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Selecting Devotional Materials

May 23, 2011

{One of my favorite series Kristi has done was her “tour through the Christian book store.”   Each of these posts presents sound information and questions to ask about what we find in these stores and how to be discerning about what we purchase.  This one, however, is my favorite!  I love Kristi’s wisdom in this post about the importance of moving beyond devotional reading into digging into God’s Word.   Thank you, my friend, for sharing your insight with us! ~ Teri Lynne}

Originally posted March 17, 2010 on KristiStephens.com

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taking a “virtual field trip” through a Christian book store.  As I stated at the beginning of this series, Christian bookstores can be both a blessing and a trap – there are so many good resources and encouraging things out there in the Christian market, but there are also many that are irreverent, misleading, full of doctrinal error, or sold through packaging rather than content.

We’ve discussed the “Jesus junk” section, Christian fiction, and the Children’s Section – today I’d like to discuss using discernment when selecting devotional books and Bible study resources.

Let me say this upfront: The Word of God can and will change our hearts and lives.  It is living and active and powerful.

But the Word of God cannot change our lives if we spend one minute, or five minutes for that matter, in it per day.

Many devotional books seem to be written with the premise of “fitting in” time in God’s Word into your busy life.  I’ve seen so many versions of “one minute devotionals” or “busy mom devotionals” that it makes me crazy.  I’ve even seen these on CD – if you cannot even find one minute to read one verse, you can listen to it in your car.

There is nothing inherently wrong with devotional books – much of what I do on this site is basically writing devotionals.  I read and study Scripture, try to explain it, and draw applications from it.  Reading devotional thoughts from another believer who has studied and meditated on Scripture can be inspiring, challenging, encouraging.

But we MUST understand: Devotional material cannot replace actually spending time reading God’s Word for ourselves.

My advice is this: if you enjoy using devotional books, don’t just read the verse they print on the page for you.  Read it from your Bible. Actually, read the whole passage, chapter, and preferably book of the Bible.

Try to find devotionals that direct you back to the Word, rather than just giving you “happy thoughts” based on a verse that is pulled out of context.  Avoid things that promise only happiness and rainbows and butterflies as you walk with God – sometimes the Christian life is hard.  Sometimes the Bible is confusing.  Resist the urge to reduce God down to your personal “pocket pal” who is always with you and wants only to make you feel good.  That is a reduced and false perspective of God that will do you no favors.

Resist the urge to find a way to make your devotional life “fit” into your busy schedule.  There is a subtle legalism in that thought – we easily fall into the trap of thinking that if I did a 5-minute devotional, I have fulfilled my obligation to God and can proceed through my day guilt-free.  For more discussion of this, you might want to read “The Renewing of Your Mind,” a discussion of Biblical meditation and what it means to truly be transformed by knowing and meditating on God’s Word.

Occasionally I hear someone say they use my blog as part of their devotional routine.  Wonderful!  I hope what I share here encourages you and helps you dig into the Word – but please dig into the Word on your own, as well!

Sometimes I even hear someone say that they listen to Christian radio or podcasts of sermons on the way to work or as they are doing housework.  Great!  It can be encouraging and challenging and helpful – but you need to dig into the Word on your own!

No teacher, no matter how godly or well studied, has words that are living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, able to penetrate even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. That power comes from the Word of God itself, according to Hebrews 4:12.  Rather than reading only about God’s Word, we need to actually read God’s Word!

Sometimes I find that believers rely on devotional material because they do not know how to read and understand Scripture for themselves.  They have never been taught how to study, interpret, and apply God’s Word.  If that is the case for you, please consider downloading and using my free “Sword School: How to Study the Bible” ebook.

Learning to use your “sword” does take work.  It’s harder than having someone else spoon-feed you Truth.  But nothing will change your life like studying the Word for yourself and knowing Who God is and what He says from your own time spent digging those truths out.

How has devotional material impacted your spiritual walk?  Have you found yourself relying on devotional material rather than reading and studying the Word for yourself?

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Psalm 119:9-16

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 8:34 am

    Wow! Powerful and challenging post! Thank you Kristi and thank you Teri Lynne for sharing it. This is a great and very timely word.

  2. May 23, 2011 12:11 pm

    Awesome Post! It is so true that we (by we I mean me) try to fit God’s Word into my schedule. I actually have it on my list of things to do each morning! What a timely and needed word. It is so easy to get caught up in the trap of legalism when doing something on a consistant basis.

    I am going to go read Kristi’s series on The tour through the Christian Book Store. I used to think as long as I was buying it at the Christian Book Store it was okay because it was Christian. Thankfully I matured a little and realized I needed to be discerning about what I was purchasing. It certainly can be a trap.

    Thanks Teri Lynne for choosing this post.

    Blessings,
    Marita

  3. May 25, 2011 12:37 am

    Some very important thoughts here! Especially on being aware of if we are trying to “fit” God’s Word in our lives rather than making our lives centered, focused, and all for Him! I love using devotionals (and writing them), but like you said, we need the foundation and full truth of what’s in God’s Word.

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