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In a New Year, many Christians have aims to read their Bible more and/or to use a devotional. I already blogged on Bible reading. Today a few thoughts on devotionals.

“and/or”. There are devotionals that also take you through a Bible-reading plan, but often Bible reading and a devotional are separate endeavors. That is fine. But be sure that you aren’t substituting or considering a devotional to be your Bible reading. Many devotionals are based on ONE verse of Scripture. If you are considering that to be your Bible reading, well, that is not Bible reading. It is one verse. It is like snacking or nibbling on the Bible, rather than having a meal.

I’ve always struggled with devotional reading, because too many devotionals are light and superficial – especially ones geared toward women. Don’t get me wrong, I realize a devotional is supposed to be a…devotional! It is not suppose to be a Bible study or an academic level endeavor. But the commonplace fluffy devotionals lack substance, failing to ground us in the right thing.

Particularly as believers, we need more than a feel-good pep talk or encouraging story loosely based on a Scripture verse. Some of these devotionals are a spiritual starvation diet. We need solid food.  We need the Bible and we need Jesus.

I’ve noted with some devotionals, the Bible is actually secondary. A Bible verse is thrown in there, but it is like the Bible verse is used to support the optimistic thought or story. It should be the opposite. The Bible verse should be paramount so that the devotional thought flows from the Bible.

The word of God is powerful. Let it speak. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

The Word and Spirit are intimately connected and when the Word gets the proper attention, the Spirit can be set free to work.

Here are 3 devotional suggestions, ones I have used and appreciated:

  • My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I suppose this devotional may need no introduction. It is a classic which has sold millions of copies since being published in the 1920’s. It is available to read on-line each day at this link. I’ve gone through this devotional at least twice. I know I will use it again at some point. It is Christ-centered, and often challenged and convicted me in my life of faith.
  • The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers by Arthur Bennett (editor). The editor collected and arranged Puritan prayers by topic. Essentially he poured over Puritan writings, and then did some editing, re-arranging, or combining to provide these prayers reflective of the Puritans. The Puritans have often been unfairly maligned and their flaws overemphasized, which is unfortunate because there is much positive that can be learned from them. I appreciated many of the prayers, and the style is deeply humbling and Christ focused – the prayers were clearly birthed from much time spent in the Bible. I went through this one year, and will definitely use it again.
  • Currently I am using CH Spurgeon’s classic Morning and Evening. I’ve wanted to use this for years, and finally am. I found a lovely leather, compact copy at the thrift store, which I liked better than the hardcover I have on my shelf. haha. I’ve always appreciated Spurgeon, and while it is only January 13th, he is not disappointing me. Christ-centered and Scripture focused, his thoughts challenge.

I am not saying there is never a time for light or therapeutic content. Of course there is. But I think too many people drown in it.

I’ll end with this brief thought from Michael J. Svigel on Twitter: “Dear evangelicals: For every Christian novel, coloring book, or fluffy devotional you read in 2017, balance it with one book of substance.”

I have serious concerns with the all-to-popular devotional Jesus Calling. Tim Challies shares ten concerns with Jesus Calling here: 10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling. Please consider devotionals besides this one.