Category Archives: Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

The Basics of EBook Cover Design — post by Mary C. Findley

talisman cover

(Pictured above is one example of an ebook cover I made as a sample of my work. It incorporates many of the elements covered in this post. Can you spot the layering, use of vectors, and making the font complement the genre-specifics of the cover?)

This post may get a little involved and technical, but I hope it will help struggling authors who are trying to make their own ebook covers. I posted about print book covers in the previous post, and you can refer to that too. This post will help you even if you are making a print cover first, from scratch. Some authors pay a designer to make the ebook version and then create the print book cover themselves. Either way you do it, these two posts together will hopefully give you some help.

I will say that there are many photo manipulation programs, from costly to free in price and from relatively simple to difficult in use. I won’t say any are easy, and I will say that there can be a big learning curve because of all the features and variations some programs have. The different interfaces can be easier or harder to cope with.

I use PhotoImpact, formerly made by Ulead, now sold by Corel, and have for many years. It is comparatively inexpensive and can be purchased here: http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/products/photoimpact/  I had a Photoshop Lite version before that, and I think the features are in many ways similar. Both are feature-rich, meaning they have many tools and many options for designing, tweaking, and creating. I also know that even experienced professional designers mostly only use a fraction of the features a program has available. Familiar tools that do the job become old friends. Trying new things can be time-consuming and difficult. The last thing a designer wants to do is spend tons of time on a single cover, particularly if he is also a writer responsible for producing the story that fits that cover.

I don’t know what program people will choose to use so I am going to try to make my references to tools, menus, etc., within the program as generic as I can. As I said, my reference is PhotoImpact so bear with me if not everything specifically applies to, or is easy to find an equivalent of, in your program. My purpose is not to teach photo manipulation. That takes a long time to learn to do well. I just hope to be able to make it possible for some people to expand their do-it-your-selfer skills.

Determine the size of your final book. We make ours 5.5 x 8.5, a standard size for paperback books. Many people prefer 6 x 9. If you say, this will only be an ebook, why does it matter what size it is? I reply that you may wind up making a paperback someday. Formatting your manuscript for a print size is not a waste of time. There are details of print formatting that don’t apply to ebooks but if you set your ebook up with appropriate margins, page breaks, and proper beginning and ending chapter formatting you will have an easier time if you later want to make a print book. It will also look more professional to readers who grew up with “real” books.

russell asv bible system

This is a 5.5 x 8.5 cover, or, 1650 x 2550. If it is not showing full size in the post you should be able to click on this or any other image to get a full-size version. The image at the top of the post is a 6 x 9 or 1800 x 2700

If your cover is for a 5.5 x 8.5 book, create a blank file that is 1650 x 2550 pixels, 300 DPI. If it is 6 x 9, make it 1800 x 2700. Always make the image resolution 300 DPI. That’s a required resolution for print. Again, think of the future, and the possibility that it might be used for print someday. 72 DPI is all you need for screen resolution, and it will make a smaller file size, but your image will appear clearer and sharper, even in smaller sizes, if it’s 300 DPI, and therefore be more attractive to potential readers. What is DPI, you ask? It means dots per inch and refers, simply put, to the level of realistic detail in an image, which in digital form is just a bunch of dots, or pixels. The more pixels crammed into an inch of space in an image, the clearer and sharper and better it looks.

The image size is in part determined by the requirements of the ebook upload sites. Last time I checked, iTunes, or, in this case, iBooks, sets the standard for minimum dimensions of a book cover. It doesn’t have to be either of the sizes I suggested above, but it has to be at least 1400 on the smallest size and 2500 on the longest size. Dimensions are typically given with the width first and the height second. (1400 x 2500, in this case) And they are given in pixels, not in inches. The dimensions I gave above are larger than those minimums, which will keep you in good shape on major ebook retailers for upload.

[Now for the bad news. PhotoImpact was designed many years ago and seems to have become an orphan as far as updates are concerned. There have been a few but it is a bit slow and clunky with these large file sizes, especially when doing the much larger print layouts. You will have to be patient through the slow wait times for it to catch up with your process, especially if you place a large amount of text and then try to change and move it around.]

You now have a blank image of the correct size and resolution. Time to fill it with a wonderful book cover. First you must determine the genre of your book. The most important thing a cover does is attract readers. But it must attract the readers that really want the book you wrote. If you put a kissy-face couple on there, or a rose and a string of pearls, or a heart, or anything that looks romantic, it had better be a romance. If you put a sailing ship on a stormy sea with a crew struggling to keep from wrecking, it had better be some type of historical adventure. I can’t tell you the exact cover that’s right for your book. I can say it needs to send a clear signal about the subject, immediately, to people who might see it 1/16th of full size (or smaller) for one second. It must at least say STOP AND LOOK CLOSER! before the potential reader just says “Meh …” and moves on. I can give detailed instructions all day long about how to put an attractive cover together but I cannot make the point too strongly that you have got to nail your genre or few people will give it a glance. Genre is a category or subject into which your book fits. Maybe you will say, “My book is nonfiction. That’s not a clear genre.” But it still has a subject. Bible Study. Cooking. Home Repairs. Overcoming Depression. Whatever it is, keep looking until you find the perfect image that stands up and screams, “THIS BOOK IS ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO READ ABOUT!”

philip two struck imagea

Try to guess the genre of this cover in the comments below.

So you may ask, “Where do I look for images?” That depends in part on what you want to pay. There are stock photo sites that charge a lot of money for what are sometimes excellent images. Two examples are iStock and Getty. You can pay $20 or more just for one image. Some sites charge $5 or at least under $10 per image. CanStock is a good one, and so is Fotolia. There are many others, and, if you plan to make a number of covers, you can get a subscription or a package, paying so much for a certain number of images at discounted prices versus single images. You may not want to pay for images. That is your choice. Many photographers and even “photoshoppers” offer free images on sites like Pixabay. That is one of my favorite free image sites. But remember the quality of images, especially free ones, varies considerably. You will probably have to look at hundreds before you find an excellent one, paid or free. In the next section I’ll give some suggestions on why you want to keep looking.

Depositphotos_76032491_original  winter-1145732

(First imageis from Depositphotos. Second is Public Domain from Pixabay.)

Why use a paid versus free image? It depends on what you need, want, and can afford. The first image above is a free one. It’s very nice as pictures of horses go, but the second on, which is paid, shows the exact two horses I needed as a promo for two young adult historical books I had written. That’s why I paid for it, to get just what I wanted, and also because of the surrounding finishing touches — the lighting and cloudy shapes. I also have been able to twice purchase a highly-discounted image pack from Depositphotos. Look hard for deals if you want a lot of great images.

You need an image, whatever it is, to have certain qualities. These include clarity, simplicity, lighting, and composition. There are other things, but these are the basics. If you are tempted to use a homegrown images, such as your son’s picture of your dog, it had better be professional quality in size and resolution. Don’t use grainy or blurry or too small pictures unless you are going for a specific artistic effect and can truly pull it off and convince people you didn’t just thoughtlessly put a crummy picture on your book cover. The same goes for handmade art. If your cover needs refrigerator art, okay, but don’t use unprofessional art just because it has some personal significance to you. It has to attract readers. Use the largest size you can get. Stretching it often makes it distorted.

I am more and more convinced that all book covers attract more readers if they make proper use of light. Thomas Kinkade attracted millions by being the “painter of light.” Find a way to incorporate light into your cover. Find an image that has excellent light to start with and you don’t have to manipulate anything. Even if it’s a creepy thriller, incorporate a haunting, eerie light. If it’s inspirational, use a candle or oil lamp or glow of sunlight or moonlight. Light attracts attention. Find a way to use that to your advantage. Learn the different light-enhancing techniques of your program. Don’t just stick in a spotlight or bolt of lightning. The idea is to make it glow invitingly.

  delicate and fragile 25 phoenix 25 gothic unwilling 25

Examples of the use of lighting to get your cover some attention, no matter the genre.

A note about using a single image as your cover: I discourage it for several reasons. Some stock sites include in their very lengthy and complicated terms that you should not re-use a complete single image in something you mean to sell. Some specify that you must substantially change an image to avoid copyright issues. Even if you “buy” an image from a stock site, you don’t really own it. There are restrictions on how you use it and how many times you can reproduce it and all sorts of limits. You are responsible to use that image in a responsible manner. It contains digital information that is kind of like a GPS. They can find and track it. So, what you need to do is follow their terms of use, and, also, incorporate two or three images in a cover to be on the safe side.

People, animals, genre-specific objects, and backgrounds are the usual image components of a cover. I don’t recommend putting more than about three images together into a cover. It becomes cluttered and you lose control of the ability to make them all appear to blend and belong.

     teen sleuths 25 dystopian end times disaster 25 historical chekov 25

Examples of using people on covers. The first includes a “free” image. use such images with caution. The second includes silhouettes, which can be free and there is no need to worry about model releases because no one is recognizable. You can also use free images that show the back or lower parts of individuals. Anything that does not show a face is fair game if the image itself is pubic domain. The third cover is a composite of two paintings. These are great options for historicals, and allows for including people without incurring the need for model releases. As long as the painting is more than 100 years old, and the photographer just took an unaltered image of it, his photo can’t be copyrighted and the image is public domain.

A few special notes about including people on a cover. Even if you use images labeled “Public Domain,” if they include people, you should try to ensure that there is a model release. That means the person or persons gave permission for commercial use. If there isn’t one, you could be sued by that person. Some images are labeled “editorial use only.” That means you can use them on a blog or for educational purposes but you can’t use such images on something you mean to sell. Some models also specify that they don’t want their images used in any way that they or other people might object to. That can be a broad objection that’s hard to answer, say, if they object to the image on a Christian book cover because they are atheists. It’s up to the cover artist to walk the fine line of compliance when using people. Rules are even stricter for copyrighted images, logos, or things that are very famous. Be careful about images you use. Get permission, when in doubt.

If you choose to make a cover with no people, you can make a very striking cover just out of text, which I’ll deal with momentarily. You can use inanimate objects like fruit, weathered wood, or seashells. Doing this makes clarity, lighting, and simplicity all the more critical. You can use animals, landscapes, or interesting room settings. The possibilities are almost endless. Just choose the best of the best and remember the keys of clarity, simplicity, and lighting.

 sherry chamblee flaire 25 funny little love drops 25 tea time troubles 25

Some examples of covers with no people. Can you guess the genres in the comments?

Don’t crowd or clutter the cover with all the elements or subjects in your book, unless your book is about crowding and clutter. One author wanted me to put a host of characters from his book on the cover. At least seven, I think. Can you imagine how impractical that would be? If it’s an ensemble cast, you still should focus on the leader, or maybe the two or three most important characters. Remember the first impression people get of the cover is probably going to be tiny on a search page. If a reader sees nothing but blobs of color he may not stop to figure out what it is. I’m going to expose myself to some extent here, and show you a very early cover I made for my first Benny and the Bank Robber book (the most recent version is pictured below the next section of text.) This is an example of how NOT to do a cover more than anything.

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Quickly going through some of the no-nos I have learned since doing this cover: “Floating heads” are mostly bad. I have a whopping FIVE of them, which makes it five times as bad. I painted a fake hat on one character and boy does it look fake. The Bible and the cougar (oops — SIX floating heads) makes seven images, plus the forest background … and the attempt at painting texture looks … amateurish. The only good thing about it is that the text is fairly readable. Don’t let this happen to you.

So, whatever elements you have chosen, it’s time to see if they work together on your cover. This is called compositing. Each object you add to a cover goes on its own layer. You can move them up and down the “stack” and around on the “page” at will with tools like “send backward” or “bring to front” or “center horizontally.” You can also resize, flip, or rotate. (Just watch out for any lettering, such as on a T-shirt) that might end up displaying backwards.)

This is not an art or design course, so I can’t go into a lot more dos and don’ts. But here are a few. Do match up shadows and lighting. Imagine where the main light source is in the composition and make sure all the elements fit with that lighting. If they don’t, find something that does. There are people irritated enough by shadows falling the wrong way to reject your book. However great the story is, you’ve got to convince them to pick it up. Your cover’s got to impress them, not make them say, “Hey, the guy has a shadow on the left side of his face but the girl’s is on the right. that looks weird.” or “That woman is so faded she looks like a ghost next to that bright, colorful guy.” Somehow you have to make the elements match. This is where learning to use your brightness and contrast settings can help. Play with them and if you can’t get them right, consider another image. Match quality, intensity, light and shadow, and everything you can.

Use the tools you have, such as erasers, faders, feathering, and other types of edge-softeners, to get rid of unwanted backgrounds in the images you put together. Be especially careful with hair and spaces between fingers, elbows and waists, and other spots that could stand out and make the final image look amateurish. Match the edges of the images to the background if at all possible — dark on dark, light on light.

Watch tutorials on techniques. Strive to improve. Magnify until you can see tiny details. Add shadows and directional lighting if you can. Play with the direction objects are facing and something might just click into place in your mind to improve the overall look. My best advice when it comes to placing objects for a cover is that you may not be able to realistically match, say, people to a scenery background, without some tricks. You’ve no doubt seen people that look pasted onto a background. You might not be sure what’s wrong, but it’s just clear they don’t belong in that scene. Sometimes a light mist or smoke or fog can really help blend a scene.

  i just don't see it good bad angel painted benny ebook 3 12 2017

Do the elements “match” among these images? Why or why not?

The three images above represent different phases of my cover design career. The first, entitled “I Just Don’t See It,” was made quite a few years ago and includes so-called “free” people images. In fact, the man has two different images composited. His head did not come with his body. That’s why I included it, to see if I hid it well enough. I probably wouldn’t use it at this phase of my career, both due to the permission issues with the people, and the fact that I am not convinced my compositing skills are that good. The middle image is an attempt at a “painted” fantasy cover requested by an author friend. He didn’t think it was what he wanted but I did sell it to another author who thought it was perfect for her. I composited a whole bunch of photographic components in this image, especially on the demon figure. Again, it was made a few years ago, and my skills and image choices have improved, I think, since then, so I would do it differently now. Still, I was pleased with the results of my experiments on the whole. The third image was made very recently and consists of three images — the sunlit forest background. the boy with the suitcase, and a cloudy mist layered over the top. Simple but effective, I believe.

I could go on for pages about compositing but this is supposed to be a brief explanation. So, to help blend images, try the light screen overtop idea. I have used that with success more than once. It can be as simple as a picture of mist or sunlit rays made transparent and laid over the image. One thing you can do is just set the images on a textured background like a collage, as in the “Tea Time Trouble” cover above. Don’t try to make them fit together. Just include them, perhaps fading or shadowing, and present it as a sort of shadowbox or scrapbook page. Those can turn out quite well. Divide the cover into sections and include separating elements or make them framed by the title to aid the composition.

 civil war 25 middleastern military romance 25 unlikely romance 25

As you go along creating your final cover image, don’t forget that you need text. Author and title at a minimum, and possibly a tagline or subtitle. Those should, if possible, not cover your images, or, at least, not important parts of them.  Text placement can be great fun and should harmonize with the rest of your design.

armor inside out

This example of a cartoon-style cover uses multiple images, which were relatively easy to composite because these art-style images are usually vectors or .png files, which means they often don’t have a fixed background and can be resized any way you like. They look a bit like Colorforms and can be set in place without worrying as much about blending in. As long as you choose artwork of similar styles, hopefully by the same artist, you can do exciting things.

The capitals text on this cover is a free font, in a series called Kingsthings. This font designer makes charming, detailed fonts and offers them for free. I made the capitals larger, aligned them within the chain of the heart locket, and tucked everything together in a technique called “nesting.” Try not to get too many different fonts going on a single cover. Remember, we are concentrating on simple. I used the same font on the subtitle and the author name.

Mix up ornate fonts with simpler ones, straight with curly. Try different sizes, such as tall at the beginning and end of a title to create a sort of mirror effect. By the way, be very careful about getting free fonts. Font sites are common sources of viruses. Stick with a few reputable sites, like 1001 Free Fonts, Dafont, and FontSquirrel. Check carefully because not all the fonts on these sites are free. Some are pay, some are donation, some are other arrangements with the creator. One font creator asked that if I use his font I send him a copy of what I did with it.

I have hundreds of fonts, including a package from MyFonts that I downloaded for $20 with many classic fonts. If you can use 10 fonts out of a package like that it is worth buying, because fonts often cost $20 or more just for one set of one good design. Beware of free fonts that are missing punctuation or other elements. You can sometimes substitute from a complementary font and still get a good result. Some font packages also include “dings,” which are shapes that can be very useful. You can pretty up a title treatment with dings, vector objects, and even small images, as on the series covers below, the second cover being for a book I am currently working on. In the first, the Baron’s Ring is incorporated into the B in the title, and in the second, the “T” is formed by the sword. Swirly vectors add some flourish to the text. The similarity of the placement of the images and text styles and ornaments tie the series together. People can see at a glance that these two books go together.

     baron ebook 10 22 2015 25     the captain's blade 10 21 2015 25

When your cover is completed, (and please, save and make backups all along the way) save it as a project (In PhotoImpact that is a UFO format. In Photoshop it is a PSD. There are many options to save but those are two to help you keep projects straight.) This is critical if you need to come back and make changes later. The other file format, the one you will later upload to ebook publishers, is either a jpg or a png. The png format is a larger file size, but better quality. Also insert your ebook cover into your text file at the front. Many sites require this and remember, if you ever change your cover, you have to upload a new version of the text with the updated cover included, too.

Just for fun, I will close with a book I have yet to write, but I had a lot of fun designing the cover. It’s inspired by a character in Treasure Island. Look for the ideas I’ve discussed in this post: making the genre clear (hint: remember that humor is also a genre), making the images fit together or at least complement each other, text treatments, and anything else you notice. Please comment with your observations. Also, let me know what I missed in this post. Remember, I want to help.

blind pew not so 25

Though making excellent covers is not easy, it can be enjoyable. Don’t try to get too complicated as you learn. Remember clarity, simplicity, and lighting.

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Will you be my Valentine? I mean Free Reader?

valentine-free-books

Whether you’re a Valentine’s Day lover or hater, we hope you’re a free book lover! There are lots to choose from, including nine from Findley Family Video Publications. Come pay a visit to our facebook event page and see all the free books! Some are free only certain days so be sure to check throughout the three day event!

http://bit.ly/2lEM6Ds

Or come straight to the Christian Women Writers’ website to see what’s there! Whoa! A free Kindle giveaway!

http://cwwriters.com/readers/valentines-day-event-plus-kindle-fire-giveaway/

win-a-kindle

 

 

 

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Even I Can Use Instagram — Post by Mary C. Findley

ruthie-book

I haven’t written an actual “writing” post for awhile. As I posted not too long ago, it’s been a year of upheavals and little or no writing for me. Still, I have picked up a few ideas for writers in my stumbling, fuddy-duddy way, that might help. I tend to discover things other people have known and used for a long time, and one of those is Instagram.

Unfortunately, I discovered it after I dunked and destroyed my first and only smart phone. I’m back to a regular old keyboard phone for now. I joined a group of authors on a lovely new blog called Candidly Christian (see my first post here)  http://candidlychristian.com/life-lessons/ .

The moderator asked us to join Instagram to help promote. I did that, on my laptop. I discovered that I could join, follow, and like (or heart) posts, but I couldn’t post anything myself from my computer. I kept getting messages in my email to download the app, tormenting me with the memory of my dear departed smartphone. So I figured I was doomed to never know the joys of true Instagram participation. I flashed back to the days I started using Twitter and didn’t have any tweets. https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/curiouser-and-curiouser-an-authors-adventures-in-twitterland/

Or so I thought. I do know that in the world of devices there is usually some kind of workaround. It didn’t take long to discover that there is indeed a Chrome extension for Instagram that works on laptops and desktops. The picture at the top of the article, which is Ruth, daughter’s “hearing-aid” cat, referred to in my first Candidly Christian post, is also my very first Instagram post. I know, I know. In the future I will crop and clean up images better. But I like to share my struggles as well as my successes with struggling fellow writers.

When you set up your Instagram profile, you might fetch up against the daunting task of including your self-description. Describe yourself and your reason for being there in 140 characters. Not easy. I based my profile description on my Amazon author page. Here’s the highly distilled, Instagram version:

Cover artist ❤ pets cross-genre author w/never-say-die heroes crazy smart husband 3 kids 18-wheeler shotgun Proverbs 16:3 Book midwife elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com

Here’s a link for a Chrome Instagram Extension. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/instagram-for-chrome/opnbmdkdflhjiclaoiiifmheknpccalb?hl=en-US

Here’s my Instagram profile. https://www.instagram.com/marycampagnafindley/ It’s lonely over there, and I’d appreciate follows and whatever else you do on Instagram. (still figuring that out.) And pointers.

And, oh, dear, I hear there’s something called Snapchat! eeps!

 

 

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What Did Jesus Do? — Post by Michael J. Findley

wwjd

Sheldon’s question, “What Would Jesus Do?” has driven some people to attempt great deeds for Christ. It has driven others to do things which can best be described charitably as questionable.

Few people invest the time and energy to study what Jesus actually did. When Jesus knew that he had less than a day before he would be crucified and return to the father Jesus spent his last hours fellowshipping with and teaching his disciples.

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know?” Jesus asked him. “The person who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ISV)

Jesus spent his last hours with his disciples. Not all, or many or even most of disciples, but Jesus chose to be with just the twelve; eleven after Judas left. We do not know if there were servants or children or others who were not mentioned. Jesus chose to spend all of His remaining time fellowshipping with and teaching his disciples. Instead of trying to reach more people, Jesus spent His time teaching those who were the most knowledgeable; people who were already well taught.

After His resurrection, Jesus walked over seven miles with two men. Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ISV)

Jesus then met his disciples in a locked room in Jerusalem.
Then he told them, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds so that they might understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44 ISV)

Jesus met with his disciples several times after his resurrection. Probably the most well known is the meeting with seven disciples in Galilee when Peter goes fishing. After his resurrection, Jesus spent his time either teaching or building relationships with his closest disciples.

We certainly have many other responsibilities that we read about throughout God’s Word. But teaching the Word of God and building relationships is very important. Based on what Jesus did, we certainly need to make teaching and building relationships a priority in our lives. We need to understand what Jesus did. His relationships were based on obedience to the Word of God. And the doctrine He taught drew men into a closer relationship with Himself.

Relationships based on this world will fail. Doctrine which is not taught to others fails to build relationships. And without a relationship with Christ built on a correct understanding of the Word of God, relationships with other people will also fail.

And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God has forgiven you in the Messiah. (Ephesians 4:32 ISV)

770px-stjohnsashfield_stainedglass_goodshepherd_portrait

Image Credits: WWJD? graphic by Mary C. Findley

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church [1], Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” Stained glass: Alfred Handel, d. 1946, photo:Toby Hudson Wikimedia Commons

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What Is The Gospel? Part Five: The Eternal Gospel

414px-an_angel_with_the_eternal_gospel_-_google_art_project
But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve like other people who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus God will bring those who have died with him. For we declare to you what the Lord has told us to say: We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have died. With a shout of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of God’s trumpet, the Lord himself will come down from heaven, and the dead who belong to the Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)

According to the Latin word translated here as caught up, this describes the rapture. The moment this takes place, there will be no believers left on earth to proclaim the gospel.

Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed—in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ISV)

As a trumpet sounded on Sinai, so this trumpet not only signals the resurrection of the Church, but alerts the inhabitants of earth to God’s change in His methods.

This begins another phase in God’s plan of redemption. Satan will be cast out of heaven, his time will be short and demonic forces will have greater access to those alive on earth at that time. Many who accept Jesus as the Messiah during this time will face rapid martyrdom. It will be the time of 144,000 Jewish witnesses, 2 special witnesses, and an angel flying through the air to proclaim the gospel.

Then I saw another angel flying overhead with the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the time for him to judge has arrived. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6,7 ISV)

Image Credit: Unknown  illuminator An Angel with the Eternal Gospel Date about 1255 – 1260 Getty Center Source/Photographer KwFA0VOH3o96DA at Google Cultural Institute Public Domain Wikimedia Commons

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What Is The Gospel? Part Four: Our Responsibility

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In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. Through him all things were made, and apart from him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1 ISV)

New Tribes Mission was founded in 1942 to evangelize unreached people groups who have no knowledge of either the God of the Bible or the history of Israel. According to their website “Unreached people groups have no concept of the God of the Bible. So Bible teaching begins at the same place God began with His chosen people: at the beginning. Chronological Bible teaching presents a foundation for understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection.”

Paul used this formula when he spoke to the Athenians. After beginning with the legal requirement of not introducing a new religion, basing that claim on their statue to the unknown god, Paul introduced, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” (Acts 17:24 ISV)

The problem Paul and every Christian up to Augustine had with the Greeks and the Romans is that many believed the earth was brought into existence around 1500 BC. They mocked the Jews for believing that the creation was so old (4000 BC). Ovid’s Metamorphoses is one example. Ovid, like most pagan authors, has creation followed by a Golden Age, a Silver Age, a Bronze Age, and finally the Iron Age.

After teaching the creation, the fall, the flood, the founding of the Jewish nation, God’s call out of Egypt, God’s judgment on the sin of the nation, then we teach the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

Now I’m making known to you, brothers, the gospel that I proclaimed to you, which you accepted, on which you have taken your stand, and by which you are also being saved if you hold firmly to the message I proclaimed to you – unless, of course, your faith was worthless. For I passed on to you the most important points that I received: The Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures—and is still alive!—and he was seen by Cephas and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Next he was seen by James, then by all the apostles, and finally he was seen by me, as though I were born abnormally late. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ISV)

We must understand that Paul lived in Corinth for two years teaching the Old Testament. Paul taught the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of sin, the need for atonement, and the fulfillment of this need through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But in the modern western culture, Christians have an additional barrier to overcome. Western Culture has made Secular Humanism an established religion. A person born into a culture with no knowledge of God has to begin with Creation.

But a person born into the indoctrination system of secular humanism must first understand that they have been indoctrinated. So the person with no knowledge of God who does not have to unlearn indoctrination is easier to teach than the person who is indoctrinated.

It is possible that John wrote what we call the first epistle or 1 John as the last book of the New Testament, making it the last book written of the entire Bible. He faced a very similar problem in Ephesus after being released from Patmos. His answer was to affirm the validity of what they witnessed about Jesus.

What existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we observed and touched with our own hands—this is the Word of life! This life was revealed to us, and we have seen it and testify about it. 1 John 1:1,2 ISV

This is the definition of science. Heard, seen, observed, touched, and testify. There are standards for examining evidence. If the scientific evidence for Jesus is ignored and rejected, then history, any history, is impossible to understand. Nothing in all of ancient history is documented as well as the history of Jesus.

But our responsibility when presenting the Gospel is to faithfully present the Word of God to people who are willing to listen. God is responsible for the results.

In the presence of God and the Messiah Jesus, who is going to judge those who are living and those who are dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly appeal to you to proclaim the message. Be ready to do this whether or not the time is convenient. Refute, warn, and encourage with the utmost patience when you teach.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate healthy doctrine. But with itching ears will surround themselves with teachers who cater to their people’s desires. They will refuse to listen to the truth and will turn to myths. But you must be clear headed about everything. Endure suffering. Do the work of an evangelist. Devote yourself completely to your ministry.

I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The victor’s crown of righteousness is now waiting for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on the day that he comes, and not only to me but also to all who eagerly wait for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:1-8 ISV)

Image Credit: Codex Alexandrinus of the end of 2 Peter and Beginning of 1 John Public Domain photographer unknown Wikimedia Commons

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What Is The Gospel? Part Two: The Gospel According to Jesus

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Then Jesus returned to Galilee by the power of the Spirit. Meanwhile, the news about him spread throughout the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was continuously receiving praise from everyone. (Luke 4:14,15 ISV)

Soon after Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus returned to Galilee. Luke, written to Theophilus, a Greek, does not use the word gospel here. It only says that Jesus began to teach. Matthew and Mark record the same event with the word gospel.

Then he went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every illness among the people. (Matthew 4:23 ISV)

Now after John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee and proclaimed the gospel about the kingdom of God. He said, ‘The time is now! The kingdom of God is near! Repent, and keep believing the gospel!’” (Mark 1:14,15 ISV)

The first time Luke uses the word gospel is when Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1 in a synagogue.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;
he has anointed me to tell
the good news [gospel] to the poor.
He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set oppressed people free,
and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18,19 ISV)

The gospel Jesus proclaimed was not a new teaching. As Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, so the gospel Jesus proclaimed was the same message proclaimed from the foundation of the world. It is the good news of salvation. But to understand salvation, we must understand sin, our need for a savior, and God’s righteous requirements for atonement.

When Jesus walked about teaching in Israel, He taught the same message over and over again. But he taught people who knew what we call the Old Testament. Jesus taught the gospel continuously throughout his life. To large crowds he taught in parables because many people in his audience were unwilling to accept everything included in the gospel.
The gospel according to Jesus included the entire Old Testament. It was not a simple list which could be accepted or rejected after a ten minute presentation.

When Jesus returned after his resurrection, he continued to preach the gospel. But he spoke only to his disciples. Jesus found two disciples, and walked with them over 7 miles, teaching as they walked.

Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ISV)

When Jesus left them, these two disciples ran back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.

While they were all talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and told them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus told them, “What’s frightening you? And why are you doubting? Look at my hands and my feet, because it’s really me. Touch me and look at me, because a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. Even though they were still skeptical due to their joy and astonishment, Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. Then he told them, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the Low of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds so that they might understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:36-45)

The gospel of Jesus: everything written about me in the Low of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.

Image Credit “The Road to Emmaus” by Robert Zund St Gallen Museum of Art  Photographer joyfulheart upload by Adrian Michael Wikimedia Commons

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