Writing the Rightly Divided

Writing Devotions: Bible Study

by Kristy Horine

“So, what do you want to do next?” my Bible study partner asked me.

“How about the book of Judges? Let’s study actual scripture.”

And just like that, I tied my Bible into the center of my bandana, fastened it to a stick and propped the stick on my shoulder. Like the Pilgrim who made his progress, I began a marvelous journey.

Well, maybe not marvelous. Sometimes, it was frightening, exhilarating, even illuminating. Mostly, though, it was humbling.

As I dug in to each chapter, I gained a more sober conviction of my human depravity, a deeper awe for the absolute sovereignty of God and His plan, and a greater appreciation for the redemptive power of Christ Jesus.

These truths are too good not to share. Too life-altering not to share with excellence.

But how?

When writing a Bible study, we turn to the Bible itself. Within its 66 books, we find answers for every question and instructions for every endeavor.

Here are some tips on getting started with writing a Bible study.

  1. Be in the word. Read 2 Timothy 2:15. We cannot write about that which we have not known, so get to knowing. Begin at the beginning. Begin at chapter one, verse one of a single book. And read several different translations. I love the poetics of the King James Version, but sometimes, it’s hard for me to understand. For a deeper journey into God’s word, explore NKJV, ESV, NIV (I prefer the NIV copyrighted prior to 2011). The Message is a great way to read the Bible in common terms, many people quote from it and God can use it. Keep in mind that books like The Message are considered paraphrases, not translations or transliterations.
  2. Use the right tools. Read Proverbs 11:14. Ever try to hammer a nail with a screwdriver? It can be done, but it’s a lot easier to use the proper tool. Bible study is the same way.
    • Use a trusted Study Bible. I prefer Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. My husband prefers the Crossway ESV Study Bible. Our Christmas gift this year is an investment in the ESV Reformation Study Bible by Reformation Trust. Do your research on study Bibles and be careful. Pray for discernment and protection. (We should be doing that no matter what we begin.)
    • Let scripture interpret scripture. Most Bibles include a narrow strip of verses that correspond to little letters in the text. These are cross references. They indicate where words, phrases or verse intentions are found in other places. They contain absolute jewels of information.
    • Go to the pros. I often use the BLB app. I dig into biblegateway.com. Both of these online resources are rich depositories of commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, translation comparisons and more cross references. Another online resource is www.gotquestions.org. Hardbound commentaries usually hide out in church libraries. Another book is called Where to Find it In the Bible. It’s like a concordance, but is more topical than a word search resource. (https://www.christianbook.com/where-find-it-in-the-bible/ken-anderson/9780785211570/pd/11578)
    • Context is key. Flathead screwdrivers will sub for a Phillips, but a Phillips is no match (or fit) for a screw that requires a flathead. Now, I can grab an ordinary kitchen knife, but chances are, I’ll end up with a wonky knife tip. The same principle applies to scripture. We can rig something to make it work, but if it’s not the right tool, it’s not the right tool. For good, God-honoring study writing, we must read and use the right scriptures. Look at historical context, the cultural context, and the textual context. Never forget that people have used scripture to justify sinful behavior. Don’t be those people.
  3. Give credit where credit is due. Read Exodus 20:15. Take good notes and cite your sources if an idea, phrase, or sentence is not your own. A simple citation is acceptable for informal written studies, but if you are writing for publication, try to find out the publisher’s guidelines before you begin. Plagiarism is stealing. Plain and simple. Stealing is bad. Do the good and necessary work up front. You will be thankful in the end.
  4. Choose your approach. Read 2 Timothy 3:16. Bible studies can deal with individual books, words, themes, or characters. Keep the study simple and focused. The Bible is complex, but not confusing if handled with prayer and care.
  5. Take off your shoes. Read Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19. Be very careful. When we write and share studies on the Bible, we must always remember that we walk on the holy ground of God’s word. Don’t trash the sacred. Bare feet are also good reminders of Romans 10:15. As writers who are Christ followers, we have beautiful feet. Write like our toes are showing. Even in winter.
  6. You will be overwhelmed at times. Read Psalm 119. Read it out loud. At 5 a.m., standing in front of the heater that is trying desperately to warm your little writing space. Make this passage your prayer and your praise. There is nothing you can write that God does not have control over. Trust Him.

[Click to Tweet] Tips on getting started with writing a Bible study from Kristy Horine via @InspiredPrompt and @Kwriteone. #amwriting #devotionals #HowTo

Writing prompt: Your job is to encourage a complete stranger who is writing a Bible study for the first time. Write him or her a letter explaining how they are not alone. Use the following scriptures in your study: John 14:16; John 16; I Corinthians 12; Galatians 5:22-23.

So You Want to Write a Devotional Book?

by Shirley Crowder

The Devotional Writer

Before we can look at writing a devotional book, we must first think about the writer. There is one imperative foundational spiritual aspect to writing a devotional book—a consistently growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The depth of that relationship depends upon your communication with God.

Your walk with Christ and your understanding of His Word is strengthened through a powerful prayer life. Your prayer time is rich as you communicate with your Savior. It’s a two-way communication—you talk with God and He talks with you, primarily through His Word. So, a Christ-follower must regularly engage in reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and contemplating upon God’s Word—being a student of the Word. This means you are digging deep into passages by studying other places in the Bible that speak of the same topic, reading and listening to sermons, teaching, blogs, articles, commentaries, etc.

As the Holy Spirit is teaching you the Word you are also learning to apply that Word in your life. It is upon this foundation of truth that you begin to recognize biblical truth and insights in and through everything you observe.

Gather Ideas

My co-writing friend, Harriet E. Michael, and I talk about “thinking devotionally” which means that as we go about our lives, we see biblical truths in the things we observe and hear. These spark ideas for devotionals, so we get these ideas jotted down quickly.

Look-up stickyThese can be handwritten or typed notes or even voice memos to yourself. I also keep a prayer journal and sermon/Bible study notes from which many of my devotionals come.

These don’t have to be written in complete grammatically-correct sentences. Bullet points or phrases that record enough of what you saw and thought of will jog your memory later on.

My Approach

Pray! Choose a topic. It can be narrow, such as: Advent Meditations; or it can be broader, “New Beginnings.” Some devotionals take one specific passage, Psalm 23, for instance.

Pray! Decide how many devotions will be in your book. Some are 30 days, 365 days, and everything in between.

Pray! Determine the length. Most suggestions I’ve seen tell you to keep it between 250-500 words per piece. The devotionals in the books I have written are between 600-900 words per devotional.

Pray! Choose the audience to whom you want to write. Devotionals written specifically for single women are different from those written specifically for married women.

Pray! Sometimes a Scripture passage comes to mind before the specific devotional thought. Sometimes the biblical truth comes to mind with the devotional thought and I discover the right passage in my study. I do a biblical study of the topic, making notes of passages and their meanings and applications. It is imperative that you do a thorough study of all Scripture passages you use so that you are not taking things out of context or misquoting the passage. Make sure you note the version of Scripture you are quoting.

Pray! Remember to give credit to the appropriate resource for quoted material.

Pray! Start writing. Don’t edit and rewrite, just get your thoughts down first. Then go back for edits and rewrites. When all the devotionals for one book are completed, I like to lay the manuscript aside for several weeks. Then, I read it again with fresher eyes.

Structure

I suggest you go to a bookstore or library and look at devotional books to get an idea of a format/structure you like. Keep in mind that traditional publishing houses often have a format/structure they want you to follow.

Most devotionals follow a basic structure:

Scripture Passage/Verse
Be sure the wording matches the version you want to quote and make certain you follow the grammar, punctuation, and capitalization for that version.

Devotional Thought
This is something that helps the reader connect and apply the Scripture Passage/Verse. Don’t try to copy someone else’s writing style—let your personality come through, as frightening a thought as that may be😊. I often teach/talk aloud through the devotional thought which helps me choose the words I use in writing it.

Prayer
Include in the prayer aspects of thanksgiving and petition that related to the devotional.

Thought for the Day/Action Point
What do you want them to think about during the day? What do you want them to do as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart through the Scripture and your words?

All the devotionals are written, now what?

Lay the manuscript aside for several weeks. Then get out your purple (OK, most folks would say red, but not me!) pen and start editing and rewriting. I also suggest you have at least one other person read the manuscript and give you an honest evaluation. I find it helpful to find someone with similar biblical/theological views and understanding.

purple penEven if you are good at grammar, spelling, and punctuation, you need to have an editor work on your manuscript. By the time I’m at this stage of the process I’m so familiar with the devotionals and know what I MEANT TO SAY that I often do not see that I didn’t SAY WHAT I THOUGHT I DID!

Look back at some of the past InspiredPrompt.com blogs on publishing: traditional, assisted/partnership, or Indie for information about getting your book published.

 

Click to Tweet: Don’t try to copy someone else’s writing style—let your personality show through your writing.

Writing Prompt: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 NIV. Take this thought and using my structure mentioned above, write a devotional thought. Share it below if you’d like…


Glimpses of the Savior

Final_Front_cover50 Meditations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year
In early November, we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings behind these celebrations. We can guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek Him as we focus on God’s Word, and by remembering that Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is the celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. Then, as we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do where He has called us to do them, we catch Glimpses of the Savior and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe. These devotionals are based on memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations in Africa and America. May the Holy Spirit work through these meditations to help readers recognize Glimpses of the Savior in the things they observe, and become skilled at finding Jesus among the celebrations and decorations.

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Genesis – Back to the Beginning

By Tammy Trail

Our family was never big on going to church. We did attend a local Lutheran church down the street  for an occasional Sunday School class, or Vacation Bible School during the summer breaks. I learned about Jesus through this sporadic exposure to the Bible.

In 1994, when I worked as a paraprofessional at a local grade school, I was invited by a small group of teachers to join their Bible study group. Just like all things that are meant to happen for a reason, it changed my life and set me on my path of true healing.

Our first study was a survey of the Old Testament. My love of history and genealogy made the book of Genesis my favorite Old Testament book. Granted there are parts of this narrative that have always made me scratch my head, but what great stories of  God’s promises to his  people.

Examples of incredible faith are found in the pages of this book. Of course, Creation is the main story everyone remembers from the book of Genesis, but you’ll also find plenty of heroes and heroines. This is the beginning history of God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a great testament of faith, and obedience. What an adventure God sent them on, and all the while he blessed them with wealth, knowledge, protection, and wisdom. Noah is a favorite of my grandsons now. I asked my four-year-old grandson, Kayden why he thought it was good to remember Noah. He didn’t know, so I told him that Noah listened to God and did what God told him. That is why we remember Noah. Kayden told me he wants to listen to God too. Yep, I’m starting them young!

Who could forget the story of Jacob? His story reminds me of the soap operas on daytime television not so long ago, the exception being that God was involved with Jacob’s life. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, had an equally amazing story to tell. God’s fingerprints were all over this young man from the very beginning. He had set a plan in motion from the time Joseph was born. I especially like Josephs’ story.

Everyone usually associates Joseph with his coat of many colors gifted to him by his father, Jacob. Like Joseph, my life growing up was not all roses and sunshine, and having excuses to hold grudges or unforgiveness was understandable. God had other plans for me, just like he did for Joseph. Forgiveness can be a learned experience, and blessings may come out of following God’s plan for it.

 I have continued to learn from studying my Bible. I confess I don’t do it as much as I should these days, but I will always be grateful for the invitation to attend that first small group Bible study. It set me on a good path.

Click to tweet: A small group Bible study changed my life and set me on my path of true healing. #Bible #smallgroups

Writing Prompt: Fanny Mae wanted to stay home on this rainy, chilly day. Her only reason to go out was she didn’t want to get behind in the Bible study of …………

My Favorite Book of Bible Is…

The Holy Bible is made up of sixty-six books, including history, poetry, prophecy, the gospels, and letters…in three languages, written by numerous authors, inspired by God.

It’s called the Word of God. No other book has lasted as long, or sold as well. During the month of August, the Writing Prompts Crew will discuss their favorite books of the Bible. We hope you’ll join the conversation. Comment and ask questions. Tell us your favorite(s) – quote a beloved scripture – let us know why you love the passage.

My favorite book will come as no surprise to those who know me. Ruth is situated between Judges and 1 Samuel. The lead character is not Hebrew, she’s a convert to Judaism. She loves her mother-in-law, Naomi, like a mother–well enough that she takes Naomi’s faith and promises to stay beside her in one of the most quoted passages of the Bible.

But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us! Ruth 1:16-17 The Message Bible

The calling of God was so strong in Ruth’s heart, she felt compelled to go.

Click to Tweet: She gave up everything to follow, but look what she gained in return. #BookofRuth #BibleStudy

Ruth’s story may seem like a romantic tale, but it’s so much more. It’s a foreshadowing, a type, both symbolic and prophetic. In Ruth, we see the story of God’s grace and redemption. When she found her way to the fields owned by Boaz (a type of Christ), the kinsman redeemer, he offered his protection. He invited her to drink of his servants’ water, and dine at their table.

Sound familiar? I’m reminded of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus offered her living water. I’m reminded of the marriage supper of the Lamb. I’m reminded that you can’t always see what lies ahead. You can’t know that what you’re leaving behind is nothing compared to what God has in mind for your future. If you will trust Him, He will lead you to it.

This is the message of the book of Ruth. It’s a foreshadowing of the walk of faith–giving up our old lives for what God has planned.

I did a two-part study of the book of Ruth on my personal blog, if you’re interested: Beyond the Book of Ruth and Ruth’s Legacy.

Kinsman Redeemer The book of Ruth is the inspiration for my Kinsman Redeemer series, which includes Annabelle’s Ruth and Sutter’s Landing, and will continue in a third installment. Annabelle is the Naomi character in the story. Her daughter-in-law, Connie, is Annabelle’s Ruth. Because of my love for the story of Ruth, I thoroughly enjoyed writing this story.

I’ve continued to study the book of Ruth, and I’m amazed that with each new read, I learn something more. But that’s kind of standard with the Holy Bible, isn’t it?


Instead of a writing prompt, do you have a question about the book of Ruth? Have you read something in the book that inspired you? Who is your favorite character in the book?

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3 Questions Wednesday with Maria I. Morgan

042_MariaMorgan__PCP5463Today we welcome inspirational writer and speaker, Maria I. Morgan, to the Writing Prompts Blog.

Glad you dropped by, Maria! First question:

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Maria: Great question! While I was writing my Bible study, Outrageously Fruitful, I leaned heavily on 3 resources. I’m sure you can guess the first one. You’re right if you guessed the Bible. It’s such a practical book with answers to all of our questions. We can get to know the very Creator of the universe and draw from His wisdom as we navigate this thing called life.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6; KVJ) When we have faith that the Lord knows best and do things His way, He’ll guide us every time. Good stuff!

Another resource I used was The Chicago Manual of Style. Let’s face it, grammar, punctuation, and word usage can get downright tricky. This book helped clear up those issues for me.

Finally, I also referred to The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style quite often. It helped me with things like: capitalization of religious terms, and proper notation for Scripture verses. A little boring, but necessary.

*I also love using on-line resources like blueletterbible.org and tools like Logos Bible Software.

Those sounds like some great resources! Now…

What secret talents do you have?

Maria: I can play the piano – although I’m very rusty since I haven’t practiced in years. And I can paint. My dad, mom and brother are all talented artists. My mother has illustrated several books, displayed her art work in several countries, and has her own website displaying her beautiful work. Here’s one of the first (and only) pictures I painted when I took a watercolor course several years ago.

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Wow. That’s lovelyLast question…

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Maria: Deep dish pizza (baked in a spring form pan); a baby spinach salad with cranberries and pine nuts; watermelon topped with blueberries; and chocolate explosion for dessert. Let me know when you’re in Georgia and we’ll make this menu a reality!

I see a trip east on the horizon. 🙂 Thanks again, Maria, for the visit!

Maria is giving a paperback copy of Outrageously Fruitful to one blessed person. Leave a comment to be entered!


2015 October Outrageously Fruitful Cover Design for Kindle3Outrageously Fruitful

Society’s message is clear: live for yourself. God’s message is revolutionary: live for him and others. This sounds radical, right? We all want love, joy, and peace to saturate our lives. But the Holy Spirit’s plan begs us to look beyond our own little world and see His bigger picture. So how do we win the battle against selfishness?

Outrageously Fruitful addresses this question and more. This 10-week study is made up of a series of brief daily lessons that encourage an honest look at current behavior and provide a biblical foundation to rekindle faith and put it into action.

Maria I. Morgan explores the characteristics the Spirit longs to cultivate within us. A fresh perspective is given of each characteristic, disarming some of today’s popular misconceptions:

*Love is a feeling

*Circumstances determine joy

*Absence of conflict is the key to peace

*Why be long suffering? Take the easy way out

*Meekness is the same thing as weakness

*Temperance is outdated: if it feels good do it

Good news! Maria will be teaching her Bible study, Outrageously Fruitful, on Facebook Live each week beginning Wednesday, September 7th at 12:00 noon (EST). This information-packed, 11-week series will challenge you to stay connected to Christ so your life will make an eternal difference. You can pick up a copy of the study here. Additional downloadable worksheets will accompany each lesson and are free of charge.

Interested? Simply “like” Maria’s Facebook page and post a comment letting her know you want to join the study, or contact Maria to sign up today: maria@mariaimorgan.com

*Not available at noon? Not a problem. Live videos will remain posted on her Facebook page, so you can watch them at your convenience!


042_MariaMorgan__PCP5463Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truth and make an eternal difference. Join her every week to navigate life’s journey together. http://www.mariaimorgan.com