Archives For Christianity

This post is about evangelism.

Here’s a question for you. If someone says:

I don’t believe in Jesus or God, but my life is awesome and yours isn’t so good, why should I be a Christian?

This question has bothered me for years.

For a long time I thought, when I’m rich/married/successful, THEN I’ll share God’s word because people will listen.

This, however, hasn’t stopped the disciples, who were mostly poor. On the other hand, rich people have often talked about God, from King Josiah to John Templeton to Ben Carson, and their voices are ignored at best or ridiculed at worst.

There are people who will ignore God no matter who the message comes from.

It’s not your job to save souls. It’s your job to make salvation available.

I’m almost 29 and not rich or married. I have had some success, but not enough to brag about. So, waiting until I’m ‘good enough’ would be a tragedy.

Personal development and goals aside, there is a chance I may be waiting for a day that will never come.

If you’re wondering the same thing about your life, and would like to answer the above question, here are 11 ways I’ve gone about it.

Feel free to steal, copy, share, etc. If you want to link back, I’d love it.

Imagine your boss is asked you this question; Your atheist boss drives a nice car, has 3% bodyfat, makes three times as much money as you, and the ladies love him. All responses are crafted for this hypothetical boss.

1. It’s God’s Job to Give You a Personal Experience. It’s Your Job to Ask.

The reason many people will remain Christian no matter what an atheist may show them is because of the personal relationship Christians have with God.

You believe in gravity because one day you fell and got hurt. You have a personal experience with gravity.

If it weren’t for science class, experts on TV – explaining orbits, velocity, mass, & magnetic pull – and stories from astronauts outside of earth’s obit, you would NEVER believe that you could jump in space and just float.

You can test this: in fact, the Bible tells you to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). It also says ask and you shall receive (Luke 11:9-10). You could ask, in private – so you don’t embarrass yourself – that if God is real, that He give you a personal experience. You will only look into it further if you get one. Then, just in case, you’ve given Him a shot.

2. Correlation Does Not Equal Causation.

While at this moment you may be doing well, and I may not be doing as well, consider this:

How many atheists and agnostics are doing terribly despite having the same belief as you? How many people are doing well who believe in God? You’ll find large numbers in every camp.

Not all who believe in God are failures, and not all who are atheists are successful.

I’ve found that success is often a combination of choices, mindset, work-ethic, awareness, consistence, and good-fortune. Keeping it usually requires at least 2 or more of those things.

3. Success on Earth Never Includes a Promise of Eternal Life

Jesus lacked for nothing until his crucifixion, even though he often took nothing with Him when traveling.

The patriarchs, prophets, and apostles of the Bible came from widely varying financial situations.

Abraham, Job, Joseph and Matthew were all rich at some point.

Peter was a poor fisherman and John the Baptist lived in the desert.

Paul was middle-class, and rocked a pretty cool side-hustle during his travels.

All of them recognized that a relationship with God was the source of eternal life and that this had a high value – more than anything that could be achieved here on earth.

4. Different Journeys Lead to Different Destinations

You and I are in different places today. Why?

The short answer: because that’s where we are.

We’re going towards different finish lines on the journey of life. All I’m saying is to go for the ultra-marathon rather than the 5k.

5. My Failures Aren’t God’s Fault.

Israel was the chosen nation of God for the entire Old Testament, yet they failed constantly. They failed so bad you’d think it was their job description.

Even Athiests must agree that my failures are not God’s fault. This is true whether He exists or not.

6. If You Credit Personal Success With Unbelief in God, Who or What is Rewarding You?

And just as important: Why?

My guess narrows it down to one of two things:

First: People – the same 2-legged homo sapiens who I interact with every day. If people are rewarding you for this, then the feedback loop for you is a matter of politics.

Politics tend to swing like a pendulum – watch the elections in any country. In my opinion this swinging will just get more and more violent, but I digress.

When leaders, friends, family, and the media decide it is politically popular to believe in God, will you find your faith then, or stick to your current belief system?

Second: Something you don’t believe in. A supernatural entity who is willing to expend resources to keep you from finding God. Some might call it ‘The Devil’. The Devil – over the long-term – would stand to lose more if you should so much as look at Christ.

7. If I Choose God and Don’t Get Rewarded, Whose Fault is it?

This is a reversal of #6, just in case you feel like I’m picking on you.

It goes both ways. If I choose God and do worse, it’s one of three things:

First: My choices and mindsets are the problem. Either God’s ways are right and I don’t adhere well enough to them, or they are wrong.

Second: Political. Religious people have a tendency to pick one side and stick with it (see Martyrs). If it’s popular to believe in God, that’s cool with them. If it’s not, they get punished by people in power during those times. These are often the same times when telling the truth to people who are hurting others, or whistle-blowing, can be a career-killer.

Third: Adversary, a.k.a. The Devil. Imagine we elected a president that truly tried to do the right thing by all Americans. S/He stopped the Fed, punished those responsible for the bailout, indicted the cops that brutally killed unarmed people, lowered taxes, vetted all immigrants, made it way easier to travel, put in term limits for congress and the senate, lowered the deficit, etc. ALL those things. If s/he couldn’t be blackmailed or killed, the systems controlling those elements could cause all the markets to collapse in the middle of that president’s term, so that the ‘Good’ president would take the blame for the whole house of cards falling down. They would take the blame even if the problems had been started and exacerbated over a hundred years.

Where am I going with this? If I choose God, I may get hit so it will look like the evil is all God’s fault when it really isn’t.

It’s the system, man!

8. What are You Giving Up?

Jesus wanted the rich young ruler to recognize that a relationship with God was more valuable than everything else (Matthew 19:16-22).

However, choosing God doesn’t always mean quitting your job, selling your car, and dating women you don’t like. God just wants you to have more respect for the Creator than the creations. Then, you appreciate what you have even more. Your fear of loss is cut way down, so much that one day you might even say: O Death, where is thy sting?

How cool is that?

9. Pascal’s Wager.

If you believe in God and are wrong, you lose little. If you don’t believe in God and are wrong, you miss out on a LOT. Enough said.

10. God Wants Relationship; He Doesn’t Want to Treat You Like a Dog

Pavlov’s dog is a psychology term associated with behavioral conditioning. A dog was fed after the ringing of a bell so many times that the dog would hear the bell and start salivating even when no food was there for it to eat.

Humans are not the new dog.

If all Christians got rewarded while all non-Christians got screwed over by life, 99% of people would call themselves Christian. Very few would be doing it because they had real love for God. [See Job Ch 1]. God wants us to independently choose Him out of free will.

11. How Christian Are You, Really, Without Even Knowing It?

Christianity is famous for forgiveness, yet it is more conditional than most people think it is.

Christianity means following Christ. Doing what God says.

So, if someone treats others horribly, doesn’t love, and says they are Christian, are they?

No.

If someone isn’t perfect but they own up to their mistakes and love people, is that person more Christian or less? More, even if that person had never heard of Jesus.

Many Christians who are doing badly are reaping the consequences of not being very Christian, and many atheists see it and blame God for their actions. At the same time, some atheists grasp the fundamentals of true Christianity and are rewarded for it.

Again, what are you giving up, if that’s the case?

Thanks for reading. You are more than welcome to share this with others who are struggling with this question in their lives.

How Great is Your God?

March 26, 2015 — 86 Comments

Reserved 12 by Steve Snodgrass on FlickrYou probably remember the first time you prayed and something happened, even if it was really small.

Maybe, like one of my childhood friends, you prayed for pizza at dinnertime, and ta-da! There it is.

One friend of mine has a daughter who prayed that the automatic window on their SUV would work again, after weeks of malfunctioning. Ta-da, now she can order milkshakes at Sonic.

And it’s hard not to roll your eyes at the myriad parking spot miracles out there. It’s enough to fill a very boring book.

And on the eighth day, Adam sought a space large enough for his Prius. The sun approached its apex, and the cinnamon rolls he desired would soon be discarded, forever out of reach. So he closed his eyes to pray and – lo, and behold! – his front bumper knocked over a parked motorcycle, giving him enough clearance to set up camp.

This gave me a really skewed idea of God. Shouldn’t you be praying to find a good spouse, raise good children, freedom of religion, and a fulfilling and prosperous career? How does finding a front row parking space outside of Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon factor into God’s priorities?

How May I Help You?

Not wanting to skew HIS priorities, I decided early on to ‘help’ God.

No more praying for small stuff. God is an important figure in the universe.

Like, if a boss I wanted to impress gave me a job to do and I couldn’t find a pen, I wouldn’t bother him about it. Instead, I’d do what I have to, go buy a pen, and get the job done. Because, as I believed it, God shouldn’t be bothered with trivial things.

It would be better, I thought, to pray that I write a really great book, or built a business that gave me complete financial freedom. Or, if my spouse had a major disease one day, I’d save up my goodwill with God for a real big miracle at that moment.

If we’re dealing with regular human beings, that is a great idea. Except we’re not.

How Great is Your God?

I was trying to build what’s called Emotional Equity.

As if every time I didn’t bother him about something small, I preserved my capital with the Most High.

And every time I pursued my calling, or helped someone, He’d really pay attention when I prayed for the big stuff.

I was praying as if every prayer was subject to a holy audit.

You Cannot Bankrupt God.

Emotional equity is a great tool and a savvy way to live when building long-lasting relationships with people. It sucks as a foundation for your friendship with God.

What God is really looking for is a relationship with you. Any prayer, of any size, opens the communication channels, giving you face-time with the Creator. Small ones build your faith. Big ones honor God’s capacity to bless you, and when fulfilled, they vindicate your faith.

In God’s eyes, every time you talk with Him, it’s a deposit!

So pray for the small, petty, inconsequential stuff. It’s cool, He want’s to hear from you. You’ll also be less nervous about prayer when you go to Him for the big stuff, and won’t hesitate to seek His counsel first – in all things.

Piggy Bank and Calculator by Images Money on FlickrI was wrong. The kid praying for pizza was right. God is good.

Go for it. What are you going to do, wipe Him out?

Luke 18 (NIV) Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

 

 Photo Credit:

Reserved 12 by Steve Snodgrass (courtesy of Flickr.com)

Piggy Bank and Calculator by Images Money (courtesy of Flickr.com)

 

Edge Conference by Jeffrey Zeldman at flickr

You ever spend time on an event for a specific reason, and then get something completely different out of it?

I came to the ReWrite conference last week expecting to get a lot of tips on how to improve on marketing, and perhaps figure out when a traditional publishing deal would be worth my while.

What happened instead is that I ran into my people.

You know, your people? A group you can be yourself around?

If I’m lucky I develop friendships with 1-2 of those kinds of people per year.

Imagine running into 100 of them in 2 days.

Esther Fedorkevich of the Fedd Agency set a strong, indie-friendly tone in spite of her traditional publishing background. The feud between indies and traditional publishers is fading fast, and she is definitely part of the solution in that area. Rest assured, I still hammered her employees with ‘Audit the Fed’ jokes.

Personally, as long as I live in a relatively free part of the world, I’ll use whichever route achieves the goals that matter to me, as long as those decisions are legal, moral, and ethical.

Traditional? Sure, why not?

Indie? Sure, why not?

Keynote speaker was Ted Dekker, who wrote the Circle series, Thr3e (also a movie), and many other bestselling novels.

People who stood on stage and said things

Like the subtitle? The tone of the festival was that all authors are equally important, because even the top selling folks were at one point learning the basics. And people learning the basics are just like the top sellers, traveling on the journey from where they are to where they want to be. It was a judgment-free zone, and even the major players were in the audience taking notes, just like everyone else. That is some real ‘walking the talk’.

At the risk of leaving out any names, or name-dropping, here were some other panelists and attendees:

Takeaways

Here are some lessons that anyone can take with them, writer or not:

“When you love your neighbor as yourself, you love yourself, because we are one.” – Ted Dekker

“Everything you do in life will flow out of who you are…rewrite what you believe about yourself.”

“Do not despise obscurity” – Mary DeMuth

On gurus and how following their checklists often fails to bring you the success you seek. “What if the ‘Guru’s’ advice works?! You might risk pointing to them or yourself rather than to God.” – Mary DeMuth

Just because God is in something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will prosper the way we want it to.

“It’s difficult to read the label (your qualities) when you’re standing inside the bottle.” – James Rubart

“Culture is a gathering of people around a common idea, item, or belief.” [that is the goal of social media] – Sandi Krakowski

“Nobody [successful authors interviewed] could identify a single moment of breakthrough… they only noticed breakthrough after the fact.” – Esther Fedorkevich

All the moments pushing the flywheel led to the breakthrough.

“Think less like an author [on PR] and more like a journalist for a news outlet.” In the end, that’s what social media is, and our job as creatives or businesspeople or writers is to report on what’s making the most impact in our respective subject matters. – Randy Shelton

Don’t put your identity in your work. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword (paraphrase of Ted Dekker). On a personal note, I noticed you can replace ‘Sword’ with…well…anything. Also notice if you live by God, you die by God, but since He’s the source of salvation it is the only way that death turns into an illusion.

Chad Allen showed me something called the living systems theory, which in my opinion is one of the reasons that change can be so hard sometimes. Living Systems Theory = when you change 1 or 2 parts of a system, the whole system changes.

“If you spend your whole life teaching a fish how to climb a tree, the fish will spend away its whole life thinking it’s stupid” – Kevin Kaiser

 So, should you go, if you’re a writer?

I’d say yes, if only to get your head in the right place. In the future, I’d like to see more case studies and tactical stuff, but it is what it is. If the above quotes helped your mind in any concrete way, look into it the next time the event comes around.

Pool of Echoes - Book CoverPool of Echoes is out!

Here’s it’s about:

Jordan Mitchfield is heir to a media empire worth billions. He also sees and hears things that aren’t there.

Then someone close puts him in an insane asylum against his will.

When it looks like there is no way out but to take his own life, he is stopped. Is it a vision? Is what he’s seeing actually real? Is it even part of this dimension?

Whatever it is, it opens his cell door and throws him into a dangerous time-travel adventure through his memories.

As he goes deeper into the Pool of Echoes, he is forced to confront everything he has ever known, reconstruct his own mental health, and play a role in something much larger than himself.

If you or anyone you know has ever questioned their own self worth, get on board this life-changing fiction thrill-ride. You will never be the same.

I’ll make an entry on the BOOKS page so it will be easy to find later.

This was my first of ‘hopefully’ many thrillers. I’ve noticed that my favorite stories have a bit of action and conflict in them, and it’s an underserved area for those who like Christian fiction.

 

The Reason for Pool of Echoes

The basic message of the story is: where does your self worth come from?

If it comes from your possessions, your family, your socio-economic background, your friends – these are all things that can change. Even worse, whatever you make as the center of your self worth ends up being a chain, preventing you from a healthy relationship with whatever idol you’ve chosen – even if it’s just an idea.

There is one exception – and that is to put your self worth someplace where it cannot be taken away.

Wanna know where it is? Wanna know? Well I’ll tell you, but I also wanna make a living and share this great story with you, so come on down to the Amazon, where my book file yearns to visit you.

Click here to check out the book and/or download a preview.

Enjoy.

-David

 

Note: If you’re finding out this way rather than through the mailing list, my list server is temporarily down. The matter should be resolved in a day or two.

Anyone can Serve

April 22, 2014 — 81 Comments

Confession: For the longest time, I thought I disliked serving people.

The reality was that I love serving people, but hate being imposed upon.

I recently had the pleasure of doing outreach with my church in an assisted living home. After some songs, Bible verses, and a short message, we chatted with the people who lived there. One of them, an obese diabetic in a wheelchair, mentioned that she did Mass in a room down the hall every 2nd Sunday, and said it would be great if we could come.

Years of guilt-tripping has taught me to recognize an imposition so I can escape it before I am asked. So that’s what I did. I was one of the first to leave, and drove out of there a bit faster than I should have.

Imagine her surprise next week when she saw me there!

So I helped with communion, handing out the wine and the bread. Most of the attendees could hardly move, and needed help just getting around.

And the woman who led mass? She has no legs.

I don’t mean she can’t use her legs – below the middle of her thighs are thick, round stumps – then nothing but air.

So this woman cannot move around. She’s stuck in an assisted living home. She’s old and at least 300 lbs – not winning any beauty contests there. Plus, she has no legs.

Despite that, she had one of the most cheerful spirits out of anyone I had ever met.

Possibly it’s because she knows that no matter where she is in life, she can always do something that makes a difference.

If she can, so can you.

It seems that people who have completely given up on achieving their goals – who’ve thrown in the towel when it comes to making plans – those people have the greatest faith. Or the worst.

I’ve always been the type of person who doesn’t really care about survival. Getting to the next month in the same situation I was in before is a real turn off. As long as the status quo sucks, why would I care about keeping things the way they are?

What do I care about? Thrival.

Don’t know if that’s even a word, but you can probably tell what it means.

It’s “survival +1 or more”.

I cared more about getting to Austin and living here than anything in the world. Career-wise, I have been let down more than Tyrion fans who frantically flip through Feast for Crows for another chapter about their favorite japing imp.

That was some weak sauce, George RR Martin. No Daenarys, No Tyrion, and only 2 chapters about Arya? I’m tempted to just skip this book.

What about the people who set goals and actually achieve them? Are they just lucky, or is it because their faith is simply better than mine.

Either way, I may have to move out of Texas to continue pursuing a career in writing. There’s another job opportunity that I’m looking at, and if things go well there, it may only take me – 5 years – before I can move back to the land I love. The job is not a writing job, but it will allow me to pour an extra 20 hours per week into making the best damn stories possible.

The exception is if something different happens in the next 2.5-7 weeks – something that hasn’t happened in the last 120 weeks or so. If I knew what to do differently, I’d do it.

Not trying to complain. I’ll do well no matter where I go, but I just don’t want to go anywhere else.

Have you succeeded at the goals you care about the most? If you’re a Christian, how did you keep the faith when you were down?

On Target by LarryLens at sxc.hu

On Target by LarryLens at sxc.hu

You may have noticed that the people who need to learn something the most are the ones least interested in learning it.

The common phrase you’ll hear if promote your helpful idea to them?

“Yeah, I really Should Do That…”

If you hear this phrase, you’ve missed the mark. Sure, you’ve identified a need, and the people who have that need, but just because you’ve set up an archery target facing East, that doesn’t mean pointing your bow and arrow East will guarantee a hit. You’ve got to aim better.

How do we do that?

Let’s look at spirituality, where I’ll ask you a controversial question:

Who needs God the least?

It’s a trick question, because everyone needs God. If you read my blog, you’ve likely come to a similar conclusion.

In the Bible, it does mention those who THINK they need God the least:

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Revelation 3:17 NIV

Most of the People Who Need Your Product Don’t Care

Those who believe they have it all are less likely to seek answers. If you think you’re healthy, why would you go to the doctor? This is why Jesus mainly took his message to those who were down and out.

This idea may change the way you see marketing and product design forever. It may even change the way you teach others.

Most the people you want to reach won’t give a damn what you have to offer them.

They’ll walk right past it because they are focused on something else.

  • Most people don’t buy batteries until their flashlight runs out of power.
  • Most people don’t buy candy until they are about to check out of the supermarket.
  • And they won’t buy something to drink unless they are thirsty.

Since most people won’t be ready to take advantage of your world changing idea, you need to focus on the small chunk of people who are desperate.

Focus on the Desperate People

Desperate people need answers, and they need them NOW.

So focus on them, and make sure you that you help solve their problem better than any other product out there.

There are many people who recognize that they are pitiful, poor, blink, and naked in some area. They’ll invest in something that will help them.

But Will You Run Out of Desperate People?

As long as the problem exists, people will always need a solution. So, in most cases, no.

There is a cycle that your market will go through.

  • I need it but I don’t care
  • I really should get it, but [insert objection here]
  • CATASTROPHE/Reflection
  • I’ll listen and buy in

Each phase in the cycle has a large group of people. Once you’ve helped the ‘I’ll listen’ folks, the people who are reflecting on a recent catastrophe will realize they need what you have.

By the time every group has moved to ‘I’ll listen’, your cycle will be refreshed with new people.

Don’t spend your energy on those who don’t care.

And unless there’s no other way, don’t prey on people right after a catastrophe, because that demonstrates that you value being right over actually solving their problems.

Focus on those who are ready. You’ll gain traction, and get enough positive feedback to stay in business until you reach the other people. By then, you’ve built word of mouth, you have a brand, and you’ve positioned yourself.

You’re the first person they’ll go to, and you’ll change the world, just like you wanted to.