Tag Archives: Bible study

Half Right is Half Wrong

But how could he be [the Messiah]? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.
John 7:27, NLT*

The common people thought Jesus would just “appear” – they wouldn’t know where He came from. John 7:41-42 shows that the religious leaders knew He’d be born in Bethlehem, which is why they had so much trouble with His coming from Nazareth.

I wonder if any of them thought to ask Him where He’d been born.

Today’s verse highlights the importance of spending time in God’s Word and in prayerful study to know what it really says. (Remember the Bereans, when Paul told them about Jesus? They looked into the holy writings for themselves instead of believing or disbelieving based on his word alone. Acts 17:11.)

The religious leaders’ response later in the chapter stresses the equal importance of realizing we may still not have the full picture, no matter how much head knowledge we have. We can’t assume we know it all. (Leaders like Nicodemus went to Jesus in an honest search for understanding. John 3:1-21.)

Seekers after God’s truth need to do three things:

  1. We can’t rely on hearsay and assumptions – we need to learn for ourselves.
  2. Ask honest questions, in prayer and of those who believe.
  3. Live daily in trust and obedience, keeping close to God and growing closer.

We don’t want to have it half right and miss the Saviour.

Awesome and holy God, although Jesus came as “God with skin on,” there’s so much more to You than we can grasp. Yet You do reveal Yourself to us as we spend time with You and surrender our lives to Your care. Give us a hunger to know You better, and hearts to love and obey You. Where we have misconceptions or false assumptions, open our eyes to the truth.

Our song this week is Third Day‘s “Who is This King of Glory?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

There’s Always Something New to Learn

There’s Always Something New to Learn, by Steph Beth Nickel

I have the privilege of writing and recording five devotionals for HopeStreamRadio each week. I have been working my way through the book of John, my favourite gospel. And although I’ve read it many times before, I am still amazed by new discoveries—and rediscoveries.

The following are among those things that stood out to me as I worked on the series I call “If You Love Me”:

I was reminded just how impetuous and impulsive Peter was—and how very much I’m like him.

I discovered a new depth to the fact that Mary Magdalene recognized the resurrected Jesus only after He spoke her name. He must speak to each of us personally before we will recognize the One standing before us.

The incredible fact that Jesus’ last act on His mother’s behalf was to meet her practical needs by commissioning John, the disciple He loved, to take her as his mother and care for her struck me in a powerful way.

Anyone who knows the story may very well be quick to judge Pilate harshly, and yet, as I studied the passage in greater depth, I realized just how much effort he put forward trying to set Jesus free. I saw the sign he had placed on Jesus’ cross as a final defiance of the chief priests. Upon their objections, he said, “What I have written, I have written.” He knew that Jesus was, indeed, the King of the Jews. (And no, this didn’t absolve him of his responsibility, but I found it very interesting.)

As I looked at the familiar passage in which the Jews demand that Barabbas, a thief, be released rather than Jesus, I realized too often I don’t choose Jesus. I choose busyness, family, leisure, and many other things instead. Are these things wrong in and of themselves? No. But I must carefully and honestly examine my motivation. Above all else, I must choose Jesus.

"Too often I don't choose Jesus. I choose busyness, family, leisure, and many other things instead."Although I knew it happened, I was taken aback by the sad irony of the fact that the religious leaders sought not only to kill Jesus but also Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. If they’d had eyes to see, they would have recognized that Lazarus could have pointed them to the One who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I was again challenged by Lazarus’ sister’s extravagant love poured out when she anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume worth an entire year’s wages and wiped His feet with her hair. Do I love Him that extravagantly? Am I willing to pour out my greatest treasure as an expression of love for Him?

These are only a few of the realizations that “hit me upside the head.”

We must take time to dig into God’s Word. We must prayerfully consider what new insights the Lord wants to give us as we slow our hectic pace and listen, really listen, to the Living Word.

What new truths have you learned lately?
[Leave your thoughts below!]

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Picture by Sarah Grace Photography)

Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor. She writes under the pen name Steph Beth Nickel. She co-authored Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Among other places, it is available from Castle Quay Books and Amazon. Steph has been blogging since 2010 and is a regular guest on Kimberley Payne’s site (fitness tips) and Christian Editing Services (writing tips). She will also be writing and recording regularly for the newly-formed Hope Stream Radio. Stephanie is an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship

Steph invites you to pop by for a visit on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephbethnickel or https://www.facebook.com/stephbnickel?ref=hl

You can also look her up on Twitter @StephBethNickel; her blog: http://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com; or her website (still a work in progress): http://stephbethnickel.com

Rational Worship

cover art: Rational WorshipHow do you feel about the Apostle Paul “pleading” with us to give ourselves to God as living sacrifices?

What would that look like in our lives? Can we trust God that much? Are we willing to trust Him?

I’ve been following Carolyn Watts’ Hearing the Heartbeat blog for a while now, and she’s a writer I can trust to be authentic, transparent and encouraging. Not long ago she posted an intriguing question about how this ongoing “living sacrifice” might look. [Read: The One Question You Need for Each Day]

This week she released an online Bible study called Rational Worship: Offering Ourselves to the God of Mercy. It’s six weeks on Romans 11:33-12:2 and related passages from the Old and New Testaments.

Carolyn explains the reason behind the study:

What you really want to know is “Can God be trusted with my life? How can I know that it’s safe to trust Him?” And as many stories as you hear, that answer can only be received in God’s presence. So instead of merely telling you my own story, I’d like to lead you (with those big questions) along a bit of the road He has led me on toward the One who knows how you can best hear His whispers. To the One who has been waiting to welcome you deeper into His heart. [Read the full post: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (and How to Live it Fully)]

This is a professionally-designed resource that comes with a separate leader’s guide for group study. And it’s free. You can download the PDF and either work from your reader or computer or print out the pages.

The journey is designed for (short) individual daily steps and a weekly group discussion, but it can be taken on your own. For now, that’s what I’m doing. As an added resource, Carolyn’s Monday posts will continue to explore the character and nature of this God who is trustworthy enough to inspire our surrender.

For more information and to download the material, visit Rational Worship.

5 Online Writing Courses, Plus a Bonus

Online courses mean we can more easily fit lessons into our schedule, and we can learn in our favourite jammies.

Here are some that come highly recommended:

Donna Fawcett offers a one-on-one creative writing course consisting of ten online lessons on the basic elements of creating a manuscript, preparing it for publication and approaching the market in the correct manner. Technical aspects include creating characters, scenes and plots; practical applications include creating the query letter, dealing with scam agents and facing editing.

Elsie Montgomery offers a one-on-one course on How to Write Bible Studies. It’s an eight unit course, extensive, personalized instruction on writing the Bible study of your choice. Click here for syllabus (She also has intro booklets on writing non-fiction and Bible studies.)

Edie Melson offers one-on-one coaching on social networking. I’m in her ACFW class this month (see below) and can tell you she’s a great coach and gifted at communicating with people of all skill levels.

Lawson Writing Academy offers monthly group courses with Margie Lawson and other faculty. The one I took (Empowering Character Emotions) felt like a university-level workload. But did we learn!

One of the benefits of membership in ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers – but they accept international members too) is the free monthly group courses on various aspects of fiction and marketing. Worth the annual membership fee!

For more, here’s an article by Joanne Sher that recaps what she learned through a Lawson Academy course as well as from some quality publications.

Review: The Names of God Bible

The Names of God Bible cover artThe Names of God Bible, Ann Spangler, General Editor (Revell/Baker Publishing Group, 2011)

Throughout the Bible, God is referred to by various names which reveal aspects of His character. The more we know Him, the better we can trust Him.

In The Names of God Bible, the most significant of those names are restored in the Old Testament text to their original Hebrew (but rendered in our alphabet). In the New Testament, other than referring to Jesus by the Hebrew Yeshua, His names and titles remain in English.

This Bible makes a great study tool for those wanting to understand more about the names and character of God. There’s a list of names, meanings and pronunciations at the beginning, as well as a reading path that allows you to trace the usage of a particular name through the complete text.

There are also focus pages for many of the names of God, with insights, devotionals, and promises related to the names. Standard features include Bible reading plans and introductions to each book.

The introductions are very helpful, giving an overview of each book’s events and theme and putting it in the wider context of the whole Bible (eg the introduction to Jeremiah gives where the book falls in Israel’s history, what was happening at the time, as well as the prophet’s message and effects, and it suggests other readings to place the content in context.)

Unfortunately, the first introduction I read was for Genesis, and it includes the line “… Noah, who commandeered a ship through a world-destroying flood.” (He commanded the ship, but he hardly commandeered it.)

The Names of God Bible is printed in the GOD’S WORD® translation (GW), which is new to me but has been around since 1995, ©God’s Word to the Nations Missions Society. The single-column layout is easy to read, and I like how any explanations of names are done within the text using brackets. It feels more natural than footnotes. Here’s an example:

So your name will no longer be Abram [Exalted Father], but Abraham [Father of Many] because I have made you a father of many nations.” Genesis 17:5, GW

The GOD’S WORD® translation is designed for clear readability, with shorter sentences and explanations of terms such as yoke and cornerstone making it ideal for those new to the faith or new to the English language. Contractions make the text flow easily although I prefer reading God’s own dialogue without them.

More information on the details and philosophy of this translation can be found at the GOD’S WORD® translation website.

General Editor Ann Spangler is well-equipped to head up this task, after researching and writing the books Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus. For an interview with Ann Spangler and a deeper overview of The Names of God Bible see the Baker Publishing Group website. You can also view a sample chapter of The Names of God Bible.

[Unlike ordinary reviews where I read the entire book before reviewing, here I’ve sampled various selections and passages, introductions and focus pages. Bible has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller or from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Friday Friends: Grace Fox Blog Tour

Interview with Grace Fox

Has fear kept you awake at night? Has it hindered you from saying yes to a new opportunity? Has it caused you to make impulsive choices you later regretted? If so, you’re not alone! Fear is a big deal for many women. If left unchecked, it can prevent us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. So, what’s the answer? How can we move beyond fear into freedom?

Author Grace Fox has partnered with Stonecroft Ministries to write a small group resource titled Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman-to-Woman Conversation. This resource addresses women’s common fears and gives biblical and practical strategies to move beyond them.

Q: Fear seems to be an ever-present theme throughout the Bible. Describe the difference between healthy and unhealthy fear.

A: Healthy fear steers us toward wise decisions and actions. It promotes self-preservation. For example, we look both ways before crossing the street for fear of getting hit by a car. In contrast, unhealthy fear hinders our ability to fully embrace life because it consumes us with negative thinking and what-ifs. The effects can literally make us sick.

Q: How does destructive fear stunt our emotional or spiritual growth?

A: Destructive fear—the fear of rejection, for instance—might keep us from admitting to someone that we’ve been physically or sexually abused. Without receiving the help we need to deal with those issues, we never experience freedom. Our struggles might seriously hamper our ability to truly love and receive love in a marital relationship. This is just one example among many of how our emotional growth is affected.

Spiritually, fear can cause us to say no to God-given dreams or assignments because we’re afraid of personal inadequacy or financial insecurity. If we never step out in faith, then we never experience God’s ability to equip and provide in amazing ways. Spiritual growth comes when we say yes to God and “do it afraid.”

Q: You suggest we need to place our focus on God and not on fear. In practical terms, how do we do this?

A: Several strategies that I’ve found helpful…

  • Memorize Scripture promises and meditate on them throughout the day and as we fall asleep at night. We are transformed as our mind is renewed.
  • Fill our homes with praise and worship music.
  • Spend time in God’s word on a regular basis, not just when we’re in a panic. The more we do so, the more familiar we become with His promises and the better prepared we are to face frightening circumstances when they come.
  • Talk to the Lord throughout the day. Invite Him into the mundane. Practice His presence. The more we get to know Him, the more we’re able to trust Him in the face of fear.

Q: Most of us feel inadequate at times. You suggest we cannot use our inadequacies as an excuse for not participating with God’s purposes. How do we get past this?

A: We get past our fear of inadequacy by admitting we have it. Then we need to retrain our thinking to focus on God’s adequacies rather than our inadequacies.

  • Tell God how we feel. “Help! I don’t think I can do such-and-such.”
  • Tell a trusted friend and ask her to pray for us.
  • Move forward. Do it afraid and expect God to equip us.

Q: Describe this resource and how participants can receive the greatest benefit as they use it.

A: It’s a seven-week study filled with biblical teaching and personal anecdotes that can be used easily by either a small group of friends in a private home setting or a large women’s ministry. Each session begins by viewing a 25-30 minute teaching video. When the video ends, participants follow suggested Table Talk questions for about 15 minutes. Then they do the Bible study questions together. Each participant uses her own guide book so she can take notes and write answers. Facilitator’s notes are included. The study covers these topics:

  • an overview of fear
  • fear for our loved ones’ well-being
  • fear of personal inadequacy
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of facing the ghosts of our past
  • fear of the storms of life
  • fear of the unknown future

Q: Where can I buy this study?

It’s available through your local Christian book store, on Amazon, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.christianbooks.com, www.stl-distribution.com, www.winepressbooks.com, and of course, on Grace’s website, where group discounts apply. Visit Grace’s website for more information about her other books and speaking ministry.

For opportunities for a FREE copy of this DVD & Study Guide set of MOVING FROM FEAR TO FREEDOM, please follow this CSS Virtual Book Tour on Twitter (@Christianspkrs) or Facebook.)

Here’s a brief video trailer of the Moving From Fear to Freedom study guide

[I was given a complimentary copy of this DVD & Study Guide set from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speaker Services (www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com).]

Review: LEAP for Faith, by Gary Cox

LEAP for Faith, by Gary Cox (Bryler Publications, 2011)

The Christian life is a journey, which Eugene Peterson has dubbed “a long obedience in the same direction.” Believers need to grow spiritually. We also need to respectfully and responsibly share our faith with family, friends and co-workers. In-their-face agendas build walls, not relationships.

So how do we grow? And how to we encourage those who are spiritually interested but not ready to make a full commitment to a God they’re only beginning to suspect may exist?

Part Bible study, part spiritual workbook and part novel, LEAP for Faith takes a fresh look at these perennial questions.

Canadian author Gary Cox addresses spiritual growth in the form of LEAP: Look and Listen, Explore and Examine, Acknowledge and Accept, Practice and Pray. And as Nick, one of the book’s main characters, says, it’s not a one-time sequence:

“P is both the last and the first step. With prayer you go back to looking and listening for God at work in your life. Seeking to discover what he wants to teach you. It’s a cycle, and each cycle expands your understanding and deepens your relationship with the Lord.” (p. 246)

The book contains 27 short chapters that follow the fictional case study of Troy, a man beginning to wonder about God, and Nick, his Christian friend. Each chapter ends with personal-application discussion questions and with Scripture passages to consider.

For new Christians or those considering the faith, there’s a helpful section at the beginning called “My Bible” that demystifies the process of looking up Scriptural references and offers suggestions on Bible reading and accessible translations.

Older-in-the-faith Christians will find Nick’s gentle model of teaching an encouragement, and the simple but logical LEAP system is easy not only to share but to apply in our personal devotions.

I found it a helpful book, easy to read and to follow. Troy and Nick are fictional examples illustrating how the LEAP process might play out in real life. It would dilute the focus of the book to bring a fully-featured novel into play with subplots, detailed characterization and the traditional conflict and plot arc. Allowing their journey to follow a straight path makes an easier teaching tool.

The only negative I found in the book was the need for more copyediting. My husband and I bought four Bryler Publications books at the same time, and the three we’ve read to date all had editing/formatting errors (one was missing an entire chapter) so I’m thinking this is a publisher issue.

LEAP for Faith can be used in private study or in a six-week group setting. Additional resources and videos for groups and group leaders are available on the LEAP for Faith website. The first two chapters are available for preview here.

[Review copy from my personal library. Disclosure: the author is a personal friend.]

Willing to Give

The people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning…[until] the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
Exodus 36:3b, 6b, 7 NIV*

These are the Israelites in the wilderness, being led and sustained by God. The God who has now instructed Moses in the making of a tabernacle where He will dwell with His people. Moses has asked all who are willing and able to give materials, and this is the people’s response.

As God has provided manna each morning for the people, now that they have the opportunity to give back they do it the same way: morning by morning until the workers have more than enough.

I’m working through Beth Moore’s study,  A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place (updated version), and along with this passage she asks readers to discover what freewill offerings we give to the Lord—or hold back from Him.

He’s been prompting me for the past few months about an open heart, about stepping out through the self-constructed wall. I’m cooperating as best as I can, but it’s a real “step forward, step back” experience. After all, it’s familiar behind the wall… comfortable.

But I meant it when I told Him I’d obey, and when I realize I’ve retreated again, I get up and move out. Again.

Reading how the Israelites brought more offerings each day made my efforts look useless. I can’t even seem to bring one thing and let it stay there. Like the manna, it doesn’t “keep”. But then I realized, so what? As long as I faithfully bring my heart each time it sneaks home to roost, I’m doing the best I can. One of these days that heart may even stay where it’s put.

Father, my freewill offering is an open heart, but it keeps closing up again. As You remind me, I will open it and bring it to You again and again, like the Israelites kept bringing fresh treasures to You. I pray You’ll count it as obedience, and complete the work You’ve begun.

Third Day’s “Offering” is one of those rare songs that rooted in my heart on a first hearing. It’s a fitting one for today.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Review: Moving from Fear to Freedom, by Grace Fox

Moving from Fear to Freedom, by Grace Fox (Harvest House Publishers, 2007)

I’m excited to learn that a DVD and teaching guide to accompany this book will release in early 2011. [Ordering information coming soon at the Grace Fox website] The book itself is valuable, and I’m sure adding a small group dynamic will help readers apply the truths Grace shares. The message is uncomplicated, but a journey is easier with companions.

Because of the upcoming new material and Grace’s current virtual book tour, I thought I’d re-post my review of Moving from Fear to Freedom from last October:

In this book, subtitled A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation, author/speaker Grace Fox gives women an honest look at common fears—her own and others’, and maintains that there is an upside to fear: it can let us experience more of God in our lives as we cling to Him. We can move beyond theoretical head knowledge to practical heart knowledge. It reminds me of Job saying, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5, NIV)

Each chapter of Moving from Fear to Freedom deals with a fear that could be debilitating: our children’s safety, loss of possessions, hard times, the future, inadequacy, rejection, issues in our past, and aging. Grace introduces us to contemporary women and biblical characters who discovered how trusting and relying on God overcame fear’s effects.

Chapters also include “Points for Progress”: questions to help individuals or groups think through and apply what they’ve read, “Promises to Ponder”: Scriptures that give God’s perspective on our fears, and “Praying the Promises”: those same verses personalized in prayer.

It’s these practical steps that make the book so valuable. Personal testimony that other women not only face but can overcome fear is encouraging, but learning how to deal with our own personal fears is liberating. As Grace says (page 9) “Filling our minds with the truth of God’s Word equips us to face fearful situations as they come along.”

And they will come along. The stories in this book show that although there may be clear moments of choice—to trust God for the first time or with a particular fear—the “moving from fear to freedom” is a journey rather than a single step. Armed with a trust in God’s character and an arsenal of promises from His Word, encouraged by the knowledge that most women are facing a variation of the same struggle, we can take that journey.

Men struggle with fears too, and Grace’s reference notes include both male- and female-authored books on the subject. Not that a man would dissolve in a puff of smoke if he read Moving from Fear to Freedom, but be warned that the personal stories and examples all come from a female perspective.

I found this a helpful book, easy to read, and one that I’d recommend to others. Different chapters will speak personally to different readers, but the foundation is the same: take the scary step to trust God with our fears. He loves us and He is enough to bring us to freedom.

Sound like wishful thinking? I’ll let Grace answer that one:

Maintaining an attitude of trust and rest is easier said than done, but it is possible. How? By understanding the character of God and how it relates to the nitty-gritty of everyday life. (page 57)

To find out more about Grace Fox’s ministry, including her other books, or to sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter, you can visit her website. Grace’s blog is Daring. Deep. Devoted. You can read an interesting interview with Grace about fear and freedom at Heidi McLaughlin’s blog, Heart Connection.

Friday Friends: Janice Keats

Janice Keats is a Canadian author and poet. She’s also a photographer, blogger and a full-time worker with the Salvation Army.

Janet: Welcome, Janice, and thanks for stopping by. You self-published Poems of Inspiration and Occasion as well as your Bible study, Covering The Bases, then chose to go the traditional publishing route with your third, A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism. What prompted the change?

Janice: With my first two books I was eager to see them printed and I knew that the traditional publishing route takes time. I really wanted to seek a publisher for this book, firstly because of the satisfaction and accomplishment that is associated with it.

It’s a good feeling knowing that I have accomplished what I have set out to do. (Although it had taken 3 major attempts of searching the right publisher and then sending out queries and waiting for their responses.) So in this case it was a period of 4 years.

Secondly, I was ready and prepared for the task, I guess I could say that I have matured and have grown as a writer in recent years.

Thirdly, a writer has a far greater advantage of promotion with traditional route than the self-publishing method. Meaning it would be found on numerous websites etc.

I’ve learned a lot about promotion however, with my self-published books. In fact, I have applied those skills with my latest book.

Janet: Tell us a bit about A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism. Why did you write this book?

Janice: It really is because of my personal faith experience. I struggled so much with the need to make a decision for Christ that my heart literally ached. I didn’t have a church background.

When I became a Christian, I experienced a complete transformation. I was so overjoyed of the genuine peace and I knew that Jesus was real so I had to share it with people. It wasn’t the direct approach as some may think, it was a simple explanation of how Jesus changed my life. (My personal faith story is detailed on my blog).

I became involved in Bible studies and later facilitated many groups. As a result, I developed my own material. In the book, I have detailed how to create a personal faith story by following a few easy steps and writing it out. Also, I have included charts for the reader to keep progress of his/her faith as well as outreach suggestions.

Janet: The word ‘evangelism’ has picked up a taint from some of the methods people have used, but the need to tell others what Jesus has done for us—and how much He loves them—is key to the Christian life. How would you define it in terms people would understand today?

Janice: Sometimes I wonder if I should have used the word ‘evangelism’ because I had already encountered an obstacle. I contacted one particular magazine in hopes of submitting a piece from my book and was told that evangelism doesn’t sell. Wow, I was floored. How can someone make a judgement like that without knowing what the book is about?

It’s true, the word evangelism may be tainted but since God’s Word doesn’t change that doesn’t mean we can’t try different methods. We have to keep trying new methods of exposing the Gospel message.

Perhaps back in the day, there may have been more of a force of persuasion among the body of Christ but just as technology changes, so too, the church makes adjustments.

What the world needs to know is how much God loves them. Who will share the message? Who will go? And…who will teach? I will go Lord. I gave Him my life and I will listen to God’s direction as far as I am able.

This subject is my passion. I don’t necessarily need to use the word, ‘evangelism’ as long as I am willing to share my faith. The journey is with Jesus to His heart – the heart of evangelism.

Janet: I’m sure you have many chances to share your faith in your work with the Salvation Army. You have a helpful page on your blog for people who want to learn how to tell their own faith story. What would you say to someone who freezes at the thought of sharing their faith?

Janice: I would tell them that they have a faith story to share. They don’t have to prepare a mental script at all. I could freeze at the thought of that.

In my experience, I’ve been challenged with, “How did Jesus change your life? or What difference does Jesus make?”

I always begin with the old me, what my life was like before, and then share the new me, my new-found joy! There has to be a difference. It is possible that a person may not know exactly where they are in their faith. Sometimes Christians grow cold and weak in their walk with God. In my book, there is a chart which helps the reader understand where he/she stands in his/her faith.

Janet: What has reader response been like for A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism?

Janice: It’s been great so far. I have heard from a Bible study group who has purchased my latest book and I received a testimonial from the leader saying that they are growing spiritually. They originally had a timeline of studying one chapter each week but they decided not to rush it because the group was opening up and sharing with one another. One lady said that she could now share her faith without being fearful. Another reader said that she now has a heart for the lost and this book was stirring something within her. That’s great news! I was so excited to hear those comments.

I was most excited when I saw my book in a retail store recently. I was browsing around a Christian store while on vacation this summer and looked up to see my book on the top shelf. It’s the only one my eyes were fixed on: my book. It was as if all the other books became shadows. A friend took some photos of me with the book. It was meant for me to see it, I’m sure. Out of courtesy, I wrote a thank you note to the manager for stocking my book.

Janet: Even one encouraging response can mean so much. And how cool to be surprised by your book on a store shelf! What got you started writing?

Janice: The first piece I wrote was a poem entitled, Where is He? It was my personal thoughts on God as I was searching for Him. Believe it or not I hadn’t written or had any interest in writing before that time. I was at the age of 30.

My poetry writing took off and as a result I published my poetry book. From there it was my Bible study material. As my writing career began to take shape I decided to study Creative Writing, which was a two-year program.

It’s hard to believe that all this was taking place after my decision to follow God. It goes to prove that His plan for my life was playing out.

Janet: It’s amazing to see His plans unfold as we grow in Him! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Janice: My favourite Scripture verse is Psalm 20:4, which says, “May He give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” That Scripture verse stood out to me in church one morning and I thought about all my desires that I wanted to achieve.

I love the songs, “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Rescue the Perishing”. I have a different version of “Rescue the Perishing” than the traditional one you see in hymnbooks. It’s on a praise and worship CD that has a contemporary slant.

Janet: I’m sure you have a few more book projects in the works. Any you’d like to tell us about?

Janice: I’m working on a devotional book as well as another Bible study book on the subject of church wounds, which is sensitive, but I’m going to do it. Also, I am half way through recording an audio book of my poetry and half way through another book I am co-writing.

Janet: Church wounds… that’s a touchy one indeed, but where there are wounds, there’s the need of healing. Too many times we ignore church wounds and hope they’ll go away. With all this on your plate, what’s your favourite creative outlet for renewing your mental energy? And what do you like to do to get away from it all?

Janice: I love to create things. When I know I need a break, I will deliberately take time out to make various crafts. I enjoy creating photo stationery and sewing and country crafts. I also make bookmarks using my poetry. I had better get those craft containers out.

As a getaway, I love to walk along a shoreline or just sit beside the water’s edge and listen to the sound of waves rolling in and splashing. There’s nothing like nature. My husband and I have done a lot of traveling on motorcycle around Nova Scotia and we have seen many beautiful shorelines. I also listen to my nature CD’s and the nature radio station.

Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?

Janice: When a piece comes together easily it excites me. When I prepare a devotional, God always provides me with the needed Scripture, and I sometimes say aloud, “that’s amazing, God!”

I enjoy getting ideas from everyday life. Many people give me devotional and story ideas. Oh no, I just had another idea!

Janet: What do you like least?

Janice: Editing and polishing, and trying very diligently to reduce a piece of writing to fit a publisher’s guideline of word counts. I dislike cutting out good sentences. I’m so glad there are editors out there who know their craft.

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Janice: My husband and children are very supportive and encouraging. I send many of my articles to my daughters for critiquing. My husband created the layout for my poetry book. Oddly enough, he doesn’t read much of my work, perhaps because we have separate computers. I have a cousin who is a professional scriptwriter; her name is Gail Collins, just for the record.  When we get together the majority of the conversation is about writing.

The writing life can be somewhat lonely, as you know. Very few of my family members knew of my writing stint when I was employed with a newspaper. I’m so glad I am a member of a writer’s group and an online group.

Janet: Connecting with other writers can make all the difference. Another thing we’re told to do is to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Janice: I am finally getting to read The Shack. I am about one quarter way through so far. Don’t tell me about it! I may be the only person who hasn’t read it yet. The writing is superb.

I have several books on the subject of Revival. I want to know about how God works in that way. I have a favourite new author, Mark Hitchcock. I have read What on Earth is Going On? and Seven Signs of the End Times. There are a few more of his books I would like to purchase.

Janet: I know there’s controversy over The Shack, but all I can say is it blessed me more than most books do.What are you listening to?

Janice: During my 45-minute commute to work I listen to praise and worship music and the Christian radio station. Of course I enjoy all types of music but I don’t really have a favourite Christian artist, I usually purchase any praise and worship compilation CD. I also enjoy iWorship DVDs.

When I attend a live performance I love to hear vocal groups, or at least a singer who has back up vocalists. I just love harmonies. Of course, I enjoy listening to my daughters’ singing and my son’s band. On my 45-minute journey home from my work place I listen to the 70’s music. What a contrast, but you know, I am an avid music lover and listener. I usually win at guessing the songs that are played on the radio.

Janet:Your daughters’ singing and your son’s band… tell us more!

Janice: My son, Troy, is the drummer for Grounded. They are a Christian rock band and quite powerful for only a 3-piece band. They have been performing for a few years and is gradually getting a number of bookings. My son-in-law, Kurtis, is the lead singer and Matt is the bass player.

As a matter of fact the band is the backup band for my daughters. The Keats (my daughters, Sharlene and Jolene) have been performing for several years and have been working really hard professionally as country performers. They are on the way, I believe. They have recently been selected to perform at the Rising Star Showcase during Canadian Country Music Week in Edmonton on September 9th. My husband and I will be attending the events.

Janet: There’s a lot of talent in your family! I hope The Keats get a great reception in Edmonton. One last question, just for fun: what’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever done?

Janice: I attended a morning church service with my daughters in Moncton a few years ago. We went early because they had to practise their duet. The choir director came out from her office carrying choir gowns. She gave each of us one. She asked what part I sang, I didn’t know so I secretly asked my daughter and she replied, “alto”.

The director slid me in the line with the rest of the altos and before I knew it I marched out with the choir and took my place. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to protest. I enjoy singing but I’m not exactly in the public eye. With no practise or preparation I sang along, sometimes mouthing the words. I have never been invited back to sing. Is that a surprise?

Janet: At least they didn’t put you on the spot for a solo! Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Janice. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

To learn more or for information on ordering her books, visit Janice Keats’ website. A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism is also available through your local bookstore as well as the usual online ones. Janice’s blog is The Master’s Path, and she also posts monthly at InScribe Writers Online. You can read my review of A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism here.