My Vision for Saving Ebenezer

front-2I’m very excited about my upcoming release, called Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge. It is a novella about the aftermath of Ebenezer Scrooge’s change from a miser to a philanthropist and what that means for his faith.

Today I want to share my vision for the book, but first, let me show you the first line:

“Tiny Tim was dead, to begin with…”

For those who have read A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, you’ll recognize that line immediately. “Jacob Marley was dead: to begin with,” is how Dickens begins his classic. I had hoped to capture the setting as instantaneously as Dickens did, and I believe I accomplished that mission with my reworked first line.

But why? Why start with Tiny Tim? Because, at the end of A Christmas Carol, Dickens tells us that Scrooge became like a father to him, and that he actually saved him. So, I start seven years later with a tragedy…not due to Tim’s disease, but due to a simple bout of pneumonia. That’s where we get to my vision.

Vision point 1: Life is full of tragedies. How we respond to them is largely a factor of our internal faith, fortitude, and relationships with people who can support us through our pain. Scrooge has built his relationships based on his philanthropy, and as such, doesn’t know who to turn to when life deals him a crushing blow.

Vision point 2: Our faith defines us, not our philanthropy. This is not true in the secular world as much, but as a Christian, I wholeheartedly believe this concerning eternal matters. Do I believe in Jesus as my savior? Do I rely on him for my soul’s security? Am I, to put it in Christian-ese, born again? Scrooge cannot answer yes to any of those questions. It’s something that I want to make any reader ask themselves.

Vision point 3: Gotta get to the point. And that point is the gospel message. What started as a great plot idea became an opportunity to witness on God’s behalf, so I took it. My hope for you is that you’ll read the book, realize that you know a couple of people who might also enjoy a good book that will share the gospel message with them, and send them a copy or give them yours.

I have several other mini-vision points and a couple of goals for the book, but these are my primaries. If I succeed with these three points, I count the book’s story line a success.

Your feedback means a lot to me. Do my vision points make sense to you? Do they seem to match what God would want? Give me your thoughts! Write me at dan[at]navychristian.org and let me know what you think!

To get information about Saving Ebenezer, including release dates and tour schedule, sign up HERE for my newsletter.

Too Early to think about Christmas?

Most people start their planning for Christmas around October. I started planning Christmas 2019 in January.

January?

Yes, January.

Why?

Because I’m releasing a very special book this year. It’s unlike anything I’ve written before.

What’s it about?

You’ve heard of Ebenezer Scrooge, haven’t you? Well, of course you have! This year, get ready for the surprise of your life, because Ebenezer Scrooge is back to his old ways in my novella called Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge.

In Charles Dickens’s 1843 A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts (Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas yet to Come). They teach him that his greed will become his undoing if he doesn’t change.

So he changes.

And then what happens?

That is where my book picks up the story. It’s 1850, seven years after the ghosts changed Ebenezer’s life. The Ashley Down orphanage, overseen and prayed for by George Muller, opened the year before. Charles Spurgeon is saved in April of this year. William Boothe is a lay preacher in London and as yet to think of the Salvation Army, the worldwide organization he would found in 1865 and officially name in 1878.

And Tiny Tim is dead.

This news will shake Ebenezer to his core. Suddenly, all of the charity, the change of heart, and the wisdom of years in finance mean very little to Scrooge. He has lost a son…his only son. The pain is unbearable! Is there hope?

“Bah…Humbug!” says Scrooge.

Join me on this adventure into the life of a man whose story Dickens did not finish, but God most certainly will. The book will be available for preorder in September and will officially go on sale in October, in time to order your copy for Christmas, and an extra copy too! I promise…the book will make a great gift for your friends and loved ones.

Most importantly, it will be a tool for you to use this Christmas to tell your loved ones about Jesus Christ.

Together, in the spirit of Christmas, we shall read the rest of the story. To get updates about this book directly to your inbox, click HERE.

More to follow!

American Easter

IMG_8908This Easter holiday, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate the Risen Christ. In fact, they don’t celebrate Easter at all. There are no church slogans posted on billboards, no Easter bunny’s hopping on plastic signs, and no eggs to buy in stores. No peeps either, but I’m ok with that.

There is no Easter here.

That’s to be expected when only 4% of the population ascribes to a form of Christianity. That includes Catholics, Reformed, non-denominational, etc. The whole kit and caboodle. Only 600,000 protestants and 300,000 Roman Catholics out of a total population of 23.5 million people.

IMG_8913I should back up a little. Having visited a church in Taipei, I know for a fact that 600,000 Protestants here celebrate Easter. I’m sure that the 300,000 Roman Catholics celebrate as well, however limited its form in this culture. What I mean to say is that the holiday does not permeate culture like it does in America.

On the other hand, there is something refreshing about not being inundated with what Easter is in America. The fact that many churches start the week with children waving palm branches and muddling through a few songs on Palm Sunday annoys me, frankly. And that it culminates often with Easter egg hunts on Saturday morning or after services on Sunday is just shy of sacrilegious.

Cue the defensive responses from American Christians…

“We are just raising up the children the way they ought to go…”

“We are trying to bring more people to church on Easter so we can present the gospel…”

“We have to engage our culture…”

No. You only haveto get the gospel message out. If you’re doing that differently on Easter Sunday than you do on any other Sunday, you’re doing it wrong in one of those situations, probably both.

Alas, there is none of that in Taiwan, or at least not so openly produced and paraded about. Even in the hotel where I’m staying, which caters to Westerners, it’s not visible. I’m the only person wearing a pastel color, and that’s by happenstance. I did see one child dressed in a pretty white dress today. I say that in the spirit of full disclosure.

By the same token, there is no mention of the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from sin. And I saw a person today who looked incredibly down, and I had no words for them because I don’t know the language, and I can’t simply say, “There’s a church right down the road…” Taipei is largely a first world, materialistic city. As such, there is no thought of where the nearest church might be and there usually isn’t one “right down the road.”

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So, where does this leave me? It leaves me hoping that the scattered congregations on this island do what God has called all of us to do, in order to reach as many Taiwan people for Christ. It leaves me praying for the individual I saw this morning at breakfast.

In all of the pageantry that is an American Easter, I hope you will find some time for reflection as well. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday, will you pray for those you come across? Will you pray for the hundreds of millions of Americans who only know this Sunday as Easter egg hunting and the one day a year they go to church? Will you pray for the billions around the world who do not know our savior? And have no hope of redemption without someone telling them the good news? Will you pray that God sends more laborers into his harvest?

Or are you content with colored eggs and a church service?

 

IMG_8904I’m grateful for the folks at Grace Church Taipei. The church was welcoming, friendly, and simple. There was no pageantry…no special song by half-interested toddlers, no egg hunt after service. Only the message of a Righteous God displaying his Mercy through Christ’s sacrifice.

As always, if you want to read more from me on a monthly basis, sign up HERE for my newsletter.

The Romans Road for Today

The Romans Road for Today

Like many in more conservative churches, I grew up with the Romans Road. It was a list of verses intended to show the realities of sin and the desperate need for a savior. I used the Romans Road to walk my little church community on my last ship through the Gospel. I know that a lot of people now days don’t hear about it, so I thought I’d share a little about it.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a simplified version of the Romans Road, complete with a short statement about each verse.

Romans 3:23“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

You don’t get much more straightforward than this verse. We’ve blown it. We are hopeless! And think about it: How many times have you thought, “why did I do that? I know it was wrong!” and yet you did it anyway? Far too many times for me, and it’s situations like that which tell us of our desperate need for a savior.

When we talk about sin, we mean disobedience to God. It could be anything from cheating on a spouse to stealing an outfit from the store to being un-neighborly to the family down the street. In all of these situations, and so many more, we are proving our unwillingness to maintain God’s standard.

Romans 6:23“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This verse represents the fulcrum of our spiritual lives. Because of our actions that lead to Romans 3:23, we find ourselves at the beginning of 6:23. The wages of sin means our just payment for our misdeeds. And we are not talking about a physical death, which we will all see. I am talking about an eternal spiritual death.

Sin is so much more than just a mistake or a folly or a screw up. Sin separates us from our life force – God – and makes us the center of our little universe. It may work for a while in our lives on earth, but eternally, Romans 6:23 tells us what we have waiting for us.

Thank God that Romans 6:23 comes in two parts! The second part is our first ray of hope. “But the gift of God…” What does that mean? Let me show you the next part of the Romans Road to find out!

Romans 5:8“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It was so good that God did this! As painful as it was to him, and as much as I wish it hadn’t been necessary, Christ’s perfect sacrifice was the only thing that could reunite humanity with God on a spiritual, eternal, level. It was the only thing that could take all of those sins that we’ve committed through the centuries and make everything right again. What hope! Out of Christ’s great sacrifice came something so very powerful. For us!

Romans 10:13“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

There are basically two camps of believers within the theologically conservative church. One side believes that we have absolutely nothing to do with our own salvation, that God even directs our desire to be saved at some point. Others believe that we have free will, and as such, we make the decision to follow Christ and accept him as our substitute on the cross.

What we know is what the Bible says, and what we have in the Romans Road is the understanding that we have sinned, that sin results in spiritual death, but God provided a way out of that future by Jesus’s sacrifice. And the final act is that we call on the name of the Lord for our salvation. Whether we do it because we were irresistibly drawn or because we made the choice to do so is irrelevant to you and me at this specific moment.

The only thing that matters is: Will you make that choice?

 

This blog is a ministry of author S. Daniel Smith. You can sign up HERE to receive monthly updates from his writing ministry.

An American Christian

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This is a special message to followers of The Navy Christian Report, now titled, An American Christian.

For the longest time, I’ve tried to make an impact in the world as “The Navy Christian.” I had hoped that I could encourage Americans to pray for the military, and specifically for believers in the military, and thereby be part of God’s plan to reach the military. This seemed like a natural extension of my on-again, off-again ministry to military seekers and believers as a lay leader on various ships and shore stations.

The problem is that I greatly overestimated God’s call on my life regarding the military. I had always thought I was called to lead some great, self-perpetrating revival. Each successive generation would reach more people. This was going to obviously spill out into the surrounding communities, first in Navy cities, and then others as well.

Wow! So full of myself. So willing to assume I knew the will of God. Instead, what I learned was that God was going to use me to reach specific units, and inside those units, individual seekers and Christians. Despite my arrogance and misguided assumptions, God did use me to reach several people. I’m grateful for that.

The Navy Christian Report began, once upon a time, as Military Prayer Week, which was supposed to be my natural outcropping of my “The Navy Christian” blogging ministry. After several years of trying to make that work, it became increasingly clear that, once again, I had misunderstood God’s plan for my life. So Military Prayer Week became The Navy Christian Report, because I thought my commentary might resonate with people.

It has. Several articles, such as my article on visiting a black church, my take on the Nike ad campaign, and persecution in the military in particular, seemed to hit a nerve.

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Photo from Nike as published in USA Today.

Unfortunately, these aren’t navy issues. They are American issues. The thought occurred to me that, instead of being “The Navy Christian,” it should be called “The American Christian.” It didn’t take long to realize that I was being arrogant once again by calling myself “the,” so I quickly changed it to “An American Christian.”

What can you expect with this change? Much of the same commentary and theology, but designed in a way to use the American context as a lens in which to view our response. I will utilize interviews, commentary, and other resources to help you become a stronger Christian. Most importantly, I will not subvert the Bible.

Two points you should know:

  1. I am not perfect. Won’t be perfect. Can’t be perfect (in this life). I write as a flawed man trying to reach other flawed individuals. You don’t have to be perfect either. I will write assertively, with active language, in order to present an idea that we need to make changes to the way we do things. Also, we need to learn the Bible better. But I will not judge you. I promise that. My goal is to encourage you and me in our walks.
  2. I am a contrarian. This means that I tend to naturally fall on the opposite side of an argument. You want to talk about the political reasons for a border wall, and I’m going to take you to the spiritual implications of almost ZERO ministry and outreach going on in Mexico. You talk about how homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible, and I will agree, even to the point of wondering why churches allow divorcees to lead ministry positions when they are guilty (in almost all cases) of adultery.

Where does this leave us? Simply put, some are not going to be happy with the new face of The Navy Christian Report, just as many were not happy with the change from Military Prayer Week to The Navy Christian Report. I totally understand. I don’t want to cause you undue strain or stress. This simply better reflects my actual calling from God, as well as my gifting.

I hope you’ll stick with me in this process, even to the point of sharing this page with your friends and loved ones and, when a particular article strikes your fancy or encourages you, share that as well.

You are welcome to sign up for my mailing list as well, and receive monthly updates about my writing, particularly my Christian fiction. You can sign up HERE.

What you Should Know about Tragedy in Sunset

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As I drove my family out of Kansas and into Oklahoma on our way back to San Diego, it occurred to me that, outside of some very vague references to my work in progress, I have not done a very good job of telling you about Tragedy in Sunset.

Here’s the bottom line: Tragedy in Sunset is about a family’s struggle to respond and recover from the rape of their daughter. The scene is the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas. I use the entire town as the scene because, in the end, it will take the town to help the family heal.

Several years ago, a friend asked me to honestly consider how I’d react to hearing that one of my daughters was assaulted. I was on my ship when that happened (I’m active duty Navy), and I can remember the thoughts that swirled in my head. It was out of those thoughts that the characters of Tom and Janet Reynolds were born. Marcy, their daughter, came quickly after.

As I thought through my responses to this horrible possibility, Pastor Raul Sanchez was came to be, as did his wife Maria, and they were at the Reynolds home immediately. Before I knew it, the story was writing itself!

While I’m still struggling with some parts of the story’s ending, Tragedy in Sunset is alive and well and seeks to tell the story of Marcy Reynolds as she tries to heal from the assault on her innocence. Her father and mother struggle with what it means for their entire family while her community is forced to come together to stop a growing threat from hurting more of the town’s young people.

I love this story, and this town, and I can’t wait to someday show it to you in more detail!

Oh, and if you’re interested in a short work to introduce the main characters, you can download my e-book The Dirty Campaign for free by signing up at my monthly newsletter at THIS LINK.

A real Trope of a Character

I’m currently listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’m doing that because Thomas Umstattd Jr. and James L. Rubart told me to, in order to become a best selling author in the next 5 years. Since I have a resolution of having an agent by the end of this year, having a 5 year goal to being a best seller is a good range I think.

Anyway, my first podcast from the folks behind Writing Excuses is about cliches and tropes. They suggest I go through my writing and seek out these cliches and tropes to make sure I’m not using them without originality. I hadn’t thought about it too much, but after listening to the podcast, I realize that I do have a couple of these as characters in my stories.

For example, in The Dirty Campaign, I have two characters that would be considered tropes. The first is Mildred, who is the town gossip. She hangs around, gathering bits and pieces of a story, and then tells it as gospel truth. She is a trope, bordering on the cliche. Yet, Mildred also plays an important part of the story by forcing the reader to consider the damage gossip causes in our churches. This is something I’ll explore more in future stories with her as well.

In the current WIP (Work in Progress), J. William Seymour, the intrepid young reporter for the Sunset Sentinel that you met in The Dirty Campaign, also serves in the trope/cliche role. He dreams of being the big city investigative reporter who breaks the big case, and Sunset just isn’t big enough for him. Because of that, he over-attacked the situation in The Dirty Campaign and, not to spoil things, causes issues in Tragedy in Sunset as well. Whereas Mildred served to move the story along and sound the warning, however, I need to work more on Will Seymour. Truth be told, right now, he’s too canned.

While I wish I had great examples to share with you in addition to Mildred above, the truth is, I have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be as an author. I’ll get there, though, and I’d love to have you along for this ride of a lifetime! Sign up HERE to get on the mailing list and join me on this adventure!