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Writing, Service, and Witness

Biblical witness is relational and demonstrable. John’s gospel (1:6 -7) states that John the Baptist was “sent from God . . . to bear witness of the Light [Jesus], that all through him might believe.” Verses 14-18 name Jesus Christ the primary witness [the “Word became flesh”] who “declared” God, bringing access to “grace and truth.”

In Luke chapter 15, witness leads to searching, pursuit, sacrifice, and salvation. Service is a key component of this witness. The one that is lost becomes a higher priority than the 99.

Relentless love requires exertion. For example, an adult sheep weighs 110 to 120 pounds. The shepherd whose one sheep goes astray is not carrying a small lamb on his shoulders. Romans 5:8 (“while we were yet sinners”) similarly shows the difficulty of serving sacrificially: our status before salvation (enemies of God) required crucifixion. However, anguish changes to rejoicing when the one is saved and enters the family of God as an adopted child (in Luke 15, the son, having renounced his family connection, returns in the role of a suitor seeking acceptance in the role of a servant). The Father, celebrating and giving gifts, continues to serve the once-errant child.

Servant witness is other-directed. David’s claim in Psalm 40:9-10 (NKJV) demonstrates service as effort that can be witnessed by others: “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness/In the great assembly. Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,/O Lord, You Yourself know./I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;/I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;/I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth/From the great assembly.” Proclaiming God’s goodness can be a joyous act, yet in this psalm David is emerging from difficult and painful times when he “waited patiently,” in a “horrible pit . . . miry clay . . .” Instead of quiet, restorative meditation, his service here requires public action, not in a small, intimate gathering but the greater community – perhaps including some who had not supported him in preceding trials (v. 13-14). It may also include public confession of sin, to which he alludes in v. 6 and 11-12.

I John 2:12-14 conveys the relational and generational nature of servant witness in familial terms. Notice the call to all ages – “little children,”  “fathers,” “young men,” “children,” “fathers (i.e., parents), and “young men” (i.e., young adults). Moreover, John explicitly connects these reminders to his role as a writer. “I write to you . . . ,” “I wrote to you, . . . ,“ “I have written to you . . . .” Changing tenses show the constant nature of his writing service to the believing community.

Some of us exercise these functions in blog or social media posts, in Sunday School lessons, devotionals, Bible stories, or articles. Do we also continually encourage, instruct, remind, and exhort in fictional stories? In plays or screenplays? In sidebars or nonfiction pieces about plants, animals, technology or history? Without explicit preaching or teaching in every work, does our writing serve (bear witness) through truthful, thought-provoking and memorable content?-

Witness leads to forgiveness, restoration, strengthening; it reunites divided minds, friendships, families, communities. God Himself bears witness through His Word, works, and Spirit – and believers participate in the witness of service as we seek to be like Him. He models the writer’s servant witness of priority and purpose.

The lost one does not deserve to be found, but God deserves worship. Our obedience in seeking others after we have been found and restored becomes a means of giving Him glory. How often have you read a vivid, striking story that stops you in your tracks – – or profound, memorable words that resonate with your spirit’s need for comfort or insight?

May our writing in every genre bring this witness of service to readers.

Deborah S. DeCiantis

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 Debbie DeCiantis first connected with Write2Ignite Conference when she was called on to act as liaison between North Greenvile University and Write2Ignite in 2009. She accepted the role of acting director in 2016 and the role of director in 2017. Retired after more than 30 years of teaching on both college and K-12 levels, Debbie currently does freelance editing and critique writing. She enjoys living in the country and spending time with her husband, four adult children, six grandchildren, and too many dogs.

This and future discussions of biblical witness will be found in Author Resources.

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The Power of the Parable

Ryan Hendrick’s guest post introduces the Bible’s use of parable and its impact. He follows this discussion with his original example.

 

A parable intrigues me because its brevity often conceals its power until it blindsides its audience. In this sense, parable is as unexpected as the boy who slays a giant with a stone and the little girl who smiles up at you with all the sweetness in the world before taking your wallet. How does a small and seemingly innocuous story reach its end and open the heart to truth for some while further exposing the blindness of others?

We see this technique used par excellence in the Old Testament when Nathan chose parable to convict David of his wickedness with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). Merely telling David his sin would have caused him to raise the drawbridge, fill the moat, and bolster his walls. But story was the Trojan horse that could infiltrate David’s sinful defenses to cast light on his darkness and bring him back to the Lord. Veggie Tales adapted this story with rubber duckies thousands of years later, and the impact is still effective.

Anyone who has read the New Testament knows Jesus’ love for parables. He used them for whatever purpose he required in the moment: to encourage, equip, condemn, or inform. Parables were one of Christ’s favorite vehicles for conveying truth, demonstrating to rich and poor, healthy and sick, old and young, how potent a good story can be when it’s stuck in our heads.

Why Parables?

I enjoy writing in parable for several reasons.

First, Christ loved parables, so growing in this technique gives me a better understanding of my Savior, why he loved it, and how the Bible uses parables to communicate truth.

Second, my mind is wired for it. It’s how I make sense of the world, my joy and my pain. For years, I used to think of isolated scenes and wonder if I could place them in a movie or a novel someday. Now, I realize the scenes don’t need extended narrative if their power is in their conciseness. 

Third, parables are an intellectual sandbox for me. I can play with the use of dialogue in one, staccato sentence structure in another, heady prose in the next, and discover the image to use for that neat title that popped into my head.

Fourth, I don’t see many others writing them. Pastors use them in sermons on occasion (illustrations in “modern speak”), but the genre mostly remains untapped. The ones that inspired me were Kierkegaard’s “The King and the Maiden” and Dostoevsky’s chapter entitled “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov.

Finally, parables seem more relevant in the age of social media, where attention spans are decreasing and every story is the length of a parable. My hope is that people will have a greater chance of hearing and internalizing truth if the story is short enough and gripping enough to finish before they change the channel.

Letting Go of Mr. Happiness

“It’s time to let Mr. Happiness go, my love.”

The child’s trembling hands stroked the stuffed rabbit’s head. Her fingers traced well-worn contours, down one ear, then up the other. Old, discolored and ragged, the rabbit sagged in the refuge of her arms, comfortable and familiar.

“But why, Daddy?”

“Because I have something better for you.”

“I want to keep Mr. Happiness.”

“I know, my love. But if you don’t let go of Mr. Happiness I can’t give you the next thing.”

“Can I have it now?”

“Not yet, my love.”

“Why not?”

“Because your hands aren’t big enough to hold it yet.”

“But why can’t I keep Mr. Happiness?”

“Because your hands are too big to hold onto him any longer.”

To obey her father or to keep Mr. Happiness? She knew she couldn’t do both. Wells of sadness formed as the war for her heart battled in her eyes. She gazed lovingly at her old companion.

“Do you trust me, my love?”

Slowly she extended her arms, her eyes fixed on Mr. Happiness. Her father reached, and for a moment it seemed she would seize the rabbit back to her chest and run. But her brave arms held their resolve. As he gently pulled Mr. Happiness from her hands, she let go and wept. And her father wept with her.

Copyright Ryan Hendrick March 8, 2019

Ryan is the 5thand 6thGrade Pastor at Brookwood Church. He’s written curriculum, dramas, workbooks and, of course, sermons in his time there. Recently he’s started writing parables in his free time. When he isn’t writing, he’s laughing, drinking coffee or running the occasional Spartan Race.