Hearts & Minds Choices for the Best Daily Devotionals
In no particular order...
Reflecting the Glory: Meditations for Living Christ's Life in the World by N.T. Wright (Augsburg, $14.99). There is no doubt in my mind that N.T. Wright is the most important New Testament scholar writing today. Theologian in residence at the historic Westminster Abbey, his scholarly books are creative and orthodox, faithful to the biblical text and the overall Story. Here is perhaps the best way to be introduced to Wright's work--a two- or three-page entry for 52 days (making it perfect for Lent). Afterward, there is a complete study guide for personal or small-group use. Here is the question that haunts Wright: How can we become the people through whom God heals and reconciles the world? Solid, stimulating and deeply wise.
Take Hold of God and Pull by Calvin Seerveld (Paternoster, $12.99). Those who regularly read this column know that I esteem Seerveld as one of the best biblical scholars and Christian philosophers of our time; also, he is one of the most often cited sources on developing a uniquely Christian view of the arts and aesthetics. These were chapel talks done in the late "Ëœ60s at a renegade reformational college and the heady urgency and vision of those times translates remarkably well. Arranged into biblical categories that somewhat follow the church calendar. Truly extraordinary.
My Utmost for His Highest (special updated edition) by Oswald Chambers (Discovery House, $14.99). Maybe the best one-volume daily devotional in print. The inexpensive, unabridged King James edition, is a pocket-sized paperback ($4.99) while the cooler looking, updated version is easier to read, without losing its punch. Chambers was a deeply pious man with a profound, God-drenched faith, but--hallelujah!--wrote wisely about service to God in the real world. The title says it all, doesn't it?
How Great Thou Art: 365 Reasons Why God is Awesome edited by Steve Halliday & William Travis (Multnomah, $12.99 paperback or $17.99 hardback). A year's worth of meditations on the divine attributes of God. 365 readings from some of the most insightful writers of the past 2000 years (so, even if you don't use it daily, it is a great resource). Includes the likes of St. Augustine, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, Jonathan Edwards, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and a few more contemporary writers such as Sue Monk Kidd, Frederick Buechner and J.I. Packer.
Morning By Morning: Daily Meditations from the Writings of Marva Dawn by Marva Dawn (Eerdmans, $14.00). What a great idea--drawn from Marva's numerous books, this collection of meditations is arranged with a consistent weekly pattern--and a few extra days are included (a few for special days in the church year, like Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost) and one for your birthday! Marva is an unusually appealing writer, unafraid to speak her mind, which is good, since her mind is so thoroughly rooted in a biblical worldview! A great daily devotional and a great introduction to the remarkable breadth of this Lutheran laywoman's writing. A gem!
365 Days With E. Stanley Jones edited by Mary Ruth Howes (Dimensions for Living, $13.00). Jones was an esteemed and famous Methodist missionary to India (his friendship with Gandhi was chronicled in Portrait of a Friend). He was known as a man of orthodox faith, deep prayer, missionary zeal and yet, without the self-righteous narrowness that sometimes accompanies such world-class leaders. These readings from his many books are brief, complete with biblical texts, an "affirmation"Â for each day and a closing prayer.
A God-Ward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life by John Piper (Multnomah, $14.99 paperback or $16.99 hardcover). Piper is a modern-day Jonathan Edwards--happily and intensely committed to the beauty of God--with perhaps a bit more punch and passion! Here are 120 daily readings about the sovereignty of God and the pleasures of knowing Him. There is also a second volume, only available in hardcover ($16.99).
A Light for My Path: Meeting God in 365 Key Chapters of the Bible by Kenneth & Karen Boa (Vine Books, $13.99). For those wanting a basic handbook to guide them through the Bible in a year. Each entry is brief, workmanlike, clear. This is a very useful overview of most of the Scripture, both devotional and informative.
Readings for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning (HarperCollins, $14.00). A mystic. A lover. A proclaimer. A kind and good man. A storyteller. With poetic, gut-wrenching prose, this popular author reminds us of God's extraordinary grace. Pick up any page and recall that you are God's beloved. (For the true Manning fan, there are excerpts here from some of his lesser-known books and even some that have been long out of print. This truly is a rich treasure trove!)
Listen to Your Life: Daily Readings by Frederick Buechner (HarperCollins, $14.00). Buechner is certainly one of the foremost Christians writing in our day. Preacher, novelist, memoirist, theologian, essayist, literary critic, Mr. Buechner reminds us that God works in every detail of our lives, if only we pay attention. One good and well-read H&M staff member who is quite a connoisseur of daily devotionals has declared this to be the best book of its kind.
Moments With the Savior: A Devotional Life of Christ by Ken Gire (Zondervan, $17.99). Gire is a touching writer, wonderful crafting fine lines, good metaphors, delightful images. As the back jacket copy accurately puts it, "A richly textured tapestry woven with threads of humanity and divinity [this] reveals afresh the Lord who calls you closer to a more intimate relationship with him."Â Very, very nice.
Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper (CRC Publications, $13.95). Even a brief list of daily devotionals from Hearts & Minds would be amiss if we didn't cite this lovely collection from our Dutch statesmen--Christian activist hero, A.K. The beautiful and informative forward by the contemporary version's editor, James Schaap, reminds us that Kuyper's worldviewish cultural work was rooted deeply in his spirituality. Some, I am afraid, admire Kuyper's social witness but disregard his devotional life...
The Forever People: Living Today in Light of Eternity by Joel Nederhood (Presbyterian & Reformed, $11.99). While it would be inaccurate to suggest that Nederhood is a modern-day Kuyper, his delightful devotions on heaven make for thrilling reading for those of us with a down-to-Earth, wide-as-life discipleship. Nederhood is a great preacher, a classic Reformed theologian, and obviously a man who can help us live "in light of eternity."Â Nicely done, with tasteful but contemporary packaging and well-told stories.
Covenant of Justice by James Skillen (Center for Public Justice, $13.95). I know of no devotional or collection of readings which are so solidly biblical and so profoundly applicable to contemporary public life. Skillen may be the sharpest working political philosopher today. Here, you see his love for Scripture and his unique insight into the creation-renewing drama which unfolds in God's Word and is disclosed in Christ. Not just for political science majors or public servants, this devotional will surely be a gift of insight for anyone who claims to love the Bible. Highly recommended.
Daily Splashes of Joy: 365 Gems to Sparkle Your Day by Barbara Johnson (Word, $16.99). Some may be surprised to see this collection from the "Queen of Encouragement"Â--the "Geranium Lady"Â on our rather serious list. Mrs. Johnson has gone through an immense amount of suffering and continues to make people smile, especially in her appearances at the "Women of Faith"Â rallies. Heartwarming, funny and blessed. Nice.
Beyond Doubt: Faith Building Devotions on Questions Christians Ask by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Eerdmans, $16.99). Short answers to tough questions by the esteemed President of Calvin Theological Seminary. With endorsement from the likes of Thomas Long, Marva Dawn, Lewis Smedes and Phil Yancey, this book is an obvious gift. Vivid meditations, solid writing, good prayers.
All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time by Robert Ellsberg (Crossroad, $24.95). A whopping paperback with a whopping message. From Therese of Lisieux to Mother Teresa, from Moses to Gandhi, from Saint Caedmon to William Wilberforce, this treasury combines traditional Catholic saints and other spiritual giants whose lives speak to the meaning of social justice and holiness for our time. An incredible compendium, again making it a very useful resource, even if one doesn't read it each day.
From Rebellion to Redemption: A Journey Through the Great Themes of the Christian Faith by Randal Working (NavPress, $15.00). This author is a working Presbyterian pastor who has given us a spectacular devotional resource. This book is essentially a collection of reflections on the questions and answers of the famous Heidelberg Catechism (written during the Protestant reformation). In addition to providing a 52-week mini-course on the book of Romans, this book deftly weaves the study with prayer, Scripture, and writings from a very wide spectrum of Christian thinkers. A systematic and personal approach to Christian doctrine, with the meditative quotes adding a wonderfully ecumenical balance. This, I think, may be a "must-read"Â resource. Lew Smedes describes its "grace-shaped beauty."Â
Celebrating the Seasons: Daily Spiritual Readings for the Christian Year (Morehouse, $34.95). Dark green with gold foil stamping, ribbon marker and quality paper, this hardcover is a collection of literally the best devotional writers in church history. Designed to follow the daily lectionary, this anthology is weighted towards the early church fathers (like Basil, Cyral of Jersulem or John Chrysostom) or those from medieval times (Jean-Pierre de Caussade or Julian of Norwich). Occasionally a Reformer is found, and few contemporaries (Bonhoeffer, Merton). But mostly, you will find here the wisdom of the ancients.
Celebrating the Saints: Devotional Readings for Saints' Days (Morehouse, $34.95). An attractive companion volume to the title listed above, this is a wide-ranging collection of readings for each day of the year, celebrating feast days and lesser days in the Episcopal tradition. Many of these fine writers you may not have heard of; others are esteemed Christian leaders and a few commonly known as "saints."Â A rich, rich resource.
The Divine Hours (Autumn & Winter; Spring, Summer) by Phyllis Tickle (Doubleday, $27.50 each). These stunningly produced and exceedingly handsome volumes are hard to explain for those not familiar with the classic tradition of "praying the hours."Â They follow the age-old daily reading schedule of the lectionary, with prayers, collects, Psalms and hymns for morning, mid-day and evening prayer times. In these three volumes, Tickle has graciously written and selected material for a year's worth of praying the daily office, blending ancient and contemporary flavors. Obviously more demanding than the page-a-day reflections listed above, these prayer books are popular, especially for those seeking a more contemplative routine and liturgical rhythm to their lives.