On Writing: Interview with Jeff Goins

interview with jeff goins

I wasn’t going to post this week since I started working on my fourth manuscript, but was delighted to hear from Jeff Goins.

This month’s series on writing was all about helping new authors learn to Start Writing Now #StartWritingNow.

Also, if you missed the series, I posted an easy way to view all of them on Pinterest.

I hope this month’s series has been encouraging–and I wanted to say thanks again to all those who contributed. You are a blessing to me.

Here is my recent interview with Jeff Goins on the subject of writing.

“What would you say are the five most important tips to starting a writing business?”

Don’t start a writing business. Start writing, because you love it. Find a way to help people. Don’t expect to just get paid to do what you love. Look for opportunities to add value to others’ lives; that’s what people are willing to pay for. Become a student of good marketing — whether you like it or not. Establish a personal, memorable brand. And “personal” and “memorable” are not defined by you; they’re defined by your readers. Until they’re opening up to you and remembering what you say, you haven’t arrived. Build a permission asset (i.e. a newsletter, blog, or some way to communicate directly with readers). Always give more than you take and find ways to keep building trust over time.
“Is it important to view writing as a business versus a ministry? Why?”
I think it’s important to view it as a craft, a skill that you build over time and with care. Then–and only then–you can use it wisely and well as a business or a ministry.
“What can a new writer expect to get paid if he or she works their butt off in the first few years?”
A better question is, “How much enduring art can a new writer create in the first few years?” Good art gets rewarded; bad art gets critiqued.”
“How long did it take your writing business to become profitable?”

It took two years. First, it took a year of making no money and being as generous as possible. Then, it took another year of asking people what they wanted and what they’d be willing to pay for. And then I gave it to them.

“Tell us about your books on writing and how we can support you as a writer?”

Thanks for asking about that, Renee. I wrote an eBook called, You Are a Writer (youareawriter.com), and it’s for those who write but don’t call themselves writers. It’s pretty cheap, and a lot of people have enjoyed it. Also, if you’re interested in building a tribe of readers around your writer, you might want to check out my online course, Tribe Writers (tribewriters.com).

jeff goinsJeff Goins loves compelling stories, worthy causes, and Pez candy. He’s been writing for most of my life, but only recently started calling myself a writer and actually believing it. He is the author of Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life , and you can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or his blog.
[Photo: sparkieblues, Creative Commons]
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On Writing: Can You Still Pay The Rent (and Utilities)?

on writing

[Guest Post by Allison Vesterfelt] – A few years ago I quit my job because I wanted to write a book.

A book.

I write it that way because that’s how I saw it in my mind. So much drama, so much mystery. Writing a book (you have to say it that way if you want to understand) was going to be the best thing I had ever done in my life.

Quitting my job happened because someone asked me this question:

“What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to worry about money?”

My answer to the question was, obviously, that I would travel across the country and write a book (sorry, I’ll stop doing that now) about the experience.

So with a little urging from friends, and a rearranging of priorities, I sold everything I owned and set off to visit all 50 states and write about it.

The whole time, the idea of writing was so glorified in my mind. 

I pictured myself living this care-free life of whimsy, sitting in cafes, staring longingly into space as brilliant ideas just flowed into my brain. I imagined how interesting characters, with fascinating stories, would just wander in and out of my life each day. I saw myself doing a lot of smiling and laughing.

So imagine my surprise when the whole thing turned out to be kind of well… mundane.

And those were the good days.

See the problem with the “what would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money?” question was that, while it was great for motivating a person to re-examine her priorities, it was not great for getting a person to live in reality.

Because the truth is, people do have to worry about money.

Yes, even writers.

Even writers who are working on books.

And it can be really, really tough to make a living as a writer.

The first thing that shocked me was that you can’t just snap your fingers and get a book deal (astounding, I know).

So even if you want to write a book really bad (really really bad) that doesn’t mean that you’re ready. You might be still developing skills, or developing your idea, or developing your platform. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever write a book, it just means you might not get a book deal the instant you want one. I had to wait five years.

And so while aspiring authors are waiting to write their books, what do they do?

I found out really quickly that I had to creative if I was going to make a living as a writer:

I searched Craigslist on writing.

I wrote copy for advertisements.

I helped people write content for their websites.

I worked on a couple of ghostwriting projects.

And after a few years of writing gimmicky ads for weight-loss programs and pamphlets for neon sign repair, I realized this was not going to be as glamorous as I had hoped. And oh, by the way, still no luck on that book deal.

The worst part about all of it was that I wasn’t really making that much money.

I was barely (barely) paying my bills. And I wasn’t even doing it all with writing. I was substitute teaching a couple days each week, and taking on just about anything besides lawn-mowing that anyone would pass my way. I kept at it, even when it was difficult, but some days I really wanted to quit. And I’m glad I did, because I learned a lot.

One thing I learned is that there is a difference between artist and producers.

Artists (writers) like me tend to not be great producers. By that I mean that we’re great at making things beautiful, but we’re really not that great at convincing people to buy them.

I feel really lucky that during this whole process I met my husband, who happens to be a great producer, and he was able to help me market myself in a way that got me better, higher-paying writing jobs.

He was also able to help me land my book deal.

But since I get that not everyone has a situation like mine, my advice would be this: If you’re not a producer, you have to either find someone who is, and ask for help, or you’re going to have to stretch yourself to become one.

The other thing I learned is that, if glamour is what you’re looking for, writing isn’t it.

If you’re in the profession for the glamour, you might as well just quit.

Because even once I got my first book contract, I still spent early mornings sitting at my in-law’s kitchen table over Christmas break pounding out 1000-4000 words at a time, words that I wasn’t sure were even good. There were some moments of inspiration, sure, but most moments are spent questioning yourself and your craft, and feeling awful because you aren’t sure how this whole thing is going to come together.

This is all part of the process, and it’s not glamorous.

It’s 5am.

It’s pajamas and messy buns.

It’s tears sometimes because you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck.

But yes, I believe you can make it work, if you’re committed and creative and keep at it.

Sometimes you have to work at Starbucks in the meantime, but you learn that you’re not too good to make lattes, and you might even get some interesting stories out of the deal. And for all the grief you’ve experienced, and the disappointment, and the days where you think, “this will never work” you also start to see lives changed.

And if you make it that far…

You can be sure you’re in it for the right reasons.

Allison_Vesterfelt-blogAllison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband darrell. You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook.

[Picture: maluni, Flickr]

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Monday Meditations #5 – Your Situational Comedy

(c) Branden Harvey

[Guest Post by Lindsay Morelli] – I love watching situational comedy on TV.

Not because of the great writing, or the relatable characters, or the not-so-relatable characters, but because for 22 minutes I am reminded that it’s entirely normal for our lives to become comical chaos.

Each Monday morning the world wakes up to a brand new week; another chance at fulfilling our purpose in life and hopefully avoid any conflict or obstacle that comes our way.

If you are smiling after that last sentence, you know that the perfect week is a rare occurrence.

You have a great week at work, but your toilet overflowed and flooded your bathroom. The research proposal you wrote was given a grant, but your friend dropped your iPad and now the center of the screen is engraved with a design you can only explain as an “abstract accident.” You finally found the perfect couch for your living room, but you can’t get it into your apartment building.

For us, watching Ross and his friends attempt to carry the couch up the stairs was highly amusing. For Ross, all he ended up with was a broken couch and $4 in store credit.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we forget who is writing our script: The Greatest Writer of all time!

He also knows how to write the perfect situational comedy.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken. ~ Psalm 16:5

Whether we feel our daily lives are written well or that we are constantly living in a gag reel, remember who is always before you.

Today’s episode could be your favorite. If not, there is always tomorrow!

Lindsay Morelli is a future choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. Visit her website for information on her music and writing.

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I Survived My 20s – Change

[Guest Post by Tracy] – I tried to stifle the tears as I watched my parents drive off. What had I done?

I graduated from college and secured my first job; that’s what.

Earlier that week I said my goodbyes, loaded the car, and moved across state lines to New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment.”

Gone was the familiar sound of my parents’ voices.  Gone were the opportunities to hang out with friends who knew my intimate details.

It was just my mini cactus, “Larry,” and me now.

We would face the change in my new life together.

Ironically, my first year in the “Land of Enchantment”… sucked.

Even Larry died. (yes, it is possible to over water a cactus)

The work I was doing was, simply, unfulfilling. My dream had failed me.

“What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy” -Lyrics from “Blessings” by Laura Song

So when a job opportunity opened up in Phoenix, Arizona, I accepted it. Perhaps I was pursuing my dream in the wrong location.

I arrived in the “Valley of Sun” and conquered my:

+Dream of making money: check.
+Dream of job success: check.
+Dream of dating the perfect and hot man: super heck-yeah check!

I had it all, yet all wasn’t enough.

I have attended church all of my life. I prayed a salvation prayer at some point. But nothing really changed, until that summer.

While I was busy chasing my dreams, God chased me. At the height of my perceived awesomeness, God intervened.

In the middle of the literal desert, He led me to a crossroad.

God’s question to my heart: are you thirsty for me, or for your dreams? I started to suspect the two weren’t going to intersect.

In the summer of 1999, I recommitted to following Him for the rest of my life. And my dreams began to shatter one by one…

+The hot man of my dreams rejected my heart, so I dated and dated, and for the love, I dated some more.
+The job and money of my dreams became meaningless. I had a college degree that I didn’t want to use anymore.
+Friends moved away or got married. Did I mention I was still single?
+My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had always dreamed that she would participate in my wedding and help me raise my children.

It’s not that I was wrong for having or pursuing dreams. It was just time to give some of them up.

In doing so, I learned that God never promises prosperity, He promises His presence.

I was now in the valley with the Son while living in the valley of the Sun.

God was my constant in the chaos of change.

[There is] “A time to search and a time to give up…” ~Ecclesiastes 3:6a, NIV

In the later part of my 20’s I began volunteering in youth ministry. God opened HUGE doors, eventually calling me into seminary, and youth ministry full time.

Teaching God’s Word and serving those around me is more fulfilling than all the money and the corporate success I once longed for.

God also brought the amazing Chad Steel into my life.

In front of the Disneyland castle, the place “where dreams come true,” he proposed. I finally married at the YOUNG age of 32. We have been married 4.5 years, have moved 3 different times, and have 2 children under the age of 4. {whew}

My mother went into remission from her breast cancer for the rest of my twenties.

She was at my wedding. She was holding my hand while I gave birth to both of my children. Her cancer has now spread to her bones, organs, and brain. I daily praise God for the time I have left with her.

Talk about God doing something beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

By the way, guess where my husband’s job JUST relocated us to? New Mexico! I am back to where I started, though I am forever changed by the beauty of God’s dreams for me.

I think I shall buy another mini cactus and name him “Larry”…

Tracy is proudly married to Chad, a pilot in the United States Air Force. Whenever they are not being relocated, she loves to drink green tea and watch re-runs of LOST. Tracy graduated from Phoenix Seminary in 2005, and served as the Director of Student Women at Scottsdale Bible Church from 2005-2007. She is also the author of Images of His Beauty, a newly released Bible Study, for young women who struggle with self-image issues and eating disorders. You can find out more information about the study and follow her blog at www.onedegreeministries.com.

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I Survived My 20s – Failure

(c) Desiree Shuey Photography

[Guest post by Allison Vesterfelt] -I only have one year left of my twenties. It’s been a crazy, wild, ride, and it’s going to be over really soon.

I have mixed feelings about that. 

Part of me is bummed to get old. You know wrinkles, slowed metabolism, an inability to operate basic electronic equipment, that sort of thing.

But part of me is excited to kiss my twenties goodbye and say hello to my thirties. People say the thirties are your best years and, let’s be honest, my twenties have been fun, but it hasn’t been all that pretty at times.

When I look back over the last almost-decade of my life the image that comes to mind is of a person who doesn’t know how to swim tossed over the side of a ship, into the ocean. Terrified of drowning, I had two options: sink or swim.

I picture my arms waving around like a couple of wet noodles and my head dipping under water each time the ocean swells the way it does. I hear myself inhaling water, choking, and screaming for someone to throw me a life vest.

Then I see all the other people back on the ship, elbows planted on the handrail, smiling. You’ll be fine, they seem to be saying — and I want to believe them…

But they’re the ones enjoying the comfort of dry ground!

My 20‘s were fun, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to do it over again…

The dating and the getting my heart broken, the figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, and how to actually make it happen. The constant worry about friends and money and where I was going to live.

The hope that I was “doing it right.” 

If you’re a 20-something, flailing around like I was, let me throw you a life jacket. It’s okay to experience failure.


It’s doesn’t solve all of your problems, but hopefully it helps you catch your breath. 

It’s okay to break up with a boyfriend. It doesn’t make you a failure. Even if he breaks up with you — even if he tells you he never loved you and never wants to speak to you again — it’s okay. His words, the failure of the relationship, they do not define you. You are not a failure.

It’s okay to get a D on a test, or a paper. In college and ten years from now (actually, probably even three years from now) no one will even know? At least not unless you tell them.

You can get fired from a job. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, or even that you’re not a hard worker. It could mean that the job wasn’t a good fit for you, that you were going through a rough time and couldn’t bring your best work, or focus to the task. It could even mean that your boss was just out to get you.

Your failure does not define you. It informs you, if you’re willing to look at it.

When you get lost in the “I’m a failure” attitude, you feel like you’re drowning, like you’ll never learn to swim. You feel like you’re choking on salt water. The flailing is a natural survival instinct, but it keeps you from seeing that failure is your greatest opportunity.

Go ahead, I dare you to fail.

Failure is the only way we learn what works and doesn’t work, it’s the only way we grow up, become more mature. Without failure, we’re doomed to be the same person we’ve always been, with the same flaws and shortcomings–forever.

I had a friend who knew what it looked like to fail well. We were in high school and there was this staircase, right in the front entryway, where all 2000 students intersected on their way to class. One day, on the way to second period, every student’s worst nightmare happened to her.

Her heel slipped and she thump thump thumped right down to the bottom. We all drew in our breath, and waited…

A few seconds later she stood up, threw her hands above her head, did a little toe-touch for herself (like the Saturday Night Live cheerleader) and burst out laughing.

You know what? We laughed with her. 

You know what else?

She never fell down that staircase again.

Allison is a reader, writer and thinker who believes that becoming brave enough to live an tell the truth. She’s passionate about helping people to tell, hear and understand stories that inspire, uplift, encourage, and even convict by pointing to the truth of Jesus. She is the editor-in-chief of Prodigal Magazine and lives in West Palm Beach, Florida with her husband Darrell.

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Sex and Money

[Guest Post by Jennifer Kephart] – I have heard it said that the two biggest things that married couples fight about are sex and money.

I believe and know this to be true, and I think it is because so much of our identity and self-worth are wrapped up in these two areas of our lives.

So many times when we meet someone new, we ask them,

“what do you do?”

Money can be such a touchy subject, but how then how are we just supposed to make it work?

In my experience, I find that there are 3 primary areas where money issues can arise:

1)     Not budgeting together
2)     Not paying the bills together
3)     Not seeing past all the hunky dory feelings and failing to plan

Budgets are very personal, and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. It doesn’t have to take all the fun out of money.

Some people like pen and paper. 
Others prefer Excel. 

The idea is to talk openly and prioritize together so that when you get married you have an idea of the home and marriage you want to build as a team.

How much do you make? 
What do you spend your money on?
What’s important to you? 
What’s important to you as an individual? 
What are you willing to give up in order to reach a joint goal?
Are we going to tithe?  If so, net or gross?  

Funny enough, sometimes there are things [like money] you just don’t talk about when you’re dating.

You could be together for 2 years and your boyfriend could have no idea that you spend $200 a month on makeup and toiletries.  It sounds silly, but these are the little petty things that don’t come up, but can make a big difference after the wedding.

If we don’t talk about it beforehand, we risk having a major blow up over something seemingly small. When you budget, you have an idea of what’s coming in, how you plan to allocate according to your joint needs and priorities and how to compromise where necessary.

Having a budget together is all well and good, but actually executing that plan is another story.

Many couples will budget together, but then they leave it up to only one spouse to pay all the bills and keep track of everything or leave it to no one at all.

This can be for different reasons.

One spouse may not be interested. Another may not be good at math, or another person may leave it to their husband or wife because that’s how their parents did it. Regardless of the reasons why, though, I think it’s important for married couples to sit down together and pay the bills and review their budget on a regular basis.

Marriage should be a partnership, not a dictatorship, and certainly not a parent-child relationship between spouses.

It may seem inefficient to have both spouses sit down and do this, especially when a majority of the bills are paid online, but I think it’s important for two reasons.

One, it emphasizes that you are doing this together as a team. You have a joint budget, a joint plan and together you are putting that plan into practice. Second, it can change the dynamic of the relationship. If only one person is handling the finances, and the other remains clueless, it can begin to feel more like one person is the parent trying to reign in their spendthrift child.

Sometimes, when we’re planning to get married, we fail to see past the hunky dory feelings and fail to plan past the wedding.

In the common marriage vows, we say for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, but somewhere way in the back of our minds, we’re thinking for better, for richer, in health.

We don’t like to think that something bad will happen, but many times an accident or an illness can send us for a loop.

Discussing the potential negatives can help minimize their effects if and when it happens.

This is another reason why it’s important to have both spouses involved in the family finances and bill paying, so if for whatever reason (illness, busy time at work, etc.) one spouse is unable to pay the bills, the other is just as knowledgeable and not completely clueless to all of the online logins or where the checkbook is stored.

Whether it is ATM pin codes, joint accounts, or insurance needs, considering the worst case scenario and planning accordingly can save a lot of additional stress.

So many marriages are strained by periods of unemployment or unexpected changes in circumstances.

Having an idea of how you and your spouse will approach and handles these types of challenges can strengthen your bond and potential for marriage success.

Some couples prefer everything to be joint. I think it can be okay to have “separate” accounts, not to be secretive but to maintain a sense of independence.This can also be especially useful around Christmas time, when you don’t necessarily want your spouse to see where you purchased their present.

In our culture, we tend to view money as power, and whoever has the most is in charge.

Talking about money can also open up the conversation to other aspects of the relationship and marriage expectations–like who is going to have the final say on a decision–and of course, everyone’s favorite word: submission.

We read in the Bible about a wife submitting to her husband and husbands respecting their wives (and of course, submitting to one another). This is lovely and all.


When it comes to money and living this out, it can be a difficult thing to do, especially nowadays, when all more often, the woman in the relationship makes more money.

If you are a reasonably responsible 20-something or 30-something, you more than likely have a job and bring home a paycheck. However big or small, it’s your money, and you determine what you do with it.  Suddenly, you’re married and there’s this other person telling you what to do or more so what NOT to do with your money.

Hello?  It’s MINE! 

It’s like we’re 3 years old all over again learning to share our toys.

Another misconception is that things shouldn’t really change when we get married. We can do all the things we did before we got married, but now we just do it together or with a joint income.

It’s important that a couple who is considering marriage can sit down together and really talk about money and their expectations for when they get married, and how the “his” and “hers” will become “theirs”.

Jennifer Kephart is an accountant by trade, but doesn’t pretend to be an expert with money. In fact, in her brief years, she has had not one–but two failed marriages. Although money did play a big part, it wasn’t the only issue. Now, as she contemplates the idea of another (and final!) attempt at marriage (and one based on godly principles, this time), she is taking time to think through what mistakes were made in the area of money and marriage and how to learn from them.

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Pre Engagement Questions Series

During the month of July I will be doing a series on Pre Engagement Questions before popping the question.

I will be highlighting a few guest posts, book giveaways, and 5 key questions to ask before getting engaged.

This time last year, Marc and I were thinking about getting engaged. We spent much time discussing these are six areas.

We purposefully wanted to ask all our questions BEFORE we got engaged.

Plus, after you get engaged–all you think about is planning a wedding.

We heard how potentially stressful wedding planning could be. Instead of discussing important matters over designing invite cards at my parents house–we decided to intentionally talk about them in private before things got crazy.

Can’t wait for the rest of these seasons posts, and if you have any specific questions you’d like answered–write them below!

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Permission To Transition

Sometimes, you need to give yourself permission to transition.


Because no one else can do it for you.

This past week has been the most amazing spiritual high ever and I feel I may never come down. It’s not an emotional high, but the benefits of walking obediently.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a confession. That I was going to take the rest of the year off from traveling, speaking, and writing my next book.

It’s so weird. Since then God has blessed me even more that I can hardly stand it!

I can’t help but rejoice that the Lord reigns in my life–and I pray yours as well. Those feelings of depression and despair are leaving because the King of King’s has arrived. Here are a few highlights of my week:

1. Reunited with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years. God used her mightily in my life many years ago to show me that my writing would one day bring people to Christ! Her friendship has given me the permission to transition once again.

2. Attended The Voice of the Martyrs Regional Conference Bound With Them. The voices of those who are and were persecuted have echoed in my heart since that I find myself waking out of the sleep that is American Christianity.

3. Marc and I visited a new church the past two weeks called The Gathering Place. The  pastor preached on Exodus 33-34, which was the passage of Scripture God used to reveal to me two weeks ago that I should take the rest of the year off.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16)

When we don’t have His Presence, we have nothing to separate us from anyone else or every other religion.

Confirmation after confirmation this week showed me one thing:

Give yourself permission to transition

When I met with my former friend, I wasn’t expecting her to be in the same spot I was a few years ago when I quit my job. I wanted nothing more than to encourage her to keep going, and yet I realized that God has new things in store for me too–even now as I rest in Him (Isaiah 43:19)!

Transition Doesn’t Always Equal Bad Changes

God has continually been surprising me with new realities.

Transition brings change, yes.

But it’s not always bad.

For instance, after I quit my job Harvest House picked up Not Another Dating Book, and I met my husband Marc. Hello? Sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep up with His Spirit (Amen?). I think the place where I’m at is the best life is and is going to get.

But it’s not.

God has more.

More of His presence.

More of His blessings.

Today, I am giving you the permission to transition. The kind of permission I was waiting so desperately when I quit my job. You might not have someone telling you what to do or that it’s all going to work out–but actually, you do. His name is Jesus and He is waiting for you to come to Him.

Friend, if you are in the midst of a job, relationship, or transition of any kind–I encourage you to check out the promises of God.

Cling to them.

Hold fast.

Hope is real, and He will not let you go even for a second.

If you find anything lingering in your heart squash it for the idol that it is. Smash anything that sets itself up between you and God. Go with God.

Here is something I read this week that changed my life–and I hope it changes yours.

“Recently I heard someone say, ‘God has given me a heart to pastor a church.’ What he meant was he had a desire to become a pastor. Certainly, to pastor a church is a good desire. As I walked away, I prayed that someday God will grant him the ‘desire of his heart‘ (Psalms 37:4). However, his desire to pastor is only as good as his willingness to wait on God’s timing…If he is not content to wait on God, if he is miserable and sins as a result, then his heart’s desire is not set on the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, his desire has become an idol (Ezekiel 14:1-11) or a lust (1 John 2:15-17; 5:21)” (The Excellent Wife, Martha Peace, page 59).

Watch my video log below and leave room for faith.

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