Tag Archives: Christian

How “CHRISTIAN” should our stories be?

Christian story tellers write Christian fiction. I proudly belong to a national group called American Christian Fiction Writers.

What makes Christian fiction different from other types of fiction?

Is it the words we use? Is it the issues we tackle or the way we deal with them? Is it the amount of Bible references we put in our books? Or the subtle Christian themes we fold into the pages?

But what makes a book, theme, or scene Christian?

I’m convinced the answer to that question can liberating. Or dominating. Perhaps it depends on attitude and agenda. We like “black & white” answers, and that’s okay, but not everything can be so designated. For instance, here another question that stirs discussion in churches–even causes splits:  what makes a worship service a “real” worship service? Some demand the old hymns, while others want the newest praise songs. Some want a pipe organ and others get all giddy when they walk into a sanctuary and see a drum set and guitars. So which is it?

See what I mean?

When it comes to Christian Fiction, who decides what is and isn’t Christian? And what standards do they use to make such a judgment?

My opinion, formed through observation and experience, is that Christian Fiction can be defined as much by what is not a part of the story as by what is part of the story.

I believe our story should leave people thinking about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute…(Phil 4:8a). But I also believe that we have a responsibility to keep in mind that all the things mentioned above–along with the source of our salvation–is specifically revealed in the name of Jesus. But does that mean that I have to include His name in every book? Keep in mind that there is an entire book of the Holy Bible in which God’s name never appears! Yet God included it in His collection of “books” called the Bible.

If I use Philippians 4:8 as a guide, then I’ll be careful to include story elements that honor God, AND I’ll keep from using profane things that dishonor him (such as explicit sexual content, profane language, and any other elements that celebrate “evil” instead of exposing it). But even deciding how much to hint at sexual attraction/activity, foul language, etc… isn’t always “black & white”.

I very much want to hear your comments on the questions in this post. Please take a minute to share your thoughts. Thank you.

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Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, reading, Writing

Writers and Spiritual Warfare

Make yourself familiar with angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you. (St. Francis de Sales)

The longer I walk the journey of discipleship I become more and more convinced that the call to write for God is a call to battle. This call to duty is not based on my value as a human being, but on the particular stewardship that God has entrusted to me: the stewardship of story. Every Christian has a place on the spiritual battlefield. All followers of Jesus are participants. There are no bleachers in which we can leisurely sit and chomp popcorn and drink the beverage of our choice. We are soldiers, not fans.

Every Christian is gifted…which is another way of saying that every Christian is equipped to take part in the warfare between light and darkness. There’s no sitting this one out. Stewardship brings responsibility.

I believe that my writing is a part of the battle. I want to show how God’s light can penetrate the darkness. I want to use the power of story to testify to how God’s power can reverse the curse. What an awesome privilege indeed! God can use our stories to bring victory in readers lives.

How do you think Christian fiction has helped you fight the spiritual battle in your life?

 

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Snoopy the Great American Author

Penelope Stokes, in a book called Complete Guide to Writing and Selling a Christian Novel, told about a Peanuts comic strip where Snoopy was chasing his dream of being an author. Snoopy is sitting atop his doghouse banging away on the keys of an old typewriter. When he finishes his story, the overjoyed beagle does a happy dance and the caption reads, “It’s a wonderful feeling when you know you’ve written something really good.”

Ever been there? You sit back in your chair and bask in the glow of a job well done. “That’s good,” you say to yourself. “Really good.” Snoopy danced on his doghouse; how do you celebrate?

If we could just bottle that moment, then take a sip when we needed inspiration. Or when we write something that’s…well, less than good. But it doesn’t work that way.

I hope, as writers, we never loss sight of the sheer joy of writing. Whether or not that story is ever read by anyone else or not. I’m convinced that when we stop relishing the incredible thrill that comes from writing, we begin to sink into a life of “duty” and not “joy.”

Isn’t being called by God to write enough to fuel our joy?

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Real, not Raw

There are discussions among Christian writers as to whether or not certain types of language belong in Christian fiction. The debate seems to circle around the question, “how far is too far?”

I happen to believe that there’s nothing wrong with vigorous debate, until that debate becomes disrespectful. The problem is we’ve raised a few generations of people who don’t know how to discuss issues without taking things personally. Such a beginning point makes “agreeing to disagree” a noble yet nearly impossible goal.

Another part of this equation–for me–is that I don’t know if there is a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of using strong language in our Christian fiction. The reason is I can’t find the definitive list on what is and isn’t considered improper. Oh sure, I know there are the “really bad” words like **** and ****** and even **********. But what about *****? In some parts of the country people consider that a compliment. But what about the terms that are only kind of offensive, like ******, *******, and ****.

In all seriousness, there are Christian people on both sides of the language debate. Each is just as committed to good fiction as the other. Each seeks to produce powerful stories that will honor the light of the truth without ignoring the reality of the darkness into which that light shines. Some want to write characters–especially non-christian characters–who represent accurately the fallen humanity that lives around us. Others believe that capturing the ungodliness of the carnal world can be done without resorting to their vocabulary.

Personally, I am not comfortable in using “curse words” or four-letter words in my fiction. My reason is simple: I just don’t need to use those words. I believe that I can be creative enough to find other words that will show the same emotion without planting unhealthy seeds in a readers spirit. Do they encounter–perhaps even use–such “bad/unchristian” terms in their daily lives? Perhaps. That’s something I can’t control. But I can control whether they’ll encounter them in my books.

Which is more likely to happen: readers will stop reading my books if I DO use “bad” words or readers will stop reading them if I DON’T? Does slipping these words into my fiction repel of draw a reader?

Friends, in the spirit of Christian unity, let us be very careful about how we treat one another while carrying on this uncomfortable discussion. And when it comes to how we talk about one another, and our choice of vocabulary words to place in our books, perhaps Ephesians 4:29 can guide us:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

 

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Hello, I’m a Christian Writer.

I wonder…when I tell someone I’m a Christian Writer, is either of those descriptions hard for them to believe.

While being a writer may not be as obvious as being a Christian, both should be believable. The person I’m talking with shouldn’t have to stand there with a “no, seriously” grin. My relationship with Christ is what makes me a Christian, and my responsibility to Christ is what makes me a writer. I can prove I’m a writer by showing people my writing. I can show I’m a Christian by letting people see my life. But neither being a Christian, nor being a writer can only be something I talk about…I must “walk the walk.” There are lots of people who claim to be Christians and writers, but who aren’t willing to pay the price to live the life required by such claims. And there are plenty of people willing and able to critique both claims.

To be a Christian I must believe in and submissively follow Jesus Christ. To be a writer, I must write. There are no shortcuts or substitutions. And, in a sense, both following Christ and writing for Christ are daily. Am I that devoted to the cause? Are you?

 

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The Day I Died

cjange, I was seventeen years old when I died. That was thirty-two years ago, and I’ve never regretted the decision to end my life…my OLD life. I’m talking about the day in January of 1981 that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Not only did I die on that day, but I was also born-again at the same time. I traded death for life, darkness for light, despair for hope, condemnation for forgiveness, deserved wrath for undeserved love. And I’ve tried to communicate that ever since. Treasure in an earthen vessel. A song says, “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free…” Well, I write Christian Fiction because I’m saved, and, like the Heavenly Father Who saved me, I’m not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Life, Light, Hope…these are key ingredients in the stories that I write, because they are essential parts of my life. As a Christian, I have a message. The format used to relay that message may range from sermons to stories to one-on-one evangelism, but the message is not mine to change.

When I sit to write, I pray that God will use what I’m writing to change lives. I may not ever know how or to whom it happens, but the possibility is exciting. To know that God may use what I write to revive someone’s spirit or convict someone’s soul is a serous matter indeed.

Can you remember a way that a specific book you’ve read changed your life? What way did it impact you? Did the message in the book give you courage or conviction?

Share your comments on what stories touched you and how. I’m looking forward to celebrating the power of story with you. Just hit the comment button and share. Thanks.

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To Suffer With Them

Soon I’ll be finishing my second novel–tentatively entitled INFIDEL–and it is impossible to tell you how emotional of a journey this has been. It started with an idea, based on a passion that God has placed in my heart.

It all began with the true newspaper story that I read about a woman named Asia Bibi in Pakistan. You can learn more about her by going to The Voice Of The Martyrs website. (That ministry has recently gone through a difficult time, but hopefully will find peace and healing under new leadership). She was arrested, then sentenced to death under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law 295 a/b/c. As far as I know this mother and wife is still in prison.

What did she do? She spoke out about her Christian faith. What you and I–as Christian writers–so easily take for granted, comes at a high price for fellow Christians around the globe. They are threatened, persecuted, and often killed for following Jesus Christ.

They count the cost of discipleship that few of us in America would be willing to pay.

It’s time for us to wake up to the suffering of persecuted believers around the world.

Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

Will you join me in praying for our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer unthinkable types of persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ?

I’m working hard to tell their story. I hope you will be able to read it someday.

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Sometimes It’s Good To Ask “Why?”

     “Dear God, help me remember WHY I am, for I”M FORGIVEN.”

     Read the above request again.

     You see, I’m not just a  writer who happens to write fiction. Most importantly–and this is a crucial distinction–I’m a Christian writer who happens to write fiction. And I happen to write stories that highlight truths about the God Who has redeemed me.

     Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For He delivered us from darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

     As Christian writers, we bask in the unfading glow of forgiveness. Hope trickles down through our stories to our readers. Some writers will deliver this message in very explicit ways; others will do it with subtle scenes and plots and themes. Jesus, Himself, used both methods in His story-telling. But behind either style of delivery is the desire to connect hearers to the source of hope and forgiveness.

     I write Christian fiction because I want to shine a spotlight of attention on the One who saved me from the eternal consequences of my sins. I don’t ever want to take that for granted. Do you?

     Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

     that saved a wretch like me!

     I once was lost but now am found,

     was blind but now I see.

     Our writing is the result of forgiveness, not the source. Our writing expresses our salvation, it doesn’t secure it. WE ARE WRITERS BECAUSE WE ARE FORGIVEN AND HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED WITH A LIFE-CHANGING MESSAGE OF SALVATION. Isn’t that worth remembering?

     What does it mean to you to know that you are forgiven by God? Your answer to that question may just get at one of the motivations for why you write what you write.

     I hope this “Writer’s Prayer” has encouraged you. May it always help you keep or rekindle anew a fresh focus on WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHY.

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