Writers can be naïve. At least once a week, I see a post in a writers’ Facebook group from someone who just finished writing their first book. Now they want their fellow writers to share the secret to getting everyone in the world to buy their book. “What do I need to do next?” they ask. “Oh, so, so much,” is my answer.
Writing a book is hard. Marketing it is harder. One thing we writers forget is that not everyone is interested in the same topics we are. And people who are interested in the same topics may not agree with our treatment of the topic, our conclusions, or even our facts. I found this out the hard way over 15 years ago.
The first book I wrote and published was a historical fiction novel with some fantasy and romance thrown in. I had fun writing it, and I think it turned out pretty well, but I was struck with the idea that maybe I could use any writing talent I had to share my faith instead. That was 20 years ago.
The second book I wrote and published was non-fiction. For years, I had wrestled with questions about the connection between our Christian faith and our public duty in a democratic society like the United States. I didn’t fully agree with the position some Christians were taking in the “culture wars.” As a former attorney, I thought I could make a reasonable argument to help Christian rethink their role as Christian Americans based on what the Bible says about living out our faith.
One publisher looked at the book but eventually rejected it. Every other publishing house and literary agent I reached out to turned me down. “This book won’t sell,” they said. It turns out, they were right. Eventually, in 2005, I had the book published through a Christian self-publishing company. We marketed it to Christian bookstores. I marketed it online. It didn’t sell. And I was beginning to realize why.
I was naïve. Not just as a writer, but as a Christian. I thought most Christians believed in the same fundamentals of the gospel that I believed in. And I thought those shared beliefs would provide a common ground for us to discuss how we should view our culture and our role in it. I was wrong on both points. It turned out that the position I took in my book was a lot more controversial than I imagined.
For my next book, I stayed on safer grounds and wrote a Bible study on the Armor of God. This one sold a little better, but I was still an unknown author with no credentials and no reputation as a teacher of God’s word. So, I went back to school to get a master’s degree in biblical studies to add to what I had learned over a lifetime as a church-going, Bible-reading Christian.
By the time I graduated, I was no longer naïve. I understand now that there are different ways Christians view the big story of what God is doing in our world and how we are supposed to live as Christians. Not only do sincere Bible-believing Christians disagree about how to interpret the Bible, there are people who call themselves Christians and evangelicals who have very limited understanding of what the Bible teaches. I’m no longer surprised that my idea of living a Christian life is radically different than many others.
My fourth book was born out of these realizations. Finding Your Part in God’s Master Story, which releases on August 31, helps Christians examine their personal worldview to make sure the beliefs they hold are consistent, comprehensive, and—most of all—biblical.
We won’t all agree on every question of Christian faith or how to live out that faith in our culture. But if we all tried harder to seek God’s answers instead of settling for what’s easy, comfortable, or popular, wouldn’t that be an amazing thing!
I’ve been focusing my attention on promoting my new book, but recently I was asked to give an interview about my first non-fiction book. I wasn’t planning on calling attention to that somewhat controversial book at this point in my writing career. I would prefer to shine the light on my new book instead. But God opened a door, and I walked through it.
Today, the Kingdom Culture Conversations podcast aired the first of a two-part interview about my book, Separate for a Reason.
Part One of the interview provides some background information about me and a tease about the book. Part Two airs tomorrow. I hope you will listen to both parts of the interview and come away with a determination to think deeply about how you are living out your faith in your culture. We might not agree on how to do that, but if we’re putting God’s desires ahead of our own we’ll get to the right place eventually.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the verse. It’s one of my go-to verses when times are hard and I can’t seem to find God working in my life.
I know many of you are facing difficult times right now. You’re struggling with health problems, financial issues, family worries, and even the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, it can be hard to hold onto our faith that God is in control – that he knows what we need – that he loves us and has a plan to for our lives.
When I’m struggling to understand why God doesn’t make my problems go away right away, I’m reminded of a scene in a book called The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Most of you are probably familiar with the book even if you’ve never read it. In the scene I’m thinking of, the main character, Katniss, is desperate to find water in order to survive. She knows she has a coach who can see what’s happening to her and who knows what she needs. He has the ability to send small gifts to help her. But he hasn’t.
As Katniss ponders all the reasons her coach might not be helping her, she finally lands on the right one. He doesn’t need to send her water because she has almost reached it on her own. What she needs is already there, she just has to keep going to find it.
There are many stories in the Bible where God placed what someone needed close by. Hagar found a well of water when her son was dying of thirst in the wilderness (Genesis 21:14-19). Abraham saw a ram caught in the bushes that he used as a sacrifice instead of his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:9-14). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked into a fiery furnace and came out unharmed because they found God’s messenger there (Daniel 3:19-27).
I particularly love that last story. Before those three men walked into the furnace, they knew God would be with them – even if the worst happened. They told Nebuchadnezzar, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
You see, they chose to obey God even when they couldn’t see a way out of their problems. They had faith that God knew how their story should go and they were willing to let him write it, even if it meant God was writing their final page.
Are you trusting God with the story of your life? Will you keep moving forward in obedience, confident that he will provide what you need when you need it? Will you trust Him even when it looks like the end of the story is near? This is just the first book, after all. God promises the next one will be amazing!
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!