Deb’s Books Blast/Deb’s Ministry Blog

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Deb’s Ministry Blog shares articles of interest to people in a small church, missions, or writing ministry. These are practical and encouraging articles that may be shared freely.

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Waiting for Publication

As someone who has published four books with a traditional publisher, and self-published five, I can list many advantages to self-publication:

  • I can publish any book I can write.
  • I’m not dependent on agents and editors.
  • I can bring a book to print faster than with traditional publishers.
  • I can keep a much higher percentage of the sales price of each book.

Of course, there are advantages of going with traditional publishers, too. For one thing, they set a publication date much farther in the future, but they can be assured of publishing on that date. Meanwhile, I had hoped to publish my new book, I Scream, on Thanksgiving weekend. I can see that’s not going to happen. I’m currently waiting on CreateSpace to finalize publication of the paperback version. Then I have to wait for the Kindle conversion.

I Scream Social

(Secret #1: I don’t have a print copy of the book yet. The picture has a cover printed on paper, taped to another author’s book.)

Right now I’m planning an I Scream Social on Sunday afternoon, December 3, our last Sunday in Montana. This will allow some of my readers in area churches one last chance to buy a paperback directly from me at a discount price.  And eat ice cream. If the books haven’t arrived by then, they’ll receive the books soon thereafter.

The good news is the complete Art Spotlight Mystery set should definitely be available for sale by Christmas. Paperbacks will be available at Amazon. Ebooks will be available on Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. (Actually they are already available on iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, but let’s keep that as our little secret #2.)

In the meantime we are finishing our time in Montana with Thanksgiving, a harvest dinner, being guests and inviting guests. In 10 days we’re guests for 4 meals and we’re hosts for 3. That involves huckleberry cheesecake. If you’re looking for a good, gluten-free, berry cheesecake recipe for the holidays, here’s mine.

Feeling Unappreciated?

Water drops folling from a bamboo leafDo you ever feel you are pouring out your life in ministry and no one cares? Like your drop of ministry isn’t making a very big ripple? Sure God knows your heart. He sees the hours of work, the spent emotions, the faithfulness in service with little visible results.

But you care about these people.

You watch them come to Christ in salvation and take their first baby steps as a Christian.

You listen to their heartaches. You pray with them, weep with them. You point them to Scripture.

You hear their concerns and make changes in your ministry to meet their needs.

You see them going in a dangerous direction and you want to shake some sense into them. Instead you pray and look for opportunities to encourage them to draw closer to God.

You’ve given your life to serve these people. You exhaust yourself in ministry for them. Don’t they care?

Dr. Raymond Buck, now with the Lord, served many years as a missionary to Africa. Many times this veteran missionary heard new missionaries voice their frustrations. He would say, “We didn’t come to be appreciated.”

In Second Corinthians the Apostle Paul opens his heart with great transparency. He had poured out his life for the Corinthian church but a small but vocal group were challenging his authority. They questioned his credentials as an apostle. They accused him of being insincere, spiritually weak, and an ineffective speaker.

As Paul ends his epistle he says, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. . . . But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.” (2 Cor. 12:15,19, NKJV)

Paul poured out his life in ministry in a way few others have. Though he was forced to defend his credentials so his message would be accepted, he didn’t do that to be appreciated. He cared only that his children would be built up in Christ.

Are you feeling unappreciated today? Are you faithful to the Lord and your work, yet seeing few visible results? Satan can use your discouragement to cripple your ministry while you sink into self-pity. So often God is working in hearts in a way you can’t see.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58, NKJV

Living as a Conservative Christian

Family 4I am a conservative Christian. You may think you know me, but you might be surprised.

Being a conservative Christian doesn’t make me think that I am better than you.

I’m not a Christian because I am so good. I’m a Christian because I know I can never meet God’s standard on my own. I think and feel and do wrong things. But God has granted me salvation on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus was completely holy and didn’t deserve to die, yet he took my punishment. I’m sinful and don’t deserve God’s mercy, yet I have believed in Jesus as my Savior, so he has given me his righteousness.

Beyond that, being a conservative Christian doesn’t make me better than a more liberal one.  You may be less conservative than me, and yet please God in areas in which I fall short. I may please God in areas you in which you struggle. I don’t look down on you because you are different, but I may disagree with you on some things. We each have to answer to God for what we do. I’m simply trying to do the right thing.

Being conservative doesn’t make me a legalist.

What is a legalist? Many people define a legalist as anyone who is more conservative than they are. At the same time, anyone who is less conservative than they are, is a liberal.

The book of Galatians talks about true legalists. A legalist tries to keep a list of rules in order to gain merit with God. Sometimes legalists try to earn or keep their salvation by keeping this list of rules. Other legalists obey rules to exalt themselves rather than glorify God. Their emphasis is on keeping a list of rules in their own strength, rather than living to please God by the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Myron Houghton says:
A distinction should be made between lists and legalism. It is certainly true that believers differ on their lists, and we must evaluate each item on a list in light of relevant Scriptural teaching. But disagreeing with fellow believers over whether or not Scripture supports their lists has nothing to do with legalism! Legalism is related to why one should obey a list rather than to the rightness or wrongness of the list. If people think they gain merit with God by keeping a list [any list!!], they are legalistic!

True freedom is living obediently to Scriptural guidelines in the knowledge that all of our sins have been forgiven because Jesus Christ died and now lives for us. (Romans 5:10) . . . And true liberty does not use itself as an excuse for sinful living (see Galatians 5:13), but rather, recognizes that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11–15).

We need to be careful who we call “legalists.” Just because someone is more conservative than I am doesn’t make him a legalist. He may have good reasons for his standards. I have no right to call him a legalist just because his rules are stricter than I think they need to be. I can’t see his heart. I don’t know his motives, unless he reveals them to me.

Being conservative doesn’t mean I’m too stubborn to change.

I know Christians who have less strict standards than I have, and some who are more strict. If you are a Christian, I’m glad you are. I don’t hate you because you have come to different conclusions than I have. I may not be able to work with you in certain ways if we can’t agree on some issues that are important to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.

The world changes quickly and so does the church. Sometimes I see people change in ways that I don’t feel would be right for me. I’m trying to please God and live the way he wants me to. You may see an issue as a matter of preference, where I may see it as a conviction. Thus you feel free to do something that I do not. That doesn’t make me mean. I’m simply trying to please the Lord in the best way I know how.

Remember, if I feel something is not pleasing to God, yet do it anyway, that is sin. (Romans 14:23) So please don’t push me to do something against my convictions. I’m not just trying to be stubborn.

Being conservative doesn’t mean I’m a scrapper.

Yes, I know the world, and much of the church, is changing faster than I am. I expect to be different from the world. The Bible tells us to expect that. (1 John 2:15) But sometimes I even struggle to find a place in the church. Much of genuine Christianity would find me hopelessly conservative and I actually grow weary of wearing a legalist label simply because I’m trying to do the right thing. Very small differences sometimes divide the more conservative segment and I feel ostracized from Christians who I would like to consider as friends. Living today as a conservative Christian is not easy. Sometimes I struggle to know how God wants me to do certain things, but I am trying to figure out God’s pattern for me and then live that way.

So you may not agree with me. I may seem hopelessly conservative to you. But please don’t assume that I’m a fighting legalist who thinks I have all the answers, refuses to change, and wants to force you to be like me. I’m actually just an ordinary Christian who is trying to please God in a sinful world.

(See this link for Dr. Houghton’s entire article on legalism: http://www.faith.edu/resources/publications/faith-pulpit/message/what-is-legalism/read )

 

 

Introducing the Art Spotlight Mysteries

As a subscriber to my Book Blast, you are the first to get a sneak peek at the book covers for my new series. Ta da!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll recognize the covers of Broken Windows and Déjà Who? as similar to the first two books of my “Keyhole Mystery” series. What’s going on here?

Rebranding

The text of Broken Windows and Déjà Who? is not changing, but I’m rebranding my “Keyhole Mysteries” as the “Art Spotlight Mysteries.” Why?

The new design does three things:

  • The similarity of design identifies them better as part of a series.
  • The new title for the series does a better job of presenting the main plot line.
  • The design style fits a lighthearted mystery.

Why didn’t I do this in the first place?

Writing is a process. Now that I’m finishing the third in the series, I can see things I couldn’t see when I had finished the first.

As I wrote Broken Windows, about 2010, I began to recognize that the mystery genre had broken into several new genres. Suspense promises readers lots of action and cliff hangers. Chase scenes and shoot-outs keep readers on the edge of their seats. Mysteries are more about character development and solving the mystery puzzle. Cozy mysteries had just made their debut. These light-hearted novels often feature cats or crafts of some kind.

Where did I fit into that picture? When watching a movie, I found myself falling asleep during car chases. Gore was definitely out for my books, but many cozies seemed too shallow to be meaningful. Most Christian novels seemed to feature broken, immature believers recovering from some deep sin in their past. Where were Christian novels I could identify with? I wanted to write about ordinary characters who were fairly mature Christians, challenged to live by a high standard of Christ-like conduct. And I had to ask myself why almost all mysteries, even Christian ones, feature murder as their main mystery.

I ended up with Broken Windows, a mystery centered around four single young adults who were struggling with career choices and finding God’s will for their lives. For the most part it fit the light-hearted nature of a cozy, but it did deal with some serious issues. With a male protagonist leading readers into the world of car guys and professional art, I wanted to avoid some of the girly issues that turn men away from cozy mysteries. Broken Windows helps the reader discover new worlds along with the characters. They enter the world of handicapped people, art professionals, and graffiti art. I made Broken Windows Book One in the “Keyhole Mysteries” with the tagline: Discover New Worlds.

In Book Two, Déjà Who?, Jordan and Zophie enter the world of international students in Minneapolis. They encounter the new world of forgery as they have to distinguish real from fake. But I began to realize that the most obvious common thread for the series would be art rather than the worlds the characters were discovering.

Now that I’m getting ready to launch I Scream and I realize that the series needs to be rebranded as art mystery. As a result, I plan to change the name of my series to the “Art Spotlight Mysteries” as I launch Book Three and change the cover design as well. The stories of the first two novels haven’t changed, but they will work better as a series this way.

When can I buy I Scream?

Soon. Right now beta readers are reading the book. I hope to launch this book before Thanksgiving, in time for Christmas. You’ll get more details in future Book Blasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a Christmas Program to Fit Your Small Church

September means “back to school” for most North Americans. While moms are buying school supplies, you may be quietly, and desperately, searching for a Christmas program to fit your church. The prospects may be discouraging. Maybe your church is too small to do a cantata and many Sunday School programs demand more than your church can provide. Christmas may be a major evangelistic outreach for you. You want something nice, but you are discouraged with your limited resources. What can you do?

4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Christmas Program

1. What is my purpose for the program?

Often Christmas programs are mainly evangelistic. It is the one time in the year to reach the families of kids who come to church. If that’s true for you, you want to be sure to feature these kids, not just your core church kids. Parents come to see their kids perform. Showcasing their kids is more important than showcasing more talented performers.

2. What do I have to work with?

How many people will participate? What ages are they? How willing are they to work? Are they musicians or are they more inclined toward drama? Consider how you can use the people you have in a way that will make them feel good about their participation.

3. How can I make the message meaningful for the audience, yet fun?

You may have people attend your program who only rarely attend church. You want this experience to be a positive one. If the overall tone is heavy and preachy it may push them further away. You certainly want a strong salvation message clearly presented, but lighter moments may help your unsaved audience better receive the message. Look for a Christmas program which will keep the atmosphere friendly and positive.

4. How can I make the program meaningful for the performers?

Program practice needs to be well organized, moving through the practices in an efficient manner. Some sense of discipline is necessary, but the general atmosphere should be upbeat. You want to emphasize that the purpose of your performance is God’s glory, not to show off. Yet the whole experience should be fun and fulfilling.

You may choose a program that your church is capable of producing through hard work, but you also need to consider how willing your people are. If your kids, performers, and workers are not highly motivated, you are probably better off not choosing a very difficult program. If you are going to have to threaten your performers and workers and drive them mercilessly to memorize lines and attend long practices, you’ve probably chosen the wrong program. On the other hand, a few highly motivated people can form the core of a more difficult program, with less motivated people playing less demanding parts.

I offer eight Christmas programs which I have used in a small mission church. Some are more demanding than others. “No Room for Jesus” is my personal favorite. Most are free, but some you have to order. Happy planning!