Tag Archives: The Acts of the Apostles

“This is amazing grace”

Day 6 – Shackles: The Playlist

Laying down your life for a friend. Taking the place of someone who is condemned.

Those are actions from the heart of Christ, and the kind of love that Christians are called to display. In “Shackles,” I presented those concepts in the story of Faustus, the man that I imagined as the jailer who interacted with Paul and Silas from Acts 16. But earlier in the story, Faustus offered to take the place of his slave – his best friend – rather than allow a gross miscarriage of justice. I’m offering an excerpt from that scene below.

The redeeming story of “Shackles” is that Christ offered his life as payment to satisfy the debt of all who call on his name – confessing with our mouth, believing in our hearts.

This is amazing grace.

FROM “SHACKLES” – CHAPTER 22 – MIDNIGHT RUN

Faustus stepped again toward Lucianus. Two more slaves – Lucianus’s jail hands – stepped in front of Faustus.

“My slave did not take these gods,” Faustus insisted. “And you know it. You had them stolen, you had …”\

“Now, wait a moment,” Lucianus said. He stood. “I would not involve myself in such a thing, because just touching those things – those gods – can get a man’s hands chopped off.”

“You are an evil man,” Faustus replied. “Pure evil.”

“You are mistaken, Faustus,” Lucianus said. “I am trying to make things right, and what I see here is your best slave returning idols he had stolen, because he lives with you, and you certainly told him to just undo his deed and all would be forgotten.”

“I’m not listening to this. Let’s go Lutalo,” Faustus ordered.

“Well, not until there’s appropriate payment for this crime, Faustus,” Lucianus added. “I insist, and you being an upstanding man – and so well-respected by Emperor himself – have to appreciate that.”

“These aren’t your idols to protect and it’s not your justice to give,” Faustus replied. “We’re leaving.”

“Oh, but I’m afraid not, Faustus, because, you see …” He directed Pinkus to bring Lutalo to stand next to Faustus. “By about now, if you set others about the task of looking for more ill-gotten gods at your house, they will have found two statues that came from …”

“My house.”

Faustus began to take off his tunic. “I’m going to end you right here!” he shouted.

Lucianus motioned for another slave to bring him something, and the slave placed a scabbard in his hands. Lucianus stepped toward Faustus, carefully held the scabbard by the blade, and offered the handle to Faustus.

“You take this now. Go ahead, Faustus, you’ve wanted to do this for some time, and thrust it into my gut.”

Faustus refused to take the scabbard.

“So you will not end me here,” Lucianus said. “I knew you wouldn’t. You knew you wouldn’t. These gods know you wouldn’t.” He sliced at the air. “So here’s the price I exact. Bring me Lutalo.”

Faustus pushed his way around the other slaves and stepped in front of Lutalo.

“You will take my life, not his.”

“Take your life? Take HIS life?” Lucianus laughed. “I’m only going to lop of one of his hands. Now move aside.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Faustus snarled. He grabbed the handle of the scabbard and wrested it away from Lucianus. Lucianus told the slaves holding Lutalo to let him go.

“You see, I was going to have them bring him over here, hold his arm on one of these stones, and ‘whack’” … Faustus threw up his arms. “But now you have the implement of justice.”

Faustus thrust the scabbard onto the marble surface. “There will be no retribution – no so-called justice – because my friend, my slave did nothing wrong.”

“No, Faustus, there will be justice, because I have six slaves who will tell the magistrates that they saw your slave take these idols.” Lucianus walked smugly back and forth between Faustus and Lutalo. “And there are others – not slaves, but the kind of witnesses that magistrates believe – who will testify the same thing. So, yes, there will be payment and retribution.”

Lucianus picked up the scabbard. He handed it to Faustus. “Here. Kill your slave.”

“If anyone dies it will be me,” Faustus argued. “My life. Not his.”

Lucianus forced himself to laugh.

“What a noble gesture – a man laying down his life for a slave … for,” Lucianus paused, then spun and turned toward Lutalo. “For his friend.”

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“Shackles: The Playlist” – Song No. 4 ‘The world at the end of our pointing fingers’

Shackles, historical fiction, 83,000 words, set during the years 34-50 AD.

“A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. Shackles tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.”

Grace.

It was a scandalous concept demonstrated by Christ and the theme of the life, ministry and writings of Paul the apostle. But too often Christians embrace grace for themselves yet hold others up to impossible lists of rules and standards. If I can “be good” enough, obey enough, pray enough, read my Bible enough, share my faith enough, go to church enough … Hmmm. Just when will it be “enough.”

Paul said the cross was “enough.” So why do we insist on saying, “Yes, grace and the cross, but …?”

There’s no “but” or “and.”

Please don’t pull out the line, “Yeah, but a REAL Christian would …” or “But a GOOD Christian would …”

If you have even an inkling of that attitude, soak in “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” It’s not about “those people.”

It’s about us.

“Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers … Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded … Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”

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“Shackles: The Playlist” – Song No. 2 …

Shackles / Historical fiction / 82,487 words

A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. “Shackles” tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.

Let me know your suggestions for music to accompany “Shackles.” I’m especially partial to a capella arrangements, but anything with spot-on harmony will get front-of-the-line treatment. I’m a fan of Phillips, Craig and Dean, and “Crucified With Christ” was a regular anthem during the last few months of writing. The title comes directly from the mouth of Paul, the great persecutor turned preacher, from Galatians 2:19-20, and you’ll find it in “Shackles.”

Send me your own recommendations. I’m also looking for secular music that fits the story, and I already have two songs in mind: a love song from Perpetua to Faustus, and a love song from Faustus to Perpetua. (Think Faith Hill and Steven Tyler/Aerosmith).

Meanwhile, here’s “Crucified With Christ.”

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“Shackles: The Playlist” Send me your ideas

Shackles / Historical fiction / 82,487 words

A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. “Shackles” tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.

One verse in the Books of Acts gave birth to “Shackles” several years ago, although I didn’t realize it until 13 months ago.
“Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25)
Music brought “Shackles” to life, so it’s only fitting that music has played a key role in the writing process. The music that has accompanied this journey is rather eclectic, but also traditional. My tastes range from classic rock and Southern gospel to Indian flutes and contemporary Christian. As “Shackles” enters the test-reading and proofreading stage – with revising and editing to follow – let’s put our musical minds together for the “Shackles” soundtrack. Please send me your suggestions.
I’m getting “Shackles: The Playlist” started with a song – and music video – that tells the story of Acts 16:25. Ray Boltz’s “I Will Praise The Lord.”

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Hey, I wrote a book!

Here’s the rest of the cast for the main characters in “Shackles.” Most of the characters from the jailer’s part of the story in Philippi are entirely fictional. Paul’s part of the story, based on the Book of Acts – in particular, Acts 16 – features real characters with whom I carefully took creative liberties.

If anyone has contact info for the director/production team of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, pass it along and let’s get this fantasy project turned into something for the silver screen. (As mentioned previously, I cast Mr. Hanks as Claudius for the Philippi story, but he’s welcome to switch with Christian Bale to play Barnabas if he’d like). Remember, this fantasy cast is based on a fantasy budget. I wanted to find spots for Johnny Depp and Will Smith, but even fantasy budgets have limits. I want to shell out the biggest fantasy bucks possible for the Howard-Hanks team.

And here’s another snippet from “Shackles,” which is now in the hands of 18 or so test readers. Tomorrow: we begin making “Shackles: The Playlist,” so start passing along your favorite Christian, sacred and secular songs that might fit this story.

SHACKLES - CAST 4 pmd

CHAPTER 24 – Telling the world …

Barnabas wondered if Paul had recognized the two men.

“I’ve noticed that many tend to follow us from town to town,” Barnabas said. “But these two. They seem different. Not just curious. It’s hard to explain.”

Paul had a more exact impression.

“I know the tactics,” he said. “I’ve used them.”

Barnabas was puzzled. “Tactics?”

“Plant seeds of division and doubt, find a spark of disagreement or anger, and fan it into flames of hatred.”

“You mean they want to do us harm?”

“Have they approached either of us with questions about our teaching? About Jesus?”

Barnabas agreed. “They’ve had ample opportunity to introduce themselves.”

“Well,” Paul said, patting Barnabas on the shoulder. “Our God is sovereign and in control. Just as He worked when I went throughout Judea, Samaria and Syria planting seeds of doubt and division, looking for sparks of disagreement or anger, then fanning the flames of persecution.”

“So you’re saying they want to do us harm?”

“They’re being very patient,” Paul said. “I’ll even go so far as to say they have support from the high priests in Jerusalem. Very similar method of stirring trouble and hatred. And the cleverest part is they get others to actually get their hands dirty.”

“Dirty?”

“Bloody. They won’t need to pick up stones. They’ll get others to do it.”

 

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