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Streams In The Desert Children’s Story

Streams In The Desert Children’s Story

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This children’s story is centered around 4 camels who are siblings. They discover their own depravity as well as God’s great mercy toward them. Out of that they are sent to share about the mercy that God has shown them to the creatures of the desert.

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Streams In The Desert

CHAPTER 1 - SPACIOUS OASIS

SPACIOUS OASIS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/Streams-In-The-Desert-1-Spacious-Oasis.mp3]

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It was about 6:00 AM, and the morning sun began to shine its light over and through the palm trees of a beautiful place called Spacious Oasis. The light soon made its way over to a palm tree next to which a big brown camel was sound asleep, dreaming sweet dreams about the sweet chocolate pie he had eaten just the night before. The camel’s name was Peter. When the light fell on Peter’s face, he began to stir and wake up. “Aaaaaaargh!” Peter groaned as he stretched out his long camel legs and shook the sleep from his eyes.

When Peter first woke up, he felt a little cranky, because the sun had roused him from his dream just as he was about to take his first bite of pie! However, Peter’s crankiness did not last long. For as soon as he stood up his eyes caught a glimpse of the beautiful date trees and the many fresh springs of water scattered throughout Spacious Oasis. “Oh, how I love this place!” Peter thought to himself as happy memories flooded his mind.

You see, as you already know from its name, Spacious Oasis was one of those very cool places that we call an oasis. To have an oasis you must first have a desert, because an oasis is located out in the desert. And as I’m sure you know already, deserts are very dry, hot, sandy places that get very little rain during the year. There is not a lot of water to drink in a desert, and this can be a problem sometimes because all creatures–even those in the desert–need water to live. However, an oasis is different from the desert surrounding it. Even though an oasis is found out in the desert, it has a lot of fresh, clean water. The water at an oasis usually comes from springs or streams of water under the ground. Because an oasis has water, and because water makes things grow, an oasis is green and usually has plenty of water to drink and tasty fruits to eat–unlike the desert all around it. If someone is stuck way out in the desert with no food or water, they can still get what they need to live if they can reach an oasis.

Now, an oasis can be small or big. Peter lived in an oasis called Spacious Oasis. Spacious is a fancy word for a large area. So what do you think? Do you think Peter lived in a small oasis or in a big oasis? That’s right, he lived in a big one! A very big one. A spacious one in fact. Spacious Oasis had so many fresh springs of water that it was hard to count them, and so many fruit trees that food was never hard to find. It was always green in Spacious Oasis, and there were plenty of trees where a tired camel could find shade any time he needed to escape from the hot sun. Caravans traveling through the desert would always stop at Spacious Oasis to have a rest before continuing on their journey. The caravans were usually made up of camels and traders who were passing through the desert so that they could sell their clothes, spices, foods, and other goods in a town on the other side of the desert. Sometimes the caravans would leave behind gifts for the camels when they left Spacious Oasis. One caravan trader had given Peter’s family a big box of baking chocolate, because they knew that Peter’s Mom loved to cook tasty pies. And that is how the tasty pie that Peter had eaten the night before had made its way to him. It was the first time he had ever eaten a chocolate pie, and it was by far the best cud he had ever chewed. Indeed, Peter loved Spacious Oasis from the top of his hump to the bottom of his feet, and he could never imagine himself leaving such a wonderful place.

Now, Peter had been in Spacious Oasis all his life. He had grown up there with his Dad, his Mom, his twin brothers Virtue and Justice, and his sister Mercy. One thing that Peter was so thankful for was that his Dad and Mom knew the Lord Jesus, the Messiah. Everyday Peter’s parents taught him and his siblings about the truth of the gospel. They taught them about the resurrection and how Jesus will raise His people from the dead and give them new bodies that will never die when He comes back. They taught them about how when Jesus comes back, He will fix and restore all the things that were broken after Adam and Eve ate the fruit that they were not supposed to eat. They taught them about the beautiful kingdom of perfect justice that Jesus will set up when He comes through the sky with His glorious angels. They taught them about how Jesus will make all the wrong things right when He comes back. They also taught them about what Jesus did for us the first time He came. How in His great mercy He died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and then rose from the dead three days later, so that we could be a part of all that He will do at His Second Coming. Through their parents, God had entrusted His precious gospel to Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy. It was the most precious gift He could give to anyone.

CHAPTER 2 - THE EASTERN POOL

THE EASTERN POOL

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/Streams-In-The-Desert-2-Eastern-Pool.mp3]

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Later that day, at about noon when the sun was at its full strength, Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy got thirsty and decided to walk over to the big pool of water near the eastern edge of Spacious Oasis. This place, called the Eastern Pool, was both their favorite watering spot, and at the same time it was their least favorite watering spot. On the one hand, it was their favorite because it sat in the shade of some very large rocks, and thus it had the coolest water in all of Spacious Oasis. On the other hand, it was their least favorite watering spot because it was so close to the place where Spacious Oasis ended and the desert began. You see, Peter, his brothers, and his sister had never left Spacious Oasis or gone out into the desert. And truth be told, they did not want to venture out into the desert anytime soon. For from the caravan traders they had heard many scary stories about the ugly creatures of the desert. They had heard stories about poisonous scorpions that liked to sting people just for fun. They had heard stories about poisonous spiders of many kinds. And scariest of all, they had heard stories about slithery snakes that had long sharp teeth and were full of poisonous venom. In the minds of these four camels, the desert was the place for all of the wicked, mean, poisonous animals that no one liked and that no one wanted to be around. While Spacious Oasis was the place where all of the good animals—such as camels, of course—lived.

When Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy arrived at the Eastern Pool, they stooped down, put their mouths to the water, and took a deep drink. Peter was particularly thirsty, and after just 10 minutes he had drunk thirty gallons of water! “This is some of the freshest, cleanest water I have ever tasted!” Peter thought to himself happily, now feeling refreshed. When the four camels had all finished drinking, Virtue lifted up his head, turned it toward the east, and stared out into the vast desert. For miles and miles He could see nothing but large sand dunes reflecting the light and heat of the sun. He then began to think about the yucky, sinful, non-virtuous creatures of the desert, and a feeling of deep disgust came over him. “I never want to go out into that desert,” Virtue said, turning his face toward his brothers and sister. “I can’t stand the thought of being around creatures as disgusting as scorpions, spiders, and snakes! No, Spacious Oasis and its cool waters is the place for a noble camel like myself!”

“I know what you mean,” Justice replied. “I once heard a story from one of the caravan traders. He said that one day a scorpion walked up to him and stung him for no good reason. He said that he cried out in pain and that his foot immediately got red and swollen. The trader then stepped on the scorpion and killed it. Serves that scorpion right! As far as I am concerned, that dirty scorpion got just what he deserved!”

“Well, what about the spiders?” Virtue responded. “They are just as bad as the scorpions, if not worse! I once heard that spiders like to spin sticky webs and use them as traps to catch innocent little bugs like crickets, whose music we all love! When a little bug flies into the web, it gets stuck there, and then the spider eats it all up. It makes me so angry when I start to think about it! The spiders can have the desert. I’m happy right where I am.”

Then Peter joined in the conversation, saying, “I know that both scorpions and spiders are bad. But the creatures that I detest the most are the snakes. I get the shivers every time I think about them! I once heard a trader tell the story of when a cobra bit his camel. The camel got very sick and almost died. Thankfully they had some anti-venom, and that saved the camel’s life. But it was a close call, all thanks to that disgusting, evil snake!”

“Yeah,” Justice said with anger rising in his voice, “let those serpents stay out in the desert without any fresh water! Why should such wicked creatures get anything to drink anyway?”

As Mercy listened to her brothers, she started feeling a bit uncomfortable. To be sure, she didn’t like the mean, cruel things that the desert creatures had done. She felt very sad for the trader who had been stung by the scorpion, the innocent little crickets that had gotten trapped in the spider’s web, and for the camel that had almost died from the cobra’s bite. At the same time, she didn’t like the way her brothers’ faces kept looking angrier and angrier the more they talked. Justice had such an angry look on his face that Mercy thought that any moment he might start doing the very same things that the scorpion, the spider, and the snake had done! Wanting to calm her brothers down, she stirred up her courage and with a gentle but firm voice said, “Alright boys. All of this talking is going to make us late for supper! You know that Momma and Daddy said that we need to be home in two hours or we’d be in big trouble.”

That was all it took. Mercy knew her brothers well. The last thing that Peter, Virtue, and Justice wanted was to receive a punishment from their father when they got home. So the three brothers stopped talking, and along with Mercy stooped down to take one last drink from the Eastern Pool before leaving. As they walked home, each of them quietly began to thank God that they lived in Spacious Oasis and not out in the desert. They also gave thanks that they had been born camels and not snakes.

CHAPTER 3 - THE DREAMS

THE DREAMS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/Streams-In-The-Desert-3-Dreams.mp3]

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“Just in time for dinner, my loves!” Momma Camel said happily when she saw Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy coming around the hill not far from their family palm tree.

As the four camels got closer to the tree, Peter leaned over to Mercy and whispered, “Whew, that was close! Thanks for getting us back on track, sis!” Mercy smiled and kissed her brother on the cheek.

When they reached the palm tree, six large bowels full of thorny-shrub stew were sitting there waiting for them. Thorny-shrub stew used to be Peter’s favorite food before he had learned about chocolate pie. The family thanked the Lord for their meal, gobbled up their stew, and then sat down together next to the palm tree for family devotions.

After they had finished singing a few songs, Daddy Camel opened up his Bible and read from Psalm 32: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him, and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Then he said, “Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy, when the Lord shines His light in our hearts, it is very important that we not try to hide our sin from Him. After all, He already knows that it is there! When the Holy Spirit shows us our sin, God will forgive us if we repent of it, because He is merciful. On the day Jesus returns, He will be looking for hearts full of truth. If we do not truly understand how deep the sin in all of our hearts really goes, we will never really understand why Jesus had to go to the cross. Deceit is the opposite of truthfulness. If we deny our sin, we have great deceit in our hearts, and we cannot truly know God’s mercy.”

When Daddy Camel finished talking, the whole family began to pray that Jesus would come and remove all of the deceit from their hearts. After they finished praying, they gave each other a hug and found a cozy place on the ground to sleep for the night. As soon as they fell asleep, Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy started dreaming.

In Peter’s dream, he was standing at the Eastern Pool that they had just been to earlier that day. When he looked down, he saw his face in the water. However, it was not the face of a camel that he saw, but the face of a snake! While looking at his face, he began to remember the time three months earlier when he had spoken some very rude and mean words to his mother and made her cry. Then Peter realized that those words were just like the poison of the snake that had bitten the trader’s camel. Peter began to weep and cry out to Jesus for mercy.

In Virtue’s dream, he was standing in front of two large rocks out in the desert. Hanging between the two rocks was a spider’s web with a big spider sitting on it. As Virtue looked at the spider, the spider pointed behind Virtue. When Virtue turned around to see what the spider was pointing to, he saw the family palm tree, and it had a huge spider’s web hanging down from it! Trapped in the web was Virtue’s brother Justice, and Justice was trying very hard to get out of the web. However, he couldn’t break free because the web was so sticky. Suddenly Virtue remembered the time when he had told a lie and gotten his brother Justice in trouble, even though Justice had not done anything wrong. Virtue then realized that his lying was just like the spider’s web, and that his lie had trapped his brother! Virtue then began to weep and cry out to Jesus for mercy.

In Justice’s dream, he was walking through the desert with a caravan of traders. When they stopped for water, a scorpion went up to one of the traders and stung him. When the scorpion did this, Justice felt very angry and began to shout, “Justice! Justice! We want justice! Step on that scorpion, and we will have justice!” But when Justice shouted this, instead of stepping on the scorpion all of the traders stared at Justice and then began to run away from him in fear. Justice was surprised. Then he turned around to see what everyone was afraid of, and he saw that instead of a camel’s tail, he himself had the stinger of a scorpion! Suddenly Justice remembered the time when he had hit his brother Peter for no good reason. He also remembered the time when he had pushed his sister Mercy out of the way at dinner and ate all of her thorny-shrub stew. This had made her very sad. He then realized that when he treated others like this, it was just as bad as the sting of the scorpion. Now, instead of crying out for justice, Justice began to weep and cry out to Jesus for mercy—not only for himself, but also for the scorpions.

In Mercy’s dream, she was standing next to the Eastern Pool and looking out over the desert. As she looked, suddenly she saw Jesus, and he was building three roads that began at Spacious Oasis and then led out into the desert. Each road had a sign on it. The signs were in the shape of arrows and pointed down each road. The first sign said, “Jesus died for scorpions,” and Mercy knew that that road went to where the scorpions lived. The second sign said, “Jesus weeps for spiders,” and Mercy knew that that road led to where the spiders lived. The third sign said, “All men are snakes in need of mercy,” and Mercy knew that that road went to where the snakes lived. Then Jesus walked up to Mercy and gently placed His hand on her back. He said, “Mercy, I have created you camels as the ships of the desert. You and your brothers are able to go places where no other animals can go. Indeed, the road is difficult, and the sun is hot, but the scorpions, spiders, and snakes are very thirsty and are in great need of My living water. Through your parents, I have been teaching you the gospel for many years now. Are you willing to leave the comforts of Spacious Oasis in order to share it with others? Will you lay down your own lives in order to declare the mercy of My cross out in the desert before the time of mercy ends and I Myself bring true justice to the earth at My return? Mercy, I want you and your brothers to go and carry streams of living water out into the desert.” When Mercy heard these words, she began to remember all of the sinful things she had ever done. She began to weep and repent, saying, “Lord, have mercy on me, and forgive me for the deceit in my heart! For I myself am the worst sinner, and I myself am in need of mercy more than all of the desert creatures!” When Mercy confessed her sin, great love came out from Jesus and covered her like a warm blanket. Immediately she knew that Jesus had forgiven her, and that there was no sinner on the earth beyond the reach of His great mercy.

After Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy woke up the next morning all of them were completely silent and had tears in their eyes as they slowly walked over to the family palm tree for breakfast. Daddy Camel and Mommy Camel immediately noticed that something important was happening in their children’s hearts. After giving each of them a kiss on the forehead, Momma Camel broke the silence and asked in a tender voice, “My loves, what happened to you last night?” One by one the four children began to share their dreams with their parents. As each one shared, tears came to everyone’s eyes, even Momma and Daddy’s, and under their breath they all began to thank Jesus for His great love and mercy toward even the worst of sinners. After the children had finished sharing, Daddy Camel and Momma Camel looked into each other’s eyes, wrapped their necks around each other in a hug, and began to walk away from the children. They walked behind a hill where no one could see them, and they started talking with one another in a low voice. As they talked, Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy could not hear what they were saying. All they heard were faint sounds of sniffling and crying.

An hour later, Daddy and Mommy Camel came out from behind the hill and rejoined their children. Though their eyes were full of tears, their faces were also brightened with an unexplainable joy. Then with a serious but loving voice Daddy Camel said, “My children, your mother and I have been praying for this moment for many years, even though we knew that when it came it would be very difficult for us. We love you, and the thought of being apart from you and of you suffering out in heat of the desert is very hard for us. And yet, our desire has been for God to send you out into His harvest fields as trustworthy servants! You see, my children, until you truly know how much mercy you yourselves have received from the Lord, the Lord can never truly trust you with His most precious pearl—the gospel of His great mercy on the cross. For many, many years now God has been holding back the Day of wrath, justice, and punishment so that all the wicked creatures of the earth—including us!—might have a chance to hear the gospel and receive mercy before it is too late. However, the Lord has a set day when He will punish the earth for its sins, and the time of mercy is growing shorter and shorter with each breath. Therefore go, my children! By the power of the Holy Spirit proclaim the gospel boldly in both word and deed! For our Master, the Lord of all mercy and the God of all judgment, has spoken to you, and you must obey His voice. No matter how hot the days might get, my beloved ones, and no matter how great the cost to you or to us, you must now leave Spacious Oasis behind and go to the far places of the desert. You must now share the living water that you yourselves have received with the spiders, the snakes, and the scorpions. For they, too, are loved by God.”

When Daddy Camel finished speaking, the whole family gathered together in a circle and began to pray together. As they prayed, the Holy Spirit touched their hearts, and they began to cry out to God in prayer. With great urgency in their hearts, they asked God to pour out His mercy on the desert creatures like a sweet spring rain. They prayed that God would cause His word to run swiftly, like a cheetah, among the spiders, the scorpions, and the snakes.

CHAPTER 4 - SAYING GOODBYE

SAYING GOODBYE

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/Streams-In-The-Desert-4-Saying-Goodbye.mp3]

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Over the next few weeks, news about what God had done in this family of camels spread quickly throughout Spacious Oasis. As the word spread, God put it on the hearts of many of the other camel families to give these four camels the things they needed for their trip. Some brought thorny-shrub sandwiches, others brought umbrellas, and still others brought sunscreen and toothpicks. Peter, who had a bald spot on his hump that was prone to sunburn, was particularly thankful for the sunscreen. Virtue, on the other hand, was always getting thorns stuck between his teeth at suppertime, and so he was especially happy about the toothpicks. As for Mercy, she was delighted when through airmail some eagles delivered a package sent by some of her good friends way over in Ant Hill—Daniel and Noah. They had sent her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Now, Ant Hill was some two hundred miles away from Spacious Oasis. Apparently, the news about what God was doing had spread even farther than anyone had thought!

During this time of gathering supplies, one day one of Justice’s best friends, Billy, gave Justice a large pack of minty gum as a gift. “You better take this minty-fresh gum with you,” Billy said to Justice, trying very hard to keep himself from laughing. “I would hate for some of those desert creatures not to listen to your message simply because you have bad breath from all the onions on those thorny-shrub sandwiches!”

When Billy said this, both he and Justice began to snort, fall on the ground, and crack up with laughter. Have you ever heard a camel cracking up with laughter? Well, let’s just say it isn’t a very pretty sound. But Billy and Justice in that moment weren’t very concerned about that. They were going to miss each other a lot, and in such times making good laughter is simply more important than making good music. After Billy and Justice had finished all of this snorting and laughing and silliness and carrying-on, Justice looked over at his friend and with warmth in his voice said to Billy, “I’m going to miss you, my friend.”

“What are you talking about?” Billy replied with a smile as he bumped shoulders with Justice. “Though I might not be chewing the cud there with you in camel, I’ll be right there chewing it with you in my heart.” Then with a lighthearted grin, with eye-brows raised, and trying hard to make a deep and serious-sounding voice, Billy added slowly, “As a wise camel once said, ‘when you walk through the desert close your eyes and you’ll find, that the face of a true friend is never left behind.” When he said this, Justice just stared at Billy. He wasn’t sure how to respond. At first a tear came to his eye. Then right behind the tear followed an irresistible urge to laugh. And that is exactly what happened. Justice and Billy both started their snorting and their laughing all over again.

Now, after several weeks had passed and all of the provisions for their journey had come in, it was now time for Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy to set off into the desert. Together with Daddy and Momma Camel, all of the camels in Spacious Oasis gathered around these four young messengers of the gospel, anointed them with oil, and with tears committed them to the Lord in prayer. The plan was for them to start off the journey by going out two-by-two to different places. Peter and Virtue would go to Spider Rock in the northern desert, while Justice and Mercy would go to Scorpion Canyon in the southern desert. Then, after they had finished sharing the gospel in both of those places, God willing they would all head east and meet up together again at Snake Plateau. Snake Plateau was where the fiercest snakes of the desert lived.

Momma and Daddy Camel walked with their children to the Eastern Pool. When they arrived, they spent more time in prayer with their beloveds and gave them many hugs and kisses. They told them how proud they were to have children who were willing to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice no matter the cost so that others could receive His mercy too. Then saying goodbye, Momma and Daddy Camel turned around and started walking back to their family palm tree in Spacious Oasis. As they walked, Daddy Camel leaned over to Momma Camel and whispered tenderly into her ear, “They are in His hands now. He is the Lord.”

“His will be done,” Momma Camel responded quietly, an unexplainable peace coming over her heart as she did so.

After Daddy and Momma left, Peter, Justice, Virtue, and Mercy were once again standing at the Eastern Pool by themselves. They began to take some long and deep drinks from the pool to get themselves all filled up with water for the long journey ahead. When they finished, they walked over to the spot where Spacious Oasis came to an end and the desert began. As they stared out into the desert, they could not help but think of how much God had done in their hearts since their last visit to the Eastern Pool. As you know, on their last trip to the pool, they talked about the desert creatures with their hearts blinded by pride and self-righteousness. Now, the blindfold had been removed and they could truly see. Instead of seeing the desert creatures as the worst of sinners, they saw themselves as the worst of sinners. And because God had shown such great mercy to them, the worst of sinners, they had no doubt that He would also show mercy to the desert creatures if they too would but repent and put their faith in the gospel.

“Well,” Peter said, “I guess this is it. The Master has spoken, and it’s time to obey. The desert creatures need the waters of life.”

“Are any of you feeling a little scared like me?” Justice asked, not trying to hide what was happening in his heart.

“Yes,” Mercy replied. “I don’t know very much about the desert, and that makes me a little afraid. And yet, when I start feeling afraid, the Holy Spirit brings to my mind the Scripture that says, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”

“I, too, sometimes feel afraid about the unknown,” Virtue chimed in. “In those moments, the Lord reminds me of His promise to be with us even until the end of the age.”

As the four young camels continued sharing different Scriptures with each other, the Holy Spirit began to remove the fear from their hearts. Strengthened and encouraged, they prayed together one last time before setting off. After the “Amen,” they gave each other some long camel hugs. Then with their supplies loaded on their backs, with determination in their hearts, and with minty-fresh gum in Justice’s mouth, Peter and Virtue started walking toward the north and Justice and Mercy toward the south. Little did they know all the adventures that awaited them!

CHAPTER 5 - TESTING IN THE DESERT

TESTING IN THE DESERT

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Peter and Virtue had been walking in the desert for two whole weeks now, and there was still no sign of Spider Rock. “Wow,” Virtue said with tiredness in his voice. “I didn’t realize how long and hot this journey would really be!”

“I know,” Peter replied. “But we must keep our hearts from complaining. Are you sure we went the right direction when we turned right at those sand dunes?”

“To be honest,” Virtue said uneasily, “I’m not a hundred percent sure. When those hyenas told me that we needed to turn right at the sand dunes, I don’t think they knew that a windstorm was about to hit later that day. I hope that our landmark didn’t decide just to up and move east! Whatever the case, I’m not sure I trust those hyenas anyway. As they were giving directions, they just kept on laughing and laughing with a mischievous look in their eyes. I fear they may have been trying to send us on a wild goose chase through the desert.”

“Well,” Peter said, “there is no point in worrying about it now. The Lord is faithful, and He will get us where we need to go. It’s getting late, and we need to get some rest. How about we sleep here for the night?”

“Sounds good to me,” Virtue said.

Meanwhile, to the south Justice and Mercy were also looking for a place to sleep. The sun had been particularly hot in the southern desert the previous few days, and Justice and Mercy’s legs and joints were aching. When they had first started their journey, the two young camels had spent most of their days singing as they walked. Now, it seemed that it was hard to even muster up the strength to keep on walking, let alone sing. The two young camels felt sad and discouraged.

“Justice, I don’t know how much farther I can make it,” Mercy said with tears in her eyes. “I miss Momma and Daddy so much, and sometimes I just feel so lonely way out here. We don’t really know where we are going, and we are almost out of thorny-shrub sandwiches. We are trying so hard to obey what the Lord told us to do. I don’t understand why He is letting us go through such a hard time.”

“I know sis, I know,” Justice said sympathetically, trying to fight off discouraging thoughts of his own. He then continued, “Well, Daddy and Momma used to always teach us that God puts us through hard situations and times of testing like this not because He is angry or displeased with us, but to humble us and discipline us as His children in preparation for the age to come. It is through difficulties that we truly learn trust in His power and faithfulness, and to not lean on our own strength and understanding. Jesus first carried His cross, and then after that received eternal glory by being raised from the dead. So too we must carry our cross in this age, in the hope of sharing in the resurrected glory that will be given to us, too, when Jesus comes back.”

“Yes,” Mercy replied, her spirit lifting as she also began to recall her parents’ words. “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

When she said this, Justice suddenly felt courage to pray. “Father, we are your servants, Your son and Your daughter. We cannot do what You have called us to do in our own strength. We humble ourselves before You now and ask You to give us a place to rest our heads for the night. We also ask You to show us the way to Scorpion Canyon. And we trust You to provide for us, just like You provided the manna to the Israelites in the wilderness.”

When Justice finished praying, Mercy lifted up her head and saw a small pile of rocks lying on the ground about 400 feet in front of them. She then pointed out the spot to Justice.

“Hey, that looks like a good spot!” Justice exclaimed. “We can use some of those rocks for a pillow.”

“Yes,” Mercy responded, also feeling encouraged. “We can also take some of the rocks and build a small wall over and around our supplies to protect them in case the wind picks up.”

When Justice and Mercy reached the pile of rocks, they set up camp for the night and built a small shelter for their provisions. After the two of them finished eating a thorny-shrub sandwich, Justice pulled out his gum, gave a piece to Mercy, and then put a piece into his own mouth. Then, in an effort to make Mercy laugh, he began chomping his gum louder and louder and louder. Then with a big smile he said, “Hey sis, watch this!” He then stuck his long camel tongue through his gum, made a big air pocket, and began to blow the biggest bubble you have ever seen! And the bubble grew…and it grew…and it grew. In fact, in the history of camel-in-the-desert-stories, there has never been a bubble bigger than the bubble coming from Justice’s mouth. Finally, the gum could not stretch any more. “POP!!!” went the bubble as it exploded. The sound of this pop was so loud that it echoed throughout the entire desert. And not only that. Justice now had gum stuck all over his face and his head!

Mercy began to laugh from the bottom of her belly and said, “Well, it’s too bad that camels don’t need to carry water canteens in the desert, because you could really use some water right now to wash off your face!”

“I have another strategy in mind,” Justice replied confidently and cheerfully. He then stretched out his long tongue and began to lick the gum off of his face bit-by-bit.

Then Mercy said, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re out in the middle of the desert where no one can hear us. That pop was so loud that it would have scared away even the bravest of critters!”

“Indeed,” Justice said. “In my humble yet accurate opinion, I must admit that it was one of my best ever!”

And so the four camels, two to the north and two to the south, fell sound asleep that night, thinking that they were all alone. But were they really? Well, let’s just say that they were all in store for a very big surprise the next morning…

CHAPTER 6 - FROM FEAR TO COURAGE

FROM FEAR TO COURAGE

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The next morning came quickly, and heat swept over the desert like a tidal wave as soon as the sun came up. Peter and Virtue woke up as soon as the light fell on their faces. As usual, Peter woke up yawning with a big “Aaaaaaargh!”

“Good morning, Virtue!”he said, feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep. “How did you sleep last night?”

“Not too bad,”Virtue replied, “though for part of the night I had this strange feeling that someone was watching us.”

“Must have been a dream,”Peter said as he yawned again. “There is no one around this area for miles.”

“I guess you’re right,”Virtue said with hesitation, still feeling a little unsure and uneasy. “Must have been a dream.”

After stretching their legs, the two camels pulled out some thorny-shrub sandwiches for breakfast. When they had finished and had begun chewing the cud, Peter turned his head to the left. When he did so, something peculiar caught his eye. About three hundred feet in the distance were what looked like two very odd-shaped shrub bushes. One of the bushes was mostly dull gray in color with patches of white, while the other was mostly dark black also with patches of white. Even odder than the colors of these bushes, however, was the strange look and the unusual number of their trunks. Instead of having one brown or green trunk, these bushes had three trunks each. The three trunks made a triangle shape, and one of the trunks on each bush was thicker than the other two and was covered with a gray, hairy-like fuzziness of some sort.

“Hey Virtue, take a look over there,”Peter exclaimed with a puzzled look on his face. “What do you make of that? Aren’t those the oddest looking bushes you have ever seen?”

Virtue turned his head to see what Peter was talking about. After staring at the bushes for a few seconds, he said, “Wow, you’re right Peter. I’ve never seen bushes like that before.”As Virtue kept staring at the bushes, he suddenly remembered how he had felt watched last night. With a voice of curiosity mixed with a bit of suspicion, he then said slowly, “And for that matter, Peter, I actually don’t even remember seeing them there yesterday when we arrived!”

Now, if there was one thing that Peter knew about his brother Virtue, it was that he had the best memory of any camel in Spacious Oasis. So, if Virtue said that the bushes were not there yesterday, then it meant that those bushes were certainly not there yesterday. Peter and Virtue looked at each other, and they knew that they needed to go check out those bushes to see what was really going on here.

Peter and Virtue began to walk slowly toward the two bushes. When they were about thirty feet away from them, suddenly the trunks of the bushes looked as if they had begun to shake slightly. When the two camels noticed this, they looked at each other with a sense of alarm. Slowing down their pace a bit, they now began to tip-toe toward the two bushes. When they were about ten feet away, the bushes’ shaking increased to the point that two of the trunks on each bush were now knocking against one another.

Then the two thicker trunks from each bush suddenly popped out of the ground. These were not bushes. These were ostriches! And the three trunks on each bush were not trunks at all! They were actually ostriches’ legs and their hairy-gray necks! And the reason the necks of these two ostriches had looked like a trunk, was because both ostriches had stuck their heads way down in the sand for fear of the sleeping camels—which they thought were lions—that they had unexpectedly came across the night before!

“Run, Olivia, run!”the dark black ostrich shouted to the gray ostrich. “Run like you’ve never run before!”

And so both ostriches began to run. However, instead of running away from the camels, they just kept running in circles around the camels at forty miles per hour. And even though the camels were not moving anywhere, the black ostrich kept shouting, “Run, Olivia, run! I still see them! We’re not making any ground! The lions are gaining on us! They’re gaining on us!”And whenever the black ostrich would shout this, the gray ostrich would shout back in panic, “I’m running, Orville, I’m running! But my hair! My hair! I got this perm fixed and fancified just two-days ago! Just two-days ago! And now look at it!”

Now this running-around-in-circles, this shouting back-and-forth, and this fretting over fancy hair-does went on for thirty more minutes. Finally, Orville Ostrich and his wife Olivia reached the point of exhaustion and could not run anymore. Breathing and panting heavily, they both fell to the ground.

“Olivia, my dear Olivia,”Orville said with a sense of defeat as he gasped for air. “I think we’re just going to have to surrender and let these lions eat us.”Then he said, “Honey, I don’t mean to be self-absorbed, but do you think I’ll taste good to them?”

“I don’t know, Orville Ostrich,” Olivia replied with slight irritation as she too gasped for air. “You simply refuse to eat my green pea casserole or have anything to do with my mother’s famous burnt onion biscuit recipe. All you’ve been eating lately are BBQ potato chips and chocolate pie. How is an ostrich ever supposed to taste plump and juicy for a lion when he is eating junk-food like that all the time?”

When Peter and Virtue heard Orville and Ostrich say these things, they just couldn’t help themselves. They fell to the ground and burst out snorting and laughing. When Orville and Olivia saw this, they looked at each other in surprised silence. “Why were these lions laughing so much?”they wondered to themselves. Then a thought came into Olivia Ostrich’s mind. “Oh, I see,”she thought to herself. “These lions think that my Orville isn’t tasty enough to eat. How rude! We’ll, I have a thing or two to tell them!”Feeling a bit defensive, Olivia boldly stood to her feet and with a stern look on her face strutted over to the lions.

“Listen here, you lions!”she ordered fearlessly. “I will have you know that my Orville is probably the tastiest ostrich in the northern desert! True, he drinks too much coffee, and I’m sure that if you yourselves don’t eat him then Dr. Pepper will certainly be the death of that bird. Nevertheless, he eats healthy forty percent of the time, and he has a wife who is one of the best cooks this side of the dunes. You would be foolish not to eat that ostrich this very instant!”

As Orville listened to his wife, he was very proud of her boldness toward the lions. In ten years of marriage he had never seen her speak with such courage. And yet at the same time, he didn’t quite know what to think about the fact that she was making a very persuasive argument as to why they should eat him.

“Furthermore,”Olivia continued, now waving her wings about wildly and preaching with even greater boldness, “you two also need to know that even if you do eat my Orville or me, we will not be afraid, for we are followers of Jesus the Messiah. Even death itself cannot truly hurt us, because when Jesus comes back He will raise us from the dead and give us new bodies. My Orville will shine brighter than the sun, and we will become a king and a queen in Jesus’ kingdom. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor powers, can separate us from the love of our God in Messiah Jesus our Lord!”

When Peter and Virtue saw the courage of this ostrich who just moments before had been running around in circles worrying about her hair, they were shocked and amazed. Only God Himself could turn such fear into a boldness that had the power to shut the mouths of lions—or, more precisely, to shut the mouths of camels that were thought to be lions.

“Oh, we’re so sorry, Mrs. Ostrich!”Peter apologized. “We didn’t mean to offend you or make you upset. It’s just that we’ve never been confused for lions before! Quite honestly, we are just as afraid of lions as you and your husband are. No, we are nothing but weak camels seeking to obey the same Lord as you. We too are disciples of Jesus the Messiah! We are here because Jesus sent us into the desert to share the gospel with the spiders of Spider Rock. However, we aren’t sure if we are on the right path or not. Yesterday, we met some hyenas and asked them for directions to Spider Rock. When we did this, they started laughing and told us to turn right at the sand dunes. However, a couple hours later a windstorm suddenly blew across the desert and shifted many of the sand dunes around. So, we’re not sure if we turned at the correct sand dunes or not. Do you know if we are moving in the right direction?”

When Orville and Olivia Ostrich heard Peter say the words “hyena”and “gospel,”they looked at each other and then hung their heads in shame. Suddenly they began to cry and ask Jesus for forgiveness.

“What’s wrong, Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich?” Virtue asked with concern. “I pray that we haven’t upset you again!”

“No, no, brother camel,”Orville Ostrich said quietly. “These tears have nothing to do with you. These are tears of conviction. You see, three years ago Jesus told us that He wanted us to go and share the gospel with the hyenas of Hyena Hollow—a place not too far from where you stopped and asked for directions. However, as you discovered quite well from today’s little run-around, ostriches are famous for being jittery and afraid. Whenever we sense—or like today, imagine—danger, we usually lose our wits and then start running around aimlessly in circles.”

“So when Jesus told us to go to the hyenas,” Olivia Ostrich jumped in with regret in her voice, “we started to obey Him. But the more we talked about the possible dangers and risks involved in such a mission, the more afraid we became. Instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to give us courage and boldness as He did today, we chose not to go to the hyenas out of fear that they would laugh at us, or even worse, eat us. And so, we never made it all the way to Hyena Hollow. We simply stopped here and made a home in this area.”

“And ever since,” Orville Ostrich said, “all we have done is just stick our heads way down in the sand in fear and guilt. I feel so ashamed. We are not bold servants like you, dear camels.”

“Oh, dear friends!”Peter exclaimed. “Virtue and I have no boldness in and of ourselves! Like you, the only courage we have is through the Holy Spirit!”

“And not only that,”Virtue began, “but it is still not too late for you to obey Jesus’command. Even though it would have been better for you to have obeyed earlier, Jesus is full of mercy, and if you repent He will forgive you. I know this for a fact. For many years I thought I was full of much virtue and goodness. I thought that Jesus was impressed by all of my acts of righteousness. But then Jesus came and showed me that my own righteousness and my own deeds were actually like dirty, stinky rags in His sight. He showed me that if I was going to be acceptable to Him, I had to trust in His righteousness and let Him do His works in and through me as I suffer the humiliation of the cross like He did. This was hard for me to hear because I didn’t like the thought of suffering. However, when Jesus showed me how deep the sin of my heart really was, it actually brought freedom to my heart, because now I was no longer trying to hide something from God that He already saw anyway. In his great mercy, Jesus forgave my sins, and now He is doing His work in my heart through the Holy Spirit. If He can forgive me, the chief of sinners, then He will also forgive you. If His Spirit can cause me to see the desert creatures no longer with eyes of hatred but with eyes of mercy, then His Spirit will also give you the boldness you need to share the gospel with the hyenas—even to the point of death if that is what He wills. Dear ostriches, if you surrender to the Master, He can still use you powerfully!”

When Orville and Olivia Ostrich heard these words, a look of joy and hope came over their faces.

“Thank you, dear camels, thank you for coming here!” Olivia Ostrich exclaimed.

“Yes,” Orville Ostrich said in agreement. “God sent you here to fan into flame the calling that He has placed on our lives, but which we have neglected. Your example has given us great courage to obey our Lord no matter the cost, even though we wish we had obeyed earlier.”

“Well, we are also very thankful for you,”Peter replied. “Today Mrs. Ostrich has given us a true example of boldness. Now that I have seen first-hand how the Lord can turn a heart of fear into a heart of courage by His Spirit, I have much greater confidence as we continue our journey to Spider Rock.”

“Indeed,” Virtue added. “In fact, Mr. Ostrich, if I really had been a lion, I think that I truly would have been convinced to eat you!”

At that, the two ostriches and the two camels laughed. Then Orville Ostrich said, “Now, as for you two getting to Spider Rock, it turns out that the Lord was actually using that windstorm to keep you on the right path. If you would have turned right at the sand dunes suggested by the hyenas, you would have gone about 50 miles off course. However, when you turned right at the sand dunes created by the windstorm, you began to head in a straight line toward Spider Rock. If there are no more windstorms, I imagine you will make it there in about a week.”

“However that may be,”Olivia said in an authoritative voice and grinning, “you two won’t be leaving today. Now that we have established the fact that you are not lions, I think you will make fine company. I insist that you stay with us one more evening, and then you can head off in the morning. I bet that you two are hungry and could use a break from those thorny-shrub sandwiches.”

“Actually,” Peter began, smiling shyly, “when you two were lying on the ground after your…after your…” Then Peter, not wanting to embarrass his new friends, paused a moment to think of the right words. Then he continued, “…after your time of circular exercise today, I believe I heard something about Mr. Ostrich eating too much chocolate pie lately. I was wondering if there were any chance that…”

But before he could finish his sentence, Olivia Ostrich interrupted with a friendly smile and said, “You’re in luck! It just turns out that we have four big pieces of chocolate pie leftover from dinner last night. We can eat them for dessert tonight. Then in the morning we can send you off with some fresh burnt onion biscuits. They are famous in these parts, you know.”

“Yes, very famous,”Orville said, clearing his throat. “And they are especially tasty if you wash them down with some Dr. Pepper.”

Olivia Ostrich raised her eyebrow at Orville. Then all four of them started laughing again.

The next morning, Peter and Virtue prayed with their new friends and gave them a hug goodbye. Then they set off again for Spider Rock. However, this time it was not only camels that were heading out for the harvest fields. You see, as soon as Peter and Virtue had left, Orville and Olivia Ostrich themselves began their own journey toward Hyena Hollow.

CHAPTER 7 - THE POWER OF PRAYER

THE POWER OF PRAYER

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Now, around the same time that Peter and Virtue were learning that Orville and Olivia were actually ostriches and not bushes, down in the southern part of the desert Mercy and Justice were about to have some unexpected surprises of their own. Do you remember when Mercy and Justice decided to spend the night next to some rocks? Well, it just so happened that that pile of rocks was not just a pile of rocks after all. Those rocks were actually home to a small family of desert lizards. The family was made up of Grandma Loretta, Daddy Lyle (who was Grandma Loretta’s son), Momma Lyla (daddy Lyle’s wife of twenty years), two teenage daughters, Lily and Lucy, and a ten-year-old son named Leopold. Now, these little lizards were so small and lived so far out in the southern desert that nobody actually knew they were there. But the Lord knew. You see, even though these lizards were smaller than your thumb, their love for the Lord was bigger than your house. Those who love God are known by God, and this family of lizards was very precious to Him. In fact, did you know that this family was one of the reasons why God had sent Peter, Virtue, Justice, and Mercy out into the desert in the first place? How could that be, you ask? Well, this family of lizards was a family of something we call intercessors. An intercessor is simply someone who keeps on praying and praying and praying for God to do the things that the Bible says God wants to do. And the Bible says that with all of His heart God wants the gospel to go out to all the creatures of the world before the time of mercy runs out and the hour of judgment comes. And so without anyone but God knowing it, for many years this little family of lizards had been praying faithfully for God to send out workers to share the gospel with the creatures of the desert. And now finally, after so much praying, God was answering their prayers by sending these camels out into the desert. However, at first the little lizards did not know this. In fact, after hearing that big “Pop!”the night before, they weren’t quite sure what to think about those two big brown rocks that the wind had unexpectedly blown in the night before.

Daddy Lyle quietly and cautiously stuck his head out from under the rocks. With eyes open wide and jaw dropped, he turned to the rest of the family still hiding under the rocks and whispered, “What in the world are those things? I have studied desert rocks all my life, and yet never have I seen anything as peculiar as these rock formations!”

Then Leopold, who was very interested in science, asked quietly, “Could it be a volcano, Daddy? Surely it is a volcano, isn’t it? I mean, what else can make a ‘pop!’like what we heard last night besides a volcano!”Then with a mischievous look on his face, he turned to his sisters and said with a flare of drama, “At any moment now, those volcanoes could erupt and ooze out steaming hot lava. It could be end of lizard civilization as we know it. Flee for your lives!”

“Eeeeeek!”his sisters screeched.

“Shhhhhhhh…”Momma Lyla said, looking at all three kids with warning in her eyes. “This is serious business, children.”

“Indeed it is,”Grandma Loretta joined in with a firm but tender grandmotherly voice. “In all my years these rocks have never seen commotion such as what befell us last night—not even in the days when your Grandpa Leonard Lizard scared off those desert foxes by feigning insanity. When he started hollering like a hyena and jumping rope with his own tail, that was all it took. They all thought he had the deadly lizard virus and took off running faster than an ostrich chasing itself in circles. Mm…mm…mm…that lizard was a true hero.”

The children laughed quietly, and Grandma smiled back at them—but still with a genuine look of concern in her eyes. Then Daddy Lyle said, “These unusual rock formations have some kind of bumpy, hump-looking thing on top of them. They also have some kind of brown, hairy-like moss growing all over them. It must be a fungus! I’m sure of it! Fungus-covered humpified rocks they are! Could be contagious. Everyone stay here, and watch out. I’m going to take a closer look.”

“Lyle Lizard, you be careful!”Grandma Loretta and Momma Lyla whispered with worry in their voices.

“I will, I will,”Lyle whispered back. Then with a brave look on his face, he looked into his wife Lyla’s eyes and said, “Lyla, no matter what happens, I want you to know that these have been the best twenty years of my life. Hug the kids for me.”

Lyla sighed with a look of affectionate adoration on her face, and this gave Lyle courage. One little lizard step at a time, he began to make his way over toward the camels that he thought were rocks, and maybe even volcanoes. As he did so, Grandma Loretta leaned over to Momma Lyla and whispered proudly, “I always knew that that boy was possessed of the same chivalry as that of his Daddy. Mm…mm…mm…”

When Lyle reached Justice, he immediately noticed that somehow the family roof had made its way under a peculiar part of these unusual rock formations—a part that had two ear-like things sticking up from it, and which was connected to the bigger part of the rock by a long, thick structure that looked like a tube. “How odd…how odd indeed,”thought Lyle to himself as he stared at what used to be his chimney.

Suddenly, Justice began to move. He stretched his legs, stood to his feet, and said to Mercy enthusiastically, “Morning sis! Looks like we slept a little too long. Better get moving!”

Scared out his wits, Lyle screamed. “Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Ahhhh!”Then running in circles, he yelled to his family, “Volcano erupting! Volcano erupting! Flee to the rocks!”

“Honey, we’re already in the rocks!”Lyla shouted back.

“Oh, okay. Flee to the dunes and hide in the sand!”Lyle then ordered.

Then Leopold ran outside to help his dad. When he looked up, he saw that the big brown rock had eyes and teeth. “Dad!”he yelled. “I don’t think it is a volcano! I think it is an animal!”

When Lyle heard this, he suddenly remembered the story about his own Daddy Leonard Lizard and the desert foxes. “If these are indeed animals,”he thought to himself, “let’s see what they think about this!”Then he started laughing like a hyena and jumping rope with his own tail. When he did this, Mercy was the first to notice a strange sound coming from below.

“Justice,”she said, “do you hear that funny sound?”

Justice put his ears up and listened intently. “Yes,”he said, “I believe I do. It sounds like someone is saying, ‘I’m a hyena, I’m a hyena, be afraid, be afraid!’Where is it coming from?”

Then Mercy looked down and saw Lyle. Not quite sure why this little lizard was jumping rope with his tail, she smiled at him and said, “Hello friend, that is an amazing trick you are doing with your tail! Do you mind if I ask you why you are doing it?”

Daddy Lyle nearly fainted. The volcano was now talking! Then after a few minutes of shock, Lyle Lizard came to his senses and built up the courage to say something back. “I’m…I’m…trying to protect my family from you by scaring you away.”

“Ah, I see,”Justice replied with a smile. “Don’t worry, my friend, we are not here to hurt you or your family! We are just camels who love Jesus the Messiah. He sent us out into the desert to share good news with the desert creatures. We are on our way to Scorpion Canyon to do just that, and we stopped here to rest for the night. We haven’t seen anyone in weeks. What a sight for sore eyes you are, dear lizard!”

Lyle couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Looking intently into Mercy and Justice’s eyes, he asked with astonishment, “Do you mean to tell me that you are servants of the living God, and that you are traveling to the far places of the desert to share the good news of His Son there?”

“Yes, we are,”said Mercy. “There is just one problem. We have never been this way before, and we don’t know where we are going. Do you know the way to Scorpion Canyon?”

Tears began to fill Lyle’s eyes. “Wait right here,”he said with a quiver in his voice. No longer afraid, He ran back to the rocks as fast as he could. “Grandma Loretta, Momma Lyla, children,”He shouted, “come with me at once! The Lord has answered our prayers! Come and meet our brother and sister in the Lord! They are on their way to share the gospel in Scorpion Canyon of all places!”

Both startled and excited by this news, the whole family went out to meet Justice and Mercy. After introducing themselves, they began to share the story of how for many years they had been praying for God to send workers out to Scorpion Canyon to share the gospel there. After they finished sharing, Momma Lyla said, “We cannot tell you how encouraged and honored we are to have you here, dear camels. I’m so thankful that God sent you here first before you made it to Scorpion Canyon. Prayer is such hard work, and sometimes it can get discouraging if you never see how God is answering your prayers. But now we are strengthened to pray more fervently than ever. Thank you.”

“The honor is ours, dear lizards,”Justice replied, overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude. “I used to be so blind with pride and deception. My heart was hard toward the desert creatures. I wanted mercy for myself, but justice for them. Then Jesus came and showed me the true darkness of my own heart. And yet instead of giving me what I deserved, He turned my eyes to the cross and showed me mercy. And now I know that God was doing all of this in answer to your prayers! How could I ever thank you enough, friends! You are true intercessors of God Most High!”

Then with tears in her eyes Grandma Loretta said, “Oh, if only Leonard Lizard were here to see this day! That lizard was a mighty prayer warrior…mm…mm…mm…a mover of mountains if I ever did see one.”

“I look forward to meeting Leonard Lizard in his resurrected body at the Second Coming,”Mercy said, looking at Grandma Loretta with great compassion and tenderness. “I have a great deal to thank him for.”

When Mercy said this, the Holy Spirit touched Grandma Loretta’s heart with hope, and her face beamed with a smile bigger, brighter, and more beautiful than the most colorful rainbow you’ve ever seen. “Thank you, dear one, thank you,”she said to Mercy.

Justice and Mercy spent the rest of that day fellowshipping and worshipping with the lizard family. It turned out that Daddy Lyle knew where they could find some thorny shrubs not far from the lizard home, where Justice and Mercy had slept the night before as dormant volcanoes. Also, Grandma Loretta had an old map of the desert that Grandpa Leonard had drawn up many years ago on one of his adventures out in the desert. She pulled the map out and gave it to Justice and Mercy.

“Here friends, take this map,”Grandma Loretta said. Seems that God has had had it waiting here all these years just for you. It will get you where you need to go. It shouldn’t take you too long to get to Scorpion Canyon, maybe a week or so.”

“And we will be covering you in prayer the whole time,”Momma Lyla chimed in. “We have heard that Scorpion Canyon is a very tough place. But our God is with you, and all things are possible with Him.”

Then Daddy Lyle said, “I do have one request to make of you before you leave in the morning.”

“What is it?”Justice asked.

“You can use them again tonight if you like,”said Lyle smiling, “but before you leave, would you two mind to put the rocks you used for your pillows last night back on top of that pile of rocks right over there? Your pillows are the roof to our house. True, we don’t get much rain in the desert. Nevertheless, there is nothing like having a good roof over your heads in case some desert foxes should dare to come snooping around.”

Both camels and the whole family of lizards laughed.

“Of course, my friend, of course!” Justice said happily. “Consider it done!”

And so the next day, Justice and Mercy fixed their new friends’ roof. After saying goodbyes, they set off once again for Scorpion Canyon. God had used this family to encourage them more than words can express. And soon they would discover just how much they truly needed this family of intercessors. For a time of great decision and challenge was awaiting these two camels in the days ahead.

CHAPTER 8 - SPIDER ROCK

SPIDER ROCK

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“What in the world is that!”Virtue exclaimed as his eyes landed on a large, dark shape in the distance. “Do you think that might actually be Spider Rock?”

“It might be,”Peter replied. “Orville Ostrich said that without sandstorms it would take us about a week to get there. Well, we’ve been walking for seven days now, and there have been no windstorms.”

Just then, Virtue looked down and saw two little centipedes walking by. “Perhaps these little centipedes will know,”he thought to himself.

“Excuse me, excuse me kind centipedes,”Virtue said. “Can you tell me whether that shape way over there in the distance is Spider Rock or not?”

When the little centipedes heard the words “Spider Rock,”immediately a frown came over their faces and they began to tremble. Then after a few seconds of this, one of the centipedes spoke.

“Ye…ye…yes, it is,”the little centipede said nervously. “You are only about three hours away from Spider Rock. If you get close enough to it, you will notice that the Spider Rock itself looks like a spider with eight legs.”

Then the other centipede joined the conversation. “If you don’t mind me asking, kind sirs,”he said, “why would good camels like you go to a place like Spider Rock? Has nobody warned you that Spider Rock is a very dangerous place? There are more poisonous spiders there than you can count, and they do not like strangers at all. If you go there, you will be doing so at the risk of your own lives.”

“Yes, we have heard of the dangers,”Peter responded, trying to push back fearful thoughts. “We are going to Spider Rock not as servants of ourselves, but as servants of Jesus the Messiah. He is the One who has called us to go there. We must obey Him.”

“Well,”the first little centipede replied, “whatever you do, make sure to watch out for that bandit Cranky Cornelius. Cranky Cornelius didn’t grow up learning about God. He is a lawless and an unclean creature. He is the fiercest and scariest spider on this side of the desert! You might find a few spiders willing to listen to you, but not him. He is a criminal of criminals. Watch out, and stay away from him!”

Then wanting to end the conversation, Virtue said, “Thank you for the directions, friends. We still have a good long walk ahead of us, and we need to be on our way. You have a good day.”

At that, the two little centipedes nodded their heads and waved goodbye to the camels with about forty-two of their little legs. “Take care,”they said. “And be careful!”

As Peter and Virtue started walking, both of them began to experience a flood of questions and doubts. Had they made the right decision by leaving Spacious Oasis? Would God really call His children to put their own lives at risk for the sake of the gospel? Was it really possible for someone as hard as Cranky Cornelius to receive mercy and be saved? Once they got to Spider Rock, then what? Where would they start? What would they do?

Finally, after about thirty minutes of these kinds of thoughts, Peter broke the silence. “Virtue, since talking with those centipedes, I have been really wrestling with thoughts full of fear and doubt.”

“Me too,”Virtue confessed. “Do you think that Satan might be trying to discourage us because he doesn’t want the spiders to hear the gospel?”

“I think so,”Peter answered. “I think it would be wise at this point for us to stop and pray before we continue on to Spider Rock.”

And so the two camels stopped in their tracks, got down on their knees, and began to pray. “Lord,”they prayed, “We thank You for Your faithfulness, for You have brought us so far through the desert. Now we are almost to Spider Rock, and our hearts are full of fear. We ask You in Jesus’name to strengthen our hearts and protect us from the lies of the devil. Through Your Spirit, give us the same boldness that you gave Olivia Ostrich that day we met them. We ask You for grace and power to testify to the gospel no matter how hard it gets, and to show us where and how to start sharing the message when we arrive.”

As Peter and Virtue prayed, the doubts and discouraging thoughts they had been having went away, and they again felt peace in their hearts. They also felt a strength come into them that they knew was not their own strength. It was the strength of the Holy Spirit.

After praying, the two camels started walking again. Then an idea suddenly popped into Peter’s head.

“Hey Virtue,”Peter began, “I have an idea. Tell me what you think about it. I know those two little centipedes said that Cranky Cornelius is the biggest and scariest of all the spiders. However, if Cranky Cornelius accepts the gospel, perhaps many of the other spiders will be so amazed that they too will decide to accept the Lord?”

“That sounds pretty impossible,”Virtue responded. “And yet, all things are possible with God!”After chewing on the idea a few more minutes, Virtue spoke again. “Peter, the more I think about that idea, the more I think it was the Holy Spirit that put it into your head. If the hardest spider comes to know the Lord first, then everyone will know that it was God who did the work.”

And so the decision was made. When Peter and Virtue arrived at Spider Rock, the first thing they were going to do was ask to speak with Cranky Cornelius!

After walking for about two more hours, the two camels finally arrived at Spider Rock. The Rock was big, dark, and black. On every side it was full of caves, crevices, nooks, crannies, and crags of all shapes and sizes. Spider webs were everywhere. And the centipedes were right. When one stepped back and looked at Spider Rock together with all of the other smaller rocks that were connected to it, it did indeed look like a big spider with eight legs.

As Peter and Virtue walked closer to the Rock, they began to see thousands and thousands of spiders crawling around everywhere. There were spiders in the nooks and spiders in the crannies, spiders that were young and spiders that were grannies. There were spiders hanging high and spiders hanging low, spiders that were clear and spiders that could glow. There were spiders in the caves and spiders on the rocks, spiders wearing hats and some that wore eight socks. There were spiders spinning webs and spiders doing flips, spiders drinking juice and spiders eating chips. There were spiders that were waiters and spiders that were cooks, spiders that played soccer and spiders that read books. There were spiders that were spotted and spiders that were bumpy, spiders that were silly and spiders just plain grumpy. There were spiders that were black and spiders that were blue, spiders that had coughs and spiders with the flu. There were spiders that were sticky and spiders that had hair, spiders who were stingy and just refused to share.

Suddenly one of the spiders saw the camels and shouted, “What are you camels doing here! We don’t want you here! Go away, or we will all jump on you and bite you with our poisonous fangs!”When the spider said this, all of the other spiders began to shout the same things.

However, Peter and Virtue were not afraid. They knew that their God was with them. Then the Holy Spirit came on Peter and he said boldly, “Spiders of Spider Rock, we come to you in the name of Jesus the Messiah! We have a message for you and for your leader Cranky Cornelius. We request that you take us to him, so that we might share with him a message by which he and all of you may be saved.”

The spiders were shocked that Peter had spoken so boldly and was not afraid of them at all. However, these spiders were not going to be told what to do. All at once, about hundred of them jumped on Virtue. First they tried to tie his feet with some rope made out of sticky spider webs. Then they began to bite him. As they did so, their poison went into him. While this was happening, Virtue remembered the dream Jesus had given him, in which he had seen Justice caught in the web created by his lie. He remembered how Jesus had shown him great mercy despite all of the webs with which he himself had trapped others. Then through the power of the Holy Spirit he cried out in a loud voice, “Father, forgive these spiders for what they are doing to me! Have mercy on them, just as you have had mercy on me!”When he did this, he felt the Holy Spirit take out all of the spiders’poison out of his body.

When the spiders heard Virtue shout this prayer, they immediately stopped biting him. They did not know what to do. How could someone pray something so merciful even when being attacked so unmercifully? The anger of the spiders quickly turned to fear. These camels were not normal camels.

For two more hours the spiders sat on Spider Rock and just stared at Peter and Virtue. Virtue had been bitten by so many spiders that he should have been dead by now. But he wasn’t. In fact, he looked even healthier than before the spiders had started biting him! The spiders noticed this, and it made them afraid. Finally, one of the spiders turned to his friends and said, “We put so much poison into that camel that he should have died an hour ago. First he forgave us and asked God to show us mercy even though we were doing something so mean to him. Now, even the mean thing we did to him is not doing anything! I think this is a sign that we need to listen to what these camels have to say. I say we grant their request and take them to Cranky Cornelius.”

The other spiders agreed. Then they shouted out to the camels, “Come! We will take you to Cranky Cornelius!”

The spiders then led Peter and Virtue around to the other side of Spider Rock. When they arrived, they saw the meanest, scariest looking spider you have ever seen. His body was glowing with the color of fire, and his legs were dark black. He was bigger and hairier than even the biggest tarantula. And not only that, he was sitting in a web bigger and stickier than any other web in the whole desert. This was Cranky Cornelius.

As the two camels stood before Cranky Cornelius, he just stared at them with all of his eyes. At first, his face looked very angry, and Peter and Virtue though that Cranky Cornelius was surely about to jump on them. Then, some of the spiders who had seen the miracle that God did with Virtue went up to Cranky Cornelius and told him what had happened. When they did this, immediately the look on his face changed from anger to fear. Then he spoke to Peter and Virtue.

“These spiders,”he began with a raspy voice, “have told me that you have something to share with me. They also tell me that somehow you did not die when you should have died. Now speak!”

“Cranky Cornelius,”Peter boldly began, “we have been sent here to you by God Most High and in the name of His Son Jesus the Messiah. God has seen all of the wicked things you and the other spiders have done. When Jesus comes back, He is going to punish all of the creatures of the desert for the wicked things they have done. He will throw them forever into something called the Lake of Fire. However, God loves mercy, and He does not want you or any of the other desert creatures to suffer such punishment. Therefore, He has made a way for you to receive mercy. Jesus His Son died on the cross to take the punishment we all deserve upon Himself. Then, God raised Him from the dead on the third day. Cranky Cornelius and all of you who are listening today, we stand before you in Jesus’name with an offer of life. If you repent and put your faith in what Jesus did on the cross, God will have mercy on you, will forgive your sins, and will not throw you into the Lake of Fire. When Jesus comes back, He will raise you from the dead and let you go into His kingdom, and you will never die again. This miracle that God did in Virtue’s body when He removed the poison that you spiders put into him, is a sign to you from God that Jesus will indeed raise His own from the dead when He returns.”

When Cranky Cornelius heard these words, he began to shake. Then he shouted to the camels, “I have done too many wicked things in my life! I’ve trapped crickets and I’ve trapped lady bugs. I’ve spun webs for butterflies and I’ve spun webs for fireflies. Surely God won’t have mercy on me!”He then began to weep.

Then Virtue looked straight at him and with compassion in his voice said, “Cranky Cornelius, I am no less a sinner than you. I have trapped my closest friends and family many times in my own wicked webs. And yet when I repented God forgave even me. If God is willing to have mercy even on me because of what Jesus did on the cross, He will certainly have mercy on you—and anyone else here for that matter. If God through His Spirit is willing to put His virtue into me when I have none of my own, He will certainly do the same for you if you will but put your trust in Him.”

When Virtue said this, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cranky Cornelius and many of the spiders who were listening. When this happened, they began to weep, repent, and cry out to God for mercy. Then they began to rejoice and celebrate. For the first time in five hundred years, singing could be heard from Spider Rock. God had shown mercy even to the spiders! As word spread throughout Spider Rock that God had forgiven the sins even of Cranky Cornelius, more and more spiders became confident that they too could receive mercy from God and put their faith in the gospel. For three days, shouts of thanksgiving and praise echoed out all over the desert from Spider Rock. As the praises went out, for three straight days a beautiful rainbow appeared over Spider Rock as a sign of God’s great mercy.

Finally, when the three days of celebration had ended, Peter and Virtue met again with Cranky Cornelius, whose name was now simply “Cornelius.”

“Cornelius,”Peter said, “we praise God for the mercy He has shown both to you and to us in His Son Jesus. We would love to stay with you many more days if we could. However, our job is not yet finished. We promised our brother and sister that after we preached the gospel here, we would meet them at Snake Plateau. The snakes there also need a drink from the streams of living water that you yourselves have now received.”

When the camels mentioned Snake Plateau, a hush swept over Spider Rock. Everyone knew that the snakes were the most dangerous and the most poisonous of all the desert creatures. After a few minutes of silence, Cornelius finally spoke.

“Dear friends, how can I or any of the other spiders here thank you enough for the precious gift you have brought to us? You will always have a special place in our hearts. Though Snake Plateau is a very dangerous place, I now know that there is no sinner beyond the reach of God’s mercy. And that is why I now have a request to make of you.”

“What is it?”Virtue and Peter asked curiously.

“I would like to accompany you on this trip to Snake Plateau,”Cornelius said. “The king of Snake Plateau is called Viper the Vicious. He is very dangerous, and very poisonous. Over the last ten years we have gone to war with him several times. Three years ago we finally made an agreement that he and the snakes would stay near Snake Plateau, while we spiders would stay here at Spider Rock. If Viper the Vicious sees the change that has happened in me, perhaps even he will repent and believe. I also know the way to Snake Plateau. I can be your guide. From here to Snake Plateau in the east it is only a three or four day journey.”

When Peter and Virtue heard this, they were overjoyed and encouraged. Then Peter said, “By all means, our brother, by all means. It will be our honor to serve at your side in the work of the gospel! It’s settled then. Tomorrow morning, at first light, the three of us will set off for Snake Plateau!”

CHAPTER 9 - SCORPION CANYON

SCORPION CANYON

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Now, three days earlier, about the same time that Peter and Virtue had been talking with the little centipedes, in the southern desert Justice and Mercy were sitting down for a rest and looking at the map that Grandma Loretta Lizard had given them.

“Hmmm…”Justice said. “According to this map, in about two miles we should see be some big round boulders that are red in color. When we find those rocks, we will turn left and walk for about three more hours. That will bring us to a big cliff that overlooks…”Justice paused, took a deep breath, and then continued quietly, “…Scorpion Canyon.”

“Do you mind if I have a look at the map?”Mercy asked.

“Not at all, sis,”Justice said, handing the map to her with his teeth.

As Mercy looked at the map, she noticed something interesting. “Hey, Justice, have you noticed that Scorpion Canyon is in the shape of a scorpion?”

“Really?”Justice wondered out loud as he peeked over Mercy’s shoulder to have another look. “Hey, you’re right!”Then pointing to different parts of Scorpion Canyon with his tongue, with slurred speech he said, “That part of the Canyon looks like a scorpion’s head and body…that part right there looks like a scorpion’s tail and stinger…and those other two parts look like a scorpion’s pinchers!”

As Mercy continued looking at the picture, she began to feel a little afraid. Then she remembered that the lizard family was praying for them, and this gave her courage.

“I am so thankful that we met that family of intercessory lizards,”she said. “I can’t imagine going to Scorpion Canyon without the prayer support they are giving us.”

“I know what you mean,”Justice responded. “I have been thinking the very same thing. My heart was so strengthened when we prayed before leaving. I have never heard anyone pray with such fire, sincerity, and passion as that little family. Though they may not be well-known in this age, they will certainly be well-known in the age to come.”

At that, the two camels began walking again. After two miles, Mercy saw some big red boulders. “Hey, there they are!”she exclaimed. “Right over there!”

They walked over to the boulders. As they got closer, they noticed a message that someone had written on one of the boulders with white chalk. Justice read the message out loud. It was a poem:

If you turn to the right,

you’ll be free from fright;

And if you turn back,

there will be no attack;

But if you turn to the left,

there’s one thing you should know;

danger awaits those who dare that way to go.

Left was the direction of Scorpion Valley. When Justice finished reading the poem, both he and Mercy became afraid. In their minds, they began to wonder whether they should turn around and go back to the safety of Spacious Oasis. However, at the very moment Justice and Mercy were reading the message on the boulder and were beginning to have doubts, back at the lizard home the Holy Spirit put it on Grandma Loretta’s heart to pray for the two camels.

“Something’s wrong,”Grandma Loretta said with concern. “I feel it in my heart. Our camel friends are at a crossroads. They are making an important decision.”Then looking at her family and with urgency in her voice she said, “Everyone stop what you’re doing right now and get on your knees! Justice and Mercy need our prayers now more than ever.”The lizard family came together quickly. “Lord,”Grandma Loretta began, “we bring our dear friends before You right now. We ask You to give them strength to continue their journey without fear. Protect them from Satan and his lying tongue. Show them that they can do all things through You whom give them strength. In Jesus’name, Amen.”

As soon as Grandma Loretta said “Amen,”back at the red boulder Justice and Mercy suddenly felt the Holy Spirit pushing the fear out of their hearts. Then Mercy said, “Justice, Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow Him, then we must carry our cross every day. From the very first day that He told us He wanted us to go to the desert creatures, the Lord warned that this journey would be very difficult. We’ve come so far, and no matter what happens at Scorpion Canyon, we can’t turn back now. He is with us.”

“You’re right, Mercy,”Justice agreed. “Jesus never tried to hide from us the truth that we will experience many difficulties in this age. As the apostle Paul said, in this age we are destined for trials and persecution. Before Jesus establishes His kingdom on the earth when He comes back, in this age we must follow our Master’s example of suffering. We must continue the journey to Scorpion Canyon.”

With a new resolve in their hearts, Justice and Mercy turned left and through the Holy Spirit set their faces like flint toward Scorpion Canyon. After three hours, they arrived at the cliff that overlooked Scorpion Canyon. When they walked to the edge of the cliff and looked down into the canyon, they saw scorpions everywhere. There were scorpions that were black and scorpions that were brown, scorpions with sneers and scorpions with frowns. There were scorpions in suspenders and scorpions in jeans, scorpions that laughed and scorpions just plain mean. There were scorpions with pinchers and scorpions with tails, scorpions at school and scorpions in jail. There were scorpions that sang and scorpions that clapped, scorpions that jumped and scorpions that napped. There were scorpions drinking coffee and scorpions drinking Cokes, scorpions that danced and others that told jokes. And whether they used their stingers or their pinchers to pick a fight, all one could hear in Scorpion Canyon, was fighting day and night.

As the camels continued looking into the canyon, Justice noticed one little scorpion pinching his little sister. She cried when he did this, but instead of saying sorry he just kept on laughing. Even worse, when his parents saw him do this, they didn’t even discipline him. And these were the kinds of things happening all over the Scorpion Canyon.

The time had finally come for Justice and Mercy to do what God had sent them into the desert to do. It was time to share the good news with the scorpions. As you know, when you are at a canyon and you say something loud, the sound will echo for miles and miles through the canyon. Mustering up his courage, Justice lifted up his voice and shouted out into the canyon, “Scorpions of Scorpion Canyon, we have been sent here by the Creator of the heavens and the earth to declare to you a message of both justice and mercy! In the beginning, God created all things very good. He loves His creation very much. But after Adam and Eve disobeyed Him and ate the fruit they were not supposed to eat, all of us began to destroy the good creation that He loves. Scorpions, every time you sting the innocent…and every time you pinch your neighbors…you are not doing what is just, righteous, and good in the sight of the God who made you. The Lord has appointed a Day when through Jesus His Messiah when He will establish perfect justice on the earth and punish the world for its sins. In the Day of the Lord, all of the wrong things will be made right and restored to their original perfection.”

Then Mercy, full of the Holy Spirit, also lifted up her voice and shouted, “However, Scorpions, there is hope for you! You don’t have to suffer the coming wrath! Though Jesus will judge the earth at His Second Coming, two thousand years ago He came a first time not for judgment, but to open up a door of mercy for those who would repent of their sins. Though Jesus did nothing wrong, wicked people, both Jews and Gentiles, put Him on a cross. Then, instead of giving us the punishment of death that we deserve, God punished Jesus in our place by putting Him to death. However, Jesus did not stay in the grave! Three days later He rose from the dead with a resurrected body. His own resurrection was a sign pointing to the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. Desert Scorpions, if you repent and put your faith in Jesus’work on the cross, your sins will be forgiven. God will wash your hearts through the Holy Spirit, and you will take part in the resurrection of the righteous when Jesus comes back. In the Day of the Lord, you will receive mercy.”

When Justice and Mercy shouted their messages, their voices echoed like thunder throughout Scorpion Valley. When the scorpions heard their words, some of them began to weep in repentance, but others became furious with anger. Those who were angry said, “We will not repent, but will do what we want to do!”Then these angry scorpions started to climb out of the canyon and chase Justice and Mercy. When the two camels saw them coming, a Bible verse suddenly came into Justice’s mind: “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.”

“Mercy, let’s get out of here!”Justice shouted. Shaking the dust off of their feet, Justice and Mercy started running as fast as they could back toward the red boulders. The scorpions chased them. However, after thirty minutes the scorpions gave up and turned back toward Scorpion Canyon. As they turned back they shouted to the camels, “Don’t you ever come back to Scorpion Canyon! It belongs to us, and we will do what we want!”

Because they were running so quickly, it only took Justice and Mercy two hours to get back to the red boulders. By that time the sky was growing dark, and completely exhausted, the two camels collapsed on the ground next to the boulders and fell asleep.

While they were sleeping, Mercy had a dream. In the dream, she saw a large apple tree. The tree was full of both fresh apples and rotten apples. Then in the dream she began to sing a song about the gospel. As she did this, the tree began to shake, and both the fresh apples and the rotten apples fell to the ground. Suddenly a scorpion started to pick up the rotten apples and throw them at Mercy as she ran toward the red boulders. However, while this scorpion was distracted and throwing the rotten apples, Jesus snuck up to the tree and with a smile on his face began to gather the fresh apples into His basket. Then Mercy woke up.

As soon as Mercy woke up, she looked down and saw four scorpions—two big ones and two little ones—standing in front of her. Instead of having mean looks on their faces like the scorpions that had chased them away from Scorpion Canyon, these four scorpions had tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. When Mercy looked at the scorpions more closely, she noticed that this was the same family that she had seen earlier in Scorpion Canyon—the one with the boy who had been stinging her before.

“Hello,”one of them said to Mercy. “My name is Sandra Scorpion, and this is my husband Sylvester. This little scorpion here is our son Sammy, and that little scorpion over there is our daughter Sally.”

When Sandra Scorpion spoke, Justice heard the noise and woke up. When he saw the scorpions, he said to Mercy with a slow and serious voice, “Mercy, back away slowly from those scorpions.”

Then Sylvester Scorpion said, “Don’t worry, we’re not here to sting you. We’re so sorry for what happened back there at Scorpion Canyon.”

“Yes, so, so sorry,”Sandra Scorpion agreed. “We made the trip to the red boulders tonight under the cover of darkness because we wanted to let you know that not everyone in Scorpion Canyon rejected your message. Though there were indeed many who did not believe, there were also hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, who repented and did believe the message you shared with us.”

Then with a squeaky little voice, Sammy their son said, “Yeah, and I told my little sister Sally that I was sorry for pinching her.”When he said this, Sally looked at her older brother with affection and smiled.

Then Sylvester said, “We want to thank you so much for daring to share the gospel at Scorpion Canyon. Your labors were not in vain. We want you to know that even though you yourselves cannot go back there, there are now many new believing scorpions who will continue sharing the gospel and making other disciples in your absence. In fact, when you left, one of the older scorpions who believed remembered a Bible that someone had given him when he was a boy. We are going to make copies of that Bible and begin meeting in small house churches under the rocks to worship and learn the words of our Savior.”

When the family of scorpions shared this news, Justice and Mercy were filled with joy. Mercy then understood the meaning of her dream. The rotten apples represented the scorpions that had hardened their hearts when they heard the message. The fresh apples represented the scorpions that had repented and believed the message. While the first group was busy chasing Justice and Mercy away from Scorpion Canyon, Jesus was busy gathering the new believing scorpions into His family.

“Thank you so much for sharing this encouraging news with us!”Justice exclaimed joyfully.

“Yes,”Mercy added, “and not only that. This news gives us greater confidence as we go to meet our two brothers at Snake Plateau. We plan to leave for Snake Plateau first thing in the morning. Do you know the quickest way to get there?”

“If you head northeast from here,”Sylvester Scorpion answered, “you should get there in about six or seven days. You can’t miss it. The plateau looks like a Cobra with its hood spread out.”

Justice then pulled out his map and looked at it. “Yeah, that seems right. It matches up with this map precisely.”

Then Sandra Scorpion said, “We will be praying for you as you go to Snake Plateau. That will probably be your biggest challenge yet. The snakes there are fierce and their poison is strong. They even scare us scorpions! However, if God has shown such great mercy even to me and my family despite all the stinging and all the pinching that we have done, then certainly the snakes also are not beyond the mercy of the cross. The Lord be with you, dear friends!”

CHAPTER 10 - SNAKE PLATEAU

SNAKE PLATEAU

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And so despite great opposition and persecution, Peter and Virtue had shared the gospel courageously at Spider Rock, and Justice and Mercy had proclaimed it boldly at Scorpion Canyon. Now, both sets of camels were making their way through the desert toward Snake Plateau.

Riding on Peter’s hump during the trip from Spider Rock to Snake Plateau was Cornelius. Peter was very thankful that Cornelius was riding on his hump and not on Virtue’s. You see, Peter had run out of sunscreen, and Cornelius, who was stretched out over the bald spot on his hump, was the only thing coming between Peter and a third-degree sunburn.

Now to be sure, a huge spider riding on the hump of a camel is a very unusual sight. As Peter, Virtue, and Cornelius were passing a group of desert foxes, the foxes stopped in their tracks and stared at them with eyes wide open.

“We’ll I’ll be!”one of the foxes exclaimed out loud in disbelief. “A big glowing spider riding on the hump of a camel? This is almost as strange as that story my grandfather once told me about the time he fled to the dunes after he saw that lizard in the southern desert jumping rope with his own tail!”

When Virtue heard this, he thought to himself, “Lizards jumping rope with their own tails? Who has ever seen or heard of such a thing!”He then laughed quietly to himself.

About two hours later, Peter noticed something off in the distance.

“Virtue, Cornelius, look over there toward the southeast,”he said. “What is that?”

Cornelius and Virtue turned their heads.

“I’m not sure,”Cornelius said.

“Me either,”said Virtue. Then Virtue squinted his eyes and looked harder. “Wait just a minute,”he said slowly and with happiness bubbling up in his heart. “I think I see the shape of two camels. And one of them is blowing a huge bubble! That must be them! It’s Mercy and Justice! They’ve made it!”

When Peter and Justice realized that it was their brother and sister they were seeing, they began to jump and dance with excitement. “Over here, over here!”they shouted. “Justice and Mercy, over here, over here! It’s Peter and Virtue!”

As Peter began to do the polka dance, Cornelius almost fell off his back. Then quickly tying himself to Peter’s hump with a few extra webs, with a big smile Cornelius thought to himself, “I didn’t realize I was going to become a cowboy riding a bucking camel on this trip!”He was very happy for his friends.

Justice and Mercy heard the all the whooping and hollering. “It’s Peter and Virtue!”they shouted happily.

Then all four of the camels started running toward one another as fast as they could. As fast as they were running, they probably could have outrun an ostrich, a horse, or even a cheetah! As they ran, Cornelius wrapped himself with a couple more web-ropes just for good measure.

When the four camels reached each other, words cannot describe the joy they all felt. They laughed, they cried, they hugged, and then they laughed, cried, and hugged some more. Then they all sat down for a small picnic.

“I’ve been saving this sandwich the whole journey for this moment,”Mercy said. She then reached into her supplies and pulled out the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Noah and Daniel had mailed to her. She split it into five pieces and shared it with the others. As they ate, each of them talked about all the adventures they had had up to this point. When Mercy shared the story about the lizard family and Lyle Lizard jumping rope with his own tail, Virtue, who for the second time in just hours was hearing about such a phenomenon (phenomenon is just a big word for something that happens), he just shook his head and muttered, “Well, I’ll be…”

Now, these four camels were so happy about seeing each other, and were so busy enjoying the taste of peanut butter and jelly, and were so busy telling stories to one another, that they had all failed to notice a large plateau standing against the eastern horizon. That’s right. It was Snake Plateau. Getting up from the picnic to look for his pack of gum, Justice was the first to notice it.

“Everyone, I hate to interrupt all the fun, but there is something you need to come and see,”he said with a serious voice.

Cornelius and the other three camels immediately stopped their talking and walked over to Justice. With his nose, Justice pointed over in the direction of Snake Plateau. When they turned and saw the dark, Cobra-shaped plateau casting its shadow out across the desert, no one said a word. There was no need for explanation. All of them knew instantly what they were looking at.

Then Peter broke the silence. “I’m guessing that we’re only about two hours away,”he said.

“Yes,”Virtue responded, “and two hours away from the greatest challenge any of us have ever faced.”

“Well, at least we will be together for it,”Justice said, encouraged by the thought. “And the Good Shepherd will be with us as well. He has led us all faithfully this far, and He has promised to be with us no matter what may come.”

Then Mercy, trying to lighten the mood a bit, said, “Alright boys, we’re not going to get to Snake Plateau if we just sit around here all day eating and talking. Let’s get moving.”

And so the four camels and the spider set their gaze toward Spider Plateau and started off. Over the next two hours, with passion in their voices and fire in their hearts, they prayed for the salvation of the snakes of Snake Plateau. However, they were certainly not the only ones praying. From all parts of the desert, prayer was rising up to the throne of God like the sweet-smelling smoke of burning incense. Momma Camel, Daddy Camel, Billy, and the other camels of Spacious Oasis were praying for salvation to spring up from the ground at Snake Plateau. Orville and Olivia Ostrich, who had been thrown into prison at Hyena Hollow for their fearless witness to the gospel, were praying for the word of the Lord to run swiftly among the cobras and vipers. Though they themselves had chains on their legs, they knew that the word of God could not be chained. Back at Spider Rock all the new believers were also praying for God to confirm the gospel with signs and wonders full of God’s power, just as He had done among them. Down in the southern desert, a precious family of intercessory lizards was also still on their knees crying out for mercy on behalf of the snakes. And over in Scorpion Canyon, Sylvester Scorpion and his family, together with all of the other scorpions meeting under rocks in house churches, were praying fervently for God to open the door of faith among the snakes of Snake Plateau.

Finally the camels reached their destination. When they first arrived, they just stared at Snake Plateau in silence for about ten minutes. By far, Snake Plateau was the scariest place they had ever seen—scarier even than Spider Rock or Scorpion Canyon. Part of the plateau had a cave in it, and the cave went back into the plateau in such a way that it looked like a snake’s mouth and throat. Also, at the entrance of the cave, two stalactites were hanging down from the ceiling. They started off thick and round at the top, and as they we went down, they became thinner and formed a triangle shape with sharp points at the bottom. From where the camels were looking, these stalactites looked like long, sharp fangs. As for its color, Snake Plateau was mostly black, though here and there red or sand-colored stripes and spots could also be seen. And crawling and slithering and sliding around everywhere were snakes of all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds. Most of the snakes on Snake Plateau were from the local area, but there were also many who were visiting from other snake habitats of the world. There were so many snakes, in fact, that in some parts of Snake Plateau you couldn’t even see the ground! There were snakes that were yellow and snakes that were black, snakes that were thick and snakes that were flat. There were snakes coiled up and snakes hanging down, snakes that were serious and snakes that were clowns. There were snakes that were green and snakes that were white, snakes of the day and snakes of the night. There were snakes that were slithery and snakes that were slimy, snakes that were huge and snakes that were tiny. There were snakes that had horns and snakes that had rattles, snakes that ate mice and snakes that ate cattle. There were snakes that had scales and snakes that had hoods, snakes of the desert and snakes of the woods. There were snakes that move forward and snakes that move side-ways, and snakes so big they stop trucks on the highways. There were copperheads, cobras, rattlers, and asps, snakes that were prompt and snakes late for class. There were pit vipers, moccasins, bushmasters, and adders, snakes doing hoola-hoops and snakes climbing ladders. And next to the throne of King Viper the Vicious, were two giant boas that thought camels delicious.

“Do you see that big cave that makes up the mouth of Snake Plateau, the one with the two fangs hanging down at the entrance?”Cornelius asked. “Deep inside that cave is where King Viper the Vicious has his throne. At his side are two of the biggest, strongest snakes you have ever seen—boa constrictors. Originally, Viper the Vicious hired them from Brazil as soldiers in his first war against Spider Rock. They were such good fighters that he asked them to stay with him at Snake Plateau as his body guards. If you get squeezed by one of those two, well…”Cornelius stopped his sentence, not wanting to cause more alarm. Then he continued, “Well, let’s just pray that doesn’t happen.”

Now, stationed on top of Snake Plateau were two thousand rattle-snakes on lookout. Their job was to warn Viper the Vicious and all the other snakes if they saw intruders or invading armies coming near the plateau. If anyone got too close, then all of the rattle-snakes were to sound the alarm by shaking their rattles all at once. One of the lookouts turned his head to the west and spotted the camels walking toward Snake Plateau. “Ssssound the alarm!”he shouted to the other watch-snakes. Then all two-thousand of the rattle-snakes began to shake their tails in unison. This made a very loud sound that boomed across the desert.

“What is that sound?”Peter asked with alarm.

“They’ve spotted us,”Cornelius said, not surprised. “The lookouts are sounding the alarm to alert Viper the Vicious that strangers have approached the plateau.”

Suddenly, three cobras and two asps—some of the most deadly snakes of the desert—emerged out of the mouth of Snake Plateau. Slithering at lightning speed, they moved quickly down the plateau and started making their way toward the intruders.

“Those are some of Viper the Vicious’best and most-highly trained snake warriors. They follow him wherever he goes.”

The five snakes raced faster and faster toward the four camels. They were just about to jump on them when one of the cobras noticed Cornelius sitting on Peter’s back. “Halt!”the cobra shouted to the other four snakes, suddenly overcome with fear.

“Cr…Cr…Cranky Cornelius,”he said trembling. “Is that you?”

“It is,”Cornelius replied confidently.

“Pleasssse forgive ussss for ssssuch an unssssightly welcome,”the cobra hissed. “We didn’t know that you were with these intruderssss. Do you come in peace[ssss]?”

“Yes, we come in peace,”Cornelius answered. “These are my friends. We would like to request an audience with King Viper the Vicious. We have a very important message to share with him and the snakes of Snake Plateau.”

“Give us a few minutessss,”the cobra said. “We will talk with the king and return with an answer ssssoon.”

Then the five snakes turned around and slithered back up the plateau and into the cave just as quickly as they had slithered out of and down them.

When they had left, Peter turned his head and looked at Cornelius. “Boy, am I thankful that God sent you on this trip with us, Cornelius!”he exclaimed. “He just used you to save our lives!”

“It is nothing compared to the gift that I received from you, dear camel,”Cornelius replied. Then with a sigh he added, “Though I wish I had not been so mean to the snakes before I knew the Lord, I am thankful that God can take what I meant for evil and turn even that into something good.”

Fifteen minutes later, the five snakes came slithering back out the cave and down the plateau again. When they reached Cornelius and the camels, they said, “The king has agreed to ssssee you and your friendssss. We will escort you to the throne, and you shall remain unharmed by the other ssssnakessss.”

And so Peter, Virtue, Justice, Mercy, and Cornelius started making their way toward the foot of Snake Plateau, praying under their breath as they moved closer and closer. When they finally reached the bottom of the plateau, they came to some stairs.

“These sssstairssss,”the cobra said, “lead up to the cave where the throne of the king is located. Pleasssse, follow ussss.”

The camels and Cornelius followed the three cobras and two asps up the stairs. As they walked up, they passed countless snakes on both sides of them. They could tell that the snakes really wanted to bite them. However, all of them had been told not to harm the visitors—at least not yet—and the snakes were too afraid of Viper the Vicious to disobey his orders. When they reached the entrance of the cave, they stared deep into the mouth of Snake Plateau. Along the top of both sides of the cave, leading back into the throat of the plateau, were burning torches. And as far as the eye could see, snakes were slithering all over the floor of the cave. Then with a loud voice the cobra shouted a command into the cave. “Move to the ssssidessss and clear a path!”At once the snakes obeyed and slid themselves to the sides of the cave. Within seconds, a clear path had emerged. “Thissss way,”the cobra said as he began to slither toward the throat of the cave. The others followed. The deeper they went into the cave, the shorter the ceiling became. After about ten minutes, the camels even had to crawl on their knees to keep moving ahead.

Finally they came to the end of the narrow passageway, and suddenly the cave opened up into a huge, spacious cavern that was situated deep in the heart of Snake Plateau. Torches formed a circle around the cavern, and as you might imagine, there were snakes everywhere. And these snakes looked even meaner than any of the snakes they had seen outside the cave. And there in the very center of the cavern was the throne! The throne was in the shape of a hooded cobra, and two blazing torches made up the throne’s eyes. And then they saw him. Sitting under the fangs of the throne was King Viper the Vicious himself! Viper the Vicious’body was thick and long. His belly was white and his sides, back, and tail were dark red mixed with purple. Running all the way down his back was a black, diamond-shaped pattern. He had two horns and deep hollows in the sides of his head. His head was much broader than his neck, his eyes were yellow, and the pupils of his eyes were long, black slivers that looked like those of angry cats. He had two large, long, white fangs, and greenish-yellow poison was dripping from them. And stationed on both sides of the king were his body guards—the biggest, strongest, ugliest boa constrictors you have ever seen. When the four camels laid eyes on King Viper the Vicious and his body guards, chills and shivers went down their spines.

“Father,”Peter began to pray quietly under his breath, “give us strength now. Whether we live or die, and whether they receive our message or not, help us to be faithful and true messengers of the gospel. Our lives are in Your hands, Master.”

Then with a slithery voice Viper the Vicious shouted a command to the intruders. “Come here!”he hissed loudly.

The three cobras and two asps then escorted Peter, Virtue, Justice, Mercy, and Cornelius to the throne. When they reached the throne, Viper the Vicious looked at Cornelius and said, “Is that you, Cranky Cornelius?”

“It is, O king,”Cornelius replied respectfully. Now, this was the first time that Viper the Vicious had ever heard Cornelius speak to him in a respectful way. At first the king was caught off guard. Then he became suspicious.

“Cranky Cornelius,”the king began, “after our last war we agreed that we snakes would stay here at Snake Plateau, and that you spiders would stay at Spider Rock. Why, then, have you come here, and why have you brought these foreigners into my domain?”

“O king,”Cornelius replied, bowing his head in respect. “These camels have come here from a faraway place called Spacious Oasis. That camel there is named Virtue, and the camel upon which I am now sitting is named Peter. Despite great opposition from the spiders at Spider Rock, these two dared to share their message with us even at the risk of their own lives.”Cornelius then went on to share the miracle that God had done in Virtue, and how he and the spiders of Spider Rock had turned to the living God in repentance and faith.

When the king heard this, he was shocked and surprised. There was something so different about Cornelius. He had never seen the spider smile. And yet, as Cornelius talked about what Jesus had done for him, he kept smiling and smiling. And not only that. Viper the Vicious had even seen a tear come into one of the spider’s eyes when Cornelius had mentioned the name Jesus. On his throne, the king began to squirm nervously. Finally he looked at the camels and said, “You may sssspeak your messssage! But make it sssswift!”

When the king said this, a hush fell over all of the snakes in the cavern. At that moment the Holy Spirit came upon the four camels and Cornelius. When that happened, all fear left the hearts of these five messengers, even though they were surrounded on every side by thousands of snakes full of deadly poison. Peter was the first to speak.

“O King Viper the Vicious, and all who are listening today, we have come here in the name of Jesus the Messiah. We are from an oasis called Spacious Oasis. While growing up, we four camels had hatred in our hearts for all the snakes of the desert.”

“Indeed,”Virtue then began, “a deep hatred. On my part, I thought that I was full of so much virtue and righteousness. Every day I tried hard to do things that made people think that I was a holy, devout, and righteous camel. However, I soon discovered that all of my works were not coming from a sincere heart of truth. They were just a show to win the praise of other camels. However, God was not fooled. One night after we had gone to drink water at the Eastern Pool, our favorite watering spot in Spacious Oasis, God showed me, my brothers, and my sister that we are in need of His mercy just as much as any of the desert creatures that we hated.”

Then Justice joined in. “A day is coming when all of us will give an account of our lives before God’s chosen Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. He is the only truly Just One, and when we stand before Him, He will examine and bring all of our thoughts, deeds, words, and motives into the light. He will punish the entire world for its sin, and will make all of the wrong things right. All those who refuse to repent and put their faith in Him will be punished. They will receive new bodies in something called the resurrection of the wicked. They will then been thrown forever into something called the Lake of Fire. And as for me, I of all creatures deserve that Lake of Fire. That alone would be true justice in light of all the wicked things I have thought and done in my life.”

“However,”Mercy then spoke up boldly, “though God is perfectly just, He is also full of mercy and compassion. He does not want anyone to suffer eternal death in the Lake of Fire. Therefore, He sent His Son Jesus into the world a first time two thousand years ago. Jesus was God Himself, but He chose to take on a human body. The punishment we deserved was death, but God didn’t want to give us that punishment. Therefore, He sent Jesus to the cross and punished Him instead of punishing us. When He did this, He showed the world His justice by giving sin the punishment it deserves. And at the very same time He also showed the world His mercy by putting the punishment on someone else. Then He raised Jesus from the dead three days later. Jesus is now sitting at the Father’s right hand, waiting there patiently until the day His Father sends Him back to the earth again to raise the dead, set up His kingdom from Jerusalem, and restore all things back to the way they were before sin entered His creation.”

Then Cornelius took his turn. “Oh King, you know how many innocent crickets, lady-bugs, and butterflies I have trapped in my webs over the years. You also know how mean and cruel I have been to you snakes. In the presence of all who are listening here at Snake Plateau, I testify that if God is willing to have mercy even on me, He will also have mercy on you and forgive your sins if you repent and put your trust in Jesus’work on the cross. Then you, too, along with me and these camels, will share in eternal glory at the Second Coming of Jesus.”Then looking straight at Viper the Vicious with eyes full of compassion, he said, “Viper the Vicious, I ask you to please forgive me for the wars and for all of the wicked things I have done to you and to those who are part of your kingdom.”

When Cornelius said this, a silence that could be felt hung over all of Snake Plateau. All eyes were on the king to see how he would respond. For the first time in the history of Viper the Vicious’kingdom, the snakes saw a look of hope of the king’s face—mixed with a look of fear. Was he going to repent and believe? It looked like he was just about to do this. However, right when he was about to speak, one of his body-guards leaned over and whispered something into his hear.

“O king,”the boa whispered, “all of this looks ssssneaky and ssssly to me. As you know, O king, we are at war with the ssssalamanderssss. What if this sssspider has ssssided with the ssssalamaderssss and is sssspying on ussss? I am ssssupscioussss that he is just pretending to ask for forgivenessss to make you think he is now a friend. When he leavessss, he will then go and tell the ssssalamanderssss about our sssstrategy to sssstrike Ssssalamander [sss]City next week.”

When the king heard this, the look on his face quickly became hard and mean again. Then he yelled, “Cornelius you ssssneaky sssspider! Do you think I can be sssso easily tricked? You and your friends have joined the ssssalamanderssss, and you are sssspiessss!”Then pointing at Cornelius and the camels with his forked-tongued, Viper the Vicious commanded his boa body-guards, “Sssseize them and ssssqueeze them!”

As soon as the king said this, an uproar broke out all over the cavern, and the body-guards slithered quickly over to the camels. One of them began to wrap himself around Justice, and the other around his twin brother Virtue. Then they began to squeeze them tight, tight, tight. Then Mercy leaned close to Peter while the other snakes in the cavern began to surround them as well. As the boa body-guards squeezed Justice and Virtue tighter and tighter, it started becoming hard for them to breath. Then Justice gasped out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”

Things were certainly not looking good for either the camels or Cornelius. Just when Virtue was about to pass out, however, suddenly a messenger snake entered the cavern from the outside and slithered quickly before the throne. He had just returned from the battlefront in the war with the salamanders. Panting heavily, he motioned to the king with his tail. “Silence!”Viper the Vicious then shouted to all the snakes. Immediately the uproar ceased, and the boas began loosening their grip on Justice and Virtue. When they did so, the two camels gasped for air and regained their strength. “Whew, that was close!”Justice whispered to Virtue.

The king looked at the messenger snake and said, “What news do you have from the war?”

Then in a very distressed voice the messenger replied, “O Sssire, we have a very sssserious ssssituation! Your ssssecond ssssister SSSSusan the Sssslithery has ssssuffered a very ssssevere sssslice at the ssssword of Ssssimon the ssssword-sssslinging ssssalamander!”

When the messenger finished saying this, some other snakes, which were carrying Susan the Slithery on a stretcher, approached the throne. They laid the injured snake on the ground. As they did so, she looked up at her brother and said, “My brother, I fear I have been sssslain.”Then she breathed her last and died.

Susan was the king’s closest and favorite sister. They had hatched from the same nest of viper eggs, and had grown up together all their lives. When Viper the Vicious saw his sister die, tears came to his eyes and he began to weep and cry aloud.

“Oh, my dear, dear ssssister!”He cried. Then he burst out with lament and said, “Thissss death is exactly what I deserve! I have hurt sssso many creaturessss with my poision, and now I am being punished!”As the king wept and mourned, all of the other snakes in Desert Plateau joined him.

But then something amazing happened. The Holy Spirit moved Cornelius to ask the king a question. “O king, may we please pray for your sister?”The king nodded his head “yes”and granted their request. The two body-guards let go of Virtue and Justice, and the two twin camels along with Peter, Mercy, and Cornelius walked over to the dead snake. Then the camels laid hooves and Cornelius laid legs on the still body of Susan the Slithery. Then Peter prayed, “O God of all creation, we know that when Jesus returns, He is going to raise from the dead and welcome into His kingdom those who repent and believe the gospel. As a sign pointing to the certainty of that day, we ask You in the name of Jesus to send life and breath once again into Susan the Slithery!”Then all the others said, “Amen!”

As soon as they finished praying, a sound like a rushing wind came into the cavern and the power of the Holy Spirit fell on Susan the Slithery’s body. When this happened, her fatal slice was immediately healed, and she opened her eyes. “Where, where am I?”she asked quietly, looking up at her brother the king.

When the king’s sister spoke, great fear fell over all the snakes of Snake Plateau, and Viper the Vicious himself was trembling and shaking. Then he went over to his sister Susan, hugged her tightly, and began to sob and rejoice. Then with a voice full of joy he shouted, “I repent! I believe! Jesus is Lord, and He has been raised from the dead! He has power over death, and He is coming back! I deserve the Lake of Fire more than all creatures! From the viper’s nest I have been full of nothing but poison, venom, and depravity! I am the chief of sinners, the snake of all snakes, the very worst of cold-blooded reptiles! And yet praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, the compassionate and gracious God, for there is even room at the cross for me!”

THE END

Tim Miller Tim Miller (124 Posts)

Tim is founder of the Daniel Training Network. His passion is to see followers of Christ embrace a life of the cross. He, his wife Emily, and their four children itinerate regularly as part of their ministry, and are presently living in New Mexico.


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