Friday, May 31, 2013

Sola Scriptura: A Recommendation

[I've spent a good deal of time and energy promoting my own book recently, so I decided to end the week by focusing on someone else's]. 

Keith Buhler was a student with me at Biola University about whom I can say three things. First, I owe Keith a debt of gratitude for introducing me to David Gray’s White Ladder, an album that was integral to my college experience and has stood the test of time and remains in my collection (even as I type this, I am listening to it). Second, Keith Buhler is a good man, and I can attest to this due to my most vivid memory of him, one which is highly embarrassing to me (so I will share it with you). He and I were invited to accompany two young women on a day-long, dorm-floor-event during which all the young women and their dates were to perform a scavenger hunt in Hollywood, followed by dinner at a restaurant where each group would share its findings. Well, long story short, I fell asleep during the day’s events, and Keith was not only a wonderful companion to his date but also the young lady that I treated so poorly—I recall his either doing impressions of me sleeping or taking pictures to that affect in order to cheer up my rightfully-disheartened date (Rachel, I am still sorry for my behavior). Third, years after this when he and I reconnected, Keith not only treated me as a friend but also did not bring up the embarrassing affair, an act which confirms that he is a genuinely gracious person.

That being said, buy his book.

Just kidding (sort of); I am actually going to discourage some of you from buying his book, not for lack of its merit but for its intentional niche appeal. You see, Sola Scriptura is not for everyone. I wish it were, as it is an engaging and, at times, riveting read full of vibrant ideas and wonderful truths; however, its format is also direct to such a degree that some readers will have neither the desire to engage it nor sensibility to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

STRONGHOLD released!

Stronghold is now out in the ether (in digital and print), available for anyone to find and read—those who know me and those who don’t. The moment is equal parts encouraging and terrifying.  Yes, I am ecstatic to have finished, produced, and released my first novel, but I am also aware that a lot of people are going to hate it, and I am preparing myself for that. In the end, I have come to grips with one fact: Stronghold is a piece of art, and it’s the best I have to offer the world creatively at this point in my life. For some that will prove enough; for others, it won’t. As for me, I am left on my knees, presenting the book before God as an offering of my finest efforts, for his honor and to his glory. I have attempted to write a work that is excellent, honest, and entertaining.  I suppose you will tell me how I did in the months to come.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey to now; I hope you will continue with me on the exciting path that lies ahead.

Again, you can order Stronghold in print from Amazon or get it for your Kindle.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reactions, Realizations, and Re-assessment.

Next week, my first novel, Stronghold, will become available to the public, to those who know me and those who do not, to those who believe as I do and to those who don't, to those who will like it and those who won't.

Regrettably, I have carried a load of stress in the last several days leading to this. I have felt the clock tick as my initial readers found last minute errors I had missed, as they reacted in ways different than I expected, as the disappointing realities I have previously discussed came to fruition. The burden of this has weighed heavily on my mind and infiltrated my demeanor. Some of my attitudes have been unacceptable, and I have been forced to process through a range of emotions that cut deeply and sting when doing so. I have had to apologize; I have had to repent. Ultimately, I've had to let go of my expectations.

And it's been the best thing that could have happened, especially before release.

Once the book goes live, the train will leave the station. It will move on a track that God has ordained, and I cannot control that. He has prepared the hearts and minds of those with whom it will connect. They will find it, and he will get his glory. This side of heaven, I may never know who they are, and I have come to grips with that. More importantly, however, I have come to grips with the fact that those near me, those close to me and around me--perhaps those whose approval I want most--may not be the persons for whom God led me to write this book. I have to come to realize that their dislike of it is in no way a rejection of me (or God) but simply the reality that no art speaks to everyone, and the artist cannot and should not expect this, no matter how passionate he or she feels.

I take great joy in this, for it opens me to grander possibilities that God is using my work in ways I do now know, even as things in front of me are not what I would have desired. If this is really God's book, if I wrote it in obedience to his calling to share my heart, if I offered it back to him and said "this is for you; this is my worship", then I have nothing to fear in the face of man's rejection and no reason for disappointment if God uses it in ways I don't expect or cannot see. God will do as he pleases, and he will do rightly, far better than I would do if I were in control. In my prayers of late, one thing has resounded in my mind: God will shock us with his goodness.

As a creative person, these realities are perhaps the most encouraging and helpful ones I could possibly encounter in this season of life, and I am glad to have learned them now rather than in several months, after failing to properly assess the responses of others and destroying relationships as a result. Of course, these are simply words. The test will be how I react when the feedback begins to arrive. I hope that you will provide me with it and force me to live out what I have claimed.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the holiday weekend. With much love and affection,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Countdown to Stronghold: Part 6: Less Than A Week Until Release

Six days from now, Stronghold will be available for purchase.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Truth is, I think I’m more nervous about this than any other enterprise I’ve entered in life until now. I figured this would happen. This isn’t like a school assignment or the first day on a new job. I’ve been working on this text for over 2 years, and this is the end result of hours and hours of my best efforts. Truly, I feel like this is the best I’ve got—this is the best I can create at this point in my life. Given that assessment, I have my moments of doubt, and I ask:

What if they don’t like it?
What if it’s no good?
What if it’s all for naught, and no one reads it beyond those given a free copy …

I am not plagued by these questions; I'm not kept awake at night or haunted by them every time I sit at the keyboard, but I would be lying if I said they were not there, lingering in shadow and peering into view now and again. So, what if Stronghold, the best I have to offer, is a mediocre failure on all levels?

Then I suppose I’ll just have to make sure I improve with the next one. I’ll just have to make my best that much better. I’ll just need to dig deeper. I’ll need to fight harder. 

That's what’s funny, friends. After all the hours of editing, the conclusion that I have drawn about my writing is that I always want it to improve, I always want its quality to delight and surprise; I always want it to be excellent. Even if people read Stronghold, and it connects with them--even if they love it and it does well (whatever that means), I still need to get that much better. I need to dig that much deeper and fight that much harder, because that's how the Lord gets his glory, when we refuse complacency and strive to do all things with excellence because we do them to his honor and praise. 

Truth is, I want my best novel to always be the one I’m presently writing. I just hope that each sets a very high bar, starting with Stronghold

I guess you'll all let me know, huh?

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Golden Rule and the Love Ethic

The wisdom of Jesus Christ is so profound that no other thinker has ever rivaled him. I stake my life on this claim. Christ claimed to be God's son and one with The Father in Spirit. He demanded worship. And he called us to highest ethic of human love in all of history.

Our  modern cultural dictum of ethics, which finds roots in numerous key thinkers of the past, says “Do not do to others what you do not want done to you.” This is a fine rule for  being a civil person. But this is not the highest ethic of men; in fact, this negative framework has been characterized by some as “The Silver Rule,” for a greater ethic exists beyond it. That higher ethic is voiced by Jesus Christ, and we sometimes refer to it as "The Golden Rule". The Holy Bible presents this rule as follows: “Do unto others as you would have them to you” (Luke 6:31). The former rule lies in the withholding of ill in order to preserve oneself from ill, whereas the latter demands one do good to others because of the good one inherently desires for him or herself.

I had held to the Silver Rule in my own life for many seasons until I realized something horribly unsettling: it is an anti-philosophy, a philosophy against poor behavior, against ill-thought, against wrongdoing. But this means that it is a philosophy focused not on good but on evil; for it requires its adherents to ask “what evil should I not do?” rather than "what good should be done?".

The philosophy presented by Christ on the other hand is a positive one that embraces virtue with a noble command that forces humanity beyond comfort. Christ encourages us to act in benevolence because we inherently desire to receive benevolence. This is not a philosphy against anything but a mantra for the pursuit of another’s good given own’s longing for good. Since you value being fed, then feed others; knowing that you desire to be served, serve others; because you value gifts, then give.

Now, I know that two major criticisms can be leveled against me in this breakdown. The first is that I am misrepresenting the Silver Rule, that in fact is not an “anti-philosphy” but in fact a noble, positive philosphy framed within negative language; however, I feel that this criticism discounts the power and value of language itself. The Silver Rule says nothing of living to increase another’s benefit. Anywhere. It simply says don't harm them. One can invert its teaching to draw the conclusion to do good, but the dictum itself provides no such exhortation: its teaching is plain; do not wrong another if you would not want to be wronged. Thus, I find that labeling it as an anti-philosphy is valid. Second, one can make the argument, and rightly so, that the Golden Rule is dependent on one’s selfishness. Indeed it is, but in no way does the language embrace one's selfishness nor say do good in order to receive good. The language says to do good because you also would want good done to you. This is an important distinction, for the ethic of Christ plays to the aforementioned human selfishness in order to invert the practice of fulfilling the isolated needs of the one to fulfilling the various needs of the many. What I mean by that is this: Christ recognizes that individuals possess personal desires and needs and that they meet those because persons inherently love themselves. He demands that those who follow him also apply that self-love and value to the well-being of others. This is not a dictum of withholding evil but zealously pursuing another’s good inasmuch as we do our own.

This is a high ethic, but that does not mean it is wrong. In fact, in its high calling we see its worth and nobility.  Therfore, this week, I challenge you to put this into baby-steps as best you can:

  • Be patient with others in the same manner you want others to be patient with you.
  • Show kindness to others in the same manner you want others to show you kindness.
  • Listen to others in the same way you want others to listen to you. 
  • Encourage others in the same way you would want encouragement from others.
  • Meet the needs of others as you would meet your own needs.
  • Attempt to understand another to the same extent you want others to understand you.
I could add to this list, and I am sure you could also. I encourage you do so and try to put it into action. I will be honest; I fail at this each and every day, and I need both Christ's forgiveness and his own leading to live in such a way. This is a large task and rising to it well is going to take time, a great deal of time. Maybe a lifetime. So let's get to it.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May Links


Courtesy of my Friend, Rachel

Necessary info on ISBN’s (that I have had to purchase)

Focus on Actionable Subject Lines
An interesting article on making E-mails more urgent


Media Influencer Phil Cooke discusses why Christian Media is usually lacking in merit.

A Great History of one of the worst Movie Adaptations of all time

Great Commentary on Comedy and Misrepresentation by a fellow Biola Grad 

One fan's take on the 75th Birthday of Superman


Great Thoughts on Evangelicalism and Money

Interesting Commentary following one man's journey away from the internet

A Brief History of Abortion, Kinda

Friday, May 17, 2013

7 Steps to Losing Weight

So, last week, I discussed the ability to change your life through losing weight in as little in 90 days, and I promised I would share some more thoughts. Here's a 7-point rundown of how I believe you can do it (or at least how I did).

1) Change your relationship to food and alter your metabolism by shifting your diet from 3 square meals a day with open snacking to 5 small, purposeful meals a day with no snacks.
What do I mean by "purposeful"? Well, I treated food as fuel for my workouts, which means I ate protein, complex carbs (fruits, nuts), and good fats (nuts, avacado); and I cut out the simple carbs and bad fats: Frappachino's, chips, cheeses, pasta, bread, candy, soda, beer, juice (other than 100%), and crackers. Basically, I looked at food in terms of its benefit to me, and my relationship to food changed as a result. Each smaller meal consisted of 1-3 portions of food, each one approximately the size of my fist.

2) Give yourself a splurge day, once a week, when you can eat anything you want. 
Stay disciplined at all other times, remembering that a day is coming when you are allowed to have ice cream, fries, pie, whatever. This was huge for me. It's much easier to say "no" when you know you can say "yes" later.  If you are doing 5 meals a day, then you have 35 a week, and 5 of them can be whatever you want. 1/7 of your diet being garbage can actually help your body burn fat; this is not my opinion, it's science.

3) Dedicate yourself to 6 days of active working out a week. 
Let me assure you, that by "active working out", I mean 20-40 minutes of high intensity fitness. Not two hours at the gym, taking my time and talking; not 1-2 miles depending on how I felt. I demanded of myself 20-40 minutes in the gauntlet, at war with my body, striving to burn every calorie I could. It would hurt. Every day. But I would do it, and it paid dividends.

4) Take a note from the Bible and force yourself to rest on the 7th day. 
No jogging. No morning push-ups. You rest. Let your body fully recover for the next week of war. Take the rest and savor it.

5) Sleep. 
When you know that each day will demand you take it to the limit, you will want to sleep. And you should. Your body will need it, and your body will thank you for it at the 18- minute mark when you crave death but know you must hold for 2 more long minutes. I tried to get 7 hours a day minimum. The days when I didn't, and I was running on coffee fumes, I really, really felt it.

6) Get accountability. 
Let people know you are changing your life. Those who naysay you can prove wrong, and those who support you will be rewarded for their faith.

7) Which of course, bring me to what I believe is the most important factor: you must purpose in your heart to do this. 
It's so easy to get discouraged. Cynicism is the easiest mindset man can adopt. Be better. Make a promise to yourself, maybe even make a promise to a handful of people to whom you've spoken, and follow through it.

That's how I did, and I believe you can do it, too. If you're interested in more details, feel free to e-mail me at or comment.

Here's three BONUS TIPS that are somewhat unique to me, personally, but also helped immensely.

* I am a huge fan of the Rocky films, and I cannot tell you how many times the words of Corner Man Duke echoed in my mind during my workouts. Do you have motivational moments in film or TV, hold onto them for the clutch, and hear them resound in your mind when you are hurting. Your emotional connection to them may help you over a hurdle.

* I found some workouts that I specifically loved doing, and I kept them on deck in the event that I was unsure of what to do for a given day or felt unmotivated. It's okay to do workouts that you actually enjoy doing, as long as you take it to the max.

* I hold to the first Colossians 3:17,  "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him." This verse helped me tremendously on the days I wanted to quit, the meals I wanted to cheat, and the runs I wanted to stop. I told myself for whom I was living, not myself but God, and this verse was a powerful motivator.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Countdown to Stronghold: Part 5: Author Site

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We are less than two weeks from launch. I have received feedback from multiple parties, most of which has been favorable. My proof will be ordered in the next 24 hours, and I am now able to sell not only through Amazon but Itunes as well. 

Things are getting very real, so why not make them a bit more concrete.

I present to you, my official author site, completed thanks to the assistance of Lumen Creative Group.

Please check it out, tell your friends, and let me know what you think.