Month: April 2018

067 – Compromise: The True Slippery Slope

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Discuss Compromise The True Slippery Slope

There are so many ways the enemy seeks to undermine God’s work in us, and our ability to rely on and trust in God’s desire to use us. One of the most subtle—and effective—tools Satan uses against us is compromise. He whispers into our heart and spirit that “giving in” on little things isn’t so bad.

But here’s the problem. Those little things become bigger things, often without us even being aware of it. And soon we’re doing, saying, and writing things we never imagined we would. Things we know in our heart of hearts are not just dangerous, but flat-out wrong.

The end results of which are pretty ugly:

Shame.

Guilt.

Speaking lies in the place of truth.

Defensiveness.

The need to repent.

But over all of this, is the ugliest thing of all. Idolatry.

Idolatry is about letting something else take God’s place in your heart. It’s about valuing your will, your desire, your ideas, your plans over God’s will, God’s instructions, God’s plan.

This has been happening since the Garden of Eden. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious: Don’t eat from that tree. And they eat from the tree

Sometimes—and this is what we want to focus on here—compromise starts with one small step.

There are consequences to this that come in the here and now, and even more so in the future. We wake up and find out we’re far away from where we wanted/hoped to be, and we can’t figure out how we got here.

There’s so many places we could go when we talk about compromise, but we’ll limit ourselves to a few examples of compromise that are relevant to us as writers—as people whose commodity is words.

Two Examples of Compromise Applicable to Writers

Compromise on the things we see and hear (compromise on what we take in)

Have you noticed how foul language and graphic or careless sexuality has infested so much of what we see on TV, streaming services, movies, and books?

For example, The Magicians could have been a terrific fantasy series, but it descended into a morass of depravity and of devaluing God. The story world’s gods were capricious and cruel, such that the characters had to kill them to save the pathetic world. And the world they killed these gods to save wasn’t worth saving.

So much of what I (Karen) watch in the evenings works its way into my dreams. I imagine it’s the same for many writers. And I wake up troubled. Like I’ve been fighting evil all night. Because I have been fighting evil all night.

Having all of that in our minds and hearts clutters them, so that we lose the ability to hear God. And we lose the ability to have our minds transformed by the Spirit like it says in Romans 12:1-2:

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

In other words, that junk in our minds numbs us. And that has consequences.

We need to be aware of the slippery slope of letting these things numb us. We need to retain our outrage.

I (Erin) once saw a movie—I don’t even remember the title—but it was about a quaker from a few centuries ago who somehow jumps through time and ends up in our century. The movie portrayed his outrage, his shock, his horror at the culture around him, and in particular, when someone spoke God’s name in vain.

Oh, that we had the same outrage.

Instead, how often do we hear the Lord’s name used carelessly, or even as a curse, and we barely notice? Daily? Hourly even? By kids and adults alike.

Yet the third commandment says, “You shall not misuses the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Exodus 20:3

The constant misuse of God’s name devalues it, and numbs us. That primes us for the next phase: sinful actions.

Here’s what Romans 1:28-32 tells us happens when we don’t want God in our knowledge any longer, and when we lose the ability to hear Him and have our minds transformed by God:

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

What’s in our minds translates into what we say and do. And that brings us to the second example of compromise we want to talk about.

Compromise with the Words We Speak and Write (Compromise on what comes out of us)

Our responsibility on earth is to be truth-tellers. We have been given a gift—a talent in using words, and we can use that to build up or to tear down.

But all the things we’ve been letting in our minds—the books we read, the TV we watch, all the unnecessary violence, gratuitous sex, foul language—undermine the idea that we can create solid stories without the use of such things.

This idea has seeped into the hearts and minds of Christian writers, who’ve come to believe that using them is simply being “realistic.” That to steer clear of such things in their work makes them somehow less authentic. And yet, story does not benefit from them. In fact, what I’ve seen is that they become more of the focus of the story than any theme or true story world. Which actually damages the power of the story rather than enhancing it in any way.

So what can we do?

Action steps to avoid compromise

1.  Stop giving debased things entry into our mind and spirit.

The moment we realize something we’re watching, reading, or hearing has that focus, we need to turn it off or put it down and walk away. Yes, this is hard. We love story, and we want to see how it turns out. But that has a cost we shouldn’t be willing to pay.

2.  Consider a media fast.

Take time off from television, movies, and even Facebook. Make your fast a significant time, like 3 months, to help give you perspective. I (Erin) did this and when I went back to TV, it was appalling. I had fresh eyes to see the depravity. And you will too.

Honestly, now I barely watch TV. It’s become unimportant. Because when you do a fast, you need to fill that time with something else, and when you fill it with God, with spending time with Him, reading His Word, praying, it’s far more fulfilling.

One other thing we want to mention: we’re all sinners who struggle with our own sin regardless of what we’re writing. A podcast by John Piper talked about how the problem with watching TV or movies with unsavory things also awakens a desire in us to sin and strengthens the bondage of something we may personally be fighting against (in the case of that particular podcast, sensuality). And the fight against that bondage can all be undone as we watch something on TV.  He said, “Find the streams that are feeding the river of sensual desire and cut them off.”

3.  Focus on speaking truth, on what builds up the body.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

4. Focus on speaking with gratitude.

Ephesians 5:1-7 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”

We partner with them when we watch, read, or take them into our minds and hearts. Instead, let’s work to be a fragrant offering and a sacrifice for God.

Thanksgiving gets our position in relation to God right: He’s sovereign, and we’re dependent on Him. He is in the position of the highest value in the universe He created. When we have that right, we’re not idolaters.

5. Value God over our own plans, ideas, rules, and even over story.

Let’s go back to the basis of why we compromise: idolatry. Idolatry is valuing our own plans, ideas, desires, rules, etc., over God. Over trusting Him, and valuing Him.

Adam and Eve sinned because they thought God was holding out on them. They didn’t trust Him to be good, wise, righteous, and a steward of their best interest. They didn’t value Him as God.

And sometimes, as Karen was saying when she talked about how hard it is to turn away from a movie or book or TV show, we value story over God. That hits us where we live. We’re writers, we love story. But here’s what 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Even story.

Final thoughts on Compromise

The world has it’s own idea of a slippery slope, which often is that if you give God access to places like schools and courtrooms and media, you’re surrendering your “freedom” to religious constraints. But in reality, the true slippery slope is making choices and allowing yourself to do, watch, say, or write things that don’t honor God. Because when we devalue or dishonor God, we put ourselves in a place where He won’t honor us. And here’s the thing: all it takes is one little step in the wrong direction for the slide down the slope to begin. This isn’t about living by rules, friends, it’s about honoring God. Every day. In every decision we make. It’s about being so familiar with the voice of God’s Spirit within us that we stop at the first indication that something isn’t right, and turn to God. Sure, we all love the excitement and fun of going down slides. But don’t let that initial thrill fool you. It’s not from God. In fact, it’s desensitizing you to the voice of God and His Holy Spirit. The slippery slope only leads one way: down. Instead, keep your focus up: on God. On His ways. And on the joy of living as He instructs. Because He made us. He knows us. And He knows how we work best.

We want to hear from you!

What do you think about the abundance of immorality, foul language, depravity, etc., in our culture and media?
How do you think we can guard ourselves from being affected by it?

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Writers, are you on the true slippery slope? Come find out!

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066 – Preparing for the Unexpected

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Preparing for the Unexpected

If there’s one thing we know for certain about the publishing industry—it’s constantly changing. Just when you think you have a contract, the publishing company closes. Just when you think you have a writing schedule, you break your arm. Just when you’ve built your huge audience on Facebook, they change the rules and no one is seeing your posts. Just when you decide to go indie, an agent expresses interest in shopping your manuscript to a publisher. Just when you finish your YA dystopian, someone tells you the market dried up.

The problem is that we love comfort and predictability. We keep trying to dig in and settle down, but we’re living in an unpredictable environment. Especially in the writing world.

The Israelites experienced this kind of unpredictability. In the book of Numbers, chapter 9:15-22, we get a summary of how the Israelites lived:

On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at His command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at His command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.

They didn’t know where they were going tomorrow, they didn’t know how long they’d be there, they didn’t know how far the next watering hole would be. Did they need to ration water? They didn’t know if they’d find enemies, or what have you. Think about how LONG they lived this way for.

But what DID they have? The presence of the Lord.

What did they do? That’s in the next verse, Numbers 9:23:

At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with His command through Moses.

God already had the route planned. But none of it was easy. The thing is, He knew what was important on the journey. And what wasn’t. Their job? To be obedient.

When we try to keep a death grip on our preconceptions, or our plans, or our goals, or that manuscript we’ve been clinging to year after year, we miss blessings God has for us on a different path, or blessings God wants to give to others through us.

The story of Peter and Cornelius and the church at Antioch in the book of Acts gives us another example of a changing, unpredictable environment. Peter’s whole understanding of clean and unclean was shattered. Talk about an unexpected change. He thought he could count on that as truth. But now, God made it clear that the Gospel message was for Jews AND Gentiles.

And think about the change for the Gentiles! They hadn’t been hearing the Gospel preached because the understanding was that it wasn’t for them. But now? They know it is and the Chosen know it is. In fact, when the church in Jerusalem hears what’s happening, how so many Gentiles are coming to faith in Christ, they send Barnabas to see all that’s happening.

Acts 11:23-24:  When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

But the coolest unexpected fact about this story comes in verses 19-22:

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

God spoke to their hearts even as He spoke to Peter, and the horror of persecution and Stephen’s death, as unexpected as that had to be, was turned into the advent of God’s Gospel to the Gentiles.

God wasn’t surprised by any of this. Just as He isn’t surprised by whatever comes to you. NOTHING is unexpected to God. While we may not understand, may not even like what’s happening, we can know and trust that all of what comes to us is in His hands. And when we hold things loosely, ready to surrender them to His will, we won’t fear the unexpected.

What We Can learn from a nomadic lifestyle

1.    Understand that this whole idea of change applies to both good times and bad. Sometimes you’re in a good spot and you like it…and the cloud moves! You have to move on just when you’ve gotten comfortable. Or sometimes you’re really, really, REALLY ready to move, and the cloud stays. And stays. And stays. Change is still coming. Be ready for that. It doesn’t mean you should bury your head until change comes. It means you should do the best you can right where you are to be faithful in the situation you’re in today.

2.     Focus on seeing God’s provision for today. Take the time to write down what He IS doing right now where you are. Write each thing. Write how you see Him working.

3.     Focus on going in the right direction rather than clinging to every detail of your plan. We can’t predict our exact path anywhere. Only God knows the route, and He knows what we need along the way. The detours, the trials, the joys, the wonders. We can’t know the purpose or blessings we’ll find through those. We can only trust God’s purposes to be accomplished through them. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:12

4.     Don’t be weighed down by external possessions. Nomads never built permanent structures, and didn’t have unnecessary possessions because everything they owned they had to carry. Focus instead on gaining inner “possessions” such as contentment and trust. Those treasures go with us everywhere.

5.    Don’t expect an explanation from God. If what’s happening makes no sense, be okay with that. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Our God is the God of the unexpected. We can make plans and set goals, but we need to hold all of that lightly, and continually surrender it to Him. And we need to remember that HE never changes. When we hold onto this truth, then when unexpected changes hit, which we all know they will, we will not be shaken. Sure, we may be taken aback, and it may take us a little time to adjust. After all, we’re human. But ultimately we can rest in the fact that God is present in all our circumstances, that He is in control, and that we can trust Him.

Like it says in 2 Pet 1:6-8:

Learn to know God better and discover what He wants you to do. Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have His way with you. This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply. The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to hear from you!

Have you experienced a recent unexpected change?
What helps you cope with it?

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Is it possible to prepare for the unexpected? Come find out!

Please share!
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