Healed of Cancer

Craig Davis has written an inspirational new book called Never Give Up Hope: Waging War With Cancer. In the book, Craig describes his experiences fighting cancer over a nine-year period. He went through extensive medical treatments for brain cancer, including surgery to remove tumors and various other procedures such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and proton therapy. Craig was also miraculously healed of cancer on one occasion when the Holy Spirit prompted him to get on a plane and fly to a church that was 2,000 miles away from his home—a church where he had never been and didn’t know anyone!

I had the privilege to work with Craig on this book.

I also had the sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous privilege of following Craig’s journey as he and his family walked it out on Facebook. The book essentially tells Craig’s story in a way that allows the reader to feel like they are walking through it with him.

As we watched Craig and his family walk out these battles, I recall telling my wife many times, “I don’t see how they don’t just give up.” But they never gave up. Instead, I’d see over and over a resolve to keep fighting, no matter what. I’d see a resolve to never give up.

Craig Davis Facebook Update From July 2016

I wondered what made Craig and Casey keep fighting the way they did, and concluded that it could only be through God’s power.

Craig does not preach. He makes no attempt to instruct readers on which cancer treatments to pursue or even how to apply their faith. In fact, the few places where you see him explicitly verbalize and impart some particular lesson to readers were a product of my nudging and prodding.

Craig’s heart from the very beginning, and all the way through, was to simply share his story as a way to encourage readers. My hope is that you will be encouraged to do what he did: resolve to never give up, no matter how hopeless the situation appears and how fierce the battle rages. Keep believing that God always loves you deeply, is always for you, and that He is your healer.

Watching this real-life drama unfold helped me in my walk many times. I was also going through something very painful, and many times I wanted to give up. My particular battle had raged for years, and I desperately wanted for it to be over. But many times when I felt this way, Craig and Casey would come to my mind and I would think, “I bet they’d love for their battle to be over too, but they keep on fighting. If they’re not giving up, I’m not giving up.”

I pray they encourage and strengthen you the way they have me.

Never Give Up Hope: Waging War With Cancer is available now on Amazon at the following links:

Click here for the eBook

Click here for the paperback

What Every Editor Wants You To Know

When I submitted articles to various editors years ago, I ultimately took the attitude, “I don’t really care if you publish this or not.” I never said that, of course, but that was my mindset anytime there was a disagreement. I wasn’t trying to pursue a writing career back then. I didn’t even think of myself as a writer.

But when I got my first full-time writing gig, all of a sudden I couldn’t have that attitude. I was thrown into a situation where I had to submit every aspect of my writing to someone whose views were very different from mine. And after racking up a full career as an editor for major publishing houses, he wasn’t very predisposed to seeing things my way (the nerve on that guy, right?). Somehow, I thought he should be.

Basically, I was an editor’s worst nightmare. Today, I look back and thank God for that editor. He helped me break many bad habits and set my writing on a completely different trajectory. In that spirit, I thought I would compile a list that serves as my tip of the hat to all you editors out there. Enjoy!

1) If I am not John Maxwell, my editor is probably not going to be a Pulitzer prize winner. But he or she is still my editor. I need to respect the position.

2) The editor role is typically one of mentorship and authority. That’s how it works best. Why? Because we don’t naturally want to submit to someone else’s feedback and direction, especially when there is a disagreement. If we don’t see the editor as wearing the hat of a leader who has the authority to speak into our writing, we will tend to want to spurn any serious correction they offer.

3) The enemy can use disagreements between writer and editor to sabotage God’s work—if we let him. Disagreements are inevitable. For me personally, when I’m wearing the writer’s hat, the editing process is always very enjoyable as long as I agree with the editor’s feedback. But the moment I strongly disagree, the editing process becomes a challenge in my life. I have learned over time to submit to the process, even if it’s painful. Why? Because…

4) God gave us our editor. If we believed God put this editor in our path before we had a disagreement, we should still believe that after a disagreement. As writers, we ultimately have to decide whether we believe the editor God has given us is gifted, called, anointed, and appointed to be our editor as much we believe we are gifted, called, anointed, and appointed to write.

5) If we already know everything they told us in their feedback, we don’t need them. We can’t let our insecurities drive us to act like we were already aware of everything they said. If we were truly aware, they wouldn’t have had to say it. Editors need to feel useful and appreciated like everyone else. We should try to display an attitude of humility and gratitude toward our editor. It helps make their job more enjoyable, which in turn benefits us (see Hebrews 13:17).

6) Most editors are extremely busy. It’s hyper-competitive out there. That means editors have to churn out a massive amount of work in order to stay in the business. They don’t really have a lot of extra time to coddle us. It takes a lot longer to write lengthy, gentle, and overly polite comments than it does to write a lot of short, direct, and corrective comments. Multiply that difference by the hundreds of corrections and comments editors make each day, and you’ll understand the need for them to be short and direct.

7) We shouldn’t resist their corrections just because they don’t fit our personal preference or style. This is especially true when you’re writing for their company or publication. The editor probably doesn’t have time or energy to go back and forth with us about our personal writing style, grammar, capitalization, or punctuation preferences. We should just go with their preferences and let it go.

8) Writing is a team effort. Most of us, when first starting out, don’t like to use an idea, word, or phrase that was suggested to us by someone else. Instead, we’ll try to come up with some third solution just so that we can feel like it was our idea. This puts our lack of experience in the spotlight. Writing in God’s kingdom is accomplished by different members of the body (see 1 Corinthians 12:21). If they made what is clearly a good suggestion, we should use it. Otherwise, we’ve basically insulted them and also made the editing process unnecessarily complicated. Why? Because often, our awesome third solution doesn’t work either. So, they have to give us another round of feedback for a problem that, from their perspective, they already fixed one time.

9) Our writing is not for us. Often, we are so emotionally involved in our writing that we cannot see it as clearly as our editor can. They have the perspective that the writing is actually for the readers. Whether we realize it or not, our strong preferences are often self-centered. We’re concerned about telling our story, or how we come across, or what people will think of us. The editor, on the other hand, is typically free of such bias and thinking a little more clearly about the issues being discussed.

10) Be resolute and persistent about getting your way on proposed content changes only when absolutely necessary. All of the above tips relate primarily to copy editing or maybe the light content editing you experience when writing articles for magazines and websites. If you are writing something as personal as a book—and being edited for content by your publisher—you may have to be persistent about an issue when there’s a strong conviction behind it. However, give-and-take really should be our default mode when we’re being edited. Probably 85% of the things we wrestle over don’t make that much difference in the end. We should try to be very relaxed, peaceable, and even submissive (see James 3:17) about the small things so that we can save our persistence for when we really need it!

The writer-editor relationship can be one of difficulty and challenges at times. In order to work together in a healthy way, proper perspective, attitude, and communication are necessary. None of us are perfect; I still have to work to overcome most of the difficulties described on this list. But hopefully these tips will be helpful toward achieving our goals. What other tips or feedback can you share in the comments below?

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An Evening With Stephen King’s First Editor

I was recently blessed with an opportunity to spend the evening with Mike Garrett—a publishing industry veteran who served as Stephen King’s first editor! By the way, that’s not some spurious claim that Mike throws around along with every other editor who worked with King early in his career. No, it’s actually King himself who credits Mike as being his first editor and publisher in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Mike spent more than 30 years in the publishing industry and has edited quite a few more NYT bestselling authors. He has taught many classes and workshops on writing, editing, and publishing. Mike believes that tons of extremely talented writers never get published because publishers and agents put up too many roadblocks for new writers. He shared how we can best overcome those roadblocks and get on the road to publishing success.

I’ve compiled the most interesting insights he shared and organized them into two sections: 1) General Writing and Publishing Advice 2) Fiction Writing Advice. Enjoy!

General Writing and Publishing Advice

1. Writing = Art
Publishing = Business

There are two cabinet makers in a town. Both produce nice cabinets, but they have different approaches. One approaches cabinet making as an art. His cabinets are beautiful, but he only builds them the way he wants to build them. Every now and then, someone comes by his shop, finds something they like, and makes a purchase. The other cabinet maker sells a lot more cabinets. His approach is to go out into the neighborhoods and ask people what they want. He’ll take measurements, get your preferences for colors and styles, and make exactly what fits your needs and desires. He has a booming business. Neither approach is wrong, but one is much more lucrative. Writers basically have the same choice. We can approach writing purely as an art form—a medium that exists only for us to express our souls—or we can approach it more like a business. There’s still plenty of creativity in the second option, but it has more constraints.

2. The average reader is not going to evaluate your writing skills. They’re just looking for a good story.

3. There are no rules for bestselling authors. Once they’re established, they can do whatever they want, so don’t try to mimic them. Publishers expect specific things from new writers. Find out what they want and deliver it to them.

4. Too many talented writers have too much pride and ego wrapped up in their work. This causes them to pay less attention to the needs of readers.

5. Your audience is not made up of your writing peers. Lots of people get involved in critique groups. These can be unhealthy, especially if people begin to critique each other to death. Writers evaluate writing much differently than the average reader. You’re probably better off with a single editor or writing friend critiquing your work.

6. Bestselling authors were born with talent, but not skill or knowledge. They all have to learn the business.

7. Rejection happens to everyone, and it is always tough.

8. Write what you love to read.

9. Fit into a niche that’s already there. You can’t expect publishers to carve out a new niche for you.

10. If you focus on why you’re writing and who you’re writing for—and approach it as a business—you can succeed.

Fiction Writing Advice

1) Don’t give your main character’s backstory all at once. The formula for a successful novel = interesting main character + interesting conflict + conflict resolution. To have an interesting character, they must have an interesting backstory. But their backstory must be worked into the main story. You can’t just state it all at once in the beginning of the novel. That has the same effect on readers as when you’re having a conversation with someone, and they talk for ten minutes straight without pausing or letting you respond. It needs to be broken up. You don’t get to know someone in real life by hearing their life story all at once. Instead, time passes. Scenes change. You learn more about them the more time you spend with them.

2) Let your novel unfold like a good movie. Think about how great movies play out. There is rarely a narrator giving you the story. Instead, scenes appear. Things happen. The story unfolds through each scene. Write your novel the same way.

3) Every character in your book needs to have a reason to be there. If there’s no good reason for a character’s existence, delete them.

4) Your main character should not be perfect, but they should be likable.

5) Novels are about people. Planets, explosions, wars, space; these are all just settings for readers to get to know the people in your story.

6) A great novel will leave readers thinking about the characters after the book is over. Readers will even feel like they miss the characters.

7) The most important trait of any writer is empathy. You have to be able to feel and to know what other people feel. You need empathy for your characters, your readers, and even your publisher. You need to understand what they need and want.

8) Let your hometown be the setting of your first novel.

9) Readers should be able to visualize every scene. A very well-written novel will play like a movie in the mind of a reader.

10) James Patterson’s fans are going to read his book all the way through because they expect him to deliver the goods at some point. But new (and unestablished) authors have to work very hard to keep the reader interested, especially in the beginning of the book. It’s way too easy to put down a book and forget about it.

Mike still works as a freelance editor. You can find out more about his editing services at his website: ManuscriptCritique.com

Mike is also releasing a new novel in February of 2019. It is called Innocence Denied and can be pre-ordered on Amazon here.

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Readers Are Getting Smarter

“Oh, how sad! Look how they used to write in the 18th and 19th centuries, and then look at how feebleminded we sound today!”

I think most of us have experienced that kind of reaction after reading some elegant piece of writing from a romanticized age of literature. But are readers really getting dumber?

Whilst tis true that ofttimes, writers of bygone eras broadly partook of the pleasantries and convivial enjoyment which most assuredly accompanied the writing of highly ornamental prose, tis also true that such nostalgic musings about the implications of aforesaid leanings regarding the acumen and perspicacity of the common man as applied to language comprehension are more likely grounded in wistful and sentimental contemplations than in judicious and discriminative reflections on the true state of affairs most often observed by personages who enjoyed the prodigiously good fortune to have encountered and lived through such times.

In other words, people were not actually smarter back then. Most of the writing we still read from those eras was penned by intellectuals who valued the use of ornate language. That’s the primary reason for our misperception regarding reading comprehension levels of today versus those of bygone eras. In fact, the opposite is true. The average person’s reading comprehension is much higher today than it was back then.

Worldwide, only 12.05% of people were considered literate in the year 1800. In 2014, 85.3% of the world’s population was classified as literate.[i]

In the United States in 1870—which was when the U.S. Department of Education began tracking education statistics—less than 9,000 people had a college degree.[ii] The total population was 38.6 million and 35% of them were under the age of 17. That means less than .04% of the adult population had a college degree. Today, around 34% of those 25 or older have a college degree.[iii] In 1870, there were 7 million enrolled in primary schools while there were only 80,000 enrolled in secondary schools, implying that somewhere around 99% of the population was stopping their formal education after (what we would call) middle school. They only attended school for 132 days per year on average[iv], whereas today’s average is 180 days per year. Clearly, both developed world and underdeveloped world populations have gotten a lot more educated than they were back in the golden days of literature.

Okay, but of the people who could read back then, weren’t they smarter? Well, no. How you use words ultimately depends on your purpose. If people valued the ability to compose ornate writing today, they could certainly take the time to do it. It took me only a few minutes and a thesaurus to write my exaggerated sentence above. If I valued that sort of writing, I imagine I could produce it quickly and easily after a few months of practice. But what would be the point? Only a minute amount of people would be interested in reading such verbal gaudiness. (Yep, gaudiness is a word. I made sure.)

If writers enjoy ornate language and complex writing, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. There are other people with similar interests. We can find those people and enjoy ourselves together. But we shouldn’t expect the average person to latch onto our writing, dictionary in hand, growing in magniloquence as they passionately imbibe our musings.

It’s probably not going to happen.

Most people aren’t looking to build their vocabulary when they check out a blog or pick up a new book. So, it might be best to stick to writing in a way that most people will read, understand, and enjoy.

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[i] https://ourworldindata.org/literacy

[ii] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93442.pdf Many of the statistics in this paragraph come from page 5 of the linked document.

[iii] https://www.statista.com/statistics/184272/educational-attainment-of-college-diploma-or-higher-by-gender/

[iv] http://mentalfloss.com/article/58705/11-ways-school-was-different-1800s

Is Your Writing Clear?

Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace 12th Edition – An Online Book Study


Writing should be clear. The other option is for writing to be unclear.

The reason we want to be clear is that our writing is not for us. It does not exist to make us feel happy. It can bring us joy. But, the primary reason for our writing is to serve others. Our writing exists to entertain, inspire, help, teach, and encourage. We can offer guidance, wisdom, insight, and other valuable information. Writing can bring humor, joy, and light into people’s lives.

If our writing is confusing, we probably won’t accomplish any of those things. We may only give readers a headache. So, most of us can agree that we want our writing to be clear to the people we are serving.

The question is, how do we get there?

In my book, Calling All Writers! A Small Group Curriculum For Christian Writers, I make the case that simple is best. To be more precise, clear is best. I just happen to believe that using simple, direct statements is the easiest way to be clear. That’s especially true for writers who are thinking about the issue of clarity for the first time.

Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (12th Edition) appears to make the same case about simplicity. However, there are quite a few other principles we can employ to achieve greater clarity in our writing. These principles are outlined in the book. Style is widely considered to be a classic on the topic of clarity in writing.

So, by studying this book, I hope to achieve greater clarity on how to achieve greater clarity. I hope to help you do the same.

This post is meant to introduce the book and group study.

Please click here to join the Called Writers Facebook group, if you would like to study this book with us.

Here is my review of the first chapter.


Lesson One: Understanding Style

By the time I got to the second page of this book, I knew I had made an excellent reading choice.

The authors urge us to put readers above ourselves. Instead of writing what makes sense to us, we should strive to write what will make sense to others. Here is how the authors put it:

“None of us can judge our own writing as others will because when we read it, we respond less to the words on the page or screen than to the thoughts in our minds. We see what we thought we said…”[1]

The lesson one chapter argues that unclear writing is a widespread problem in English speaking societies. The authors claim that such writing pervades academic, scientific, legal, medical, and literary circles. The problem of vague and unnecessarily complicated writing is depicted as a plague on society. In one humorous quote about language meant to be confusing only to the uninitiated, a New York Times columnist argues that lawyers and judges are “discovering that sometimes they cannot even understand each other.”[2]

The authors make the case that there are several reasons for this undesirable social ill.

  • Writers are careless.
  • Writers are purposefully vague and unclear. This might be common in certain professions.
  • Writers are taught that good writing is complex and difficult to understand. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle.
  • Writers are seeking to impress others. They believe that complicated sentences indicate deep thought.
  • Writers don’t understand their topic well enough. We tend to overcomplicate what we don’t understand.
  • Writers are trying too hard to follow grammar rules that the average person is not even aware of.

But, the main reason most of us produce unclear writing is:

We are under the delusion that our writing is already clear.

That’s my paraphrase. The authors actually state it this way, “We don’t know when readers will think we are unclear, much less why.”[3]

I want my writing to be clear so that it better serves my readers. That’s why I’m exploring and studying this book.

This is my first time reading the book, so you are getting a completely fresh perspective on its contents. I want your perspective too. Let’s learn together.

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[1] Williams, Joseph M. and Bizup, Joseph. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace Twelfth Edition. Pearson, 2017, p.3.

[2] Goldstein, Tom. “Lawyers Now Confuse Even the Same Aforementioned.” New York Times, 1 April 1977, p. 23.

[3] Williams, Joseph M. and Bizup, Joseph. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace Twelfth Edition. Pearson, 2017, p.7.

7 Ways To Support Christian Writers And Authors

Many thousands of Christians believe writing is their primary gifting and calling.

This calling can be very lonely and painful. Christian writers often suffer from feelings of rejection, discouragement, and despair. They need support from the rest of the body.

Here are the top 7 ways to support Christian writers and authors.

7. Encourage them. Be intentional about finding the positive aspects of their work and offer praise. If someone’s writing seems so terrible that you can’t think of anything good to say, commend them for trying to find God’s will for their life.

6. Give them constructive feedback. Do not, under any circumstances, jump to number six without doing number seven first. Be very loving and gentle but say what needs to be said. If you see a lot of problems, just name the top three. Otherwise you will overwhelm the person.

5. Like and share their social media posts. Most writers I’ve met abhor social media. That may seem strange, but it is not conducive to most writers’ natural gifts. Social media success is much more of a learned skill and many writers do not have it. Plus, there are few things more awkward than sharing your own blog post on social media. But, Christian writers do it anyway. Make it easy on them.

4. Word of mouth. If their books or blogs are good, tell people. Don’t say, “A guy at my church wrote a book and he asked me to tell people about it.” Instead, just tell people about the awesome book you read. Tell people about the great new blog you found.

3. Pray. Writing is a ministry for Christian writers. Even those who write fiction try to witness and impart spiritual lessons through their stories. Like all ministries, Christian writing often comes under attack. We need your prayers for spiritual, physical, legal, commercial, and financial protection. We also need you to pray for God’s favor and blessing.

2. Buy their books. Buy extra copies for your friends. If their book is good enough, lead a book club or group study based on their book. Such direct support also has indirect benefits, especially if their books are available through online retailers like Amazon. They get bumped up in the rankings which makes the retailer show their books to more people.

And the number one way you can help Christian authors…

1. Reviews, reviews, and more reviews! These are huge, especially on Amazon. Reviews need to be honest. The best thing about honest reviews is that they help the right books get into the hands of the right people. Basically, they help customers make better decisions about whether or not a book is right for them. Doing a review normally only costs a little time. Just read the book and write a review. Authors often give books away during promotions and are encouraged by Amazon to ask readers for honest reviews. However, be aware that you can’t post reviews for members of your household or close friends (see here for Amazon’s book review guidelines). But you could review for someone who attends your church as long as you aren’t close friends. You could also give a family member’s or close friend’s book to others and ask them if they will consider reading and reviewing it.

Many writers find it difficult to get reviews.

One Christian writer estimates that she has given away over 200 books and received only two reviews after doing so.

We can do a better job of supporting Christian writers.

Start today. You probably know someone in your circle who is blogging or writing books for the Lord. View this as an opportunity to bless someone who might be hurting.

Don’t wait.

Reach out and do three of the things on this list right now.

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Lightning McQueen Monster Truck

You know that moment of uncertainty you experience when your toddler is super excited about something he’s done? There could be something precious around the corner, or there could be a clean-up on aisle three.

This past Saturday, I got to experience one of the precious moments. My 3-year-old son was playing by himself with a new set of Legos from the Cars 3 movie. He came into the living room and called to me.

“Daddy, come look!”

His enthusiasm was contagious.

As I followed him to where he’d been playing, he repeated, “Lightning McQueen wants a mon–ser truck. Lightning McQueen wants a mon–ser truck.”

I was intrigued.

We entered the dining room, where he displayed his new creation for me.

He had removed the original tires from his Lightning McQueen toy and replaced them with tires from a different toy—transforming Lightning McQueen into a monster truck!

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether people would like or not like, accept or reject, this website and our writing efforts. I’ve been through a lot of rejection over the last nine years. I desperately want to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. But in many ways, I feel like I just lost a war and am now being asked to go into new battles. So, I struggle a good bit with feelings of discouragement and rejection.

In the middle of the night, I woke up thinking about some of these issues. I said, “Lord, do you like the website? Do you think it’s good? Are you proud of us?”

God responded by reminding me of the Lightning McQueen Monster Truck.

I was extremely proud of my son when I saw what he had made! My heart swelled with delight and joy to see his creativity. I was excited with him and for him over what his little hands had crafted. All he did was take some pieces and rearrange them. I know that. But, my little creative genius came up with the idea all by himself.

He put a different character’s mouthpiece on McQueen because he thought it looked good that way. Working hard, he also found a solution to an engineering problem he encountered. The larger tires would not fit on McQueen until he removed the side panels. He used his sweet little mind, imagination, and creativity to make something that I thought was absolutely amazing! Why?

Because I’m his dad and I love him.

Oh, how I love him! I love him more than words can express.

Have you recently stepped out in faith to create something for the Lord? Have you been wondering whether others would accept or reject it? Let me assure you of one thing. Your heavenly Dad is incredibly proud of you today!

He loves what you’re doing for Him! He’s not looking to see whether you’ve gotten everything perfect yet. He is thrilled over your efforts to create something that brings Him glory and helps others.

He is singing over you today!

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

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Don’t Worry – Dad Knows Where We’re Going!

Imagine you are ten years old. Your dad smiles and says excitedly, “Pack your bags with two weeks’ worth of clothes!”

You ask, “Where are we going?”

Dad says, “I’ll tell you when we get there!”

Would you be afraid? Would you worry about where you’d sleep? Would you wonder if Dad was about to drop you off at a boot camp for kids? Abandon you?

The answer probably depends on how you view your dad.

Right now, we don’t know where we’ll be living in two weeks. All we know is that our lease is up and we have to move.

We don’t know if we’ll have more than one working vehicle. We bought what turned out to be a lemon. It’s sitting idle because we can’t afford to sink any more money into it. We’re not sure how our kids will get to day school. We don’t know if we’ll be living near work and school, or many miles away. We don’t know anything about our future home, or how we will get one. We’ve tried. All of our efforts have failed. We just don’t know.

But Dad knows!

He knows exactly where we’re going. He made all of the arrangements months ago. I guess that’s why He doesn’t seem worried at all.

We have to decide right now whether we really trust Him.

Either we believe He’s a good Father, or we don’t.

Either we believe His promises, or we don’t.

If we believe them, we have nothing to worry about.

Dad knows where we’re going. All we have to do is go with Him!

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Confessions Of A Megachurch Skeptic

The Struggle

A few years ago, we tried a new church.

From the first time we went, the Lord used the pastor and other leaders to speak directly into our situation. I knew the Lord wanted us to continue coming.

However, I struggled. I couldn’t stop mentally criticizing everything about the church. I felt very out of place. Most people dress pretty nice there. We were shopping exclusively at thrift stores at the time.

Everything seemed designed to appeal to people’s senses. There was great music, warm coffee, big screens, and colored stage lights. The facilities were way too nice. I thought we should feel guilty worshipping there while our brothers in poor countries worship on dirt floors.

I struggled to believe the friendly atmosphere was genuine. And how could the worship team get up there service after service with so much joy and enthusiasm? Were they faking?

The pastor was extremely likable. I liked him so much, I thought something had to be wrong with him. “He’s only giving people spiritual milk because he doesn’t want to upset anyone. Yes, that must be the problem.” These kinds of thoughts went on and on for the first few months.

But I knew God was speaking to me personally through the sermons. I knew God wanted me there.

The Breakthrough

I’m not sure what came over me. But finally, I caved one day during worship. I said, “Lord, would you please remove this negative and critical spirit from me?”

Immediately, my thoughts began changing. Before, I would have a thought such as, “This is just a bunch of rich people putting on a show.”

Now I would think, “How wonderful that the people who go to this church give so much of their time and resources to help others!”

Before: “This pastor is giving everyone spiritual milk.”

Now: “This pastor is an incredibly gifted communicator. He explains difficult issues in a way everyone can understand.”

In every case, my thoughts were turned completely around. I began to realize this church was spiritually thriving! Thousands are being saved and baptized. Thousands are fasting and praying together. This church ministers to prisoners. They care for widows and orphans.

Everything they do is driven by prayer. People are showing up at 6 am during weekly prayer services, every Saturday, Wednesday nights, and on special serve days.

Much of the congregation is serving the church every week. Thousands are feeling welcomed and loved by a church for the first time in their lives! People’s lives are being transformed. Marriages are being restored. People are getting free from destructive attitudes and actions. People are being healed of deadly diseases. People are being comforted in their pain.

This church is extremely generous! A lot of money is flowing out of this church and into the world to spread the gospel, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.

After my eyes were opened, I began to wonder how I ever found anything wrong with this wonderful church!

I was amazed.

The Blessing

I’ll never forget God’s final reforms on me in this area. A couple of months after I prayed this life-changing prayer, I was in worship. Some of the old attitudes started to creep up. I remember saying, “Okay, Lord. This is a great church. I get that and I love it. But, why do they need all the fancy lights?”

Before I could finish my question, a fully formed answer was present in my mind. I believe this was the voice of the Holy Spirit. Here’s how the conversation went.

Me: “…But, why do they need all the fancy lights?”

The Voice: “Chris, you know there’s fancy lights around my throne in heaven…”

I remembered a passage from Revelation.

“The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.” – Revelation 4:23 (NLT) emphasis added

A huge smile came to my face. I was moved to tears. I said, “Okay, Lord. I got you on that. But what about the smoke?”

(By smoke, I was referring to the fog from the fog machine)

The Voice (in a happy, playful type of way): “Yeah, there’s smoke too…”

I remembered a passage from Isaiah.

“…I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne… Above him were seraphim… At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” – excerpts from Isaiah 6:1-4 (NIV) emphasis added

God’s Spirit is being poured out on me as I embrace the worship service. The last thing I hear in my spirit is this.

The Voice: “You know the tabernacle and the temple were copies of the real thing in heaven. You’re just practicing for what you’re going to do in eternity.”

I remembered a passage from Hebrews.

“That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven… Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven.” – excerpts from Hebrews 9:23-24 (NLT) emphasis added

This blew me away! Ever since that time, I often think of heaven during worship service.

Obviously, smoke and colored lights are not required. New covenant believers have freedom to worship how we choose. But God showed me there certainly isn’t anything wrong with colored lights and smoke. In fact, God is rather fond of them! Otherwise, He wouldn’t have them around His throne.

God used the smoke and lighting as final illustrations which allowed me to fully embrace everything about my church.

For the last few years, I have fallen more and more in love with my church every day. I love Jesus and I love my church. I love everything about my church! There’s no way for me to put into words how much I love and appreciate my church. What God has done is simply indescribable. This pastor has become my pastor and this church has become my church.

I’ve been set free from critical, accusing, and slanderous thoughts.

You can be free to love your church as well! Just ask!

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