Have An Intentional Faith

A couple of years ago, I was diving into the Word daily, and I mean diving. I would open up my Bible, read Scripture once, maybe twice, a day, but I wouldn’t just stop there. I would meditate on it, write about what I’d read, sometimes even doodle a quick artsy page if I felt so inclined.

In short, a couple of years ago, I consistently had what I believe to be fruitful quiet time.

I was genuinely spending time with God, not rushing through it, not just checking something off my list. Not only that, but I was also consistently going to church, youth group, my community group, and just about any opportunity I had to spend time with my church friends.

Then, the last year or so I kind of… stopped.

I mean, it’s not like I never went to church or read the Bible anymore. It just wasn’t as consistently as I had been doing, and my heart wasn’t in it quite as much as it had been.

In short, while I would still read my Bible occasionally and still go to church most Sundays, they were more things I was doing just to be doing it. I knew I was supposed to do them, so I did. But my heart wasn’t in it like it had been before.

And trust me, I could tell the difference.

See, when I was diving into the Word wholeheartedly, quiet time with God became less of just another thing I had to do and more of something I hungered for and actually longed to do. God shone through more in my day-to-day choices, and I saw (and felt) the fruit of the Spirit.

I’ve started, recently, to get back into regular, heart-on-the-line quiet time, and I can already tell the difference.

Not having quiet time with God–or begrudgingly spending time with Him just because we’re supposed to–is like never spending time with your friends or family. We don’t befriend someone only to never talk to them again or to only talk to them when we need something.

But that’s too often how we treat our relationship with God.

It’s kind of like a “Great, thanks, God. Now let me go about my life, and I’ll get back to you when I need something from you.”

But God isn’t our personal genie.

He’s God. The Lord of our lives. Our Creator.

As such, He deserves just as much–and infinitely more–effort as we give our friends and family.

After all, aren’t our lives as Christians a journey to become more like Jesus? But how can we become more like Him if we know nothing about Him? Why don’t we let Scripture show us His nature, and let Scripture consume our time and thoughts?

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:10 (NLT)

If we’re most influenced by the people we spend the most time with, why don’t we let God be the One who takes that spot at the top?

God didn’t intend for our relationship with Him to be static. As long as we’re on earth, we should be growing closer and closer to Him.

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)

And that means seeking Him out in all seasons of life and in everything that we do.

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.

James 5:13 (NLT)

Setting aside time to pray and meditate on Scriptures is a way to submit ourselves to God’s hand. It’s our way of saying, “Yes, I choose to follow You, God. I always choose to follow You. I want to know more about You. Show me Your Word, Your Truth, Your Light. Work in my life.”

After all, the Word is the means by which God reaches out to us and guides us in our time here on earth. As Christians, we simply cannot ignore it.

 

Stay tuned in for the next post, where I use the same story to talk about God’s faithfulness through all seasons of life.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you spend time with God regularly? 

Advertisements

Beware: Surface-Level Christianity 

Growing up in the Bible belt, it wasn’t uncommon to believe in God, go to church, and so on. In fact, at least as a young kid, it almost seemed like the “popular” thing to do. I never had to worry about being persecuted in my community because I believed in Jesus.

However with such “popularity” of Christianity comes a risk. If Christianity is the thing everyone’s doing, it might lose a bit of its realness.

It becomes more of a cultural thing than a Jesus thing.

See, I grew up believing that God existed, believing the story of Jesus happened, and even praying to God. I knew when I did something wrong, I should “repent” of it and pray to God for forgiveness. So I would do just that, and then I’d continue on with my life as if nothing had happened.

I considered myself a Christian.

But fast-forward to my freshman year of high school. One of my best friends invited me to youth group, so I went. I enjoyed it and such, so I started going (at least somewhat) consistently.

And then I stumbled across the “Salvation prayer.”

My time at youth group and this prayer combined made me question how genuine my faith really was. At its best, it was an empty, act-less faith, which James warns against in the New Testament. James’ warnings considered and looking back now, I wouldn’t even call my previous religion “faith.” I don’t know that I ever, before that point, consciously placed my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

So, right then and there, that’s exactly what I did.

Sounds simple, right? Wrong. From that point forward, my entire outlook on life changed. Church became an important thing, Christian community became a must-have (more so that it was before), and the Bible was something I actually needed to read.

Y’all, the Holy Spirit came upon me, and it has done some serious changing since then.

The point of this is to warn against the kind of Christianity I had before this dramatic life change. It’s the kind of “religion” that I think a lot of people, especially in the southern United States (it’s called the Bible belt for a reason) practice.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.

James 2:19 (NIV)

Yes, we believe in God. Yes, we’ll say, of course Jesus lived and died on the cross. We might even occasionally say a prayer or two (though in my case it was mostly just to say “sorry for my sin” so I could move on with my life and not have a guilty conscience), and some of us will go to church every Sunday.

However, the difference between that and what I’ll call “genuine faith” is where our heart is.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 (NIV)

See, I’m talking about the second part of that verse, the “believe in your heart.” The words alone aren’t enough (though they certainly play a part, as Paul says). We have to place our hearts in God’s hands.

If God has really moved in our lives to bring us to salvation, we’re going to know it. He gives us the Holy Spirit when that happens, and I’m just saying, we can’t ignore the Holy Spirit. If He’s within us, we know it.

The Holy Spirit is going to bring about a change in our lives. Not just a minor change in what we “say” we believe. Not just a “Yeah, yeah, of course God exists. Want to go that party now?” No, I mean an all-around, rock-our-world, lifestyle change.

Now, that isn’t to say it’ll be instant. As in, “I was just saved, and now I’m suddenly perfect because of the Holy Spirit.” The process will be gradual and will definitely have its fair share of ups and downs, but there will still be evident change in our lives.

So why don’t we give ourselves a “heart check”? Make sure we aren’t just saying empty words. Let’s make sure we believe what we say, wholeheartedly.

Question for you guys: Do you have any experiences with “surface-level” Christianity? 

 

Keeping It Real In Our Writing

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Matthew 29:19 (NIV)

God calls us to make disciples of all the nations, but how are we to do that if we stay confined to our own bubble?

I mean, of course having a good group of Christian friends is beneficial and something all of us should hope to have, but we can’t stop there. God doesn’t tell us to make friends with fellow believers and then never reach out to anyone else.

He says “go and make disciples of all nations.”

As writers, what does that mean?

This might be going out on a limb, but I’d say that doesn’t mean all of us should only ever write books specifically for the Christian market.

After all, if we only stuck with our own Christian-readers crowd, how would we bring more people into that circle? Certainly not by huddling close together and calling, “Come,” without actually breaking our huddle and reaching out for them.

I’d say that we probably have a much better chance of welcoming new people in if we meet them where they’re at.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need marketed-as-Christian books. Quite the opposite. While it’s important for us to expand our Christian-readers community, it’s equally important for us to support our brothers and sisters who are already apart of it.

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)

So, I’d say that some of us might be called to write marketed-as-Christian books, but others of us might be called to write books for the “secular” market.

However, those of us that are called to write books for the “secular” market must be careful. We can’t just forget about God because we aren’t writing Christian books. We must still honor Him with our writing. 

But does that mean we should only write Christian characters doing Christian things for Christian reasons?

Feel free to challenge me when I say this, but I’d say no.

The world is full of Christians, atheists, Muslims, agnostics, Hindus, Jews, and all sorts of other people. Only representing one group of people would be to ostracize the others. Writing only about Christians would be like only writing about white middle class Americans. What about those of other religions, races, and classes?

Jesus calls us to love others. If we ostracize people in this way through our writing, are we loving them?

That being said, there’s a fine line between representing the world as diverse as it is and glorifying sinful behavior. Yes, there will be sin in our written worlds, but we cannot act like that sin is okay. To do so would be to glorify sin over God. And we must always glorify God first and foremost.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 (ESV)

For another perspective on this, one that digs deeper into writing things we don’t agree with but taking care not to glorify bad things, check out Cait’s post over on PaperFury.

The skinny of it is that I personally think it’s okay–good, even–for us as Christian writers to write about things that aren’t necessarily exclusively and always Christian so long as we are taking care to keep God at the forefront of our writing process and to honor Him, not sin, with our stories.

I mean, by reaching out of our bubble and writing the world as it is, who knows how many lives we might touch with God’s light?

Now it’s your turn. Give me your thoughts! Please! Do you agree? Disagree? Have anything to add? 

Honoring God In Our Writing

Can we honor God with our writing even if we don’t necessarily write for the Christian market?

As someone who doesn’t usually write explicitly “Christian” books, I’d answer that with an emphatic “yes!”

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB)

God might call us to write for the Christian market, and if He does, awesome! Some of us, though, He might call to write for other markets.

That doesn’t mean that we should forget about God and write whatever we feel like. Just as we must remember God and seek to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in all that we do, we must do so in our writing as well.

Because it can be hard to realize exactly how to do that when not writing explicitly Christian books, here’s a list of some of the things I do to make sure God remains at the forefront of my writing life:

  • I almost always write stories with Christian themes. 

This is, I think, a nice way to share aspects of our faith even if we aren’t necessarily writing a “faith-based” book.

  • I try to remind myself regularly that God is the one reason I’m even able to write. 

I love the song “Great Are You Lord” by Casting Crowns, specifically the lines, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.”

It’s a wonderful reminder that we are who we are  only because God made us that way. We have our talents because they are God’s gift to us. In turn, it only makes sense to honor Him with them always.

If we constantly remind ourselves about God’s amazing grace and how we truly do owe all to Him, I personally think it becomes a lot easier to honor Him in all that we do.

  • I spend time with God. 

This goes hand in hand with the previous point.

The more we fill up with Scripture and the more we tune our hearts to seek Him earnestly through prayer and praise, the more His love pours out of us.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.

James 5:13 (NLT)

Naturally, how can we reflect our God if we don’t spend time to get to know Him deeply? The more we know Him, the better we can share about Him.

Now, I think these strategies can be applied by anyone in whatever they do, even if it isn’t writing, especially the last two. For me at least, those two are nice reminders in everything that I do.

Now, a question for you guys: If you’re a writer, how do you honor God in your writing? If you aren’t a writer, how do you honor God in whatever it is that you do?