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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

WRITING UPON THE HEART

(From Jeremiah 31:33)

Jeremiah warned God's people against idolatry, military alliances, and religious pride, but his warnings fell upon deaf ears. He became the "weeping prophet" for both the tragedies he witnessed and those he prophesied. So when Jeremiah speaks good news, it stands out from his ominous admonitions.

In chapters 30-33, the prophet encouraged the captive Jews forced to live among their pagan oppressors. He prophesied restoration of both home and heart, as well as a return to Jerusalem and to relationship with the Lord. God would ensure this by writing His law upon their hearts: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV). As the divine writer, the Lord knows  He must touch the heart.

It isn't enough to change our surroundings or memorize laws. The pen of the Spirit etches upon our hearts the very desire of God, changing our nature, shaping our character. Stone and clay tablets crumble, paper and parchment burn away, but the tablet of the heart remains within.

Our words may intrigue, entertain, or educate, but if they do not engage readers' emotions and etch words upon the heart, they will never have lasting impact. For change to occur, our words must touch the heart.

Let our words be sincere, powerful, vivid and alive. May they reach from the page and grab the hearts of readers, drawing them higher, pulling them closer to the One who loves them most.

(Read also: Hebrews 10:19-22)

HIS UNLIMITED LITERARY GENIUS

(from Romans 15:4-6) 

One of the many marvels of the Bible is that it is not just a book, but a vast library bound into one beautiful volume. If books of the Bible were published separately, they could be comfortably shelved not only with religion, but alongside works of history, biography, romance, songs and poems, law and leadership. Countless books based upon Scripture take their place in nearly every section of the bookstore, and God uses this wealth of literary styles for our instruction. As Paul said, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us” (Romans 15:4 NIV).

We clearly see how God uses commands for moral instruction, and His parables to show us how to live by drawing us into divinely imaginative stories, while His collections of wisdom sayings are a wealth of inspired lessons for life. But Paul looked at the entirety of the Old Testament and said “everything that was written” instructs us. Not only commands, wisdom, and parables, but also songs and poetry.

The ancient biographies and epic histories of families and nations are used of God to teach His people. So also the romance of the Song of Songs and the saga of Abraham and Sarah. From otherworldly visions of celestial realms to detailed directions for building a temple, even letters scrawled in foreign prisons, God uses all these genres and more to teach.

As children of the Creator, God’s writers have countless divine examples of creativity to share crucial lessons for life.

See also Ephesians 4:11-12 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A RECORD OF RESTORATION

From 2 Chronicles 24:27

Among the sad stories of Judah's spiritual defection, an unnamed scribe wrote a "record of the restoration" in 2 Chronicles 24.

When young Joash became Judah's king, Israel had bowed to idols for a century, and Judah fared little better. Even King Solomon acquiesced to pagan neighbors, allowing idolatrous shrines throughout the kingdom. Such was the bleak history of God's people, following deities of wood and stone, prompting God's lament that "the people of Israel and the people of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me" (Jeremiah 5:11 NIV). I can imagine how it felt for godly priests and scribes as they recorded the parade of national failures and wicked monarchs, knowing something more beautiful was available.

However, when young Joash was crowned, he and the priest Jehoiada brought spiritual revival (2 Chronicles 23:16-18). Idols were torn down, God's law lifted high, and the aging and abused Temple was restored to its former glory. Sadly, even Joash later followed his predecessors, his spirit hardening against the Lord. But in the early days of his rule, sandwiched between years of religious disloyalty, God's scribes record a refreshing time of devotion, showing us that even during lengthy seasons of spiritual despondency, God's people can yet turn their hearts and revive their spirits.

Amid the darkness of daily life, God's scribes are still called to record glimmers of glory. Facing down daily struggles, we need reason to hope, we need assurance that God can yet burst into our lives and refresh our spirits.

Read also Ezekiel 11:17-20

Monday, July 3, 2017

WORDS THAT HAVE TO BE WRITTEN

From Jude 3

We're eager to share good news with others, but there is a difference between eagerness and necessity. Jude reveals this when he says, "although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith" (Jude 3 NIV). Jude set aside the words he wanted to write for the words he had to write--words born of passion. 

Heartbreaking news had come of startling behavior among people who claimed to be Christians. With immorality running rampant among believers, Jude was compelled to craft a warning of the consequences of their flawed faith. Passion moved his pen across the page with inspired images to rouse a sleeping church. He portrays self-serving teachers as barren trees, waterless clouds, and stars that stray into darkness (Jude 12-13). Alarmed at their moral apathy, Jude was compelled to write.

One of the short story anthologies I own has an informative introduction that explains their selection process. The editors considered thousands of well-written stories, competently crafted, having everything they wanted in a story except the need to be written. Despite their artful prose, the world could easily go on without them.

Not everything we write comes from passionate purpose; shopping lists and memos will never inspire. But there are words our world expects us to write; then there are words that demand to be written. These are the words that flow unhindered--born of passion, driven by necessity, stories that have to be told.

Read also: Jeremiah 20:8-9

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.