Death Comes in Threes?

My mother used to say death comes in threes.

I remember hearing her remark, during my childhood, about how one person died, then another died a few days later, and who would be the third? As I grew older, I chalked it up to superstition.

But trouble does seem to come in waves, doesn’t it?

I lived an illustration of this point a few years ago (which I journaled because the whole experience was so bizarre). In less than a week we encountered the following:

Saturday: no electricity in the entire house
Sunday: the car wouldn’t start
Monday: took the car in for repair (and a big, fat repair bill)
Tuesday: the telephone land line died
Wednesday: found a HUGE infestation of ants in the dog food bin (ewww!)
Thursday: the central air conditioner stopped working

Three weeks later:

Our irrigation system stopped working
Our well collapsed
A toilet leak flooded the bathroom

One week after that:

I chipped a tooth AND
lost a house key.

All those events combined don’t compare to what happened last week. In one week, I learned of four deaths that touched people I knew locally: three people lost their husbands, and another lost her father. Within my extended publishing community, two Christian authors also died.

As I lamented these deaths, a friend in Alaska emailed me to say three of her friends lost their moms during that same same week. And this week, another friend lost her mother.

Times like these make me thankful for my Refuge.

When I wrote One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, it was a joy to focus on God’s nature and His ways. During difficult times, I am especially driven to the names and attributes of God that remind me of His sovereign care. For example:

Abba – He is the intimate Father who cares for His child. I am precious to Him.

       Matthew 6:32 (NLT) – “Your heavenly Father knows all your needs.”

 Refuge – He is a safe haven. I can run to Him and enjoy the safety of abiding in His presence.

Psalm 91:4 (NIV) – “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”

Compassionate – In His compassion, He sees my pain and alleviates my suffering in ways only He can.

    Nehemiah 9:31 (NASB) – “You are a gracious and compassionate God.”

Comforter – He has promised never to leave me alone. His Spirit comforts me in my darkest moments.

John 14:16 (KJV) – “He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”

I am so grateful to know, whatever my situation, there is a relevant name or attribute of God that will draw me to Him and meet me where I am…even during the worst of times.

What are some names and attributes of God you run to during difficult times?


 
What’s in a Name?

Early in my Christian life, I heard a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. When my pastor reached “Hallowed be Your name,” he took a detour into another sermon series on the names of God. Not long after that, I completed Kay Arthur’s study, Lord, I Want to Know You. I was reminded that to truly trust God we must know who He is, and that He revealed Himself through His names.

These experiences instilled in me a lifelong love for the names of God, as well as a desire to share what He was teaching me as I continued my own studies. That’s why I wrote One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God. And I’m thrilled to say Kay Arthur endorsed it!

Like any study of God’s Word, there’s a danger of intellectualizing what we learn, focusing on accumulating academic facts. But it’s not enough to fill our heads with information if we don’t apply what we’re learning. To ensure this devotional would be more than a textbook on the names of God, I examined each of His 122 names and attributes three ways: who God is, who we are in relation to who He is, and how this changes our earthly relationships.

The names of God tell us who He is. They reveal His nature and His ways using descriptions we can relate to and understand. The more we learn about who God is, the more we learn about ourselves – who we are in relation to the One who created us and redeemed us. Finally, we learn the priority God places on relationships, and the characteristics that will nurture those relationships in ways that honor Him.

Learning about the names and attributes of God has especially impacted my own faith and relationship with Him three ways:

It changed the way I relate to God.
Faith in God is not blind faith – we can confidently rely on who God is by what He has revealed about Himself in His Word. Each name and attribute tells me not just who He is but how He works. He is unchanging, which means the God of the Bible is the same today. While we cannot fully understand who He is this side of heaven, His names and attributes give us glimpses into His divine nature.

It changed the way I pray.
I’m not praying to some impersonal force out there in the universe; I am praying to our very personal God. Whatever the subject of my prayer – whether worship, thanksgiving, interceding for others, or asking for myself – there is a name or attribute God has revealed which helps me address Him in that area.

It changed the way I share and teach about Christ.
Learning the names and attributes of God gives me the confidence to share Christ on an individual and personal level. God is not some ancient or outdated theological idea. Everything about who He is and how He works is relevant to us today. Knowing His names and attributes gives me the specific words to describe who He is to others. It also helps me when others speak of who they think God is – because then I have a starting point to say, let’s look at who God says He is!

It’s difficult to trust someone we don’t know. The more we know about who God is and how He works, the easier it is for us to trust Him. If you and I want to get to know God intimately, doesn’t it make sense to learn what He says about Himself?

How well do you know the names God has revealed for Himself?
How well do you want to know His names?



 
Affirmation…by the Numbers

I was never much of a numbers person. Words are more my thing. Lots and lots of words, if you ask my husband! Numbers…not so much.

It’s one of the reasons I love to write. To be able to communicate using myriad combinations of a mere twenty-six letters is nothing short of amazing. Yet, my writing life is slowly being consumed by numbers.

Sales numbers and sales rankings. Blog readers and blog subscribers. Blog commenters and friends lists. Website views and page views.

Numbers.

I used to think the most difficult part of the publishing process was actually writing the book…until I wrote the book.

Then I thought the most difficult part of the publishing process was convincing a publisher that my book was exactly what they wanted. Not anymore.

I have now joined the assembly of authors who have learned that hard work doesn’t end with a book contract. The question now consuming my thoughts is whether people will purchase my book. Does anyone even know it’s available? So the impulse to follow the numbers trail begins.    

How many page views did my website receive this week? How many Facebook friends “like” my Author Page? Can I fit my next Twitter posting into a 140-character tweet? How many people commented on my most recent blog post? Was it more than the week before? If not, why not?

My latest compulsion is to check the book reviews for One Year Alone with God. As of today, Amazon.com has three reviews – all five-star. Whew! But cbd.com doesn’t have any. Should I be concerned?

Just when I begin to get overwhelmed by the numbers, I’m reminded that God is more concerned with people than with numbers. In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, pastor and author Jim Cymbala notes, “The Bible does not say we should aim at numbers, but rather urges us faithfully to proclaim God’s message in the boldness of the Holy Spirit.”

Rather than fall prey to the lure of numbers, I must remember that God works one person at a time to build His kingdom. If the reason God prompted me to write this book is to benefit only one person, then it is a successful venture in His sight. If I’m doing what He has called me to do, then I must trust Him for the results…and for my affirmation.

Of course, I will do everything I can to market One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God. But ultimately, I must choose: is my focus on finite numbers or my infinite God?

How do you resist the lure of numbers to bring you affirmation?


 
Promotion – A Christian Author’s Dilemma

My first book, One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, was published by Revell Books this month. My joy at the release of this project has been tempered by the need to market it through a website, blog posts, newsletters, Facebook author page, Twitter, book signings, and most recently, a launch party.

A recent conversation with a family member highlighted the tension inherent in promoting my book. “Why are you doing book signings?” he asked. “If God wants your book to sell, then it will sell. You should just trust Him.” His voice was tinged with reproach and his meaning was clear: a mature Christian should trust God rather than schedule book signings and develop other marketing efforts.

Marketing and promotion. I am uncomfortable with this part of a writer’s job. I dislike doing it and I hate that others – even family members – mistake my actions for self-aggrandizement. After all, I’m a Christian. The Bible tells me to be humble, to put others first, and – in the vernacular – to not toot my own horn. Proverbs 27:2 says to “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

Still, publishing is a business, and that includes Christian publishing. In these days of staff cuts and diminishing budgets, most authors can no longer expect their publishers to roll out the red carpet to market their books. Even before a book is contracted, the publisher wants to know what marketing plans you have for the project. If you’re not willing to promote your book, your publisher probably won’t be willing to publish it.

This is not about measuring success by book sales. Literary agent Chip MacGregor often speaks of significance over success. Chip defined significance as “making a difference in the lives of people over time.” He notes that “significant people are those who made a difference in our world, whether they attained success or not.”

My goal – my significance, if you will – is to glorify God with my life. That includes my writing, which I believe is a gift He has given me. If this is true, then my goal must also be to glorify God in my marketing, just as I sought to glorify Him in my writing.

This is not about me. I never want my marketing efforts to be about self-aggrandizement. I don’t want to be the one waving her book high in the air, shouting “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done! Buy my book!”

Rather, I want to promote my book because it is a work God has done in and through me. He has given me an ability to use words for His glory. He has opened doors to publication while many writers more talented than I am are waiting for their opportunity. This is about what God has done. That’s what I want to say. I want to shout, “Look at my Creator! Look at my Redeemer! Look at what He has done!”

If, in order to do that, I need to “put myself out there” then that’s what I’ll do. But I’ll do it in the hope that others will be blessed by the work He gave me, and they, in turn, will proclaim what He has done through this book.

Matthew 5:16 (NIV) says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Everything I do is for the purpose of giving glory and honor to my Father in heaven (I Corinthians 10:31).

So, yes, I will continue to develop my website, write blog posts, send out a quarterly newsletter to those who subscribe, update Facebook, tweet on Twitter, and schedule book signings. Not because I want to draw attention to me, but because I believe One Year Alone with God with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God, is His book. I believe it will be used by God to touch others for His glory. And if that’s what I truly believe, how can I not tell others?

Do you think it’s possible for writers to promote their work without promoting themselves?


 
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