Here's a tear-filled memory from my youth that never fails to turn up as each year draws to an end. What I'm referring to is a New Year's Eve event at my church that I went to as a teenager. For a few hours we played games, watched a movie, sang songs, and ate munchies, but as midnight approached the activities were set aside so all present could form a huge circle, hold hands and pray. Tears trickled down my face during the minute or two we took to acknowledge God and our need of Him in the year ahead.
What a contrast to the fireworks, champagne, and confetti that often depicts how many spend this holiday, right? But for me, it's the perfect way to begin a new year.
This is also the time of year I determine what approach I'll use as I read my Bible in the next twelve months. This past year I kept it simple: read at least two chapters a day of Scripture. Other years I've read my Bible from start to finish. One year I read it in reverse! Often, I combine reading a daily devotional book plus a passage of Scripture. Here are 6 I recommend along with three recently published titles, one of which is my choice for the coming year.
The classic, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers was among the first devotional books I ever read, and it's still among my favorites. His meditations challenged and made me hunger to know God on a deeper level. Note: The book comes in many formats, plus available in an updated, modern English option, though many still prefer the original version, published in the early 1900's.
Moments that Matter: Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year by Catherine Marshall. Years ago a friend gave me this devotional book by this well-known author and it remains on my bookshelf for a number of reasons. First, it's beautiful design, inside and out. Love its exquisite graphics. Second, it's brevity. Marshall is gifted at capturing a poignant thought in just a paragraph or two. Third, its humor and honesty, meshed with practical wisdom that often stems from her own life with its many challenges, overcoming Tuberculosis being one of them. 384 pages, hardback with a ribbon bookmark. Though no longer in print, used ones can be purchased on Amazon.
He is Real -- 365 Devotionals by Millie Stamn. If you were to scan the pages of my copy of He is Real you'd find almost every page bares my markings: underlined passages; notations by me on the side, top and bottom; and occasional highlights of words too good to forget. I've read He is Real several times, and most likely will again. The author worked with Stonecroft Ministries for years and has published three other devotional books. I'm particularly fond of Stamn's work as she weaves in more Scripture than I've seen in other devotionals, but still maintains a friendly writing style. 368 pages; no longer in print but used copies can be found on Amazon.
More Precious Than Silver – 366 Daily Devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada. Most people know Joni via her biography or movie about how she became paralyzed due to a swimming accident in her teens. In the decades since that ordeal, she's written other books, including several devotionals. I'm particularly fond of this one as right from the start it taught me the value and beauty of God's Word, along with silver, and as a result, I purchased my first “silver” cross soon after I read the book's short intro. She a gifted writer, a student of Scripture, and her devotional is full of insights about the purity and power found in God's Word. Unique to her book is the challenge and prayer she offers after each meditation which helps the reader take what they've just read and apply it to that day.
Long Live the Child – Devotions Designed for Daughters of Promise by Christine Wyrtzen. I never tire of looking at the cover on this book, nor reading Christine's insights based on her in-depth study of God's Word. Usually devotionals are geared for any audience, but Christine's is primarily for women (Not to say that men can't benefit from her book, as some have given Long Live the Child high praise.) who struggle to receive love and affection, or strive to be perfect or work hard for the approval of God and others. This is one of those books where you quickly feel at home with the author because of her vulnerability, honesty, and sensitive spirit. Go here for her online devotionals: www.daughtersofpromise.org
Experiencing God Day-By-Day — The Devotional and Journal by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby. This father and son team have created a terrific devotional. It's based on their book, Experiencing God, a bestseller at one time that continues to sell. What I like about this edition is the opportunity and generous amount of space to journal along side each day's reading. I found as I went through the book, taking the time to journal my thoughts or noting things I wish to remember, definitely reinforced what I was learning. It has since become a treasured document of what God did in my heart that year. Given the popularity of journal art these days this is an excellent option to blend your personal touch with insights from these Bible scholars. An added plus to this book is the index of subjects and readings in the back. 380 pages.
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Daily Guideposts 2017 –- A Spirit-Lifting Devotional published by Zondervan. For some 40+years Guideposts has been publishing daily devotionals, that I believe were formerly distributed as a monthly booklet. In this new volume the devotionals' theme is “In God's Hands,” and penned by 49 men and women, a number of whom are well-known authors, such as Debbie Macomber. I like the idea of enjoying various styles of writing and perspectives by so many contributors. Each one presents a scripture verse and first-person story, followed by a short prayer and additional Bible passages that relate to the day's reading. 342 pages; available on Kindle and in a large print edition.
Enjoy the Shepherd — Daily Lessons from Sheep by Ray Carman. If this newly released title is anything like the author's daily YouTube videos from his sheep farm in Tennessee, you will love it. Ray has this wonderful ability to glean hundreds of biblical principles as he cares for his flock and then show how they apply to our lives. Don't forget, we too are sheep with Jesus as our Shepherd. If you've only time for a very short daily reading and have a fondness for animals you'll find Ray's book a delight. Available in paperback and on Kindle.
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These are only a few of the many devotionals available on the market today. All are useful tools in developing a routine to spend time with God on a consistent basis, but never as a substitute for time in God's Word. So, if you've never read a devotional book I hope you'll find one that appeals to you and discover the benefits of starting each day filling your mind with thoughts based on scripture.
And what devotional book will I be reading in 2017? I'll either revisit Experiencing God, or buy this new devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada, A Spectacle of Glory -- God's Light Shining Through Me Every Day. One of the reasons behind this option is due to noticing Larry Libby's name on the cover. I worked with him at Multnomah Press and so admire (and at times envious) his skill as a creative writer. Whenever I see his name on a cover it becomes a must read.
Whatever title I go with I know reading it will be time well spent. So, with a devotional in one hand and God's Word in the other, I'm all set for a new year.
P.S. Do you have a favorite devotional book?