Tag s | Theology

God Gave Me This Blog Post

God gave me this blog post.

By invoking divine inspiration, I have guaranteed that you will read this post and possibly give me money to read more.

Sound like a stretch? Then what if I just wrote or said:

“God spoke to me.”
“I was led to write this.”
“God revealed this to me.”
“I have been called to write this.”
“I believe this is an inspired post.”

In the Christian publishing industry, editors, publishers, and literary agents hear these phrases all time. (And I suspect they are heard in the aisles and parking lots of churches every week.) I’ve heard them on the phone, in person, and in writing … in varying degrees. Everything from “If you don’t accept this book idea you are not a Christian because God gave it to me” to “The Lord has laid this on my heart.” Obviously, the first is outrageous; but what is wrong with the other one?

Often a writer will approach me at a writers conference, lean in, and say in whispered tones, “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I truly believe that God gave me this story.” I know what they mean. They are trying to express their passion for their work and their sincere belief that it is life changing. I do not doubt their earnestness or their truthfulness. But it can be a problematic thing to say, especially when prefaced with “I know I’m not supposed to say this.”

Granted, some of this comes out of an author’s nervousness when pitching to an agent or editor. Many told me later they didn’t remember a single thing they said during those few minutes. But still, it is important to guard your tongue.

The Bible is very clear that God speaks to us via His Spirit, sometimes through other people in writing, speaking, singing, or actions. We are admonished, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5: 19-20). But note in the next verse (v. 21) the apostle Paul wrote, “Test everything.” The apostle John wrote further, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). 

But to invoke divine inspiration in a pitch session with an editor or agent can be seen as an attempt to force acceptance. In other words, if I say no to the project, then I’m guilty of impeding the work of God Himself. 

I have had authors tell me, point-blank, that God told them I should be their agent. Bold? How do you think that sounds from my perspective?

Therefore, the next time, before casually or intentionally using this type of language:

  1. Consider your motive. What is being accomplished by invoking divine inspiration? A legitimacy that was somehow missing before the statement crossed the lips? An expression of passion and sincerity? Is the phrase being used as manipulation?
  2. Consider your audience. The publishing professional being addressed has already made the assumption that God is inspiring a lot of people a lot of the time. That is intrinsic to the artistic process. We assume that you are passionate about your work or that you feel it is inspired in some way; otherwise you would not be showing it to anyone. An honest, sincere, devout person may have been inspired to write something. That is normal.

    (By the way, I’ve yet to have someone invoke the alternate form of inspiration (“the devil gave this to me”)!)

    A few of the more sarcastic among us may be tempted to respond, “God told you but forgot to tell me” or “Really? God did that? Please sign this dotted line so we can get busy with publishing it!” You see how silly and mocking this can get?

  3. Consider your source. Annie Dillard wrote, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?” (Teaching a Stone to Talk, page 40). Are you really speaking for God? Are your words supplanting God’s? Or adding to them? That is a danger of invoking God’s name in order to validate one’s material. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God … so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).

So before anyone takes offense, I’m not trying to “quench the Spirit.” Instead, I’m encouraging a bit of caution when talking this way among publishing professionals. 

Would you be surprised to know that I heard this in 1992 at the very first writers conference I attended as an editor? I was a newbie faculty member. I’d been in the industry as a bookseller, but had never been at this type of conference or knew what a one-on-one pitch session was all about. That first day, a person sat across from me and with glistening eyes and a shaking voice declared, “God gave me this.” It didn’t feel right back then either.

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Gray Saturday

I wrote this many years ago and read it every Easter weekend as a reminder. May it speak to you in some small way.

Gray Saturday
by Steve Laube

Holy weekend is such a study in contrasts.

Friday is dark. Somber. Frightening in its hopelessness and pain.
I do not like Dark Fridays.
The nails bury themselves deep into my soul.
They become a singular stake through the heart of this sinner.
Piercing. Rending. Bloody.
Vanquishing this creature of the night who dares to follow his own way.
Christ’s death becomes mine.
The death I deserve.

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Dark Friday

I wrote this piece a few years ago and thought it appropriate to post every year on Dark Friday.

Take Me, Break Me
(a prayer)
by Steve Laube

Take my eyes Lord.

Strike me blind.

* * *

Then heal me Lord
That I may see with Your eyes.

 

Take my hands Lord.
Crush every bone.

* * *

Then heal me Lord
That I may touch with Your tenderness.

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How Are You Reading?

by Steve Laube

I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually I get enough to eat or have found the right morsel to consume until it is finished.

It helps make me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, where I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.

I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at those in the ministry. But I thought it applicable to everyone who reads. Especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.

Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.

Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.

May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it.

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Problem Solved! — NOT!

Sometimes my office receives submissions for books that claim to solve a problem or provide the answer to a question that has been plaguing mankind since it was known to be an issue. To wit: Why the death penalty is Biblical. Why the death penalty is not Biblical. Why there …

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Be Careful Little Hands What You Type

Just as those involved in Christian ministry are committed to serving God as “his hands and feet” on this earth, Christian writers are similarly motivated, giving a voice to God’s work and communicating his grace and love to a hurting world. But just as some ministries can veer off the …

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Prayers for the Nation

 As we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United States this week, it is my privilege to offer prayers that are timeless yet needed today more than ever. These can apply to any country. I hope you will be blessed by these prayers from The 1928 edition of …

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Publishers and Theology

One of the more complex aspects of publishing Christian-themed books is the publisher theological position or “grid” which covers whatever products they seek to publish. Just like all churches are not alike, Christian publishers are definitely not alike. Some may have groups or “imprints” focusing on a specific theological perspective, …

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40 Days with One Composition

For the last few years I’ve used the forty days of Lent as an auditory discipline. I try to listen to one collection of music during the entire season. This year’s choice was Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of our Savior on the Cross.” I listened to the …

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