Tag Archives: Jesus

Freedom Announced

Jesus wrote something once…on the ground. A woman caught in the act of adultery was surrounded by religious leaders who had conveniently left the male half of the sinful duo out of their ring of condemnation. The religious leaders wanted Jesus to approve of their attempt to punish this guilty woman.

And he wrote on the ground.

The snarling hypocrites pushed Jesus some more.

He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then Jesus–the Creator of the Universe–stooped down again and wrote on the ground he created.

His challenge was punctuated by the sound of rocks thudding back to the ground, and the slow scraping of people wandering away from the scene.

“Where are your accusers?”

The woman looked and they were gone. It was one on one time with the Logos–the Word made flesh–the One who could set her free from the power, shame, and guilt of her sins. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

No one knows what Jesus wrote that day. But I know what He did that day:  He showed a broken soul the way to freedom. When I write, no matter how dark the setting, I want to make sure I let a shaft of light shine upon the liberating path that can be found in Jesus Christ. I picture a reader who’s been knocked to the ground, broken by their sin, and in need of being set free…a prisoner chained by their own trespasses and gaveled guilty by the judge.

When we write, may we work hard to be sure that people know that the Lord Jesus Christ can to set us free from the law of sin and death. May we always find ways to proclaim that the Messiah of all mankind can bring release and set free the oppressed. And let us be unwavering in the announcement that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Can I get an Amen?

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“The Writing Table”

Not long ago, I imagined pulling up a chair at a writing-table that stretched out in both directions. It went so far I couldn’t see either end. I looked to my left and was awed by what I saw: all the stewards of story from the past were sitting at the table too. I saw C. S. Lewis, John Bunyan, Charles Sheldon, and many other fiction writers–some I recognized and some I didn’t.

No way I belonged there. I slid my chair back and started to rise to my feet, mumbling apologies.

A scraping sound caught my attention. I turned to my right and saw a man about twenty chairs down rising to his feet in front of the chair he just slid back from the table. Then, beyond him, another man stood. Then a child.

Suddenly everyone’s attention was drawn straight ahead. They went to their knees and bowed their heads. I looked, needing to see what had caused such a  reverent response. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Lord Jesus Christ approached the table. His kind eyes were set on me. I immediately dropped to my knees. My heart flooded with amazement. “Your Majesty!”

“Larry,” He said, “why are you leaving the table?”

He knows MY name! “I…I…I don’t deserve to sit at this table. I’m just a sinful man.” My heart pounded like a jack hammer.

Somehow, instantly, He was standing beside me. “Look at Me, My child,” the Lord said. Gentleness coated his words.

I lifted my face to see His smile beaming down at me.

“I must have misunderstood, Lord. I thought I was supposed to write for You. I thought…” My words trailed off. My mind swirled.

He reached His nail-scarred hand and brushed a tear from my cheek. “It’s okay, My friend. You don’t have to explain. I understand your heart.”

“But, King Jesus, You must be disappointed in me.”

“No, Larry.” He knelt beside me, then put His arm around my shoulder. “I’m not disappointed. I know you don’t feel like you deserve a place at this table. The only way I would have been unhappy was if you weren’t overwhelmed by this honor. Had you come to this table with pride and arrogance, My heart would have been broken.” He pulled me closer. “You are here by personal invitation from Me. Thank you for appreciating that.”

A river of relief poured from my eyes, tear by tear. I buried my face in His shoulder. Finally I regained my composure. “Thank You for inviting me here, Jesus.”

“Larry, to your left sits every person in the past that I have entrusted with the power of story. They have all finished the journey and have received their rewards. They wrote stories that helped many people draw closer to Me.” I felt him touch my chin. His gentle hand guided my face to look at him again. “People like you, Larry.”

He was right. To my left were people whose books had changed my life and deepened my understanding of truth. They had written stories that had helped me see the many colors of light.

Jesus motioned to my right. “And these dear servants…” He paused, then laughed with the purest joy I’d ever heard. “These are the writers who will come after you. Some of them have not even been born on earth yet. They will continue creating stories that will touch lives…and break the evil one’s chains.”

I looked down the row. “Master? Before You came, I saw a few of them standing…after I stood, that is.” I looked back at Him.

He nodded. His smile faded. “Yes. They are the ones who will be influenced by what you write. In fact, one of them will come to know Me…if you stay at the table. But if you decide to turn down My invitation to share in the power of creating stories that touch souls, they will not hear My invitation or feel My Spirit calling them to the table.”

He took my hands in His and stood, pulling me to my feet.

“Thank you for trusting me, Jesus.”

He grinned. “No one at this table deserves to be here by their own goodness. Each has been–or will be–called by grace.” He nodded toward my chair. “Now, will you sit at My table and write for Me?”

“Yes, My Lord and Savior. I will. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.”

He held the back of my chair as I sat back down.

What’s it like for YOU to have a seat at the writer’s table? How does it make you feel?

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The Baby King (part 2 of 2)

Six months later

“I’m sorry, Mary, but it’s true.” Joseph frowned. “I have to go to Bethlehem.” A fresh wave of disgust for the Romans roiled his stomach. “I have no choice.”

“We have no choice,” Mary said.

Joseph reached across the small wooden table until the tips of his fingers touched Mary’s hand. Their eyes met. “It’s such a long journey, Mary. And the nights will be cold…especially if we don’t find good shelter along the way.”

Mary brushed a strand of black hair from her forehead. “But we will be safe.”

“And together,” Joseph said. He’d hoped that Mary would want to go, but would have kept that wish to himself had she decided to stay in Nazareth with her parents. But she would be coming with him. As he gazed at his beloved, he wondered if his grin was as wide as hers.

Four days later, as dusk signaled the end of another wearisome day of dusty trails and wind-swept wilderness, Joseph turned and looked again at Mary. The donkey on which Mary rode plodded along, swaying her back and forth. She smiled at Joseph, her hand gently rubbing her large belly. She has to be exhausted and sore, Joseph thought. Yet there was a glow on her face, as though her soul was ablaze with the glory of the Messiah that lay in the sanctuary of her womb. “We’re almost there. I’ll find you a place to sleep soon,” Joseph said.

But when he guided the donkey into Bethlehem, his heart sank. The streets teemed with pilgrims, the city bloated beyond anything he’d imagined.

“Where will we stay, Joseph?” Mary’s voice barely able to rise above the racket coming assaulting Joseph’s ears from every direction.

Without taking his eyes of the shifting sea of humanity flooding the narrow marketplace directly on front of them, Joseph swallowed hard. “I will find a place. I promise.” He stepped back and patted Mary’s arm, his eyes still taking in the chaos surrounding them.

“I hope so. I think the baby is coming soon.”

Several hours later, Joseph sat on the dirt floor and stared at the miracle cradled in the crook of his arm. Light, from a small fire, danced across the perfect face of the waking baby. Joseph gently stroked the small cheeks, then caressed the tiny hand that wiggled free from under the strips of cloth. Joseph placed his forefinger across the boy’s soft palm, feeling a rush of astonishment when the tiny hand grasped his finger.

The Messiah was holding his hand.

Joseph walked over to the feeding trough, carefully laid Jesus on the straw bedding. Then he sat down next to Mary and watched her as she slept. Her lips moved slightly, and Joseph leaned over in time to hear her whisper, “Jesus.” He smiled as he remembered the look that had filled her eyes only moments earlier when excited shepherds had spoken about the angel’s message. A heavenly declaration that had sent the shepherds in search of a newborn baby–“a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Joseph glanced from mother to baby, and wondered what the future held for each of them. The report from the shepherds had sent his mind racing down paths that held more questions than answers. And now, in the stillness of the Bethlehem night, Joseph pondered how this baby would save His people from their sins.

Then, from across the manger, he heard the bleating of a newborn lamb.

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Friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas. As we look at our nativity scenes, may we never forget that Jesus was born…to die. The Lamb of God came to give Himself as the perfect sacrifice for you and me. Thank God for His wonderful gift.

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The Baby King (part 1)

Joseph collapsed inside, no longer seeing a future that included Mary. Her words stung his thoughts. Joseph, I’m going to have a baby. And Joseph knew that it wasn’t his. It was as though his heart had been pierced by a sword. Moreover, a sword held by the one he had loved more than life itself.

He swiped at the tears on his cheek. His choices were as obvious as the bulge under Mary’s clothing. Promises, hearts, and the laws of God…all broken. Joseph’s stomach churned. He couldn’t stand the thought of making their disgrace a public spectacle. And how could he allow the other men to end Mary’s life by stoning? Even though the law allowed such a gruesome result for her actions, Joseph would not let her and…her baby…to die that way.

“I will send her away privately,” he whispered. Divorce her. Let her run away. Defiled but alive.

A few minutes later Joseph stumbled into his house, and then collapsed on his bed. Sleep came suddenly.

And so did the angel.

Moments later Joseph’s slammed his eyes open, and searched the silent darkness. He jumped to his feet, his mind replaying the angel’s message as he charged out the door. By the time he reached the home of Mary’s parents sweat was streaming down his forehead. He stopped in the courtyard, trying to catch his breath. But the sight of Mary standing in the doorway stole it away again.

He hurried to her, and squeezed her hands in his. “Mary,” he said, gazing into her warm brown eyes, “an angel came to me in a dream. He told me we would have–”

“A son,” Mary whispered, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes.

They laughed. Joseph nodded his head.

Mary closed her eyes. “And we are to name him–”

“Jesus!” Joseph smiled.

Mary’s eyes widened. They both spoke at the same time, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

 

***Part two of the story will be posted on Monday (Christmas Eve).

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“The Best Is Yet To Come”

A little girl climbed onto her great-grandmother’s lap. She looked at the old woman’s snowy white hair, then at the many wrinkles that lined her face. “Great-Grandma, did God make you?”

“Yes,” the old saint replied.

“Did God make me too?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Well,” said the little girl, “don’t you think He’s doing a better job now than He used to?”

I chuckle at that story, knowing that the little girl hadn’t yet learned that these physical bodies of ours are temporary, and are unable to hide the signs of wear and tear that come with age. She would eventually come to understand that her great-grandma didn’t start off old. It wouldn’t take long to discover that it was time that had carved those wrinkles and had taken the color from her great-grandma’s hair.

As a writer, I know that I only have a limited amount of time to write. And my readers are dealing with the same dilemma. I pray that the stories I write will draw them closer to the God that loves them. If I can urge someone to journey on with renewed strength toward heaven, then I’ve used my time wisely. If I write books that stir readers to a renewed commitment to the Lord, then it’s been time well spent. More than anything in this world–whether in preaching, teaching, or writing–I want to communicate that a God of love and mercy is knowable here, and invites us all into His hereafter.

No one will stumble into heaven accidentally.

That makes the call to write an important task. Time is limited to help point people in the right direction.

Can Christian fiction carry out this task?

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He Endured

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself…

Those words were written by the author of Hebrews–chapter 12, verse three. Who is the “Him” and exactly what “hostility” did he endure?

Verse two answers both questions:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The word translated “endured” means “to abide under or to bear up very courageously under suffering.” The words have an “above and beyond” texture. It emphasizes that the suffering was great, but Christ’s endurance was greater. He exceedingly outlasted the suffering.

It means that His fatal suffering on the old rugged cross was not the tragic ending of a brave man, but the gracious unfolding of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t end up on those rough wooden beams by accident. This isn’t the inspirational story of an unfortunate martyr. Jesus didn’t just go through the cross, He went to the cross.

Verse two reveals that He did it “for the joy set before Him.” He joyfully super-endured in order to die for our sins.

Keeping that fact clear in my mind helps me carry on as a writer. Our Saviour endured torture and death for us, and I pray that my stories will point people to that truth. It’s just one way that I can serve the One Who loves me with an unquenchable love.

Carry on, fellow writers, for our Lord has endured–and defeated–death and darkness.

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Platform–vs–Priorities

PLATFORM…it’s a buzzword that gets attention. Depending on the person using it, it can mean having a blog, a Facebook page (or two: a personal page and a fan page), learning to tweet regularly, and a host of other “look-at-me” possibilities. As a writer trying to get noticed so that people will read what I write, all these things seem to be part of the process.

But I’m noticing that building a platform can become one of the biggest “time-suckers” and can leave me with little energy to do anything else.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m on this journey with stubborn commitment  I WILL do what is required/expected to stay teachable and focused. I will listen to those who’ve been there and done that. I’m not smarter or more called than those who have gone before me. I have great respect for Christian fiction writers who not only have worked to reach levels of success, but who remain there. It’s not easy!

But in our pursuit to build a platform, may we not forget our number one priority: to follow Jesus in total submission by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Lets not substitute our platforms for our foundation. Building a platform is great if it’s built on the Rock.

How do YOU keep your priorities straight?

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Hello, I’m a Christian Writer.

I wonder…when I tell someone I’m a Christian Writer, is either of those descriptions hard for them to believe.

While being a writer may not be as obvious as being a Christian, both should be believable. The person I’m talking with shouldn’t have to stand there with a “no, seriously” grin. My relationship with Christ is what makes me a Christian, and my responsibility to Christ is what makes me a writer. I can prove I’m a writer by showing people my writing. I can show I’m a Christian by letting people see my life. But neither being a Christian, nor being a writer can only be something I talk about…I must “walk the walk.” There are lots of people who claim to be Christians and writers, but who aren’t willing to pay the price to live the life required by such claims. And there are plenty of people willing and able to critique both claims.

To be a Christian I must believe in and submissively follow Jesus Christ. To be a writer, I must write. There are no shortcuts or substitutions. And, in a sense, both following Christ and writing for Christ are daily. Am I that devoted to the cause? Are you?

 

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