“I must take care above all that I cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace – mark that – yet it will be the channel of it.” Charles H. Spurgeon
In my last blog post I shared about some of the lessons I was learning about the call to oneness with my wife. One of the major ways grace has been coming to us in this season in our marriage is by increasing our oneness and intimacy with Christ, and that, through the use of a variety of devotionals. (Devotionals are books or daily emails that were written for the express purpose of helping us go deeper in our walk with God). That’s what I want to share about in this post.
As the Holy Spirit has been unraveling some of the subtle sin patterns that have enabled me to be so busy in the kingdom, and yet lose my passion for the King (and my passion for personal godliness and holiness), I have discovered anew the great value of devotionals in stimulating my passionate pursuit of the King of kings and Lover of all lovers.
I’ve pondered of late, how I lost sight of the value of devotionals in my walk with Christ…. I suppose there are a number of reasons, but here are a few. First, over the years I had come under an enormous weight of information that I felt I had to stay on top of. Things such as: Missionary newsletters; Christian organization/ministry newsletters and blogs; political and pro-life news outlets; latest in the theological world; latest in the church world; some sports; etc. – This daily barrage of information consumed me, and left little time for devotional readings. Second, because I have placed such primacy on the scriptures over all these years, I had devalued God’s delight in speaking through others (through devotionals), who have been powerfully impacted by the scriptures. Third, I just lost sight of my great need to regularly fan the flames of my passion for Jesus throughout each day, both alone and with my wife, and the role devotionals could play in that process.
So allow me to share several reasons why devotionals should be a regular part of our daily spiritual diet and regimen.
First they can provide a “timely word”, when a timely word is desperately needed. King Solomon wrote, “A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word.” Proverbs 15:23. My experience in these last eight weeks or so has been that men and women, who wrote some of these devotionals decades or even centuries ago, have been powerfully used by the Holy Spirit to bring a very timely word.
Second, not only do I at times need a timely word, but I also need wisdom and understanding. I have found devotionals are a great source of such. Again King Solomon speaks to the great value of wisdom and understanding, ““Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding your intimate friend;” Prov. 7:4 Sisters ideally are more nurturing and caring than brothers. They instinctively watch out for their siblings, and want the best for them. Wisdom is like a sister that has a deep inner commitment to see to it that her siblings prosper, succeed and avoid pitfalls. Devotionals can play that role as well by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.
Third, devotionals can act as a good counselor at times. We are exhorted in Proverbs 19:20 to: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline that you may be wise the rest of your days.” My experience with daily readings in a variety of devotionals is they have often given me good counsel and needed discipline or correction in my attitudes and perspectives.
Fourth, some of the devotionals that we have grown to appreciate are time tested. They were written by people who ended well, who finished their race. Their content has survived many decades, sometimes many centuries of examination and testing. In my lifetime I have seen many writers/speakers, who were the Christian rave for a few years, maybe ten, and then who ended up not being what their followers thought they were. We all stumble in many ways and God is a God of restoration for those who humble themselves. But we prefer to drink from those who have stood the test of time when we can.
I want to share some devotionals for intimacy & oneness with God that God continues to use in my life on a daily basis: 1. Living Light – Daily Light in today’s language – Tyndale House Publishers – Consists of morning and evening readings of scripture in the Living Bible paraphrase according to topic and according to calendar. Anne and I read this together in the morning and then at the dinner table in the evening with her mother, Carol.
2. The Seeking Heart – Volume 4 – Library of Spiritual Classics – Fenelon – Seed Sowers Publishing. Fenelon lived from 1651-1715. He was one of the godliest and most beloved Catholic monks ever to live in France. This book is a compilation of letters he wrote to those he shepherded (mostly women). Fenelon knew God deeply and walked with Him in great intimacy. His wisdom and piety is still of great value today.
3. The Imitation of Christ – Thomas a Kempis – Catholic monk born around 1380 in Germany. One of the most coveted and influential devotionals across Catholic and Protestant lines for centuries. I typically read a page each morning. This man clearly knew God deeply and loved Christ with all his heart. We protestants will choose to differ with occasional veneration of Mary and veneration of “Saints” and “Priests”, and with some of his convictions about communion, but these are minor themes or comments in the book.
4. God Calling – Two women who never wanted to be known but waited on God over a period of time for these prophetic words. A.J. Russell edited them and put them in book form according to calendar. Prophetic words have to be judged (per I Cor. 14). They have to be examined and assessed according to scripture and our knowledge of the ways of God. Some of these are stronger than others. This is also available online at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. The Agbia or Agpeya – Prayer Book of the Hours – – Egyptian Coptic Monks’ prayers and readings. Highly recommended for their depth of devotion to: Christ, heart felt worship and repentance for sins. Scattered comments of veneration of Mary are unfortunate. www.SaintMark.com; www.CopticChurch.net; www.Tasbeha.org
6. The Christian Book of Mystical Verse – Edited by A.W. Tozer – mostly poetry, which can sometimes shed helpful light on difficult theological concepts or just add to our personal worship.
7. My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers – preacher in England – late 1800’s/early 1900’s. God has powerfully used this devotional in our lives in the past.
8. Moments with You – by Dennis & Barbara Rainey – Regal Publishers – for married couples. They are according to calendar. Good helpful input mostly.
9. More Precious than Gold – M. Basilea Schlink – not sure of publisher, but easy to order online. Can receive by email daily at: www.cananninthedesert.com. I receive these daily. Always stimulating. Not for the faint of heart. ☺
10. Come Away My Beloved – Francis J. Roberts – Published by King’s Farspan, Inc. These are basically prophetic words/writings, and on the most part have been very helpful to us.
11. The Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. The Banner of Truth Trust = Publisher. I can’t commend this devotional enough! The Puritans love Jesus much because they are forgiven much; they are forgiven much because they know God as holy and thus see their sin as it is much! I pray through one of these daily and probably will continue to do so.
12. Bible Gateway.com devotionals – C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Spurgeon, etc. We are not using these presently, but have in past.
My parting word to you is twofold: 1. Make meditation in the scriptures your priority. That should always come first. And that will give you the ability to discern whether or what God is speaking to you through whatever devotionals He leads you to use. If you drive a lot you might want to keep one of these in your car. If you spend much of every day of the work week in an office, you might want to keep one or more there. If you are married, we encourage you to strive for oneness in your use of devotionals.
2. Prayerfully respond to each devotional reading. Our goal in reading devotionals is not for more knowledge and information as much as help for transformation. And transformation always requires our response to what God is saying. May the Lord renew and revive you and return you to your first love as you access these wonderful resources.