Enjoying the Journey
There is a delicate balance in the daily devotional life: we want to keep both discipline and freshness in our time with God. Very easily routines turn into ruts and delight becomes drudgery. Today’s list is unique because each book must be used. Reading is not enough.
Let me begin by clarifying that there is no book like the Bible and no daily devotional time can be what it should be apart from time in God’s Word. It is a very dangerous thing to allow any book, no matter how helpful, to substitute for the faithful reading of Scripture. Begin with the Bible and allow every other resource to drive you deeper into the Word of God.
Here are five books that have been a special help to my own daily devotional time:
A Personal Journal. Instead of beginning with what someone else has written, do some writing yourself! Your mind works as your pen (or your keyboard) moves. Write out Bible verses, lessons God is teaching you, reminders of the goodness of God, and even prayers to the Lord. You will find that very often as you write your heart begins to open even more to what God is doing in your life. (Read more about why and how to use a journal here.)
A Good Hymn Book. In my study I have a number of hymnbooks, new and old, containing great hymns of the faith. Singing to the Lord should not just be done in public worship, it should begin in private worship. Choose a song for the day. Read the words meditatively. Rehearse them throughout the day. Great hymns are always full of doctrine and they help us to consciously think on the greatness of our God.
A Book of Sermons. Few people read sermons anymore – they barely listen to them! But I have found that the recorded messages of faithful Bible preachers often allow me to move slowly through a truth. It gives me time to reflect and process what they are saying. Personally, I love to read the messages of older preachers. Men like G. Campbell Morgan, F.B. Meyer, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and others have reminded me that truth is timeless. It really does endure to every generation (Psalm 100:5).
A Book of Prayers. Now, before you throw something at me, let me say that I am not a fan of “canned” formalistic praying. I believe that prayer should be the spontaneous cry of the individual heart to God. However, reading the prayers of those who truly knew how to commune with God can be instructive and a good entry point for our own prayers. A couple of years ago a dear friend gave me a copy of The Valley of Vision. It is a collection of prayers of the Puritans, men such as Richard Baxter, Isaac Watts, John Bunyan, David Brainerd, and Christmas Evans. The prayers are given not just to be read or even to be imitated but as a starting place for wording our own prayers to the Lord. It has been refreshing to me.
A Book on A Specific Area of Your Christian Life. Someone asked me recently how I chose what I was going to read. I believe that you should choose carefully books that will help to strengthen definite areas of your life where the Lord is at work. For example, if God is dealing with you about prayer then you may want to incorporate the writings of E.M. Bounds into your devotional time. If He is working on you about your pride then you may want to read a little of Andrew Murray’s classic little book on Humility. If it is marriage or parenting where you need real direction then you may want to read something that speaks to those needs alongside your regular devotional reading. Switch it up! This will also give freshness to your daily discipline and help you to concentrate on what God is concentrating on in your life.
There are many devotional books that have been a blessing to me – Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, My King and His Service by Frances Havergal, Day by Day and Every Day with Jesus by George Duncan, In Tune with Heaven by Vance Havner, 100 Devotions for Pastors and Church Leaders by John Phillips – but you should not limit yourself only to books that are considered “devotional” in nature. Instead, use resources that help you to know God and His Word in a greater way, because the goal of a devotional time is not to complete something but to continue walking with God.
What books have been a help to your personal devotions?
Read each article in this series: