An Intro to Biblical Exegesis.

An exceptional introduction to a vital aspect of Biblical knowledge by fellow apologist James Bishop.

James Bishop's Theological Rationalism

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Much of our Biblical Studies course focuses on the art of biblical interpretation. We do this by analysing our biblical text via three key lenses: the world-behind-the-text, the world-of-the-text and the world-in-front-of-the-text. This builds a solid foundation upon which we can perform exegetical work. We shall touch on the importance of exegesis (interpreting a text) as well as very briefly on the three lenses just mentioned.

Why is interpretation necessary? Why is it important?

The obvious case is that the Bible, independent of the book we focus on, is an act of communication between an author (the sender) and an audience (the receivers). There is intentionality behind our biblical texts whether that would be the author trying to get his audience to change their minds or behaviour about circumstances. In other words, our authors have goals and reasons for why they are writing in the first place.

However, we must…

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An Impacting End

As all writers know, one of the most difficult parts in the process of writing a novel is the end. The end has to tie everything together, be satisfying, leave an impact, and be the most memorable part of the book. With that in mind, writing the end of my newest novel has been the hardest part of the process.

Continue reading “An Impacting End”

Tell Me Your Thoughts (feat. Lucas Munachen of Luc’s Novelties)

I recently did a youtube collaboration with a blogging friend, EJ Olsen, from the fantastic blog, We/Are/Mirrors, on his youtube series, Tell Me Your Thoughts. I really enjoyed taking a part in this series and I want to thank EJ for having an interest in my blog and writing, it means so much. So without further ado, here’s the video.

I hope you enjoyed it! And I highly recommend taking the time to check out EJ’s blog, We/Are/Mirrors. It’s a very thought provoking, well written, and inspiring blog featuring interviews from authors and musicians, original short stories (which are brilliant, and if you only read one thing, read his stories), and recently he’s been giving away EP’s for the Christmas holidays. You can currently enter to win the one of EJ’s top six albums by commenting on the Twelve Musics of Christmas post, so I highly recommend you do that.

So here is the link to We/Are/Mirrors

And here is the link to the We/Are/Mirrors youtube channel

God bless, and thanks for reading (and watching!)

The Creative Process (and a little on my current novel)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on writing, and since I’m a writer, I thought it time to write another post on, well, writing! With this post, I thought I’d walk you through the basic steps I take in order to write a full length novel, short story, or anything your heart desires. Take note that this is what I do and am comfortable doing, you might have a completely different take. That’s what makes being creative so fun, everyone does it in their own way.

Continue reading “The Creative Process (and a little on my current novel)”

The Hero’s Journey

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post specifically about writing, and since a friend of mine has begun work on his own novel, I thought it would be a good time to give a little more advice. Today, I’m going to map out the journey your protagonist is planned to go on. This is a general guideline, and is by no means meant to be the be all and end all, just a guideline where you can gain some inspiration. That’s one of the great things about writing, you can break the rules!

Alright, so the first step in the journey isn’t really a step for our hero at all. And like I said before, it can be broken, but usually in the beginning the hero will encounter some sort of messenger, whether that be a person, a vision, or anything that foreshadows or gives the hero a low-down of what’s going on. In the Pilgrim’s Progress, this is the Evangelist of the story.

Step two is where the hero begins to unravel to the problem ahead. This step presents the main problem our hero must face. It’s the main plot introduction, which leads onto the next step: The Decision.

This is where the hero needs to make his decision. To solve whatever problem is facing him (or the town he’s in), or to run away. Obviously, unless your hero is a stubborn coward (like mine are sometimes!), you’ll no doubt let your hero decide to solve the problem presented.

Nest up the challenge is presented. This is where the hero realizes what he has to do to stop the problem. This usually happens multiple times in the novel, because there are many challenges in the way which must be overcome in order to solve the main problem. Once your hero has made the decision to go, there’s no turning back, unless of course you want to take the next step: the Refusal.

A realistic hero will always debate with some sort of refusal or hesitation. He’ll probably think, “Uh uh, there’s no way I’m doing that. You can just forget it.” Sound familiar? A lot of novels use this step to give their hero some solid ground in reality to stand upon. Unless of course your hero is a superhero, and even then, refusal is a valuable tool.

Once your hero has gotten over the refusal stage (sometimes with some help from another character), we then get on to the exciting bit: taking the first step. This is the first real step your hero takes on his journey. This is where he leaves the comfort of his own home, whether it be literal of metaphorical, and sets off on the dangerous journey. For example, this is where Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress begins the journey to the Celestial City.

Somewhere along the line though, your hero is going to have some trouble, and this is where the next step comes in: The helper. This is where the second character takes place to fight along side your hero, whether for that one scene, or for the remainder of the story.

Now we’re getting to the final steps. This is where the hero begins to really ware out. After facing so many challenges, your hero should be at his lowest. Worn out and defeated. And after a quick revelation, maybe from the aforementioned helper or another sign, we get on to the next step: The Rise.

This is where the hero rises again, regroups, and leads them into the final battle with the main foe.

The next step is pretty obvious: The Showdown. Obviously, you’ll already know what that is, the glorious (or sometimes not so glorious) final battle. It’s where your hero will either live or die.

If your hero survives the fight, and the foe is defeated, you will then move on to the final step: The Resolution. Everyone celebrates and crowns the hero with honor. This is the happy ending to your story.

So I hope this has helped. Like I said before, it’s just a guideline, and is not meant to be the final say in your novel. But all good novels have at least two of three of these steps, so have fun with it! And to my newest novelist, I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own novel. You’ve just begun one of the greatest adventures you’ll ever take, and like the heroes in the Christian movies always say, God speed!

The Writing Process: Second draft/editing

The next step in the writing process is to write it again. Yep, once you’ve finished the first draft, you have to move on to the second draft, because your first draft will most likely be terrible, and as I’ve said in another post, that’s a beautiful thing. My first drafts are terribly written, but once I move into the second draft, I step up my game in the quality of the writing.

Second drafts are where you improve the story you have, and is essentially a better version of the first draft, quality of writing and story included. But that doesn’t mean you should stop with a second draft, you could write three, or four drafts if you think the story needs it.

Once you’re happy with the story, it’s then time to move on to the editing stages.

I’m a bit of an obsessive editor. I just can’t help myself. And there’s good reason to love the editing process as well: It’s fun! Editing comes in two stages: editing for content, and editing for quality and voice.

Editing for content means editing the story itself, and it doesn’t have to be full chapters and scenes either. When editing  for content you need to make sure it’s as tight as can be. For example, if there’s a scene in your story where your characters do nothing to move the story along, then cut it. If a scene feels like dead weight, cut it. You have to be brutal in this stage, cutting everything that doesn’t move, or help the story and plot. Even if you love the scene, cut it if it doesn’t advance the plot. It will make your novel tighter and will improve it a hundred fold.

Editing for quality and voice means editing the text until it’s as tight and flowing as it can possibly be. If there are words that can be changed or removed, do it. In the end you must listen to your sentences, speaking them aloud is a great way to know if your sentence “has it” or if it feels a little lumpy. My first drafts are essentially one big lump! Anyway, edit, edit, edit, and edit some more for the road. I edited the Restoring at least around six or eight times before I even considered sending it to my readers, and after the tenth time, I did! And even then, there will probably be a few mistakes. No manuscript is perfect, which is why you need help from professional editors and friends who will give you good, critical feedback. Publishers expect perfection, give them any less, and you’ll probably be rejected.

To all who’ve read and are reading my novel, I say thank you for your instructive advice. I’m constantly improving myself each time I sit down to write, and having other readers advice gives me a good foundation to build upon. If you haven’t read it, my Beta reader post is still up for anyone wanting to help. Just send me an email or comment, and I’ll send it to you.

For now, this is the last of the writing process series, but since writing is a major part of my life, it won’t be abandoned. And once I step into the publishing world, I’ll be taking you with me! But for now, I’ll be moving onto other things, such as music, Christian teaching, and more reviews of both books and music.

Thanks for reading guys, I hope this has inspired you to write your own novel. God Bless.

The Writing Process: The First Draft

Next up in the writing process is to begin the first draft! This is a magical and frightening time in the writing process. When you face a page and realize you have to fill it with 80,000 words of more, it can be quite overwhelming. But when you type that first word, it’s amazing.

Right, the first draft. Why is there even a first draft, can’t a book be finished in one go? The answer? A giant no. But that’s certainly not a bad thing.

When I wrote my first novel I thought it would just be the one draft, and I’ll edit it until it was perfect. Well, that didn’t turn out so good, and as a result, that novel is all over the place story wise, and I don’t really want to rewrite it. You need to write two drafts at least to get the story down as best as it can be.

The first draft of my next novel went in a completely different direction than the finished product, but if I hadn’t written that second draft, the Restoring wouldn’t exist today.

In my newest novel, which I won’t give the name to just yet, I’m half way through the first draft, but this time I’ve taken to it from an entirely different perspective, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it in my other two. The trick when writing a first draft is to wreck it. That’s right, wreck it. It’s great if it’s the worst hunk of words ever put on a page.

The first time, and also through the writing of the Restoring, I edited it as I went along, and that was the completely wrong way to go about it. In my current one, I’m taking all editing out, and just writing. Pure writing, no distractions, no time wasters, just writing. It’s given me so much freedom and I have found myself writing more pages each time. I can now write a thousand words at a time quite easily because I don’t look back.

I know when I finish the first draft it will be a downright mess, but that’s okay. One of my favourite sayings is “There’s beauty in the broken,”  (I’m sure that’s a song). It can not be more true for first drafts. When I see drafts where every second word is crossed out, or with hundreds of little icons on the sides, I know that person is a true writer. A true writer writes, not writes, edits, reads it through, writes a little bit again, reads it through again, edits a bit here and there, etc…. Your book will look and feel manufactured and it won’t feel alive. Remember, you’re a living, breathing individual, so write like one, not like an automatic typing machine. Yes, when finished, editing must be done, but the story will still feel like something you’ve created with your own hands.

So, don’t strive to be perfect. Don’t try to be the perfect Christian, because you’ll fail. Be yourself. In your writing, and in normal life. Everyone’s unique, so why wouldn’t you take it out in your writing?

God Bless, hope this helps.

The Christian and criticism

Today I want to bring up a topic that a lot of Christians don’t really know too much about, and that’s criticism. Now wait, I’m not saying you don’t know what criticism is, I’m talking about Christian’s reactions to it.

A lot of Christians think that following the Lord’s will will keep them from harm, and it will, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. You must remember that the enemy hates you, and he will do anything and everything in his power to keep you from falling into the Lord’s will. When my family moved, we knew it was God’s will for us, and the devil hated it. It was so hard getting into that house that we doubted if we were in the right. We kept pressing through, and now we live in a great new home. It’s not that the house is magnificent, it’s the peace that passes all understanding we must follow, no matter what comes our way.

So why do Christians think following God’s will is not going to lead them into trials? More importantly, why do they think they’re following God’s will when everything’s going right? In my opinion, we’re out of God’s will when everything around us is working along like a well oiled machine (sorry for the cliche). Why? Because the devil isn’t intervening. Why would he try to stop us when we aren’t a threat?

What inspired this post was a post from another Christian writer. He talked about Christian films and books having harsh criticisms from the secular critics. That tells me they’re doing something right! Why? Because the devil doesn’t want those movies to be seen. They could lead people to salvation!

A quote from Christanity Today regarding the upcoming Christian film Deliver Us from Evil, says, “The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us he didn’t exist.” How true is that.

The Bible says my children fail for lack of knowledge. They follow and go down the easiest paths, and believe it’s the Lord’s will. Eventually they will end up in a bad place; in debt, without a job, divorced, or in sin because of it. We need to know the devil and his power so we can battle on in the Lord’s will. I learnt the biggest lesson in my life when moving. I learnt how to stand firm in the Lord, even when things around me fall apart.

Like C.S.Lewis said, “Reviews were either laudatory or filled with that sort of anger which tells an author he’s hit his target.”- The Screwtape Letters.

Here’s the link to that blog post mikeduran.com/2014//07/do-christians-get-unfairly-reviewed. If you click on it it will take you there.

God Bless.

The Writing Process: Planning/outlining

Right, so we have an idea of what the novel’s going to be about, now we go to the next step: planning. I’ll go through the steps, then tell you what I do for my writing.

Planning is simply the next step in brainstorming. You get a more detailed look at your characters and plot line. Some writers take months of planning before they even begin to write. Once the outline is down, and you know what you’re doing and where your story is going, get out that computer or paper (good luck with that) and get that mind pumping! That leads onto the next part of novel writing: the first draft. I’ll talk about that in the next post.

So, what do I do when it comes to planning and outlining. I personally don’t write outlines for my novels, just because I find them too limiting. When I write, I want the story to drive itself, not be driven by an outline that could be changed later on. As for planning, I find that each time I plan, the story takes off in a direction I never thought it would, so planning  just ends up being a waste of time.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all. For my WiP I took about a month to brainstorm and plan before I got to work on the first draft. You can’t go in with nothing, so I start with just a brief outline, and then I write it.

But it’s all up to you. If an outline works for you, go for it! If it doesn’t, that’s great as well! Everyone writes differently. Everyone has their own voice, which is another thing I want to quickly touch on. Don’t do something, just because someone else says it’s the right thing to do. If you find it comfortable writing without an outline, don’t listen to people who say that you must use one. If you feel comfortable writing in parts, don’t listen to people who say you must write in chronological order.

For people who don’t spend their time writing, you must take all fact from the Word of God, and what people say as opinion. No one can truly know the Word without guidance from the Holy Spirit. I say this because a lot of people, including me, are quite gullible, and will believe anything they hear if it agrees with their views, or more actually, their heart’s desires. If what the person is saying doesn’t agree with what they think is right, they will usually disregard that person.

For an example, my family was listening to this pastor who said that rock music is cursed. I love rock music, but I don’t think it was completely wrong what he was saying. Rock can be cursed, but it can also be used for God’s glory, it all depends on what the musicians make of it, and not on the music itself.

So back to planning. I get a lot of people who tell me I should plan for the future. Really, I have no idea what I’m doing in the future. I could be an astronaut for all I know (little fun fact, that’s what I wanted to be when I was little), it all depends on where the Lord wants you. And where the Lord wants you, is where you should want to go. We’re given grace for each day, not for the future, for today, so instead of living in fear of the future, live with all you got right now.

The best outline you can follow is the Word of God, for both writing and living.

God Bless, hope this helps!

The Writing Process: Finding Ideas

The next step in the writing process is finding ideas. I’ve already talked about inspiration in an early post, so we now go to one of the best bits of writing: brainstorming!

Right, how do we brainstorm? Well, this is what I like to call, chaos writing. Brainstorming isn’t only just sitting in your chair, staring off into the distance, waiting for an idea to float into your head and call you up. It’s pouring out whatever comes into your mind, no matter how crazy it may sound.

When brainstorming, you aren’t focusing on anything in particular, so the Lord is free to speak and give you ideas. The only thing required to do when brainstorming is write, it’s simple as that. It doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds, put it on the paper. The Lord will reveal an idea somewhere in that chaotic mess.

After you get an idea of what you might like to write about, you’ll then move on to brainstorming the parts of the novel. These parts are: Characters, Plot, Theme, and Setting.

For each one, provide a brief description, but don’t go into details, that will come later on. For now, get an outline down.

So for characters, here’s an example: imagine a man in his late thirties, we’ll call him Tom, who works in a discount store, and he’s slowly becoming deaf. Now he can’t hear the instructions given to him. As you can imagine, there’s a million possibilities for a novel right there in that single character.

Now here’s an example of the plot, still following Tom’s story: He soon becomes completely deaf, and his small income can’t provide him a hearing aid, so he tries to earn money somewhere else to meet his needs. Already, more ideas have just come up, and now a full story should be coming into focus. It’s certainly giving me ideas 🙂

Right, so theme. Theme is what your story is about. What you novel is communicating to the reader. What it’s trying to say. So the theme in Tom’s story would be the difficulty of living in our world with a limiting disability. Now even more ideas are coming in, and if you’re getting excited, too bad, because Tom’s mine 😀 No, feel free to use him, he’s my gift to you, my readers. Unless you have a better character!

For setting, what I do is create my own town from scratch, but it’s all up to you. For example, in my novel, the Restoring, the characters all live in a town called Coldgrove. The name is pretty self descriptive. It’s set in a freezing town raining with snow and cluttered with dead trees. I wanted the town to reflect the theme, so I created a place that reflected the condition of death. But if creating your own town is not for you, setting your story in a real city, like New York, is the next best thing. But just make sure it’s accurate, like the names of the streets and suburbs. You don’t want readers thinking you know nothing about your setting.

Once you have all your ideas down, and you have the one you’re excited about, it’s time to put them all together! Once this happens, it truly is a magical time. When I find the idea, it rattles around in my mind, and excitement just bubbles. Once it keeps you up at night, you’ve found your idea.

For people just trying to get through life, and don’t have writing in mind, don’t worry. God knows the plot and theme of your story. It’s what all our lives are about: Redemption.

God Bless. I hope this helps.

The Writing Process: Introduction

Well here we go, the beginning of the series on the writing process. In this series I will give you all you need to know on how to write a novel. But non-writers, before you stop reading this, this series will also explore how we write the stories in our own lives. In other words, I’m going to take the process, not just on paper and a computer, but off of it as well.

This introduction will explore following God’s calling for your life. If God calls you to write, don’t hesitate, if He calls you to serve, don’t wait. Don’t wait for that opportune moment to serve the Lord, when He calls, do it.

The one thing you can’t do when stepping out into your calling is to leave the Lord behind. If He’s not guiding you by your side, you might as well forget about everything you have planned. When writing a novel, if God isn’t leading, don’t bother.

When you follow your calling, do it all to your best abilities, and don’t get lazy. If you decide to skip a session because you just don’t feel like it, or you’re too tired, you’re not only letting yourself down, but also the Lord. Finding time to write, or serve, shouldn’t be a problem if God is in control. I know a lot of writers say that they just can’t fine the time, either because of family duties, work, or other things. If you truly want to write, you will find the time, even if it’s early in the morning, or late at night. If you truly want to serve God in whatever way, there will be time. Don’t let the excuse stop you, because if you’re honest, you’re probably doing a lot of things that don’t need to be done (watching TV anyone?).

Writing is a sacrifice, as with anything God calls you to do.

So, a lot of people want to write, but there are few who actually do, and even fewer who stick to the end.

God Bless.

The Genres: Horror

For the final in the series of the different types of genres I’ll be talking about one of my favourites (out of the many I have): horror. I’ve talked about horror before, but I want to focus on how to write one, and why we should write one.

So, first of all, what is horror? Simple, the scary and grotesque. Horror is meant to exploit your fears and put them in the real world. But horror isn’t just related to the supernatural; horror can also be found in every other genre, to some extent. For example, in a romance, the horror would be discovering that your wife is having an affair, or in a crime, the horror would be that the body found was that of your brother.

Horror is found everywhere, even in every day life. It keeps us aware, and most of all, it keeps us looking to God. Why? I’ll get to that in a minute.

So, how do we write horror, and why would we want to scare someone? Well, what does a mother do when her child disobeys? She smacks them,  and I know when children get faced with the spoon, they freeze and stop what they’re doing right there!

We scare people to keep them out of sin. No, not all horror authors write to scare people from sin, but as Christians, that’s the reason we write horror stories.

Okay, how would we scare someone? When writing horror, think of what you’re afraid of, then put a face to it. If you’re afraid of monsters, create the scariest one you can think of. If people aren’t scared by your novels, it would just be like a soft smack from the spoon that only lasts a day or two because the kid realizes, “it’s not that bad.”

Horror is the genre of evangelism. People need to fear the consequences of sin, and that’s the goal I’m aiming for in my newest novel.

Alright, now to the aforementioned question. How does horror keep us aware and looking to God? Let me answer by asking you what you’re afraid of, and I mean truly afraid of. Be honest.

What’s the biggest fear in someone’s life? The unknown. The unknown is what scares us. The very question of what will tomorrow bring sends chills down your spine, doesn’t it? What if you suddenly lost your job? What if a storm wrecks your home? What if you lost everything?

Scary questions, aren’t they? Yet they could all happen.

Horror should keep you on your feet and on your face before the Lord daily. If it doesn’t do that, it fails as a Christian novel.

One of the best horror novels I have ever read is the Oath, by Frank Peretti. It captures everything that a Christian horror novel should be, and most importantly, it shows the consequences of sin, and it does so in a very frightening way.

So, to end on horror and the genre series, remember that we’re all sinners, and no one is less worthy of death than another. The real monster we should be exposing is the person standing in the mirror.

God Bless.