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
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,
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
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
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.