I am a Christian. What does that mean to me?
Christianity is not my religion, it is my way of life. It integrates itself into everything I do. From the time I first discovered Jesus, God, the Bible, and church - when I was seven years old - until now, there has been one thought always in the corner of my mind:
"Is God pleased with the life I am living for Him?"
Here's the main point of what I believe - I have sinned, it's in my nature. Even though I couldn't help it, I still deserve to be punished for my wrong. Why? Because when I die there are only two possible outcomes: being with God forever (in heaven) or not being with God forever (eventually in hell).
Because God is perfect and sinless, He cannot have any imperfection or sin in His presence. (That would make His presence imperfect.) Since all people have sinned, there would be no one in heaven.
But God did create us. And He does love us. He wanted to make a solution to the problem, and so He did. In order to erase all sin, it needed to be placed on a blameless, perfect sacrifice. There was only one way this could be done. God, himself, had to cast away His perfect Son, Jesus as the sacrifice for man's sins.
It worked, and even better, Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He was God. Now man kind has the option of accepting that sacrifice as our own and spending eternity in heaven.
My theology in a nutshell. I believe a lot of other details, but that's the crux of it.
Back to the original question: What does that have to do with my life? Now I can live as a person redeemed. Instead of fearing death, I can give glory to the One who gave me eternal life. And tell people about it, so they can too!
God has put more in my life than just worshipping Him in church, however. While my regular job is in my church, I also have kids and talk to their friends' parents. I play softball. I dawdle on Facebook and Goodreads. I have an extended family. All the while, trying to make sure I am giving the best Christian example I can.
I am also a writer. How do I incorporate the above into my writing?
Well, the Bible has already been written. And we are encouraged in the good book not to add one iota to it for dire consequences. So what's left to write?
Writing about people.
Here's the problem. Remember how I said that all people have sinned? That actually works pretty well to make for interesting books. But wouldn't God frown on reveling that sin?
As a Christian, shouldn't I be writing about how to do it right? What being a Christian looks like?
The truth would be more honest, wouldn't it?
For example, there is a situation in my first novel, Amity of the Angelmen, where a young priest (Father Mackenzie Abel) falls in love - and perhaps takes it a step too far - with a 17-year-old girl. Especially in light of all the bad press the Catholic church has received recently about abuse among priests, I was extremely nervous about putting this in.
Here's the deal. Mackenzie is not perfect, even though he is a priest. He makes mistakes. When you read the book, you will probably like the character. (The most frequent question I receive about the book is, "What happens to Mackenzie?") So, if I have done my job as an author correctly, you will feel his pain in knowing he did what he shouldn't have done. Some of you will think, "Good for him!" Others of you will think, "What are you doing?" But you will all know that he knows he has sinned.
I'm not condoning it. I'm simply saying it happens.
A book I have slated to come out possibly next year gets even darker with the life of the suicidal child of an alcoholic. I really struggled writing it, because I have no experience with a life like that. But I know it's out there. And this is a story of how God can use even someone with no self-worth to become the commander of His army.
My books aren't about perfect people. (Amity is afraid to do as she's told. Asher is prideful and uses his popularity in using girls to fill his loneliness, Malachi is an angry delinquent with plenty of blood on his hands, and Caedmon could be responsible for the death of his parents.) None of that is new to God. There is hope for these four. When the Israelites needed to to get through Jericho, they used the help of a prostitute. That prostitute wound up being in the blood line of Jesus Christ.
So, I am a Christian writer. What does that mean?
I tell it like it is, and God gets the glory for any good that comes of it. So read on, and be comforted that you are not alone.
It's the story of my life.
I love to eat. And what I love to eat is not what is best for my body. While I can say I do enjoy a good spinach salad, given the choice, it would not win out over cheesecake.
My favorite foods, in order, are:
So, yeah, I've got it bad.
The problem is that, even though I can look at a hundred and four unreadble ingredients on the side of a package, I only taste one – and it's good. Normally, when I eat French fries, they don't taste like they are slowly killing me. They taste pretty good. Good enough to eat more.
Sometimes, I'll feel it later. The grease form the fries makes my stomach complain.
Sometimes, I won't feel it later, but I'll notice its fatty remains later.
And all of it shows up later in a way I don't even feel or see at all, on my annual cholesterol report.
Satan works like this in our lives. He's been around for a while, you know. He doesn't live in hell. His home is right here on earth. We're told he is the prince of this world. And he's pretty comfortable here too. Or at least we've become pretty comfortable with his presence.
Scripture tells us Satan walks the earth looking for prey to devour. (I Peter 5:8) Do you see that happening? I don't. Sin doesn't rear its head like a wild animal, it rubs your ankles like a soft kitten. I see a lot of happy people doing what they want, little by little choosing to believe whatever makes them happy. Making themselves the authority they answer to.
Just like the ice cream I eat is slowly killing me through pleasure, Satan is slowly killing us with pleasure too. He is letting us have all the things we want, and we don't always realize when it is bad for us. The more things go our way, taste the way we like, the more it's possible for us to consider that maybe not every good and perfect gift comes from above. (James 1:17) Maybe we can do it on our own, without any help.
We can't. It's all part of the lie. Just like the lie that ice cream tastes so good, it can't be that bad.
Moving on. So, I don't weigh 800 pounds, and I have yet to have a cardiac episode. What's my secret?
Doing what I don't want to do.
Yes, that's right. I run. When I was a kid, I hated running. In the past few years, I've been trying to convince myself that I like it. But I'm convinced no one really “likes” running. It hurts! It's a pain.
It's the total opposite of all that stuff I love to eat – that suff that doesn't feel bad going down but is really bad for me. Running feels really bad going down, but is really good for me.
I've heard some people might actually like running. They have been doing it enough that their muscles know what to do without too much thinking. That surge of endorphins known as “runner's high” comes to them quickly. (I'll admit. That part is rather addicting.)
Running breaks down your muscles, little bit by bit, so that they can be rebuilt stronger when you're done. It forces your heart to beat faster to get the oxygen in your blood to the places in your body that need it. In short, it makes your body work better.
God will do that to us to. Because of the sinful world we live in, we need to be broken down, too. There are parts of us too that need to be exercised when all we want to do is sit around. We need to get up off our keisters and work!
If I didn't indulge so much in what was bad for me, I wouldn't have to run so much. (Between running and biking, I get in about 50 miles a week. That's a lot of donuts.) But if I ate perfectly, could I be completely sedentary?
Moot point. I could never eat perfectly. We have a world that is imperfect. Even if I ate all fruits and veggies, they could be contaminated with pesticides. Is it possible to eat perfectly? I don't know. Because I don't want to. I want the bad stuff. It's too enticing.
Are you catching the connection here? We can't be perfect. As long as we live in this imperfect world with all of Satan's beautiful distractions and brownie sundaes, we're sunk. One thing that this analogy doesn't make clear is how easy the work is we need to do. All we need to do is accept his Gift of Jesus. No running shoes required.
It's still going to be tough to live in this way too tasty world of comfort. So we need to make sure we keep running back to Him.
God provided a way for us. He made it so that we won't die. It might not seem as enjoyable as sin, but that's just because we have never known pure goodness.
Can you imagine the ice cream in heaven. New meaning for the word, “heavenly,” if you ask me. I can't wait to try it.
*Please note. This is meant to be a light commentary and not an exact theology.
Passion Under Grace,