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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!

KingSumo Campaign Results

Like I did with my Bookfunnel Campaign, I want to give back to the greater writing community by sharing with everyone how my KingSumo Campaign went and what it accomplished.

I actually ran two campaigns. The first one was for my Christian fiction newsletter list and the second one was to kick-start a science fiction mailing list. I’m moderately pleased with how both turned out. I’ll break down each one in turn.

1.  Christian Mailing List:

Goal: Increase readership in order to provide future agent/editor/publisher hard stats on my ability to build a platform for my writing. This mailing list needs to be able to make an impact by the middle of 2019, so a shorter event horizon, if you will.

Method: Set up a KingSumo contest with a free book giveaway advertised on my personal facebook page and my writing Facebook page.

Cost: Book ($8.79) Facebook ads: ($18.19) Total: ($26.98)

New email addresses: 55

New likes on Facebook page: 30

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #1 (17 opens, 2 clicks, 2 unsubscribes: 30% opens)

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #2 (10 opens, 0 clicks, 0 unsubscribes: 18.9% opens)

When I added the 53 email addresses to my main Christian fiction newsletter, I got the following responses from my drip campaign:

Drip 1: 53 sends, 11 opens, 3 clicks. I believe, based on what I can see, that my free Bookfunnel novelette was downloaded twice off of this campaign.

Drip 2: 53 sends, 7 opens, 0 clicks.

Drip 3: 53 sends, 7 opens, 0 clicks.

I’ve sent one monthly email since then, and my preliminary data suggests 9 opens.

Commentary: Overall, I’m happy with this campaign. It cost me less than $30 and it got me 53 subscribers, of which 18 are 3-star and above after my drip newsletter and one monthly newsletter. I’ll try to reengage the rest of them before purging my list in mid-January. I suspect I’ll be able to capture a few more, but most of the rest will be dropped. Again, for such little overall investment, picking up this number of new subscribers was worth it.

I plan to run another KingSumo campaign in the early spring to coincide with my next short story release.

My biggest takeaway is that I need to write better engagement emails for my drip campaign, and to incorporate those new subscribers sooner into my larger mailing list. I kept them quarantined too long.

Special shout out to James L. Rubart, who’s book The Man He Never Was* had just earned him his 5th Christy award right before I started the contest. I’m sure that helped, and I’m grateful for his dedication to the craft. Jim and I did not correspond before I ran the contest and, aside from hopefully gaining some new fans through my promotions, was not given any monetary reward.

2.  Science Fiction Mailing List:

Goal: Long term prospect of slowly building a list to introduce people to my writing while building relationships that will, someday, lead to sales of future projects. Maturity horizon for this list is approximately 5 years out.

Method: Set up a KingSumo contest with a free short story value pack giveaway advertised on my Sci-Fi Facebook page.

Cost: Asimov’s Science Fiction Value Pack ($11.70) Facebook ads: ($20) Total: ($31.70)

New email addresses: 49

New likes on Facebook: 21

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #1 (11 opens, 0 clicks, 2 unsubscribes/bounce: 22.9% opens)

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #2 (11 opens, 0 clicks, 0 unsubscribes: 23.4% opens)

I’ve sent one monthly newsletter since gaining these subscribers. The newsletter resulted in 9 opens (19.1%) out of 47 sends, with 1 unsubscribe.

Commentary: I bought a value pack from Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine* in late 2017 and loved it, so I enjoyed using this as the prize for my sci-fi contest. While the number of bounces and unsubscribes is higher with this campaign, I’m still happy with the results in an overall fashion. All said, 14 subscribers have a 3-star and above Mailchimp rating on the date of this post. Like with my Christian newsletter, I plan to attempt to engage the 2-star subscribers to beef that number a little before purging the inactive subscribers by the end of January.

Oh, and the guy who one the contest? Already signed up to be beta reader for my short fiction!

Overall Verdict

Ok, now for my overall verdict. Would I do KingSumo again? Yes! It took very little cash to reach real potential readers that I probably wouldn’t have reached before. Now I’m doing the hard work of building relationships with them. Several email addresses were probably just spam traps, which bounced as they expected, and some realized they didn’t win and don’t care about my writing, which led to the unsubscribes. Others probably just have an email address they don’t check often and don’t care about me either. They’ll get removed if I can’t engage them.

Overall, though, this was a better campaign than the Bookfunnel free giveaway, and I expect to run it again at least for my Christian fiction brand, if not for my sci-fi list.

* Affiliate Marketing Link

Advances in DNA Analysis Affect Tragedy in Sunset!

So the crux of my work in progress, Tragedy in Sunset, is that a young woman is assaulted and raped, but is too scared to give a name to the police. They have a DNA sample, but it doesn’t lead to any new results.

Well, all of that might be about to change, and I’ll have to figure out how it affects my story. According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, DNA samples are being used to match alleged perpetrators to a crime scene by matching the sample against a family tree. The suspect is then narrowed down and an arrest made.

This was used most effectively in 2018 to find the Golden Gate Killer, so named because he raped over 50 women and killed 13 people in the years between 1974 and 1986 in California.

When I first wrote Tragedy in late 2016, this data wasn’t available like it is now. That’s the problem when writing a story that relies on systems and processes that are apt to change wildly from year to year.

The basic plot is still fine and will provide quite the story, but I will probably have to do a little modifying as I go.

One idea, thanks to one of my friends, is to bring up the privacy issues that go with matching publicly-available DNA samples when handling crime evidence. I think that might very well figure into the rewrite of Tragedy. Stay tuned to see how it plays out!

To stay up to date on Tragedy in Sunset, as well as my other writing, sign up for updates at THIS LINK and get a free ebook as my thanks!

2018 and 2019: A look Behind and Forward

When gauging 2018, I have to be careful. I typed an amazing number of words for me (just over 200,000 total), but failed to get more than two sales. I didn’t get my sci-fi sale, despite submitting to various sci-fi publications a total of nine times. I failed to get an article published in a national Christian magazine as well, despite eight queries. My novel, Tragedy in Sunset, failed to garner any attention, despite submission to three publishers (this is in addition to submission to four agencies in 2017). Kind of a disappointing year in certain terms.

frontLooking at the positive, however, there were some key points to celebrate. First, my novelette, The Dirty Campaign, went live and has met several positive reviews. I also sold 41 more copies of Gluttony, my perennial best seller (total sold: 254). Of the 200,000 words written, I published 33 blog posts (2013 views on my website), four short stories, the novelette, a published article, a published short story, and 26 newsletter-based email campaigns. BTW, not on my mailing list? Why aren’t you on my mailing list!!! Click HERE!

I also made more money this year than ever before, though not by all that much. In total, I made $315 from articles and short stories. I estimate another $20 or so from Amazon and Smashwords, though the final tally hasn’t come in on that yet.

Overall, a mediocre year, but mostly that is because I set the wrong goals for this year. I wanted too many things. Sci-fi credits, major Christian publications (a la Christianity Today), and a book deal. Just too many balls to juggle.

Which leads me to 2019:

First, I only have one goal this year: By December 31, 2019, I will sign a contract for representation with a literary agent in the Christian fiction industry. If I sell articles, great. If I sell short stories, also great. I’ll continue writing my monthly newsletters as well. All of that is still in play, but the only goal that matters this year is signing a contract with a Christian literary agent.

What will that mean? It will mean that I’ll have a representative to help manage my writing career, at least at the novel-writing level, so I can focus on churning out books. It doesn’t guarantee a publisher for Tragedy in Sunset, or the follow-on novel, Redemption in Sunset, but it does guarantee I’ll have someone with business acumen in my corner.

I’ll still deal with articles and short stories directly with the various editors and their respective magazines. Agents make 15% from my sales, and book-length projects are the only things that bring in enough money for both the author and agent.

If I had my druthers, I’d like to see six bylines and 250,000 words typed this year. Those are great goals to have. However, they are secondary to the only one that matters: That I have an agent to represent me in 2020 and into the future.

My work on the proposal for Tragedy (first fifty pages or so and a proposal package), is progressing along nicely. I’d like to start submitting by the end of February, the same month I plan to launch my next Sunset short story.

Speaking of the first 50 pages, I bought a new resource I want to share with you. It’s literally called The First 50 Pages,* and it comes with a recommendation from Donald Maass, the famous lit agent who wrote, Writing the Breakout Novel.* I can’t wait to learn more about preparing my manuscript for publication!

Anyway, I can’t wait to share with you how 2019 goes! I hope you have some solid goals for your life. By the by, if you want to beat gluttony this year, may I suggest my short nonfiction work called Gluttony: A Study of Overeating in the Bible? You can get it HERE.*

So, that’s my plan for the New Year! If you want to get monthly updates on my progress, and the progress of my characters, sign up HERE and you’ll get all the details!