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

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.

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.