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Saturday, March 7, 2009

So You Want to Be an Author

I try to be nice to aspiring writers, but I blend niceness with honesty. Some should have stayed in fifth grade until they learned a plural subject requires a plural verb and could distinguish its from it’s and your from you’re. Others should realize a manuscript isn’t ready for publication simply because “my family members and friends read it and thought it was good.”

Occasionally, an aspiring writer asks whether I think he is ready to quit his job and become a full-time author. I feel like asking, “Are you ready to starve to death?” Sure, a few authors make it big and live high off the royalties, but many authors never see a royalty check. The buying public tends to purchase books written by well-known authors, and bookstores tend to purchase titles produced by big-name publishers.

Aspiring writers must leap over another hurdle. Publishers usually accept book manuscripts from writers who can market their own books. You may get your foot inside the editorial review room if you travel as a speaker or musician, have a radio or TV ministry, are the pastor of a mega church, or have made your mark as an athlete or entertainer. Of course, there is always the possibility of getting published as an unknown if your book topic is “hot.” It has to address a widespread need in an appealing way and in a timely manner.

For a book to be successful, it must gain a sizable share of the publisher’s advertising and sales budget. Limited space in a catalogue will likely result in limited sales. Eventually the publisher will move the book to the backlist and ultimately to the out of print list.

So, if you want to quit your day job and become a full-time writer, be patient. Test the waters before walking away from a regular paycheck. Above all else, check your motives. Do you want to write to become rich, or do you want to write to honor God and minister to readers?

Someone has observed that writing is the hardest work that doesn’t involve lifting. Nevertheless, it is worth all the effort if it influences readers to be what God wants them to be and to do what He wants them to do.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Give It Up!

I read recently that some Christian ministries have laid off employees because donations have fallen. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was tagged as one of those ministries. I wonder what has caused this trend. Perhaps the economy has decreased donors’ ability to give as generously or as frequently as they did in the past. Possibly the modern generation of Christians may not perceive a ministry’s function as relevant. Evangelism and missions don’t seem to be high-priority values any longer in these make-me-feel-good-about-me times. Perhaps the decline in giving is due to a shift from a willingness to live modestly in order to be able to practice dedicated stewardship. Couples that bury themselves in debt in order to capture the so-called good life may not be able to give in accordance with Jesus’ teaching about the best life. He cautioned, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” He instructed (Matthew 6:20).

When an offering for missions was under way in a church, a scowling member of the congregation refused to put any money in the offering plate. “I don’t believe in missions,” he growled at the usher.

“Then take something out,” the usher responded, “it’s for the heathen.”

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver: (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Down in the Dumps?

The prophet Elijah tumbled. He had shown tremendous faith by confronting and triumphing over 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, but his faith deflated faster than a punctured balloon when Queen Jezebel threatened his life. He fled far into the desert, where he asked God to end his life. To put it plainly, Elijah was depressed.

Some forms of depression have medical causes and require medical attention, but others, like Elijah’s, result from a lapse of faith, worry, weariness, and a sense of overwhelming guilt. Elijah’s faith went poof when Jezebel said “Boo!” He worried and ran for his life. Exhausted, he plopped down under a broom tree and asked God to take his life.
So how did God restore Elijah’s spiritual and emotional well-being?
First, He let Elijah rest (1 Kings 19:5a). A pastor and friend often mused, “Christians on their way to heaven should be in bed by eleven.” If we fail to get adequate rest, we may succumb to depression.

Second, God fed Elijah and provided a jar of water too (vv. 5b, 6). Proper sleep and nourishment often help us move out of “the dumps.”
Third, God gave Elijah a new revelation of His presence. He showed Elijah He was with him in the stillness as well as in life’s exciting times. He was present in the desert just as He had been on Mount Carmel (see vv. 12, 13).

Finally, God gave Elijah new assignments. He commissioned him to anoint a successor and two kings (vv. 15, 16). God doesn’t write us off when we write ourselves off. He has specific assignments for each of us. A sense of mission rejuvenates us.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

Gloria and I drove nearly 60 miles east of our house yesterday to a Kendrick Bible Church on Colorado’s high plains. We passed antelope along the way. The attendance was good, and the interest level seemed high when I preached.

After the morning service, the congregation moved to a large, modern, all-purpose building for an outstanding potluck. Those Colorado cattle ranch families eat well. A wide variety of delicious main dishes, salads, and desserts covered the serving tables. I hope my preaching fed the congregation as well as the congregation fed me.

Kendrick Bible Church is looking for an interim pastor. Apparently I was “Jim in the middle.” A candidate preached last week, and another candidate is scheduled for next Sunday. I assume the congregation will choose one of us.

I have never been a candidate in an elect-an-interim-pastor contest, so it will be interesting to see what develops. John McCain, who is about my age, didn’t do well in the presidential election. If age matters to the congregation, I may not fare well. Nevertheless, the Lord is the Chief Shepherd, and when He puts forth His sheep, He goes before them (John 10:4). I will trust Him to place me among the sheep and lambs He wants me to feed.