Book Update

Finished!

Finished!

It’s been several months since I reported that I’d sent the manuscript for the second book, Keeping the Faith, off to the publisher. A number of you have been kind enough to ask about its status since then. Today I finally have something definitive to tell you, but it’s a good news/bad news situation.

Good news? The publisher (Review and Herald) has assured me repeatedly that they’re interested in the book.

Bad news? Review & Herald will no longer have a printing facility.

Bottom line? I’ll have to look for another publisher.

For those interested in more detail, I’ll try to be concise. You’re probably aware that the book-publishing business is changing radically these days. Book-and-mortar bookstores are downsizing or closing altogether, having lost much of their business to online distributors. Similarly, book publishers are dealing with a decreased demand for printed books in light of the increasing popularity of e-books.

During the last year or so, Review & Herald has been going through a process of reevaluation. During these months, they’ve been unable to offer me a contract since they weren’t sure they could follow through on their end of the bargain–i.e., actually print the book. We discussed other possibilities, including the option of publishing Keeping the Faith as only an e-book, but needed to await the final reorganizing decisions before we could proceed with any specific plan.

Yesterday Review & Herald informed its authors of the final decisions. Essentially, they will be responsible for the publishing aspect of certain materials required by the worldwide church (e.g., lesson quarterlies, some magazines), but their actual printing press is closing.

What this means is that I’ll need to re-start the process with Pacific Press. I sent their acquisitions editor a request for consideration of the manuscript today. He’s undoubtedly inundated with requests from other authors in the same situation, so it may be several weeks before he’s able to respond. What’s more, Pacific Press doesn’t generally accept (or even consider) fiction. But if he is interested in seeing the full manuscript, it will take another 2-3 months for it to be fully evaluated.

Some have asked me about the option of self-publishing. While I haven’t ruled that option out entirely, it isn’t my first choice. The process of traditional publishing can seem convoluted and lengthy, but it has the distinct advantage of requiring that the book pass through multiple sets of hands before it comes off a printing press. In this case, where I am brazenly claiming to represent God Himself through a fictional tale, I feel this process is vital to assuring that I do not inadvertently misrepresent His character.

Objective editors experienced in the written expression of thought are simply more likely to foresee how a particular word, phrase, or symbol may be misinterpreted. The editors at Review & Herald were able to catch several potential problems in the original manuscript of The Race: An Allegory; their conscientious reviews were invaluable in making sure that it became a better representation of God and His amazing plan of salvation. I’m confident that He has a purpose in all of this as well.

Inspired Housekeeping

©iStock.com/OSTILL

©iStock.com/ OSTILL

Have you ever wondered who cleaned that big, beautiful architectural wonder we know as Solomon’s temple? Did the high priest’s wife sneak an illegal immigrant across the border to do it? Did she hire a troop of maids for minimum wage and no benefits?

Actually, according to 1 Chronicles 23:28-29, the cooking and cleaning were done by (drum roll, please) the male Levites—a chosen tribe within a chosen people.

Housekeeping was one of four occupations assigned to the Levites. It seems to have been considered equally important as the other three occupations, which were musicians, gatekeepers, and officers/judges (verses 4-5). Apparently all were paid the same. And they were not appointed to these occupations because of their individual talents or accomplishments; rather, the assignment was essentially random, based only on which branch of the family they belonged to.

So who merited more honor—the Levite judge, or the Levite who dusted the candlesticks?

Neither. Because “God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted … so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:18-25).

Equality before God is a basic tenet of the Christian faith (e.g., Galatians 3:28). Yet sin has a way of sneaking prejudice into our lives. We may not even be aware of it, but it affects the way we relate to others. We listen attentively to the boring details of our boss’s morning commute but completely ignore his file clerk. We smile and laugh with our friends over lunch, but grumble and grouse at the waitress. We expect to be paid top dollar for our own work, but pay an illegal immigrant less than minimum wage to do our gardening. And when anything goes missing, he’s first on our list of suspects.

In each of these cases, we’re responding to the role someone fills rather than to the person she is. Yet in God’s eyes, our worth is based on what He did for us. And our faithfulness is not evaluated by our position, but by our commitment to carrying out the work He assigned us, whatever that work may be.

Some may consider housekeeping a dull job, one devoid of spiritual significance. Yet we can learn a lot from the way God chose to keep His house clean. He sees the faithful musician, the faithful judge, and the faithful housekeeper all in the same light—each is His child, loved and cherished.

Do we reflect this attitude in the way we interact with others?

And Liberty for All

©iStock.com/peterkirillov

©iStock.com/ peterkirillov

Today, on this day when we especially celebrate freedom in the USA, I’d just like to leave this thought with you:

We are called to present liberty of conscience, not liberty of view. If we are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty — the liberty of realizing the dominance of Jesus Christ.

Always keep your life measured by the standards of Jesus. Bow your neck to His yoke alone, and to no other yoke whatever; and be careful to see that you never bind a yoke on others that is not placed by Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don’t get impatient, remember how God dealt with you — with patience and with gentleness, but never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 126)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).

 

Would You Miss Jesus?

©iStock.com/dcdp

©iStock.com/ dcdp

To me, the saddest verse in the Bible is Luke 2:43: “After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” (NIV) Or, as the New Living Translation puts it, they “didn’t miss him.”

Joseph and Mary were good people. They were godly people. Yet they became so absorbed in the stuff of daily life that they weren’t aware of God’s absence from it.

Something similar happened to Samson. Although he had an ultimately fatal weakness for women, he judged Israel for 20 years and was undeniably favored by God. Yet one day “he awoke from his sleep, and …did not know that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20, NKJV).

Bottom line: Even as God’s people, we can become so distracted that we fail to notice when He isn’t with us. This means we can go around actually believing that we’re doing God’s will—claiming to represent Him!—when we’re not. How sad!

More important, how scary! It may not affect my ultimate destiny (as far as we  can tell, Mary, Joseph, and Samson will all be in Heaven), but how might my temporary separation from God affect my witness to others? How might it affect their perception of the God I’m claiming to obey?

So how do we prevent such a lapse?

We need to reconnect with God regularly. It’s often been suggested that the daily provision of manna is an object lesson, pointing to our need for daily spiritual bread. Certainly dedicating time to Bible study and prayer every day is a crucial beginning. But the longer I run this spiritual race, the more I wonder if this is enough.

©iStock.com/ Tony Taylor Stork

©iStock.com/ Tony Taylor Stork

Consider the needs of an athlete; she needs more than breakfast to sustain her during a marathon. She’ll also need to consume more calories—Gatorade, perhaps some concentrated gels or power bars—at frequent intervals throughout the race. And she’ll need to replenish her nutritional stores again when she’s finished it.

Similarly, I need to breakfast with the Lord. I need snacks from His hand through the day. And I need a really substantial bedtime meal.

Your requirements may be different. Just as each athlete works toward a nutritional plan that best suits his particular body, we each must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. With His help, may we never have the sad experience of losing sight of Jesus—and not even realizing it.

 

Great Book!

How often do you think about your big toe? Probably not too often. But when I broke mine, I thought about it a lot—how to make it comfortable, how far I could walk before its complaining became unbearable, what areas I could negotiate with the crutches it required. And because I had this broken toe while playing the tourist in Washington, D.C., it even affected my ability to enjoy all the interesting and beautiful sights around me.

Freedom of Self-ForgetfulnessIn The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Timothy Keller says that egos are like toes. If they’re healthy, you don’t have to think about them. On the other hand, if you’re always thinking about your ego, that’s because it’s sick.

A sick ego asks questions like: What do people think of me? What do I think of me? How can I become famous/important/powerful? Have I proved my worth as a person yet? In other words, the sick ego has you constantly occupying the defendant’s chair in a courtroom, awaiting the next verdict. (Great! My verdict was “good person” last week … but am I still worthy of that judgment today?) It doesn’t matter how much you feed, pet, and praise a sick ego, it always wants more. (I have a dog like that.)

In this book, which is a study of Paul’s ego as revealed in I Corinthians 3:21-4:7, Keller says that the cure for a sick ego is self-forgetfulness. This is one of the many blessings of truly understanding the gospel, because the gospel tells us that the final verdict is already in.

God, looking upon Christ’s work for us, pronounces us “worthy”—worthy of His love; worthy of His pardon; worthy of His blessings. Therefore, my identity, my self-esteem, is no longer connected to what I do, but to what Christ does. And Christ thought I was important enough to die for.

When we truly internalize this truth, we’re out of that cruel courtroom forever. And then we can enjoy the people and things around us without being distracted by our sick egos.

The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. (p. 32)

I really enjoyed The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller. It contains some important ideas, and the language is easy to follow. Oh, and it’s short—46 small pages of large type! You might even manage that on your lunch break!

What’s Wrong With It?

©iStock.com/mishoo

©iStock.com/mishoo

Quick—what’s wrong with this picture?

Can you see it? Or are you so used to seeing Easter bunnies sitting on colored chicken eggs that you don’t even see the contradiction anymore?

If you have kids, if you’ve ever been around kids, or if you’ve ever been a kid, you’ve heard the question, “What’s wrong with it?” Once children reach a certain age, they ask it regularly—like any time they hear the word “no.”

Some of us never outgrow that stage. We continue to challenge everyone who questions our whims using the same dubious standard:

  • “What’s wrong with spending $1000 on a dress? It’s my money!”
  •   “What’s wrong with watching porn? I’m not actually doing anything!”
  •   “What’s wrong with watching movies about sorcery? It’s only fiction!”

Here are three reasons why I think we should chuck this standard:

1. It presupposes our ability to perceive “wrong.” Satan’s become really adept at flying just under our radar on this score. He changes our outlook by small, imperceptible degrees, by changes so subtle that we’re not even aware of a change at all. In this way, we’re exposed to images or ideas that successively push the border. We become so used to seeing something goofy—like a rabbit incubating eggs—that we no longer register the image as goofy. Similarly, we begin to perceive things as not-that-bad simply because they’re familiar.

2. It lowers our sights. We end up diving after a touchstone that is sinking deeper and deeper into the muddy silt  of “wrong.” And what will that eventually make us? Bottom-dwellers! The Bible encourages us to reach for an entirely different goal: “Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable” (Philippians 4:8, GNT). So instead of focusing down, on the ever-changing benchmark that society recognizes as “wrong,” we should focus upward on “right,” emblazoning this standard in our minds through what we see and hear.

3. It spoils God’s gift to us. “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives” (1 Thessalonians 4:7, NLT). In other words, Jesus didn’t leave His throne, live in poverty, and die a torturous death to leave us floundering around in the same pool of sin that poisoned our lives in the first place. He did all that so we “might have life—life in all its fullness” (John 10:10, GNT).

What’s all this mean? Simply that we’ve been asking the wrong question. We should quit settling for “What’s wrong with it?” and seek the far better standard of “What’s right with it?”

Live to Give

©iStock.com/jrmiller482

©iStock.com/jrmiller482

 Is there a supreme, overarching purpose to life? Is there a single motto, a common life goal, that will bring meaning to anyone in any walk of life?

Check out this quotation from Messiah, by Jerry D. Thomas:

The law of selfless love is the law of life for earth and heaven … All created things—except for the selfish human heart—reflects in some way God’s law of love. Every bird that takes flight, every animal that moves and breathes, has a part in helping other creatures survive. Even the leaves and blades of grass have their ministry. The oxygen they give supports all living creatures. Animals return to them the carbon dioxide they need to grow and survive.

All of nature lives to give. (pp 11-12)

Live to give—it reminds me of Jesus’s declaration that He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28, NIV). Interestingly, even secular studies support the benefit of this attitude toward life. Research shows that people who volunteer live longer, happier, less stressful lives. They have better self-esteem, are more active, and even find it easier to deal with chronic illness. [1] [2]

MessiahThe passage from Messiah goes on to mention more examples of this “law of life.” Flowers and sun, ocean and rivers, even the “angels find their joy in giving” (p. 12). And let’s not forget the supreme example:

 In Jesus we see God most clearly. He shows us without doubt that His Father’s greatest joy—His greatest glory—is to give. God’s life flows out to the universe in His ministry for all created beings. (p. 12)

Live to give—this attitude changes everything. It transforms even the most menial chore. You no longer have to mow lawns for the boring reason of making money; you can revel in the knowledge that you’re creating beautiful landscaping—a work of art for others to enjoy. You don’t have to clean the toilet merely to check off the items on your to-do list; rather, it can be a service of love performed to guard the health of your family (and so they don’t have to gag when nature calls).

Live to give—it’s the principle underlying “new” ideas like “pay it forward” and “random acts of kindness.” These are really only secular paraphrases of Jesus’s words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In other words, even our sin-sick hearts still find joy in the act of giving.

So who can you serve today?

 

[1] http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/research.cfm

[2] http://cdn.volunteermatch.org/www/about/UnitedHealthcare_VolunteerMatch_Do_Good_Live_Well_Study.pdf

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