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.

8 Steps to Writing a “Shout from the Housetops” Devotion

by Bonita Y. McCoy

manhattan-407703_1920

Rooftops of Manhattan

Do you love writing? Do you endeavor to encourage others, to lift them up in their daily walk with Christ? If so, then you may be a perfect candidate for writing devotions for such publications as Guideposts, Upper Room, Light from the Word, and Devo’Zine.

However, if you’ve never written a devotion before you might be wondering how to get started, so today, we are going to cover eight steps that will take the mystery out of devotional writing.

  • Everything starts with God. Before you pick up that pen or put that first letter on the screen, seek the Lord. It’s the only way to be an effective instrument in his hand. A daily time of prayer and reading will give you resources from which to pull and allow you to see the circumstance in your own life as potential avenues to help others.
  • Keep a journal. Using a journal to jot down experiences and events that happen in your day will give you ample material for anecdotes and stories for devotionals. Seeing how God’s word applies to your own life will help you to share how it can be applied in the lives of others. A journal is also a good place to keep scriptures that resonate with your own heart until there is a time that you can use them for the inspiration of others.
  • Keep them short. A devotional should be somewhere between 100 and 225 words in length (check individual guidelines – some require higher word count). Since these are short, every word has to count. So, use strong verbs, descriptive nouns, and leave out the unnecessary adverbs.
  • Focus on one point. A devotion should make one point and no more. If you find yourself trying to handle more than one point, break them up and write several different devotions with only one focal point each.
  • Write a beginning, a middle, and an end. Like in a good essay, you want the first paragraph to go from broad to narrow. You want the middle to show the story or add meat to your point, and then you want the ending to restate the main point or wrap up the story with a clincher.
  • Provide a buzz phrase or word. A buzzword or phrase is something catchy for the reader to remember. It can be a verse of scripture, a repeated word throughout the story, or a phrase that stands out and contains the point of the message. Something like: Saved by grace, loved by God. It’s catchy and easy for your reader to carry with him into his day.
  • Choose key verses. Most publications ask for several verses to be listed for that days reading. You will need to provide those verses as well as the key verse for the devotion. When choosing these verses, you may want to read them in several translations to see how they differ and which ones best go with the focus of your lesson. Sometimes doing this will give you wonderful insights you otherwise might have missed and added depth to your writing.
  • End with a call to action. A call to action is just what it sounds like. It is you, the writer, asking your reader to engage with you by following through with an action like prayer, journaling, answering a question, or simply reflecting on the thought of the day.
rooftops-802045_1920

Shout from the housetops the good news

As with any good writing, you always check your facts, be diligent with your grammar, and give credit where credit is due.

The eight steps presented here will help you get started with your devotional writing; however, always be sure to check the submission guidelines for the individual publications. Each one is a little different in word count and how they want submissions sent.

“What I tell you now in darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear.” Matthew 10:27 (NLT).

May God whisper in your ear, and may He give you devotions to shout from the housetops!

Writing Prompt: The smell of the roses reminded Susanne of the verse about prayers being a sweet savor to the Lord. Perhaps this could be used as a devotion. Then she pricked her finger on a thorn, and the idea began to form.

Click to Tweet: 8 Steps to Writing a “Shout from the Housetops” Devotion by Bonita Y. McCoy via @InspiredPrompt #devotional #WritingTips #HowTo

The Wedding of the Ages

The Wedding of the Ages by Karen Jurgens

 

I never met a girl…

who didn’t dream of her future wedding day. And I’ve rarely read a sweet romance that didn’t end with a radiant bride on that special day. What is the source of this inspiration?

The dream begins…

with a handsome groom standing at the church altar, looking toward the back doors. The music swells, and the processional begins. After the bridesmaids have taken their places, his beautiful bride steps down the aisle, adorned in gleaming white on the arm of her father. Her veil and long train compliment her gown, styled to accentuate her figure to perfection as she marches in step with the music. He receives her hand from her father’s, and together the couple turns toward the minister to take their vows–to love and to cherish until parted by death. After the exchange of rings, their vows are sealed with a kiss. Their new life begins with a celebration meal—simple or elaborate—followed by cutting the wedding cake.

Today’s traditions

have evolved over time, but two thousand years ago, they were very different. The bride waited at home, dressed and ready because she didn’t know at what hour of the day or night her fiancé would arrive. When he appeared, he carried her off to his home where they would be joined in marriage. Afterward, a huge celebration with a feast might continue for days.

Inspiration for happily-ever-after…

originates from God, who performed the first wedding in the Garden of Eden. However, if you’ve decided my favorite book of the Bible is Genesis, you’re wrong. Here are some more hints:

7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.” ~ Revelation 19:7-9, NASB.

The wedding of the ages…

is about to take place in the near-future, and we, the church, are the bride. As we await our groom to take us away to His heavenly kingdom, we are dressed and ready to meet Him in the air. Imagine…bedecked in our righteous acts of dazzling-white linen, we will walk down the aisle on the arm of our Father God. He will give us away to His Son, Jesus Christ, to be His bride. After our vows and exchange of rings, we will receive a new name written on our foreheads, sealed forever as the bride of Christ, followed by the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a feast that will be!

Have you read…

 the book of Revelation? There is a promise of blessing attached.

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near ~ Revelation 1:3, NASB.

Although this final book is full of God’s judgment on a sinful world, the story ends victoriously for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Jesus is revealed as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our groom with whom we will live happily-ever-after in God’s kingdom.

Could a love story have a better ending? 

Click to Tweet: The wedding of the ages…Could a #lovestory have a better ending? Fav book of the #Bible

Writing Prompt: The story you’re writing ends with a happily-ever-after wedding. What will be your final line (or paragraph)?

Save

Save

Running With the Horses

By Jennifer Hallmark

Jeremiah.

The Weeping prophet.

A man commanded by God not to marry or have children. Scorned by many because of his message of doom he continually cried out to the people of Israel.

A man on a mission.

Why do I consider Jeremiah my favorite book in the Bible? His genuineness and honesty. I see a man who was real and obeyed God. Jeremiah showed compassion toward his homeland, Israel, and yet wasn’t afraid to address the rulers, priests, and false prophets who had led the people into idolatry. He was called as a youth and admitted trying to avoid the call but couldn’t.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.'” Jeremiah 1: 5 NKJV

“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.'” Jeremiah 20:9 NKJV

As a writer, Jeremiah’s words are beautiful, full of melancholy, yet memorable. He uses repetition and symbolism throughout the book, along with poetry. He thinks and feels deeply.

My love of this book increased after reading Eugene H. Peterson’s book, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best. This study parallels the book of Jeremiah to our lives today. Here’s a little more about it…

In Jeremiah 12:5, God says to the prophet, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” 

We all long to live life at its best–to take freedom and spontaneity with purpose and meaning. Why then do we often find our lives so humdrum, so unadventuresome, so routine? Or else so frantic, so full of activity, but still devoid of fulfillment? How do we learn to risk, to trust, to pursue wholeness and excellence–to run with the horses in the jungle of life?

In a series of profound reflections on the life of Jeremiah the prophet, Eugene Peterson explores the heart of what it means to be fully and genuinely human. His writing is full of humor and self-reflection, insight and wisdom, helping to set a course for others in the quest for life at its best.

As a rule, I’m cautious and reserved but I read this book at a time when I was newer to writing and it helped me move forward when I wasn’t sure I could.

This year, I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and in August I came to Jeremiah. I’m reminded again why I love this beautifully written, hauntingly sad reflection penned in a day and time when false peace covered the land.

A time much like today.

Who among us will cry out against injustice today?

Who is willing to run with the horses?

Click to tweet: Why do I consider Jeremiah my favorite book in the Bible? #BibleStudy #amwriting

Writing prompt: Leila stopped. Once again the neighbor across the street had pulled up her sign proclaiming God is Love. What was his problem? This was her yard. She…

Freedom, Focus and Joy in Philippians

By Lisa Worthey Smith

Which book of the Bible is my favorite? The one I am studying at the time! No matter how many times I have read or studied any book or section of His Word, God always presents a new and fresh application for my life at that moment. There is one book that I tend to re-read pretty often.

Freedom

Philippians is the first book of the Bible that I studied in-depth, so it has an extra special place in my heart. With threads of joy woven throughout, it is the favorite of many and a great place to spend some time.

God spoke to me in the very first chapter (verse 6) about His faithfulness – “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At the time I was struggling with not being good enough, perhaps even failing in my responsibilities and He gave me this personal note of freedom right there in the first verses!

Then, in the third chapter all the success and failures of the past and present, simply vanished when I looked at Paul’s comment about his own resume’. He was so proud of his righteous, law-abiding resume’ until he met Christ. Then he threw out his “righteousness” in exchange for righteousness from God through faith! While I knew that in theory, it became very real to me when Paul explained his experience. That’s part of the beauty of Philippians. Paul used his life as a relatable example.

I realized that my life was more than what I cooked for dinner, my job description, my parenting efforts, how my hair looked, what my house was like, my clothes, or any other goal of perfection I may have sought before. Any reward for those goals would be short-lived and of little lasting value. My mission became to walk in a manner worthy of what Christ did for me, to share that good news with all those around me, no matter where I was.

Focus

Paul finished that passage with an encouragement to press on. If his life was a race toward a goal, the finish line was heaven, and he was diligently reaching out toward that finish line. Not to end his life quickly, but to live it in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel 1:27” No distractions, no detours, no slacking off, but moving forward toward heaven, remembering that Christ paid my sin debt so that I could gain entrance.

Like Paul, during the study of Philippians, I determined that my life focus would be to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel that Christ paid for my entrance into heaven. Every aspect of my life simplified when I took on this “eternal perspective.”

Then, there are those days…you know the ones I mean…the days when worry, and dread, and even fear, creep into my heart and mind and I get bogged down, and even wallow (think pig in muddy pit) in discouragement, robbed of all joy.

Paul knew about those days too. In the fourth chapter he reminds us to

1 – Give it to Him  – “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

2 – He will guard your heart and mind“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3 – Remember His goodness “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Paul’s remedy for the battle in our mind? Get out of the muddy pit, give it to God, and get focused.

Joy

Peace with God (and of God) allowed Paul to retain his joy – not just peace, but joy – in all circumstances, even while he was in prison and likely to die soon. His freedom and focus allowed him to keep his eternal perspective so that he could look death in the face and proclaim…“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Philippians 2:17

So, you and I can rejoice and press on today and all our remaining days, to encourage others to find freedom, and focus, and joy, in their race to the finish line!

“Brethren… one thing I do:

forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 Philippians 3:14

Click to tweet: Philippians has threads of joy woven throughout. #Bible #Faith

Writing prompt – The words that changed my heart, and direction of my life….


Lisa Worthey Smith

Lisa is a long-time Bible study leader and author of Oscar the Extraordinary Hummingbird (voted in the 50 Indie Books Worth Reading for 2016), a non-fiction account of a severely injured hummingbird she rehabilitated, and her own time of suffering. It includes a Study Guide with lessons on suffering in the life of a Christian.

Her newest work, The Wisdom Tree, scheduled to be released fall 2017, is the parable of an olive tree planted in the Garden of Gethsemane for a special purpose during the time of Jesus. He is fed nutrients (Scripture) by his wise worm-friend, Herm, and tenderly cared for by the Master of the garden. There are questions about our relationship with God and basic Christianity at the end of each chapter with Scripture answers in a Study Guide at the end – suitable for book clubs, homeschool, small group study, or personal growth.

Lisa, her husband, and their 21 pounds of cuteness wrapped in a Schnauzer suit, live in north Alabama.