A Call to Righteous Living

picture of sun shining on a lakeIn light of the recent Supreme Court decision, I am compelled to shout a different message than the ones clogging the airwaves and those of cyberspace.

Let’s look at the story of the adulterous woman told in John 8. When asked about whether this adulterous woman should be stoned, Jesus said in verse 7 that the one who had never sinned should be the one to cast the first stone. Rather than stand in judgment against the sin of others, Jesus told the people to look at themselves and their own guilt before God.

The same message applies to us today. Those of us who call ourselves Christian must stop crying out at the sins of others and turn our gaze upon ourselves.

We must be the example of pure and holy living, not standing in judgment, but sharing the gospel and love of God so that others may be set free from sin.

No one is without sin, not one, (Romans 3:23) and in the eyes of God sin is sin, whether it is murder or sexual immorality or lying.

Most Christians know the story of the adulterous woman, and that no one, including Jesus, condemned her for her sin. But we Christians often fail to apply the rest of the message Jesus gave this woman: “Go and sin no more.”

If Jesus told her not to sin anymore, that means it was possible for her to do just that. My mind reels at that thought. I’m human, after all. But that is an excuse we use to escape our responsibility, as well as a weapon of Satan. If we’re convinced we can’t lead a sinless life, we’ll make little or no effort to do so.

The adulterous woman chose to live in sin. She knew full well what she was doing was wrong. And I believe that’s what Jesus is talking about when he said sin no more. He wants us to choose righteous living, to resist sin and live a pure and holy life.

Leviticus 11:44 NKJV tells us “For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

The believer is called to live a holy life. We can do that only with the power of the Holy Spirit active in our lives. We do not live under the law (the Ten Commandments), but under grace (made pure by accepting the free gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross). This grace doesn’t mean we can accept God’s gift of salvation and then willingly continue to live a life of sin (see Romans 6).

In the coming days, as we draw nearer to Christ’s return, let us examine our own lives. Does sin abide in us? We may think our heart is pure because we love our spouse and don’t lust after others. Or we don’t lie or cheat or murder. But there is sin that is not so obvious such as worry and doubt, or trusting in money instead of in God.

Yes, I’m human and I sin. When faced with temptation I make the conscious decision to cry out to God for help in resisting, or I choose to give in. When I sin, I repent and ask forgiveness.

Daily I must choose to live a holy life. Within my human nature, I do not possess the power to do so, but through the power of the Holy Spirit residing within me, I can.

When Jesus returns, He is returning for a pure church, a glorious church without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27). Yes, we are saved by grace, not by works. Allow that grace to have its way within you, conforming you to the image Christ.

“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

Allow God to do a work in your heart. Seek Him today, for today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT). Pray and ask Him to reveal any sin in your life. Then repent, and as David cried out in Psalm 51:10, ask God to create in you a clean heart and to renew a steadfast spirit within you.

(For a more in-depth look at sin and grace, read Romans 6.)

Advice from Children’s Author Janet Ann Collins

Part of what drives us to be writers is our desire to share our message and make a difference in the lives of others.

Multi-published children’s author Janet Ann Collins does just that. Janet and her husband raised three foster sons with special needs, and you’ll find the complexities and challenges of special needs children occurring as a regular theme in her books.

Children's author Janet Ann CollinsWhy Did you write A Shadow of Fear? [Read more…]

5 Upcoming Writers Conferences

Debra L. Butterfield

Photo courtesy of Carol J. Sharp

Writers conferences are not only great places to learn, but they are a lot of fun to attend!

I enjoy teaching at conferences as much as I enjoy attending them. That’s me in the pic above, teaching at the Called to Write Conference in Pittsburg, Kansas, this past April.

At conferences, you’ll learn about writing and the world of publishing as well as be able to present your work to agents and editors. You’ll also be able to network with other writers and make new friendships.

Upcoming writers conferences [Read more…]

8 Books on Writing I Recommend

My 8 recommended books on writingWhat book on the craft of writing has been the most helpful to you?

I recently asked that question on my Facebook author page, but no one left an answer.

So I have to wonder if I’m wasting my time with today’s post.

But maybe it was a question that required too much thought.

Or they weren’t trolling Facebook that day (after all I posted that on a Monday).

Or maybe they didn’t find any book particularly helpful. And if that’s the case, I find that sad because there are so many great books out there on the craft of writing.

While I am all for a college education, I don’t believe that’s the only way we can learn. You see, my degree is in another field and the majority of what I’ve learned about writing, I’ve taught myself.

I regularly read and study books about writing nonfiction and fiction. I also study the books I read for enjoyment. I figure out what it is I like about those books, and then apply that to my own writing.

(P.S. I had no idea until today after I posted my blog that Jerry Jenkins posted a similar blog yesterday. I’m not surprised to find some of the same books on his list as are on mine.)

Books I Recommend and Why (in no particular order)

If I was to answer the question above, undoubtedly I would say

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Elements I had noticed about the books I studied, Jack Bickham gave them names. So much fell into place and made sense. I learned the structure of a scene and I learned about what Bickham calls sequel. If you write fiction, read this book! I believe it serves as the foundation of writing great fiction.

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
I promote this book in a lot of my blog posts. As much as Scene & Structure is the foundation, Plot & Structure is the framework: the 2 x 4’s, the plumbing, the wiring, the dry wall. This book will help you build the house that is your fiction book.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
I’m still reading this book, and mining nugget after nugget. See my earlier post about clean writing.

An Introduction to Christian Writing by Ethel Herr
I learned about this book when I enrolled in the Apprenticeship Program of what was then Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild some 7 or 8 years ago. The book taught me about writing magazine articles, and I referred to it almost weekly when I was writing for magazines.

Selling & Writing Your Memoir by Paula Balzer
When I was first hired by Dr. Joe Friedman to help him write his autobiography, I bought this book. It helped me then and it helped me when I wrote my story in Carried by Grace. Now I’m rereading it as I begin a ghostwriting memoir project. Most people have a story to tell. This book can help you find it and refine it.

Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey
Okay, I admit it, every book by Cec Murphey that I’ve ever read I’ve liked. This book isn’t so much about the craft of writing, as it is about being you and being true to who you are as a writer.

Find Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton
This was one of my first purchases when I decided to pursue freelance writing. I worked through most of the exercises at the end of the chapters and learned a lot about myself and my voice. I need to pull this off the shelf and read it again.

The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith
Here’s another book you’ll see me mention a lot on my blog. I love the tools he provides for constructing your draft and then for analyzing your work as you revise.

I love learning, and I hope I never stop learning whether it’s related to writing or anything else in life that interests me.

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham

Here’s how I’ve marked up my copy of Scene & Structure.

What book (or other resource) have you found helpful to you as a writer and why? Please share with us in the comments below.

5 Magazines Accepting Submissions

Writing and submitting to magazines is a good way to hone your writing skills before you venture into the book world.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be writing your book at the same time. It means you’re getting better at your craft and learning how the publishing world works before you venture into the deep end of the pool.

Here are 5 magazine accepting submissions. As always, spend time getting to know the magazine and then read and follow the guidelines thoroughly.

Proceedings magazine, a publication of the US Naval Institute, http://www.usni.org/magazines/author-guidelines

Symphony, the quarterly magazine of the League of American Orchestras, http://www.americanorchestras.org/symphony-magazine/about-symphony/submission-guidelines.html

Bird Watchers Digest, http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/about/about-our-company/submissions/writers.php    accepts photographs too, http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/about/about-our-company/submissions/photographers.php

Alive Now, a devotional magazine of Upper Room, http://alivenow.upperroom.org/writers/

Alternatives Journal, Canada’s Environmental Voice, for Canadian writers only, http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/contributor-guidelines-article

Related post:
How to Analyze a Magazine

*Inclusion here does not constitute endorsement.

What Inspires Your Writing?

As writers we all have a purpose for writing. We want to entertain, inform, persuade, or inspire. The passions in our own lives drive what we write.

You care about the environment so you may include a character in your book that feels the same.

You are politically minded so perhaps you write political thrillers.

As a Christian, my own beliefs and desire to tell people about God compel me to write Christian-based nonfiction and fiction.

Today’s interview is with a like-minded woman. Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s newest book, Wilted Catherine Ulrich BrakefieldDandelions released today. Though fictional, Catherine has set her story in the midst of the Second Great Awakening, a time in our history when godly revival gripped the nation.

Let’s dive in and learn more about what inspired Catherine to write this book and her experiences with the story. [Read more…]

What Is Clean Writing?

On Writing Well by William ZinsserDo you think best-selling authors like James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, and Jerry Jenkins sit down and produce that best seller with their first draft?

For some reason, many people believe this is how it happens. But that’s a myth.

“Submitting a novel without rewriting is like playing ice hockey naked.” ~Best selling author James Scott Bell in Revision and Self-Editing for Publication

Whether you are a seat-of-the-pants writer or one who plots first, the prevailing advice in writing your first draft is [Read more…]

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