Worship to Write

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Most writing, if not all writing, points to something. A writer works to communicate information, to tell a story, to convey an emotion, or to evoke a response. And while some words stand out as magnificent or beautiful in and of themselves, words possess meanings and point beyond the symbols on a page to ideas, to reality, to truth. Even grammar, the dread of many, serves that end, enhancing and clarifying a writer’s work. Writing, then, acts as an arrow that points beyond itself to something else. We who write don’t want our readers to stop at the wording or formatting on the page; we want them to be led onward to something further up and further in, as Lewis might say.

Christians who write face a challenge, however. The great subject of our writing, even with the reality of his revelation in view, remains ultimately ineffable. His mighty acts in creation are as outskirts and whispers of his power (Job 26:14), and his thoughts and ways are far higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our greatest efforts at description fall far short of the fullness of his beauty and holiness and love. We can speak truthfully about God, yet we can never exhaust the words that could be written of him. Scripture thus aptly speaks of the fear of the LORD, the natural response to a proper view of God in his glory. And while God has revealed himself perfectly in Christ, he invites us into an inexhaustible pursuit of knowing him better. God is higher, greater, holier, more lovely, more beautiful, and more glorious than the heights of our understanding can perceive or describe.

Writing, then, becomes an act of worship, done for the glory of God in the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). We who know God in Christ have tasted and seen the goodness of the LORD and have been changed. We are new creations, ambassadors pursuing the reconciliation of sinners and the Savior (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We are living sacrifices seeking deeper intimacy with the LORD. And while we may never be able to fully capture the beauty or the glory of God with our writing, we nevertheless point to God with our words, working in such a way that whether we produce poetry or prose, fantasy or nonfiction, our writing reflects life in the LORD and invites readers to look to him. We point to him who is beyond us and yet with us, for he offers life and love and peace for needy souls.

True, our writing may fall short of this goal. We can speak coldly of the all-consuming fire, waxing eloquent about his ways or arguing passionately for right doctrine without love for the Word we’re describing. We can articulate the ways he is transcendent and immanent without considering the implications of those truths for our lives. We can write about him in ways that draw more attention to ourselves than to him. And we can assume mastery of theology, presumptuously writing of God as if we have him fully understood. In short, we can write arrogantly rather than humbly, forgetting our place and forgetting our fear.

While I struggle to live this out, I want every aspect of the writing process to be an act of worship. I want to strive for excellence in my writing because I work as unto the Lord. I want to testify to Christ in my writing because he is the way, the truth, and the life we all desperately need. I want to be attentive to the Spirit in my writing because he knows my heart as well as the hearts of my readers best. I want to glorify the Father in my writing because he is worthy of all I have to offer. Above all, I want to be faithful to the LORD in my writing, pointing to him with every word and mark on the page.


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

In Spirit and Truth

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:23-24

In spirit and truth.

In response to a question about places of worship, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman of a coming shift in perspective. Soon (indeed, sooner than many of the day realized), true worship would no longer be identified with a specific location, neither at Jerusalem (where the Jews worshiped) nor Mount Gerizim (where the Samaritans worshiped). True worshipers would worship in spirit and truth.

But what does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

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A Theology of Blessings

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How do you feel when you see others receiving blessings you feel have been denied you? What do you do when your faithfulness to the Lord is met not with granted requests but with frustrated plans and deferred hopes? Do you patiently wait upon the Lord and trust his love for you, or do you grow bitter? Do you rejoice with those who are rejoicing, or do you resent those who possess what you desire?

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The Pharaoh

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In water did this story start,
In water did it end;
And water now reminds my heart
Of all the ways I sinned.

My brother-enemy arrived,
A gift born from the Nile.
Where others perished, he survived,
Vital’ty from the vile.
He learned our ways but kept his kin
Within his heart and will.
Seeing “injustice” ‘mongst his men,
He chose to act, to kill.
In fear he fled (I knew not where).
I thought him lost for good.
Then he returned with greying hair
And with a staff of wood.
“Freedom to worship” was his cry,
Presumpt’ous his request.
“Increase the work” was my reply,
And put his god to test.
Then came the signs, small at the first,
Then day by day they grew.
From blood to dark to death, the worst
Came to my home. I knew
My gods had each been overruled,
Their promises proved wrong.
I knew in them we had been fooled
When mourning was our song.
So I relented and released
The captives to the wild.
The land had rest. The plagues then ceased.
My reign had been defiled.
And so I brooded, plotted, chose
To turn around my loss,
And with a burning vengeance, rose
To catch before their cross.
And there I found them, easy prey,
Defenseless ‘gainst my might,
And I beheld his god that day
Work wonders in my sight.
Now all is lost. Now I depart.
My wisdom I rescind.
In water did his story start.
In water did mine end.


Photo by Ali Hegazy on Unsplash

Thanks to Dustin Hadley for the suggestion for today’s poem.

Commonplace

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God of burning bushes, smoking mountains,
Clouds and flaming pillars in the distance,
God who spoke the earth into existence,
Calling from dry rocks fresh, flowing fountains,
Are you just as present in the present,
In the average and ordinary?
Does your presence with us ever vary
If our days are boring or unpleasant?
For, it seems, our lives are unexciting,
Work and worship in a world of faces–
Seems so commonplace, these common places.
Is it true, O God, you are inviting
Those with ears to hear to live in wonder?
In our silence, might we hear your thunder?


Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Prayer for Humility

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Let them know me not for my mind
Or my manners. Keep from them all
Tendency to love my name (kind
Flattery). Their praise is my fall,
For I know my heart enough to
Predict its vain response. They call
For me, and I shamefully do
All that I can to earn their awe.
I must decrease. I must decrease,
For I, though only briefly, saw
Your glory. Arrogance must cease,
For you alone warrant all fear
And worship. You who dwell above
Creation yet art ever near,
You meet us with your perfect love.
I am undone. Let me then be
A humble vessel. Let my boast
Be only of your grace to me.
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
This clay can claim no title. You
Alone are worthy. Let all eyes
That look on me always see through
And your great glory recognize.
Be evident in all I do.


Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Perspective

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

Know your place.

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