Market, Money, Time and Faith Porn Fiction

I am in the process of writing a very fun sci-fi suspense trilogy. I call it Pogland. Fun and challenging and time-consuming (which is why I’ve been off of social media). 

If you know me, you know I have some strong views on the role theology needs to play in fiction. I came across a Christian sci-fi/fantasy: “How to write and be published” video this morning which at first I was thrilled about, but soon found to be very disturbing.

I was flabbergasted! What a role money plays in the Christian publishing industry!

Now I understand not everyone can write just to write, or write what needs to be available. Or publish just any book. Publishing comes down to the bottom line, profit.

On a secular forum board recently a writer posted that they were nervous about having to write a sex scene for the very first time. Instead of just saying nothing, I replied. I suggested that he didn’t actually need to bend to the bandwagon. If he’d never felt the need to write such a scene before, he could still write an excellent book without it. And even appeal to a larger audience because he didn’t.

As a Christian, by my comment I meant so much more. But secular fiction is moved by secular values. And he wants to write what sells.

It’s the same for “Christian” fiction. Christian fiction is moved by Christian dysfunctions.

Now it might be true that dysfunctional marriages lead Christian women to escape into “Christian” romantic fiction. But that’s not always the case. Strong Christians read and write Christian romance novels.

Francine Rivers and Redeeming Love is the epitome of Christian faith fiction. I am also especially appreciative of authors Elizabeth Maddrey and Chautona Havig‘s real-life Christianity in the context of their romance stories.

But theirs is not the common denominator in Christian fiction. The common denominator is a dummied-down nominal Christianity. That’s where the money is.

  • For people who don’t want to grow in their faith through their time in fiction.
  • For people who don’t want to be challenged in their free time.
  • For people who want only to be entertained.

 .

Dysfunctional faith leads people to escape into borderline fiction.

Dysfunctional faith will earn a writer money. Take Love Comes Softly as an example. It’s a great series, but it’s great in a “it’s not dirty” kind of way. It’s wholesome. But is that what we should be doing? Is that ALL we should be doing? 

Just writing Little House on the Prairie Christianity? Wholesome fiction, get-away, beach-reads? Escaping from this world and its duties fiction? 

Case in point, alcohol is a gift from God.

The book of Proverbs and the gospels show us that wine is a gift for man to enable them to get a buzz, a bit of euphoria. That buzz helps us get through the low times of life, through the busy, hectic times of life. I live in Europe where the view on alcohol is not burdened by the judgmentalism of the Prohibition movement.

But while alcohol is a gift from God, we see as early as Noah’s time, that getting drunk is shameful. Too much alcohol is a sin. Elders and deacons and their wives are measured by this. And their standards are our standards. Not just “if” you want to be in leadership, their standards are the bare-minimum for the mature faith.

So too much alcohol–too much of this world–is a sin. Just as too much reading or too much entertainment is a sin. If it produces nothing but entertainment, it’s overdosing on buzz.

Do I have a Bible verse to back up this rant?

Yes. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Sins of omission.

How is reading frivolous wholesome fiction a sin of omission?

Because you have not used those hours of your life for the betterment of your relationship with God, or the betterment of the world.

The two greatest commandments, upon which the Law and the Prophets rest

It’s like sleeping your life away, and while sleep is necessary, and we can even say rest is necessary, oversleeping is a waste of the most precious resource we have: Time.

On the interview I mentioned earlier, the publisher said they are not looking for books with overt Christian message, but only those with a hidden Christian message. They intend to be cross-over books. As an example, she says, read any of Christ’s parables.

We don’t want Christian words, she says, we don’t want Christian messages. No conversions. No preaching. We want…good wins over evil, and be kind to others. Oh, and werewolves and vampires are okay, as long as they are the bad guys.

I couldn’t watch the rest of the interview.

I asked my husband, why is it that they want books that do not grow the reader in their faith through fiction? Why do they want hidden faith, covert messages?

Money, he said. That’s where the money is. It’s how the market of Christian fiction has to function.

And so we come to the faith porn industry. To make money, Christians sell out message for money.

Well I suggest that when Christianity loses its message, it ceases to be Christianity. “Authors have to make a living,” they may say. So they prostitute the name of Christ, and promote a lie.

When the message is traded out for things that are universally acceptable, like “good wins over evil,” it takes the beautiful name of Christ and drags it into the dregs of common-ism. It makes light of the cross. It should cease to use the name of Christ in its label and should be honest and upfront. It is moralistic worldly wisdom. Humanism.

To use the parables of Christ as an example of how to hide the message forgets the very cut-throat effect of his parables.

  • I am the good shepherd, read the message: “I myself am Yahweh of Ezekiel 34!” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.
  • A certain man built his house on sand, another on rock, read the message: “My words are equal to the entire Law and the Prophets, if you reject me you reject God himself.” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.
  • The prodigal son looked at the pigs around him and fled home, read the message: “You religious leaders have no compassion for the lost.” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.

.

The parables are not happy wholesome secret messages. They are cut-throat. They divide between self-righteous God-haters and trembling beggars kneeling before God. Separation filters, each of them. Sorting people. Left and right, like sheep and goats.

Yes, we need more Christian science fiction and fantasy. But not by circumcising the gospel out of it.

I’m not saying I’m the best author who knows how to do this perfectly. I am not. I tried with Trunk of Scrolls, and for what it is I think my story’s beautiful.

But I have a vision, “I have a dream,” you could say, that Christian fiction would be a way for Christians to use their down time to be entertained into new growth in their faith. New avenues they hadn’t considered. New insights into the beauty of Christ.

I know it’s not only me who talks with others about these things. Bringing Heaven’s eternal conversations into the here-and-now.

I know what it’s like to build faith in someone face to face. Can’t we make the Christian fiction industry into THAT kind of thing?

So I’m starting a list of writers whose works are not ashamed of the Christian message and promoting true Christ-loving life. Please post the names of this caliber of author below along with titles you recommend, and add a blurb about why you think this qualifies. 

Thanks! 

–Darlene


“I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” Jewel the Unicorn in C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Bible Quotes for Writers

Purpose for Writing: The Glory of God

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  Psalm 45:1

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:1-4**

Gospels & Acts

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“’Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'”  Luke 12:22-31

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

NT Epistles

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”  Ephesians 6:7

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12:12-13

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5**

OT Psalms & Proverbs

“I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”  Psalm 16:3

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

“The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.”  Psalm 34:19

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”  Psalm 37:23-24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

The words of the mouth are deep waters,
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”  Proverbs 18:4

OT, Pentateuch, Historical & Prophetical**

“The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.”  Deuteronomy 28:12

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8**

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow ofmy hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16**

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.’” Jeremiah 30:2** 


Ultimately, the Word of God is the Bible alone. To be pleasing to God, any outflow of this (life, writing, or ministry) must conform strictly to the Biblical worldview and teachings.

**Exegetical note: BEWARE:

Spreading the gospel–which God has given–by means of our writing is a valid application of these verses. But…

Thinking that our writing in itself IS the “word of God” is a dangerous heresy. The only Word from God is the Truth of Scripture. Likewise, the truth of our words must match the integrity of our life, the gospel lived out of faithful living. As we teach, so must we live.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Ezekiel 33:31

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord. Isaiah 59:21

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. Psalm 49:3 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Bible Quotes for Writers

Purpose for Writing: The Glory of God

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  Psalm 45:1

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:1-4**

Gospels & Acts

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“’Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'”  Luke 12:22-31

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

NT Epistles

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”  Ephesians 6:7

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12:12-13

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5**

OT Psalms & Proverbs

“I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”  Psalm 16:3

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

“The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.”  Psalm 34:19

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”  Psalm 37:23-24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

The words of the mouth are deep waters,
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”  Proverbs 18:4

OT, Pentateuch, Historical & Prophetical**

“The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.”  Deuteronomy 28:12

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8**

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow ofmy hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16**

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.’” Jeremiah 30:2** 


What do the Scriptures principally teach? The Scriptures principally teach what Man is to believe regarding God and what duty God requires of Man.
Ultimately, the Word of God is the Bible alone. To be pleasing to God, any outflow of this (life, writing, or ministry) must conform strictly to the Biblical worldview and teachings.

**Exegetical note: BEWARE:

Spreading the gospel–which God has given–by means of our writing is a valid application of these verses. But…

Thinking that our writing in itself IS the “word of God” is a dangerous heresy. The only Word from God is the Truth of Scripture. Likewise, the truth of our words must match the integrity of our life, the gospel lived out of faithful living. As we teach, so must we live.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Ezekiel 33:31

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord. Isaiah 59:21

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. Psalm 49:3 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Biblical Hierarchy of Human Needs

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy is taken as “common sense” to many people who see it. His famous pyramid prioritizes man’s needs. Physiological needs stabilize the base and are the primary requirement of man. Moving up in lessening urgency we see other “good to have” needs until finally, at the top after all other needs are met, man is ready to have some sort of spiritual or “self-actualization” experience.

Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs” (click for more details)

As we know, the masses can sometimes be wrong. Just because something “seems” right doesn’t actually mean it is right. History shows us that the masses have been gravely mistaken in serious and critical issues. To believe just because everyone else does is called the Ad Populum fallacy. Dangerous waters. What we should be founding our life on is Unchangeable Facts.

In MASLOW’S HIERARCHY: HOW THE “HOUSE OF CARDS” CRUMBLES, a critically, biblically, and philosophically based examination of Maslow’s moral system, the author writes:

As Van Til asks, “how can modern psychology tell us of the needs of the human being unless it ask of Christ and God what these needs may be?”

Paul’s letters speak to Christians of contentment with little support from the outside world (1 Timothy 6:6-10; Philippians 4:11). Man’s spiritual, or “higher” needs (to borrow Maslow’s term), are described in Scripture in terms of God’s Word and reconciliation with Him.

When Jesus spoke to Martha and told her that only one thing, His Word, was truly needed (Luke 10:41-42), he turned Maslow’s pyramid on its apex. (source)

Van Til wisely warns us that we should be asking God (not man) what the hierarchy of human needs is.

Maslow wrote: “It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread.” His words directly contradict what the Son of God said about how we will live: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4, Deut 8:3). Christ was not saying food was not important for life. He acknowledged it with the word “alone.” But he shows here and in many other verses that man’s priority must not be physiological needs.

We see time and again how people can stay alive with hope, and when they lose their hope –even with food–they die.

Based on the “upside down” world we learn about in Scripture, I’ve put together the Biblical priorities Christ taught us. As we pursue being found in Christ (purple then blue below) we are strengthened, built-up and matured in the Holy Spirit (green), and empowered to function in this world.

Out of this relationship with God, we fellowship with the church (orange), from which we are stabilized in body, soul and spirit. All four (purple, blue, green & orange) helped us to function in our gifts and talents, prodded by wisdom and ideas, with the industrious attitude of a good steward.

As we have difficulties, God’s laws, the Spirit’s work, and the Church’s compassion enables us to survive and thrive. Compassion is a huge element in the formula. And being a known member in a fellowship of Christ naturally fosters that compassion. Likewise, the compassion of Christ motivates the church to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the poor.

I’d love to hear your comments. Please add your thoughts below.

Hoping for Better Things

Book Review: We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

There are two things I look for in Christian fiction. One is creativity, the second is meaning. We Hope for Better Things debut novel by Erin Bartels gives you both. Erin Bartels is wife of Zachary Bartels, author of Playing Saint and All Souls Day.

I started the We Hope for Better Things in the late afternoon Thursday and could not put it down until I finished the last word at the crack of dawn Friday. I kept telling myself, “stop after this chapter” but low and behold I needed to know just a little bit more, just a little bit more. It was a very compelling story with colorful characters I enjoyed getting to know.

Firstly, the creativity. Three time periods of Detroit are woven together: modern day, the late sixties during the riots, and the 1850s.  Each of the settings has a multi-racial couple trying to cross the racial divide. The way these three lives are intertwined and fold in on themselves is beautifully crafted.

Every time the scene changed to a new time period I marveled at the skill, the way the story arcs matched each other, the way the stories piggy-backed on the same themes. Erin Bartels crafted a lovely tale of passion about visionaries living ahead of their time.

On the negative side, though, is a missing bit in this creativity. The text is very compelling, as I said. It is tightly written which keeps you in the midst of the action. This makes you unable to put it down. But the problem with this tightness is it’s brusque, not matching the content. The book is literary fiction but written as mass market action fiction. Considering the heaviness of the content, I felt it needed a bit more poetry and feeling. A bit more lightness and beauty. My opinion; it did not detract from it being a great story.

Secondly, meaning. The theme of the book is we are all made in the image of God, no matter our color. The author writes in an afterward that the Black Lives Matter movement happened concurrently to the writing of this, so it’s a timely book for today’s social climate. Social justice is an issue very close to the heart of God, though social justice and biracial relationships are not a uniquely Christian message. God put compassion and empathy as core to universal conscience. We are made in the image of God, regardless of our skincolor. But ultimately this intrinsic value of humanity is bound to the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ. The three stories worked together to tell a bigger story, an epic saga, of the American people moving from fear of to love of racial differences. So it challenges the tensions of today, still hoping for better things.

My second dislike, though, was tied to this meaning. As Christians we have a duty to say something more than the rest of the world says. Sadly, this story was not uniquely Christian. It was published by Revell (Baker) and by a Christian (pastor’s wife). However, I kept hoping for that something else, which was missing.

Our Christian message is a bit more than social justice. It’s that the intrinsic value of humanity in the eyes of God compelled him to do more than just make us love each other. It compelled the Incarnation and the Atonement. Yes, there was prayer and God-honor in the book. There was church, but not much. But there was no risk for our message. Christ was missing.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this in Mere Christianity:

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters.

“Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

As a Christian author I personally “hope for better things” in the Christian industry. I want Christian writers to go that step further. That the reader is changed and grown spiritually, that they know God better, after having read a book–even fiction. To be fair, I rarely find a book that does this. But it’s what the Bible expects of us, in all areas of life (ie: Col 3:16, Titus 2:15, Isaiah 2:3, Rom 12:6-8). Don’t waste their life: encourage, exhort, build up, prod toward greater things in Christ.

We Hope for Better Things will definitely be a book well-loved by Michiganders for decades to come. It is their history, their lives, their heart. I enjoyed the journey with the characters, learning about history while appreciating the tensions, sorrows, and regrets.  I always measure Christian fiction by this: is the reader better off after reading this book? In the case of We Hope for Better Things, the answer is a resounding YES.

The reader has been changed. The journey has not been a mere emotional merry-go-round, but was purposeful. We come out the other end of reading it thinking about ourselves, measuring our own racially-charged biases, wanting “better things” for ourselves and our family in this world. So this is why I whole-heartedly recommend We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels.

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, the great news is that the kindle version of the book available there, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy. Be blessed. Please comment below if you enjoy it as well.

Heartache, Broken People

Mental problems are probably the most feared type of issue Christians face. Yes, we’re afraid of hunger and pain. But God will provide and God will comfort, and eventually these kinds of sufferings will be solved. But problems like we see in Broken Pieces are the ones nobody would choose. It doesn’t easily fit into our understanding of the victorious Christian life. Simonetta Carr’s Christian biographies for young readers first brought me into her reading circle. But this book, a cross-section of her personal life, brought me into her life.

The story is a life crisis with the following characters 1) a teenage Christian young man who comes down with sudden schizophrenia his first months at college, 2) his Christian mom and dad who want to honor God with every breath as they pursue every means of help for their son 3) a group of elders at a reformed Church who likewise have to balance the young man’s sinful choices with his mental circumstances. The third element was especially impactful for me.

As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen my share of people with mental problems come in and out of the church door.  In our experience, people with this disease have hunted us down, stalked us, and threatened us, and one even killed the girl who broke up with him. Their parents have come to us and either told us to leave them alone “this is not a real conversion,” or have warned us, or have blessed our efforts to make their son feel accepted.

It is never easy to know how to protect the flock while loving the sick person—especially one who refuses to take his medication—which is very common. But compassion is difficult to muster when faced with the threats.

This book should be read by every man who desires to pastor a church and by everyone who desires to be a functioning part of their church. We need to understand in order to help. In order for the church to help both them and their families, we need to see it “happening” from inside a Christian family. This is what Simonetta Carr is able to do in her present-tense narrative.

We see that life is made of those little faith-spun choices, where we aren’t sure if we’re doing the right thing but we trust in the sovereignty of God who is bigger than our mistakes. We see that God has given us our “burden that is not too much to bear” so that we can prove faithful in that. Simonetta Carr’s example of a faith-driven life is inspirational, empowering, and reassuring. We’re all tromping down this same path in a broken heartache world.

 Because mental issues are so fearsome, it seems people with these sicknesses are pushed away for “someone else” to deal with.

Thankfully, medication and counseling can help. The last chapters of her book deal with practical helps for those struggling with these issues. But since laws allow for autonomy of people over 18, and 18 is the age when this disease begins to hit, often the sick person is not enabled to will themselves toward healing.

While there is no hard and fast rule or steps to fix it that can be presented to church leaders, this book is a helpful model of how to face this as a church body. Reformed faith in practice.

What is this thing called schizophrenia, nobody knows. But what is a Christian to do? How can a Christian BE schizophrenic? And how can the church contribute to healing, both for the sick person and for his or her family? These are the questions that are analyzed in this book.

Broken Pieces is a story, but it’s more than a story. It’s is A CASE STUDY OF FAITH IN THE TRENCHES, of the Church in the trenches of this horribly broken world.

Please read this book. There are many families hiding their “shameful” struggles with mental illness who need the support of Christ-followers who care enough to face the bias and fear. Once you read this book, you will gain compassion for them, for what they’re going through. You can be the one that makes a difference in their battlefield of the mind.

Here’s a link for how to order your copy from the publisher today. I just saw, it’s $10 preorder!

Preorder information: CBD Preorder,Amazon Preorder

Use the Rainbow, Please!

In the name of one thing, they hang a banner declaring the character of God, his BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, PATIENT LOVE.

The problem with society’s use of the Rainbow today is the ironic REAL DECLARATION they unknowingly make.

If you fly the flag, you preach the Bible to all God’s faithful people. You are reminding us to pray for you, and hope for you, and to hope for us all.

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Gen 9:12-13

The Rainbow is a Promise that He Will Be Patient with Us.

Even when society becomes as those in the days of Noah, as Christ warned, where “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” Gen 6:5–even then, God will be patient. As Saint Peter said:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” 2 Peter 3:9

With every use of these beautiful colors, the LGBT community is reminding the rest of us that God is patient and loving, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. You say nothing else.

Patience Means Waiting for Change.

Use the flag, dear friends, declare your hatred of him-whom-you-do-not-know, because it makes us love you even more. It makes us care even more to tell you what the Rainbow really means for you. 

He’s giving you a chance. 

He’s giving you time.

But don’t waste your time, don’t waste this chance.

The Rainbow Belongs to the Covenant Community

It belongs to those whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It always has. It’s his Rainbow we will see for eternity, around the Throne in Heaven. 

You have rightly taken it, for in it, the beautiful sovereign God has given his people another reminder. A banner of hope. He will not yet sweep his punishment on this world. Not until the last preChristian repents, as Peter shows. Your flag is a modern-day miracle for us. From God. To remind us.

Use the Flag

Use the flag. And know, you declare with those lovely colors “GOD IS PATIENT WITH ME. GOD GIVES ME LIFE. GOD IS GIVING ME TIME TO REPENT.”

Use the flag. But with each flutter, remember your moments are ticking down. You are mortal and have the wonderfully long but painfully short life to figure this Rainbow out.

The first half of the Rainbow promise was that God would not flood the earth again. Peter continues with the second half of the Rainbow promise:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation. 2 Peter 3:10-15

What Kind of People Ought We to Be?

We all have these desires waging war in us to do this thing or that. These desires all feel natural. But natural does not by nature mean good. 

One sin is not worse than any other. What matters is that we see it as sin. Jesus loved sinners, but not the sin. He called sin sin, and even turned away those who had eager hearts but were not willing to let go of the smallest of sins.

“Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21

Look at the things on this list. Nobody is exempt:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor IDOLATERS, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the GREEDY, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6

We are all greedy, holding on to our “PRECIOUS” like Gollum. We are all idolaters, worshipping ourselves narcissistically rather than worshipping God. None of us qualify to enter the Kingdom of God unless we call sin sin and look to the cross of Christ as our only escape from that dreadful day.

You May Hate Me for What I Say.

You may do all sorts of things against me because the beautiful Rainbow flag you use speaks to me of God’s great promises for the world.

But you won’t stop the direction my mind goes when I see the flag. It is etched into my soul. The Rainbow is God’s signature on a contract. God is patient, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

Thank you for reminding me!