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

Background

Sometimes you cannot have order without division...

In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth. Everything was covered with darkness and chaos reigned, since all of creation was empty and without form. But God moved in and started dividing things, creating order out of the chaos.

First, God created light, which immediately caused a division between light and darkness. Then he divided the waters from the waters. Finally, he created dry land which forced the waters to recede and separated the water from the dry land.

Having made order from the chaos, God said for the first time that what He had done was good.

You can read the rest of the story in the first chapters of Genesis. My point is that sometimes division is the only thing that will bring order to chaos. We have had too much division within Christianity. And division should never be our first choice when we face problems. But when chaos takes over the church then sometimes division needs to happen.

These books are an attempt to show from history how the church lost its moorings. The time finally came that Christians needed to separate themselves from the apostate church. Revelations 18 describes this process:

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." (Rev 18:4, 5)

The Waldensian church stated during the dark ages that they could trace their lineage all the way back to the time of Sylvester. Since Sylvester was the Pope in Rome during most of the reign of Constantine, it seems likely that the beginnings of this division took place during that time. I’ve chosen to push this out a little and have the Christians of book three join this group later, after they were well established.

There is little history available about this group before Peter Waldo, and the Waldensian claims were probably for the purpose of being able to support apostolic succession for their leaders. But it does seem likely that there was truth in this. God has promised us that the enemy will not prevail against the church, and it seems plausible that there was an underground movement that lived in parallel with the corrupt Catholic system.

What did God REALLY Promise You?

Introduction

The following passage from Psalms 37:4 has troubled a lot of people. They feel that it makes a promise to them that God has ignored. For instance, they might feel that this verse promises them that God will give them a marriage partner and a family. This is their desire and they feel that they are meeting the caveat.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

But is this what God is really saying in this verse? Is this a blank check that you can cash anytime you feel like it? Can you actually force God to give you whatever you want?

Context

It is important to consider the context of a verse before we base a strong conclusion on it. When we isolate a verse from its context, it is easy to make it say anything we want it to say. So note the following statements also found in this Psalm.

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him
  • Do not fret
  • Cease from anger

In fact the first eight verses of Psalms 37 list behavior patterns God expects of us. The rest of the Psalm then goes on to clarify the promises in the first part. When you read the verses carefully, you will notice that the promises are actually future ones. While God is free to give us these things anytime that He wants, He might wait until we get to heaven to do this.

Compare Other Verses…

I’m troubled by the number of people who try to coerce God into doing what they want. Some feel that He promises us wealth and power. Others try to claim marriage partners under this promise. Some go so far as to blame God for being unfaithful to His promises if he doesn’t do this.

In the New Testament, Paul faced a similar situation in his life. He had a thorn in the flesh and he felt that it was hindering God’s work. But God viewed it from a different perspective.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

What is Your Desire?

In the passage above, we have a clear example of a time when God’s will conflicted with a Christian’s desire. So does this mean that this contradicts the verse in Psalms 37?

I don’t think so. It just clarifies it. Since God doesn’t contradict himself we need to understand that in a situation like this we need to understand the two passages in a way that they complement each other. There are several ways we can do this.

In the first place, God understood Paul’s desire better than Paul did. Paul felt that he could serve God better if God would heal him. So his real desire was to be able to serve God better. God knew him better than he knew himself, and told him that he would be a stronger witness with the thorn in his life than he would without. In fact, if God removed Paul’s thorn, it would lead to people glorifying Paul rather than God.

Paul did want to glorify God, from the bottom of his heart. So he was willing to praise God for his weakness and accept God’s verdict. So did God fulfill His promise? I think Paul would have said that He did.

God’s Will, Not Mine

Jesus faced this same situation in the garden before His crucifixion.

 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:39)

Sometimes we simply need to lay down our desires at the feet of God and say, “You know best, Lord.” If Jesus needed to do that, how can we expect anything else?

This means that we might need to give up…

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  • health
  • our job
  • having a spouse and family
  • wealth and possessions
  • friends
  • etc.

God told Paul that, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” If we want to serve Christ from the bottom of our heart, then isn’t it our deepest desire to have His strength made perfect within us? This means that we must be willing to lay our personal desires on the altar at His feet. God doesn’t refuse to honor His promise. He just changes our desires so that He can honor them.

Read the book Hinds Feet in High Places for a wonderful illustration of this.

Using an Outline Template in MS Word

Using Heading Styles in Word

To get the biggest benefit from all this, you need to turn on your Navigation pane in Word. Click on the view tab and make sure it is turned on, as in the screen shot.

 

 

 

When you have done this, the navigation pane will show up on the left part of the document window. Click on headings to show your outline. I find this a very handy way to navigate through a longer document. You can also right click on a heading and promote or demote it, or drag and drop it somewhere else.


If you click on the Home tab in your Word ribbon, you will see the styles, somewhat like above. You can then type in a number of headings and points using the normal style, then sort them by highlighting and applying heading styles. If this entirely new to you, find some YouTube videos that show you how to use styles. In my opinion styles are one of the most powerful features in Word, and you need to know how to use them. You will save a lot of time in formatting when doing longer documents.

Word’s Templates

This is what my outline looked like when I finished it. You can download this document by clicking HERE

You can download this file and play around with it. Or you can download this template and use it to build your own outlines.

This is a very cursory treatment of an important subject. I know that this doesn’t fit at all into some people’s way of working. But with some time it can become second nature to you.

Outlining Made Simple

An Outline is a Snapshot

Years ago, before the days of Windows, I picked up a freeware or shareware outliner. During those days I was teaching at a Bible school in Ohio every winter and I needed good outlines. I discovered that an outliner forced me to think more logically.

Now I’m not necessarily promoting that you need to get outlining software. In fact I built a little template in MS Word that does the same thing, even adding numbers and letters and all those good things. It allows me to drag points around, demote them or promote them, etc.

But my real point here is that outlining gives a different perspective of your book, essay, sermon, or Sunday school class. It forces you to pick out your main idea, the one big thing that your presentation is about. It also forces you to go through your thoughts and see which ones can be used as legs on which your presentation can stand. Everything else needs to fit into one of those “legs”. If it doesn’t, you need to throw it out.

That’s right. I said (or wrote, for all you purists out there) THROW IT OUT. It might be a really good illustration, definition, or theological term. But if you have to “bend” it to make if fit, get rid of it.

So how do we go about it?

Building an Outline

I found the paper pictured in the featured image floating around here recently, and it spurred my interest. Someone (I won’t say who) was writing an essay. That person had an assigned subject, I think, which always makes it a little easier. I liked how they (okay, it was one of my daughters, so she) illustrated this. She put the title, the big idea, what this was all about, in the middle and drew a circle around it.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_53_54 PM

Okay, that’s easy enough. Next you need to find some legs for the main idea to stand on. Centipedes don’t work well, no matter what your project is all about. Anything short, like a sermon, an essay, or a Sunday school class can’t handle more than about four or five legs. A book might have more, but even a book can be too broad in its approach.

In this case, the writer picked three legs: bad effects of computers, good effects in the workplace, and personal benefits. If she had known that a thousand people were going to see this posted online, she would have improved it a bit more. This was more or less off the cuff with a time limit on the finished product.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_50_59 PM

Notice how she then started to flesh out the various legs with more ideas.

Screenshot - 2018-06-12 , 6_49_46 PM

Notice that we haven’t used all of the points yet. So we continue adding to the legs, like you can see below.

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Note that B.3.b could have been turned into A.3 since it is actually a bad effect. In that case, B.3.a would become part of B.3 since you shouldn’t have a single point under another point.

In Conclusion

The last part of the process, in this case, was transfering this into a full blown essay. You also might want to transfer it into PowerPoint, or print it. But this kind of a process is almost guaranteed to improve your writing or speaking. It will force you to discipline yourself in presenting your ideas from a logical perspective.

It will also be a big aid to those who need to read what you wrote, or listen to what you say. It will take some self-discipline if you aren’t a logical thinker, but do it anyway. It’s like switching from hunt and peck typing to touch typing. It will slow you down at first but eventually the benefits will be HUGE.

Note: I'm going to try to follow up and post my MS Word template so that you can download it and use it, if you want. I'll include instructions with it, but its easy to use.

A Tribute to my Father

My father was the kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime and he made a big difference in my life. He died several weeks ago and I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to him, so I’m writing this instead. Travel with me as I think back over the years.

If I reach way back, I can vaguely remember living on a farm in southern Ontario. I only remember a few things from that, and they are mostly about my mother. But apparently my father had an accident with a farm gate that resulted in him having a very stiff neck and a serious arthritis condition called ankylosing spondylitis.

Ever since I knew him, my father lived in pain. He couldn’t turn his neck. But he persevered and held down a job, and eventually owned his own business. The doctors said he’d be in a wheel chair by the time he was thirty, but only in the last few years of his life did he use one at times.

My parents were very poor, but they tried hard to give my two sisters and I a normal childhood. I can remember my father pitching a softball for us, and taking us fishing. We had a few family trips, but they were rare enough that we still remember them. 

My father was especially interested in talking to people about Jesus. He was one of the people who actually walked his talk. He would walk the streets giving out tracts, and I remember a wedding held at our house for a couple that he had led to the Lord. We still consider them as part of our family to this day. 

My father also went regularly to a local prison for Bible studies every week for years. There were times that he had to crawl into the house because of his pain afterwards, but I don’t remember him ever staying home because of it. After he had his own business, I worked for him, along with the occasional inmate who was on day parole and needed work. I realize now how he might have worried about me, but those men respected him too much to every be a threat. One of them (I think) did steal his pickup truck once. And another broke into our house, but none of that ever stopped him. 

You can imaging the impression this made on me as a teenager when I started to realize what kind of qualities that my father had. I can honestly say that I had a good relationship with my father pretty well all my life. When I stood beside his coffin and thought back over his life, I couldn’t find any bad memories. None. And I tried, but they weren’t there and still aren’t.

I hope that when I pass on, my children will feel this way about me. I fear they won’t, because I know I’ve failed them at times. Probably my father would say the same, but if he did I don’t remember. 

We found the poem above with his personal papers. I don’t think he wrote it, because it was with a collection of poems people had given my parents when my youngest sister died at two days old. But it described him so well that we put it on his memory card. The pastor in charge at the funeral read it to the audience of his own accord. 

We all knew it was true. 

Should I self-publish?

NOTE: I recently got an email asking about my experience self-publishing with a certain publisher. I think most points are applicable for most self-publish services. This post is not promoting or denigrating any particular publisher.

Advantages…

  1. 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.]
  2. They provide some editorial and design services.
  3. They put you in contact with sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  4. They take care of the e-book formatting, etc.
  5. Many will allow you to pay for their services over a ten month period.
  6. I have heard and experienced mostly good reports from in house “publishing experts”

Disadvantages…

  1. The price often seems very high for the services they provide.
  2. 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.]
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. You need a good content editor. Say a thousand dollars? Depends on book size.
  3. 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.
  4. You need someone to design the layout and the cover of your book. Maybe $750 or so.
  5. 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.

There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.
(Ecc 12:12 MSG)

UPDATE: 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.

Poor Me!

Preview of …

“Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent.... The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.” (Tertullian, The Apology)


Book 1 – AD 284: Darkness

∗ Meet Diocletian, and Mark

 

Book 2 – AD 312: Chaos

∗ Meet Constantine, and Servus

 

Book 3 – AD 380: Division

∗ Meet Theodosius, and Cyrus

 


A lot changed from Diocletian to Theodosius. During this century, the church went from being persecuted, to being tolerated, to being favored, to persecuting others. 

All of these changes were bewildering to the ordinary people caught in the middle of the battle between Popes and Emperors on one side, and God on the other.


For a philosophical background of this project see here.
For a brief synopsis / overview of this project see here.

Jesus said: "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

My best selling book

Available in English, German, Ukranian, Spanish

This was my first “novel” and has sold over 10,000 copies in English. Not sure about the others. I wrote this under contract and don’t get any royalties, so it’s hard to know for sure what the sales figures are. It was published in 2005, in English, 2012 in German, 2011 in Ukranian, and 2014 in Spanish. All but the Ukranian copy are available from Rod and Staff Publishers.

Back Cover:

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Potential brother?

How Can You Tell?

Right now, I’m sitting at my desk trying to put together an answer to an email. This is the third email now from this person and everything I tell him just triggers another rant against me and Christianity in general. As a former Christian, he feels that he knows everything there is to know about Christians, their beliefs, and their shortcomings. If I recommend a book that I think covers his questions or challenges, he rails at me for not knowing the answers myself and needing to refer him to a book. When I do try to answer his questions myself, then my approach isn’t Christlike. I think you get the picture.

Jesus said: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” 

In this verse Jesus said we are be careful with our pearls . When do we get to the point that we are violating this verse in our discussions with unbelievers and scoffers? Is it ever right to write someone off? Should I just stop answering this particular person’s emails?

What bothers me about doing that is that I don’t know what is going on in this person’s life. Maybe he isn’t “yelling” at me at all. Maybe he’s really fighting with himself. Maybe he’s crying out for help and doesn’t even know it himself. It would be sad if I quit now when maybe a little more patience would bring him to Christ. And yet, I’m responsible to be a good steward of the time God has given me, and while I’m responding to these emails, I’m not doing other things that might be important in helping someone else.

I don’t discuss for the sake of winning an argument. I dislike controversy too much for that. But I do want to do what I can to help others. The person writing these emails might be a future brother or sister in the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great to walk into the New Jerusalem some day to be greeted with a big hug from someone you helped to find the way? Maybe someone you almost wrote off as being impossible to help, but kept on?

I hope I can meet at least one person in heaven who will tell me, "I'm here because you didn't give up on me." Even if it is just one person, it will be worth it.

I think I’ll say another prayer and answer that email. You never know…

Never despise someone Jesus died for…

Kindle Edition is HERE!

Front Cover - WisdomWhere Is God, When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

You can now get the Kindle edition from Amazon. Canadian pricing varies depending on the current exchange rates.

Canadian Link: $9.99 CND

US Link: $7.83 US

NOTE: also available as a Nook ebook on
Barnes and Noble

See full description of book here.