A few thoughts on worship

Hi readers, today I want to talk about worship, the way we worship, and how we worship. Worship is more than just lifting your hands on a Sunday morning, worship is everything we do and say. Worship is not a genre of music, it’s a lifestyle, it’s every breath we take.

How we worship differs from person to person, but one thing should be evident in everyone’s form of worship: Jesus is glorified above all else. If your worship isn’t actually worshiping, it’s not worship, it’s as simple and obvious as that. Yes, you may roll your eyes at how obvious that is, but the truth is, a lot of people only sing worship for their own glorification. In the Christian music world, worship is the most listened to, and it’s what the radio stations want played, so the money is pretty big.

Another thing all worship should have in common is that it should come from the heart. If you’re lifting Jesus with all of your heart, you’re already there. Worship isn’t something that people should be forced to do, it should be something that they want to do. It should come from the heart, and the way to do so is to look at the cross. When I see the cross, I want to fall on my knees and thank the Lord.

And now another thing that’s important in worship: the music. Before I go on I want to say that music isn’t something that is absolutely needed in worship, but it truly helps to usher in the Spirit and bring the listener to a place of worship. There are many forms of music used to worship God, and none is more “effective” than the other, though some prefer their own style of music over others. For example, some find they can worship easier with hymns or ballads, others find they can worship easier with rock or metal. And as great as these differences are, they can cause division. How? Lets see.

Worship should be something that brings everyone closer to God and each other, but when it tears us apart, I believe God’s not in it. All our differences should bring us together, not cause division between one another. For example, the people who worship to the softer music may say that it’s impossible to worship to metal, and the metalheads might say they can’t worship to the softer music. I’ve actually read and heard accounts of both, so I’m not making this up :) What these people get wrong is that they believe their preferred way of worship is the only way to worship. Worship isn’t a style of music, and in saying that, that’s what they’re making it out to be. Worship is lifting Jesus Christ.It makes no difference if we sing or scream, the Lord loves both.

If you’re still doubting whether another’s style of worship is wrong, let me tell you that I’ve done both. I’ve screamed along and worshiped to heavy metal, and I’ve sang along and worshiped to hymns and ballads. As I sing to the Lord in worship, I feel His presence fall, with both the soft music, and the metal.

So instead of judging others in their differences, rejoice that God made us all unique. I have a saying of mine I want to share, “If the music sings praise, then I’m raised!”

God Bless, and if you have any further questions, I’m more than happy to answer. And please feel free to share the way you like to worship :) I’d love to hear it!

The Writing Process: Second draft/editing

The next step in the writing process is to write it again. Yep, once you’ve finished the first draft, you have to move on to the second draft, because your first draft will most likely be terrible, and as I’ve said in another post, that’s a beautiful thing. My first drafts are terribly written, but once I move into the second draft, I step up my game in the quality of the writing.

Second drafts are where you improve the story you have, and is essentially a better version of the first draft, quality of writing and story included. But that doesn’t mean you should stop with a second draft, you could write three, or four drafts if you think the story needs it.

Once you’re happy with the story, it’s then time to move on to the editing stages.

I’m a bit of an obsessive editor. I just can’t help myself. And there’s good reason to love the editing process as well: It’s fun! Editing comes in two stages: editing for content, and editing for quality and voice.

Editing for content means editing the story itself, and it doesn’t have to be full chapters and scenes either. When editing  for content you need to make sure it’s as tight as can be. For example, if there’s a scene in your story where your characters do nothing to move the story along, then cut it. If a scene feels like dead weight, cut it. You have to be brutal in this stage, cutting everything that doesn’t move, or help the story and plot. Even if you love the scene, cut it if it doesn’t advance the plot. It will make your novel tighter and will improve it a hundred fold.

Editing for quality and voice means editing the text until it’s as tight and flowing as it can possibly be. If there are words that can be changed or removed, do it. In the end you must listen to your sentences, speaking them aloud is a great way to know if your sentence “has it” or if it feels a little lumpy. My first drafts are essentially one big lump! Anyway, edit, edit, edit, and edit some more for the road. I edited the Restoring at least around six or eight times before I even considered sending it to my readers, and after the tenth time, I did! And even then, there will probably be a few mistakes. No manuscript is perfect, which is why you need help from professional editors and friends who will give you good, critical feedback. Publishers expect perfection, give them any less, and you’ll probably be rejected.

To all who’ve read and are reading my novel, I say thank you for your instructive advice. I’m constantly improving myself each time I sit down to write, and having other readers advice gives me a good foundation to build upon. If you haven’t read it, my Beta reader post is still up for anyone wanting to help. Just send me an email or comment, and I’ll send it to you.

For now, this is the last of the writing process series, but since writing is a major part of my life, it won’t be abandoned. And once I step into the publishing world, I’ll be taking you with me! But for now, I’ll be moving onto other things, such as music, Christian teaching, and more reviews of both books and music.

Thanks for reading guys, I hope this has inspired you to write your own novel. God Bless.

Wolves at the Gate: VxV review

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Wolves at the gate, what can I say? Um…. I actually can’t think of words. If I had to describe their music in a word It’ll be POWERFUL. Before I go on I want to say that I wasn’t the biggest metal fan. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I did, but it wasn’t a style I was very interested in. Well that’s all changed with Wolves!

I first discovered these guys through their song (that’s off this album) Dust to Dust. The lyrics blew me away, and the music that accompanied it was so intense. It was a song, along with every song on this record, that mixes harsh screaming with clean vocals, and it’s a magical combination. When Dust to Dust faded out, I was officially in love.

Now, two weeks after discovering them, I bought their newest album, VxV (pronounced five by five). It stands for the military signal strength and clarity, with VxV being the highest signal strength. It’s a fitting title since the gospel message is truly the highest it can be. It’s so high and powerful in fact that the album begins with a section of a sermon by a man named John Piper. He talks about Jesus taking the wrath of God upon Himself with such power it literally sends chills down your spine.

This moves on to the first song, Wake Up. Nick’s screams punch you in the gut with earth shaking intensity. Musically, this song is heavy, but so are the lyrics. It talks about Christian complacency, and how while we sleep, the wolves, or the devil, comes to steal the sheep away. With lyrics such as, “The wolves are biting, the wolves are snatching up the sheep, for if we speak without the truth upon our lips we’re giving in and we’re falling fast asleep,” and, “Are we fighting or are we asleep? Are we dying to aid the sheep?” are delivered with such a passionate intensity that it leaves you feeling like you have to get up and save the world!

The next song is the song that got me into this band: Dust to Dust. It talks about putting other things before the Lord, “And if I sought fame I’d be a thief of all your honor and glory and praise.”

Return and Relief are full on altar call songs, with Return calling sinners to repentance and reconciliation with God. And Relief calling the sinner to come and rest in Christ. My favourite lyrics off this song are, “Come in and trade your tears, all your worry and ease your fears. Your burden is not unknown, don’t run friend you’re not alone.”

The Bird and the Snake is a brilliant song about Satan and his deception and temptation, again with woven Scripture to really give it power.

Rest is the most groovy song on the record, (am I allowed to use the word groovy?) with the screaming pre-chorus that puts the biggest smile on my face. I confess, I head bang to this :) It’s a song about someday leaving this world to be with Christ.

East to West is a straight up worship song. I’m sure you’ll recognize these lyrics, “Living you loved me though I fought, dying you saved me my soul bought, buried you carried my sins away.”  Yet again scripture and sermons are woven throughout.

Wild Heart is part two to the Bird and the Snake, and talks about Satan’s character. Another earthquake causing barrage of screams and cleans.

The Convicted begins with a scream similar to Wake Up. It’s about our sins against God and how we’re all guilty of death, but yet somehow He still loves and saves us. Amazing! Again the lyrics are so powerful, it’s easily comparable to something Smith Wigglesworth may have preached, or make that Jesus. Another conviction inducing song!

Majesty in Misery and the Father’s Bargain are about Jesus dying for us, again with power and scripture.

If there’s one song you absolutely must listen to, it’s the Father’s Bargain. Oh, no words describe the glory of this song! It begins with a sermon about Jesus giving His life for those who rejected Him, and even after He did it, people still say no. I was in tears by that intro alone!

I know reviews don’t put up full lyrics, but I was so blessed by this song I have to share it with you, because you might not go and look it up after you finish reading this :)

Here they are:

Oh now my son, here is a company of miserable souls
Cold and undone, searing their conscience with hearts black as coals. 
Here now they lie objects of justice, deserving of wrath.
Speak your reply, what shall be done for them? Draw out your path.
No one can contain the power and depths of my abundant love.

Father, I say, such is my love and my pity for all.
There is a way for no condemnation on men to befall.
Whoa, such is my love and pity for all. 
No man can pay, I’ll make a way.
No man can pay; utterly broke and poor to settle their debt.
Though all’ve gone their way, I’ll yield a way for their sins to forget.

Bring in all their sins. Lay it all on me. 
Bring in all their sins. Every last bill that they owe.
Lay it all on me. For what they reap I will sow.
The place these souls have found themselves is one of great distress. 
For even all their righteousness is just a filthy mess. 

O my son, you must understand that if I show mercy, you must reckon to pay, the last bit of my rage.
For justice reigns upon this throne; perfection without flaw. 
How can the wicked find their peace and still have broken every law? 

Let it be so, charge it on me. For I can bear the weight of sin so all would be free. 
Bring in all their sins. Every last bill that they owe.
Lay it all on me. For what they reap I will sow.

Blush o man, let shame hide your face. 
For one of infinite worth has left his throne for his death. 
Which proves for our salvation, oh people hear my cries, with all our lusts and all our lies, when the truth’s come face to face, did we earn such love and grace? 
No we haven’t earned a thing, and there is nothing we can bring, to settle this age old rift and receive this perfect gift. 

If only you knew of the grace and love that our God has for all, you’d turn and look into the face of Jesus the Savior, who calls. 
Oh people, hear my cries, with all our lusts and all our lies, when the truths’ come face to face, did we earn such love and grace? 
Oh we couldn’t earn a thing, and there is nothing we can bring. 
So receive this love and grace, believe his love and grace!

So in the end, I can’t recommend this album enough! Everyone should give this a listen, regardless of musical tastes. It will bless your life and make you yearn for Christ more and more after each listen. . Once you’ve experienced the power of this, you won’t want to go back to the radio CCM. It feels shallow and watered down compared to this. It’s that good!

God Bless! And give this incredible album a listen.

5/5

Beta Reader Invitation

I have exciting news readers, I have finally completed the official manuscript of my full length novel, The Restoring. This is a special post because I want to give you the chance to read my book in exchange for honest and critical feedback. This is an invitation, and anyone is invited! I’ll give you a bit of information on my novel.

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Christian.

Amount of words rounded to the nearest thousand: 81,000.

Pages covered: 260.

What it’s about: An abandoned church named the Bride of Christ. A mysterious tourist decides to restore it for a burned out, in-debt pastor. While he restores the church, things begin to happen that are slightly out of the ordinary, such as visions, and people being healed from disease. Conflict eventually begins to grow between a tech repairer, an international pastor, and a cult leader, and soon they end up destroying everything they’ve lived for. Can things possibly be restored?

Some questions I would like answered: How is character development? How is the setting? Are my characters alive or are they just names on a page? Is the story strong, or are there plot holes? Does the theme flow with the story, or does it feel forced? Does the writing flow, or can it be improved?

If you’re interested, please send an email to lucman@outlook.com, and I’ll send you the manuscript in PDF format. If this is a problem, please comment or send me an email and I can change the format for you.

I only ask for honest, critical feedback and comments so my novel can be the best it can be. Especially to those who know me, please lash out on me if something’s wrong, can be changed, or can be made better :)

Thank you to everyone who’s interested, and thanks for following and reading my blog! None of this could be done without you, and please don’t feel like you have to rush.

God Bless!

 

How should we look at the end times?

A lot of people ask this question, “What’s going on with the world?” Well, I would say we’re in the end times. But some believe we’re in the end times, and others believe it’s a long way away. So who’s right?

Personally, when I see the signs and the state of the world, I think the end isn’t too far away, but that’s all I know. It could be ten, twenty, or thirty or more years before Jesus comes back.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t wait that long, I want Jesus to come back now!”

If you’re like me, you laugh on the inside when someone says that. Little do they know they’re looking at the end times in the completely wrong light.

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A lot of Christians seem to have this doom and gloom mind set on the end times. They say the world is so bad, why doesn’t God just take us now? Why are we still living in this hell hole? A day doesn’t go by where someone isn’t either murdered, abused, violated, or robbed from. All people do is care about themselves. So Christians have a right to complain, don’t they?

No. God doesn’t call us to complain about the world, but to serve and love Him and the people in it. If someone brings their alcoholic friend for prayer, would you complain about it? No, you would lay your hands on him and pray. Why is the world any different? We should be praying for it, not complaining about its state. Jesus didn’t call us to mourn for His return, but to preach the Word to the lost.

We should be getting excited about Jesus’ return, but to go through everyday mourning for it is a waste of time, especially when it could be thirty or more years away. We should stop living in our own little holy and righteous world and face the world with the gospel head on. We can’t compromise and fall into sin ourselves, but lead the lost into the light of Christ.

We need to wake up and see that we’re living in good times. God is still with us, and He’s coming back soon. Anticipate it, but don’t mourn for it while leaving the world behind. The world needs strong Christian men and women, are you going to be that? Are you going to lead the lost to the Lord? Are you going to take action? I know what I’m doing.

What will you do with the time you have left?

God Bless.

The Writing Process: The First Draft

Next up in the writing process is to begin the first draft! This is a magical and frightening time in the writing process. When you face a page and realize you have to fill it with 80,000 words of more, it can be quite overwhelming. But when you type that first word, it’s amazing.

Right, the first draft. Why is there even a first draft, can’t a book be finished in one go? The answer? A giant no. But that’s certainly not a bad thing.

When I wrote my first novel I thought it would just be the one draft, and I’ll edit it until it was perfect. Well, that didn’t turn out so good, and as a result, that novel is all over the place story wise, and I don’t really want to rewrite it. You need to write two drafts at least to get the story down as best as it can be.

The first draft of my next novel went in a completely different direction than the finished product, but if I hadn’t written that second draft, the Restoring wouldn’t exist today.

In my newest novel, which I won’t give the name to just yet, I’m half way through the first draft, but this time I’ve taken to it from an entirely different perspective, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it in my other two. The trick when writing a first draft is to wreck it. That’s right, wreck it. It’s great if it’s the worst hunk of words ever put on a page.

The first time, and also through the writing of the Restoring, I edited it as I went along, and that was the completely wrong way to go about it. In my current one, I’m taking all editing out, and just writing. Pure writing, no distractions, no time wasters, just writing. It’s given me so much freedom and I have found myself writing more pages each time. I can now write a thousand words at a time quite easily because I don’t look back.

I know when I finish the first draft it will be a downright mess, but that’s okay. One of my favourite sayings is “There’s beauty in the broken,”  (I’m sure that’s a song). It can not be more true for first drafts. When I see drafts where every second word is crossed out, or with hundreds of little icons on the sides, I know that person is a true writer. A true writer writes, not writes, edits, reads it through, writes a little bit again, reads it through again, edits a bit here and there, etc…. Your book will look and feel manufactured and it won’t feel alive. Remember, you’re a living, breathing individual, so write like one, not like an automatic typing machine. Yes, when finished, editing must be done, but the story will still feel like something you’ve created with your own hands.

So, don’t strive to be perfect. Don’t try to be the perfect Christian, because you’ll fail. Be yourself. In your writing, and in normal life. Everyone’s unique, so why wouldn’t you take it out in your writing?

God Bless, hope this helps.

The Christian and criticism

Today I want to bring up a topic that a lot of Christians don’t really know too much about, and that’s criticism. Now wait, I’m not saying you don’t know what criticism is, I’m talking about Christian’s reactions to it.

A lot of Christians think that following the Lord’s will will keep them from harm, and it will, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. You must remember that the enemy hates you, and he will do anything and everything in his power to keep you from falling into the Lord’s will. When my family moved, we knew it was God’s will for us, and the devil hated it. It was so hard getting into that house that we doubted if we were in the right. We kept pressing through, and now we live in one of the best homes I can imagine, and from where I’m sitting, we’re definitely in the Lord’s will! It’s not that the house is magnificent, it’s the peace that passes all understanding we must follow, no matter what comes our way.

So why do Christians think following God’s will is not going to lead them into trials? More importantly, why do they think they’re following God’s will when everything’s going right? In my opinion, we’re out of God’s will when everything around us is working along like a well oiled machine (sorry for the cliche). Why? Because the devil isn’t intervening. Why would he try to stop us when we aren’t a threat?

What inspired this post was a post from another Christian writer. He talked about Christian films and books having harsh criticisms from the secular critics. That tells me they’re doing something right! Why? Because the devil doesn’t want those movies to be seen. They could lead people to salvation!

A quote from Christanity Today regarding the upcoming Christian film Deliver Us from Evil, says, “The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us he didn’t exist.” How true is that.

The Bible says my children fail for lack of knowledge. They follow and go down the easiest paths, and believe it’s the Lord’s will. Eventually they will end up in a bad place; in debt, without a job, divorced, or in sin because of it. We need to know the devil and his power so we can battle on in the Lord’s will. I learnt the biggest lesson in my life when moving. I learnt how to stand firm in the Lord, even when things around me fall apart.

Like C.S.Lewis said, “Reviews were either laudatory or filled with that sort of anger which tells an author he’s hit his target.”- The Screwtape Letters.

Here’s the link to that blog post mikeduran.com/2014//07/do-christians-get-unfairly-reviewed. If you click on it it will take you there.

God Bless.

The Writing Process: Planning/outlining

Right, so we have an idea of what the novel’s going to be about, now we go to the next step: planning. I’ll go through the steps, then tell you what I do for my writing.

Planning is simply the next step in brainstorming. You get a more detailed look at your characters and plot line. Some writers take months of planning before they even begin to write. Once the outline is down, and you know what you’re doing and where your story is going, get out that computer or paper (good luck with that) and get that mind pumping! That leads onto the next part of novel writing: the first draft. I’ll talk about that in the next post.

So, what do I do when it comes to planning and outlining. I personally don’t write outlines for my novels, just because I find them too limiting. When I write, I want the story to drive itself, not be driven by an outline that could be changed later on. As for planning, I find that each time I plan, the story takes off in a direction I never thought it would, so planning  just ends up being a waste of time.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all. For my WiP I took about a month to brainstorm and plan before I got to work on the first draft. You can’t go in with nothing, so I start with just a brief outline, and then I write it.

But it’s all up to you. If an outline works for you, go for it! If it doesn’t, that’s great as well! Everyone writes differently. Everyone has their own voice, which is another thing I want to quickly touch on. Don’t do something, just because someone else says it’s the right thing to do. If you find it comfortable writing without an outline, don’t listen to people who say that you must use one. If you feel comfortable writing in parts, don’t listen to people who say you must write in chronological order.

For people who don’t spend their time writing, you must take all fact from the Word of God, and what people say as opinion. No one can truly know the Word without guidance from the Holy Spirit. I say this because a lot of people, including me, are quite gullible, and will believe anything they hear if it agrees with their views, or more actually, their heart’s desires. If what the person is saying doesn’t agree with what they think is right, they will usually disregard that person.

For an example, my family was listening to this pastor who said that rock music is cursed. I love rock music, but I don’t think it was completely wrong what he was saying. Rock can be cursed, but it can also be used for God’s glory, it all depends on what the musicians make of it, and not on the music itself.

So back to planning. I get a lot of people who tell me I should plan for the future. Really, I have no idea what I’m doing in the future. I could be an astronaut for all I know (little fun fact, that’s what I wanted to be when I was little), it all depends on where the Lord wants you. And where the Lord wants you, is where you should want to go. We’re given grace for each day, not for the future, for today, so instead of living in fear of the future, live with all you got right now.

The best outline you can follow is the Word of God, for both writing and living.

God Bless, hope this helps!

The Writing Process: Finding Ideas

The next step in the writing process is finding ideas. I’ve already talked about inspiration in an early post, so we now go to one of the best bits of writing: brainstorming!

Right, how do we brainstorm? Well, this is what I like to call, chaos writing. Brainstorming isn’t only just sitting in your chair, staring off into the distance, waiting for an idea to float into your head and call you up. It’s pouring out whatever comes into your mind, no matter how crazy it may sound.

When brainstorming, you aren’t focusing on anything in particular, so the Lord is free to speak and give you ideas. The only thing required to do when brainstorming is write, it’s simple as that. It doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds, put it on the paper. The Lord will reveal an idea somewhere in that chaotic mess.

After you get an idea of what you might like to write about, you’ll then move on to brainstorming the parts of the novel. These parts are: Characters, Plot, Theme, and Setting.

For each one, provide a brief description, but don’t go into details, that will come later on. For now, get an outline down.

So for characters, here’s an example: imagine a man in his late thirties, we’ll call him Tom, who works in a discount store, and he’s slowly becoming deaf. Now he can’t hear the instructions given to him. As you can imagine, there’s a million possibilities for a novel right there in that single character.

Now here’s an example of the plot, still following Tom’s story: He soon becomes completely deaf, and his small income can’t provide him a hearing aid, so he tries to earn money somewhere else to meet his needs. Already, more ideas have just come up, and now a full story should be coming into focus. It’s certainly giving me ideas :)

Right, so theme. Theme is what your story is about. What you novel is communicating to the reader. What it’s trying to say. So the theme in Tom’s story would be the difficulty of living in our world with a limiting disability. Now even more ideas are coming in, and if you’re getting excited, too bad, because Tom’s mine :D No, feel free to use him, he’s my gift to you, my readers. Unless you have a better character!

For setting, what I do is create my own town from scratch, but it’s all up to you. For example, in my novel, the Restoring, the characters all live in a town called Coldgrove. The name is pretty self descriptive. It’s set in a freezing town raining with snow and cluttered with dead trees. I wanted the town to reflect the theme, so I created a place that reflected the condition of death. But if creating your own town is not for you, setting your story in a real city, like New York, is the next best thing. But just make sure it’s accurate, like the names of the streets and suburbs. You don’t want readers thinking you know nothing about your setting.

Once you have all your ideas down, and you have the one you’re excited about, it’s time to put them all together! Once this happens, it truly is a magical time. When I find the idea, it rattles around in my mind, and excitement just bubbles. Once it keeps you up at night, you’ve found your idea.

For people just trying to get through life, and don’t have writing in mind, don’t worry. God knows the plot and theme of your story. It’s what all our lives are about: Redemption.

God Bless. I hope this helps.

The Writing Process: Introduction

Well here we go, the beginning of the series on the writing process. In this series I will give you all you need to know on how to write a novel. But non-writers, before you stop reading this, this series will also explore how we write the stories in our own lives. In other words, I’m going to take the process, not just on paper and a computer, but off of it as well.

This introduction will explore following God’s calling for your life. If God calls you to write, don’t hesitate, if He calls you to serve, don’t wait. Don’t wait for that opportune moment to serve the Lord, when He calls, do it.

The one thing you can’t do when stepping out into your calling is to leave the Lord behind. If He’s not guiding you by your side, you might as well forget about everything you have planned. When writing a novel, if God isn’t leading, don’t bother.

When you follow your calling, do it all to your best abilities, and don’t get lazy. If you decide to skip a session because you just don’t feel like it, or you’re too tired, you’re not only letting yourself down, but also the Lord. Finding time to write, or serve, shouldn’t be a problem if God is in control. I know a lot of writers say that they just can’t fine the time, either because of family duties, work, or other things. If you truly want to write, you will find the time, even if it’s early in the morning, or late at night. If you truly want to serve God in whatever way, there will be time. Don’t let the excuse stop you, because if you’re honest, you’re probably doing a lot of things that don’t need to be done (watching TV anyone?).

Writing is a sacrifice, as with anything God calls you to do.

So, a lot of people want to write, but there are few who actually do, and even fewer who stick to the end.

God Bless.