Free lance writer and editor. Author of a dozen books, husband of one wife, father of six, grandpa of ten.

Another Milestone

First Draft…

I pressed the SEND button for my first draft of this book to get it on its way to my reviewers. This is always a good feeling. While it will be at least a year before you can buy a copy, the hardest part of the book is finished. A historical novel takes a lot of research in order to set up a realistic setting. For instance, here are some simple questions that I battled with.

  1. How many people lived in Nicomedia, the city where this book takes place? Apparently, the city had as many as eight bishoprics. But how many Christians does that translate into?
  2. What was “home” like for Mark and Lydia? Where would they have lived and what was it like? I discovered that running water was the norm at this time in a Roman city.
  3. Soon after I started writing, Mark’s mother was cooking supper. And I realized I had no idea what this entailed. A fireplace? I finally decided on a barbecue like charcoal stove as the most likely.
  4. Since I was including the emperor’s point of view, I had to make sure that I got the history right. But what is right when major historians disagree on the timing of major events like the battle of Margus River? And when did Diocletian die? I had several possibilities to choose from. So I chose 311, knowing that probably I’ll get a letter from someone stating that the proper date was 313.
  5. Lactantius, one of the Early Church Fathers was an eyewitness contemporary of some of the events in this book. But big name historians like Gibbon brush him aside as biased in his coverage. Gibbon is sure that his documentation is seriously exaggerated. Surely no one could believe that this many people died. My sympathies (and those of some later historians) are with Lactantius, but I finally stuck with the figure of 3,500 martyrs.
  6. And of course there were dozens of other details. What did Mark and Lydia wear? What was baptism like in this era? Did presbyters and bishops really take a vow of poverty? Did the church support members becoming soldiers? What was a normal service like?

I think you get the idea. If you want to know the answers, read the book when it comes out.

Projections…

I realize that projections can get you into trouble. But I’m hoping to get reviewing and fine tuning behind me and have the book to the publisher in 6 – 8 weeks. Then it goes through their review process while I bite my nails. Well I tend to do that anyway, but my writing style and methodology seems to be on the edge for this publisher. But I’ll dive right into Book Two of this series and let the editors and reviewers sort out what needs sorted out.

Suffice to say that I hope you can actually buy this book by the fall of 2020.

And a Sneak Preview…

So, Constantine, here we come! You might be surprised at my view of Constantine, but we’ll see. Those were heady days for the church and we’ll ride the roller coaster with Mark as he faces the everyday life of a bishop under Constantine. The Nicene council? He’s going, and they’re going to talk about more than just the substance of Christ. Can a Roman emperor be both emperor and Christian at the same time? Some of these questions still haunt us today and are surprisingly modern in focus.

Stay tuned!

A Parable

To understand this parable, you need to remember that the Christians of the first centuries considered the pagan gods to be demons. We don’t think of them in those terms, but they might have been closer to right than we are.

The pagan gods of Rome were a hedonistic lot. They murdered each other, committed adultery, and had vast celestial parties where debauchery ruled the day. In fact, the gods of Rome were a lot like the men they ruled over.

You couldn’t expect a Roman god to pay attention to a human being unless you were a fair damsel and that god was lusting after you. (Then you better look out.) Roman gods had no feelings of love or mercy towards humans. They didn’t even pay any attention to humans unless they rebelled against their authority.

But, should another god show up and claim to offer something better to the humans who worshiped him, then the gods in the heavenly pantheon woke up. That was an insult that could NOT be allowed. A new god? No sir, the upstart had to go. The sooner the better.

So, they would gang up on him and the people who served him.

But what the Roman gods didn’t realize was that the new god in this case wasn’t new, nor an upstart. He had been around a long time before they existed. He had created humans, and He loved them. He knew that the unfortunate people who followed the demon gods in the pantheon were doomed to eternal destruction. And he decided to do something about it. Actually, He had been planning this for a long time, back from the very beginning.

But when God sent His son to earth to introduce Himself to men, the pantheon jumped him and killed him. Then they went back to their parties.

But it didn’t end there. God’s son wouldn’t stay dead. So, the pantheon attacked his followers. But death wouldn’t kill them either. The more people who died, the more new converts came along.

It didn’t make sense. But it did. If a God comes along who loves humans, and who is willing to die for them in order to rescue them, people are going to take note. And when his followers are willing to die as well, then they REALLY take note.

Turn the page and read on to see how it works in real life

This is the introduction to my newest book.

Overcoming…

What do overcomers need to overcome in order to be an overcomer? Not sin according to many of today’s evangelicals…

First, let me raise a question. Is it even possible for a mortal to “overcome”? And a second question: If it isn’t possible, why does God speak about it? Is He presenting us with a tantalizing target that he knows we will never hit?

Think back to the Old Testament for a little. Peter told the crowds in Acts 15 that the church should not put a yoke on the neck of the gentiles that neither the Christian Jews or their forefathers had been able to bear. In other words, the Jews had never really accomplished what the Law required. It was always a step beyond human capability. But Peter went on to say that both the Christians and their forefathers would be saved through the grace of Christ.

So, God’s people never were overcomers in the truest sense of the word. But it’s different now. Or isn’t it? When you read the Sermon on the Mount, it appears that the target has moved. And it seems to be as far out of reach as it ever was.

But would God give us a target that was out of reach? Let’s consider a few more thoughts.  In 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul wrote, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” He seems to be taking the concept of overcoming literally. In fact, this passage is in the context of running a race and running it with the assumption that he could win.

So, is the target out of reach? Paul didn’t seem to think so, though he realized that he could miss it.

John also talked about overcoming. In 1 John 5:4 he wrote, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Does this mean that the idea of overcoming is just an abstract concept? Is he saying that if you are a Christian you will overcome— but you actually won’t? That your faith will bridge that gap between what you should be, according to the target, and what you really are, in the human flesh?

To add to the dilemma, let’s go back to Revelation. John used the word “overcomes” eight times in Revelation. Each case appears to be a caveat. Let me list them…

  • Those who overcome will eat of the tree of life (2:7)
  • Those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death (2:17)
  • Those who overcome and keep God’s works will have power over the nations (2:26)
  • Those who overcome will wear white garments. Jesus will not blot their names out of the book of life. He will confess their names before the Father and the angels. (3:5)
  • Those who overcome will be a pillar in God’s temple, will receive the name of God and the New Jerusalem, and the new name of Jesus. (3:12
  • Those who overcome will get to sit with Jesus on his throne (3:21)
  • Those who overcome will inherit all things and be the sons of God.
  • Those who don’t… ???

God hates sin because He is holy. He hates sin even if one of His children commits sin. Isaiah 59:2 states this:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”

People have written entire books on this question. I haven’t found anyone that gives an answer that seems satisfactory to me. I’m not planning to write still another book about this, so let me summarize how I deal with this in my own life.

First, I know that God loves me so deeply that I can’t even comprehend it. He assures me in His word and by His Spirit that He absolutely wants me to be an overcomer and join Him in eternity. He proved this to me by sending His Son, Jesus, to die for me.

Second, I know that I can trust God. He knows my heart and I believe that He will do His part in this whole scenario. He tells me to overcome, so I believe that He will help me in the battle with sin and evil. He has also promised me that His strength will be made perfect through weakness and that His grace is sufficient to deal with my weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

Job put it this way: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Can I do any less?

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Php 2:12, 13 (NKJV)

To summarize once again, to me this seems to be saying this. I do my part by obeying Christ and He does his part by showing me what that means. He also gives me the desire and the power to do so. I can safely trust Him to make these reach together even though I can’t quite understand how they can.

I can safely leave this in His hands.

Revival Verbs

From Psalms 51

One evening King David went for a walk on the roof of his palace. Close by the palace was another house, and a young woman was taking a bath on the roof. His lust got the best of him and he had his servants bring her to the palace. He committed adultery with her. When she told him she was pregnant, he tried to manipulate circumstances so that it would appear as if her husband was the father. When that didn’t work, he had her husband killed and married her. It seems he thought everything was covered up. But one day the prophet came to visit him and he realized that God knew.

David faced a lot of reaping. But the worst part was the guilt he felt. He had sinned against Bathsheba. He had sinned against her husband, Uriah. But most of all, he had sinned against God, and he loved God more than anyone else. He wrote this Psalm when this finally sank in and he realized the depth of his sin.

Read this passage carefully and note the verbs David used. They tell a story about the depth of his anguish, as well as the depth of his repentance.

Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your loving kindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Have Mercy…This is our only hope. When we realize the depth of our sinfulness, mercy is our only way out.
Blot out…The very memory of sin brings back the memory of our guilt. I can’t blame David for wanting it gone.
Wash me… Blotting it out still leaves the stain. David is saying, please God wash away the stain, and…
Cleanse me… So that I can forget. And so that I never do such a thing again. [Can you sense his agony?]
I_acknowledge…There was no use in denying it any longer. He had sinned and he would need to face the repercussions.
Purge me…He had already asked God to wash him and cleanse him. Purging is stronger. Use a stronger soap please, God. Scrub me.
Wash me…Again. It seems that the stain just won’t go away.
Make me hear…In case I’m tempted to forget the sinfulness of sin.
Blot out…Again. Is there no end to regrets? No way to get rid of guilt? No salvation? Yes there is…
Create in me…Already you can see the hope growing in his heart. A hope for a clean heart once again.
Renew within me…He had peace at one time. He had God’s spirit in him. He wants it back, no matter what the cost. Only by having God’s spirit can he shake off the horror of his guilt.
Restore to me…Joy? How can he hope for joy? Every again. But the blight of sin doesn’t last forever for the person who repents. David will laugh again. He will rejoice. He will lift his hands to heaven in praise. Because he has been restored.
Uphold me…The Spirit of God can do for us what we can never do for ourselves. He can blot out the past and cleanse us. Even the very memory can lose its edge in the joy of forgiveness and the presence of God.
Deliver me…Take away the guilt. Take away the memory. Take away the very desire to sin. I don’t want to fail you again God. Deliver me.
Open my lipsI will no longer be quiet. I will tell others what you have done for me. I will show by my life that you have forgiven and delivered me. I have been broken, Lord. I am not the man I thought I was. I failed. I hurt people around me. Most of all, I will praise thee.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise

FINAL UPDATE: Should You Self-Publish?

Final Update: Feb 2019

To read my original post, CLICK HERE

I receive a check from my publisher well within the promised time-frame. At this point, I feel that the bad press I’ve read about Christian Faith Publishers is mostly fake news. 

I’ll say several things here, then lay this post to rest.

  • When self-publishing, YOU are in charge of your success or failure. Don’t expect that giving the publisher extra money to promote your book for you is going to do much.
  • Be prepared to DO YOUR OWN PROMOTION WORK
  • Watch over every aspect of the work, from editing to layout to online promotion. Step in and insist on changes when you see a problem
  • Make sure that your project is as good as you can get it before you give it over to the self-publishing world. Have it read by critical reviewers who know what they are doing. Pay for good content editing by an experienced editor, no matter how good a writer or editor you might be. 
  • Be patient. It all takes time. 

To read about the original project, click HERE

 

We’re Back in Business

Drop in…

Have a chair, drink some coffee or tea, and relax. I’m still rethinking my blogging purposes but as far as I know my site is back in working order. I’ve switched all you email followers to a mailchimp list and you should receive any new posts that way. If you’d like to be on that list, sign up in the sidebar. You’ll receive a follow-up email to ensure that it was you that entered your address and that you really want to go ahead.

Thought for Today

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

1 Peter 4:10 NLT

Some people seem to have many gifts, and some have fewer. But all of us have at least one. It doesn’t matter so much how many gifts we have. What does matter is how we use them. The person who only uses his gifts to gratify or glorify himself has lost a big blessing. So does the person who refuses to use his gift, for whatever reason.

I like how the NLT gives this passage, even though it is somewhat of a paraphrase. God has given you a gift, and probably more than one. Use those gifts unselfishly.

Blessings to you today. Have you been blessed in some special way? Drop a comment below and tell us about it!

Construction Ahead

I ran into a snag recently, so I’ve been looking for a new theme for my site. I’ve finally decided on this one, but it will take some reconstruction to get it where I want it. You can, however, read my blog and all the other pages. I’m keeping everything operational as I work on it.

If you have thoughts or suggestions, add them to the comments below or go to the Contact Me Page. I’d be happy to hear from you (as long as you’re not a spammer).

Should You Self-Publish?

Original Post:

I recently got an email asking about my experience self-publishing with a certain publisher. I think most of the following points are applicable to most self-publishing services. This post is not promoting or denigrating any particular publishing service.

Advantages…

  • Pretty well any publisher will provide stability to a project, too often missing in self-published books. [Be sure to do an internet search for other people’s experiences because there are a few bad eggs out there.]
  • They provide some editorial and design services.
  • They put you in contact with sellers like Amazon and Barnes & NobleThey take care of the e-book formatting, etc.
  • Many will allow you to pay for their services over a ten month period.
  • I have heard and experienced mostly good reports from in house “publishing experts”

Disadvantages…

  • The price often seems very high for the services they provide.
  • In my case I needed to find my own contact editor. The publisher said that they edit the books but it was only a copy edit, and they didn’t edit structure or story flow. This is a very important editorial function and a normal sized book will probably cost you an additional thousand dollars or so. When I contracted with them, I thought this was part of their editorial process. My book was too far into the process for me to pull, so it actually didn’t get the editorial treatment I like for my writing to have. [Make sure you know the details.]
  • I ended up doing a suggested cover layout of my own. Their designer added finishing touches which were good, but I’m not sure what they would have done otherwise. I get the feeling they have certain templates they use that allow them to fast-track design. You have to be clear in your expectations and not afraid to ask for changes. BUT each change request adds a month to the process. My project ended up taking close to a year.
  • The first uploads to Amazon and Barne’s & Noble had obvious errors in the descriptions. While my publishing expert was quick to get this fixed, it again depended on me to ask for it. I felt that for the price I paid, they should have been more careful about details in various times throughout the project. I asked for advice different times and it seemed like the person in charge of my project was reluctant to step out with concrete suggestions.

More Thoughts…

Maybe my expectations were too high. But it is the little things that derail the success of your book. If you feel comfortable being your own general contractor, here is what you probably need to expect.

  • You need some good reviewers, not just people who pat on the back for your “wonderful work.” You need critics. Cost? It depends on who you know.
  • You need a good content editor. Say a thousand dollars? Depends on book size.
  • You need a thorough copy editor. Another thousand? Amazon has both available, but look for some good freelancers. I’d say that a good content and copy edit would cost you at least $1500 and maybe as high as $2,000, depending on the length and complexity of your book.
  • You need someone to design the layout and the cover of your book. Maybe $750 or so.
  • You need someone to design / format your e-book. Another $500 – 750.

My publisher also did a video trailer, which makes a good sales point, but I’m not impressed with mine and I don’t think it will really generate a lot of sales. They gave me a page on their website, but I have my own website. They do a press release, but I don’t know how many get printed or read. They do make the book available on a world wide distribution network. I’m waiting to see how much their marketing efforts will help my book. But I suspect that in most cases, you will have to do your own promotions to make it work. It is hard to know who much these things help and how many simply make a good sales pitch. I don’t feel that they are dishonest, and a lot of people do seem to like their work.

The books I have from them are good quality. I paid them around $4800, most of which I borrowed. Add content editorial and I would be at close to $6000. [That was CND $$. US $$ might be cheaper.] To produce the same thing on my own, if I had to hire everything, would cost around $3500. Say $4000 to be safe. So the extra $2000 goes for services like getting an ISBN, getting the book into the distribution chains and online, and giving me some security. Is it worth that? I’m glad in some ways that I took this route for my first self-published project. I know what to expect now. However, I used to do layout and cover design when I worked for Rod and Staff Publishers, so I could probably knock up to another $1500 off that.

If I do another self-published project I’ll likely do it myself. But my next book has already been accepted by a regular publisher, and they have made me an offer on writing future books for them that I really can’t turn down. It takes some of the variables out of everything. Especially, they pay for editorial and review and do all the design without me financing it.  That should be your long term goal. Look at self-publishing as an investment in your future. But be sure that you do a good job of it, so that you can use your books to sell yourself to a publisher. I haven’t been very impressed with many of the kindle books I’ve download from Amazon to try to get a feel for the market. Blessings on your work. If you have more questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or contact me using the contact form. However, I’m finding my way as well, so I’m not an expert. Note that the costs I mentioned are off the top of my head, but they should be close.

UPDATE 1: This book has now been on the market for about nine months. I have found the biggest downside of self-publishing through a publisher to be the fact that you can’t set your own prices. You can’t do any kindle give-aways, or sell hard copies at a discount. My impression is that the pricing is about 25% to high.

The marketing my publisher did for me [if any] accomplished nothing, as far as I can tell. On the other hand, about four months ago a traditional publisher released a small book that I wrote. I didn’t really expect much of it, but someone I knew wanted a book on that subject. They sold over a thousand books in the first three months. No cost to me for editorial, marketing, or layout. I won’t tell you how many self-published books I’ve sold in the past nine months.

UPDATE 2: I received a report from the publisher stating that in December they sold 165 copies of my book. They don’t give you any details further than that, but they now finally owe me some money. They said it would take two to four weeks to generate a check, so we’ll see how that works out. I’ll update again when I get the check so that you can see how it turned out. 

See THIS POST for my final update…
To read about the original project, click HERE

How can I know I am born again?

Read: John 3:1 – 21; 1 John (whole book)

Nicodemus…

One day a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus. Jesus told him that unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This confused Nicodemus. How could he, as an adult, be “born” a second time?

Nicodemus didn’t realize that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth, rather than a second physical birth. Jesus clarified that — first you are born of water (a natural physical birth), then you are born of the spirit (a spiritual birth). He even restated this — your flesh is born of someone else’s flesh, and your spirit is born of the Holy Spirit.

By now Nicodemus was more confused than ever. Maybe you are too.

Born of the Spirit?

Jesus explained to Nicodemus about the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind. You can’t see the wind blow, but you can feel it blow. You can also see the results of it blowing. So, the wind blows, and the tree branches move. Or the shingles fly off your house. Or garbage blows across your lawn. You can’t see the wind, or where the wind is coming from, but you can see what it is doing.

That is one way to know if you are born again. Is the Spirit doing things in your life? Things that you can’t tell where they are coming from? For instance, something might tell you to give a twenty-dollar bill to a homeless person. Or to pick up a hitch hiker and speak to him about Jesus. Or apologize to someone for something you said about them.

By default, we do bad things, ugly things, selfish things. But when we are born of the Spirit our default changes and we want to do good things.

A Child of the Light?

Jesus also talked to Nicodemus about the Light. A person who has not been born of the Spirit doesn’t like Light, because it exposes him. It shows clearly how selfish and evil he is. But when a person has been born of the Spirit, he embraces Light. The Light helps him to see. It leads him to do good, to be unselfish, to be unafraid of being seen.

If you are born again, other people will see it by the changes in your life. And you will see it because you are no longer afraid of the Light revealing you.

“Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.”