A Church Divided

Division. Have you ever thought of it? Have you ever realized how bad it actually is? Have you thought about how much is hurts others? Or how about how much it hurts Jesus? Division is an abomination in my eyes, so why are we always so divided?

I see it all the time: in church, at home, and basically at every Christian social meeting. Religion basically comes with division. There are so many differences in beliefs, I’m sure people don’t know who Jesus really is anymore. There are so many different opinions, no wonder people are being divided and cut off. No wonder unbelievers don’t want a part of it. I don’t want a part of it.

When we get divided over who believes what, or when we get offended because someone else sees differently, I think we’re doing it all wrong. Theology and religion can cause such a wedge in the church and in relationships that they rarely can be put back together. And the thing is, Jesus isn’t it in.

Jesus doesn’t live in your beliefs and religion. Jesus lives in your heart, not in your head. He doesn’t live in your college degree, nor in how many Scriptures and Bible passages you know. He lives in your heart. People see Him in our actions towards others, not in what you know and believe. No one has ever come to the Lord through mental knowledge.

It doesn’t matter how many Bible passages you know, or how much you pray or worship each day, what matters is how you’re living. Show the real Jesus. The Jesus who laid down His life for others. Live like Him and people will start looking.

So I think it’s utterly ridiculous when Christians fight over their beliefs, because they’re never going to change anyone. You can’t convince an atheist that he’s wrong by arguing. Proving something is the absolute wrong way to go. When someone asks you if God exists, giving them all these points of proof is not going to make them say, “Wow, you know what, you’re right. I think I’ll become a Christian now!” No way, believe me. Once, I tried to prove God existed by finding something that my cousin hid. When I couldn’t find it (it was in her shoe!), I felt like an idiot.

So I think Christians should put their differences aside and just live like Jesus did. The world would be a whole lot better, and more people would be finding Christ. Jesus’ theology was, love God, and love your neighbor. Why would we need anything else?

God Bless.

 

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A few thoughts on worship

Hi readers, today I want to talk about worship, the way we worship, and how we worship. Worship is more than just lifting your hands on a Sunday morning, worship is everything we do and say. Worship is not a genre of music, it’s a lifestyle, it’s every breath we take.

How we worship differs from person to person, but one thing should be evident in everyone’s form of worship: Jesus is glorified above all else. If your worship isn’t actually worshiping, it’s not worship, it’s as simple and obvious as that. Yes, you may roll your eyes at how obvious that is, but the truth is, a lot of people only sing worship for their own glorification. In the Christian music world, worship is the most listened to, and it’s what the radio stations want played, so the money is pretty big.

Another thing all worship should have in common is that it should come from the heart. If you’re lifting Jesus with all of your heart, you’re already there. Worship isn’t something that people should be forced to do, it should be something that they want to do. It should come from the heart, and the way to do so is to look at the cross. When I see the cross, I want to fall on my knees and thank the Lord.

And now another thing that’s important in worship: the music. Before I go on I want to say that music isn’t something that is absolutely needed in worship, but it truly helps to usher in the Spirit and bring the listener to a place of worship. There are many forms of music used to worship God, and none is more “effective” than the other, though some prefer their own style of music over others. For example, some find they can worship easier with hymns or ballads, others find they can worship easier with rock or metal. And as great as these differences are, they can cause division. How? Lets see.

Worship should be something that brings everyone closer to God and each other, but when it tears us apart, I believe God’s not in it. All our differences should bring us together, not cause division between one another. For example, the people who worship to the softer music may say that it’s impossible to worship to metal, and the metalheads might say they can’t worship to the softer music. I’ve actually read and heard accounts of both, so I’m not making this up 🙂 What these people get wrong is that they believe their preferred way of worship is the only way to worship. Worship isn’t a style of music, and in saying that, that’s what they’re making it out to be. Worship is lifting Jesus Christ.It makes no difference if we sing or scream, the Lord loves both.

If you’re still doubting whether another’s style of worship is wrong, let me tell you that I’ve done both. I’ve screamed along and worshiped to heavy metal, and I’ve sang along and worshiped to hymns and ballads. As I sing to the Lord in worship, I feel His presence fall, with both the soft music, and the metal.

So instead of judging others in their differences, rejoice that God made us all unique. I have a saying of mine I want to share, “If the music sings praise, then I’m raised!”

God Bless, and if you have any further questions, I’m more than happy to answer. And please feel free to share the way you like to worship 🙂 I’d love to hear it!

The Writing Process: Second draft/editing

The next step in the writing process is to write it again. Yep, once you’ve finished the first draft, you have to move on to the second draft, because your first draft will most likely be terrible, and as I’ve said in another post, that’s a beautiful thing. My first drafts are terribly written, but once I move into the second draft, I step up my game in the quality of the writing.

Second drafts are where you improve the story you have, and is essentially a better version of the first draft, quality of writing and story included. But that doesn’t mean you should stop with a second draft, you could write three, or four drafts if you think the story needs it.

Once you’re happy with the story, it’s then time to move on to the editing stages.

I’m a bit of an obsessive editor. I just can’t help myself. And there’s good reason to love the editing process as well: It’s fun! Editing comes in two stages: editing for content, and editing for quality and voice.

Editing for content means editing the story itself, and it doesn’t have to be full chapters and scenes either. When editing  for content you need to make sure it’s as tight as can be. For example, if there’s a scene in your story where your characters do nothing to move the story along, then cut it. If a scene feels like dead weight, cut it. You have to be brutal in this stage, cutting everything that doesn’t move, or help the story and plot. Even if you love the scene, cut it if it doesn’t advance the plot. It will make your novel tighter and will improve it a hundred fold.

Editing for quality and voice means editing the text until it’s as tight and flowing as it can possibly be. If there are words that can be changed or removed, do it. In the end you must listen to your sentences, speaking them aloud is a great way to know if your sentence “has it” or if it feels a little lumpy. My first drafts are essentially one big lump! Anyway, edit, edit, edit, and edit some more for the road. I edited the Restoring at least around six or eight times before I even considered sending it to my readers, and after the tenth time, I did! And even then, there will probably be a few mistakes. No manuscript is perfect, which is why you need help from professional editors and friends who will give you good, critical feedback. Publishers expect perfection, give them any less, and you’ll probably be rejected.

To all who’ve read and are reading my novel, I say thank you for your instructive advice. I’m constantly improving myself each time I sit down to write, and having other readers advice gives me a good foundation to build upon. If you haven’t read it, my Beta reader post is still up for anyone wanting to help. Just send me an email or comment, and I’ll send it to you.

For now, this is the last of the writing process series, but since writing is a major part of my life, it won’t be abandoned. And once I step into the publishing world, I’ll be taking you with me! But for now, I’ll be moving onto other things, such as music, Christian teaching, and more reviews of both books and music.

Thanks for reading guys, I hope this has inspired you to write your own novel. God Bless.

The Writing Process: The First Draft

Next up in the writing process is to begin the first draft! This is a magical and frightening time in the writing process. When you face a page and realize you have to fill it with 80,000 words of more, it can be quite overwhelming. But when you type that first word, it’s amazing.

Right, the first draft. Why is there even a first draft, can’t a book be finished in one go? The answer? A giant no. But that’s certainly not a bad thing.

When I wrote my first novel I thought it would just be the one draft, and I’ll edit it until it was perfect. Well, that didn’t turn out so good, and as a result, that novel is all over the place story wise, and I don’t really want to rewrite it. You need to write two drafts at least to get the story down as best as it can be.

The first draft of my next novel went in a completely different direction than the finished product, but if I hadn’t written that second draft, the Restoring wouldn’t exist today.

In my newest novel, which I won’t give the name to just yet, I’m half way through the first draft, but this time I’ve taken to it from an entirely different perspective, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it in my other two. The trick when writing a first draft is to wreck it. That’s right, wreck it. It’s great if it’s the worst hunk of words ever put on a page.

The first time, and also through the writing of the Restoring, I edited it as I went along, and that was the completely wrong way to go about it. In my current one, I’m taking all editing out, and just writing. Pure writing, no distractions, no time wasters, just writing. It’s given me so much freedom and I have found myself writing more pages each time. I can now write a thousand words at a time quite easily because I don’t look back.

I know when I finish the first draft it will be a downright mess, but that’s okay. One of my favourite sayings is “There’s beauty in the broken,”  (I’m sure that’s a song). It can not be more true for first drafts. When I see drafts where every second word is crossed out, or with hundreds of little icons on the sides, I know that person is a true writer. A true writer writes, not writes, edits, reads it through, writes a little bit again, reads it through again, edits a bit here and there, etc…. Your book will look and feel manufactured and it won’t feel alive. Remember, you’re a living, breathing individual, so write like one, not like an automatic typing machine. Yes, when finished, editing must be done, but the story will still feel like something you’ve created with your own hands.

So, don’t strive to be perfect. Don’t try to be the perfect Christian, because you’ll fail. Be yourself. In your writing, and in normal life. Everyone’s unique, so why wouldn’t you take it out in your writing?

God Bless, hope this helps.

The Christian and criticism

Today I want to bring up a topic that a lot of Christians don’t really know too much about, and that’s criticism. Now wait, I’m not saying you don’t know what criticism is, I’m talking about Christian’s reactions to it.

A lot of Christians think that following the Lord’s will will keep them from harm, and it will, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. You must remember that the enemy hates you, and he will do anything and everything in his power to keep you from falling into the Lord’s will. When my family moved, we knew it was God’s will for us, and the devil hated it. It was so hard getting into that house that we doubted if we were in the right. We kept pressing through, and now we live in a great new home. It’s not that the house is magnificent, it’s the peace that passes all understanding we must follow, no matter what comes our way.

So why do Christians think following God’s will is not going to lead them into trials? More importantly, why do they think they’re following God’s will when everything’s going right? In my opinion, we’re out of God’s will when everything around us is working along like a well oiled machine (sorry for the cliche). Why? Because the devil isn’t intervening. Why would he try to stop us when we aren’t a threat?

What inspired this post was a post from another Christian writer. He talked about Christian films and books having harsh criticisms from the secular critics. That tells me they’re doing something right! Why? Because the devil doesn’t want those movies to be seen. They could lead people to salvation!

A quote from Christanity Today regarding the upcoming Christian film Deliver Us from Evil, says, “The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us he didn’t exist.” How true is that.

The Bible says my children fail for lack of knowledge. They follow and go down the easiest paths, and believe it’s the Lord’s will. Eventually they will end up in a bad place; in debt, without a job, divorced, or in sin because of it. We need to know the devil and his power so we can battle on in the Lord’s will. I learnt the biggest lesson in my life when moving. I learnt how to stand firm in the Lord, even when things around me fall apart.

Like C.S.Lewis said, “Reviews were either laudatory or filled with that sort of anger which tells an author he’s hit his target.”- The Screwtape Letters.

Here’s the link to that blog post mikeduran.com/2014//07/do-christians-get-unfairly-reviewed. If you click on it it will take you there.

God Bless.

The Writing Process: Planning/outlining

Right, so we have an idea of what the novel’s going to be about, now we go to the next step: planning. I’ll go through the steps, then tell you what I do for my writing.

Planning is simply the next step in brainstorming. You get a more detailed look at your characters and plot line. Some writers take months of planning before they even begin to write. Once the outline is down, and you know what you’re doing and where your story is going, get out that computer or paper (good luck with that) and get that mind pumping! That leads onto the next part of novel writing: the first draft. I’ll talk about that in the next post.

So, what do I do when it comes to planning and outlining. I personally don’t write outlines for my novels, just because I find them too limiting. When I write, I want the story to drive itself, not be driven by an outline that could be changed later on. As for planning, I find that each time I plan, the story takes off in a direction I never thought it would, so planning  just ends up being a waste of time.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all. For my WiP I took about a month to brainstorm and plan before I got to work on the first draft. You can’t go in with nothing, so I start with just a brief outline, and then I write it.

But it’s all up to you. If an outline works for you, go for it! If it doesn’t, that’s great as well! Everyone writes differently. Everyone has their own voice, which is another thing I want to quickly touch on. Don’t do something, just because someone else says it’s the right thing to do. If you find it comfortable writing without an outline, don’t listen to people who say that you must use one. If you feel comfortable writing in parts, don’t listen to people who say you must write in chronological order.

For people who don’t spend their time writing, you must take all fact from the Word of God, and what people say as opinion. No one can truly know the Word without guidance from the Holy Spirit. I say this because a lot of people, including me, are quite gullible, and will believe anything they hear if it agrees with their views, or more actually, their heart’s desires. If what the person is saying doesn’t agree with what they think is right, they will usually disregard that person.

For an example, my family was listening to this pastor who said that rock music is cursed. I love rock music, but I don’t think it was completely wrong what he was saying. Rock can be cursed, but it can also be used for God’s glory, it all depends on what the musicians make of it, and not on the music itself.

So back to planning. I get a lot of people who tell me I should plan for the future. Really, I have no idea what I’m doing in the future. I could be an astronaut for all I know (little fun fact, that’s what I wanted to be when I was little), it all depends on where the Lord wants you. And where the Lord wants you, is where you should want to go. We’re given grace for each day, not for the future, for today, so instead of living in fear of the future, live with all you got right now.

The best outline you can follow is the Word of God, for both writing and living.

God Bless, hope this helps!