The Next Bestseller

I’ve been writing books consistently now for about ten years. Whenever I speak somewhere as an author, I inevitably have people tell me that they want to write a book or possibly have already begun the process. Have you ever wanted to write a book?

Although a lot of my writing is for the purpose of helping people have a growing, meaningful relationship with Jesus, I’ve written a few to help people fulfill their dreams of becoming writers. My newest book that is coming out on March 10 is for that purpose. It’s entitled, “The Next Bestseller: Book Marketing for Success.” I’ve learned that if you’re going to be a successful author, you have to be an effective marketer.

The first chapter of the book shares my struggle of having to learn how to market when I just really wanted to write books. If you want to become an author, you may find yourself facing the same battle. You can write the greatest book in the world, but if no one knows it exists, then you will never have the opportunity to influence anyone through your writing.

I believe that many people want to write, and you may be one of them. Before you complete your book, or even start it, I’d like to encourage you to think about how you will find the audience to read your book once it’s published.

I have to admit that marketing never crossed my mind until after my first book was published. If I’d thought about it on the front end, I would have started working on enlarging my author platform long before I held my first book in my hand.Over my next few posts, I’ll share a few things from my book you may want to consider as you ponder the possibility of becoming a published author. Maybe these thoughts will help you see ways you can influence people through your writing. Though my book will not be available until March 10, you can preorder the digital version now from Amazon. The paperback version will probably come out on Amazon a little before the 10th. In the meantime, would you like to become a published author? Go for it!

What the World Needs Now

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau

I’ve gone through a gamut of emotions while following the political activities of the last months, and even years. I suppose our national problem was never clearer than during the State of the Union address this past week. Regardless of your political position, the great divide we’re experiencing should be alarming. We now live in a time when political rivalry has turned into political hatred.

Whatever happened to loving your enemies and turning the other cheek? I wonder when we set aside “doing unto others as we’d have them do unto us?” 

We need a good ol’ fashion dose of love. The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins, and frankly, I think there’s a lot of sins in Washington that need covering right now. It doesn’t stop in Washington, however. This great divide has spanned the country, and the two sides aren’t just political. The fact is that although I can pray for our political and societal leaders, I can’t change them; only God can. I can, however, change myself.

I can’t make Trump love Pelosi or Schumer have lunch with McConnell, but I can reach out to someone who has different opinions from myself and seek to love him or her in “action and in truth.” Jesus did say, after all, that the world will know that we are authentic followers of Christ by the way we love each other. I don’t think there’s a greater way to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit than to love someone that is not like me. Although Washington needs a good dose of love, most of us don’t live there. We need to start a movement right where we are—a love movement. I know from experience that when love and hate get in a competition, love always wins. I’m tired of the politics I’ve been watching displayed on TV. Let’s start something refreshing. 

One Degree

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” I just spent some time reviewing my 2020 personal growth goals and noted that some of them are making a repeat appearance from my 2019 goals. I’m not a lazy person, and I’m typically pretty disciplined in most areas. So, what’s the problem?

One problem is that I usually set too many goals. I’ve decided that while I’m going to hold onto my current list, I’m also going to whittle it down to five key goals for 2020. It’s a lot easier to keep five things on my mind and work toward their accomplishment.

I’ve also considered the fact that I’ve got to do something different. I can’t live the same way in 2020 as I did in 2019 and expect a different outcome. For example, I want to be a healthier person. This can start by choosing one change I want to make in my life. It doesn’t have to be a big change. A small change is like a pilot flying to London making a one-degree course correction as he flies over Atlanta. One degree may not seem noticeable ten miles out of Atlanta, but it could make the difference between landing at Heath Row or in the middle of the English Channel.What’s your one-degree change? I’m going to come up with five and see where I land in 2021. Why don’t you come up with five one-degree changes, write them down, and share them with someone as you begin your new year?

Important Things

When a young girl loses her father, her future wedding day can be a sad reminder of her pain and loss. I read an article today on Foxnews.com that brought tears to my eyes as one family came up with an idea to address this expected tragedy. Jason Halbert was given only eleven to fifteen months to live because he has an aggressive form of cancer that is sure to take his life. His two daughters, now eighteen-years-old and sixteen-years-old, had always dreamed of dancing with their father on their wedding day. Now, that will never happen.

The family decided to get wedding dresses for the girls and shoot video footage of the girls’ wedding dance with their dad. They plan to show the video one day at their weddings.

The story broke my heart to think about what this family must be going through, but it also made me stop to think about the fact that we’re all terminal. We should be living each day to its fullest knowing that no one is promised tomorrow. We never know when we’ll live our last day on earth, so we need to make each day count.

Maybe we should quit spending so much energy and time on activities that really do not matter when eternity is in view. It makes me think about the people I need to hug or the person I need to tell about Jesus. Of all of the things you’re going to do today, which of them really matters? Maybe, we should avoid some of the things on our to do list and add some other items that didn’t make the cut. Our deaths are a reality. Are you getting ready for it?

I think I’ll make a list of important things I must do before I die and start working on it. Somewhere near the top will be a dance with my daughters.

Things You Should Know if you Live in the South

I’m currently preaching a series on the Sermon on the Mount called “Essentials.” In my opening comments from last Sunday, I shared a few essential things someone should know if they’re going to live in the south. Here’s my list:

  • You should know the difference between poison ivy & kudzu.
  • You should know the best place to go to get sweet tea (when you don’t want to make it yourself.)
  • You should know that real men eat grits.
  • You should know that if you’re going to put something in grits, it should either be your spoon or shrimp.
  • You should know that you don’t have a hissy fit. You pitch one.
  • You should know that if it snows, don’t put chains on your tires. Stay home.
  • You should know that Sunday is for church, but Saturday is for football.

What would you add to the list?

Cry for Hope

“That’s depressing.” Have you ever said those two words? I’ve watched U.S. politics lately and found myself frustrated, angry, and discouraged. I may have even said that certain events or reactions have been “depressing.” As we move toward what seems like an all-out war between presidential candidates, I find myself shaking my head and dreading the next year. While events may get me down, am I really depressed?

Over seven percent of American adults will experience depression this year and fifteen percent will struggle with depression at some point in their lives. Over three million young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen have experienced at least one depressive episode this year. Sadly, I think we’ll see these numbers growing in the years to come. Why? Why are we struggling with depression as a culture?

Depression can come from a variety of places in a person’s life. It may result from chemical imbalances, physical or emotional trauma, or cultural challenges. Regardless of its source, depression is both promoted by and fed from feelings of hopelessness. While counselors can offer several solutions, one key solution is hope. I’m so grateful for gifted therapists and counselors, and I am most grateful for the God of all hope.

The great news I have is that we find hope in Jesus Christ. God spoke words of encouragement to a troubled nation in Jeremiah 29:11. These words also have great application to us today: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Do you struggle with depression today? As you reach out for hope, I encourage you to reach out to God. He will walk with you through your darkness to help you find the brightness of His presence.

Essential?

I’m about to begin a new teaching series at my church called Essentials. I’ve been thinking some about the title realizing that most of us struggle with REALLY being able to distinguish what is essential in life and what is optional. For example, most of us think that having a car for every driver is essential! Is it really? You could ask my friend Isaias in Pueblo Viejo, Mexico, and he’d tell you that a vehicle is not essential. I suppose if I didn’t have a vehicle, I wouldn’t live about eight or ten miles from town. I could walk 8.1 miles to work every day, but I’d rather not.

In a way, I’ve redefined the meaning of essential. While maybe I can justify owning a car, can I really justify owning a car for each driver in my family? Not really. Granted, none of us drive a new car, but they all work, at least at the moment. What does essential really mean? If you Google the word, you’ll see that it means, “Absolutely necessary.” My series is not focusing on things that are absolutely necessary for life like water, food, and deodorant (maybe deodorant isn’t essential, but it’s close). I’m focusing on the things in the Christian life that are essential. I’ll share some thoughts from the series as I go along. Have you ever thought about what’s essential for the Christian life? I wonder what would make your list. Will you share a few thoughts in the comments?

What Happened to Honesty?

Why is it that when we see blatant honesty, we’re surprised? I passed this sign in front of a BBQ restaurant near Dahlonega, Georgia last week and was immediately a fan of the restaurant—even before I ate the food. After eating it, I’m really a fan. I love the fact that this restaurant owner expects an award but is free to let the world know that they haven’t received one yet.

What happened to honesty? Why are lies and deceit so commonplace in our society that we give awards to those who are able to pull off the biggest lies (the Pinocchio Awards)? God says, “The Lord detest lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth” (Proverbs 12:22). “Detest” is a strong word. In my book, Wisdom Speaks: Life Lessons from Proverbs, I wrote a section about this word as it relates to honesty:

To say that something is an abominationto the Lord is to say that an act is detestable to God. It is a strong statement pointing to something as disgusting or repugnant. We might say that something makes us sickto our stomachs. It is interesting to scan through the pages of Scripture to note what God says is an abomination. If we have never struggled with homosexuality, we may put that at the top of the list because it is mentioned several times. For starters, God doesn’t have a top-of-the-list category. Any sexual sin is an abomination to God.

Sexual sin is not the only disgusting act to our Creator. God gives us a list of other sins that He considers abominable:

There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him. Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that devises wicked plans feet that run rapidly to evil. A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.—Proverbs 6:16-19

Notice that a lying tongue made it to number two on the list of abominable deeds. Isn’t that interesting? Someone lies to us about a political matter, and we shake our heads and give him four Pinocchios. God, on the other hand, sees it as an abomination. We make light of something that God obviously deems as quite serious.

We’re smack in the middle of a political season, and we’re going to be inundated with false statements and people being accused of making false statements. It’s easy for us to be critical of those politicians. The fact is, however, that we can’t change politicians, but we can change ourselves. Regardless of how many Pinocchios someone might get from a speech next week or next month, we should opt for honesty.

Proverbs also tells us that righteous lips are a delight and the integrity of the upright will guide them. Proverbs 10:9 says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” As we anticipate hateful words and falsehoods that are sure to be a part of the next election cycle, let’s commit ourselves to walk securely and be a delight because we delight in telling the truth.

Which Way Do I Go?

I’m reading a book by John Ortberg entitled All the Places to Go: How Will You Know. For starters, it’s an excellent book. Ortberg has challenged me with a lot of thoughts and phrases. One of them is when he said, “God wants us to be excellent choosers.” Have you ever considered God thinking of you in that light? I’m not sure that I have. It makes sense to me now as I think about it. I want my children to be excellent choosers. I don’t just have one path I want them to take, but I want them to make sure they’re following Jesus. I think God is the same way with us.

God’s greatest goal for you, once you become a Christian, is to be shaped into the image of His Son. He uses a variety of methods to mold our character to look more like Jesus’, but one way is through the journey of decision making. While He is interested in the particular direction we go, He’s more interested in the person we become through the process. I’m convinced that in my life there have been times God has intentionally made my future steps a little fuzzy so I would spend more time in prayer over my decision. I don’t think my prayer time was as much about finding God’s will about a direction as it was in seeing God’s character formed in my life. If I remember that God’s main desire is that I be like Jesus, it makes sense that He’ll use my crossroad experiences of decision making as a classroom of character formation.

Are you at a crossroad of decision? What are you doing to meet God in the moment so your life will be changed by the process?

Only God

I spent a few days fishing this week with my father and brothers in Alaska. What an unbelievably beautiful place! Upon getting back to our vacation rental after the second day of fishing, I noticed that my face was red. Why wouldn’t it be red? I’d spent two days in the sun and strong winds. I had covered my head and ears but failed to put sunscreen on my face. Naturally, I didn’t realize my error until after two days of neglect. Sunburn or windburn is a slow process. We don’t realize it’s happening until after the damage is done.

We’re seeing a slow burn take place in our country. We’re all still shocked and heartbroken that someone could go into a Walmart in El Paso or to an entertainment district in Dayton to kill people. We mourn the loss of at least thirty-one people in this insanity and many more are suffering from wounds. During the same weekend, fifty-three people were shot in Chicago, seven killed. Who knows how many other atrocities happened last weekend?

I’m also stunned at the stupidity and selfishness of politicians. It’s shocking to see political candidates immediately use these events in an attempt to gain an edge in the election. It’s mind blowing to hear news reporters lay the blame for this shooting on the President. We’re also hearing that it’s the fault of the NRA. Really? Can these political leaders and news reporters not recognize the slow burn of a nation who has neglected the importance of fearing God and strengthening families?

As the fabric of our society comes apart, we should go backward in our history and find the things that have been washing away our foundation. We kicked God out of the schools in the 60’s. We devalued life with the passage of Roe vs. Wade in the 70’s. In the 80’s, we experienced continued growth in greed, rampant narcissism, increase in divorces and single-parent homes, and the promotion of free and safe sex. I could go on and on about the growth of immorality at every level, the continued destabilization of the home, the normalization of same-sex marriages, and the total disregard for honesty and truth. We removed the Bible from our public places, mocked prayer and the truth of Scripture, and openly persecute Christians for demonstrating their faith. The spiritual decline in our nation is significant.

Our decline has been slow and gradual. When immorality becomes a civil right and righteousness can no longer be defined by a society that has no moral bearing, our country is in trouble. We really can’t even call something evil because our society has determined that all truth is relative. Evil and moral relativity cannot coexist.Should we be surprised at mass shootings? Can our country back away from the edge of the abyss?

The problem is that immorality has been accepted, and broken has become the new normal. The only thing that can save us is a sweeping, spiritual revival. Immorality, broken governmental systems, and unstable families do not naturally reverse themselves. God can restore America, but only God can do it. Pray for America. Pray for your family. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our churches. Pray for God to help you strengthen your own home and order your own steps. Only God is a healer, and only God can heal broken people.