The Great Hall of Gloom

His Royal Lowness, Lord Everett Flyblown, sat restlessly in the Great Hall of Gloom, with its huge sable pillars and inky forecourt. In the thick, black darkness, he was almost invisible. Ima Slimebag stood uncertainly before him, barefoot on the frigid tiles. The gloom surrounded him like a dense, liquid fog. When he moved, he could almost feel it moving with him, so bleak and grim was the air.
It was a night waiting for a dawn that would never come. Not a single light was to be seen anywhere. Black dust covered everything and a black pall hung over all.
Lord Flyblown’s figure, once so glowing with glory, but now so tarnished and stained, blended with the ebony atmosphere. He drummed his metallic fingers with impatience on the arm of his imperial throne.[1]
Slimebag had spent so long in the enfolding tenebrosity that, like a bat in a cave, he could distinguish the objects around him, black as they were. His vision could penetrate the impenetrable. But in the murky gloom, Lord Flyblown’s facial expression was impossible to read, even for him.
‘So,’ began Lord Flyblown, ‘you claim to have had some success in counteracting the seditious activities of Enemy agents i-Plod and e-Pray. Tell me more.’
Slimebag’s blue-black skin sheened faintly like the carapace of a small lobster. He felt a shudder ripple through his skinny frame but it wasn’t from the cold.
‘I tracked them closely, Your Venomness, as you ordered me to do,’ answered Slimebag as confidently as he could.
‘Well, things were looking pretty promising  at the beginning, Your Despicableness. I am glad to report they failed miserably in their overseas mission trip. They had little opportunity to engage with the locals and made no significant contact with the underground movement.’
Slimebag lifted his shoulders, and looked up at Flyblown, his eyebrows raised, hoping for commendation for his efforts. He squinted, trying to read his master’s mood, but although he could readily distinguish his figure in the pervasive gloom, it was impossible.
‘Is that all?’ barked Lord Flyblown. ‘And you call that success? According to your report—and to information from other sources—i-Plod spoke at ten meetings of enemy slaves. And both he and e-Pray spent long periods of time in discussion with a significant number of international agents and were actually entertained and dined by senior Government officials.’
‘Well, yes, Your Lowness,’ mumbled Slimebag, suddenly grateful to be half-hidden in the darkness. ‘I do admit there were a couple of glitches. But on two occasions, when e-Pray addressed meetings, they were so interested in what she said that i-Plod was ignored. I thought that was gratifying. He is such a know-all. He is always trying to hold the floor. And I did distract them with some tourism and they had to endure below zero temperatures.’
‘Enough!’ Lord Flyblown interjected, his steely hands held high in mock astonishment. ‘I am awestruck by your achievement!’ He stood to his feet and took a step forward towards his young protege.
‘Maybe he’s going to pin a medal on me,’ thought Slimebag excitedly. ‘Wait till I tell Fishrot about that!’
Lord Flyblown stopped and gazed down at Slimebag. Then his eyes narrowed and there was menace in his voice. ‘Haven’t you worked out that the way to deal with human pride is to build it up, not break it down! Will you ever learn?’
Slimebag’s excitement vanished like a lizard under a rock. His eyes widened with fear. ‘And don’t you realize,’ hissed Lord Flyblown, ‘what would happen if people actually did believe that the Enemy’s story is true? What if they were convinced the Enemy really did love them so much that he sent his one and only Son to save them from our clutches?[2] What if millions of people were to start loving each other (ugh) and caring for each other with that soppy sentiment they call kindness? What if they came to think that love, integrity and forgiveness were more important than money or sex or power? The very thought of it is sickening.’
Long inured to the icy texture of the furniture, Lord Flyblown looked around grimly at the dismal, grimy walls and the arid, frozen floor. Those foolish humans imagined he ruled a kingdom of fire. He hated fire. Hated it even more than the pervasive chill of the sinister depths of the Abyss.[3]
He leaned forward, glaring at Slimebag. ‘I hope you fared better during the rest of the year,’ he remarked.
Slimebag wrung his hands together obsequiously and spoke rapidly. ‘Oh, yes, Your Degradedness, certainly,’ he sneered. ‘They both ran short of money.’
‘And you call that an achievement?’ blurted Lord Flyblown, savagely. ‘Do you really understand your job, Slimebag?’
‘Certainly, Your Mendacity,’ responded Ima Slimebag, quoting defiantly from his training manual.  ‘My most important task is to tempt humans and to lure them to sin.’[4]
‘Well, I do confess, Your Coldness, I didn’t do too well there. Plenty of small victories, of course, but little of major consequence to report.’ He went on anxiously, with the hint of a catch in his voice, ‘I mean, I try hard enough. I steer enticements right into i-Plod’s path; I do appeal to his pride; I apply stress to e-Pray in her work; I get them both over-tired—but… Well, I mean, that e-Pray, she can’t help herself, always giving things away and caring for people in need. And i-Plod, he is so naïve. Try getting him to do something dishonest. He doesn’t know how. And when they do get something wrong, they simply ask the Enemy to forgive them and—and—he actually does! I can’t believe it.’
‘Mm, they are an objectionable couple, I do agree. Nauseating.’ Lord Flybown paused. For a moment he almost sounded sympathetic. Suddenly he raised his voice. ‘But so what!’ He glowered at Slimebag. ‘What did you expect? Instant reversion?’
‘I—I—er—did get them too busy to pray sometimes!’ Slimebag urged eagerly, his skeletal toes scraping a pattern on the cold, dusty floor, like worm-tracks ‘And I did give them some health problems! Especially e-Pray. She’s a dangerous Enemy agent. I stopped her in her tracks.’
‘I’m afraid not, Your Scurillity.
‘And i-Plod?’ asked Lord Flyblown, more wishfully than hopefully.
‘Oh, him? Unhappily, Your Arrogance, he’s OK.’
‘If I am correctly informed, you egg-brained wimp, recently at some of his meetings people were infected by that pestilential Enemy Spirit. You thought they would just go away and forget everything as people at church usually do, but they wouldn’t leave. They spent hours calling on the Enemy, many in tears (in tears!) and others crying out as if they were in pain.  At other times they sang, they laughed, they celebrated, they stayed late.’
‘Well, I guess—‘
‘If you don’t tell me something good, Slimebag, I will have you grilled and toasted before the day is out!’
Slimebag trembled at the thought. He looked out through the twisted ebony pillars around him at the wide, waterless waste. Not a single tree, not another living creature, not the faintest cry of a bird nor the merest hint of song. All was bleak and barren, frozen and dry.[5] The thought of a fire filled him with dread.
‘I really did try to stop them,’ he blurted pitifully. ‘But they are so…so…fixated. I can’t seem to divert them, no matter what I do. I manage occasional slipups, I make them stumble, I even trip them over, but they just get up and get going again. They are incorrigible! They just do what the Enemy tells them to do.’[6] Slimebag hung his head. Then he had an idea. His face brightened and he looked up and said, ‘But, really, compared with most other Enemy agents, i-Plod and e-Pray have done hardly anything.’
‘And neither have you, you…you…miserable wretch!’ snarled Lord Flyblown. He stood to his feet, his large frame looming above Slimebag like a huge, black, walking stingray. ‘I’ll have more to say to you later.’  He stormed off leaving poor Slimebag alone and silent in the gloomy, desolate Hall.
He trembled and waited, slouched in the nausea of failure… Absently, he contemplated the faint shadows at his feet. Strangely, the configuration of the pillars had given them a rough Cross-shape.
He recalled the nonsense the Enemy agents blathered about the Cross. Total idiocy, of course. He snarled softly… But what if it were true? What if the Enemy actually had taken human form and died for humankind on a Roman Cross? The thought shocked him. What if that was the problem all along? That Enemy agents did what they did because they really believed He had given His own Son for them? That He had got rid of the cold darkness in their lives?[7] That they really were reborn? That the biblical story was not just another fable but actually a fact of history?
Nah! Of course not. It was impossible. It had to be, didn’t it? If it really was true, his whole existence was a mockery. But what if it was? Could it change even him?  Might it even make him good?
In panic, like a cockroach suddenly exposed to the light, he ran wildly from the Hall and fled into the vast, silent, lonely wasteland, terrified by the thought.
1549 words

[1] Jude 1:6, 13; Job 10:21-22; 24:17.
[2] John 3:16; Act 26:18.
[3] Nahum 3:17; Luke 8:31; Rev 9:11.
[4] Matt 4:1-11.
[5] Luke 11:24.
[6] Hebrews 12:1-3.
[7] John 8:12; Col 1:13.

More Poems by Barry Chant

The Spindles Series

the spindle adventuresHere are seven collections of children’s stories – 36 in all – set in the Australian Outback and including a clear biblical message every time. With over 100,000 of these in print, it is obvious that these are firm favourites with children. Spindles and his sister Freckles experience exciting adventures with their many animal friends and through them all, wise old Redgum guides them with his sage advice. And these are the kind of adventures that could happen to almost any child. Children can easily identify with them. Designed mainly for children of eight years old and over to read for themselves, these stories will also delight younger children who listen to them.

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The author says: At Christmas time in 1973, I searched in desperation for a story to tell at a Sunday School Christmas party. I had already used the ones I had. So as a last resort I decided to write my own. I borrowed ideas from Paul White (the ‘Jungle Doctor’), C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien and a few other writers whose names I have forgotten, threw in a few ideas of my own and sketched out a skimpy outline. To my surprise the children liked it. So I wrote another one for Christmas Day. And then another. And soon there was a book. The stories took on an identity of their own and today they have been widely published, translated into other languages, and read by tens of thousands of children. They have been turned into puppet plays, musicals and radio broadcasts. I like to think that the Lord who loved to tell stories himself might actually be rather pleased about all this. Almost every week I run into adults who tell me they read Spindles when they were young. Once when a mother was reading one of the stories to her little son, he began to cry. ‘I didn’t realise Jesus loved me so much,’ he said. Just that makes it all worth while.

NEW! The Spindles Fun Book! Give the kids entertaining fun activities while they read the stories. And it’s completely free. Just download it here.

The Integration Of Spirituality In The Practice Of Christian Counselling

Vanessa Chant’s Thesis: The Integration Of Spirituality In The Practice Of Christian Counselling

Christian counselling is encouraged by churches and provided for by theological colleges who incorporate counselling training in some of their curricula. Registration is provided by Christian counselling organizations and some employment opportunities are provided by many not-for-profit Christian organizations and Churches. This research sought to comprehend the significance of Christian counselling and to gain an understanding of how training impacts the Christian counsellor.
The literature and background information in Christian counselling was viewed, laying a foundation for the research. The research comprised four scales culminating with two client scenarios. It sought to determine the value of Christian training in counselling and to gain a better understanding of Christian counselling. There was an expectation that Christian counsellors would be able to articulate what the distinctives were in relation to Christian counselling. There has been no known research in this particular area in Australia.
The research included 128 Christian counsellors who were graduates of Christian colleges, counsellors employed in Christian organisations and members of the Christian Counsellors Association of Australia.
The results of the research indicated that most participants, although enthusiastic in relation to Christian techniques in theory, did not always follow through with practical examples of this in the scenarios. The hypothesis, =Graduates who are trained in theological institutions will be more likely to utilise Christian spiritual issues in their profession of counselling‘ was not supported.

Vanessa Chant’s full thesis may be downloaded from the below links:

Walking With A Limp

Walking with a LimpA charismatic approach to the question of suffering, this book faces the realities without abandoning a positive faith in the power of God. This is a book to be read before trouble comes. It was joint runner-up for Australian Christian Book of the Year in 2004.

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The author says: The question of suffering is age-old. How can a loving God be all-powerful if he cannot deal with it? How can an all-powerful God be loving if he will not deal with it? While there are many excellent books on this subject, there are virtually none from a charismatic perspective. The reality is that many people in the charismatic movement don’t have a theology of suffering. On the other hand, there are others who don’t have a theology of healing. This book is honest, realistic, faithful to Scripture and yet unashamedly positive about the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t know of any other book like this. I think it’s worth a read if only so you can help someone else.

Step Out – Jonathan

1 God loves impossible situations

Israel was in a desperate situation. The Philistines were terrorising the land.
• Overwhelming numbers (13:2,5; 14:2) – originally ten to one, and later nearly 20 to one.
• Frequent raids (13:17ff)
• No iron weapons (13:19ff). Only bows, arrows and slingshots.
• Extortion (13:21)
The result was that the people were ‘trembling’ (7, ESV) and ‘quaking with fear’ (NIV)
God loves situations like this because it gives him the chance to demonstrate his love and his
power! Oscar C. Eliason wrote—
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specialises in things thought impossible
He can do just what no other can do
See Matt 17:20; Luke 1:37; Jer 32:17, 27

2 God can do a great deal with people who don’t care who gets the credit (1-3)

• No one knew when Jonathan left the camp. He was only a young man—maybe a
teenager. Who was the armour bearer? No one knows. Just another ‘young man’.
• Who we are does not matter: it’s what we are that counts! These two young people
carved their exploits in history.

3 When we step out God steps in (6)

• Jonathan said, ‘Come, let us go over.’ Too often we sit back and wait. These two stepped
• Miracles are 99.999% God and only 0.001% us—but this 0.001% is still important. Eg
Moses; Elisha; Peter; Jesus.
• We need to take faith steps eg in evangelism, in witnessing, in praying for the sick, in
prophesying, in giving, in speaking in tongues…

4 Faith doesn’t have to be perfect (6)

• Jonathan was not convinced that victory could be taken for granted—‘It may be…’ (ESV,
NRSV) or, ‘Perhaps the Lord will…’ (NIV).
• Sometimes we hold back because we think our faith is not perfect. It doesn’t have to be.
As long as it is faith in a perfect God!
• Compare Daniel 3; Ecclesiastes 11:4; Mark 9:24.

5 When God is with us we are always in the majority (6)

• Many? Few? It doesn’t matter!
• See Romans 8:31ff; 2 Corinthians 2:14.

6 Unity is crucial (7)

The armour bearer told Jonathan he would support him totally.
• GNB: ‘I’m with you’
• NIV, ESV: ‘I am with you heart and soul’
• NRSV: ‘As your mind is, so is mine’
• MKJV, NASB: ‘I am with you and your heart.’
• See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Matthew 18:20

7 We need to determine the will of God (9-12)

Jonathan sought a sign from God. There is a difference between faith and presumption.
• Faith = acting on God’s promise
• Presumption = acting on our own ideas
How many things are God’s will? There are dozens!
• Forgiveness
• Grace
• Peace
• Joy
• Victory over temptation
• Freedom from fear
• Hope
• Release from depression
• confidence

8 Faith can overcome impossible odds (13-15)

• They used both hands and feet to climb (ie their hands were not free for fighting). They
were just two against many (15:20ff).
• It was a fulfilment of God’s promise. God gave the victory!
• See Leviticus 26:8; 2 Corinthians 2:14

9 Challenge

Jesus stepped out of heaven to become a human being and to die on a cross to save us from sin.
When he stepped out, God stepped in! Death could not hold him! He rose again and lives forever!
Will you step out for God now?


Remember: You don’t have to answer all the questions. First do those that seem most helpful to
Read 1 Samuel 14:1-14


1. Why do you think Jonathan did not tell his father he was going to fight the Philistines?
(1). You may find it helpful to read chapter 13 here as well.
2. Do you have any thoughts on why the writer makes special note of the fact that the priest
was with Saul? (3). Can you find out what ‘wearing an ephod’ means? See 1 Samuel
1:18; 2:28; Exodus 28:1-14.
3. How would you describe the character and attitude of the two young men (6,7)
4. Note how although it was Jonathan and his armour bearer who overcame the Philistines,
to whom was the credit given? (12, 23). What can we learn from this?

Personal and practical

5. Stepping out in faith requires courage, especially when we do it on our own and no one
else wants to go with us. But what happens when we seem to succeed? (16-23) What can
we learn about leadership here?
6. Read verse 6 again. Discuss ways in which we can apply it to situations in our own lives.
7. How does this story illustrate the principle, ‘When we step out, God steps in’?
8. In the conflicts we have with temptation and opposition, what could we learn or apply to
our lives from the actions of Jonathan recorded in verses 8-12?
9. Some people seem to be always complaining that the devil is making things tough for
them. What can we learn from this passage about matters like this? (13-15; James 4:7).

Memorise: 1 Samuel 14:6

Hint for memorising: You can do this as a group by repeating phrase by phrase aloud together
until you can say the whole text in one hit. Don’t forget to learn the reference as well.