“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words’ ” (Exodus 34:27).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WRITING ON THE RUN

From Psalm 57:1-11

On the run from an angry king, David and his men retreated to the hills west of the Dead Sea. There, in the coolness of a cave near the desert springs of Engedi, they rested, only to find an army gathering below. Foregoing another chance to terminate his enemy, David fled. And after this narrow escape from a powerful foe, David took out his pen and parchment to write: “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 57:1 NIV).

David wrote of man’s cruelty, the Lord’s compassion, and his unshakeable faith in the midst of violent threats. How could he pick up his pen and write on the run with trouble dogging his heels? David, however, might ask how he could keep from it. For this was his pattern.

When Cush and Doeg betrayed David’s location to his enemies, David responded by writing (Psalms 7 and 52). When the people of Ziph told Saul that David was hiding among them, David wrote Psalm 54. When David’s son Absalom tried to steal his father’s throne, when the Philistines captured David in Gath, and when Saul’s henchmen surrounded David’s house, he fled to safety then took out his pen to write (Psalms 3, 56, and 59).

In view of his turmoil, we’d understand if the poet David claimed he was “too busy to write.” For David, however, the chaos of life did not drive him away from his pen. It drove him to it.

See also Psalm 46:10 and John 14:27.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

THE OFTEN PAINFUL CALLING


From Hebrews 12:1

When it came to obeying God’s call, many Old Testament prophets were resistant to say the least. From insecurity to outright disobedience, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Jonah all had their issues. But after their initial reluctance they accepted their calling, and the world is better for it.

The book of Hebrews tells us to toss aside our hindrances and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1), and for many of us, that race includes a divine call to write. The path will not be easy, however, and it is often shadowed with pain.

After losing his son to illness, his fortune to fire, and his daughters to the ocean waves, Horatio Spafford wrote his powerfully enduring hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” After losing her husband to shocking violence on the Ecuadorean mission field, Elisabeth Elliot grabbed the church and the world by the heart with her book, Through Gates of Splendor. And CS Lewis’ personal collision of faith and suffering moved him to write A Grief Observed, comforting countless other grief-stricken hearts.


The call to write comes in many shapes, and some of the most impactful and heartbreakingly beautiful Christian writing has been born from tragedy, but thank God for those who have obeyed the call to write. The church and the world are richer for it.

Whatever our sufferings, setbacks, or insecurities, they need not hinder us, but rather may empower us all the more to obey God’s call to write.

For further reading: Jeremiah 1:4-9.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

WE CARRY THE NEWNESS WITHIN

 From 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This was the year her book would be completed, and another outlined. She shared her plans with friends, prayed for commitment, wrote goals for the new year, taping them above her desk. It wasn’t the first day of laxity that did her in, nor the second, but after several straight nights of her head hitting the pillow with not one word added, not one line edited, her new year resolutions seemed but cruel fantasies. She began doubting she would ever finish.

There is nothing wrong with making goals for a new year. We renew our commitment in our critique groups, and writers conferences and retreats, then get angry with ourselves and the wasted opportunities that newness brings. But as Christian writers we needn’t wait for a new year or new week to start over. Our newness does not come from any date on the calendar. We carry our newness within, for “inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16 NIV).

We do not focus on temporary setbacks, but fix our eyes solidly upon the unseen realities before us, for they are far more real. Everyday we forget what is behind us to press on toward the future. We do not wallow in guilt, nor depend upon a date for renewal, for we carry the newness within, where God has placed a new heart and new spirit (Ezek 36:26), with the freshness to move beyond regret and into strength for the challenges of every new day.

Real also: Philippians 3:12-14 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Friday, April 28, 2017

LUKE’S HOMEWORK

From Luke 1:1-5 

We know when Jesus burst into history. It was shortly after Quirinius was appointed Governor over Syria, during the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. And we know where he was born, and to which family. Mary gave birth in Bethlehem, having traveled there with her husband Joseph from Nazareth, the son of Heli of the tribe of Judah (Luke 2:1-5; 3:23ff).

We know that John the Baptist began preaching “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” when Pilate governed Judea, and Herod, Philip, and Lysanias ruled from Galilee to Syria (Luke 3:1-2). We know all this and more because Luke “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” in order to “write an orderly account” (Luke 1:1-3).

Luke did his homework.  He conducted interviews, verified facts with eyewitnesses of Jesus’ work and teachings. He traveled with church leaders, witnessing firsthand how Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the empire, carefully writing down verifiable names, dates, places, and events so his readers could be confident that what he wrote was true.

Because of his hard work and attention to detail, Luke had what every author wants and needs – credibility. And if we wish to be taken seriously, we also will be diligent. Whatever our genre, we must earn credibility with our readers. Our work must have that unmistakable ring of truth. As Christians, we write words that readers can count on. As we’re led by the Spirit, we will also earnestly do our homework to share words of authenticity, legitimacy, and integrity.

Read also 1 Timothy 3:7-11 and Titus 2:6-8.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

FESTUS’ WRITER’S BLOCK

From Acts 25:23-27

Festus, Governor of Judea, suffered from writer's block. He paced the palace porticoes, wondering what to write. Paul, the religious radical, was imprisoned, awaiting a transfer to Rome, and was a thorn in Festus’ side. To justify Paul's imprisonment, Festus had to write something down, any plausible accusation to justify Rome’s involvement and keep the troublemaker behind bars. But the words never came.

He invited King Herod to hear Paul’s babblings and suggest any viable allegations against him. Herod, however, had no ideas. If only such writer’s block prevailed today.

An unkind story may be just the anecdote to grab our readers or illustrate a valid point. But at what cost? A writer I know cast someone in a bad light. She didn’t name the person, and the story was ideal to illustrate a point, but an acquaintance recognized herself in the article, and a longtime friendship instantly soured.

Maybe you have an opportunity to use an uncomfortable experience with someone in your story. Think first. Is it worth it? Might it damage a friendship, cause a rift in the family, or heap needless criticism on others? There are ways to convey a point without a poison pen.

Festus’ difficulty in writing charges against Paul was a sign that it shouldn’t be done. Magazine racks are filled with gossip, and anger and criticism flood the internet and editorial pages. But if we’re tempted to add to it all, perhaps that is the time to sense a divinely given writer’s block.

Read also Ephesians 4:29.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

THE DAYS TO COME

From Isaiah 30:1–11

The Assyrian Empire was breathing down the neck of Judah. With the recent devastation of Israel to the north, King Hezekiah sent treasure-bearing emissaries to Egypt to purchase their allegiance against Assyria’s terror. But this deal would mean compromise of Israel’s spirit and loyalty.

The prophet Isaiah shouted in the streets. The road to Egypt would be peppered with deadly beasts, he said. Poisonous snakes and voracious lions awaited those bent on breaking faith with God. Even if they succeeded in such an alliance, it would be an act of futility. For if the Assyrian armies were God’s instruments of judgment, nothing would stop them.

Isaiah cried warning to all who would hear, but his spoken words were not enough. God demanded that he “write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll,” so a rebellious people would not ignore the impact of these actions.

Dystopian visions of devastation upon corrupt and violent nations are currently popular literature, but certainly not new. There is a place for written words of caution. There is a God-ordained role for words that warn of consequences of violence, greed, and lawlessness. Write them imaginatively and eloquently so others may know that a lawless life and corrupt culture bring consequences as imminent as nightfall. Write your concerns in poem or memoir, letters or song, but write to be God’s voice of warning, telling others that choices have consequences and our future depends upon the paths we take today.

Read also Jeremiah 51:59–64.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MORE COULD BE SAID, BUT...

From John 20:30–31

Every literary work has its purpose, and John is perfectly clear about his. He writes to bolster faith. John’s gospel is about believing in Jesus, about receiving the life—both joyous and endless—that comes only by trusting in Him. This is no small task for anyone, even a writer handpicked by the living Christ, even a writer whose fingers move by the Spirit of the living God. 

With eternity itself at stake, we might easily assume that the more words the better. When we’re passionate for our purpose, desperate to convince others of paramount issues, the words can flow freely, profusely, and voluminously—perhaps to the detriment of our cause. Overwhelming others with our words, we may even rouse a response opposite of the one we desire. 

With his words, John elegantly paints the wonders of Christ—changing water to wine, weakness to strength, sickness to health, death to life, darkness to light, and scarcity to amazing abundance. And there is even more that could have been written—far more, indeed—but John says the words he has written are enough for faith, enough for those who would believe. 

Editors tell us to trim and tighten, whittle down to essentials clear enough to convey a good story well-told. John, however, offers a divine reason for conciseness. When it comes to encouraging faith, voluminous words and stories aren’t needed. The right words, however, the well-chosen, prayerfully and carefully considered narratives—these will nurture the faith that brings life. 

For further reading: Ecclesiastes 12:9–10