Perseverance

53“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

In NASCAR the drivers drive each race with the hope of winning, but more than that, they want to do the best they can and finish the race. If they get caught up in an accident or blow a tire the pit crew and garage crew persevere to get that car back out onto the track and the driver perseveres to keep going.

In our everyday lives we hit obstacles while running the race of doing what we are supposed to do. Satan wants to hinder us, to throw us off track. However, we are surrounded with help through the Holy Spirit and through people whom He puts in our paths along the way. We are told to persevere, keep running the race, don’t let things stop us from doing what’s right.

God has marked out a race for Christian writers, too. It is our job to finish that race. We may not finish on top – getting big money, movie deals, and best sellers – but we need to finish. What we must do, no matter what obstacles Satan puts in front of us, is keep writing. God is using us to get His Word out to the masses. Maybe only a handful of people read our stuff, that’s still a few more people learning about God and Jesus Christ.

Perseverance must be our friend. Whenever, those negative thoughts get in our heads telling us we can’t write or no one will read it anyway, push them out. Whenever we get lazy about spending time writing we need to sit our butts in that chair and write. Whenever we receive those rejection letters we are to accept the challenge and rewrite.

Writers – persevere and we will run that race God has placed before us and we will finish to His glory.

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Hatred vs Love

file00010512601983roses“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs”  Proverbs 10:12

We see the headlines. Someone shoots and kills someone else. Instead of letting the legal system handle it, friends retaliate and shoot another person. The hatred escalates and before we know it a street war has begun.

On the flip side, we’ve also heard stories of family members visiting a prisoner who killed a loved one and telling him they forgive him. This act of love can break a criminal down and melt his heart. In turn, the way can open to tell him about Jesus and His love.

It’s not always easy to show love all the time, especially if someone has hurt us. However, that is the example Jesus gave us. Even as He was dying on the cross He said, “Father forgive them”. He never stopped loving everyone, even those who wanted to do Him harm.

Are we living up to the standard Jesus set? Sometimes it’s easy. When people are kind and respectful, showing love to us, it’s no problem showing love back. But what about the people who aren’t so loving? That’s the real test. Are we able to show them love without getting any positive response in return? We have no idea what seeds we may be planting when we display the love of Jesus to EVERYONE.

Give some thought this week about one person who is a thorn in your side, someone who rubs you the wrong way continuously. Now think about how you could show Jesus’ love toward that person and then do it. Who knows how God will use your act of love.

Sometimes hatred can be the easy road to take, but we are not to do what’s easy. We’re to do what’s right. Love is the right road. We’ll need God’s help in showing love to that negative person, but with His strength and guidance we can do it. Imagine what this world would be like if people started exhibiting love instead of hate. Let’s be the spark to get the fire going.

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Declare God’s Glory

clouds“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”    Psalm 19:1-4

Spring is in the air. The temperature begins to rise. We take in the warmth of the sun. Spirits are lifted by the sunshine and blue skies. As the snow slowly melts away we can see God’s glory in the new life Spring brings. If we just take time to experience nature and examine the wonders around we, we can’t help but see God’s work in all its glory. Everywhere we look His glory is evident. His creation screams out His majesty.

Those of us who are Christian writers have the fantastic opportunity to declare God’s glory as well. We are part of His creation and should be shouting about His majesty through our written words. No matter in what genre we write, God should shine through.

How can this be done if we’re writing an article comparing vacuum cleaners or writing a romance novel?

God doesn’t need to be mentioned in the article or book. He can shine through by “how” we write. When comparing vacuum cleaners we need to be honest with our statements and opinions. In that romance novel we can avoid graphic language and scenes. Readers should be able to tell from our writing that we write to declare God, not just to sell books.

Of course, if there’s a way to actually mention God and/or any of His great works or principles in our writing we should do it. Our objective is to declare God and His glory one way or another. Nature proclaims His glory and we can, too.

Keep writing and as you write ask yourself this question, “Is God’s glory shining through what and how I’m writing?”. If you want to be known as a Christian writer let HIS light shine. Let’s add our voices to those all around us in creation declaring the glory and majesty of God.

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Will The Test Break Me?

file3111252718915“But He (God) knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”   Job 23:10

Think back to your school days. It’s exam week. All those tests to take. You studied and prayed you’d pass every one. Maybe you did pass most or all of them. But what about the tests where the results weren’t so favorable? Did the grade you received cause you to work harder to bring the score up on the next one or did you just give up?

In our daily lives we are put to the test daily: you hope you won’t run into that person at work who stresses you; the car breaks down; you get a call from the principal at your child’s school stating there is an issue that must be dealt with.

And there are larger tests: you lose your job and don’t know how the bills will get paid; your spouse wants a divorce; a loved one suddenly dies.

How do you react to these tests? My initial reaction is always panic, worry, and confusion – the typical human responses to things that mess up our normal routine. Then I have to tell myself to calm down and think things through. I pray, telling God I can’t do this on my own and asking for a clear mind and a direction in how to proceed.

God will test our faith. I believe He doesn’t do this to see how we’ll react and if we’ll lean on Him. He already knows how we’ll respond. I think He brings these tests into our lives to make US aware of our need for Him and to grow the relationship we have with Him. These difficult times in our lives can break us or make us stronger. We say we have faith in God, but how is that faith during the tough times?

How we respond determines the final result of the test. We can choose to throw in the towel and give up completely, withdrawing from life or ending life. Letting the situation break us forever is not what God wants. The other option is to look at the circumstance and accept the challenge to see how we can grow through the experience and how much we are going to put our faith in God.

Everything that happens to us, good or bad, should be a learning experience. Maybe God is trying to make you aware of areas where your faith is lacking and spark the flame for growth. Possibly you’re on a downhill spiral. God has been giving you nudges along the way to change, but you’re not getting the message, so He needs to give you a swift kick in the pants to wake you up, hoping you’ll see where you’re heading in your current life style.

We are not going to have perfect lives. There will be tests and trials to deal with. However, these times could and should be times of growth and refinement.

The next time a test comes your way are you going to crash and burn or are you going to react as Job did, saying, “When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold”? Will you accept the test as an opportunity from God to grow?

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A Time To Write/A Time to Study

clock-8“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”   Ecclesiastes 3:1

If you continue to read the verses following the one above you’ll see that everything has its time:  “a time to live, a time to die; a time for war, a time for peace; a time to laugh, a time to cry.”   We have the four seasons which happen every year in their time. There’s a daily sunrise and sunset.

In our personal lives there’s the time we start attending school; the time we learn to drive; the time we’re old enough to vote, etc.

Writers are told over and over again we should have a time to write. To improve our writing we need to take time every day to write. However, there is something else writers should remember. Not only is there to be a time to write, there also needs to be a time to study. We need time for both.

Writers need to continue to learn from other writers. We do this by reading books on writing, by attending writers’ conferences, retreats, and workshops, by participating in writers’ groups.

God organizes time for the big things in life. We can organize how we will spend the time God gives us each day. We need to focus time on the act of writing, practicing the craft in order to improve. Don’t forget to also allow time to study, to become refreshed and rejuvenated.

Go online and search for writers’ conferences and small groups. Find some near you and try to make time to attend one or two this year. Go to your local bookstore. There are many books on writing from which to choose. No matter if you are a beginner or a published author, all writers need a time to write and a time to study.

God has given us the passion to write and He’s called us to a mission. It is up to us to do the best we can and to spend the time needed to pursue this mission, bringing glory and honor to Him.

Are you ready to set up your time to write and time to study?

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Break Open Your Alabaster Jar

IM000166.JPG“While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head.”    Mark 14:3

Alabaster was a common material in the Near East to use in the making of jars. They were made of gypsum, which when polished, was translucent. It could be easily carved. For the woman to break open this jar was not a big deal. The jar itself was not worth much.

What is important is what was in the jar. We’re told the perfume was made of pure nard. Nard had to be imported from India and was very expensive. Commentators think this one bottle of perfume was worth $30,000 in today’s terms.

Most likely the perfume was part, if not all, of her dowry for when she would marry. This woman was not giving Jesus a small thing. She gave Him the most precious thing she owned.

We all have “alabaster jars” containing things we want to keep. These items could be our time, our talents, our money, etc. which we want to use for our own selfish desires.

We have all these things because God provided them. However, He does not expect us to keep them locked away strictly for our own benefit. He expects us to use what He’s given to expand His kingdom and to share His love and mercy.

What are you keeping stored up in your alabaster jar? Maybe now is the time to break open that jar and bring what’s precious to you to the feet of Jesus. How can you use what He’s given you for His glory?

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A Prayer For Christian Writers

IM000106.JPG“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”   Psalm 19:14

The pastor of the church I attended as a child always recited these words before giving his sermon every Sunday. He was asking not only for God’s blessing on what he was about to preach, but also for God’s leading in what he was about to share with the congregation. The pastor wanted his message to be God’s message.

As Christian writers we have taken on the obligation to present various Godly messages through our writing. Some of these messages are meant to hit our readers in the face to invoke thoughts of change in their lives. Other messages are to be more subtle, such as showing Christian values in a romance novel without actually saying they’re Christian values.

No matter what message we are conveying in our writing we want it to be pleasing to God. We want it to be His message coming through our written words. As we write, our hearts and minds should be open and meditating on God. Then He will show through the words we put on paper.

Our writing is going out into the world faster these days and reaching more people than ever due to computers and social media. If we profess to be Christian writers we need to be careful what we write, even if it’s just posting on Facebook what we did today. The pagan world is watching, just waiting for any slip up so they can attack and mock Christianity. We don’t want our writing to be fuel for their fire.

Starting today we need to pray the words of Psalm 19:14 every time we sit down to write. Commit this verse to memory. That way we’ll know the focus of our writing, no matter what we’re writing about, will be on God. Our minds and our hands will be guided by Him and our written words will be for His glory.

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Joyful-Patient-Faithful

05-09-13 4“Never be lacking in zeal,but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”    Romans 12:11-12

Be joyful, patient, and faithful – there are many times in our lives when following these three commands can seem to be almost impossible.

JOYFUL IN HOPE – We may be in situations or circumstances in our lives when we try desperately to be joyful, hoping there is a way out and things can get back to normal again, but that hope is a dim light far in the distance. How can joy enter the scene when hope appears to be fading? The answer can be found in this question – On what are you placing your hope? If all our energy is focused on hope based on human terms we will become discouraged, as that kind of hope falters. However, if our hope is on God and what He has in store for us joy will abound. He has a life waiting for us that we can never imagine. We can be joyful in the hope of the eternal life promised by God through His son Jesus Christ. Joyful hope in Jesus or despair found in hope of the world?

PATIENT IN AFFLICTION – I don’t know about you, but patience is not a strong virtue for me. Look around. Our society is not based on patience. We want everything now, especially if we are in adversity, illness, or grief. We want the pain to end immediately. Having patience while dealing with the pain is the last thing on our minds. But God wants us to be patient. Why? He wants us to slow down, really look at what’s going on, and turn to Him. We must place our worries and anxieties on Him. Then He will give us the peace and patience to let Him work things out in His timing, lifting the burden off our shoulders.

Which leads us to FAITHFUL IN PRAYER – Why is it that people remember to pray when things are horrible? A disaster strikes and people flock to churches to pray. Life gets back to normal and churches are empty again. God does not want to hear from us only in difficult times. He wants to hear our praise and thanksgiving when things are going well, too. Being faithful in prayer means conversing with God daily, not just when we want something from Him. God wants a loving, close relationship with us. Just like family members love to hear the good things happening in our lives as well as the struggles, God wants to hear about them.

Think about this – if we pray often and build a strong, positive relationship with God it will be easier to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction because our trust for all things will automatically be in Him.

Joyful, patient, and faithful – to what degree are you following these commands? Every one of them is possible if we put God ahead of our human understanding.

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In Times Of Drought

IM000018.JPG“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58:11

Writers go through times of drought. We’ve written something we think is good, but we can’t find anyone who will publish it. Or, if we go the self-publishing route no one is buying it.

Another drought for writers is what we term as “writers’ block”. We sit down to write and our fingers don’t move. We can’t think of anything to write no matter how hard we try. We stare at the blank page which is glaring back at us.

As a writer have you experienced a time of drought? You have a deadline to meet and all you have is an untouched page or computer screen. Your book is published, but sales aren’t coming in as you thought they would. Step away from your computer or paper and pen. Spend some quiet time with God. Empty your mind of deadlines. Don’t dwell on not making sales. Forget about finding the words to put on the page. Focus on God. Bring your worries to Him. He is there to help no matter the circumstance.

God knows what He wants you to write and He’ll get your writing to the audience who needs to read it. He will give you what you need and your spring of water will overflow. He will lift you out of the drought. When you empty your mind and let God fill it results will happen.

Trust Him. Ideas will flow. People will read what you write. God provides the strength. Let Him refresh your mind and fill your soul.

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At The Crossroads

IM000061.JPGThis is what the Lord says, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”   Jeremiah 6:16

Every decision we have to make is a crossroad. We must decide which way to go. “Do I attend this college or that one?”  “Do I accept his marriage proposal or not?”  “Do I follow the crowd or make my own path?”  We’re bombarded by decisions every day.

How do you make decisions?

Flip a coin?

Close your eyes and pick one?

Go in one direction without even thinking and hope it’s the right way?

Making a sound decision doesn’t happen any of those ways.

The Lord tells us to ask Him which is the good way to go. Then when the choice becomes clear, go that way. Seems easy, right? The choice is not always obvious. Sometimes God wants us to dig deeper, to look at all the pros and cons, then make an informed decision.

We are not puppets with God holding the strings. He gave us free-will to make our own decisions. He can guide us, but the choice is still ours. In the verse above I left off one sentence – “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’.”

God lays out the best plan for our lives and sometimes we say, “I’m going to do it my way.” A lot of times there are consequences to doing things “our way”.

Crossroads are going to bear down on us throughout our lives. How we decide which road to take will change our lives, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the not so good.

How will you choose which way to go as you approach crossroads in your life? Are you going to wing it on your own and hope for the best? OR will you pray, asking for God’s guidance, then follow where He leads you?

Think about this when you find yourself at your next crossroad. The choice is yours.

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