The Weekly Epistle 4/3/24

Living Hope, 

Back in my Bible college days, I had a professor who taught that daily devotions are pointless. He believed that Christians only need to read and study their Bibles, and then they will be fully equipped for the Christian life. I held this belief for several years, until I noticed something was missing. I was gaining a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but I was spiritually atrophying. As the Bible college cliché goes, the Bible had become a mere textbook. 

While deep study of God’s Word should be the practice of every believer, I now believe there is value in daily devotions. There is something about sitting down in a quiet place with a journal and a good devotional, allowing someone else to minister to your soul with a simple yet meaningful truth from God’s Word. Prayerfully responding to that truth keeps us in tune with our Lord and prepares us for the day ahead. 

In the years since I graduated from Bible college, daily devotions have become a significant part of my life. They have become the daily means by which I stay on the straight and narrow. They have become companions along my journey toward home. 

Here’s an annotated list of some of my favorite devotionals. If you are a longtime practitioner of daily devotions, you may find something new here. If you’re looking to pick up this daily spiritual discipline, this is an excellent place to start. Regardless, I recommend any one of these books to you. 

“My Utmost For His Highest,” by Oswald Chambers:                                   Originally published in 1935, this Christian classic is considered by many to be the first modern devotional. It was the first devotional in my collection, and I clung to it for years as it nourished my soul from day to day. Countless editions of this devotional are available, with some accessible for free online. Whichever edition you choose, ensure it is edited for the modern reader. The language in older editions can be archaic and challenging to follow. 

“New Morning Mercies,” by Paul Tripp:                                                           This daily devotional became an instant classic when it was released a few years ago. Paul Tripp is biblically grounded and quite insightful. He’s not afraid to speak the truth plainly, yet he also                         extends the full grace of God’s word. Reading this devotional will challenge and encourage you. 

 “The Songs of Jesus,” by Tim and Kathy Keller:       
This small devotional guides you through the entire Psalter over the course of one year. Each entry includes a reading from the Psalms, an insightful reflection from Tim and Kathy, and a short closing prayer for reflection. I am currently working my way through this devotional for the second year in a row. 

 “Morning and Evening,” by Charles Spurgeon:  This devotional provides two entries a day, one for the morning and one for the evening. If you enjoy settling down with a book at night, this might be the devotional for you. Additionally, if you struggle with depression or any physical ailments, this could be a helpful devotional, as                     Spurgeon’s own struggles with depression and rheumatoid arthritis are reflected in some of his entries. I recommend the edition edited by Alistair Begg. As with Oswald, the language of the original edition can be archaic and challenging to follow. Begg does a great job of preserving Spurgeon’s exhortations for modern readers. 

 “Gentle and Lowly,” by Dane Ortlund:          
Jesus described his heart towards us as gentle and lowly, and this devotional is a comforting read for those of us who struggle with an inordinate sense of guilt and shame. It serves as an elixir for                 the soul, revealing the loving and healing presence of Jesus in our lives. 

 “Abiding Dependence,” by Ron Block:      
The author of this devotional is better known as the lead guitarist for Alison Krauss and Union Station, but he is also a devoted follower of Jesus. His thoughtful reflections on the love and grace of Jesus are excellent and were deeply meaningful to me when I read through this book a few years ago. If you’ve already read  “Gentle and Lowly,” then this might be a great follow-up. 

Well, church, get at it. Wake up early or stay up late if you must. Carve out sometime for the Lord. Devote your life completely to Him. Give him your “utmost” as Chambers would say, for He has already given His all for you. 

Grace and peace, 

Pastor Dan