Do not waste your time reading unprofitable books. – Matthew Henry
Perhaps as the first week of January has past, you have thought, “I really intended to start a quiet time this year.” Perhaps you went to a bookstore or went online to find a devotional book, only to be discouraged by the vast amount of materials available. Since my posting about the Word, I have had a few questions about devotional materials so I am providing here a few tips.
If you can only have time to read one thing, then it must be the Bible. Being in the word is the most important part of the Christian walk. In fact, without the Word, we cannot see to walk (Psalm 119:105). Therefore, if your quiet time is not Biblically saturated, then it is in fact wasted time.
If an online guide or a printed plan is difficult for you to follow, then my chief recommendation for your devotional time this year is a One Year Bible . Each day there is a selection from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Psalms in an easy-to-follow format. The One Year Bible is available in all good modern English translations, and can also be found on Kindle for relatively inexpensive.
At the same time, there are many good tools out there that may be a springboard into the depths of the riches of God, if used rightly.
Selecting a Devotional Book.
“Help! I’m at the Christian bookstore and there are hundreds of devotional books, which one should I use/read?” Believe it or not, this answer is easier than you think. Is there a passage of scripture anywhere on the page? If not, put it down immediately! Hopefully, the passage is towards the beginning if not the beginning.
Sit down. Read one, or two. In fact, I would recommend looking at half a dozen to perhaps one per month. Did this devotional reflect upon the verse cited (in a responsible way)? Was I drawn to pray?
A good devotional will have you anchored in the word and centered on the Person of Jesus Christ. Without those elements, a “devotional” is just a story. This is why Chicken Soup for the Soul (in any form!) is a great bathroom reader and not a bedside or a book to read with your morning Coffee.
My suggestion is to start with a classic in devotional literature. There is a reason why the author is today with Jesus and his or her books are still in print. I include here a brief list of recommendations or books I have used that is in no way exhaustive but I hope helpful.
The Lord used the ministry of Charles Spurgeon to convert Oswald Chambers. His book My Utmost for His Highest has been a devotional classic for well over a century. It is available in updated language.
A Godward Life, John Piper. These daily readings are not only grounded in Christ, they are also challenging to the individual in preparing to live a Godward life in today’s world . You may view a free .pdf file at the Desiring God sitehere.
Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman. If you are looking for a lady author, this classic has been around a while and is a good one.
Daily Light for My Path by Anne Graham Lotz. This book keeps you focused on the word and is arranged neat and orderly.
Another trusted author is Joni Eareckson Tada. You can sign up for a daily emailed devotion at Joni and Friends here. Any book she has authored I would also recommend to you. We keep a copy of Christmas Longings around during that time of year.
If you want to try less than 365 days, try one of the 90 studies by Beth Moore on David , John , Paul or Jesus (or all the above for 360 days – that’s almost a year!). These interactive studies will engage your heart, soul, and mind.
There is a plethora of material available at Crosswalk.com. Some is to be desired over others, but all in all they have a pretty good array of material available that includes two of the Spurgeon volumes I mentioned and Streams in the Desert. Their website is here.
Set a Time.
Mornings are arguably the best time for quiet/time devotional reading and prayer. There are many reasons why this is true, none of the least of which are scriptural examples of early morning meetings with the Lord in prayer. This will also help set the tone for the day. However, in the busyness of life, you may have a house full of people ( one or two kids is/are enough for this ) and you may have to steal a few moments sometime during the day. If this is the case, perhaps have a family time of prayer and reading of a passage of the Bible and have your personal time when everyone is out of the house, or during your lunch break, depending on your schedule and station in life. Whatever time works for you though, be consistent, as this will help you form a very important habit that may be the most profitable time you spend all day.
Do Not Get Discouraged.
If you miss a day or so, do not try to play catch up! You will drown this way. If following a daily devotional, pick up with the day you are on, then later (perhaps in a evening or a Saturday) read the days you have missed. There is grace!
Read Operation World.
If you like information, travel, geography, or are really Missions oriented, then my suggestion instead of a devotional book is Operation World. This resource has recently been updated and is a daily prayer guide for every country in the world. I recommend it’s reading and praying through by everyone. You may also find the information from the book at the site here.
Read a Classic or Biography.
If a daily book is not quite your style, then dive into some other form of Christian literature, perhaps a classic by C.S. Lewis, or a biography such as Eric Metaxes’ Bonhoeffer. Reading books such as these will continue to focus you on the person of Christ as we see the examples of those who have gone this way before. As lengthy as this post is, I may do a post on classics later.
In the meantime, “Take up and Read.” Please let me know if I can help you in any way.