November 16, 1985 was almost the last day of my life…
As my family watched me being rushed from the ambulance into the emergency room, bleeding from a gaping head wound, and in agony from a fractured pelvis, they didn’t know if I was even going to make it…
…GOD looked into the future and saw you…
Now available from Rivers of Grace Books…
“CPRfor Your Faith from Beyond Death’s Door” is here!
The book you don’t want to miss has arrived!
Now, at a time when giving up is simply not an option, more people than ever are giving up on their faith. We are the Body of Christ, yet the “pulse” has weakened…
…and the clock is ticking as we move ever toward the return of Jesus, our Lord, to rapture the Church…
In my powerful and encouraging new book,“CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door”,available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble from K&F Stewart Ministries, (initials of my husband’s and my first names, Keith & Flossie), under our new imprint, Rivers of Grace Books, I will share my story, along with what I’ve learned on my long road to healing, and what God has given me to share with you about the special kind of “CPR” your faith needs.
If you don’t read another book this coming year, you don’t want to miss this one!
Have you been through a traumatic event?
Felt like giving up?
Does your faith need God’s CPR?
Then you need CPRfor Your Faith from Beyond Death’s Door!
In this powerful book, you will discover…
5 reasons your faith is under attack
God’s CPR and the importance of unclogging your “faith arteries”
The Great Physician’s recommendations for a healthy Christian heart
Throwing off excess baggage and preparing to sail toward God’s plan for you
Navigating your course with God’s “GPS”
The crucial reasons giving up is absolutely NOT an option
How working together, our “pulse” as the Body of Christ can beat strongly again, and more…
Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! I know 2019’s been a hard year for a lot of us, but I’ve chosen to think of it in terms of what God HAS done in the past year, the storms He has brought us through, and how it’s all made us stronger. When I think of the blessings that did come from this year, despite the storms and trials, it just got me to thinking of all the things NOT to bring into this coming New Year. Then too, I think we do that every year. It’s how well we stick with it that counts, and I think too, that comes with maturity and experience.
Well, here we are…20 years after the big Y2K (Year 2000) Bug scare invited itself to our New Year’s Eve Celebrations of December 31, 1999, and just wouldn’t leave, until well into New Year’s Day, when it became apparent that no major failures had occurred. I’ll leave it for you to do your own research if you want to know more about that. For now, as we sit here, around our living rooms by our fireplaces (or “fake fireplaces” like ours, hey, we like it), dining room tables, or mid-morning coffee or brunch tables, talking with friends, loved ones, or co-workers about what all we don’t want to take into 2020, things we want to change, and New Year’s Resolutions, that will likely fade into oblivion by the 2nd week of January, I couldn’t let this time pass, as a writer, without offering my humble take on it all. So, here, altogether in one list, are some old habits, thought patterns, or other forms of excess baggage that should be thrown off the “ship” of your life well before going into 2020.
I am sharing this from a helpful, non-judgmental perspective, and these have not come to me without a lot of trial and error on my part, as well as some intense prayer and fasting in the past few years of my life. Much of it was learned the hard way. So, I hope you will see it this way and be encouraged from it as you and your loved ones and family pray together and anticipate what the year 2020 will bring for you. Together, we can go into this New Year with “20/20 vision”, and “hit the ground running”! So without further ado, here you go…
20 Things NOT to take into 2020…
1. Past Regrets –
In the Old Testament, Lot’s wife disobeyed God and turned to look back at His destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Jesus also makes reference to this in Luke 17:28-32. We can’t get the past back, and wasting time allowing yourself to be sucked into that old whirlwind of regret will only weigh you down and keep you from moving forward. If you keep allowing yourself to get caught up in all the could have, would have, and should haves of life, it will only continue to allow our enemy, the devil to fill you with sorrow, discouragement, and depression. He will do this to every one of us if we let him. We all have things in our past we regret, things we wish we could change. But if we are going to move forward into 2020 with the renewal and “Holy Boldness” God needs us to have so He can reach others through us and do great things in our lives, this is the first of the excess “baggage” that needs to be thrown overboard. If you have accepted Christ and repented of all your past sins, then He has forgiven all of that. Stop letting the enemy throw it back in your face. Throw that mess overboard and move forward. Besides, a good thorough search of the scriptures will help you see this as the idolatry that it is. Nothing in your past is better than what God has in store for you. We as the Church, as family, and friends, have to help each other move forward. In Galatians 6:2, Paul said, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”. For some, that may be too heavy a load for them to lift by themselves. If you see someone struggling with past regrets, take time to talk with them about it, pray with them, and help them lift it up to the One Who died to set us free from living a life of regret. Jesus came to set the captives free, and so that we could live a more abundant life in Him (see John 10:10).
2. Grudges/Unforgiveness –
Just as regrets will hold us back, so will old grudges and unforgiveness. Jesus clearly told us that if we cannot forgive others, then our Heavenly Father cannot forgive us: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15. The Bible is clear that no one with unforgiveness toward others will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Eternity is a long, long time to spend in Hell, separated from God, in eternal torment, simply because we could not forgive. Let it go. Ask God to help you if you don’t feel like you can forgive. Take a few minutes to watch this:
There is nothing God can’t do. Don’t carry the heavy burdens of unforgiveness and grudge toward others into 2020. Jesus, the Son of God, took the lowly form of a man and hung on the cross in our place, and paid for our sins with his life. So who are we to hold unforgiveness or grudges toward anyone? If Corrie ten Boom could find the strength and grace of God to forgive, then we all can…through Him. As she said, in and of ourselves, we can’t. But through Him in us, we can. Don’t let the sin of unforgiveness and grudges keep you from God’s best for you in 2020. Most importantly, don’t let it keep you out of Heaven.
3. Old Unproductive Habits –
Hey, I’ve had them, we’ve all had them. One of my main issues, which I will discuss briefly in my book, “CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door”, coming soon, is my ability to focus and get organized, as far as using my time wisely. This is mainly due to the head injury I received in the accident. I have my issues, just as we all do. But Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things” (read: ALL things) “work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” In the book, I will give my testimony on how God has helped me to triumph over these setbacks that the enemy wanted to use to get me to give up on life. I could have easily given up and missed out on all that God had for me, but He helped me, just as He will help you. His Word is full of encouraging and powerful scripture that will set you free if you take time to meditate on it and speak it over your life. So speak the truth of His undefeated Word over any unproductive habits you are struggling with and trust Him to help you rise above it and move forward to greater expectations in the coming year! Speak it and believe it, because as Isaiah 55:11 reminds us, His Word will not return to Him void!
4. Procrastination –
There isn’t much I can say about this one other than I am an overcomer, just as we all are, according to His Word. There can be many different reasons we fall into being procrastinators, but we don’t have to let ourselves be defined by it. Romans 8:37 says, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” For any of you who are writers, I did a couple of posts a while back on “Writing for Procrastinators”, which you might find encouraging. Here’s the first one, and here’s the second one. We’ve also been promised that we have “the mind of Christ”, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:16: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” Whatever you do, or whatever gifts God has given you to excel in, make the decision to trust Him to help you conquer whatever procrastination or other habits that might be holding you back, and believe that 2020 just might be your year! Procrastination can be a hard old habit to break, but then again, there is nothing we can’t do with Christ’s help. Well has He reminded me many times of what He said in John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” It took “Ms. Independent” here a long time to get that, but believe me, I get it now. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but in Him and through His empowering us, we can do anything (see Phil. 4:13), including overcome procrastination.
5. Complacent Disobedience –
This is one of the worst enemies we can have, if we allow it to seep in to our daily lives. It happens for different reasons. I think for me, it was mainly because I had “hardened” in a sense, becoming insensitive to God’s voice, and complacently disobedient at times, because of the things that had happened in my life. But when we have given it to Him, and we fully surrender ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice for His service, He will help us to rise above the things that have hurt us so that it no longer can be used by the enemy to control us. But if we haven’t, the enemy could still be sitting at the controls of your subconscious mind in a sense, using that old stuff to control our thoughts, actions, and even our words. We must make the conscious decision to get into the Word, seek God in prayer, and ask Him to guide us and help us heal from whatever has hurt us. In His time and His way, He will help us rise above it, and we will see the Holy Spirit begin to work in our lives as never before, ordering the enemy to “cease and desist”! Ask Him to show you any ways the enemy might be still “sitting at the control panel” of your subconscious mind. Trust Him to help you stop seeing yourself as a “victim of your past”, and show you how He can turn it into your testimony. Jesus came to set us free, and His plan was for us to be ambassadors to the future, not prisoners of the past!
6. Corrupt/Inappropriate Communication –
This one speaks for itself, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had problems with this. We’re human. But as Christians, we don’t have to let it control us any longer. If we have a problem with it, we can ask Him to help us and He will. In Ephesians 4:29-32, Paul says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Colossians 3:8 says, “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” The Book of James has much to say about the tongue. In Chapter 3, verse 10, he says, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” The enemy wants us to think we can’t control it, but he is a liar. Don’t let his lies follow you into 2020 and hold you back any longer from what God has in store for you. The Word of God has already rendered his lies null and void (see Jeremiah 29:11)!
7. Judging –
We’ve all done it. But in reality, that is God’s job. As our pastor has often said, “we catch ’em, God cleans ’em”. We are to win them over with Christ’s love, then let God do the cleansing. It’s not our job to “thump the Bible in their face”, but to show them the love of Jesus Christ, pray for them, pray for Him to show us ways to show them His love, let them see His light shining in us, and let Him do the rest. If we all start to do that more, I think we will see a lot more people coming to Him. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Then too, there is what He said to those about to stone the adulterous woman, “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7, see John 7:53 – 8:11.) I think if we all concentrate more on how we can improve ourselves, 2020 will be a much better year for all of us.
8. Wasted Talents/Gifts –
Paul talks extensively about the gifts God gives us through the Holy Spirit, and how working together, with each of us using our gifts, we make up the Body of Christ (See Ephesians 4:7-16 and 1 Corinthians 12). The enemy will use our past to derail our future as long as we let him. But through Christ, we don’t have to allow it to follow us into the New Year. If you believe you are a prisoner of your past, you will remain so, but if you are ready to believe that through the truth of God’s Word, through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who sets us free, your time has come, then it has! Go forward, not backward. Stop letting the devil talk you out of your future, and speak the truth of God’s Word, ask Him to show you the gifts He has given you, and believe! In what ways have you allowed yourself to be distracted or discouraged from recognizing and using the gifts and talents God has given you? In what ways are you willing to work to change this in 2020?
9. Poor Decision Making –
We’ve all made poor decisions, but God promises to guide us in all our ways if we only seek Him. We must all fight the human tendency to do things our way. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”. Did you catch that? “In ALL thy ways, acknowledge him…” Yet, in how many ways have we tended to pick and choose which scriptures we want to obey, which are “convenient for us” to obey, and how much of God we want to allow in our lives? If we truly want His best for us, it has to be all or nothing in 2020. Let Him take the wheel and trust Him to guide you safely into His destiny for you.
10. Lack of Faith –
Lack of faith will rob us of all the blessings God has in store for us if we continue to think in our own limited human understanding instead of trusting in God’s Word and His promises for us. I will talk more about this in the book, but take some time to review the “faith chapter”, Hebrews 11 and discuss it as a family. In what ways have you let lack of faith cheat you out of God’s blessings for you? In what ways can you work together as a family to stop this in 2020 and claim the blessings God has in store for you and the powerful ways He wants to work through you? What type of ministry might God have in store for you and your family, just beyond that mountain you’ve been climbing?
11. Roots of Bitterness, Shame, etc. –
These can be rooted deeply, sprouting and growing for years until it grows into a “monster” that blinds you from seeing God’s plan for you. These roots will wrap themselves around you and hold you back from ever seeing or reaching the destiny God has set for you. But the Word of God is your “Weed killer”. So make the decision to stop “feeding the weeds”, no matter how loudly it may yell, “feed meeeeee!!!!!!” (from one of our pastor’s sermons 🙂 ). The Word is our weed killer, but we have to apply it to the root of the problems, and then root ourselves deeply in His Word, and water our faith daily. Then, we will see ourselves bearing more fruit for the Kingdom in 2020!
12. Negativity –
It can be too easy to allow the stress of the times we are living in cause us to sink back into negativity. Then our children and others around us pick up on it. At work, it can start with one person complaining, then by the end of the day, everybody’s complaining and biting each other’s heads off. Let’s make up our minds to encourage each other in the Word, in showing Christ’s love and compassion, and throw the old baggage of negativity overboard for good, so we can sail into the New Year with plenty of room for the new things God is going to do in 2020!
13. Pride –
It takes many forms, and we are all guilty. We simply have to recognize that the key to stopping it from controlling us any longer is to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to show us any places in our lives, our marriages, and our family and work relationships, even in the church, where it has crept in. Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV) says, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” Trust me. This is one lesson too many of us have had to learn the hard way, including myself. Throw this old dead weight overboard too, and decide together that you will not be carrying any more destructive pride forward into your New Year.
14. Self Doubt –
This too, is another trick of the enemy. The key here is to stop letting him trick you into focusing on your can’ts and have nots, and instead, focus on what you CAN do, which is ANYTHING, through Christ, Who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). Get into the Word and turn that “magnifying glass” he is using to magnify your problems and weaknesses around on him, and let the light of God’s truth burn him out of your territory in 2020! Speak God’s truth over your life, your finances, your marriage, and your family, and watch God work!
15. Lack of Focus –
I touched on this briefly in number 3, but suffice it for me to say, the enemy knows he doesn’t have much time left, and he is working to distract every one of us from reaching others for Christ, and making a difference in our churches, communities, schools, and workplaces. So, put your Jesus “glasses” on and get focused. What’s going into the New Year with you and what’s not? It’s that simple. You have the power, through Him, to decide, speak it, and implement it!
16. Poor Relationship Choices/Negative, Toxic People –
We’ve all been around them, whether it’s a co-worker, a classmate, colleague, or even family. But we can love them to Him and do our best to show His love and forgiveness. We can do our best to love them to Him, but as Paul well said, many will fall away from the faith in the time before Christ’s return. There are some who are just going to be negative and toxic no matter what we do. We must trust God to guide us and show us when it’s time for us to do as Jesus told the 70 when He sent them out, and wipe the dust from our feet and move on. Influence them in whatever ways you can, but if they want to continue to be negative, toxic, and unforgiving, we have to recognize, through His guidance, when it’s time to break negative, toxic connections that are only going to drain us of our energy to help those who WILL receive His message.
17. Distractions/Time Wasters –
I like the way Bishop T.D. Jakes put it in one of his messages: “Start deleting distractions!” It is time for us as the Church, as the Body of Christ, and as families, to start deleting the distractions that have been holding us back and believe that through Christ, and the power of an almighty and undefeated God working through us, 2020 could be our best year yet! Then too, we have to trust His guidance to help us recognize the difference between “distractions” and learning experiences. He is the Teacher. We are the students. Good teachers must first be good students. He knows the distractions the enemy uses, and He can guide us safely through those storms, but only if we allow Him to be the One at the helm.
18. Wallet Drainers: Things that Drain/Waste Your Finances –
We all have them. We’ve called them “holes in our pockets”, when really, it’s all poor decisions on our part. Things that might have seemed like a good investment at the time all of a sudden become the worst mistake we could have made. Then, we’ve ended up in situations that we can’t back out of, and it costs us much more than we had planned. As long as we allow our own limited, weak, human intuition to guide us, we will continue to make these mistakes. These are all ways the enemy works to steal our “seed”, that is, “seed” God has given us for sowing into the Kingdom. Only in trusting God completely and making Him the Head of not only our families and our marriages, but also our finances as well as every other area of our lives, can we expect to begin to reap the harvest that His Son, Jesus, died to give us. Hey, I’m talking about my marriage here as well. Make the decision to stop “devouring your seed” in 2020 and prepare to reap your greatest and biggest “harvest” ever! Make the decision for you and your family to become Kingdom Builders for Christ, and watch your “crops” grow in the coming year like never before! He is “no respecter of persons” (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34), what He has done for one, He will do for another!
19. Marriage/FamilyRelationshipDrainers –
This is a biggie and can be a sensitive subject for us to discuss sometimes, but if we invite God to the table, and His Son, Jesus Christ as our “attorney” (the “fee” has already been paid!), He will work all things for our good. He wants the best for your marriage and your family. So invite Him to the table in 2020 and see what a huge difference it will make for you. For marriages, if Christ is the Head of it, it provides that 3 stranded cord that will not be easily broken. This provides the unity that will keep the family strong and undivided, and working together. For our children, just remember, as they grow older, they sometimes need our guidance as to their choices of “friends”, as well as in other areas of their lives. Your loving but firm, Bible-based guidance will keep them from making unwise relationship (and other) decisions, and your Christ-centered discipline and love will help them recover from bad decisions they’ve already made, and help them learn from the consequences. If done correctly, it will help them grow stronger, into responsible and productive Christian adults. I can’t say I have always been the best parent I could be, and neither can my husband, but we have surrendered it all to our Heavenly Father, and we have learned from it. Pray together, love together, and forgive together for a stronger marriage and family in 2020!
20. A Lukewarm Relationship/Prayer Life with God –
Revelation 3:16 warns us about being “lukewarm” in our relationship with God and our service to Him. I am just as guilty of this as anyone, but now, because I have finally reached a point in my life that I was able to humble myself in prayer to God and admit it to Him, rather than “sweeping it under the rug” for as long as I did, I am now seeing big changes. You will too if you only realize that to admit our faults to our Heavenly Father is to welcome Him to help us so that we can finally learn from it and move on. Just as in the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), our Heavenly Father will welcome us with open arms when we are finally ready to “come home”. In what ways have you been like that Prodigal son (or daughter, points at self)? What ways can you let Him help you change that? “Come home” and let your Heavenly Father receive you into His “family”. There’s a place for you at the table in 2020!
He is Bigger than Any Storm…
This past year has had its storms, and I would be lying if I said there haven’t been times I wanted to give up, at times even on life itself. But, as I will discuss in my book, “CPR For Your Faith From Beyond Death’s Door” (mentioned earlier), which will have my testimony of my NDE in a car accident in Nov. of ’85, I know that if our Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ, is the “Captain” of your “ship”, and you make the decision to go into 2020 with His hands at the helm, then you can trust that whatever storms the coming year may bring, He will guide you safely through them. There will be storms, that is inevitable, but you can trust that your Captain will not allow the enemy to do anymore than He allows him to, and what He does allow, He will use it to make us stronger if we only yield it to Him and trust Him.
So, I am counting my blessings, thanking Him for what He has helped me learn from the storms, throwing the excess baggage of the past overboard, and sailing into 2020 ready to “hit the ground running”. I am ready for new beginnings and looking forward to all God is doing and getting ready to do. You can too, regardless of what the enemy has tried to use to destroy you. So, throw that mess overboard, let Him be the Captain of your “ship”, and trust that He is BIGGER than any storm the coming year may bring.
That said, it is ultimately up to you, what you choose to carry into the New Year with you and what is old baggage that it’s time to throw overboard. So, in a sense, 2020 is a book, the pen in your hand. What kind of book will you write? Better yet, put the pen in God’s hand. He’s already planned the perfect story for you. You have only to trust Him and turn the page.
“Cookie Cutter Authors?” You ask. What on earth do you mean by that? Well, let me try to explain. I will admit first off, that my first two books didn’t quite measure up to NYTBS list material. As a matter of fact, there probably aren’t many of us authors whose first books will make that highly coveted list. That doesn’t mean we give up of course. We simply learn from those experiences and become better writers. If yours haven’t done well either, don’t feel bad. Hey, we cut our “writers’ teeth” on those first books, and if we had never written them in the first place, we might never have come to be writers. We have to crawl before we can walk, right? That said, even though we may come from small beginnings, I have now been in this business long enough to know a few things. So, grab some coffee, sit down, and let’s talk about this.
Genre Expectations: Are Readers getting bored?
I have well learned, at least at this point, that there are certain expectations for each genre that readers expect to see. (By the way, for any of you fellow authors still struggling to pin down a genre for your book, or just needing a brush up on the whole genre thing, check this handy Book Genre Finder site out.) Put a book in a wrong genre that’s not the right fit for it, and it will likely result in negative reviews. Thus, my coining the term “Cookie Cutter Authors”, if someone hasn’t already beat me to it. Hey, we can do that, we’re writers. 😉 Too often, this has caused increased pressure on us as authors to put out what our readers want to read. But more and more lately, I am seeing articles and posts with comments from readers saying they have begun to tire of what seems like the same story repeated in numerous books within a given genre, and the same, typical, even stereotyped characters, only the names, places, and scenes have changed. While many readers may continue to expect books they read to fit into those expectations, there are also a good number of them out there who have become bored with the same old scenarios repeated in books by authors trying to fit the old cookie cutter molds. It’s time for us to break the molds of pleasing the world, and write to please Him.
So, What’s Your Point?
So, what’s my point, you ask? My point is this: There are too many Christian authors these days who have failed to “stand out” as Christ called us to do, for fear of “offending” their readers, and losing sales. They fall for the deception of writing what readers expect, to the point of settling for compromising, even sacrificing what our Lord expects of us as the writers He has called us to be. They have chosen to “blend in” rather than stand out for Him. I am at the point, I can no longer settle for just being one of these cookie cutter authors, just spitting out generic stories that “fit” into what the world wants to read. As a Christian author, I must answer the call to stand out and make a difference, to write that one unique story that’s not a “cookie cutter” copy of 800 others, but one that might just inspire its readers to change their lives for the better. We as Christian authors will not do that by “blending in”. There will never be a time that the money, riches, and fame this world has to offer will be worth more to me than what my precious Savior has called me to write.
A Choice to Make: Pleasing the World or Reaching Readers for Christ
So, for most of us who are Christian writers, it looks like we’ve come to a “fork in the road”. Every one of us has a choice to make. I know that for those of us who choose to represent the King, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, in our writing, it will likely mean that we may never see our books rise to popularity by the world’s standards. But then, I am no longer writing to please the world, but my Lord. If even one of my books somehow touches someone’s heart and inspires them to change their life for the better, maybe even accept Him as Lord and Savior, then it will all have been well worth it.
Avoiding the Idolatry of Selfish Ambition
Up until now, I have mainly worked on fiction, and, until now, like many other authors, I had aspirations of making that “NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR” list. That is, until God began to continually lead me to Philippians, chapter 2, verses 3-4, which says (NKJV): “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The more that began to sink in, the more I have come to realize, through the intense spiritual awakening that has followed, that it is no longer important for me to make that “list”. I no longer subscribe to the covetous, selfish ambitions of worldly fame and recognition, or even the desire to maybe see my books made into movies. Coveting all those things more than the work God wants to do through my writing, and the people He wants to reach through my work falls under something the word of God explicitly warns us against: idolatry. Am I saying that’s a bad thing (Making the NYTBS List)? No, of course not! And if I ever do make it, wonderful! And if you are an author or know one with at least one book on that list, let me be the first to congratulate you, or even the 59th person to do so. Please understand here, that I am not saying that in itself is a bad thing. Not at all. I am just saying that I will no longer covet this above the difference God has called me to make and the plan and purpose that He has for me with the books He has given me to write (see Colossians 3:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:18).
God has really begun to drive this important truth home to me more than ever before. He recently spoke to me and said, “ANYTHING you put before ME becomes an idol!” He also warned us that idolaters will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 6:10-12). For too long, we have put on the “masks” of tolerance, political correctness, etc, and chosen to “blend in” to society, rather than stand out for Christ. I will no longer blend in, but I choose to stand out for Him, and help people see that what He has done for me, He will do for them. I choose to believe He is faithful and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (see Hebrews 11:6), and my work from this point onward will reflect that.
Oh sure, it would be easy to tailor my stories around “what the world wants to see”, and what will guarantee me a spot on that coveted list, but when I think of the price tag that is attached to that deceptive “selfish ambition”, no thank you! What my Lord and Savior did for me on Calvary is deserving of no less than my all for Him, and the complete surrender of those things I once considered important, for His will for me instead, and the lives He wants to touch through me. In Philippians 3:7-8, Paul says, “ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” His will, and what He wants to do through it all, and my testimony reaching more readers through my work for Him is much more important now than the selfish ambition I held on to in the past. All of that other stuff is no longer important.
Mark 8:36 says, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Indeed, the lure of worldly fame and recognition is the greatest illusion ever perpetrated on humanity by the deceiver we all know as the devil. Even my fiction work is now undergoing a huge “face lift”, as I re-evaluate my projects and seriously seek Him to show me how to write works that line up with the message He wants me to project to my readers. I will still, of course, do all I can to maintain the professional standards expected of any of us as writers, but at the same time, I will not compromise to the world’s standards (see 1 Corinthians 10:21 and Matthew 6:24). I want to be that one that’s different from the others.
God’s Version of Success: Choosing the Hidden Rewards of Writing for Christ
I know that conflict and tension have to be there in order for readers to appreciate the big, powerful, “Wow-I-didn’t-see-that-one-coming” conclusion when it ends. But we as Christian writers can do this without sacrificing our God-given purpose and perspective. There may even be “pre-Christian” characters in my stories, or characters representing the hurting, lonely, and struggling. My soon coming book, “LOGAN – Chain of Grace”, is a good example of this. I feel that most readers will be able to identify with at least one of the characters, especially once they see how their lives are transformed by what happens in the story. Thus, it is my goal that as a result, readers will see how their own lives can be transformed if they are willing to surrender their all to Christ. (It is mainly for this reason that a couple of my current fiction works in progress have been delayed, but they are coming soon, promise!) But if we continue to settle for being “cookie cutter” authors, just writing the same tired old scenarios others have written, we may never see others’ lives touched like this. It is only in breaking free from the “fit-in-to-what-everyone-else-is-doing” mold that we will ever reach this hidden pinnacle of success in God’s eyes, as He sees it. He has gifted each of us with unique talents and insights, and we will never see these gifts come to fruition as long as we are busy trying to please the world instead of Him. But if we are willing to break free of that limited thinking and rise to His definition of “success”, who knows, we might just pen that best seller anyway. After all, you may never know the lives He wants to touch through you until you hand Him the quill, the pen, or these days, the keyboard/typewriter, and let Him write through you…
So, why don’t we stop being so afraid of losing sales, or missing out on the “big ticket”, or offending someone, and start being more concerned with reaching the world with the special, unique, encouraging, faith-building, life-renewing message that He has chosen you, out of all the other writers in the world, to write. Pray and ask Him to show you the bigger picture of what He has for you, and He will. And throw out the old cookie cutter image of yourself, break the mold, and get out there and get your message into the hands of the readers the Great Author Himself has already chosen for you to reach…
...That, you see, is how it works when you write for the King!
Besides, He makes BIGGER “cookies”… and no two are the same. We are all unique, just as He meant it to be. Now, wouldn’t it be a shame if you let the world miss out on that?