Go back to Artaxerxes, Nehemiah. We do not want you here. Your people do not even want you here.”

The Ammonite messenger, unhappy about the prospect of Jerusalem being rebuilt, picked up the reins of his black horse and pulled them to the side. The horse snorted as it reared its head back. The rider slapped the reins down and the horse bolted off in the direction the messenger came from. Nehemiah watched the man disappear over the horizon in a cloud of dust, taking the last of the red sun with him behind the skyline.

One of the men with Nehemiah turned to him in the fading light. “What will we do Nehemiah?”

“What will we do? We will arm the people building the walls! Jerusalem will be rebuilt. We have no need to fear pagan rulers and their threats. They worship powerless idols while we worship the true God.”

Nehemiah leaned forward, placing his hand at the base of the horse’s mane. He and the others moved forward, beginning their trek through the hostile land as they continued their journey to Jerusalem.

Excerpt from “The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906”

The following is a short passage from my recently published Kindle book, The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906; these memoirs are a fictional set of adventure stories written from the perspective of John Wesley Bresee at the changing of centuries. If you go to the Amazon Kindle store, you’ll find this excerpt in the book’s free preview.

“I jerked awake; I had no idea how long I had dozed off. The rain must have put me to sleep. But there I was, my back still against the tree, knees scrunched against my chest and my arms wrapped around them, sitting in a thick nasty mud and surrounded by darkness. What woke me up? I heard the sound again – a faint screech in the distance, almost like a baby crying. Was that the jaguar that Pedro warned me about? I remember hearing stories from the west; people said that a mountain lion’s cry sounded like a child weeping in the night. I stood up and remembered that I needed to go uphill if I were to make it back to camp, Pedro’s warning that the jaguar was a nocturnal hunter in the back of my mind. Fortunately, the rain had finally stopped and I was only surrounded by a thin, rising mist.

“After an hour of forcing my way through the thick undergrowth, I realized that I should have made it to the river by that time. I tried to shake the inevitable feeling that I was lost, but it was slowly sinking in. I had gone in the wrong direction. I decided to wait until the sun rose before moving again. Being able to see my surroundings would help me figure out where to go.

“A few hours later first light hit the canopy and began to slowly burn off the misty haze that grew during the darkness. Looking around, I did not recognize anything. I was a complete mess too. My pants, along with my shirt, had been torn in multiple places, and there was dirt all over me. Trying to moving my right arm, I only felt a burning sensation on my shoulder. Looking at it, I must have cut it on something pretty badly during the night. In the back of my mind I held out hope that it might heal without becoming infected, but I knew that would not be the case.

“What a night! I had hoped that when I woke up I would be back in the tent with my friends and that all this would have been one bad dream, but that was not the case. It was a horrible night and now I had to deal with it. I prayed to God for some kind of miracle.

“Even though my compass was long gone, I could still get at least the cardinal directions by looking at the sun. It might be my last hope of figuring out some way to get back to the river and returning to Pedro and my fellow missionaries.
….

“I wandered the Amazon rainforest for what ended up being a week, although it seemed much longer than that, before I made any type of human contact. The cut on my shoulder only got worse and became infected. Puss filled boils formed around the cut after my second day on my own. By the third day I felt illness taking control of my body and my mind. I wrestled with thoughts of what might have happened to Pedro and the missionaries. Somehow I expected that Pedro and the other missionaries searched for me, but I was hopelessly lost nonetheless. I hoped that my friends would make it to the Sewinga tribe and that they would welcome them peacefully. On the fifth day I was drifting in and out of consciousness and wandering aimlessly around the jungle when I had the strength to walk. That was the last day I remember.

“From the bits and pieces of the story I was able to put together, it was most likely May 30 when I first made contact with the Tuhghu. In actuality, they found me. In one of my few lucid moments, I remember leaning against a tree, barely half awake, when a young woman threw a stick at me. She probably wanted to see if I was alive. Judging on how I must have looked, I do not blame her. By then my right arm had become completely immobile. I thought for sure it would have to be amputated just like they amputated my father’s leg. I prayed for mercy from God. Mercy came in the form of this young woman, barely clothed and barely five feet tall. She had finally made her way to me; she began shaking me and speaking a language I did not recognize. That was the last moment I remember.”

Enjoying The Memoirs of J.W. Bresee: 1897-1906 so far? Download the entire book for your Kindle or Kindle app for only $5.99: http://www.amazon.com/The-Memoirs-J-W-Bresee-ebook/dp/B008LWHB60/