Beyond the Smoke
Terry Burns

Terry Burns writes inspirational fiction and is an agent with Hartline Literary . As a writer he has a series that began with Mysterious Ways from River Oak Publishing and the series bears that name. The second, Brothers Keeper came out Feb 1, 2006 and Shepherd's Son came out January 1, 2007. That gives him 24 books in print counting the nonfiction and short story collections. Other fiction includes Trails of the Dime Novel, a trade paperback from Echelon Press and in audio from JBS Publishing. He has published over 200 articles and short stories. A popular speaker at workshops across the country, his available works as well as a daily blog can be found at As an agent Terry says "I'm looking for a good book, well written, aimed at a market that looks promising, and where I feel I have the contacts appropriate to be able to sell the book in that market."

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Being a Christian Writer in a Changing World

We are living in the end times. The wildly popular Left Behind series put this on everyone’s minds. But these books are a work of fiction, and believers have varying opinions on which parts of the story are true or not true, whether things will work as depicted or not. However we feel about it, most believers think that we are living in that time.

The apostles worked feverishly because they were concerned that they could not get their work done before Jesus returned for them. They looked for His coming within their lifetimes and lived with an immediate expectation of the event. I believe that is actually what God has in mind for all of us, to live our lives as though He’ll be back at any time.

Many, many people do not believe in the second coming. They say we’ve been looking for it for two thousand years and it has never happened, so it isn’t going to happen. You know, I’ve lived over sixty years and have never been run over by a train, but does that mean it can’t happen tomorrow?

Others do believe it, know what the book of Revelation says, and because they believe they can’t do anything to change things, they are just content to wait for His coming. We could do that, but is it what God wants us to do? Or does He want us to do what the apostles did and work feverishly to get our work done before we are called home? I think we all know the answer to that one.

So how do we do it? If we are writers and want to use those skills for the Lord, how do we go about it? I believe there are two ways to write for the Lord: to decide we are going to write, in which case it is an offering, or to be called to write, in which case it is a divine assignment and an obligation.

I know some people believe all Christian writers have been called, but I’m afraid I don’t believe that any more than I believe that everybody who would like to preach has been called by God to do so. But let me quickly say I have no argument with those who believe otherwise and have no compulsion to have them see it my way. I’m just saying what I believe.

I wrestled with this myself. I decided I wanted to use my faith in my writing, but was it a calling or an offering? To tell you the truth, I really didn’t want the obligation of it being a calling. The testimony on the process that I went through deciding what God wanted me to do is on my Web site, Let me just say I felt I was only a fiction writer, and it couldn’t be that I was being called to do it. Then my instructor smiled and said, “Yes, you’re only a fiction writer, and Jesus only told parables.”

I got the message.

Then I learned the next big difference between the two. If writing was an offering, then it would be made out of my own skill and ability. If God was assigning me the task, He would see that my ability, skill and even character were molded to fit the

requirements. Every time I stalled out in my writing, a sermon, Sunday school lesson, Bible study, or something else would provide exactly what I needed, and I would be underway again.

Then came doubt. My writing career wasn’t moving as fast as it should. If God wanted this, shouldn’t it be happening faster? Bigger? Surely I had misunderstood the call.


No, all things in God’s time. Look at how long it took Him to prepare Moses, Abraham, the apostles; even Jesus took time to prepare Himself before He began His ministry. All the figures of the Bible were prepared before God used them.

Who did I think I was that I thought I could just start writing and have immediate success? I realized patience was all-important, particularly if writing was a calling and not an offering.

Waiting, that’s a tough one.

If it were up to us, we’d lay out the whole plan so we could see every tiny aspect. We’d most likely disagree with parts of it, want to change a lot of it, and, oh yes, have a back-up plan ready in case God’s plan and His timing didn’t work. Perhaps that’s why God doesn’t show us His whole plan at once. He knows we’d want to get our own ideas and our own timing involved.

Then I discovered that callings change. I came to realize that the first book in my Mysterious Ways series was a calling, but the other two in the series were offerings. I have no problem with that. A sincere offering I’m sure is well received and blessed, but God was not in them in the same way that He was in the first one.

My calling changed. I started feeling led to work as an agent, to help others get their words out where they would serve the Lord. Even though I continue to write, I started feeling I could have more impact by helping get more content out there. I turned my attention to that and specifically to helping new writers get published for the first time. I can’t afford to represent all new writers, of course, but I have had some success at it.

So that’s my pathway here. How about other Christian writers? I think we all have to go through a vetting process of discovering what God wants from us, and then trying to decide the best way to get it done.

If in fact we are in end times and we all want to use our talents to the best of our abilities to serve the Lord, then it behooves us to prepare ourselves as best as we can, constantly working to perfect our craft while waiting on God’s perfect timing. The time may indeed be short, and if it is, we all want to be about the Father’s business when it comes.