February 21, 2020

My Daily Devotional

Update: Check at the end of this post for an opportunity to purchase fine Bibles at a good price, with proceeds going to support InternetMonk.com.

This morning I asked for you to share the resources you use in your own devotional time. Bibles, daily devotionals, other books or tools you find helpful. Having read through the responses thus far I see one thing is clear: We are going to need to build a bigger library here at the iMonastery!

As I said this morning, there are no right or wrong answers here. But now I want to share some of the resources I rely on, and some I have tried but didn’t quite fit for me.

First of all, I used to be sure to have a “daily quiet time” no matter where I was or what was going on in my day. Now, whether because I am deeply entrenched in a Dark Night of the Soul or because I am too lazy or what, I find that I don’t have that morning half hour or so on a regular basis. Instead, I find myself stealing ten or so minutes here or there to read a devo, a passage of Scripture, or a post and comments here at iMonk. I try to, as Br. Lawrence would say, practice the presence of God continually. This doesn’t mean I don’t value those times when I can sit by myself for thirty minutes or more reading and praying. I just don’t seem to be doing that as often these days.

Over the years I have tried numerous aids for my devotional times. Some just haven’t worked for me, but that doesn’t mean these are bad resources for you. (Now, there are a lot of bad devotionals out there. I know, because I worked on a lot of them. Fluffy crap that has the spiritual nutritional value of a hot dog. The kinds with names like “God’s Daily Answers For Your Daily Problems.” Then we would make a version for moms, women, and teens. Lather, rinse, repeat.) For instance, I know a number of people who like Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. I have given it as gifts to others, but it just doesn’t click with me. Yes, I hear Jesus speaking to me through the words of others. But Young’s attempt to make it seem these are THE words Jesus wants me to hear as from him, well, I guess I just don’t get it.

There are a number of devotionals that are simply excerpts from the author’s other works. This is the book version of a greatest hits album. Nothing original, but put the artist/author’s name on it and it will sell. Sometimes it works. One of the devos I use is a book of excerpts. Sometimes it doesn’t as well, like Brennan Manning’s Reflections for Ragamuffins. That book reads in fits and starts, never really giving me anything to meditate on. It’s more frustrating than fulfilling. Manning needs more than 150 words or so to deliver a punch.

Another book I’ve tried is Mike Aquilina’s A Year With The Church Fathers – Patristic Wisdom For Daily Living. At first I didn’t like it at all. But looking back I realize I was reading it on the run. You know—Ok, I’ve got two minutes for my quiet time. Ready, set, go! Then I would read the day’s passage from a church father who had more wisdom in his belly button than I do in my whole being, and it just wouldn’t make sense to me. But lately I’ve been pulling it off the shelf more and more, and finding that Aquilina has done a very good job capturing the essence of their wisdom in a very readable way. Besides, I think it best to read dead authors, and these guys are long dead.

Forgotten on my shelves until I was pulling off some books to write this post was Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner. Buechner can say in a couple hundred words more than many people say in an entire book. This will get more use in the days ahead.

One other book I have used from time to time is very special to me. I bought it while on retreat at a Trappist monastery in the hills of Kentucky. It’s Psalms: A New Translation: Singing Version arranged for chanting/singing, and is what the monks use during their daily offices at this particular monastery. I bought a journal at the gift shop at the same time I got the Psalms because the journal had a great leather cover. I took out the blank journal and used it as it was, replacing it in the cover with the Psalms. I’ve highlighted so many verses it looks like it was printed on green paper.

I love leather-bound books. I love the feel of leather in my hands. Would I enjoy this translation of Psalms as well if I were just holding the paperbound book? Well, I guess so. But it sure is nice to use it with the leather cover. I recommend always getting the best leather you can on a book or a Bible. You will appreciate it all the more.

The best Bibles that I have found are the Cambridge Bibles. Cambridge University Press has been publishing Bibles since 1591—twenty years before the first King James Bible. The quality of craftsmanship is outstanding. They are somewhat hard to find, and when you do find them, they can be expensive. But they will last long past you to your children and grandchildren.

And this leads me into my chosen resources. My devotional toolkit includes two Bibles. The first is a leather-bound The Voice Bible translation. We reviewed the Voice here recently, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Again, I bought a leather-covered version, and it is very unique, having been handcrafted in Argentina. There are even pictures in the front of the Bible showing the men making my cover—or one very close to it. In the back of the book are some very handy helps, including a three-year Bible reading plan, an explanation of the church year, and a very detailed topical index. The book is rather thick and heavy, which means you may not make this your carry-around Bible. But for reading at home and taking to church, it is really nice.

The other Bible I like to use regularly is a Cambridge NIV wide-margin edition. Yes, the leather binding is a winner. But so are the extra-wide margins, great for note-taking. Unfortunately, Cambridge lost its license (or let it expire) to print NIV Bibles. To be honest, I would have preferred the NASB version, but I got the NIV on close-out. I couldn’t beat the price at the time, so I went with it. I do have a Cambridge NASB smaller (Pitt Minion) Bible I use as my travel Bible, and have for years. But it gives very little space to jot down notes. If you can find the NIV version on close-out, get one. They are going for ridiculous amounts on Amazon, so I won’t even bother with a link.

When I was in England two years ago I was going through a bookshop in London when I came across a (guess what?) Cambridge leather-bound copy of the Book of Common Prayer. I splurged on that, even though I didn’t use the BCP. I have tried in the time since I got it to try and figure it out, but not having been raised in a church that used it, I really don’t know how. Yet I read so many of you saying you find it indispensable. So how do I learn how to use it in my daily devotions? Any good suggestions?

I find two daily devotional books very helpful. The first is the classic My Utmost For His Highest. Often challenging, sometime head-scratching. I usually read this online when I’m reading my other morning stuff—stories on the Cincinnati Reds, the daily weather for Tulsa, Doonesbury, etc. It is just a click away. Though I must say I think I need to put it on the shelf, as it were, for a while.

The other book I have been using recently and really enjoying is Declaring God’s Word: A 365 Day Devotional by Derek Prince. Yes, I know he was a Charismatic. Yes, I know he was one of the “gang of five” in the Shepherding Movement. (He repented of that teaching later in his life.) But oh my, the man knew his Bible. And he knew how to teach it in a way that translates well to the devotional format. Just the first two sentences of today’s entry were enough for me.

Jesus was God veiled in flesh. When the flesh of Jesus was pierced and torn on the cross, the veil was parted.

Most every day I come away with some rich like this to think on. And yes, these are excerpts from Prince’s other works. Like I said, sometimes that turns out good.

Nothing I listed here is essential. You can be a “good Christian” by using a comic book version of Scripture and Chicken Soup For The Soul. Well, ok, a fair Christian if you use Chicken Soup. Continue to read, continue to pray. God’s presence takes practice. Is anyone perfect yet?

Update: Ok, I was able to get a few Cambridges Bibles to offer to iMonks, with all proceeds going to support our site. You can use the Donate button at the top of the page to pay. First come, first served. I only have a total of six Bibles. Here they are:

The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, KJV. Black calfskin is buttery-soft. Single column text. Very, very nice. Suggested donation: $125 (One available)

Cambridge NIV Wide Margine Bible. Black French Morocco leather. Dual column text, but wide margins perfect for taking notes. These are no longer made and are going for more than $400 on Amazon. I have one and love it. Suggested donation: $150 (One available)

Cambridge NIV Pitt Minion Bible. Burgandy goatskin leather. Smaller Bible, great for carrying with you everyday or when you travel. Soft leather. Wonderful Bible. Suggested donation: $100  (Two available)

Cambridge NIV Pitt Minion Bible. Black French Morocco leather. Same as above, but with the slightly stiffer French Morocco. Suggested donation: $75. (Two available)

Email me with any questions you might have. 

Comments

  1. I look forward to checking out the Derek Prince stuff! And yes, I’m perfect! Perfectly content today, thank you very much.

  2. I stopped doing devotions and read blogs and other historical and classic theological works. It exposes me to all kinds of thoughts and questions I wouldn’t think of myself when doing my own studies. It then motivates me to look at books, theological journals, and scripture commentaries in my own tradition and others, to test my understanding and interpretation.

    As they say, iron sharpens iron.

    For the kids, we use the three greatest resources in existence, after Scripture. The Lutheran hymnal, small catechism, and this book: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Visits-With-God-Devotions/dp/B001CBL8BQ/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1345749041&sr=8-7&keywords=little+visits+with+God

  3. “a Trappist monastery in the hills of Kentucky”

    What do you mean, “a” Trappist monastery in the hills of Kentucky? Don’t you mean “the” Trappist monastery in the hills of Kentucky? Don’t you mean Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton lived and wrote, the oldest monastery in the United States of America that is still in use? Huh? Huh?

    I’m not Roman Catholic and even I know that.

  4. Actually, I think R.L. Allan Bible’s are even better than Cambridge. Hand-crafted in Scotland, and bound in Highland Goatskin, they’re simply magnificent. The US retailer is EvangelicalBibles dot com. If you appreciate fine leather bibles, etc. they are really worth a look.

  5. My roommate said this site is very helpful in learning to use the BCP: http://stgeorgesardmore.wordpress.com/the-daily-office-tutorial/

  6. “Jesus was God veiled in flesh. When the flesh of Jesus was pierced and torn on the cross, the veil was parted.”

    That is beautiful.

  7. I spent a year with Buechner’s devotions. It was a year well spent – thoughtful and slightly irreverent.

  8. The BCP can be a tough nut to crack. When I first got it, I figured what lectionary year we were in to start with, did the daily readings, and also did the evening devotions for families with my wife.

    I love the BCP, but find it a more valuable tool for corporate worship…The Glenstal Book of Prayer is “real book” mainstay, and the Mission St. Clare Daily Office my online resource of choice…http://www.missionstclare.com/english/

  9. Execuse me for saying this…but since the new fundementalists use the ESV to hammer people I find this post exceptionally delightful that no ESV Bible is being sold here! 🙂 Thanks Jeff you made my day!

    • I can make an exception for you, my friend! Anyone want to sponsor an ESV for Eagle???

      • First of all, Welcome back, eagle! Now as to Jeff’s comment: I personally think we’re going to do this, We need to go all the way. Make sure that you get John Piper to do a commentary built into the Bible. 😉 No doubt Eagle is “feeling the love” now. Seriously, man, welcome back. Good to see you.

        • StJohn….. well if we are going to go all the way let’s add the Mark Driscoll commentary, John MacArthur commentary on top of the John Piper commentary. 😛

          • I hate to tell you, Eagle, but John MacArthur has a commentary. A family friend was studying at The Master’s Seminary a few years ago and he gave us the MacArthur Study Bible as a gift. It’s NKJV, Thomas Nelson Publishers, and it’s really pretty well laid out, lots of info and commentary. But, hell, man, I can’t use that. It’s MacArthur. So I’m getting by just fine with my duct-tape-bound Harper RSV and saving pennies for an ESV study bible (SORRY. And I’m not a fundamentalist either).

            Glad you’re back, by the way.

    • Wow Eagle you’re back!! How wonderful to see your name again. How are you doing?

      • Adrienne- I am working my way out of the woods. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks, and a “rehab” center (nursing home) for a few days. Now I am at home connected to an IV still receviing anti-biotics. A nurse vists and checks my leg wound. Today my Mom is flying out to help out. My Dad’s MRI scan came back clear from his brain tumor. So now that my Dad is on the mend my mom says that I need to get back on my feet.I’m taking it easy as my immune system was hit hard. This situation has been the most challenging that I have faced.

        • The music director at my church had this about the same time as you. He is back now but going slower. God is good.

    • Hello, Eagle! Great to hear from you again, and that ypu’re feeling well enough to contribute!

    • Hi Eagle,

      Nice to see you back. 🙂

      In its defence, I should note that the ESV was Michael Spencer’s Bible of choice.

  10. Jeff, If you bought your BCP in England, you probably have the 1662 edition. Not an easy one to learn on. Aside from the fact that its in King James (which I’m sure you can read but it doesn’t help clarify), the type setting is very old fashioned. If you had a copy of the 1979 American BCP, you might have figured it out more easily.

    • Yes, but I have a Cambridge leather BCP, Miguel! It just feels so good in my hands…

      (I have at least one other copy somewhere, and I think it is the 1979 version…)

      • I know, leather is nice. Mine is leather from Oxford, who isn’t quite as good, but I got one of their better flukes. Brown leather is my preference, with gold gilding, and 3 ribbons. I don’t really care for super floppy, as long as it stays open. There’s something about a nice quality book that begs you to read it.

  11. Tigger23505 says

    The best resource that I have found for using a hardcopy BCP is this http://www.richardliantonio.com/blog/how-to-pray-the-daily-office-from-the-book-of-common-prayer/

    One thing that Richard mentions really does help and that is to add ribbon markers. I didn’t put in quite enough. As I said in my response I usually go to mission of st. clare and click on the today’s prayer service button. While I prefer the Rite 1 material more KJV like. I’m willing to stretch out of my comfort zone and read rite 2.

    The reason that I have put book darts in at certain points is to give myself movable pointers to some of the items that the BCP has multiples of in the rite. For example in the Morning reading for each of the seasons there are a number of scripture verses – book darts act as cursors indicating the last one read. Another helpful thing to do is to write down the Psalms to be read, the Old Testament passage, the Epistle, and Gospel readings leaving space to insert the canticles between the readings. I have a ribbon marker at the table of canticles, I find that the table helps me keep things fresh, but it is an area with lots of freedom.

  12. For years when I was catching the train to & from work, I used the Church of England’s Daily Prayer feeds that can be found at the following address on my smartphone:

    http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/join-us-in-daily-prayer.aspx

    Best part about it was never having to worry about flicking between pages & books given that the lectio art readings are all included in the one web page. Another beautiful thing was that it did so for both the contemporary (i.e. “Common Worship”) & traditional (i.e. “BCP 1662”) liturgies for mattins, evensong & compline depending on which you chose.

    Unfortunately the CoE hasn’t made an iPhone app for “Common Worship: Daily Prayer” that parallels the “Universalis” RC LotH app (though the iPray US BCP 1928 is good if one wants a traditional language setting for mattins, evensong & compline).

  13. The only devotional I delved into years ago and highlighted almost every second sentence was My Utmost For His Highness by Oswald Chambers.

    I’ve evolved a lot theologically since then and I don’t know if I would have the same appreciation for it if I read it now. Regardless though, I esteem Chambers as a great original thinker with a remarkable ability to articulate deep thoughts about the faith in very concise and piercing ways.

    When I was a new Christian I used to read Everyday With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes a man very acquainted with grief as he had lost his wife to cancer and both his sons died later. It was good but didn’t have Chamber’s edge.

    John

  14. I’ve dabbled with Mike Aquilina’s church fathers book as well. I do believe I picked up a free app (by St. Benedict’s Press) for the iPhone that has the contents of the entire book which saved me a few bucks.

    • Yes, wouldn’t you know that the devotional book I am most interesting in possibly reading (Mike Aquilina’s book) is the most expensive! Even the used ones through Amazon are expensive. Lately I have only been reading library books to save on costs and yet I can’t even find that book through the interlibrary loan service I use which loans books from many, many libraries in Maine. I can request my library to find a copy outside of the inter-library loan system. That worked to get The Aims of Jesus by Ben Meyer which is the book that N.T. Wright mentions at the end of his book How God Became King as the book he would want with him on a deserted island.

  15. Maybe someone could help with selecting good resources for young people. We have a very precocious 8 year old and I’m stumped what Bible to use and maybe a daily Bible reading program, devortional , etc. Thanks.

  16. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    Are the NIVs the 1984 editions or the 2011 editions?

  17. Jeff, I clicked on the links for the various daily devotional books you wrote about and I think I would like best A Year With The Church Fathers – Patristic Wisdom For Daily Living. Looks like there may be some “meat” to those writings.

  18. I was looking again in Amazon at the first pages of A Year With The Church Fathers – Patristic Wisdom For Daily Living. The very first entry was by St. Basil and he mentions atoms. He lived from 329-379. I thought to myself, “They knew about atoms then??” So I searched on the history of atoms and read, “Not until around 460 B.C., did a Greek philosopher, Democritus, develop the idea of atoms. He asked this question: If you break a piece of matter in half, and then break it in half again, how many breaks will you have to make before you can break it no further? Democritus thought that it ended at some point, a smallest possible bit of matter. He called these basic matter particles, atoms.”

    Wow, I did not realize that atoms were discussed way back in 460 BC!

    A bit off-topic there, but blame it on St. Basil. 😉

  19. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    Oooh, the The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, KJV is NICE. I’ve got the hardback edition of that (it was a gift) and love it. It’s amazing how a single-column, paragraphed format really makes the KJV more readable. I’ve seen the calfskin one and it’s VERY nice, albeit pricey.

    As far as your difficulties with the 1662 BCP, I’ve got an email coming to you, Jeff. I’ve given several private little crash courses to folks wanting to use the traditional BCP in their devotional life, but it’s way too wordy to fit into a response here.

  20. On the topic of Bibles, does anyone have a recommendation on a Bible that had a lot of great illustrations? I would like to find a family Bible, now that we’ve got a little guy, and it seems like it would be nice to find something full of nice artwork — or friendly to the little guy in some other way.

    All I remember from growing up were Bible story books with illustrations and those comic-Bibles. Some random Bible story book actually prompted me to ask to go to church for the first time ( my parents did not attend before that point). This was based solely on one illustration…even though the book was not, as I recall, esp. good and in any case I no longer have it. Anyway, if there’s something out there that is really great, I’d love to get it on our shelf.

    • Danielle, David C. Cook used to have a full-volume bound version of their bible comics, the comics that held my interest and kept me coming back to Sunday School way back when. That may still be available. Good for adults too.

  21. Wow, in checking out what the christianbook.com website has for devotional books, I got a hit of 4,411 books!

  22. I have (and read) the Kings James Version , The voice Bible: Step into the Story of Scripture The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Reading the same verses often gives me new understanding. Internetmonk starts my musings and then I follow the trail each day.