Monday, October 12, 2015

Are you building your house on sand or rock?

There's a parable Jesus told about a man who built his home on sand and when the storm came with floods and strong wind, his house crumpled and fell.  Another man built his house on the rock and it withheld all the storms and wind and flooding, and remained strong and intact.

The weird thing is, I haven't thought about that parable in over a year and the other day it just popped into my head.  So, I opened my Bible and read the entire chapter of Matthew 7, thinking perhaps God was trying to tell me something.

The last half of the chapter contains some of the harshest words Jesus ever spoke. Here's a brief summary,

  • The way to eternal salvation is very narrow (restrictive, contracted by pressure, difficult) and very few actually find it. (Wow. Kinda scary)
  • The way to eternal doom is very wide, spacious, and broad and many are on that road
  • Beware of people claiming to be Christians but who are not. You can spot them by the fruit in their lives. 
  • Everyone who doesn't bear good fruit is cut down and burned.
  • Not everyone who "believes" in Jesus will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But only those who do the will of the Father.

Then Jesus continues with the above parable, saying that the man who built his house on the rock is the person who hears God's words, obeys them, and acts on them. But the man who built his house on the sand hears God's words but doesn't act on them.

Here are only a FEW other verses which say the same thing.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves  James 1:22

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked  1 John 2:6

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19

And Jesus' own words:
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  Matthew 10:38

These are pretty sobering words, aren't they?  They don't make for a very "seeker friendly" sermon, which is probably why I rarely hear a message on this in church.  I hear much about God's grace and mercy and how we can't earn our way to heaven. All true and good!  But aren't we deceiving people straight into hell by not giving them the rest of the story?  

I really had to check myself after reading this chapter. Am I really wholly following God? Is He my first priority? Am I obedient to everything He says?  I'm not talking about the sins we all commit each day, our faults and failings, things that we are truly repentive of and God is working on in us. I'm talking about things that God has told us to do and we aren't doing them, or things in His Word that we know we should obey but we aren't.  I had to search my own life and ask God to reveal to me any area in which I was disobedient. Not a very fun exercise, I tell you. But Christianity is a serious business. It's not a social club, cool music, or a ticket into heaven for people who merely say a prayer and then live like they want.  This is heaven or hell serious. And God has made the requirements very plain.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Happy Friday!

I often get asked by readers  "What do you do when you have writers' block?" 

Anything but write!  I go for a long walk, listen to music, watch a good movie, take a bubble bath, have a glass of wine, paint, read. The key is to turn off your left brain. That nasty left side of your brain is the one telling you:

That you must follow all the writing rules
That you must come up with the most fascinating story ever or nobody will read your book
That you must plot out every detail of the story or it won't come out right
That you must use perfect grammar and punctuation and sentence structure
That you must use all the senses and add in deep emotion on every page
...on and on and on

The left side of your brain is the strict school teacher holding a ruler in her hand, ready to strike you should you make a single mistake. It is the rule-following side, the logical, analytical, accountant side. And though it serves its purpose, it should never be consulted during the actual creative aspect of writing a story.  (I consult my left brain during the editing process)

I have found the best way to stop the left brain from taking over and stifling my creativity is to do something extremely creative, hence awakening my right brain and delighting it with fun, imaginative
activities. After awhile my left brain gets bored and goes to sleep, and I can proceed with my writing.  You'd be amazed how many story ideas have been birthed while I'm soaking in a bubble bath.  

If you're not a writer but you engage in creative activities and sometimes you find yourself stumped, this would work equally for you too! 

Writing news

I have 35,000 words written in Charity's Cross. My goal is to finish the first draft by the end of November, the second by the end of December, and then send it to my editor in January. If all goes well, it will release in February!  If you'd like to see the cover and read a summary of the story,  click on COMING SOON at the top of this page. 

The Reckoning will be released in AUDIO version at the end of October!  I'm super excited about this. I've had a chance to listen to the narration and it's excellent and really brings the story to life. More on that later! 

In case you haven't heard, The Ransom won first place in the Inspirational Readers' Choice award and was a runner up in the prestigious Maggie Award.  God is good!

Have a Great Weekend everyone!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Beside the still waters

He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Psalm 23:2-3 


Monday, October 5, 2015

To Wholly follow the Lord!

Struggles, trials, tribulations, oh my!  Many of us are like the cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, shrinking from every problem that comes along, wondering what God is up to, praying that whatever it is, it will quickly pass. No one likes problems and struggles. No one likes to be in the middle of a battle. Right? Nobody gets excited about a battle or runs straight toward it. Right?

I would have thought so too until I read about Caleb in Joshua 14.  Caleb was one of the 12 spies whom Moses sent to check out the promised land. Only he and Joshua came back with a good report, saying how wonderful it was and yes, there were giants, but with God, they could defeat them!  The other 10 spies said "no way!" 

Forty years later after they entered the promised land and had defeated most of the inhabitants, listen to what Caleb says. This blew me away!  I know it's long but worth the read!

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.  Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God.  So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.  As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.  Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”  Joshua 14:7-12

Caleb is now 85 years old!  He's spent most of his life wandering around the wilderness and then the next few years doing battle in the promised land. Now, he's asking Joshua here for permission to go battle the Anakim. These weren't ordinary people. The Anakim were giants.  Caleb is anxious for battle, not for the sake of battle, but because God ordained that the Israelites were to defeat and drive out all the inhabitants of the land. Caleb also received a personal word from God that every place his foot landed would be his inheritance and his children's forever. Why? Because Caleb wholly followed the Lord.

What about us? Has God spoken a promise over your life? Or perhaps one of His promises in the Bible keeps leaping out at you and you know He's speaking to you?  Yet in order to claim that promise, you must pass through a mountain full of giants standing in your way ....problems, struggles, trials ahead. The way will not be easy but fraught with battles and difficulty.  So, instead of grabbing your sword and charging into battle, believing in God's promises and His help, you cower in the shadows, trembling in fear.  Does this sound like you?  It sounds like me most of the time.

What would have happened if Israel had never faced the giants in the land?
What would have happened if Moses refused to go to Egypt and free his people?
What would have happened if Esther had refused to go to the king to save her people?
What if Daniel had caved to the culture in Babylon, never was tossed in the Lion's den, and never received the prophecies he wrote in his book
What if John the Baptist had refused to live in the desert and eat locusts and proclaim the coming Messiah?
What if Jesus had refused to go to the cross?
What if Paul and Peter and the other apostles had hidden in caves and refused to go spread the Gospel?

What is it you are refusing to do today that you know God has asked, but you're too afraid of the giants in the way?


Friday, October 2, 2015

Cover Reveal!

My next release (slated for February 2016) is entitled Charity's Cross. The past few weeks my cover designer and I have been furiously working on getting the final cover designed and completed. There really wasn't time to include you all in the process this time, sorry, but I will show you below all the mock pictures.  First of all, a bit about the story. This will be a follow on story to my Charles Towne Belles series. I'm not calling it book 4, although it really is. You will finally hear all about what happened to Charity Westcott, the poor 4th Westcott sister who was left behind in England married to a beast of a man! (And I think you'll be excited to see who the hero is!)

Suspected of killing her husband, Charity Westcott flees on the first ship out of Portsmouth, England heading for the colonies. Loathing all men after her abusive marriage, she hopes to reunite with her family in Charles Towne, but the ship’s destination is Nassau. When she spots her husband’s brother, who is intent on seeing her hang, boarding her ship at port, she jumps overboard.

Elias Dutton, missionary and son of the famous pirate, Rowan Dutton, must get to Barbados as soon as possible. His sister is in danger, and his parents have charged him with her safety. He cannot let them down—again.  But after rescuing a madcap woman from the bay, he now finds himself tricked into masquerading as her husband so they both can procure passage to Barbados.

Pirates, storms, shipwreck and betrayal threaten to delay the couple in their journey even as sparks fly between them. With her brother-in-law in fast pursuit, the last thing Charity wants is help from a man, especially a religious one, but she has no choice. After Elias’ heart was broken by a sordid woman who nearly ruined his life, he seeks a godly woman pure as the virgin sands of the Caribbean. He believes he has found such a woman in Charity. Until he discovers she is a murderer, and he is now faced with two choices: letting her go or turning her in to the authorities

Here are all the mock covers my designer sent me initially to choose from:

Because of the storyline, I needed a very suspenseful look and wanted the model to appear frightened and running for her life. So, I combined the model who looked the most frightened with a different background and here is the final proof!

Too late to change it, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Armed for battle!

For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. 

Psalm 18:39 


Monday, September 28, 2015

Fasting - a lost discipline

Yikes! Not a very fun topic, is it?  Honestly, fasting is not my favorite topic either. It's also not a fun thing to do.  I've talked to many Christians and discovered that very few fast on a regular basis. Why? It's hard! It's painful. And in our food-glorified culture, it is difficult.  We Americans have a love affair with our food. We use it for comfort, entertainment, and most social activities. There isn't a single social get together we attend that doesn't involve food. I challenge you to think of one!  I mean we even bring food to a funeral! 

Once, I fasted for 3 days but that's the longest I've gone. I used to fast once a week praying for the salvation of my children. I did that for years until the Lord showed me how wrong I was.  I was using fasting as a "works" to get God to do something for me. It was like I was saying. "Here I am God, see how I'm suffering, see how I'm denying myself for You! Now, you need to save my kids!" 

But the more I came to know God, the more I realized He doesn't do anything for us because we earned it or we worked hard or we deserve it. Frankly, we don't deserve Him to even look our way. God blesses us purely because He adores us.  And He certainly isn't going to save my kids because of my hard work. Then who would get the credit? Me?  That's ridiculous.

Isaiah 58 is all about the type of fast God hates and the type He expects of us. Yes, expects.  We as true believers should be fasting as God leads. Jesus said in Matthew 6, "when you fast... " not "if you fast". Fasting is a spiritual discipline that has been lost on our complacent, self-gratifying Western church.

In Isaiah 58, the people of Israel were asking God why He wasn't paying attention to them fasting?

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

God goes on to say that their hearts aren't right.  They fast but then they abuse other people and cause strife and wickedness. They bow down before God and wear sackcloth and ashes (a symbol of mourning) and wail before God. But He didn't ask them to do that.  That's not what He wants when they fast. 

Jesus told people to hide their fasting from others
But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly

So what is the point of fasting if it isn't to get our prayers answered?  Isaiah 58 tells us. 

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?"

 Look how powerful fasting is! It loosens bonds of wickedness, lifts burdens, frees the oppressed and breaks yokes!  

Do you remember the demon possessed boy in Mark 9?  He had a deaf and dumb spirit and would throw himself in the fire and foam at the mouth. His father brought him to the disciples but they couldn't cast out the demons. Later, after Jesus took care of it, His disciples asked Him why they failed? 

So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."

I always wondered how they would have been able to fast when they didn't know they were going to be facing the challenge?  But Isaiah 58 provides the answer. We are to fast regularly (as led by the Holy Spirit) so that we will always be in a state of readiness to do whatever task God calls us to do, whether it be cast out a demon, or heal someone, or talk to someone about Jesus and help open their eyes to salvation.  That's what it means to loose the bonds of wickedness and free the oppressed!   

When you deny yourself food and spend that time in prayer instead, it brings you closer to God. You are more able to hear His voice, get direction, be flooded with His power. It will prepare you to do God's work with more power and strength than you imagined. 

Yet so many of us, myself included, miss out on this wonderful opportunity.  How many times does God search the earth for someone to do an important task but He passes us by because we haven't prepared ourselves with prayer and fasting?