“Polished Tombs” a Short Story
Dear Friend, a few years ago, all I wrote about were stories of Christians enduring persecution worldwide. The first COIL Series (beginning with Dark Liaison, Book 1) was based upon servants risking their lives for the salvation and edification of their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
More recently, with the Last Dawn Series (beginning with Dawn of Affliction, Book 1), I shifted my writing to focus more on equipping believers in the West with examples of Christ's attitude in the midst of strife, doctrinal confusion, and worldliness here in our communities. As many of you know, I had the same characters make the change in focus as well. The following short story combines these two themes into one. I hope it's meaningful to you. —David Telbat [Be sure to see our news after the story!]
by D.I. Telbat
Mark Brenner was so proud of himself! What could be more exciting than working for the Christian underground church in China?
He used a flashlight to check the old machinery of the basement printing press. The contraption was ancient, but Mark was an engineer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he prided himself in his knowledge of the oldest printing machines in the world.
The flashlight beam shined across stacks of paper vacuum-sealed in plastic. And against the wall, he'd found paperback versions of what he guessed were copies of the Bible in Mandarin and Cantonese. It didn't matter to him what language they were in. His job was to repair the printer and run a few hundred copies of the text already loaded in the tray to make sure the old dinosaur was truly functionable.
Holding the flashlight in his mouth, he climbed under one section of the apparatus to check the gears. He liked working like this . . . like a clandestine spy. What stories he'd have to tell once he returned to Tulsa!
Mark tightened bolts and cleaned joints, gradually working his way deeper into the guts of the giant printer.
It had confused him at first why no one had met him onsite, but he thought he understood now. Secrecy was mandatory. An underground printshop was illegal.
Suddenly, he found the problem. A few hundred pages had missed a tray, jamming the nearest gears. At least there was no serious damage. He backed up the gears and began to rip handfuls of paper from the machine.
People back in Tulsa were going to love hearing about his courage in Communist China. Sure, he would return to his liquor cabinet, his favorite porn sites, and taking shortcuts on his taxes, but this trip had to count for something with God, he figured. After all, he went to church with his family most Sundays, as long as the playoffs weren't on. He thought of himself as a pretty good guy, even better than most.
With the gears from the paper debris, he serviced the rest of the joints all the way to the front of the machine. Finally, he was ready to run off a test printing of whatever was already loaded. He pressed a button that probably read "run" in Mandarin, then pulled a lever to set the feed rate. The press rumbled and vibrated smoothly.
Mark walked to the other end of the room where the papers were fed into individual trays. No problems so far. He picked up a page from one tray. This was English, not Chinese! It was an article titled, "To the Polished
Tombs of American Churches." Chuckling at the strange imagery, Mark read further.
As he read, he felt the blood drain from his face. He turned off the flashlight for a moment. The words in the article burned into his conscience—and he'd read only a couple of paragraphs! Trembling, he turned on the flashlight again and kept reading.
It was an indictment against Christianity in America. Apparently, the Chinese believers knew how worldly, comfortable, and perverted many churches in the West had become. Mark could hardly believe the article so condemned the prosperity gospel he enjoyed and the mystical interpretations of the Bible that seemed to flow in congregations reliant on spiritism and self-enlightenment. Had America really lost her way to this degree?
Mark sat on the edge of a bundle of papers and finished the article. Lost to him were the clacking and sliding of the printer and the danger he faced if found by authorities. What he read here seemed to matter more than all of that.
The article concluded with a call to repentance. It urged purity and holiness, sanctification from the world and a turn from the lusts of the flesh. The article was aimed at churches, but Mark felt the words were directed at him personally. Jesus was calling him.
He turned off the flashlight and sat in the darkness, startled and appalled. Maybe he wasn't as good as he'd thought. Maybe this trip to help the Chinese believers meant nothing at all to God if his very soul was filled with fleshly passions and worldly obsessions.
The article had stressed the judgment of God, standing one day before Jesus Christ. How bold these foreign believers were to call out proud Americans! But Mark guessed the Chinese believers had nothing to lose or gain by telling Americans the straight truth. The self-righteousness and compromise of truth in the West had made Americans blind to their own lost way.
Apparently, Mark realized, churches in America had become so averse to obeying the Scriptures that foreigners were willing to risk their lives to send a message of repentance!
Tears fell as Mark felt the disgust of his own sinfulness, his own pursuits and self-esteem. Now he realized he hadn't come to China only to help the underground believers—and certainly not to pat himself on the back! No, the article being printed was for himself. God had done this. He would not be a polished tomb any longer—shiny on the outside but dead in sin on the inside.
That early morning in a dark basement in China, Mark Brenner trusted in his Savior Jesus Christ for the first time. He forsook his sins and pride, and couldn't wait to tell others what he’d found here. He was no longer the hero in this little adventure. He was now a sanctified believer, saved by grace!
NOTE-1: A new SALE BEGINS TODAY for the ebook version of CALLED TO GOBI: A Christian End Times Chronicle! It is available September 4 – 8 for $0.99! Be sure to pick it up for yourself or a friend today!
NOTE-2: AND speaking of Called To Gobi, David just WON the GOLD MEDAL in the Christian Thriller Category
in the 2023 Readers’ Favorite Book Award Contest! You can check it out HERE! To read their official book review for GOBI, you can click here. We praise GOD for this special honor!
COMING UP: Join us next time for David’s new Author Reflection, “Watching it all Happen.”
If you missed our last newsletter, you can find it here.