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Optimizing theWord For Personal Devotions

Fine Tuning TW To Get The Most Out of Your Quiet Time With God

 

There are a lot of different phrases people use to describe their quiet time with God (and that was one of them - “Quiet Time”). My favorite phrase is simply “Personal Devotions.” No matter what you call it, this blog is about fine tuning theWord to get the most out of your quiet time with God.

 

The Elements of Personal Devotions

 

In another blog, I’ve written about the elements of personal devotions. I will not rewrite here what I’ve already written there. I will, though, list the typical (and important!) ingredients of what I consider a successful* devotional life. The core of personal worship revolves around these disciplines:

 

  1. A Daily Bible Reading
  2. Prayer Time
  3. Meditating on & Memorizing Scripture
  4. Bible Notation, Marking, and Journaling

 

And we could add to that

 

  1. Reading out of a daily devotional guide
  2. Reading good spiritual material that is warm, illuminating, & biblical in content

 

TheWord does this in a marvelous and wonderful way.

 

A Screenshot Model

 

Take a look at my screenshot. (You can mouseover for a larger view.) I call this layout “Study Bible II.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that the screen is divided into thirds. I have a lot of windows arranged here; so, I will refer to them in their “thirdrant” (not a quadrant, but a thirdrant). You’ll notice a left thirdrant, a center thirdrant, and a right thirdrant.

 

The left thirdrant has my Bible window, along with a very reduced Bible search window (which can be enlarged when necessary, which isn’t very often when I use this particular layout), and my daily Bible Readings Plan window.

 

The center thirdrant also has three windows. The top window is a general book window. It is currently set to the Believer’s Bible Commentary. Those comments move verse by verse as I move through my Bible reading. The middle window is another general book window; it is set to the Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible. In order to use this dictionary, all I have to do is click the word from the Bible window (like “grace” from Prov 1:9, pictured), and the dictionary immediately moves to that entry (“grace”). Nice. The bottom window in the center thirdrant is a book search window. This maximizes my dictionary window. How? Well, if I right-click the word “grace” in the dictionary (or any other general book window), I can immediately search my entire library looking for the word “grace.” In this particular search, I limited the search to just dictionary entries: I found 14 entries for the word grace. Now, all I have to do is hover over the search results of each dictionary, and I can read/scan the articles on “grace” in a very convenient popup window. Easy! and fast.

 

The right thirdrant has four windows; but only two of them are visible. The bottom window of the right thirdrant is another general book window showing the notes/commentary for the NKJV (this is a commentary; not a translation of the Bible). There are two floating windows at the top right of the screen. They show two important general books that are only available right here at the DDT website: a memory verse module and a prayer list module. Underneath those floating windows is one more general book window: this one is my Daily Devotions window set to Paul Enns’ excellent Approaching God daily devotional reader.

 

That is my devotional layout that I call “Study Bible II.” Now let me show you how I use it.

 

Before we go any further, though, you should read these blog posts (if you haven’t already) prior to working through the rest of the information in this blog.

 

 

My Method of Personal Devotions

 

No, I’m not a Methodist; I am an Independent Baptist. But I am, though, methodistic, when it comes to personal Bible study! That’s because I have a method that I methodically use (and not because of any affiliation I have with John Wesley - which I don’t). What I’m about to tell you is my method; and how I use TW to implement it. Then I’ll show you how to build the layout.

 

My devotional time starts with the reading of The Scriptures. I like to read through the Bible every year, and the Book of Proverbs every month. So I just click my reading(s) for the day, and read my Bible.

 

While I’m reading, I like to look for a verse or passage to add to my Bible memory work. So, if I find something to memorize, I move it to the memory verse floating window.

 

If I have any questions I want to research while I’m reading, I can quickly consult two of my brief commentaries that I have synced with my Bible. I can also quickly hit the letter “L” on the keyboard to call up my commentary links. Every commentary that is installed is quickly at my fingertips!

 

If I want to write anything in my personal notes, I use the book view in the bottom right thirdrant. I just click my notes (“My Verse-notes” are synced to Bible verses, just like a commentary; “My Subject-notes” are alphabetized by topic) to make a journal entry.

 

I don’t typically do any “Scripture searching” while having devotions; but if something comes to mind that I want to research, I can simply maximize the Bible search window that is in the left thirdrant.

 

Once all of my Bible reading is finished, I click the check box in the Reading plans window. IMPORTANT: It is at this point - and only at this point - that I save my layout. I call this layout “Study Bible II”.

 

My next task is to work on Bible memory and meditation. I drag the bottom of the memory verse window to the bottom of the screen so that it fills the entire left thirdrant, and go to work on my verses. I have 40 verses lists (dailys, weeklies for every day of the week, monthlies for every day of the month, and quarterlies). Every day I work the dailys, the weeklies for the day of the week, and the monthlies for the day of the month. Once every three months I review the quarterly verses. Once that is finished, I close the “My Memory-verses” floating window.

 

Next up is prayer time. My “My Prayer-list” is now at the top right of the screen. It was floating under the memory verse window. Praying for the daily, weekly, and monthly requests are as easy as a mouseover. Editing the prayer lists is as simple as a mouse click. You’ll be able to spend more time praying because you’re spending less time managing your list. Yesss! When I finish praying, I simply close this floating window.

 

My final devotional task is to read from my “daily devotional” reader. The window that was exposed when the prayer list window was closed is my devotional window. Closing the bottom window in the right thirdrant will allow the daily devotional window to take up the whole column - just about the right amount of space to see an entire entry in many/most of the TW daily devotional guides.

 

Click the “...readings for today” button (or the “Tools / Daily Readings ...” menu). The “Daily Readings” tool will automatically open. Since it always remembers its last position, I’ve moved it into the center thirdrant. It looks like it belongs there! I’m now ready to read however many daily devotionals I want to read. IMPORTANT: since only one book window can be active at a time, you should activate your daily devotional window by clicking in it once prior to choosing your daily devotional readings. If you don’t do this correctly, you’ll think your devotional reader tool is not working, when in reality it is opening the daily readings in the bottom left window (which was the last active book window).

 

The Great Thing About This

 

is how everything is integrated together. I can check a commentary in conjunction with a daily devotional reading simply by clicking the devotional reference. The Bible moves to that reference - and so does the commentary! The Dictionaries (and all of the general book windows) are ready for “right click finding” in any of the windows. There are no “closed off compartments.” Everything is integrated and ready to go.

 

Building the Layout

 

Let’s start by opening pre-defined layout #7 “Advanced 1.” Close the lower Bible window. Now let’s save this as your Devotional Layout. Click the layout button and save this with a new name (again, I call mine “Study Bible II” but you can call yours anything you like). Now the real setup begins.

 

Left Thirdrant

 

Dock** the Bible window to the left thirdrant. Now the hardest part of the setup begins: configuring your Bible options. There are literally hundreds of different ways to configure your Bible window. I’ll show you how my “Study Bible II” is configured; then you’ll be on your own to experiment. Click the “Bible Options Gear” (or CTRL-o) and follow along:

 

  1. “Font colors and styles” - I’ve chosen a “default background color” to make the Bible window stand out from the others. I’ve turned off “Show header and footer” and also “Show words of Jesus in different color.”
  2. “General behavior...” - I don’t use “compare” in this layout (the column would be too narrow, even if I wanted to use it). Set the general options as you want.
  3. “Paragraphs and headings” - set these as you want.
  4. “Strong’s...” - I like having Strong’s available - but hidden. So check “Show Strong’s numbers” and “Instead of showing...”. Also check “Show no link, just show in a popup...”. Now you’ll not see the Strong’s info unless you hover the mouse over the English word.
  5. “Morphology” - I don’t do any Greek/Hebrew work while having devotions. If you do, then set the morphology codes as you wish.
  6. “Footnotes and Cross-references” - uncheck “Show translator’s footnotes/inline notes” and also “Show cross-references.” When you want to see the cross references, just type the letter “x” in the Bible window. (Note: to choose cross reference options, select the “show cross-references” box; select the rest of the options, then unselect the “show cross-references box” again.) You can toggle the cross references on/off in the Bible window simply by typing an “x”.
  7. “Commentary links” - You’ll leave this unselected, and simply type a lower case “L” in the verse to view the commentary links. But to set the options, select the “Show commentary links...” option, then which commentaries you want to view. Remember: you can toggle the links on/off in the Bible window simply by typing a lower case “L”. ALSO: I already have two commentaries (Believer’s Bible Commentary & NKJV Study Notes) in their own dedicated windows. They don’t need to be in the chosen links section.
  8. “Inline commentaries” - unselect this.
  9. “Word lookup dictionaries” - Since this is my devotional Study Bible, I only have a few dictionaries activated. Choose the Webster, and one or two good Bible dictionaries (ISBE, ATSBD, etc.). That’s all I need for devotional time. ALSO: I already have the Eerdman’s Dictionary in it’s own dedicated window. It should not be selected as one of the “word lookup dictionaries.”
  10. “Word click options” - check them all
  11. “General options” - I have that number set to 750. If you find the popups sluggish, use a lower number. If the popups keep popping up when you don’t want them to, insert a larger number.

 

Good News: that’s the hardest part of this project!

 

Next, add a book view to the left thirdrant. Click “F12”. Then dock the new window that just appeared to the lower left thirdrant. This will be your Bible reading plan window. Load your current Bible reading plan; and move to “list view” for today’s date. Then close the topic tree. Now you can shrink this window just so that you can see today’s reading. Then, as you finish each day’s reading, simply scroll the line down to the next date.

 

Now click “F10” to add a Bible search window. Dock it in between the Bible window and the Bible reading plan window. Shrink this window so that only the title bar is visible. If during your devotional reading you decide to do a scripture search, you can quickly 1) maximize; or 2) resize this window. I rarely perform a Bible search during devotional reading - but I occasionally do want to use it. So I leave it here - out of the way but ready to work.

 

Your left thirdrant is now finished.

 

Middle Thirdrant

 

The middle thirdrant is easy. Dock two more book views (“F12”) into the middle column. The higher window is a succinct verse by verse commentary - I have found the Believer’s Bible Commentary works excellently in this fashion. Make sure this window is “linked” “...even if inactive.” That way it will always keep up with where the Bible view is. The lower book window is my dictionary window, and the Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible is a great dictionary to use.

 

The middle thirdrant needs one more window - a Book search view. Click “F9” to add this, and then dock it to the lower section of the middle thirdrant. Here’s how this little window works: in any book view (but not a Bible view), you can “right click” a word to get a menu. Then you can perform a “find . . .” search (next to the little purple book search icon) and search your entire library for a word or phrase. The book search window will display the results. Then, all you have to do is “mouseover” the results to see the entire article. It really is fabulous. In this fashion, you can scan every dictionary in your library quickly. You may want to adjust the settings in the Book search view (perhaps “subjects” but not “topic content”); but once you have it set to your liking, well, you’re going to like it!

 

NOTE: This is a little off-topic; but helpful right here. I have a “module set” of just dictionaries. This is quite helpful for this purpose. In the Book search settings, simply choose the dictionary module set and deselect “topic content” - and you can quickly search your dictionary entries. Very nice indeed! ALSO: You can easily add your important general books to this set (like I have): especially works like Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology. TW allows you to mix all of the module types into these module sets (except for the Bibles, which are there own unique module type).

 

Right Thirdrant

 

You should have two book windows in the right thirdrant. If not, go ahead and add them (“F12”). The top one is going to be your daily devotional reading. (NOTE: If you’re going to read more than one daily devotional during your Quiet time, I’ve found it best to put the one that will appear first on the “...readings for today” button in this window. Not sure which one that is? Well, push the button! Then, “Choose Devotionals to read daily”, and select the devotionals you’ll be reading. You’ll also see that they are in the order that they will appear on the “Daily Readings” list. Put the first one in the top window in the right thirdrant.) I’ve selected Paul Enns’ excellent doctrinal devotional Approaching God. But I am also reading Kenneth Osbeck’s excellent Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories for Personal Devotions (it is great!). But Enns’ Approaching God is in the window.

 

The lower window has another Bible commentary. The notes/commentary for the NKJV is another excellent module to use here - brief, accurate, reverent. Make sure this window is “linked” “...even if inactive.” That way it will always keep up with where the Bible view is. ALSO: This is the window I use when journaling; so, make sure that the NKJV Study Notes, your “My Subject-notes,” and your “My Verse-notes” are all in the same module set.

 

Now take a look at all of your frames. Some of us are a little more obsessive than others. . . . So, do all of the horizontal frames look good? If not, you can tinker with them until all of the horizontal lines look just right. Once those are right, save your layout (CTRL-Shift-s).

 

Now it’s time to add two floating windows. The two floating windows are the same size; one on top of the daily devotional window, and the other right on top of the first floating window. Let’s build them one at a time.

 

Click “Shift-F12” and TW opens a floating book window. Size it so that it sits comfortably just over the top window in the right thirdrant. Then drag the bottom of the window up just a little, so that the window is a little smaller than the devotional window. This window will hold your “My Prayer-list.”

 

Click “Shift-F12” again, and TW will open another floating window. This window will hold your “My Memory-verses” module. Drag it right over the prayer page window and make it the same size. Then drag the entire window down just a little bit, so that the color bar of the “My Prayer-list” window is just visible, yet the “My Memory-verses” window is just off of the NKJV window and on top of the prayer list window.

 

And . . . Ta Daa. This layout is done.

 

Ready For Personal Devotions

 

Just to review, here is how I use this layout to have my personal devotions.

 

  1. I read my daily Bible reading. If I find any verses I want to add to my memory verse module, I add them. When I finish, I scroll the Bible reading plan down to the next day. Once the Bible reading plan is set for the next day, I save the layout. This is the only time the layout gets saved.
  2. I lengthen the “My Memory-verses” window to fill up the right thirdrant, and I work my verses. When finished, I close this window.
  3. I pray over my prayer list. When finished, I close this window.
  4. I read the daily devotional reading. First, I close the bottom window in the right thirdrant. Then, I click in the daily devotional window to activate it. Then, I click on the “...readings for today” dialogue box. Then I click the daily devotional(s) that I want to read.

 

Try this method out for a couple of days and see what you think. After that, you’ll be ready to make personal adjustments, so that this layout will fit with your daily devotional discipline. Drop me a note and let me know how it is working (or not) for you.

 

NOTES

 

*Personal Devotions ultimately is the cultivation of a relationship with The Creator of the Universe and Redeemer of my/your soul. While there are tools/methods that can help that relationship grow, they in themselves do not make, nor grow, a right relationship with God. The tools/methods in this blog are simply one man (me) telling others (you) how he has found enjoyment in walking with his God (Jesus Christ).

 

**Docking windows in TW is easy - and very customizable. Click the arrow at the top left of the window (on the color bar) and choose which column (there are three of them), which row (again, counting the middle area, there are three) and the vertical position in the column. There are tons of configurations available: just use your imagination.