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The Western Woods Children’s Story

"The Western Woods" with animals and trees around wording

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“From the crickets in the bushes to the frogs in the creek,

a heart one with Yours is the thing we seek…

From the beavers in the river to the critters that climb,

shape us into a spotless Bride…”

This was the prayer that Elijah the eagle sang while soaring over the Western Woods. As Elijah would soon find out, his prayer was about to be answered. The hour was urgent, and Jesus had summoned a group of messengers to a council at the oak tree where Elijah’s nest was located. From the world’s perspective, these messengers were foolish, therefore unqualified; from God’s perspective, they were foolish, therefore usable. Fire was coming to the Western Woods—the fire of testing and discipline. Jesus’ family in the Western Woods needed to be warned and prepared. Nothing false or deceitful would be able to withstand the fire. Its outcome would be purity; its fruit, unity. Though fierce and unrelenting, this fire would be motivated not by malice, but by love—a love that could only make sense in light of the big picture; a love defined not in terms of comfort and absence of difficulty, but in terms of suffering before glory.

“Those whom I love, I discipline.” How would the creatures of the Western Woods respond to these words of Jesus? How will we?

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"The Western Woods" hanging on drawn tree limbs with woodpecker pecking on one of the "W"'s

The Western Woods

CHAPTER 1 - THE WESTERN WOODS

THE WESTERN WOODS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/01-The-Western-Woods.mp3]

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Elijah the eagle loved to fly, loved to sing, and loved to pray. So, you can imagine how happy he was whenever he got a chance to do all three together! Whenever Elijah would spread out his wings and begin to take flight, a song of praise to the Lord would erupt from his mouth. Then as he soared high above the Western Woods singing, between songs he would pray for all the creatures in the woods that made up the different parts of Jesus’ family.

As you know, eagles can see things very well even from far away. One day as Elijah was flying over the Western Woods, he looked down into the forest and noticed some of the Methodist Mice and the Baptist Beavers throwing rocks and slinging mud at one another. When he saw this, a tear came to his eye and the Holy Spirit stirred him to pray. “Father,” he began, “in Jesus’ name I pray that You would bring Your family in the Western Woods to full maturity. Bring us to the unity of the faith. Fill us with a true knowledge of the Son of God. Teach us Your ways, Holy Master. Make us strong in the truth so that we are not blown around like leaves in the wind when hard times come. Father, we, Your family in the Western Woods, are a big mess. I myself have thrown many rocks at my brothers and sisters, and I am the biggest mess of all. We are in desperate need of Your help. Father, You are merciful, and You are committed to making us like Jesus. All things are possible with You. Lord, You alone know the hearts of all the creatures in the Western Woods. I ask You to shape us, through Your Spirit, into a pure and spotless Bride made ready for the King’s return. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

When Elijah finished praying, he soared high into midair and began to sing a song out over the forest:

“From the crickets in the bushes to the frogs in the creek,

a heart one with Yours is the thing we seek;

From the fish in the pond to the squirrels in the trees,

in truth sanctify Your family;

From the bees in the hives to the deer in the field,

our hearts and minds to You we yield;

From the bears in the caves to the foxes on the run,

fill us with the truth of Your Beloved Son;

From the mice in the holes to the bugs in the moss,

bind our hearts together in the love of the cross;

From the beavers in the river to the critters that climb,

shape us into a spotless Bride.”

“Amen!” Elijah said as he finished the song. Then with a beautiful red sunset behind him, Elijah flew down toward the Great Oak where his nest was located.

As Elijah flew closer to the Great Oak, he noticed that there was something unusual sitting in his nest. “What could that be?” he wondered to himself. When he finally reached the nest, he found a large, clear jar full of sealed envelopes with names written on the back of them. Also, lying against the jar was an envelope with Elijah’s name written on the back of it. Elijah opened the envelope and found a letter written to him. It was from Jesus!

Dear Elijah,

I have heard your prayers for the Western Woods. I, too, deeply desire the different parts of My Body to be sanctified in truth, and to be one, just as I and My Father are one. My dear friend, I love you, and I am writing to let you know that I am on the move to answer your prayers. I have summoned a council of seven animals to gather together for a meeting here at the Great Oak. The invitations to the meeting arrived in their mail boxes about a week ago, and all seven will arrive here tonight at 11:00p.m. In this jar, you will find seven sealed envelopes. There is one envelope for each of the creatures who will be at the council. In the envelopes are seven letters, and written on the back of each envelope are directions for what I want done with each letter. Please make sure to tell the seven animals how important it is that they follow the directions exactly. These creatures will be My messengers to My family in the Western Woods. Elijah, it is the eleventh hour before midnight, and My return is drawing near. I must get my family ready so that they can stand firm through the hard times that will precede My Second Coming. Elijah, those whom I love, I discipline. I am going to send fire to the Western Woods. The fire will be hot and the testing fierce. Many in my family may even be tempted to believe the devil’s lies and doubt My love for them. However, it is through fire that I will bring my family together and remove the deception from their minds and their hearts. Once they have been humbled, I will heal their wounds. Then they will be ready to remain faithful to Me as a pure and spotless Bride through the hardest time the world has ever known! I am the Lord, and I will do this work!

When Elijah finished reading the letter, he trembled with the fear of the Lord. Jesus was serious about His Bride, and He was about to purify her with fire. This was not going to be easy news for the animals of the Western Woods to hear! And yet, at the same time, Elijah’s heart was also filled with joy. For even though the fire of Jesus’ discipline would be hot, thorough, and relentless, it would also lead to cleansing, truth, and freedom. Through the fire, Jesus’ family would enter into the fellowship of His sufferings, and Jesus has promised that those who share in the fellowship of His sufferings in this age, will also fellowship with Him in eternal glory in the age to come.

CHAPTER 2 - THE COUNSEL

THE COUNSEL

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/02-The-Council.mp3]

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The eleventh hour was approaching, and it was almost time for the seven animals to arrive! Elijah had set his alarm clock for 11:00p.m., and he was counting down the minutes. Even though Elijah had been staring at his alarm clock for three hours straight, when the alarm finally went off it scared him. “Aaahhh!” he screeched as he jumped about his nest with feathers ruffled. Quickly regaining his senses, Elijah then turned off his alarm clock. As soon as he did this, he heard a knocking sound coming from the bottom of the Great Oak. Then he heard a voice calling up to him.

“Umm, excuse me, Mr. Eagle, sir” a voice from below began. “I hate to interrupt you at such a late hour, but could you please tell me if this is the Great Oak? I, and apparently some others down here, recently received a note in the mail and were told by Jesus to come to the Great Oak at 11:00p.m. on this night for a meeting.”

Elijah peeked out over his nest and saw that it was a turtle speaking. “Yes, you have indeed reached the Great Oak,” Elijah answered from his nest. “Jesus told me that I should expect seven visitors tonight at this time.” Then grabbing the jar with the envelopes in it with his beak, Elijah flew out of his nest and down to the ground. “Welcome, dear friends,” he then continued. “My name is Elijah the Eagle. I live here at the top of this Great Oak tree. Servants of the Living God, what are your names, and where have you come from?”

The first to answer was a young skunk. “My name is Sammy the Skunk,” the skunk said cheerfully. “I have come from a den located in a hollow tree about twenty miles east of here.”

Next a young turtle introduced herself. “I am Tanya the Turtle,” the turtle said very slowly. “I really don’t come from anywhere, and yet I seem to come from everywhere. You see, I live in a mobile home of sorts. This shell goes with me wherever I go. Inside it I keep my sunglasses, my toothbrush, and my tennis shoes.”

“Nice to meet you, Tanya,” a poky porcupine then began. “My name is Paul the Porcupine. I live in a tunnel in the ground about fifteen miles south of here, not too far from Pine Tree Creek.”

“Hey, I’ve been to Pine Tree Creek several times!” a bullfrog exclaimed in a low, croaky voice. “I have an uncle there named Frederick Floppy-Frog the Third. They call him Frederick the Floppy Frog because after ten years of croaking as a professional on Lily-Pad Row in Frogville, he finally lost his singing voice. So, instead of croaking on the Lily-pad, he started flopping on it instead. He quickly became famous as an expert frog-flopper and became the flop artist for a small band of tap-dancing toads. Ever since I was a little tadpole surfing the pond-scum, Uncle Frederick has been my favorite uncle. Anyway, as for me, my name is Billy the Bullfrog, though some call me by my nickname, Jeremiah.”

“Hmm…Jeremiah the bullfrog…” a stick bug began to wonder out loud as he scratched his chin. “Hey, haven’t I heard a famous song about you somewhere?!”

“Actually,” Jeremiah replied, “that song was about my thirty-seventh cousin, Jeremiah the Friendly. He was indeed a good friend of many—and of mine.”

“Oh, I see,” the stick bug said. “Well, my name is Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug. I usually perch myself on a tree about five miles west of here. Because I look like a stick, even if you have passed that way before you probably didn’t notice me. I really don’t stick out much.”

“Well, I think it is really cool how you look like a stick, Wilbert,” a smiling little squirrel said quickly with a jittery voice. “My name is Sally the Squirrel. I am in charge of a nut-gathering operation about 9 miles to the southeast of here.”

“Wow, I’ve heard about how many nuts you squirrels gather over in that area each year,” a beaver responded enthusiastically. “Pretty impressive, I must say. Anyhow, my name is Barbara the Beaver. I make my lodge down near the river.”

When the skunk, the turtle, the porcupine, the bullfrog, the stick bug, the squirrel, and the beaver had all finished introducing themselves, Elijah the Eagle just stared at this odd mixture of animals for a few moments in silence. Quite honestly, he was a bit surprised by the ones God had chosen to be part of this meeting. “Lord,” he began to pray quietly in his head, “are You sure these are the right animals for the job? Who would ever take a stinky skunk seriously? Who would ever think that a poky porcupine would have something important to say? Who would ever listen to a homeless, slow-moving turtle? Who would ever give the time of day to a croaking bullfrog, or a jittery squirrel, or a buck-toothed beaver? Who would ever notice a little stick bug that blended in so easily with the trees? Would it not be better to use some big, majestic buck deer to do Your work? Or what about some elk, or some moose, with huge antlers? Surely beautiful antlers would command the attention of an audience, wouldn’t they?”

As Elijah was asking the Lord these questions, immediately the Holy Spirit brought two Bible verses to his mind. The first verse that popped into his head was 1 Samuel 16:7, which says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The second verse was 1 Corinthians 1:27: “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the wise.” As Elijah thought about these verses, he then understood what God was up to. In His wisdom, God had intentionally invited to the council animals that seemed weak, foolish, and lowly in the eyes of the other animals of the Western Woods. By choosing to speak His truth through messengers that no one would normally take seriously, God was about to test whether it was truth, or the praise of man, that His family in the Western Woods really loved.

“My friends,” Elijah then said, “I welcome you to the Great Oak. Jesus has summoned you here because He has very important jobs for all of you to do.” Then Elijah showed the seven council members the jar with the seven envelopes in it. “In this jar,” the eagle continued, “are seven envelopes, one for each of you. On the back of these envelopes are Jesus’ instructions to you.” Then with his beak Elijah handed each of the animals their envelope. “Jesus told me,” Elijah said, “to make sure to tell you that you must follow the directions on your envelope exactly as He has given them. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like each of you to read your assignments out loud. Sammy, would you like to start?”

“Sure, no problem,” Sammy the Skunk replied.

Dear Sammy,

I love you. In this envelope is a letter that I want you to go and read to the turkeys of the Western Woods. I love them very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and the turkeys are in great need of My discipline. Sammy, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I want you to warn My turkeys. Some may gobble at you with fancy words, and others may say that you and your message stink. However, don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you. Please wait until you get to the turkeys before you open the envelope and read the letter inside.

Next it was Tanya the Turtle’s turn.

Dear Tanya,

I love you. In this envelope is a letter that I want you to go and read to the foxes of the Western Woods. I love them very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and the foxes are in great need of My discipline. Tanya, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I want you to warn My foxes. Some may criticize your life as a homeless wanderer, and others may say that your message is not up to speed with the modern world. Some may say that your methods are too weak, your pace too slow, and your systems too simple. Others might call you irrelevant. However, don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you. Please wait until you get to the foxes before you open the envelope and read the letter inside.

Paul the Porcupine went next.

Dear Paul,

I love you. In this envelope is a letter that I want you to go and read to the raccoons of the Western Woods. I love them very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and the raccoons are in great need of My discipline. Paul, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I want you to warn My raccoons. Some may say that your message is too poky for them and makes them feel uncomfortable, and others may snarl their teeth at you and swipe at you with their claws. However, don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you. Please wait until you get to the raccoons before you open the envelope and read it to them.

Billy the Bullfrog was next.

Dear Billy,

I love you. In this envelope is a letter that I want you to go and read to the sloths of the Western Woods. I love them very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and the sloths are in great need of My discipline. Billy, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I want you to warn My sloths. Some may say that all your croaking is unnecessary, and others may fall asleep on you. However, don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you. Please wait until you get to the sloths before you open the envelope and read the letter inside.

Then Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug began to read the instructions on his envelope.

Dear Wilbert,

I love you. In this envelope is a letter that I want you to go and read to the opossums of the Western Woods. I love them very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and the opossums are in great need of My discipline. Billy, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I want you to warn My opossums. Some may accuse your message as being of the devil, and others might call you a stick-in-the-mud. However, don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you. Please wait until you get to the opossums before you open the envelope and read the letter inside.

Then Sally the Squirrel read the instructions on the back of her envelope.

Dear Sally,

I love you. In this envelope is a letter that I want you to take back home and read to the other squirrels. The letter will tell you about a very important job I want you all to do. Sally, I love My family in the Western Woods very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and My family is in great need of My discipline. Sally, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I will test the hearts of all My creatures. However, though I wound, I will also heal. The assignment I have given you squirrels will be like the Balm of Gilead. Work at it, therefore, with all your hearts.

Finally, Barbara the Beaver read the back of her envelope.

Dear Barbara,

I love you. In this envelope are pictures that will show you how to build something very important to Me. Barbara, I love My family in the Western Woods very much, and they are dear to Me. Those whom I love, whom I consider sons and daughters, I discipline, and My family is in great need of My discipline. Barbara, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and I will test the hearts of all My creatures. Once they have been humbled, I will meet them here at the Great Oak and give them the only compass that can see them through the storms of the end of the age. Barbara, I want you to stay here at the Great Oak. When all the other animals have left, you may open your envelope and then begin the work I have entrusted to you. The job I have given you, My friend—work at it with all your heart.

When all of the animals finished reading the instructions that Jesus had written on the back of their envelopes, Elijah the Eagle looked up toward his nest and noticed the time on his alarm clock. It was 12:00a.m. Faster than anyone had expected, the eleventh hour had passed and it was now midnight. Sammy the Skunk, Tanya the Turtle, Paul the Porcupine, Billy the Bullfrog, Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug, Sally the Squirrel, and Barbara the Beaver knew that they had all been entrusted with very important tasks. They knew that the hour was urgent and that the time of the Bridegroom’s arrival was sooner than anyone had realized. They also knew that Jesus was very serious about purifying His Bride before His return. They knew that just as Jesus entered into His glory only after carrying His cross, so too in this age His Bride must go through many hardships before receiving glory at the Second Coming. After praying with Elijah the Eagle, the seven animals immediately set about their missions. There was no time to waste.

CHAPTER 3 - THE LETTER TO THE TURKEYS

THE LETTER TO THE TURKEYS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/03-The-Letter-To-The-Turkeys.mp3]

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Sammy the Skunk walked as fast as he could toward Turkey Valley. A few hours after leaving the Great Oak, he came upon a doe that was drinking some water from a spring not far from the path. “Hello, Miss Doe!” Sammy said with a smile on his face. “How is everything this fine evening?”

At first, the doe seemed a little frightened. “Is this skunk going to spray me with stinkiness?” she wondered to herself. However, as Sammy kept smiling at her with his tail down, she realized that he was not there to spray her, but was just being polite. She then smiled and said, “Things are wonderful, Mr. Skunk. This water is very refreshing. Would you like a drink? My name is Deborah Deer. Please forgive me for the look of fear on my face when I first saw you. Two years ago my mother got sprayed by a skunk, and it took ten tomato-juice baths to get the smell off of her! Ever since then, quite honestly, I’ve been a bit afraid of skunks.”

“I completely understand,” Sammy replied warmly. “My name is Sammy the Skunk. Don’t worry, Deborah, I am definitely not going to spray you! Though I am the chief of sinners and have been full of stinky things from my youth, the Lord Jesus has had great mercy on me. Lately, He has been teaching me a lot about the importance of not stinking up a room through a lack of self-control. He has shown me that far stinkier than the spray under my tail, is the rotten fruit of a complaining attitude or hurtful words.”

When Deborah the Deer heard this, a tear came to her eyes as she remembered some harsh words she had spoken to her mother earlier that day. She then looked at Sammy and said, “Thank you, Sammy, for passing by this way on your journey. You don’t realize this, but the Lord just used you to remind me that I need to go and ask my mother for forgiveness. I said some very unkind things to her this morning, and I need to repent. Boy, when the Lord disciplines us, it is never easy! But I know that it always leads to freedom and love in the end. Thank you, Sammy.”

Then with a smile on her face, Deborah looked at Sammy and pointed him toward the spring with her nose. Sammy went over to the spring and took a deep drink. When he finished drinking, he said goodbye to Deborah Deer and continued on his journey.

As Sammy continued walking, he remembered a time four years earlier when God had spoken a strong word of discipline to him. At the time, Sammy had just read a new book about how to fly kites. His younger sister Susie did not know how to read yet, and so she didn’t have the same knowledge as her brother. Then one day Sammy and Susie went to the lake and took their kites with them. Because Sammy had read that book about how to fly kites, he was able to fly his kite at the lake without any problem. Susie, on the other hand, still didn’t know how to fly a kite, and so she asked her brother to show her how. However, Sammy had pride and sin in his heart and refused to help her. Sammy liked being seen as special because of what he knew, and if he taught Sally how to fly a kite, then how could he continue being seen as the special knower? Thus, instead of using what he knew to love his sister, Sammy ended up using his knowledge to hurt her. That day at the lake, Susie cried and cried as Sammy’s kite soared high in the sky, while hers never even left the ground. Later that night, the Holy Spirit came to Sammy with a strong word of discipline about how wickedly he had treated his sister earlier that day. He told Sammy to repent, because love is the only thing that is going to count in His coming kingdom. When the Holy Spirit spoke this to Sammy, he wept and wept, and then went and asked his sister to forgive him. Then the next day, Sammy took Susie back to the lake and showed her how to fly a kite.

As Sammy remembered how much freedom God had brought to his own life through the fire of discipline, he prayed for the turkeys, that God would also open their hearts to the message in the envelope. Just like Deborah, Sammy also knew how hard it could be sometimes to receive a word of discipline. However, he also knew that, in the end, God’s discipline always produces good and lasting fruit.

After walking all night long and most of the next morning, Sammy finally drew near to his destination about noon the next day. As Sammy approached the entrance into Turkey Valley, he began to hear the sound of turkey-gobbling echoing throughout the Valley. Sounds of “gobble gobble gobble gobble!” were bouncing around everywhere! In fact, there was so much gobbling going on that Sammy could hardly think straight or make any sense of what the turkeys were actually trying to say.

Sammy stepped into Turkey Valley and immediately noticed that it was a very busy place. Straight ahead he saw hundreds of gobbling turkeys scrambling about their business. In that direction he also saw two large buildings. One was a library called the “Gobble-Gobble Library of Turkey Valley,” and the other was a building called the “Turkey Talkie-Talkie Society.” These were the most influential schools in all the Western Woods. Going in and out of the library were scores of turkeys carrying tall stacks of books with fancy-sounding titles written on them.

When Sammy turned his head to the right, he saw some older turkey professors standing near big dry-erase boards and gobbling at the younger student turkeys that were sitting in front of them with their laptops open. He also noticed that as the professors gobbled on and on, they kept using many big, fancy words that he didn’t understand. And though it seemed that the young student turkeys didn’t understand most of what their teachers were gobbling about either, nevertheless they still seemed impressed by the fancy talk of their teachers and were gobbling up every word. Gobbling professors in front of blackboards, speaking words that sounded like gobbly-gook to their listeners, all made for a rather humorous scene, and Sammy chuckled to himself. It reminded him of the story of the Tower of Babel.

However, Sammy’s chuckling quickly turned into shock. When he looked to the left, his eyes fell on a group of six very smart-looking turkeys that were jumping up and down on a large Bible as though it were a trampoline! As they continued jumping, they started to peck and peck and peck away at the Book with their beaks, and tear and tear and tear away at it with their claws. As these turkeys kept jumping and pecking and tearing, the Bible was trampled to pieces. As the pages tore and fell apart, these turkeys didn’t even seem to care that they were treating God’s Holy Scriptures like garbage. When Sammy saw these turkeys doing this, tears came into his eyes. Sammy knew that the Bible was precious to God, and it hurt this skunk deeply to see these turkeys treating His Word with such pride. The Bible was the lamp that had guided Sammy’s path from his youth. It was a treasure, a precious pearl of greatest price, a feast of truth that God had entrusted to His family as a gift. And now, instead of handling the Scriptures as faithful, God-fearing stewards, here were these turkeys showing themselves unworthy of such a trust. “These turkeys may look and sound smart,” Sammy thought to himself, “but they sure are acting foolishly. Do they not know the Lord Jesus will hold them accountable for this?” He then began to pray that God would have mercy on these wayward turkeys, just as God had shown mercy to him.

As Sammy the Skunk was praying, suddenly a loud bell sounded from the Turkey Talkie-Talkie Society building. Then immediately after the bell a nasally turkey voice began to gobble something out from a loudspeaker. “Gobble-gobble, gobble-gobble, attention, attention, all members of the Turkey Talkie-Talkie Society,” the voice began. “In five minutes, we will be gathering in the lecture hall of the Gobble-Gobble Library to begin gobbling about the issue of contemporary hermeneutics from a turkeological perspective. Please be prompt, and once again, please remember that Turkish coffee and water are the only beverages allowed on the premises.”

“Herme-what?” Sammy the Skunk wondered to himself after hearing the announcement. “Maybe they were trying to say ‘The hermit is new to ticks.’ But that doesn’t make any sense!” Then Sammy came up with a plan. “Hey,” he thought to himself, “that meeting would be a perfect place to share Jesus’ letter to the turkeys!” And so Sammy scurried straight ahead toward the library and joined the parade of about five hundred turkeys that was making its way into the building.

When the turkeys and Sammy had all gathered in the lecture hall, a very tall turkey wearing small glasses and dressed in a black suit stood up and talked. “Gobble-gobble, gobble-gobble, today, young scholars, we have gathered to discuss…”

“Excuse me, excuse me, Mr. Turkey Scholar sir,” a voice interrupted cheerfully. “My name is Sammy the Skunk, and Jesus has sent me here with a very important letter to read to all you turkeys.”

When Sammy said this, a gobbling uproar broke out all over the lecture hall. Then someone in the crowd cried out, “Skunk! Skunk! A stinky skunk! Everyone, cover your noses!” At that, all of the turkeys quickly put their feathers over their beaks.

Then one of the turkeys spoke to Sammy. “Excuse me, umm, Mr. Skunk, sir. I’m not quite sure how you made it into the library, seeing, well, that you are not a turkey. Are you a visiting scholar skunk?”

“Actually, sir, to be honest, I don’t know very many fancy words, but I do love the Bible. The words of that Book are life to me.”

Then one of the turkeys that Sammy had seen trampling the Bible earlier cocked his head back and snubbed his beak at Sammy. “Hmph,” the turkey gobbled. “I can see that you are one of those simple believers with a simple trust who read the Bible in a simple way.” He then looked at Sammy with a look of pity, began to shake his head, and said, “Poor, poor, poor, simple skunk.” Then the turkey’s face suddenly brightened. “As for me,” the turkey continued, now with a proud smile, “I left such simple ways behind many years ago after I heard a famous speech by Dr. Gilbert Gobbly about how to stretch words so far that they no longer mean what they mean. Three Ph.D.’s and two Th.D.’s later, I have now won the admiration of all the turkey gobblers in my field.”

“That…that’s nice,” Sammy replied shyly, not understanding most of what the turkey had just said.

Then in a fancy-sounding voice another turkey gobbled to Sammy, “Gobble-gobble, gobble-gobble, I say, dear skunk, I say, did I hear you say that Jesus gave you a message to give to us? My dear skunk fellow, have you not read my recent book? Have you not read my articles? Clearly you are mistaken, young skunk, and clearly deficient in your understanding. God stopped speaking many years ago. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that healings, miracles, and prophecy are things of the past? It’s right there in the Greek.”

This made Sammy upset. “Sir, I don’t speak Greek, but I know my Bible, and what you just said is not true,” Sammy replied boldly. “I also know full well that two years ago, God healed my Grandma Sarah Skunk and raised her up from a wheelchair. It was a great miracle, and many skunks in my neighborhood turned to the Lord.”

This made the turkey angry. “Gobble-gobble, gobble-gobble, how dare you lecture me, little skunk!” the turkey said with irritation and pride in his voice. “You’ve never studied a Greek grammar in your life. Do you not know that my research is fully supported and endorsed by the Fancy Footnote Foundation?”

Before Sammy could respond, another turkey jumped in. “Come now, dear turkeys,” this turkey said with more warmth and humility in his voice. “I admire this skunk and his willingness to present his ideas. What if he is predestined to be here? Let’s give him a chance to share his letter, and then we can begin our discussion.” When he said this, all the other turkeys quieted down.

Then Sammy pulled out his letter and opened it. When he did so, the Holy Spirit came upon him and he began to read the letter boldly:

Dear Turkeys,

First, I want to say that I love you very much. And it is for that very reason that I, Jesus, have a few things I must tell you. I am the One who created all of you turkeys. It is I who gave you minds for thinking and pens for writing. However, instead of using the things I have given you to love others and build up My Body, you are using fancy words and the things you know to get praise from one another. You are not even thinking about what I will say to you when you stand before Me at My return. Do you not know that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up? Also, because you are afraid of losing your friends, your reputation, and your position, you turkeys write books that make each other happy but do not agree with My truth. How can you expect to receive praise from Me at My return, if you are seeking praise from one another now? Now, as to those in your midst who are trampling My Word and causing many of My young ones to stumble in unbelief, I say this: repent while there is still time.

O turkeys, the days are growing short, and soon I will come down from the sky with My Father’s angels in great power. I will set up My kingdom from Jerusalem and judge every heart. You are not yet ready for that Day. However, I am not giving up on you, dear turkeys! And because of that, I must discipline you to get you on the narrow path and prepare you to rule faithfully at My side in My coming kingdom. In but a few days, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and in a moment your pride will be burned up in the flames. When this happens, flee to the Great Oak. There you will find healing and truth for the days ahead.

Love,

Jesus

When Sammy finished reading the letter, gobbling broke out all over the lecture hall, and many of the turkeys became angry. Then one turkey shouted, “This message stinks! Get that stinky skunk and his smelly message out of here!”

Then another turkey said, “The Day of the Lord? This skunk is nothing but a simpleton! Does he not know that those texts are nothing but apocalyptic genre?”

“Apoca-what?” Sammy wondered to himself, having no idea what the turkey was trying to say.

“And not only that,” another turkey chimed in angrily, “does this stinky skunk not know that such punishments and discipline from God belong to another dispensation? The God of the New Testament would never do such a mean thing as sending fire to the woods!”

“Another dispen-what?” Sammy thought to himself, still failing to understand the gobbling. He had never heard the word “dispensation” before, though he did think it sounded sensationally fancy.

“And do you mean to tell me, Mr. Skunk,” another turkey shouted at Sammy, “that Jesus is actually going to set up His kingdom on the earth and base it from the actual city of Jerusalem in the actual land of Israel? Surely you don’t take those prophecies literally, do you? Bosh. Let me say it again—Bosh! Such thinking is simply too Jewish and simply too simple.”

Finally, when the turkeys had all finished venting and gobbling out all these big words at Sammy, the turkey who was wearing the small glasses and dressed in a black suit stood up again and spoke. “Umm, thank you, Mr. Skunk, for such an…such an…let me say, interesting, even if simple, point of view. Now, if you don’t mind, please be on your way. We turkeys have some serious matters to discuss today.”

At that, one of the turkeys walked Sammy the Skunk to the door of the library. As he walked out of the building, Sammy prayed, “Father, just as You have had great mercy on me, the smelliest of skunks, have mercy on these turkeys whom You love. Prepare them to walk with Jesus dressed in white in His coming kingdom.” Then shaking the dust off his feet, Sammy the Skunk began the journey back to the Great Oak.

CHAPTER 4 - THE LETTER TO THE FOXES

THE LETTER TO THE FOXES

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/04-The-Letter-To-The-Foxes.mp3]

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About the time that Sammy the Skunk was reading his letter to the turkeys, Tanya the Turtle was steadily making her way to the foxes. Now, turtles are normally pretty slow when it comes to getting places. However, Tanya was so urgent to get Jesus’ letter to the foxes that she had decided to pull her socks and tennis shoes out of her shell and jog the journey. As she jogged, she began to sing to a familiar tune. “Over the river and through the woods,” she sang, “to Flashy Fox Den I go, with bells on my shell and some paint on my nails and sock fuzz in my toes!” Apparently, Tanya the Turtle had gotten some white fuzzies from her socks stuck between her toes! Has that ever happened to you? If there are a lot of fuzzy things stuck between your toes, it can be hard to ignore, especially on a jog through the woods.

As Tanya the Turtle kept jogging, suddenly the Holy Spirit began to remind her of a time five years earlier when God had spoken a strong word of discipline to her. At the time, Tanya had been very busy at her church. She was involved in children’s ministry, evangelistic outreaches, home groups, and many fund-raisers. However, without her realizing it, as Tanya got busier and busier, her simple love and devotion to Jesus had grown weaker and weaker. Instead of giving over and above her tithe out of a cheerful heart, she began giving only five percent out of a grudging heart. Instead of giving sacrificially to missions or to the poor out of her abundant supply, she began buying fancier clothes and fancier fingernail polish for herself. Instead of boldly declaring the gospel with the lost despite whatever opposition it might bring, she began to shy away from using the name “Jesus” with her unbelieving friends and co-workers. During this time, the Holy Spirit spoke to her one night from Revelation 2:4-5. “Tanya,” the Holy Spirit whispered, “you have forsaken your first love. Repent, and do the things you did at first.” When the Holy Spirit spoke this to her, Tanya wept and wept in repentance. Then the next day she went to the bank, withdrew all the money she had in savings, and gave it to a local mission working with the homeless. Now free from the fear of man, she also came out of her shell and became a traveling evangelist, sharing the good news of Jesus wherever the Spirit might send her.

As Tanya the Turtle remembered how much freedom God had brought to her own life through the fire of His discipline, she prayed for the foxes, that God would also open their hearts to the message in the envelope. Truly, she herself knew how hard it could be sometimes to receive a word of discipline. However, she also knew that in the end God’s discipline always produces good and lasting fruit.

Finally, after many hours of jogging, Tanya arrived at Flashy Fox Den. Flashy Fox Den was located in a large cave, and each Sunday morning and Wednesday night foxes came from miles and miles around to attend services there. When Tanya the Turtle first laid eyes on Flashy Fox Den, it was a Wednesday night, and thousands of foxes were making their way into the cave. By far, Flashy Fox Den was the flashiest place she had ever seen. Located all around the den were shining, dazzling lights of different colors. The lights shone in such a way that they made everyone in the den feel relaxed and comfortable. In one part of the den, free coffee and hot lattes were brewing for first-time visitors. In another part of the den, a good number of foxes were browsing a bookstore with the latest best-sellers. Many in the bookstore were excitedly flipping through the pages of a book just recently published by their own Fox Den leader, Flashy Freddy. The book was called How to Make Your Fox Den the Biggest and Flashiest in Town in Just Five Flashy Days. On the back of the book was a picture of Flashy Freddy smiling with a slick hairdo and a cool, sly grin on his face. Throughout Flashy Fox Den soothing music was playing in the background, and everywhere Tanya looked, she saw foxes dressed in fancy, flashy clothes greeting each other and shaking tails.

The service was about to start, and Tanya slowly made her way into the sanctuary located toward the back of the den. After entering the sanctuary, she sat down next to a small family of foxes who smiled at her. “Good evening, Ms. Turtle,” the Daddy Fox said. “My name is Fabian Fox. Is this your first time with us?”

“Why, yes it is,” Tanya replied with a smile. “I must say, this den is the flashiest place I have ever seen.”

“Well, just three months ago,” Fabian began, “we here at Flashy Fox Den raised three million dollars and made some major renovations. You see those big red flashing lights over there? We just put those in last week.”

“Three million dollars?” Tanya said, staring at Fabian with wide eyes. “Wow, that sure seems like a lot of money to invest in big flashy red lights. How much did your den have left to spend on sending out workers into the harvest fields?”

“Well,” Fabian said with a slight look of embarrassment on his face, “after we put the flashy red lights in, we decided to build a Family Fox Life Center with a nice basketball court for the kiddos. That left us with about three hundred dollars for missions, which we divided three ways between the three fox missionaries that we support.”

Tanya stared at Fabian in disbelief. “Whatever is happening in this den,” she thought to herself, “something is certainly not right here. Do these foxes not read the Bible? If they have placed all their treasures in flashy red lights, where then are their hearts?”

Suddenly the lights in the sanctuary became dim, and all the flashy lights in the sanctuary began to flash. Then out onto the stage at the front of the sanctuary came five of the flashiest foxes you have ever seen. The five foxes grabbed their instruments and for the next five minutes led the congregation in worship. Tanya, who was used to basking slowly in the Lord’s presence for extended amounts of time, had just closed her eyes when the worship time ended. “Is the Lord of Glory who gave His life for us not worthy of an offering of love more honorable than this?” she began to wonder to herself as an empty feeling crept into her stomach.

Tanya then leaned over to Fabian Fox and whispered a question to him. “Excuse me, Fabian, I don’t mean to pry,” Tanya said shyly, “but do you mind to tell me why the worship time was so short?”

“Well, we are on a tight schedule here at Flashy Fox Den. Last year, we decided to just keep on building this Den bigger and bigger. As more and more foxes came, we just didn’t have any room for them all anymore, and so we went to three services. Because of that, we just don’t have much time to worship these days. Anyhow, Flashy Freddy says that it is important to keep the service well-timed and polished. We hate to make foxes mad, he says, by making them late for lunch or dinner.”

“Oh, I see,” Tanya replied quietly in disbelief. “Well, do you mind if I ask you another question?”

“Shoot,” Fabian Fox said.

“This is a Christian Fox Den, isn’t it?” Tanya asked.

“Yes, it is,” the fox replied.

“Well, if this is a Christian Fox Den,” Tanya continued, “then why do the songs we just sang have nothing to do with Jesus or the gospel?”

“Well,” Fabian Fox whispered, once again looking a little embarrassed, “Flashy Freddy says that our goal here at Flashy Fox Den is to be as relevant as possible for the modern generation. We don’t want to sing or preach anything that might offend those who attend or make them feel uncomfortable. Loss of foxes means loss of money, and loss of money means loss of relevance. In today’s world you’ve got to be clever, witty, and flashy to play the game. Or so we’re told.”

Then suddenly Flashy Freddy got up on the stage. He was dressed in a flashy black leather jacket and started strutting around the stage in a flashy way, waving and smiling at all the foxes as they clapped and cheered. Flashy Freddy had the smoothest sounding voice you’ve ever heard. For the next ten minutes, he preached a friendly, polished, five-point sermon on sound principles of flashy finances. Though he held a Bible as he talked, Flashy Freddy did not open it a single time.

Just as Freddy was about to start talking about how keeping millions of dollars in savings is good stewardship and not hoarding, Tanya the Turtle suddenly felt the Holy Spirit telling her that it was time for her to share the message in the envelope. As she got up out of her seat and walked up to the stage, all the foxes, including Flashy Freddy, became silent and stared at her. When she reached the stage, she looked up at Flashy Freddy and whispered politely, “Excuse me, Flashy Freddy, I was wondering if I could have a few minutes to read a letter from Jesus to the foxes. I promise that it is a very relevant message for this Den in this hour.”

For a brief moment, Flashy Freddy felt awkward and didn’t know what to do. However, not wanting to offend this first-time turtle visitor, he regained his composure, looked at the crowd, and said, “Fox family, it seems that we have a guest speaker here today. She has a message that is very relevant for us. Please, Ms. Turtle, come up here and share your story with us. We love stories. We think the Bible tells a wonderful meta-narrative.”

“A meta-what?” Tanya the Turtle thought to herself as she stepped onto the stage in a slow and non-flashy way. When she first got on stage, all the flashy lights blinded her. “Flashy Freddy,” she asked, “would you mind to turn off those flashy lights for just a few minutes so I can read this letter.” Flashy Freddy then motioned a signal over to the foxes at the light board, and they turned the flashy lights off and turned the regular lights on. As the room lit up, Tanya now saw the faces of all the foxes in the sanctuary. They were sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear what she had to say. “Wow,” Tanya thought to herself with alarm as she kept looking at the foxes, “these poor foxes look like they are starving and haven’t eaten anything of substance for years!”

Then Tanya opened her envelope and pulled out Jesus’ letter to the foxes. When she did so, the Holy Spirit came upon her and she began to read the letter boldly:

Dear Foxes,

First, I want to say that I love you very much. And it is for that very reason that I, Jesus, have a few things I must tell you. For many years now I have been inviting this Den to become a shining light in the Western Woods. However, even though the lights in your Den have become flashier and flashier, the light of truth has grown dimmer and dimmer in your midst. Even though your buildings have become bigger and bigger, your love for Me has grown smaller and smaller. You say that you do what you do for the sake of “excellence.” However, you are not excellent in the things that I care about most. Your Family Fox Life Centers are not centers of life, but dens of thieves. For when My servants, whom I have called to the harvest fields, are forced to come to your doors as beggars, is it not Me that you are robbing? Is it not the lost that you are cheating? Is it not the idol of greed that you are serving? And when you preach, do you dare water-down My Holy Word, which is sharp, living, and active, in the name of relevance and for the purpose of building your own kingdoms? When your messages do not line up with My truth, are you not trampling on the precious pearl of My gospel like pigs? Are you not feeding My sheep with chaff and not grain? Are you not peddling the Word of God for profit? Are you not acting like cunning foxes still trapped in deceit and trickery?

O foxes, the hour is urgent! I am the Bridegroom and the Judge, and I am coming soon! I will examine the motives and secrets of all My creatures. False shepherds will be exposed, and false agendas will be brought low. All else besides your standing before Me on that Day is irrelevant. My dear foxes, you are not yet ready for My appearing. However, I am not giving up on you! And because of that, I must discipline you to get you on the narrow path and prepare you to rule faithfully at My side in My coming kingdom. In but a few days, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and in a moment all your flashy falsehood will be burned up in the flames. When this happens, flee to the Great Oak. There you will find healing and truth for the days ahead.

Love,

Jesus

When Tanya finished reading her letter, some of the foxes in Flashy Fox Den began to weep in repentance. Others, however, became offended and angry. Flashy Freddy on his part was trembling. Two ushers quickly moved to the stage and began to escort Tanya the Turtle out of Flashy Fox Den. As they did so, one of them uttered to himself, “Oh my, the offering is going to be low today. How are we going to pay the electric bill this month? These flashy lights are killing our budget!”

When they reached the entrance of Flashy Fox Den, they politely pointed Tanya the Turtle to the doors. As she left the Den, the two ushers locked the doors behind her. As Tanya stared at Flashy Fox Den from the outside, a tear came to her eye and she began to pray. “Father, just as You have had mercy on me, the most lukewarm of all turtles, have mercy on these foxes whom You love,” she said. “Prepare them to become pillars in Jesus’ temple in His coming kingdom.” Then shaking the dust off her feet, Tanya the Turtle began the journey back to the Great Oak.

CHAPTER 5 - THE LETTER TO THE RACCOONS

THE LETTER TO THE RACCOONS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/05-The-Letter-To-The-Raccoons.mp3]

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Just a few hours after Tanya the Turtle had arrived at Flashy Fox Den, Paul the Porcupine was himself only about three hours away from a long row of hollow trees called Raccoon Row. As he walked, he became hungry and stopped for a few minutes at a bush full of ripe red raspberries for a snack. “Umm, umm…how tasty!” he said out loud as he threw a few raspberries up in the air and then caught them with his mouth. When he finished his snack, Paul started licking his teeth and realized that he had many raspberry seeds stuck in them. However, this was not a problem for Paul. As you know, porcupines have many long, pointy, poky things called quills sticking out all over them. As he started walking again, Paul picked a quill out of his back and turned it into a toothpick. Then one-by-one he picked all the little raspberry seeds out of his teeth. “Ah, that is much better,” he said happily as he licked his teeth again.

As Paul the Porcupine continued walking, the Holy Spirit brought to his mind a time three years earlier when God had spoken a strong word of discipline to him. One day while walking through a park in the Western Woods, Paul noticed a rotten apple that someone had thrown on the ground. Now, Paul knew that the rotten apple was stinky and dirty, and that God did not want him to eat it. It was forbidden fruit. It was full of disease, and it was bound to make him sick. However, everything in Paul’s body craved the rotten fruit and wanted to eat it. Instead of falling on his face in that moment and asking God for power to resist temptation, Paul looked around to make sure that no one was looking. He then pulled a quill out of his back and poked it into the rotten apple. He then began to eat the apple like an appetizer. He took it in and savored it slowly, bit-by-bit. In the moment, the forbidden fruit tasted delicious. However, later that night, Paul’s stomach got sick from the rotten fruit and he began to throw up. Then the next day, Paul went to church, smiled, and acted as if he had never eaten that rotten apple the day before. However, during the worship time the Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Paul,” the Spirit said, “I see all things. Why are you eating the kind of fruit that I will never allow into My kingdom?” When the Holy Spirit said this, Paul wept and wept in repentance. He then went home, took all the rotten fruit scattered about his tunnel, and with firm resolve flushed it all down the toilet. He then thanked God for intervening in His life with His word of warning and discipline before it was too late.

As Paul the Porcupine remembered how much freedom God had brought to his own life through the fire of discipline, he prayed for the raccoons, that God would also open their hearts to the message in the envelope. Truly, Paul knew how hard it could be sometimes to receive a word of discipline. However, he also knew that in the end, God’s discipline always produces good and lasting fruit.

As the sky started growing dark, Paul the Porcupine finally came to the first hollow tree of Raccoon Row. The trees of Raccoon Row were situated one after another in a straight line for about two miles. On both sides of the trees, trash cans and picnic tables were scattered about everywhere. Below the picnic tables were crumbs that had fallen onto the ground, and filling the garbage cans to the brim was yucky, stinky garbage of all different kinds. “Phew,” Paul said, pinching his nose shut. “This trash stinks!”

As Paul held his nose and continued looking down Raccoon Row, the sun finally went down and countless numbers of raccoons started coming out of the hollow trees. After doing their stretches and waking up for the night, the raccoons all scurried down the trees and over to the picnic tables and trash cans. Many of the raccoons went straight for the picnic tables and started gobbling up the crumbs that had fallen to the ground. While they did this, countless numbers of others climbed up on top of the picnic tables and began diving head-first into the garbage cans. As the crumb-eating raccoons moved anxiously from crumb to crumb, Paul noticed that even though these raccoons kept nibbling away, they were not becoming satisfied. He also noticed that as the trash-eating raccoons kept taking garbage into themselves, they had a hard time stopping themselves and just grew hungrier to eat more and more garbage.

One of the raccoons saw Paul standing there. Thinking that Paul might want some garbage too, the raccoon grabbed a rotten apple full of worms and took it over to Paul. “Hey there, Mr. Porcupine,” the raccoon began. “My name is Riley. Would you like to have a bite of this apple?”

“No, thank you, Riley,” Paul responded, still holding his nose. “That fruit is forbidden.”

When Paul said this, Riley was poked with conviction. “Who says it is forbidden?!” Riley said with irritation and anger in his voice.

“God does,” Paul replied. “And this brings me to the reason I’m here. Riley, Jesus has sent me here with a letter that He wants me to read to you raccoons.”

“Well, is it a pokey message?” Riley asked suspiciously. “We raccoons go to church every Sunday, but we don’t like critters poking around in our business.”

“I don’t know what the letter says,” Paul answered honestly. “Jesus told me not to open the envelope until I reached the raccoons. However, though I don’t know what the letter says, what I do know is that whatever Jesus has to say to you, it will be for your good, even if it hurts. Jesus has eyes of fire, and when He speaks, He hides behind no mask. His words are truth and life, even if they sting.”

These words pierced Riley, and he knew that the Porcupine was right. Riley then jumped up on a picnic table and shouted out to all the raccoons, saying, “Everyone, please quiet down and come over here near this picnic table! This porcupine has something he wants to say!”

“Well, it better not be anything pokey!” the other raccoons grumbled as they dropped their trash and moved close to the picnic table on which Riley was standing. After they had gathered around, Paul the Porcupine climbed up on top of the picnic table and pulled out his envelope. When he opened it and pulled out Jesus’ letter to the raccoons, the Holy Spirit came upon him and he began to read the letter boldly:

Dear Raccoons,

First, I want to say that I love you very much. And it is for that very reason that I, Jesus, have a few things I must tell you. The desire of My heart is to use you mightily in this age as vessels of honor in My service, and then in the age to come, to give you the earth and thrones of glory as an eternal inheritance. However, you raccoons are not walking worthy of such a high calling. I see all things. Nothing in all creation is hidden from My eyes. Night after night you feed yourselves on trash when you think no one is looking. Do you not realize that those who refuse to repent, and who keep giving themselves to such garbage, are idolaters and have no inheritance in My coming kingdom? How can you expect to see My face then, when at present you are feeding your own faces with nothing but things that stink to Me? Without holiness no one will see Me! All week long you feast on rotten apples and stinky banana peels, and yet on Sundays you come into My presence wearing masks as though nothing were wrong. However, I see through the masks. O raccoons, do not be deceived! Stop living according to the night, and live according to the Day! Many of you desire to leave the trash behind, but how can you ever expect to do so if all you ever eat are the crumbs that fall from My table? Do you not know that through My Spirit there is grace sufficient to resist every kind of sin and temptation? Leave the forbidden fruit behind, take up your cross, and deny yourselves through My own power working in you. Abide in Me! Feast at the table of My Word! Keep calling on My name for grace and mercy in your moment of need, and My Spirit will come to you swiftly and give you power to say no to sin and the devil. Seek Me while I may be found!

O raccoons, the night is nearly over, and the Day is almost here! My kingdom is about to come to the earth like a rock that will shatter all other kingdoms to pieces. Of the increase of My government and peace there will be no end. In that Day I will reward the righteous and punish the wicked, and will repay each one according to his works. My dear raccoons, you are not yet ready to stand in the glorious presence of the Bright and Morning Star. However, I am not giving up on you! And because of that, I must discipline you to get you on the narrow path and prepare you to rule faithfully at My side in My coming kingdom. In but a few days, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and in a moment your love for the stinky trash that I hate will be burned up in the flames. When this happens, flee to the Great Oak. There you will find healing and truth for the days ahead.

Love,

Jesus

When Paul finished reading his letter, every raccoon around the picnic table felt poked to the core. Some of the raccoons responded to the poking with tears and repentance, but others became angry and began to show their teeth and bare their claws. One of these angry raccoons came up to Paul and tried to scratch him, but instead he poked himself on one of the porcupine’s sharp quills. “Ouch!” the raccoon shouted. When all the other raccoons saw this, they became afraid to attack Paul directly with their claws or teeth. They then began to grab garbage from the trash cans and throw it at the porcupine. Paul quickly scurried off the picnic table and ran off into the woods. As he ran, some of the raccoons shouted at him, “Keep your pointed, pokey words to yourself and don’t ever come back! We are under grace, and so we will fill ourselves with as much garbage as we want!”

Once Paul the Porcupine had reached a safe distance away from the raccoons, he turned his face back toward Raccoon Row and with tears in his eyes began to pray. “Father, just as you have had mercy on me, I who have loved the forbidden fruit more than all others, have mercy on these raccoons whom You love,” he said. “Teach them the true meaning of grace, I pray, and get them ready to shine with Jesus in His coming kingdom.” Then shaking the dust off his feet, Paul the Porcupine began the journey back to the Great Oak.

CHAPTER 6 - THE SQUIRRELS PREPARE

THE SQUIRRELS PREPARE

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/06-The-Squirrels-Prepare.mp3]

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About four hours before Paul the Porcupine started reading Jesus’ letter to the raccoons, Sally the Squirrel had reached her home in the southeastern part of the woods and had called all the squirrels in the area together. She was very excited about finally getting to open her envelope and learn what Jesus wanted her and the other squirrels to do. As all the other squirrels sat on the branches in the surrounding trees, on her own branch Sally got so excited that she balanced herself with her tail, leaned herself backwards, and began doing the limbo under another low-lying branch. Finally, she pulled herself together and spoke. “So good to see everyone!” she exclaimed excitedly, waving her envelope about wildly as she spoke. “Yes, so good, so good indeed! Everyone, I have very exciting news! I have just come from a meeting up at the Great Oak! While there I received an envelope with a letter in it! Jesus told me to bring the letter back here and read it out loud to all of you!”

“Hurray!” all the other squirrels cheered when they heard the news.

Sally the Squirrel then opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. When she did so, the Holy Spirit came upon her and she began to read the letter boldly:

Dear Squirrels,

First, I want to say that I love you very much. I also love My entire family in the Western Woods. And it is for that very reason that I, Jesus, have a very important job for you to do. O My precious ones, the Day of the Lord is at hand! Very soon I will return and remove every wicked and unclean thing from the earth. I will set up My kingdom from Zion and will make all the wrong things right. Ruling with Me at My side will be a radiant Bride made up of My disciples from every nation, tribe, and tongue! However, if My Bride is going to rule with Me in glory, in this age she must first become like Me through suffering and fire. Suffering produces character, and character produces hope, for those who lose their life in this age will receive it back when their hope is finally realized at My appearing.

My beloved ones, my family in the Western Woods is not yet ready to reign over the earth. However, I am not giving up on My Bride! And because of that, I must discipline My sons and daughters to get them on the narrow path and prepare them to rule faithfully at My side in My coming kingdom. Dear squirrels, in but a few days I am going to send fire to the Western Woods. Through the flames I will burn up the false images that My animals have created, so that I can then build them back up into My own image and likeness. When they are stripped bare, they will finally see their true condition and acknowledge their need for Me. Brought low and humbled, they will flee to the Great Oak for refuge. And there, just as I have torn them to pieces, so too will I heal them. Though they have nothing to offer Me in return, I will stretch out My hand and feed them freely. I am the Head of the church, and I will do this work!

Therefore, little squirrels, before the fire comes, I want you to gather as many nuts and berries as possible and take these supplies to the Great Oak. As for all the food you’ve already stored up here over the years, take that as well, for the time has come for Me to use it for My glory. Once all the food has been transferred to the Great Oak, I want you to prepare a feast. This job I am giving you, dear squirrels—work at it day and night, and give yourselves no rest. The fire is only days away, and this work is very important to Me.

Love,

Jesus

When Sally the Squirrel finished reading the letter, the squirrels stood to their feet with very serious looks on their faces. In an instant, this group of light-hearted squirrels had become an army of the most committed workers the Western Woods had ever seen. Sally prayed and asked God to give them grace and strength for the task. As soon as the “Amen” came, thousands and thousands of squirrels suddenly took off scurrying about their assignment like racehorses coming out of the stall at the Kentucky Derby. There was much work to be done, and there was no time to lose.

CHAPTER 7 - THE LETTER TO THE SLOTHS

THE LETTER TO THE SLOTHS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/07-The-Letter-To-The-Sloths.mp3]

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About the time that Sally the Squirrel was reading the letter Jesus had given her for the squirrels, Billy the Bullfrog was getting closer and closer to Slothful Square. As he hopped along, he started croaking a tune that his uncle Frederick used to sing on Lily-Pad Row before switching careers to flopistry. It was the same song that was played at his fifth-grade graduation. “A frog’s a frog forever,” Billy croaked as memories flooded his mind, “even when he’s eating flies, and a frog will not say never, when the flies get in his eyes….” As Billy sang, up in the trees a little woodpecker overheard him. The woodpecker had grown up singing a song with a similar tune in church camp. A surge of emotion suddenly came over the woodpecker, and he began to add some percussion by pecking his beak on a tree. When Billy heard the sweet beats echoing in the woods, he looked up at the woodpecker, nodded and smiled at him, and kept singing. Within moments, faint sniffling could be heard throughout all the surrounding woods.

As Billy the Bullfrog continued hopping, the Holy Spirit reminded him of a time two years earlier when God had spoken a strong word of discipline to him. At that time, Billy had read a book in which the author was telling readers that Jesus would never allow His people to go through difficult times. Billy really liked the idea of not experiencing any difficulty, and so instead of reading what the Bible had to say about hard times, he chose to believe what the book said instead. From that day forward, Billy spent less and less time in prayer, and more and more time playing sports and watching TV. Instead of being content with his daily bread, at work he began taking on more and more overtime hours so that he could buy a new, expensive boat and show it off to his friends at Pine Tree Creek. The more Billy worked and was away from his wife and children, the less he read his Bible and the more his family suffered. Then one day the company Billy worked for went out of business and this frog was suddenly without a job. Overcome by worry and fear, Billy cried out to God for help. When he did this, the Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Billy,” the Spirit said, “take up your cross daily and follow Me. As you join in the fellowship of My sufferings, I will be with you, even to the end of the age.” When Billy heard this, he wept and repented of his worry and fear. He then went and read the New Testament from beginning to end. As he did so, he quickly realized that suffering for Christ by the power of God, in the hope of eternal glory at the Second Coming, is the true calling of Jesus’ followers in this age.

As Billy the Bullfrog remembered how much freedom God had brought to his own life through the fire of discipline, he prayed for the sloths, that God would also open their hearts to the message in the envelope. Truly, Billy knew how hard it could be sometimes to receive a word of discipline. However, he also knew that, in the end, God’s discipline always produces good and lasting fruit.

Finally, Billy arrived at Slothful Square. Slothful Square was made up of a group of trees that formed the shape of a square. The square had an open area in the middle. When Billy hopped into the open area of the square, the first thing he noticed was that there didn’t seem to be much happening. “Are there even any sloths here?” he wondered to himself. Billy got his answer when he looked up into the trees and saw thousands of sloths. Some of the sloths were slouched back and sleeping on sloth-sized lazy-boy chairs in front of their TV’s, while others were absorbed in video games. Some were typing away as they stared numbly into their cellphones, while others were wearing earplugs to make sure that they were not disturbed from their slumber.

As Billy took the scene in, he began to feel distressed. “Do these sloths not know how urgent the hour is?” he wondered to himself with alarm. “Why are they wasting so much time on meaningless things? Why is nobody praying? Why is nobody reading the Bible? Why is nobody repenting of their sins and crying out in prayer for the Western Woods?”

Finally, the scene became too much for Billy. “Wake up, you sloths!” he croaked at the top of his voice. “The King is coming soon! Hard times are coming! Watch and pray! Fast, weep, wail, and mourn for the Western Woods! Do you not know that the last days are upon us? The Judge is standing at the door!”

After about 15 minutes of croaking like this, a few of the sloths finally made the effort to see what all the commotion was about. “What is all this croaking about, Mr. Frog?” one of the sloths said with a yawn. “Can you not see that we are sleeping?”

“Yes, that is exactly what I see!” Billy croaked urgently. “Do you sloths not know that times of great difficulty are coming? Famines are coming! Earthquakes and wars are coming! Persecution is coming! And eventually, just before Jesus returns, the saints will be put to the test for three-and-a-half years at the hands of the Anti-Christ Empire! How can you expect to stand firm through such days, if you are just lounging around all the time?!”

“Mr. Frog,” one of the sloths replied with a yawn, “I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but all your croaking is unnecessary. God would never let His creatures go through such hard times. Before the big trouble comes, Jesus will whisk us away to the clouds, and we will be safe and sound. Oh, but I do feel sad for the poor Jews. They will have to go through those days. Well, at least the turkeys over in Turkey Valley are writing a new series of novels that might give them some warning. As for me, I will be eating my popcorn and watching the whole show from the lofty heights above.”

Billy could not believe what he was hearing. “What about Abraham, Joseph, Job, King David, and the prophets?!” Billy shouted out with grief in his heart. “What about Peter, Paul, and the apostles? What about Jesus Himself? What about Corrie Ten Boom and Eric Liddell in World War II? What about the church in China? Did not God allow them to go through times of great tribulation and testing? Why then would it be any different for us? ”

When Billy said this, the sloths just stared at him, yawned, and started to put their ear plugs back in. Billy realized that he was losing his audience and said quickly, “Hold on, hold on, everyone! Before you go back to sleep, let me tell you the reason I am here. Jesus sent me here to read a letter to you.”

“Well, get on with it then,” a sloth replied. “I was just about to get to level five on my video game.”

Billy the Bullfrog opened his envelope and pulled out the letter inside. Then the Holy Spirit came upon Billy and he began to read the letter boldly:

Dear Sloths,

First, I want to say that I love you very much. And it is for that very reason that I, Jesus, have a few things I must tell you. Before I received the crown of life on the third day when My Father raised Me from the dead in power, I first went to the cross in obedience to My Father. If anyone would come after Me, he must do the same! Those who want to share in My glory when I return, must first share in My sufferings in this age. O sloths, the hardest times the world has ever known are just around the corner! What football team gets ready for the big game on Friday night by sleeping in the locker room? What army prepares for war by denying that a war is coming? What runner wins the Olympics without first running many practice races beforehand? Why, then, are you sloths wasting so much time on things that dull the mind and shrink the heart? Stop hitting the snooze button, and wake up! Take the earplugs out of your ears, face the truth of Calvary, and rejoice when I count you worthy of suffering for My name!

O sloths, the age to come is about to be born! When I return, from the womb of the earth My Father’s true sons and daughters will be revealed with Me in resurrected power and glory. However, before the joy of the baby’s birth, always come the pains of labor. You sloths are ready neither for the labor, nor for the birth. However, I am not giving up on you! And because of that, I must discipline you to get you on the narrow path and prepare you to rule faithfully at My side in My coming kingdom. In but a few days, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and in a moment your slothfulness will be burned up in the flames. When this happens, flee to the Great Oak. There you will find healing and truth for the days ahead.

Love,

Jesus

When Billy finished reading the letter, he looked up into the trees and saw that most of the sloths had fallen asleep while he had been reading. Some had put their earplugs back in their ears in the middle of the message. However, Billy also noticed that amidst the sounds of snoring coming from the trees, there were also a few who looked like they had livened up a bit. Some looked like they were even whispering prayers under their breath. As Billy turned to leave Slothful Square, he whispered a prayer of his own. “Father, just as You have had mercy on me, the dullest of all creatures, have mercy on these sloths whom You love,” he said. “Prepare them for the coming storms. And make them ready to sit down with Jesus at the Wedding Feast in His coming kingdom.” Then shaking the dust off his feet, Billy the Bullfrog began the journey back to the Great Oak.

CHAPTER 8 - THE LETTER TO THE OPOSSUMS

THE LETTER TO THE OPOSSUMS

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/08-The-Letter-To-The-Opossums.mp3]

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About the time that Billy the Bullfrog was leaving Slothful Square, Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug was about one hour from reaching Opossum Palace. As he walked, he stopped for a quick rest at a tree. Now, because Wilbert was a stick bug, he blended into the tree and looked like one of its small branches. While Wilbert was taking his rest, Bubba the Badger and his wife Brenda walked by the tree. Wanting to be polite, from the tree Wilbert said, “Hello, good badgers! How has your day been?” When the badgers heard the voice, they looked up at the tree but saw no one there. Then with a confused look on her face, Brenda the Badger leaned over and whispered something into Bubba’s ear.

“Bubba,” she said quietly, “did that tree just ask us about our day?”

“I think so, dear, I think so,” Bubba the Badger whispered back. “I’m telling you, honey, mighty strange things have been happening around these parts lately. Mighty strange! And now the trees are talking!”

“Well, Bubba, are we supposed to talk back to it?” Brenda the Badger then asked.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bubba replied. Then after a pause he said, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to be polite to a tree. However, we probably shouldn’t tell our friends. They might think that one too many squirrel nuts have fallen on our heads!”

Then Bubba and Brenda looked at the tree and said, “Umm, yes, Mr. Tree, it has been a fine day.” Just as Wilbert was about to answer, the two badgers scurried off quickly into the woods.

“Well, that was strange,” Wilbert thought to himself as he jumped down from the tree and started walking again. “Why in the world would those badgers talk to a tree? Trees can’t talk! Mighty strange, I must say, mighty strange.”

Wilbert then jumped down from the tree and continued his journey toward Opossum Palace. As he walked, the Holy Spirit reminded him of a time three years earlier when God had spoken a strong word of discipline to him. At the time, Wilbert had watched a program on television in which a minister was praying for people to be healed. As the minister prayed, some people were healed. However, instead of explaining that the signs of healing were meant to point to the hope of the Second Coming, in a prideful way the minister began to talk about the great anointing on his life. He also lied by telling the people they needed to give him money if they wanted to be blessed. Amazed by the healings, many people on the program began throwing money on the stage on which the minister stood. When Wilbert saw this, his heart became filled with greed, and he decided to follow the example of this man he had seen on TV. The following Sunday, he gathered a crowd of walking stick bugs together near his home. His plan was to preach the same message he had heard from the minister on TV, in the hope that he would receive some money from them. However, just as Wilbert was about to pray for the sick, the Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Wilbert,” the Spirit said, “My servants must never peddle the Word of God for profit. Take up your cross, and live for the age to come.” When Wilbert heard this, he wept and repented of his greed and sinful folly. Then with tears in his eyes, he asked the walking stick bugs he had gathered to forgive him.

As Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug remembered how much freedom God had brought to his own life through the fire of His discipline, he prayed for the opossums, that God would also open their hearts to the message in the envelope. Truly, Wilbert knew how hard it could be sometimes to receive a word of discipline. However, he also knew that, in the end, God’s discipline always produces good and lasting fruit.

Finally Wilbert came around a hill and saw a large group of trees clustered together in the shape of a large, mighty crown. It was Opossum Palace. The sky was now getting dark, and as Wilbert walked closer to Opossum Palace, he noticed that up in the trees were hundreds and hundreds of opossums hanging upside-down from branches by their tails. Some of these opossums had gathered a crowd and were using their tails to spin in circles around their branches as fast as they could. Curious to learn more about what was happening, Wilbert quietly walked up a tree and started listening to what was being said. Because he was a stick bug and blended in with the tree, no one even noticed that he was there.

“Leave behind all the rest, and come get your blessing from the best!” one of the spinning opossums shouted out to the crowd. “Watch this everyone!” The opossum then began to spin around the branch so fast that the whole tree began to buzz and shake. He then let go of the branch, did a somersault in the air, and landed back on his branch with his feet. When he did this trick, the crowd began to clap and cheer. Some even fell down on the ground and played dead. When the opossum stopped spinning, he then spoke to the crowd. “Today is your day, ladies and gentleman! Why wait for Jesus to come back? The kingdom of God is already here if you will just seize it and pull it down! Everything you could ever want is within your reach right here and right now. Health, wealth, fame and acclaim—it’s all yours now in Jesus’ name! Now, ladies and gentlemen, please repeat after me: ‘Hardships, hardships go away, cause we’re already kings in this age!’”

“Hardships, hardships, go away,” the crowd chanted wildly, “cause we’re already kings in this age!”

As the crowd chanted, Wilbert turned his face to the left and saw a look of jealousy come over the faces of some of the other opossums spinning on nearby branches. These opossums then began spinning faster and faster in an effort to draw more opossums over to their branches.

As Wilbert listened to the chanting crowds, his mind went to 1 Corinthians 4, where Paul rebuked the Corinthians for forsaking a life of the cross because they saw themselves as kings now in this age. Because the Corinthians thought they had become kings before the Second Coming, they were acting in the same way that all the rest of the wicked kings in this age act. Wilbert knew from his own experience the dangers of seeing himself as a king now, apart from the return of the King of kings.

His heart stirred with love and compassion, Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug then raised his voice and shouted loudly, “Oh opossums of Opossum Palace! Leave these foolish ways behind before the storm comes, and start living for the age to come!”

When he said this, the opossums were startled and began looking around. They could not see who was talking because Wilbert blended in with the trees and did not stick out. “Who are you? Where have you come from?” different opossums from the crowd then began to shout. These opossums were so used to being mesmerized by pizzazz, clamor, and exaggeration, that they weren’t sure how to respond to a nameless and faceless messenger.

“My name is Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug, and Jesus has sent me here with a message for you,” Wilbert said. He then opened his envelope and pulled out Jesus’ letter to the opossums. When he did so, the Holy Spirit came upon him and he began to read the letter boldly:

Dear Opossums,

First, I want to say that I love you very much. And it is for that very reason that I, Jesus, have a few things I must tell you. Dear opossums, have you forgotten that before receiving glory on the third day, I first bore the reproach and slander of men, outside the camp? Have you forgotten the example of My holy apostles, whose flesh I filled up with afflictions as My representatives? They rejoiced when counted worthy of suffering disgrace for My name, for their hope was in the inheritance they would receive at My return. You opossums, however, are seeing things upside-down. You see yourselves as kings now, and thus you treat one another like jealous dictators. Dear opossums, what good is it if you gain the whole world in this age and yet forfeit your life in the age to come? I exhort you to repent and leave your own petty kingdoms behind, that you may inherit a kingdom established not by human power at My return. Take up your cross and live as pilgrims and sojourners in this age of darkness. Until I return to establish My justice on the earth, forgive and pray for your enemies, just as I forgave you on the cross. Cry out for the salvation of the wicked, remembering how in mercy I plucked even you from the fire. Lay down your lives for one another in this age, that you may inherit true life in the age to come.

Opossums, do you not realize that a semitruck is coming down the road at full speed, and you are in the middle of the road? I counsel you: Turn from your foolish ways before you get run over! Forsake the momentary crown and embrace the wisdom of the cross, in the hope of a crown that will last ever! For I, yes I, am going to test the hearts of all creatures with fire. In those days you will not be able to bind and speak your cares away. Will you still love Me and remain mine even through the pressures of those times? Will you still consider Me worthy of worship and adoration as I prune you to the uttermost? If you hold fast to Me and carry your cross in this age, then as surely as I live, I promise that when I return I will set you in positions of authority over the earth as true kings and queens. My dear opossums, you are not yet ready to receive a scepter in your hands. However, I am not giving up on you! And because of that, I must discipline you to get you on the narrow path and prepare you to rule faithfully at My side in My coming kingdom. In but a few days, I am going to send fire to the Western Woods, and in a moment your own kingdoms will be burned up in the flames. When this happens, flee to the Great Oak. There you will find healing and truth for the days ahead.

Love,

Jesus

When Wilbert finished reading the letter, many of opossums, especially the spinning opossums, became angry. “Whoever you are, why are you being such a stick-in-the-mud?!” one opossum cried out.

“You have a poverty spirit!” another cried. “Surely your message is of the devil! God wants us to have our cake in this age, and He wants us to eat it too!”

Then another opossum shouted, “The earth is ours now, dominion is ours now, and with enough money in our pockets, there is no mountain we cannot climb! I break off your words and their negative influence!”

As these opossums continued railing at the Walking Stick Bug they could not see, Wilbert looked to his right and saw a young opossum on his face weeping in repentance. “God, forgive me for my pride!” he prayed. “Forgive me for my self-righteousness! I am the chief of sinners! Have mercy on the wicked of the earth, just as You’ve had mercy on me. Justice and judgment belong to You alone!”

Then one of the angry opossums looked up. Squinting his eyes, he suddenly noticed that one of the sticks up on the tree had eyes. “Hey, there he is!” the opossum shouted. When Wilbert realized that they had spotted him, he began to jump from branch to branch on different trees until the opossums again lost sight of him. He then turned to leave Opossum Palace. As he started walking away, he whispered a prayer. “Father, just as You have had mercy on me, the most self-righteous of all creatures, have mercy on these opossums whom You love,” he prayed. “Get them ready for the last days, and prepare them to receive a crown that will last forever in Your coming kingdom.” Then shaking the dust off his feet, Wilbert the Walking Stick bug began the journey back to the Great Oak.

CHAPTER 9 - THE FIRE

THE FIRE

[audio http://www.media.danieltrainingnetwork.org/children/09-The-Fire.mp3]

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No one knew how it had started. It was now one week after the meeting at the Great Oak, and a raging forest fire was sweeping all across the Western Woods. The fire swept through Turkey Valley, and within moments the Gobble-Gobble Library and the Turkey Talkie-Talkie Society buildings were reduced to ashes. The fire swept across the part of the forest where the foxes lived, and within moments the flashy lights of Flashy Fox Den came down with a crash. The fire swept across Raccoon Row, and within moments the flames devoured every piece of garbage and all the rotten fruit in which the raccoons had indulged. The fire blazed through Slothful Square, and within moments the video games and the lazy-boy chairs had become nothing but smoldering coals. The fire raced through Opossum Palace, and within moments there were no longer any branches on which the spinning opossums could do their tricks. The fire left nothing untouched: savings accounts…job markets…banks…governments…educational institutions…housing markets…insurance policies…the old, the young, the rich, and the poor…everything and everyone felt the heat. As the fire spread, turkeys, foxes, raccoons, sloths, opossums, along with every other kind of creature in the Western Woods, could be seen fleeing to the Great Oak by the thousands.

Now, while the animals had been delivering their letters to different parts of Jesus’ family in the Western Woods, Barbara the Beaver had stayed behind at the Great Oak just as Jesus had instructed her. When she had opened her envelope, inside she found pictures of an old, rugged cross. She had also found a note from Jesus that said, “Barbara, I have given you strong teeth for cutting, carving, and building. Over the next week, before the fire comes, I want you to take your strong teeth and carve the Great Oak into the shape you see in these pictures. I have appointed this tree as an oak of righteousness.” By the time the fire had started, Barbara the Beaver had done her job very well. With special care and attentiveness, the Great Oak had been cut into the shape of a large cross. The cross was tall, its shadow reached far and wide, and its roots went deep.

While Barbara the Beaver had been busy carving the Great Oak into the shape of a cross, Sally the Squirrel and all of her friends had also been hard at work gathering food to the Great Oak, and preparing the feast that Jesus had ordered them to prepare. By the time the fire broke out, sitting on the ground everywhere, on all sides of the cross, were bowls of fresh nuts and berries, pitchers of the cleanest, freshest water you could imagine, and sweet pies of all kinds.

As different groups of animals began arriving at the Great Oak, there was now something very different about them. As the turkeys arrived, Sammy the Skunk recognized several of the turkeys he had met that day in the lecture hall of the Gobble-Gobble Library. He noticed that the prideful looks on the faces of these turkeys had been replaced by a look of sweet brokenness and humility. He also noticed that instead of using fancy words to impress one another, the turkeys were building one another up with common speech that everyone could understand. As the foxes arrived, Tanya the Turtle saw Flashy Freddy, as well as Fabian Fox and his family. She noticed that Flashy Freddy was no longer obsessed with his outward image in the eyes of the other foxes. Instead, both he and some other foxes had tears in their eyes and were attentively reading through the book of 1 Peter together. Through the fire, they had realized the ancient path of the gospel was in fact the only truly relevant path for any generation. As the raccoons arrived, Paul the Porcupine recognized Riley the Raccoon and the raccoons that had thrown trash at him. He noticed that instead of feeding their faces with filthy garbage, the raccoons had come into the light and were now holding hands and praying for one another. He overheard them praying for God to give them strength to resist temptation, to hold one another accountable, and to deny the cravings of their flesh. As the sloths arrived, Billy the Bullfrog recognized some of the sloths who had fallen asleep while he had been sharing Jesus’ message with them. He noticed that instead of having drowsy looks on their faces and apathy in their voices, the sloths were now praying fervently for God to wake their friends and family up from their slumber. As the opossums arrived, Wilbert the Walking Stick Bug saw some of the spinning opossums. He noticed that instead of doing tricks and competing with one another out of jealousy and envy, these opossums were now holding one another up, with tears in their eyes and love in their hearts. Indeed, just as fire purifies silver, so the fire sent by Jesus to the Western Woods was doing a deep work of purification in the hearts of all the different parts of His family.

When all of the different groups of animals had finally arrived, they all took their places at the foot of the cross. As they stepped into the shadow of the cross, its shade provided refuge from the heat. As you would imagine, the animals were very hungry and very thirsty. When they saw the tasty food and the clean water all around them, they all wanted to eat it. However, they had lost everything in the fire, and they had no money in their pockets to pay for the nuts, the water, or the pies. So, with hunger in their eyes and in their tummies, they just sat and stared at the feast sitting all around them.

Then suddenly something amazing happened. Beautiful light, full of many different colors, began to shine brightly from behind the cross. The light was so bright, in fact, that it made the light from the fire in the Western Woods seem dim by comparison.

“What is that?!” one of the foxes shouted. “That light is brighter than all the lights we used to have at Fancy Fox Den put together!”

As the light grew brighter and brighter, suddenly Elijah the Eagle proclaimed with a shout, “Behold, Jesus the Messiah, the Judge and the Ruler of the Earth, the Great Redeemer, the Lion and the Lamb!”

As soon as Elijah finished saying this, Jesus stepped out from behind the cross. On his face was the biggest smile you have ever seen, and his face was shining brighter than the sun. As Jesus looked at all the animals that had gathered before Him at the cross, a river of love and joy flowed out from Him and fell upon all the animals. When this happened, these animals, all of whom had been humbled by fire, began to weep with joy and gratitude. Though all of them had lost buildings, reputation, money, jobs, and status in the flames of God’s discipline, suddenly they were now realizing that none of those things could compare with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ crucified.

Then with majesty and compassion in His voice, Jesus began to speak. “My precious family, I welcome all of you to the place of freedom, healing, and truth,” He began. “I am the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Nothing unclean and impure can stand in My presence! Nothing that I hate will be allowed a place in My coming kingdom! Therefore, out of My great goodness, faithfulness, mercy, and love for you, I have extended My claws and with fire have torn away at your deceits, your pride, your falsehood, and your vain imaginations. However, when I extend the rod of discipline, not only do I tear to pieces, but I also mend; not only do I wound, but I also heal.”

When Jesus said this, a wave of power and light suddenly came out from him and touched all the animals. When the power touched them, they all felt clean on the inside and were filled with joy. Then with passionate voices all the animals began to shout, “Thank You, Jesus, for Your merciful discipline! Thank You for treating us like sons and daughters! Thank You for keeping us on the narrow path! We trust Your leadership no matter what!”

When they finished saying this, the different groups of animals then began to repent to one another for all the rocks they had thrown and all the mud they had slung at one another.

Then Jesus spoke again. “My dear ones,” he said, “I tell you the truth, these fires you have just gone through are but the beginning of birth pains. I am warning you now that times of even greater difficulty are awaiting you in the days ahead. Those days will be days of great refinement and testing for My people. A man of lawlessless, controlled by Satan, will come to power on the earth, and for three-and-a-half years I will allow the love and loyalty of My people to be tested at his hand. Know this, and know it well: when that man arises, it means that the hard labor has begun. The earth’s inhabitants will pass through the most difficult time the world has ever known. Watch, therefore, and pray, for My return is drawing near! In order for you to be ready for the fires of the hard labor, you first needed to pass through these initial fires of discipline. In the days that are coming, there is only one compass that can see you through the storms that will be raging all around you: the way of My cross. Those who build their lives, their churches, and their families on this rock by My Spirit’s power, will stand firm and remain faithful to Me through the storm of those days. However, when I return, will I find true faith on the earth? Will I find a love that is steadfast and not fleeting? Will I find a loyalty that is firm and not faltering? Will I find a commitment that is sure and unwavering? Indeed, it is through many tribulations that you must enter My kingdom, and it is through fire that I will shape My servants into a Bride prepared for My coming!

Therefore, My friends, I exhort you to bow at the foot of the cross now while there is still time, and to feed yourselves on its truth and power. Build an ark of Christ crucified! Build a culture of the cross in all your relationships and in all that you do. Dear Turkeys, use the knowledge that I have entrusted to you not to win one another’s praise, but to serve My flock and build a vibrant faith in My people! Dear Foxes, flee the love of money, shed the false comforts and the false gospels of this age, and get your priorities straight. Dear Raccoons, it is time to get your hearts and minds clean! Forsake the trash and the forbidden fruit while there is still time! Dear Sloths, wake up, stop wasting time on meaningless pursuits, and let Me get you ready for the coming storms! Dear Opossums, stop using My name to build your own kingdoms, stop doing circus acts to gain fame for yourselves, and submit to the discipline that I—and not the devil— must bring if you want to have a share in My coming kingdom—yes, the kingdom that I will set up by My own power, so that no one may boast in My presence.

All of you, the time is short. Watch. Pray. Repent. Fast. Feast continually on the truth of the cross for it is here and only here that you will find purity, strength, and freedom for the days ahead. Feast on the mercy it reveals. Feast on the example of self-sacrifice that it displays. And as surely as I live, I tell you that those who share in My sufferings in this age as they learn to boast in My cross alone, will surely share in My glory in the age to come!” At that, Jesus stretched out His hand toward the food sitting all around the cross and motioned to the animals to come and eat. One by one the animals went up to the feast and began to eat and drink  freely, without money and without cost.

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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