How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Jay Austin was, on the surface, a successful used car salesman. Unfortunately, his sales techniques were less than honorable.  He made promises he couldn’t keep, cheated people, and said whatever was necessary to make the sale.  

Sermon video

Jay’s Problem

Two of his employees had learned well how to use those same dishonest techniques.  

Jay needed money!
Jay needed money!

As I said, it looked like he was doing well on the surface.  He was moving a lot of cars and bringing in a lot of money.  But he was buried in debt.  

One day, the bank called him and requested a meeting.  Jay was told that he had 30 days to pay off his loan or the bank was going to foreclose on the business.

Not only were there problems with the business, but there were struggles going on within his family as well.  He was too proud to admit it was his fault.  He wanted to blame others for his problems, 

But his wife and son both knew that they could not trust his word when he said he was going to do something.  They knew about his dishonesty.  He pridefully tried to cover it up.  Occasionally, he would attend church with them, but not often.  Other times, he mocked the idea of going to church.  

But the bottom was dropping out.  It looked like he was going to lose his business.  But his wife had been praying for him. 

On the Right Path

A televised sermon changed his life.
A televised sermon changed his life.

One day, he saw a church service on TV.  He decided that his way of doing things wasn’t working, so he confessed to the Lord.  He admitted his dishonesty, and his lack of support for his family, and told God that he wanted to change.  

He thought he was done, that God would be merciful and he could move forward from that point. 

But something happened inside of Jay because he really had changed.  He realized that he couldn’t continue with his dishonest business practices.  Would the Lord rescue him?

Psalm 37:1-5

(KJV) Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Scriptures for the blog.
Scriptures for the blog.

Proverbs 3:5-6


(KJV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

So Jay started off by following the steps in the passage in Proverbs.  He told God that he didn’t know how, but he was going to quit cheating people and instruct his employees to stop as well. 

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  The Bible says that the greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(Matthew 22:37)  With everything within you.

You can come to Christ just as you are, but if you really meet Him, you don’t leave the same as when you arrived.  Something starts working in your life.  

The Bible says that there’s a change and we start to bear fruit.  It also says that some do better than others.  Some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold.  

Sometimes the change is obvious and immediate.  People see the change and want to know what’s happened.  Other times, depending on past challenges, the fruit takes longer to ripen.  

Lean not on your own understanding.  

Trust God

Jay was trusting God with all his heart.  But he didn’t know how to glorify God in bringing in money. His former practices of lying and scheming weren’t going to work anymore.  

His employees were doubtful.  They knew that there wouldn’t be as much money coming in as before. They also realized that they’d be losing money on their commissions.  That was a big concern for them.  They didn’t want to go along with this new plan, but Jay pushed for them to be honest.  

If it happened that they were not honest, Jay would go to the customer himself and make it right. He continued his new practice of being honest.  In some cases, he realized he had to go back and return money to some former customers. 

Even though he had 30 days to come up with the money for the bank, he continued in his new course of honesty.  He had made a commitment to God and intended to honor it.  He decided to not lean on his own understanding.

That’s something we all need to do.  Our understanding is shaped not by the Bible, but by the world.  That’s why it’s so important to study the Scriptures.  It ought to become a part of our lives.  We need to get away from our own understanding and into God’s understanding.  

Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.
Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.

When you become a parent, you have this tiny human who has been given to you, and it dawns on you that this is an enormous responsibility.  Where’s the instruction manual?  What you do is fall back on what you know, what you have seen, or how your parents raised you.  That can be good.  Your parents may have been instructed in the ways of the Lord and had the mind to follow Him.  

But maybe you had parents who didn’t follow God’s leading and just muddled through and didn’t make good decisions.  

Then there are parents who the world may say that they have no business being parents. Then your resolve will be not to be like your parents.  The problem there is that you keep focusing on them and whatever you focus on affects you.  So lean not on your own understanding but lean on the promises of God.

Good News/Bad News

A local news outlet decided to do an undercover investigation of used car dealers.  They sent a reporter in to pose as a potential employee.  The employees who weren’t happy with Jay’s new system got fed up and left and began working for a competitor.  

The news outlet went and interviewed the two and they told stories of how Jay used to run his business and how dishonest he used to be.  

So the report came out.  It wasn’t good.  Jay told God, “Lord, I’m trusting you.  I’m changing my life.  I don’t understand how this is going to work.”

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Years ago, in the first decade of our marriage, we were living in Georgia.  We had several decisions to make.  Our desire was to always be in God’s will.  

A flyer came to our house about a conference that was going to be in Atlanta.  One of the bullet points was “how to know you’re in the will of God.”  While I was looking at the new material, that one point really stood out to me.

That one session was the main reason I went.  It was a week-long conference.  Day after day, they didn’t cover that one topic.  Finally, Thursday night was the day for the “Will of God” session.  He spoke for 30 minutes, and I got the answer.  It was the verse, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Make Christ Known

The speaker said to make Christ known in every area of your life.  Acknowledge that He is the Miracle Worker, the One who cares for you and loves you. If in all your ways, you are trusting Him, He will direct your paths.  

That may not seem like a very “deep” answer, but it’s served me well for 40 years. When you continue to do this, you begin to develop a sense of when God is speaking to you.  You’ll feel a little tug on your heart, mind, or spirit.  It may not be thunder and lightning, but there’s that little tug you feel and know that it’s Him speaking to you. 

If you acknowledge Him in all areas of your life, you can trust that He will direct your paths.  

Does that mean that you’ll always make perfect decisions?  Probably not.  But the Bible covers that as well.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

Results of Change

So, the report had been released.  In it, Jay’s former employees talked about how unfair and dishonest he had been in the past.  It didn’t look good.

Then, people started speaking out.  They talked about how Jay had come to them, admitted his dishonesty, and made things right.  They told of how he’d given money back and apologized to them.  

Jay's commitment to God was successful.
Jay’s commitment to God was successful.

Psalm 37:4 says that if we trust in God, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Sometimes, though, we don’t get what we want.  One clue may be in James 4:3 where it says, “you have not because you ask not.”

Another reason we don’t always get what we want is that what we want may not be good for us.  We ask amiss, and God, in His wisdom, says no, because He knows what’s best for us.

Good Things

I believe that God delights in giving us good things.  

When we lived in Georga, I was the principal of a Christian school and we had weekly staff meetings.  They were different from any I’ve been in before or since.  We’d start off by spending up to 15 minutes strategizing what we could do to make things better.  We then went around the table and each prayed.  I remember one particular woman who was a prayer warrior.  She and another lady decided her son needed a good wife.  They began to pray and that son now has a wife and children.  

Another time, I recall her praying that God would meet the needs of my family.  The school wasn’t able to pay much, so she prayed that our needs would be met. She prayed that God would give us something that would simply bring us joy.  Her prayers were answered time and time again. 

Prayer warrior
Prayer warrior

Her husband was a dairy farmer, and they were audited by the IRS.  While most people would have been nervous, they were completely at peace.  They got their tax professional, went to the audit, and wound up getting money back!

Around that time, Rhonda was expecting our second child (Ralanna).  We had decent health insurance, but it didn’t pay everything.  We were going to have to pay some of the medical expenses out of our own pocket.  Those people got that money back from the IRS and paid those bills for us. We say that Ralanna is their baby as well as ours. 🙂

God will give you miraculous things.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him.  Trust in Him.  Delight in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart.

I mentioned that sometimes we ask God for the wrong things.  Once you get closer to Him and get to know Him better, the things you ask for begin to change and you start asking for proper things.  

Delivered!

I recently heard a man testify that God was blessing him in his business.  But, he was a functional addict.  Like Jay, it looked like the man was doing well on the surface.  But he was an alcoholic and was addicted to cocaine and ultimately to crack cocaine. 

He really wanted to serve God.  One night he prayed for deliverance from his addiction and that the desire for the drug would be taken away.

When he woke up the next morning, the desire was gone!  Many years later, it has not returned. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.  If your desires are wrong, He’ll tell you as long as you acknowledge Him in all ways.

Back to Jay.  The negative news report had come out, but then so many people came and spoke about all the good things he had done.  Because of the positive reviews, more and more people started going to his business to buy their cars.  By the end of the month, enough money had come in that Jay was able to pay the bank the money he owed them. 

Jay’s Story

A little disclaimer: The story of Jay is based on a movie written by the Kendrick brothers.  You may recognize their names from movies like Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, and several others.  The story of Jay Austin can be found in their first movie, Flywheel.  (You can Google some interesting trivia about the movie.)

Flywheel Movie
Flywheel Movie

Flywheel is actually my favorite of all the movies they’ve made.

In Closing

How do you know that you’re making good decisions?  Are you acknowledging Him in all your ways?  If you are, you can trust that you’re making good decisions. You can also trust that if you aren’t, God will let you know.

What’s A Mother to Do?

Today, I’ll be looking at three different passages of scripture.  The main one will be 1 Kings 17.  I’ll also discuss Luke 4 and Matthew 6. I’ll begin with Matthew 6.

Many times, a mother will ask herself, “What’s a mother to do?”

My wife worried, but our daughter was ok.
My wife worried, but our daughter was ok.

When our second child was about 2 years old, my wife was preparing a salad.  She was tearing off the bits of lettuce that were browned and not edible.  She heard a noise, turned around, and discovered our daughter eating the scraps.  We panicked a little, but she was fine.

I heard of a mother who went into her child’s room and found that the child had “decorated” the walls with crayons.  In a flash of insight, the mother grabbed an empty picture frame and framed the child’s artwork, and just left it there.

I want to tell you about a mother who was in dire straits.  She was wondering what she was going to do.  

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore, I say to you, take no thought about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? 27 Who among you by taking thought can add a cubit[a] to his stature? 28 “Why take thought about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: They neither work, nor do they spin. 29 Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30 Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is here and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore, take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 (For the Gentiles seek after all these things.) For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you. 34 Therefore, take no thought about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take thought about the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof.

History Lesson

First Kings chapter 17 tells us about a woman who was in dire straits.  The economy was very bad.  She lived in ancient Israel.  The time was after David the great king and his son Solomon.  Solomon’s son Rehoboam was the successor.  He went to the counselors and asked what he should do for the people.  They gave him some good advice, telling him that his father had gotten pretty harsh in his old age.  They recommended that Rehoboam help the people and they would love him forever.  

However, he went to some younger people and was told that if he gave too much to the people, they would take advantage of him.

So he followed the counsel of the younger people and announced that things were about to get much more difficult under his reign.  Ten of the 12 tribes decided they would not go along with that and left.

What had been a united kingdom was now split between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.  The northern kingdom kept the name Israel.  The southern kingdom went by Judah.  

The prophets came and said that if they didn’t repent, they would be taken into captivity.  That did happen later.  The Assyrians came and took the northern tribes into captivity and they pretty much disappeared.  You don’t hear about them much anymore.  If you’ve heard of the “ten lost tribes of Israel”, it’s most likely about those tribes taken by the Assyrians.

What remained was Judah.  Jerusalem was in that country.  That’s where the main Jewish temple was.  Assyria’s power began to wane, so Babylon came in and took Judah captive.  So, in the end, they all wound up in captivity, just as the prophets had said.

Before the captivity, there was a series of kings.  All the kings of the northern kingdoms, beginning with Rehoboam, rebelled against God.  He created idols such as golden calves, for them to worship.  In the Bible, it says that the nation continued to do evil in the sight of God.  

The southern kingdom had a mix of both good and bad kings.  King Ahab was known as the worst king ever. The mother in our story lived during his reign.  There was a drought and famine in the land, so food was very scarce.  

What’s A Mother to Do?

The mother’s problem was that she was alone.  She had a son, but she was a widow.  She was doing her best to make ends meet.

One day she was out gathering twigs for a fire.  She had looked at her food supply and discovered that she had only enough left to make one meal for herself and her child.  

Then a man of God came along.  It seemed to the woman that it was just a chance encounter.  In their culture, they were supposed to care for strangers and travelers.  The man asked for a drink and the woman obliged. As she turned to get it, the man asked for a piece of bread as well.  The woman was devastated.  She told the traveler that she had enough supplies for one bit of bread for her and her son to eat and that they would then most likely starve to death.  

What's a mother to do? She barely had enough for her son and herself.
What’s a mother to do? She barely had enough for her son and herself.

You may think that this man of God took pity on the woman and told her to keep the bread for herself and her child.  He did not.  He told her to go ahead and make the bread and bring it to him when she brought the drink.  

What’s a mother to do?  She’s gotten instruction that seems to make no sense, and goes against her every instinct!

Sometimes, God does that with us.  Sometimes while you’re reading the Bible, you will come across something that doesn’t seem to make sense.  Why?  Because we’re thinking in the ways of the world.  We don’t know what the future holds, but God does.  

The man of God was named Elijah. He gave the woman the instruction and she was supposed to follow it.

What’s a mother to do?

A mother, and everyone else, needs to have her ears attuned to hearing God speak to her.  Keep your mind open when reading the Bible.  If the Scriptures say it’s wrong, it’s wrong.  No discussion is needed.  

God's voice to us
God’s voice to us

It doesn’t matter how you try to rationalize it, if it seems too harsh, or if it doesn’t make sense to you.  If God says it’s wrong, it’s wrong!

Now, I do believe in a certain amount of tolerance.  I won’t kill you for your opinion, and I certainly hope you won’t kill me for mine.

But today, there seems to be a movement that says, “I can have my opinion, but you can’t have your (BIblical based) opinion.”  That’s not tolerance. 

For me, on this Earth, the only one who can get me to change my opinion on Biblical matters is God.

Obedience and Miracles

Back to our mother: Elijah told her to do as she said, to make the bread for herself and her son, but first, bring him some of it. She was in a quandary.  She wrestled with the idea of just leaving the man standing there instead of feeding him as he’d asked.  She made the decision to do as he had asked.

She reached down into the flour barrel, and a few grains fell out of her hand. She thought maybe there was a little more than she had thought.  Then she poured the oil and noticed she had a few more drops than she had realized. But there wasn’t enough to make another cake. She went ahead and made the cake and took it to Elijah.

Feeling hopeful, she reached back into the flour barrel and found that there was enough to make a cake (bread)for herself and her son.  She discovered the same thing with the oil.  That in itself was amazing.

The next day, however, she went back to check the supplies and found that there was enough flour and oil to feed them that day. The next day was the same, and the next, and the next!  God provided for that widow and her son. 

Luke 4:24-27 mentions the widow:
24 He also said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you truthfully, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were closed for three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land. 26 Yet to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, a city of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. But none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So out of all the people in need during that time, the one widow heard and obeyed, and was given a miracle.  Why was it only her? 

I don’t know.

What I do know is that God is good all the time.  I know that the Apostle Paul had seen countless miracles.  It’s called a miracle because it doesn’t happen all the time.  If it happened all the time, it would just be something we expected. A miracle is when God does something unusual and supernatural.  He did that for the widow.  

What Are We to Do?

Now it comes to what are we to do?

We are to look for God and listen for God all the time in our lives.  We are to watch for the miracles and when they happen, rejoice and testify about them. 

Maybe you’re like Paul, who had an infirmity of the flesh.  Three times he asked God to remove it from him, and probably thought He would, but God did not remove the infirmity.  However, Paul continued to praise and serve the Lord.  

Sometimes God does something miraculous, sometimes He doesn’t.  But he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  

So what’s a mother to do?  What’s a person to do when in dire straits?  

First of all, you pray and look for God to work.  When you see Him working, allow it to happen. But, you also need to trust God when you don’t understand what’s going on.  

Another Miracle

After the blessing of the flour and oil, the widow came to a point where she didn’t understand what was going on.  After some time, her son became very ill.  It looked like he was near death. 

The widow's son became very ill.
The widow’s son became very ill.

So the widow sent word to Elijah that her son was gravely ill. She asked if he was just going to continually remind her of her sin.  She sarcastically spoke to Elijah.  He ignored her sarcasm and asked that the child be brought to him.  She carried her son to the prophet and he took him to an upper room and began to pray. Three times he asked God to bring the child’s soul back.  After the third request, the child began to breathe again. Not only was he breathing, but he got up and was well.

She had trusted God with the food, and He provided.  God had healed her son. 

What’s a mother to do?

Listen to God to see where He’s going to work.  Read and believe Scripture.  Trust God in the everyday things of life.

The Final Action

There’s one other part of the mother and son’s story.  It’s not written in 1 Kings 17 but I know that it happened.  At some point, they both died.  I believe that the woman trusted God, and at her death, she went to be with Him.  I also like to think that she told her son the story as he grew, and he came to trust God as well.  If he did, he also went to be with God in the end. 

So, the most important thing that ANY person can do is to know that you know that if death comes your way, you’re ready to go and meet the Lord.  It will be a wonderful thing for you.  It will be a time of joy, with no pain or suffering. 

Invite Jesus into your life today.
Invite Jesus into your life today.

What’s a mother to do?  Trust God.  Most of all, make sure you’re ready!  How?

Believe in the promises that are in God’s Word.  I’d be glad to show you some.  You can contact me here and I can share them with you.  I’m not asking if you’ve attended church, or even said a prayer once.  Do you KNOW that you’re ready to meet God?

Writing Your First Book – 8 Tips to Get Started

Tips for writing your first book

In this post, I’m going to talk about writing your first book: eight ideas to get started

Vlog

Writing your first book: eight ideas to get started.

All right, ideas to get you started.

Will Your First Book Be Fiction or Nonfiction?

Will your first book be fiction or nonfiction?
Your first decision for your first book

First of all, figure out what kind of book you want to write. Do you want it to be fiction? Or do you want it to be nonfiction?

Length

Secondly, figure out how long you want your book to be. When I say how long you want it to be, I mean, what is the length of the book is it that you want to write? You can look at books in your genre and see how long they are.

Newer books are shorter than they have been in the past. Since you’re writing for the first time, that may be good news for you. It keeps you from being intimidated by the number of words that you need to write.

As a general rule of thumb, it should be somewhere between 100-200 pages.

Now is the time to figure out how many chapters the book will be, as well. An easy way to do that is to use a number anywhere between 6 and 10 and divide that by the total number of pages in the book. That will give you the approximate number of chapters your book will be. For example: divide a 100-page book by 6 (pages). That would tell you that you need 16 or 17 chapters in that case. Further, If you divide a 200 page book by 8 (pages), you will come up with 25 chapters.

If It’s Nonfiction

If your book is nonfiction, figure out a problem and figure out eight steps to the solution.

Now, these are not hard and fast ideas, but general guidelines. So figure out eight steps to the solution.

It’s like you’re on one side of a stream and you’re trying to get to the other side. You have stepping stones that will help you to get across to the solution on the other side.

The options are endless!
The options are endless!

If It’s Fiction

If your book is fiction, you still will want to present a problem. Have a main character who has a problem that he or she needs to be solved. In order to get to the solution, they go on a journey. On that journey, they may come across a guide.

Many times the guide will be someone who has successfully completed the same journey or someone who will help your main character to bear the journey. If that’s the case, then the guide will challenge them to action.

If they don’t have a guide then it will be the situation that will challenge them to action.

So you have a character with a problem, and either a guide or a challenge of some kind.

Then you want to place obstacles along the way for your hero or heroine. It looks like they’re going to succeed and then it looks like they’re going to fail and so forth. Add in some ups and downs. They will go through those until they reach the ultimate victory that you had in mind.

A more in-depth blog about writing fiction can be found here.

So that was the fourth idea.

Method of Writing

The fifth idea is to figure out your method for writing.

Now if you are pretty good at writing, just do regular writing. That is where you sit down and you write sentences and paragraphs and just keep going until you have your rough draft done.

There are some other methods, however, that you might want to consider. Some of these are even faster!

What method you use is up to you
What method you use is up to you

You can come up with a list of questions, and you can have someone interview you and record the interview. Then you could have it transcribed.

Another option is to speak your book: you could do a speech about each chapter and then have that transcribed. It’s not all that expensive to do nowadays.

In fact, there’s a program that is called Otter.ai. With that program, you can have a certain number of words per month transcribed for free. So you can speak your book and have it transcribed.

Using that method, you’ll have to clean it up because your written speech will be different from your spoken speech. But you can do that.

There’s also dictation software. When you do that, you speak your book but you do have to speak in the punctuation like commas and periods. Sometimes though, you can do a combination of both. I do this sometimes using dictation software. I will also use the return key instead of saying. “New line.”

Any way you choose to write is fine, just figure out what method you’re going to use to write your book.

So now you have figured out what kind of book you want to write. You’ve figured out a problem or problems to be solved, either in fiction or nonfiction. You’ve decided how you’re going to write.

Write Every Day

Now the key is to write every day except maybe Sunday or Saturday and Sunday. Figure out what your workdays are, and write each of those days.

There are two methods of doing this. The first one has time as the constant and the number of words is the variable.

So when time is the constant, you’ll set a timer and you write for a specified period of time, and when the timer goes off, you either put ellipses there or you hurriedly finish up your thought along that line.

Write every day.
Write every day.

Then you go to the next timed section. I have found great success in writing in five-minute segments, sometimes six-minute segments, and sometimes as much as 10-minute segments. Whatever time segment you use, just set a timer and write. I like this method.

The other method is to have the number of words as a constant. That means that time is going to be the variable. So if you have the number of words as a constant, then you know how many words per day you’re going to write. Are you going to write 500 words a day? 750 words a day? 1000 words a day? 2000 words a day? Maybe even 3250 words a day?

Figure that out and write that number of words every day.

Rough Draft

The next idea is to get the rough draft done. You can’t edit something unless you have something to edit.

Now for some people, writing the whole rough draft first just drives them crazy because they are really perfectionists, and they want to have a good product the first time. Well, the way to do that is to write quickly one day, the next day, start off going back over what you wrote the day before, and do the editing there. That will satisfy most people who really like editing as they go along.

After that, then you would have either your timed session or you would have your session where you’re going to complete your number of words.

But at any rate, get the rough draft done.

Edit and Publish

Once you’ve done that, you can get into the deeper edit. You can get in and put in more interest factors or you can get into tweaking it to your delight. Keep going till it turns out how you would have it to be.

So the final step is to edit it to the best of your ability or decide whether you want to hire an editor and have it done that way.

Edit and publish.

If you’re going to Self Publish then, of course, you’re at that step already. But if you are using a traditional publisher, you’re going to have a professional editor going over your book.

Even when you’re self-publishing many times you will want to hire an editor who will go over the book for you.

Summing it up
Summing it up

Here you have eight ideas for writing your first book.
Figure out what kind of book you want to write.
Figure out what length of book you want.
If your book is nonfiction present a problem, and come up with eight steps to the solution. It could be 6,7,9, or 10 but try for eight steps to the solution.
If it is fiction, you need a character who has a problem and meets the guide who challenges him or her to make a change and solve that problem. Include some obstacles along the way and then give your character the final victory.
Figure out your method for writing. Do you just sit down and write with just regular writing? Or is it better for you to maybe speak your book and have it transcribed? Or would it be good for you to learn how to use dictation software? Maybe you can think of another method that you could use to write your book. Then get a rough draft.
Finally, edit and publish.

The best resource for writing a book!
The best resource for writing a book!

Well, I hope these ideas have been helpful for you. For more tips on writing, go to my blog at www.randysblogs.com and look for the “writing” tab. For the best advice and resources, check out my book on Amazon: “How to Write a Book in 28 Days or Less Without Stressing Yourself to Death.”

Always remember, you can write a book!

Easter is Real! You Received the Gift. Now what?

Easter is real.

Sermon video

Saul, a man in the first century, had a problem. He thought he was right, but he wasn’t. He was sincerely deluded. He needed to change his mind, which is another way to describe repentance, and Saul needed to repent!

On his way to Damascus, Saul met a guide. The Lord Jesus Christ came into his heart. It actually knocked him off of his horse! Do you think that got his attention?

Attention Grabber

Sometimes God needs to get our attention
Sometimes God needs to get our attention

It’s kind of like the farmer who had the mule. He talked to his neighbor, also a farmer, and the neighbor said, “How do you get your mule to do what you want him to do?” The other farmer said, “You have to be gentle with him.” His neighbor said he’d give it a try. A few minutes later, the first farmer climbed up into his wagon and gave the mule the “go” command and snapped the reins. The animal just stood there. The farmer climbed down from his seat, grabbed a 2×4 and whacked the mule between the eyes. The neighbor, having seen all this, said, “I thought you said you had to be gentle with him.” The other farmer answered, “Yes, but you have to get his attention first.”

Saul/Paul

That’s the way it was with Saul as he was going along the road: God had to get his attention so He knocked Saul off of his horse. He was also struck blind and would not remember that day, nor the next two.

A man named Ananias had gotten a word from the Lord that God had been working in Saul’s life so he came and prayed for him. Saul’s blindness was taken away.

The beginning of a new life!
The beginning of a new life!

That day, Saul’s name was changed to Paul. He was the apostle Paul and was to be Jesus’ messenger to the Gentiles. The word apostle means a messenger. Think of it as our modern-day missionaries.

Easter is Real!

I know sometimes we’re told the history of the word “Easter” has to do with Ishtar and pagan religions. But that is NOT what we worship. Christians redeemed the day. They took a festival that was not honoring to God and decided to turn it into a celebration of Jesus. That’s why we celebrate the resurrection when we do.

For those of us who are Christians, that overshadows the former pagan celebrations. Even those who are students of history, when they hear the word “Easter,” the first thing that comes to mind is the celebration of the resurrection.

Christmas also had pagan festivals going on during that time. The church came in and decided to remember the birth of Jesus. Although they didn’t know when He was born, they knew that he was born, so they decided to use that day to remember His birth and the reason for it. God became flesh. That is the meaning of the word Emmanuel: God in the flesh.

Easter is real because it reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Luke 24:4-7

While they were greatly perplexed concerning this, suddenly two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 As they were afraid and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ ”

That’s Easter. That’s why we celebrate. Because of that, we can understand that we have sinned, that we need a Savior, and Jesus offers a gift.

Matthew 28:5-6

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay

That’s why we worship. That’s why we worship on Sunday: the first day of the week. It’s the day when Jesus was resurrected. Easter is a remembrance of the resurrection for us. It’s a reminder of what Jesus did for us.

Facts!

There is a lot of proof of the resurrection of Jesus. The angel told the women to see where He had been. Peter and John went later and looked. (John 20:4) They all saw the empty grave clothes.

He appeared to the disciples twice, once when Thomas wasn’t with them, and again when he was.

Thomas had said that he needed to see the nail prints in His hands, and touch the wound in His side. But when Thomas saw the risen Savior, he knelt down and said, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:24-28)

Easter is real
Several saw the empty tomb

So you have the empty tomb, seen by many people. Several people who knew Jesus well testified to the fact that He was no longer in the tomb, He indeed is alive!

You’ve Received the Gift

You received the gift.

Saul met the living Christ, and the living Christ called him to action and he was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles. He received the gift.

The gift is there because Jesus paid the penalty. You and I are all under the penalty of death. The penalty is being separated from God. If you end this life in that state, you will stay that way forever. That’s why it’s so important for everyone in this life to understand that salvation is a free gift. Accept it now!

The greatest gift of all!
The greatest gift of all!

If you’ve accepted the gift, even in the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for you know that God is with you. His rod and staff will comfort you. (Psalm 23:4)

Any Christians who have faced death, if it had come, we would have just slipped on over into Glory. It’s a wonderful thing to know that!

Jesus offers the gift, and you receive it by faith. You come as a little child and receive it by faith.

But then, what happens? You have joy and hope for the future, but something happens in that moment.

Now What?

What happens now?
What happens now?

2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new.

Christ came into your life. You have new things happening; some that you may not understand. You have new desires.

The Bible tells us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)

There are 2 different ways of looking at that verse. One way is that we have certain things that we would like, or desire. We would ask our Heavenly Father for those things and He would not turn us away, He loves us, He delights in us, and He gives us what we desire.

But sometimes, our desires change. What we wanted before we don’t want anymore because we delight ourselves in the Lord and He gives us the desires of our heart.

I think both of those are true. You can find scriptures that tell you that if you pray and ask God for things, he will give them to you. (Matthew 7:7-8)

God will make you new.
God will make you new.

God comes in and works in our hearts. He makes a new creature out of us, and there is a change that comes into our lives. The change may be in our attitudes, our speech, our actions, or where we go. We may have immediate victory over something.

I know a man who was heavily addicted to cocaine. He prayed for God to remove the desire for the drug away, and even after several years, that man’s desire is still gone!

I know others who suffered with addiction, and the Lord came into their lives, but they still struggled with the addiction. They endured and struggled through the addiction. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

I don’t know how God chooses how He does what He does, but I do know that sometimes He wants us to learn something. He wants us to grow and not be exalted above measure.

Paul had an affliction; the Bible doesn’t tell us what it was. He called a “thorn in his flesh” he asked 3 times for the Lord to remove it, and God chose not to. Paul may have wondered why. He came to the conclusion that it was so he would not be exalted above measure. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Easter is real. You received the gift.

Come As You Are

You can come just as you are. You don’t have to go out and make amends to people you have wronged and then come. You can come right away, just as you are, but you won’t leave the same. If you really meet Christ, you won’t leave the same as you came. There will be a change.

For some, it’s a dramatic change. For some, it’s less. But no matter what, there is a change, because you have met the living Lord. You’ll begin to experience the change as you travel along in your Christian walk.

Easter is real. You received the gift. Now what?

Realize that there is a change going on and you need to nurture the new creature that you are becoming.

How do you do that?

In order to grow, you must be fed.
In order to grow, you must be fed.

Well, if you’re a baby in Christ, you need to be fed. How do babes in Christ get fed? By the Word of God. That’s how Jesus speaks to us. We allow Him to speak to us and we listen to Him. Not only that, though.

We have the wonderful privilege of speaking to God. Some new Christians may be unsure about prayer. They’ve never done it before and aren’t really sure how to do it.

Praying in public is one thing. But you need to find a quiet place where it’s just you and God, where you can talk to Him. If you’re mad, tell Him that! He can handle it, and may just come back and straighten you out. Ask Him for help. Just talk to God.

Some people use Elizabethan English in their prayers. It’s beautiful and from the heart. Even though I’ve been a “man of the cloth” for many years, I just speak to God using my regular words. It doesn’t matter if you use big, flowery words or simple ones. Just speak to Him in a way that is meaningful to you.

Acts 1:1-8

This passage was written after the resurrection. It’s believed it is Luke who wrote this because it’s addressed to a man named Theophilus and the Gospel of Luke mentions a man of the same name. (Luke 1:3)

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up, after He had given commandments (one of which was 18 Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. {Matthew 28:18-20}) through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He presented Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, appearing to them for forty days, and speaking concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Being assembled with them, He commanded them, “Do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, of which you have heard from Me.[a] 5 For John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. 6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the dates, which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Easter is real! Jesus rose from the grave. He conquered death. You received the gift by faith. Then you began to grow in Him and He makes a new creature out of you. Be sure to talk to God and listen to Him.

Go and Tell

Then He said “When the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be My witnesses.”

Go and tell someone what the Lord has done for you. That’s the very next step after receiving that gift.

Tell people what God has done for you.
Tell people what God has done for you.

Many times, we will receive the gift of salvation in church, so that’s easy. People will go forward at the end of the service and pray, and will either say themselves that they’ve accepted the Lord, or ask the pastor to do it for them.

Everyone in the congregation rejoices. But it’s not only them. The angels in Heaven rejoice as well. (Luke 15:10)

Go and tell someone! One of our grandchildren once called us, excited to tell us that they had accepted the Lord. I’m so thankful for that.

Baptism

The next step, after telling someone…or everyone…is to be baptized. That’s a symbol of the change that has taken place in you. It’s representative of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. You were buried with Him, and rose again to walk in newness of life.

The Holy Spirit

The Bible says that when you receive Christ, you receive the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 12, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13) The apostles received it on the day of Pentecost. There was a Great Power that came through them. (Acts 2:1-3) Christ will empower you to tell your story to others.

You have friends who don’t know this wonderful Truth that you know. You can tell them, in your own words, that Easter is real. Tell them that there was a time in your life when you didn’t know Christ, and then you came to Him and the story of what that was like for you. Tell them how it’s been different, how God made a new creature out of you.

Go and tell someone what the Lord has done.

The apostle Paul changed his name (to Paul, the Greek version of Saul) since he was going to preach to the Gentiles. He faced many obstacles. The persecutor became the persecuted. At the end of his life, he wrote, “I have fought a good fight. I’m ready to be delivered.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8) The day came, and Paul went to be with Jesus.

Paul changed his future destination.
Paul changed his future destination.

Paul avoided the terrible destination that he was formerly headed to.

As Saul, he really thought he was doing what God wanted him to do. He thought he really knew the Father. But Jesus said if you really know the Father, you would know Me. If you really knew the Scriptures, you would know who I am. (John 14:7-14)

Saul/Paul was changed and successfully established many churches. Many say that he’s one of the greatest preachers who ever lived. When his life ended, he entered into Heaven and eternity and met the One who knocked him off his horse on the way to Damascus. He met Him and got to talk to Him. Maybe he thanked God for getting his attention.

It’s Your Turn

You can meet Him today!
You can meet Him today!

Have you ever accepted Jesus as you Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, I invite you to do that today. You can reach me at the contact information on this blog and I will be happy to tell you how. The Bible says that if you, by faith, receive Him, you will become a new creation.

The Surprising Foundation for America

Thomas had to prepare another sermon for another midweek service. He had the intimidation that came with having to do something at least once a week, and sometimes more than once weekly.

Sermon video

Every preacher will know what I’m talking about. Sometimes the hardest thing to discern is what God wants us to talk about.

There’s an old joke that says every preacher knows what it’s like to be sitting on the front row on Sunday morning, flipping through a songbook, trying to find a sermon.

First of all, that’s the wrong book to be flipping through. Although, I have gotten a sermon from a song sometimes.

Thomas' dilemma
Thomas’ dilemma

But Thomas was working on the sermon and was able to go to the guide. The guide of course is the Scriptures. Like he had done many times in the past, Moses was going to guide Thomas. God called him to apply the scripture for the midweek service, not the (as we think of it) big Sunday service.
Thomas probably thought, “I just have to try to get through it.” So, he spoke on Deuteronomy chapter 1.

The Surprising Foundation for America


But what came as a result of this was the surprising foundation for the United States of America. Not only did he find something that would help him have the midweek sermon, but he also found something that would affect the United States of America.

The surprising foundation for America
The surprising foundation for America

As you read on, you’ll realize that Thomas was going to be instrumental in the establishment of a town. You’ll also see the significance of the scripture from Deuteronomy that he spoke on in that midweek service; not only in Moses’ time but also in Thomas’ time and our time. The fact is that this sermon that he came up with contained the surprising foundation for America.

So Thomas went into the book of Deuteronomy, the first chapter, and focused on verse 13.

The Significance in Moses’ Time

Before getting into the scripture, let me give you the back story.

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, had asked what Moses did all day. He went on to observe the day-to-day work that Moses did. He would go to a tent, and the people would line up and, from morning to evening, bring him their problems and disputes that they had with their brethren. Moses spent all day judging those matters.

Jethro was able to tell Moses that what he was doing wasn’t good. He said Moses was going to wear himself out. (Exodus 18:13-18) I’ve heard people say, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” But, either way, you’re out.

God will give you discernment in learning how to balance your life so you can continue to minister for another day.

That’s what Jethro advised Moses to do. He told Moses that he needed to get some help. That’s exactly what Moses did. (Exodus 18:19-26) He wasn’t able to bear all the complaints and problems, so he chose wise people to come and help. If the matter was more difficult, the people would be sent to Moses. He heeded the word of his father-in-law, and God allowed it to be good.

That’s what Moses was talking about beginning in verse 9 of Deuteronomy chapter 1.

In verse 10, Moses makes mention of the number of Israelites. Conservative estimates say that there were between 1.5 and 2 million people making the trek through the wilderness.

Although he doesn’t yet know it, Moses is coming to the end of his life. He may have felt it but didn’t know it. He knew that Joshua was going to be his successor, and wanted the situation to be good when he handed it over to him. In verses 11 and 12, Moses says, “May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times more numerous and bless you, just as He has promised you! How can I myself bear your load and your burden and your strife?”

When Jethro first suggested that Moses get some help, Moses was able to choose the people on his own, because he knew them all. Now, the Nation had grown so large that he wasn’t able to make the decisions on his own. That’s why, in verse 13, he said, “Choose wise, discerning, and knowing men, among your tribes, and I will appoint them as leaders over you.”

Deuteronomy 1:13
Deuteronomy 1:13

This is something that has become the foundation for the United States. It has made us one of the greatest countries in the world. It has made us one of the happier countries in the world because we focus on freedom: The freedom of people being able to choose our own leaders.

So Moses told the Israelites to choose “wise, discerning, knowing men” and he would confirm them as leaders.

In verses 14-17a, Moses goes on to say, “You answered me, and said, ‘The thing which you have said is good for us to do. So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and well-known men, and appointed them as leaders over you, leaders over thousands, and leaders over hundreds, and leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens, and officers among your tribes. I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the issues between your countrymen and judge righteously between every man and his fellow countryman, and the foreigner that is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment, but you shall hear the small as well as the great. You shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s.’”

This is how it works when you have a proper judge. He (or she) seeks the wisdom of God. We know that there are unjust judges because, in the New Testament, Jesus spoke of one. (Luke 18:1-8)

But here, Moses said how they are to be great. Verses 17-18 say, “’ You shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring it to me, and I will hear it. At that time, I commanded you all the things you should do.’”

Moses was going to wear himself out. His father-in-law told him he needed to divide up the responsibility and have the other leaders find capable men to take care of things. Then, it was getting too large for Moses to go himself and pick out men from the different tribes so he spoke to each of the tribes and said, “You get together, you choose people; honorable and noblemen, and then I will appoint them (so he still had final say) as leaders over you.”

Moses led the children of Israel through the desert for 40 years.
Moses led the children of Israel through the desert for 40 years.

What you see here in this passage of scripture is the basis of a phrase that’s used in the U.S. and not much anywhere else in the world. It’s called the consent of the governed.

In the United States, we have the privilege of being able to choose our leaders. We have the privilege of being able to elect representatives who are supposed to represent us and make good, righteous, Godly laws. That doesn’t always happen, but we can at least make an attempt.

We have the choice to allow people to stay in power or not.

Moses was setting up the system of government with instructions for judges. He did that to help himself and also to help Joshua, who would succeed him.

The Significance in Thomas’ Time

Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker

Let’s go back to Thomas. He is an actual person in American history. His name was Thomas Hooker. He was a preacher. In fact, he was deemed to be one of the best preachers of the 17th century.

Thomas’ background was: he was born in 1586 in England. He went to Cambridge University. Many early leaders of the United States went to Cambridge, came over to the US, and were preachers who formed the basis for the United States of America.

Some people want us to forget that. Some people want us to cancel that out of our minds. Some people want to shout about the separation of church and state. Well, the phrase separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.

In fact, the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion. It gives us the freedom to exercise our religion. If someone were to say you could only meet together during church services, that is a violation of that right. That is not free exercise.

Perhaps I want to go visit a Christian friend at his home and have a Bible study. That’s free exercise. But if someone tells us we can’t do that, it’s not the free exercise of religion.

Thomas Hooker became a pastor. If you recall, the Church of England had pulled out of the Roman Catholic Church. Many preachers and Bible scholars saw that as an opportunity to return the church to the principles of God’s Word. It was called the Reformation during that time. They were trying to reform the Church of England.

Some of them thought it would take too long, so they began to form small congregations in different areas. It was like forming several small independent Baptist churches, or several Churches of God. There was no hierarchy dictating what they could and could not do. Those people were called Separatists, but they were part of the Puritans.

Puritans
Puritans

There was another group that decided to be patient and change the church from within. The ones who tried that often ran into trouble.

Both groups began to get pressure from the government. They didn’t want them to be out from under their control, so they had to flee.

In the case of Thomas Hooker, he fled to Holland. It’s said that he had to disguise himself in order to leave. But, he and his family, like many others, got on a ship and came to America.

They came to a place where they had the opportunity to worship God according to the dictates of their hearts. It was a blank slate, a new land. It was a time of opportunity to figure out new ways to do things and ways to govern fairly. Aren’t you glad?

Now, I may have fictionalized the part about Thomas having the consternation about the sermon, but it absolutely was a midweek service. It absolutely was based on Deuteronomy 1:13. That verse, again, says, “Choose wise, discerning, and knowing men, among your tribes, and I will appoint them as leaders over you.”

Hartford, Connecticut today
Hartford, Connecticut today

In 1633, Thomas became a pastor near Cambridge, Massachusetts. Three years later, he, his wife, and 100 men from their congregation went south to establish a town. You’ve probably heard of it: It’s called Hartford, Connecticut.

The midweek service was in 1638 and he found the passage of scripture. I don’t know if he had a manuscript of the sermon, but if he did, it did not survive the passage of time. There was a man who took notes and had 13 short paragraphs. It is said that he took notes in shorthand. The note taker was Henry Wolcott, Jr. He wrote out the key points of Thomas’ sermon.

The first one was, “The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.”

The second one: “The privilege of election which belongs to the people must not be exercised according to their whims but according to the blessed will and law of God.”

Number three: “Those who have power to appoint officers and magistrates have it in their power also to set the bounds and limits of the power and places unto which they call them.”

Four: “Because the foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people.”

So, they decided they were going to establish the government of Hartford, Connecticut, and use the above principles in doing so.

Just a year later, in January 1639, they began setting up the constitution for Connecticut. These principles, “the consent of the governed:”, and the subsequent constitution paved the way for other colonies as they were establishing their constitutions.

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

Later, those same principles were the foundation for the establishment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Today, Connecticut is known as “The Constitution State.”

That midweek service changed the course of history.

The Significance in Our Time

This is not only a piece of our history. It’s significant in our time as well.

We have the importance of free and fair elections. No one has to know how you vote. We still have secret ballots.

While some in power may overstep their authority, we do still have the consent of the governed.

We vote for judges, among other offices
We vote for judges, among other offices

During a mandated business shut down, one of the local restaurants where I like to go for coffee shut down for a brief period. The next time I checked, they had a sign on the door stating that they were going to remain open and gave the number of their attorney. I’m thankful that they chose to stand their ground against over-reaching governmental interference.

You may be thinking, “Aren’t Christians supposed to be good citizens? Aren’t we supposed to be obedient to authority?”

YES!

We are supposed to be obedient to legitimate authority over us. We do not have to be under the hands of tyrants or tyranny. I hope that we have the strength of character to stand. The Bible says, “…having done all to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13b)
We have the freedom to be able to disagree. We should have the freedom to be able to disagree and debate.

There is the force of medical things. It’s amazing to me that I can turn on the TV and see an advertisement for some drug. The commercial will begin to expound on all the benefits of the medication being advertised and that will go on for about 30 seconds. Then, all at once, a laundry list of possible side effects will begin playing.

It should be a choice.
It should be a choice.

Now we have a drug that is authorized for emergency use, and we ought to have the right to decide whether or not we want to take it. There are a plethora of problems with this drug that we’ve not been told about.

The CDC website says that people have been permanently disabled, over 150,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,000 miscarriages as a result of this new medication.

It all comes back to the consent of the governed.

We live in a free land, and a free country

I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’m concerned about what we allow to start happening.

A man was camping in the Arabian desert. After he got set up and started to relax, he heard a noise outside the tent. He looked and saw a camel loitering outside. He shooed the camel away, but soon it was back. He did this again and again but finally got tired of getting up. He allowed the animal to just put his head inside. He patted the camel’s nose, and before long, the whole camel was inside the tent.

To keep the camels out of the tent, it’s going to take people who have the courage to stand.

So, let’s stand for freedom. Let’s stand for the Constitution. It’s not a perfect document as it was written by imperfect men, but notice the foundations from scripture that were put into the early constitutions. Let’s be careful when our liberties are in danger.

Corrie Ten Boom had her liberties taken away and spent time in a concentration camp. She was freed as a result of a clerical error. Later on, she came face to face with one of her captors.

Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie Ten Boom

She had gone to church after church speaking about forgiveness. The man approached her and she recognized him and knew she had said that she had to forgive. He told her that he had been a guard where she was imprisoned. He said that God had forgiven him, and he asked if she could as well. Fighting her personal will, she reached out her hand to shake his, and she felt the forgiveness come.

I hope that we never get to the place where we would be taken captive. We have the consent of the governed. It’s been said that we’ve been given a republic, it’s up to us to keep it.

The fundamental ideas of Connecticut, inspired by the words of Deuteronomy 13:1, preached by Thomas Hooker, said in it’s opening preamble, “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess…”

The Most Important Consent

You and I may debate some topics, and we may not always agree, but there is one area where it’s important that the consent of the governed takes place: That is, that God loved us so much that He gave His Son so we could be forgiven of our sins. He gave His Son so that we could experience salvation.

When we accept that free gift of salvation, we accept Jesus as One who is the Lord and Ruler of the universe. He has the right to rule and reign in all our lives. When we become His child, we consent to be governed by Him.

The most important consent to being governed is to consent to be governed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Allow yourself to be governed by Christ
Allow yourself to be governed by Christ

If you’ve never accepted Him as your Savior, I invite you to come to Christ today. As I’ve mentioned before, the gift is free. You can receive it by faith. When you do, you will become a new creature. Your life will be changed. The former things have passed away.

Some of the things you liked before, you won’t like anymore. Some of the things you didn’t like before you will begin to like. Some of your friends may not like the changes taking place in your life and you may lose some of them. It’s OK because the best friend you could have is Jesus.

The best decision you could make is to place yourself under His authority and allow your life to be governed by Him.

If you want to know how to accept that free gift, please use the contact information on this blog page to reach out to me. I would be thrilled to help you.

Triumph to Tragedy to Glory!


In my last post, I talked about Triumph to tragedy to what? “Victory” is what all of us who know the Lord want to say.
Today I’m talking about triumph to tragedy to glory.

Sermon video

Luke 24:1-12


24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were greatly perplexed concerning this, suddenly two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 As they were afraid and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered His words.
9 And they returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 But their words seemed like fables to them, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves. He departed, wondering in himself what had happened.

John

John was a passenger in the car. They had been up quite a while, and it was dark. He began to doze off, then he’d raise up. Then he’d doze off again, and then sit up again. Then, all at once, he heard a gasp from the driver, and then it became sort of a shriek. John woke up and saw that they were quickly approaching a tree. He saw the windshield shatter before his eyes. After that…something happened.

You never know...
You never know…

Previous Blog Post

Today I want to talk about the triumph first, the tragedy, and then the glory. In my last blog, I talked about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That was a wonderful thing. The crowd cried, “Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!”

Accused and Tried


But He knew the rest of the week was going to be different, and it was. It became a tragedy.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was taken before the High Priest where a fake trial was held. He was found guilty of blasphemy. They did not have the legal authority to put Him to death, which was their ultimate goal. So, they took Him before Pilate, who was a representative of the Roman government.

Pilate completed his investigation and said he found no fault in Jesus’ actions. He washed his hands and said he was “innocent of this man’s blood.”
The crowd cried out and said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children!”
Pilate said, “Yes! His blood WILL be on you, and on your children.” Then he caved to the pressure, turned, and gave the order to crucify Jesus.

Scourged and Crucified

So, they took Jesus and hung Him on a cross between two thieves. It was an innocent man hanging between two definite criminals.


It wasn’t just a man, however. People had seen Him perform miracles. Although they understood that He was fully man, fully human, He was also the divine Son of God.

Jesus was whipped before being crucified.
Jesus was whipped before being crucified.


Before being nailed to the cross, he had been whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails. His flesh was torn from his body and hung in ribbons. One scripture says that it couldn’t be recognized as human flesh. It was the most horrific physical suffering we could imagine. It was so graphic that one movie that was made about the crucifixion had to receive an “R” rating due to the violence. Even though that depiction was awful, the reality was even worse.

More Than Physical Suffering


As bad as the physical suffering was, He also suffered spiritually. He who knew no sin became sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21). The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and that’s what Jesus did…He died. Because He was the Son of God, His death was different from any other death.

There is more than one kind of death

We’re all aware of physical death. That’s what we see at funerals. But there’s also spiritual death. It’s much deeper. It’s when we’re separated from God. But you don’t have to be separated from God because Jesus died the death that we deserve. We don’t have to be separated from God. He offers it as a free gift to mankind. I pray that if you’ve never accepted that gift you would do it before this day is over.

A Different Kind of Death

A lot of people die, but their death doesn’t count to me. Of all the funerals I’ve attended, those people’s death didn’t count to me. But because Jesus was the Son of God, His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for all of our sins. He didn’t have to pay the penalty for His sins because He had none. The only way He could “have” sin was for it to be taken from us and, in a way I don’t understand, be placed on Him. So, He became sin and suffered the ultimate penalty of death.

Confused Spiritually?


If you’re in a spiritual state of confusion and you wonder where you are, the thing you need to do most is to not leave that up to doubt and come to Christ. It’s the same answer whether you don’t know Him or you do.

Regardless of your previous church experience, do you know that you know if you were like John in that car wreck, you would go to Glory? If you don’t, there’s no need for you to be in that state. Before this day is over, you can get in contact with me via this blog and I will pray with you. Your prayer is how you will receive the gift. You can go to sleep tonight knowing for sure!

Glory!


So, it’s tragedy to triumph to what can be glory. In the case of Jesus, it was, indeed, glory. The scripture above tells the story.

The women were going to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body with oils and spices. They were concerned because they knew there was a large stone blocking the entrance and wondered who would roll the stone away. It is believed that it weighed between one and a half and two tons.

The stone had already been rolled away!
The stone had already been rolled away!


It turned out that they didn’t need to worry. When they arrived at the tomb of Jesus, two angels were there and had rolled the stone away.

The Bible tells us that there were Roman guards as well as temple guards watching the tomb. History says it may have been as many as 16 in total. Four at a time would stand at the mouth of the tomb while the others would patrol the rest of the area around it.

They took turns guarding the entrance so no one would fall asleep. If one did happen to fall asleep, the sentence was usually death.

The Rest of the Story


In order to get the whole story, it’s necessary to read all 4 of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). But the Bible tells us that a great earthquake came and the guards were “like dead men” – they were asleep. They didn’t even see the stone rolled away.


After Jesus rose from the dead, those who wanted Him crucified went to the Roman guards and instructed them to tell people that the disciples had come and stolen the body. The guards feared that they would be put to death, but the Jewish leaders assured them that they had great influence and would pay off the leaders to save the Roman soldiers from execution.


That’s the story that was circulated. But, that’s not what happened. Jesus did die, and He was in that tomb, but He rose again, victorious over death.

Jesus is victorious over death.
Jesus is victorious over death.


When the women went and told the disciples, Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first, and when Peter arrived, he looked inside, and then he went in. He found the grave clothes lying in a pile. But the napkin that had covered His face was folded by itself. (John20:7) Jesus had been dead, but now He was alive! It was unimaginable!

Miracles


They’d seen all kinds of things that defied the mind of man. There was the time when 5,000 men, plus women and children, needed to be fed. A collection was taken up, and they got 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish. Jesus was able to feed that entire crowd with that, plus leftovers!


Another time, the disciples were out in a boat. There was a storm on the water. They looked off in the distance and saw Jesus walking on the water. It defies the mind of man. How could He do these things? He was God in the flesh!


But the greatest miracle of all had just taken place. Jesus died, willingly laying down His life. They did not take it from Him. It was His choice. Then, He rose Himself from the dead with the power of the Father.

Proof


To make sure that we “got” it, He appeared to the disciples. The first time He did that, Thomas wasn’t with them. The others tried to tell him that they’d seen the risen Savior, but he refused to believe until he could put his hand in Jesus’ side where the spear had pierced Him and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet (John 20:24).


The next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was with them. Jesus turned to Thomas, who fell at His feet and cried, “My Lord and my God.”


He arose victorious!


So, you have the triumph of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection.
Think about John. The windshield shattered in front of him. He heard a loud crash. He was about to go through the windshield, but all at once, there was no pain, just comfort. There was bright light all around. Angels? Maybe. I know this: it was good. His body was mangled and would have to be buried.
Triumph to tragedy to glory.

Your Gift

Jesus offers you a free gift.
Jesus offers you a free gift.


That is how it would be if you’ve accepted the Lord’s free gift of salvation. Isn’t it a wonderful and marvelous thing?

We can’t do enough to be good enough. We can’t do enough to make up for all the wrongs that we’ve done in the past. We can’t do enough to erase all the resentments we’ve had in the past. We can’t take care of it ourselves. But Jesus did. He paid it all.


For those who accept His free gift, it doesn’t matter if they die in a car wreck or if sickness ravages their health, they will go on to Glory.

Paradise


Jesus was crucified between two thieves. We know that after He died, He went to what He described as paradise.

Jesus was hung between 2 common criminals.
Jesus was hung between 2 common criminals.

The thief who was crucified next to Him said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The other thief reviled Jesus but the first one said, “He (Jesus) is innocent. You and I are guilty.” Jesus turned to the first one and said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)


So, Jesus rose again. He arose in a body that could be recognized. When He appeared to His disciples, they knew who He was.

More Proof

He asked them for some fish, and they gave it to Him and He ate it (Luke 24:41-43). That showed that it was a physical body, not just a spirit. It wasn’t a mass hallucination, it wasn’t a hologram, it was a physical body. The disciples saw it.

Two people were walking on the road to Emmaus and Jesus appeared to them and walked with them for a while. It took them some time, but they finally figured out who He was and recognized Him.

They recalled how He spoke about the Old Testament prophecies and how they pointed to Jesus coming, dying, and rising again. They asked, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while He talked to us…” (Luke 24:13-35)

Because He disappeared from their sight. Yes, it was a physical body but it did some amazing things. He walked through walls, appeared inside, and appeared inside.

Our Hope


He is the first fruit of the resurrection. That’s why you and I can know that when we face death, we’ll rise again, just like Jesus did. We’ll have a new body.


John entered into Glory. What can it be for us?

We will have a resurrected body someday. It will be like the body that was described of Jesus. It will be amazing.

Healing Still Happens


Just think about all the pain and suffering that you see people going through. Sometimes, God will take someone who has a terrible illness and He will heal them.

When Jesus was on Earth, they saw it all the time. Now, it happens in answer to prayer. Healing on Earth doesn’t happen for everyone, and some people get hung up on that.

God still heals
God still heals


But I know that sometimes, God does things that amaze the medical community. I know people have had imaging done, and on those images there are tumors. Then they go back to the doctor and more imaging is done and the medical staff says they can’t explain it, but the tumors are gone! That does happen sometimes. God does that.

What Does Your Future Hold?


But, the simple fact of the matter is, unless Jesus comes back, we’re all going to die at some point. After this will be the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). If you’ve accepted that free gift of salvation, you just sail right on through. If not, you don’t have that promise.


So will it be triumph to tragedy to glory or will it be triumph to tragedy to worse tragedy? Those are the only two options we have.

New Bodies


The Bible says that when Jesus comes back, the dead in Christ will rise first, and those of us who are Christians and are still alive will be caught up with Him in the air and will forever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17)


Those bodies are going to be fully realized, resurrected bodies just like Jesus has. What happens between now and then? I don’t have all the answers, but we know some things from scripture.

A Conscious Experience


One thing is: The thief who was on the cross next to Jesus was later with Jesus in a conscious experience.

We know that Jesus talked about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Jesus said that they died, and the rich man, being in torment in conscious existence, lifted up his eyes and saw that Lazarus was being comforted. (Luke 16:19-31)

We Will Be With Jesus


Between now and when the Lord comes back and the bodies are brought out of the grave, something happens, but I don’t know what.


What I do know for sure is that God is good and Jesus is good. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) Whatever “state” that is, it will be wonderful!

Then when the Lord comes back and we rise with Him and “pick up” our resurrected bodies, we’ll be free from pain and disease. The more time that passes, the more I understand that and am thankful for it. There will be no more pain, crying, sorrow, or death. (Revelation 21:4)


I’ve talked about the triumphal entry, the tragedy of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, but the glory of His resurrection!

Do You Know That You Know?


The story of John is based on actual events. There have been people who were in car wrecks and lost their lives. But because they had accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, they entered into Glory. For the ones who hadn’t done that, it’s more tragic.


Earlier, I asked the question, “Do you know that you know?”. It’s not about being self-righteous and thinking “I’m going to Heaven because I’m so good.” No one is good enough without Jesus. If you want the Biblical description of our own “goodness”, it says our good deeds are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) It is the same for all of us.


So, if you can’t get to Heaven based on your own goodness, how do you get there? It’s based on the goodness of God.

As I’ve said before, the wages of sin are death. Every one of us has sinned. We became sinners by choice. We rebelled against a holy God and wanted to go our own way. We all deserve death. That’s why Jesus died.

His Death is Sufficient


He died, and it is sufficient for all of us. That’s why it is the gift of salvation. We didn’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. But we do have to accept it.

$100

Would you accept it?
Would you accept it?


Imagine if I had a $100 bill for each person reading this. Imagine if I offered one to you. Maybe someone reading this works for a bank and wants to verify the authenticity of the bills.

After examination, our banker friend confirms that they are genuine $100 bills. Now, all you have to do is come and get it. It’s all been proven to be real. Are you going to accept it?


A little boy with no inhibitions may run and get the first one. There may be some who will scoff at the offer, and insist that the bills are counterfeit, stay where they are, and miss out on the gift.

Good News


Here is a free gift. It’s called the Gospel. The word “gospel” means good news. It’s unbelievable for some. They may say, “God wouldn’t accept me.” The unbelievable news is that your sin has already been paid for. Salvation is there. Will you come and get it?


How do you do that? By faith. The Bible says the word of faith is near you, even in your heart. If you believe that Jesus died and rose again. (Romans 10:8,9) That’s exactly what I’m talking about here.

Faith


That’s what Easter is all about: That Jesus died and rose on the third day. If you believe that these things are fact, you are very close to salvation. The word of faith is near you. That’s the doctrine.

Child-like faith
Child-like faith

The other thing you need to do is, with child-like faith, come to Jesus and say, “It’s almost beyond belief that I could be saved. It’s almost beyond belief that You would love me that much. It’s almost beyond belief, God, that You would give Your Son for me. But it’s true, and I believe it.” You’re SO close!


The Bible says that all who received Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God. (John 1:12) To get the $100, you have to receive it!
Many will come and receive it, but some will say, “There’s some catch to it. I don’t believe it.”

Facts


That’s the reality of it. That’s a fact of history. There was a man named Jesus who performed miracles. There is eyewitness testimony of them!

There are eyewitnesses who saw Him alive after he was crucified.

The disciples all saw the resurrected Jesus.

There were 500 people at one time that saw Him after the resurrection.

These are all facts of history.


It changed the disciples’ lives. In fact, they all gave their lives for Christ, because they believed they would live again.

You Can Have the Glory!


You just have to believe it by faith. Come and confess your sins and call upon the Lord. The Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) That’s how you walk up and get the $100.


If you’ve never been saved or if you’re not sure about your salvation, the answer is the same. If you have some doubt and aren’t sure if you ever really accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, or if you know you never have, the answer is the same.

Invite Christ into your heart and life
Invite Christ into your heart and life

It’s all about Jesus & His death. It is because of what He’s done that we can be sure! Not for any other reason.


If you’ve come to a point in your life where you’ve wandered away from God, just go back to Him. Follow the Lord and He will come into your heart and life. It will be tragedy to glory!

Tragedy to Triumph to What?

Many good stories tell of someone going to a high point, then plummeting to a low point. Hopefully, they rise again. A lot of times, they rise even better than before.

Sermon video

You may have heard of Dave Ramsey. He became a millionaire at a young age, but then he lost it all. He managed to claw his way out and once he did, he made a vow that he would never be in debt again. Since then, he’s become a financial advisor and helped many people overcome financial struggles. He has a book called “The Total Money Makeover,” and has a course called “Financial Peace University”

Not all stories have happy endings, however. That’s a tragedy.

Today, I want to discuss three such stories today. The first one is from history, the second one is about our Nation, and the third is about our own personal history.

Matthew 21:1-11

21 When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go over into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them.’ And he will send them immediately.” All this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion ‘Look, your King is coming to you, humble, and sitting on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their garments on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their garments on the road. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him cried out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He entered Jerusalem, the entire city was moved, saying, “Who is He?” 11 The crowds said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

In Luke, this account says that some of the Pharisees were angry at what the crowd was saying and told Jesus to rebuke them. Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you, if these should be silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:28-40)

Jesus accepted the praise of the people, as was His right. He was God in the flesh.

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Triumph

The triumphal entry as it is sometimes called, or Palm Sunday, was a great day. But we know that it wouldn’t continue. The celebrating would end. The week would go downhill after that.

Tragedy

One of Jesus’ disciples betrayed Him, and He was falsely accused and arrested. He was taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and accused of blasphemy. Caiaphas didn’t have the power, legally, to put Him to death, so He was taken to the Roman authorities, a man named Pilate. Even though Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he allowed himself to be swayed by the crowd.

First Pilate thought that the crowd would be satisfied if he had Jesus scourged with an instrument called a cat-o-nine tails. He did so, and the flesh was ripped from Jesus’ body. The Bible says it was unrecognizable as human flesh.

That was not good enough for the Jewish leaders. They continued to incite the crowd. Pilate said he would release Jesus to the crowd, but, at the urging of their religious leaders, they said, “We have no king but Caesar. Give us Barabbas!”

The death of Jesus was seen as a tragedy by his followers.
The death of Jesus was seen as a tragedy by his followers.

Barabbas the murderer was set free, and Jesus was taken to Calvary and crucified. The wages of sin is death, and on the cross, Jesus truly died for our sins. He took our penalty upon Himself and He paid it.

All of His disciples, not just Peter, forsook Him and fled. It was a dark time in history.

Glorious Victory!

It was a dark Friday, but Sunday was coming! We saw the triumphal entry, the tragedy of death, and then what? The victory of the resurrection. Death could not hold Him and He rose on the third day.

The tomb is empty!

That is history. The two other stories are still being played out.

The United States of America

God brought our forefathers to this Nation and has protected us. Many good things have happened throughout our history.

In my sermons, I’ve been referring to a book called “100 Bible Verses that Made America” by Robert Morgan. One of the verses I spoke about was John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

In the 1630s, many people were fleeing England and the Church of England. The church had already separated itself from the Catholic church. Many people wanted to reform the church as it had become abusive.

Reforming the Church of England

There were two schools of thought on how to reform the church. One group said it was too far gone, and they needed to, more or less, start over with new people. The group wanted to gather like-minded believers together and practice Christianity as they felt the Scriptures instructed.

The other group was reluctant to leave the main church. For whatever reason, they wanted to stay and reform it from within.

Both groups angered some people and were persecuted. The ones that pulled away from the Church of England were persecuted for doing that, and there were power struggles with the group that chose to stay. But both were persecuted by the government.

Then they heard about a New Land. A place where there weren’t a lot of set traditions. A New World where they could explore new possibilities.

Religious freedom awaited
Religious freedom awaited

So, in the 1630s, they began arriving in America by boatloads. Many of those who were coming were the descenders and the ones who had been forced out of the church. Many of these new arrivals were pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars. Once they arrived in America, they decided to establish a school.

As explained in the 1643 booklet, “New England’s First Fruits,”
“After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the city government; one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

One of two tablets flanking The Johnston Gate, an entrance to Harvard Yard
One of two tablets flanking The Johnston Gate, an entrance to Harvard Yard

They wanted to establish education. They wanted to establish it for the ministry. They wanted to start a Christian school. But they also felt it was very important to educate the children.

This is good! This is a triumph. However, we also have tragedy within our education system.

John’s Triumphs & Tragedies

John was born in 1607. He was the son of a butcher and a restaurant owner. By the time he was 18 years old, the bubonic plague had destroyed many members of his family. Only John, one brother, and his mother survived.

Somehow, his mother was able to gather enough funds to send him to Emmanuel College, which was part of Cambridge University. After studying, John was ordained as a dissenting minister. So, he’s had some tragedy and now some triumph.

In either 1636 or 1637, John married a woman named Ann Sadler. The next year, they made the decision to go to America. After arriving in the new country John became an assistant pastor in Boston. He had the excitement of being in a new nation but still had some perils. It was discovered that he had tuberculosis, and he died in 1638. He was young; just over 30 years old.

John Harvard
John Harvard

Although young, John did something that would have a lasting impact on America. In fact, it still has an impact today. He left half of his property and his library of 300 books (my kind of man) to a new college that was going to be developed. They were so grateful that they named it for him. John’s last name was Harvard.

About 100 years later, there was a fire that destroyed all but one of those books. One student had checked a book out of the library. The title was, “The Christian Warfare Against the Devil World and Flesh and Means to Obtain Victory.”

Harvard University’s History

The college was named after John Harvard in appreciation for his generosity. The doors were opened, and a student handbook was published.

“Laws and Statutes for Students of Harvard College” read in part, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3)
“Seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him.” (Proverbs 2:3)
“Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of the language and logic and in practical and spiritual truths as his tutors shall require according to his ability. Seeing the entrance of the Word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)

Harvard Today

That is how Harvard University was established. It began with triumph, but it’s gone to tragedy. Today, Harvard stands for universalism. Back then, it was for Jesus Christ: the only way to Heaven, the only One who gives true Light of the World. Scriptures used to be found all throughout the handbook. Today, they describe themselves as being very inclusive, having diversity of all types, and “, especially religions.”

That means that Christianity is good. But so are Hinduism, Buddhism, and all other religions on the same plane. Sometimes Christianity is criticized for being exclusive by saying there’s only one way to Heaven. However, Judaism is also exclusive; they say (correctly) there’s only one God. Muslims are very exclusive as well.

Leture hall
Lecture Hall

But, Harvard says they’re all alike. They have an inscription that says, “Facing death without religion.”

I have news for you. If you face death without a certain “religion,” Christianity, there’s no Heaven for you.

The term religion has gotten a bad reputation in past years. While Christianity is a religion, what I’m talking about is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the one who died for our sins and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

Harvard would do well to return to its roots, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Education Today

Even in the lower levels of schools, like grade school, junior high, and high school, references to God are not allowed.

In a city not far from me, Carbondale, Illinois, a substitute teacher once wrote a question on the board. I can’t recall what the question was, but the answer was “God.” Even though he didn’t write it out, even the suggestion of God was enough to get him into all kinds of trouble.

Then there’s relativism. It’s almost a crime to criticize or condemn a group of people who adopt a certain lifestyle or adhere to a certain belief; unless it’s Christianity. At Harvard, you can’t say anything about any particular group, unless it’s Christians.

Secularism is also rampant in schools. Critical race theory. Now, critical race theory is something that, as an idea, is a good thing. Racism in any form is bad and should not exist. But it takes things too far when it says that people of a certain background should be ashamed and need to apologize for something done hundreds of years ago. Everyone should understand that they have worth to God, regardless of their ethnic background.

There is sex education in schools today. While I have not seen any of the materials myself, I have heard that they are nearly pornographic in nature.

Confusion in the Land

Thanks to the great educational institutions of today, we can’t even decide what is a boy and what is a girl. You may doubt this is true but we have a new Supreme Court Justice who says she can’t define what a woman is because she’s “not a biologist.”

There is a school where some students are “identifying” as dogs and cats. People who tell them they are not a dog or cat can get in great trouble. It’s crazy! It’s a tragedy.

Public education is not what it used to be.
Public education is not what it used to be.

To What?

Will the morality and common sense of yesterday be recovered? I don’t know. Will Christian schools, such as Harvard once was, revive? Will there be a return, in the educational system, to Christianity?

These issues have, however, caused some parents to pay more attention. Some families have made the decision to home-school their children. I do realize that’s not an option that everyone has. That’s a bright spot in all this mess.

But our school system began with Christianity. It’s gone downhill since. Which way will it go? Will it continue its decline or go back to the way it was? I don’t know. It’s up to each individual family to decide, and figure out what sacrifices they want to make.

Our Personal Story

Now we come to the third story: our own personal one. We’re all members of the human race. When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, the human race was condemned to live in sin. With the first brothers, Cain and Abel, there was a murder, because sin had entered the world. It has been passed down from generation to generation ever since.

But, each one of us since has chosen to sin. At some point, we decided we wanted to go our own way and disobey God. That’s a tragedy. But, a tragedy, and then what?

It's your choice.
It’s your choice.

If you ignore the message in the first story, where Jesus went to the cross, died, and conquered death, it will be an eternal tragedy. Revelation 20:14 says that Death and Hell will be cast into the lake of fire.

But, if you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, the tragedy turns to triumph and you will end up in Glory! Jesus made triumph possible for all of us.

Janet’s Story

I asked a member of my congregation to give a testimony during a recent service. You can watch it at the end of the video above. Her name is Janet.
“Good morning. Brother Randy asked me to give my testimony about our life before Christ, during Christ, and after.
“I’ll tell ya, before Christ, you know, you’re going along and you think everything’s wonderful because you made the plans, you designed your life. It was going pretty good, I thought, and Roger thought.
“I was 27 years old, and we had a baby. We had Adam, and he was 3. Neither one of us were really raised in church, and so you can see where that’s going. But, anyway, we decided that we would split our ways because I lived in a house with a lot of alcohol and a lot of fighting and a lot of, not really abuse, but it was abuse. It would, these days, be considered abuse. Anyway, we lived through that and we ended up agreeing that we would get a divorce, and that would be best.
“Well during the divorce, I had a good year. I thought, ‘I’m sailing through.’ I’m not thinking about the Lord, I’m not thinking about Jesus, God because it wasn’t in me. I didn’t have the Holy Spirit. I didn’t have any guide but my own self.
“About a year went by, and I was in a movie theatre, I was dating someone. Very nice man, he didn’t drink. That was my number one thing – he couldn’t drink. So, we were sitting there and I thought, ‘Everything’s wonderful. It’s great. I’ve got this really nice man.’ and all of a sudden, a voice spoke to me in that movie theatre in Carbondale. It was God.
“He said, ‘Get up and go back to your husband.’ I looked around because I thought, ‘Somebody is talking to me. Who is it? Somebody knows me here.’ I looked around but nobody was standing looking at me.
“I’m giving you a short version of this, but God – once again, I’m a hard-headed person Roger will probably “amen’ to that – but I have to be told twice sometimes. So if you ask me to do something I might forget or I might not do it so you have to tell me twice. But God, in His great mercy, said it again. Just a little bit more bolder, but not mean or anything, He said, ‘Go back to Roger. I want you to get up and go back to Roger.’
“And I’m telling you, my body lifted out of that seat without my hands pushing my body up, I stood up, I ran outside and I began to cry. The person I was with came out there and said, ‘Are you ok?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m really not. I need you to take me home. I need you to not talk to me. I’m going to look out the window and I don’t ever want to talk to you or see you again after today. And he just was beside himself.
“You know, you can’t explain God. God is God and He will do what He wants to do in your life. And it’s best that you surrender if you’re fighting something. It doesn’t have to be what I went through but, you know, don’t fight it, because He knows best.
“So, he took me home – it wasn’t the end of him – him and Roger had to have a little talk. He thought he was the man for me, Roger thought he was the man for me, and God knew Roger was the man for me, so you see the point.
“But, anyway, during the time after I accepted…I went home, knelt by my bed, and cried my eyes out all night long. And these verses are the ones I had marked in another Bible that I had read when I calmed down from crying. It’s in Jeremiah (29). It says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not evil. To give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you.’
“Well I had already cried and I had already prayed for hours. I didn’t think my body could do that. ‘And you will seek me and you will find me when you search me with your whole heart.’
“And I’m telling you, I never searched for something so much in my life. I’ve lost a ring before with a diamond in it. I’ve lost a watch before. I’ve lost things that doesn’t even touch the value of Christ.
“But that day I cried out to Him, I prayed and He heard me and He listened and He kept His promise to me.

Janet's prayers were answered.
Janet’s prayers were answered.

“Well the next day I woke up and I said, ‘I’ve got to go see Roger.’ And he was living in his own house in town and I was still in the country and I went, knocked on his door and I think he seen me that he didn’t come to the door.
“Anyway, don’t blame him. Anyway, I went in and I said.’Roger, I really need to have a talk with you. This is serious.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy. And we went to the kitchen table and we sat down and I said, ‘I want to tell you something. The Lord grabbed ahold of me last night and He told me to come back to you.’ I go, ‘Now in my own self, I didn’t want to, but when He spoke to me, I wanted to. And I’m here and I want you back, and I want a marriage that God wants and I want what He wants.
“Well, you know, it don’t happen like it does in the movies. He said, ‘No. I don’t know. I’ll have to wait.’ He kept saying no and I wouldn’t leave until he said maybe. So, the maybe was ok and I left and prayed and prayed and prayed.
“I think a couple of weeks went by and it was around Christmastime and he showed up. And we had a pot roast and stuff together and God began to work and to mend things.
“In that time I had gotten saved and I went to the church down the road and I gave my heart to the Lord. I didn’t tell Roger nothing about that, but I just began to give my heart to the Lord and just cried out for Roger.
“I went to the altar every Sunday and then, I don’t know, you can ask him, maybe it was a year, he showed up. He sat on the back pew with knuckles gripped – he was not going to the altar. I was just thankful he was hearing the Word of God.
“I went down and prayed even though he was there and I cried out and I said, ‘Lord, it’s got to change. I want him back and I want him in my house but I don’t want this same life. I don’t want to go back to the old ways. I want You and I want to move forward for You.’
“So I was down there crying, and crying, and crying, and the preacher’s wife put her hand on my back and whispered, kind of like God did, and said, ‘Janet, you don’t have to pray no more.’ I looked at her like she was crazy and I said. ‘What?’ She said, ‘You don’t have to pray no more. He’s here”
“I looked over there and he was squalling like a baby.

Praying together.
Praying together.


“I’m telling you, I had an experience with God I’ll never forget. It changed my life. I was in captivity. I mean, I was in a bad place and I thought it was a wonderful place. But the devil deceived me. He made everything look good. So if I’d had my way I’d be in Hell, if not now, sometime down the road I would be. My kids probably wouldn’t have been saved, I wouldn’t even have Shelby. You know, I just give God all the glory today because He does know what path He wants for us. He does know what’s best for us. We’ve got to get ourselves out of the way and let Him do His work in us. And listen to that still, small voice because He does speak. He still speaks to people, I know,
“I love you all and I just wanted to share that with you.”

Tragedy?  Triumph?  What?
Tragedy? Triumph? What?

Which way will it be for you? There’s tragedy because we’ve all sinned. But will it be continued tragedy for you, or will you choose to live in Glory?

Writing Fiction Step by Step

Today I’m going to be talking about writing fiction step by step. I want to talk about basically five steps that you can take in order to write your fiction books or stories.

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The first step has to do with characters, the second one has to do with types of stories, the third one has to do with where you’re going with it, the fourth one has to do with obstacles, and the last one has to do with tying it all together.

Step One – Characters

Step one is determining your characters. Of course, you will have the main character; a hero or heroine. It’s good if you can also display some flaws within that character.

Then you will have a villain or a villainess. It’s good to make that character more complex. Try to show something good about that character.

include a guide to help your main character succeed
include a guide to help your main character succeed.

You may sometimes, not always, have a guide in the story who helps the main character become the hero or learn the techniques of becoming the hero. Think about the story of The Karate Kid. He had a guide who helped him to learn karate. In Star Wars you had Yoda who was a guide to Luke Skywalker. Gandalf in Lord of was a guide along the way. You may not have that but often it is good if you can include it.

So first of all, you will determine your characters.

Step Two – Types of Stories

Secondly, you will determine what types of stories you’re going to be writing. These are stories within the story. I have mentioned them before. If you haven’t watched some of the previous videos or read the blogs, I encourage you to do that.

There is the external story that deals with the circumstances that can be seen. It has to do with the setting where the character is and it has to do with the external problems that can be seen.

But then there is often an internal story where the main character has his or her own struggles. The hero may save the world but he also may save himself. In Christian circles, he would not be saving himself but he would find salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But an internal story that may be going on even without the religious overtones that are just part of life. Internal struggles that the main character would have some victory over as well as a resolution to the external problems.

Then a third is a story within the story, which may not take up a whole lot of space, which will be an overarching concept of that story. That is a philosophical story. An example I would give would be that you have good versus evil. Most of us in the Western world would say that good triumphs over evil. Most of us who have heard the fairy tale stories, like happy endings.

You don’t have to have that third one explicitly stated. It may not even be on your mind. But in many cases, you do have these three types of stories. So you have to develop your characters. You figure out what types of stories you’re going to write and

Step Three – Climax of the Story

The climax is where it all comes together for your main character.
The climax is where it all comes together for your main character.

Next, you need to figure out the climax of the story. This is where you have the resolution of the problem. You might even write out that chapter first, or at least rough it out, although you do not have to do that. But you do have to know where you’re going and sort of how the problem is going to be resolved before you flesh out the words dealing with the climax and the resolution to the problem.

Now you say well, you skipped a step. Well. when you’re writing it, yes. But it’s best to know where you’re going when you start. Some writers don’t do that. They just paint a problem and keep going until finally, they figure out what the resolution is. But it’s much easier to write towards a resolution.

So you have your characters, figure out the types of stories, and you figure out what the climax of the story is going to be.

Step Four – Obstacles

Next, you need to figure out some obstacles along the way. As you’re writing, you may come up with more obstacles than what you had originally planned and that is fine. But you should plan for some obstacles and some little victories for the hero to have along the way. Problems and victories.

So your main character may get this one thing resolved, but then there is a new problem. Then he gets that resolved, but there comes a new problem. Each time, though, there’s a little bit of progress toward the resolution of the story.

Add obstacles to make the story more gripping.
Add obstacles to make the story more gripping.

Or, it may be a continual descent until one great moment of triumph where the hero rises above it all. Either way, you want to have obstacles along the way. Most fiction writing has obstacles, so you want to include some of those.

Step Five – Epilogue

The last thing would be the epilogue. You don’t have to plan this out in advance, and you don’t even have to title it “Epilogue.” But after the resolution of the story or climax, you probably do want to go back and explain some of the things that weren’t clear. and tie the loose ends together.

Including an epilogue can be helpful in tying up the story.
Including an epilogue can be helpful in tying up the story.

So there you have a great story.

Writing Fiction Step by Step

Determine who your characters will be.
Think about what types of stories you will be telling within the main story: What is the external story? What is the internal story? Possibly, what is the philosophical story?
Determine the climax: How is this problem ultimately going to be resolved?
Then you determine some obstacles along the way.
After you have written your story and have come to the resolution that the story you can tie the loose ends together and you have produced a great piece of fiction.

The book!
The book!

Well, I hope this is helpful to you. I would encourage you to go to Amazon and look for “How to Write a Book in 28 Days or Less Without Stressing Yourself to Death.” As my friend Tim Parton says, “Go buy it now. Go get it now.” With that book, you will get much more information similar these tips about how to write fiction.

Another way to get more tips like these, is to visit my blog here to read more about writing.

I would also encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and/or my Rumble channel. There are a lot of videos on both of them. If, in the future for some reason, one might get taken off one of those platforms there will still be on the other platform.

I hope you have a great day. Until next time, I wish you the best and remember, YOU CAN WRITE A BOOK!

Rules for Writing Fiction

I hope you’re having a great day. Let’s talk about rules for writing fiction. I guess you could say these are Randy’s informal rules for writing fiction.

Walking with Randy Video

I have written a longer fiction book, which I have not published yet, but most of my fiction writing involves providing illustrations for sermons and other nonfiction writing. However, I have picked up a lot of tips along the way.

Rules for Writing Fiction
Rules for Writing Fiction

1. There Are No Rules

Rule number one: remember there are no rules. In other words, you can be creative. Have fun as you’re thinking about fiction. You may come up with a new technique that many people in the future will be following. So first of all, there are no rules.

2. To Your Own Self Be True

Rule number two: to your own self be true. This should take a lot of pressure off as you’re getting ready to write fiction. Just have fun as you’re doing it.

Your story can be a reflection of yourself
Your story can be a reflection of yourself

3. Balance Being True to Yourself & Finding Out What Readers Like

Even though there are no hard and fast rules for writing fiction, you want to balance being true to yourself and finding out what readers like. Well, that is if you want to make money from your writing, or if you want to have a wider audience for your fiction writing.

Then balance being true to yourself, but also do market research. Find out what people like, and then do a lot of reading yourself. Find out what you like in fiction writing

4. GO! When You’re on a Roll

Number four: go when you’re on a roll. When you’re writing, there are those days when it’s just coming easily and just so much fun. On days like those, just keep the words flowing. Now, I would encourage you to have a goal to get the story finished. Get it done.

You may be very analytical and a perfectionist, and you may edit every day. Well, that’s fine, but I would encourage you to be sure that you get your story written down.

While you’re on a roll, just go with it. Don’t worry about correcting everything; even if you’re one of those perfectionists. Then at the end of your writing session for the day, you can go back through and do the editing.

When you're on a roll, keep going!
When you’re on a roll, keep going!

Now many of us, or at least some of us, can do well by just going through and getting the entire project done and then going back and doing the editing. But either way, daily editing or editing when you’re all done will work. But when you’re on a roll, go with it! That’s when writing is the most fun: when you’re inspired.

Although if you force yourself to have a daily goal, several weeks later, you may look back and not be able to figure out which days you were on a roll and which days you just did the discipline of getting the words down on paper. That always amazes me.

5. Find a Good Editor

Rule number five in my unofficial rules for writing fiction is to find a good editor or learn the skill yourself. It really depends on how you’re going about doing it. If you’re going to be self-publishing, then you can either find a good editor editor, or you can learn the skill yourself.

It may be that you’re already good in certain areas. For example, you may be good at proofreading or you may be good with punctuation and grammar. If not, then you may need to find someone to help you. So you need to either find a good editor or learn the skill yourself.

Now as far as the flow of the story, and the overall theme of the story, you are the best editor for your own book. You know it inside out. You know the message that you want to be presented.

6. Develop Interesting Characters

Number six: develop interesting characters. How can you make your characters interesting? Well, they’re interesting to you. That’s the first clue. But you can start by developing a certain type of character. To build interesting characters, you will want them to have some flaws, a backstory, some quirks, and an inner struggle. So the sixth rule for writing fiction is to develop interesting characters.

7. Have a Goal

Rule number seven: have a goal. The story is going somewhere. You’re trying to save the world: you’re trying to solve a problem, you’re trying to get somewhere in the story. You want to have a goal.

Write your story with an ultimate goal in mind
Write your story with an ultimate goal in mind

You also will want to have obstacles to that goal. Include the ups and downs and overcoming of obstacles.

Of course, you want to have an ultimate victory, or at least those of us in the Western world want to have an ultimate victory. Like the old fairy tale genre, we want to have happy endings.

As I said earlier, there are no rules. You can do it differently. But these are Randy’s rules for writing fiction.

8. Have an External & Internal Story

The last “rule” is to have an external story and an internal story. The external story involves the circumstances, the settings, and things you can see outwardly taking place in the story.

Then the internal story involves the struggles that are within the main character or some of the other characters. It’s good if you have these elements in your stories.

One More Suggestion

An additional idea is to add a philosophical point to your story. That is if a certain philosophy is important to you. Again, remember, there are no rules for writing fiction. An example of a philosophical story is, “Good overcomes evil.” You may have a philosophy like that that you want to present, even though you’re writing fiction.

Well, those are my eight rules for writing fiction, plus a bonus suggestion.
There are no rules
To your own self be true
Balance, being true to yourself with finding out what readers want
Go! when you’re on a roll,
Find a good editor or learn the skill yourself
Develop interesting characters
Have a goal
Have an external and internal story
BONUS: Add a philosophical point

Helpful tool
Helpful tool

I hope these eight rules for writing fiction will be helpful for you. For more tips like these, go to the top of the blog and click on “writing“. Or, go to Amazon and get my book “How to Write a Book in 28 Days or Less Without Stressing Yourself to Death”.

Until next time, I’m Randy Carney and I want you to remember YOU CAN WRITE A BOOK!

Tips for Writing Fiction

Tips for writing fiction

Hello everyone. I’ve been away for a while but I’m back! Today I’m going to give you some tips for writing fiction.

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In the past, I have talked about the power of a story and the hero’s journey.

Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey was first developed by a man named Joseph Campbell, and it involved about 12 steps. Down through the ages, many writers have used those techniques and have changed the number of steps in the story of the hero’s journey, making it less than 12 steps.

Donald Miller’s Approach

Donald Miller
Donald Miller

Here, I want to talk about Donald Miller’s story brand. He has utilized the techniques of the story for marketing and businesses and branding them. So he’s combining techniques of fiction and using them as nonfiction marketing for business. but we’re talking about writing fiction again.

He has boiled it down to seven steps. Those seven steps can be found in a single sentence.

Hero's journey by Donald Miller
Donald Miller’s Hero’s Journey

Now I’ll break down each part of the sentence.

Step 1 – Someone

This is a character. Of course, you want characters in your story. The main character is your hero.

Your main character can be anyone!
Your character can be anyone!

Step 2 – Has a Problem

So someone (your main character or hero) has a problem. This problem can be an external problem. That’s something you see, a situation that the person is in, or the circumstances that are around him or her. It could be an internal problem that the hero or the heroine faces. Those are the thoughts that are going inside the individual. He also talks about a philosophical problem. For example, good versus evil, with good triumphing over evil of course.

Step 3 – Meets a Guide

You’ll see a lot of fiction stories where the main character will meet up with someone who’s had the problem before and come through and is able to guide him or her to success.

Step 4 – A Plan

The plan
The plan

So someone who has a problem meets a guide, who gives them a plan. Maybe there’s some training that goes on. Think about the movie The Karate Kid where he’s painting a fence and he’s doing all kinds of things he doesn’t understand. But, later on, that training will help him to solve his problem. So, the guide has a plan and then the hero is challenged to utilize this plan.

Step 5 – Call to Action

This is where you’ll see the ups and downs. In most fiction stories or screenplays, the character is going on the journey towards success but they have a lot of ups and downs that they face.

Step 6 – Avoiding Failure

The call to action in step five helps the hero to avoid failure. There are obstacles in the way but the hero keeps working to conquer those obsticles.

Step 6 – Success

The hero keeps working the plan and overcoming the obsticales in his path and the journey finally ends and success.

You can see how these seven steps here in Donald Miller’s story brand can be used very well in writing your fiction stories.

How to Write a Book in 28 Days or Less WIthout Stressing Yourself to Death
How to Write a Book in 28 Days or Less

I pray that you would utilize the seven steps to write a good story of your own. If you’d like more tips like these, just find the “writing” tab on the blog here. Beter yet, for a more in-depth discussion on wrting, go to Amazon and get my book “How to Write a Book in 28 Days or Less Without Stressing Yourself to Death.”

Until next time, I’m Randy Carney, and I want to remind you that YOU CAN WRITE A BOOK!