The Best Classic Daily Devotionals, Past and Present
Devotionals as a Supplement to Regular Bible Reading
A daily diet of the Word of God is what sustains us and guides us in our life of faith and relationship with God. All other material is supplemental. Many, many people use daily devotional books as their main course of spiritual food and pick up the Bible only on occasion. This is a sure recipe for spiritual disaster. The Bible is Holy Spirit inspired, meaning it is God's breath of truth into our hearts and minds and to guide and instruct us in the Christian life (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In several passages the Bible God tells us to meditate on the Scriptures day and night and to teach them to our children and their children (Deut. 11:18-19; Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:1-2). Peter called the Scriptures the pure milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2). Paul and the writer to the Hebrews called it solid food (1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-14).
Devotionals make a good appetizer or supplement to regular Bible reading. A good one will be based on Scripture and bring us into a clearer understanding of the passage.
Most of the devotionals I will write about here are ones I have read, am currently reading, or that are very popular. By no means is this a comprehensive list. Hope you get some ideas for a good daily devotional.
In no particular order...
Streams In the Desert - Lettie B Cowman
Streams in the Desert most definitely lives up to its name. Lettie Cowman provides us streams of refreshment for our arid seasons in the spiritual life. It's an ageless classic still read today by millions.
Streams is a glorious mix of Scripture, Mrs. Cowman's own words of wisdom, insights, and stories, and excerpts from other great Christian writers, preachers, and the like. In times of suffering and trial, or feeling God is nowhere to be found, this precious devotional offers encouragement. In fact, if I could use one word to sum up the central element of this devotional it would be the word "encouragement."
Streams In the Desert can be found in an updated version edited by Jim Reimann.
Lettie Cowman was wife to Rev. Charles Cowman and together they served as missionaries in Japan and China. When her husband Charles became so ill they had to return the United States, Mrs. Cowman spent six years caring for her beloved until he passed away. Her desert years I'm sure.
Ms. Cowman wrote a companion devotional called Springs in the Valley.
Springs in the Valley
Springs in the Valley is the companion devotional to Streams in the Desert by Lettie Cowman. Mrs. Cowman, being familiar with walking through the valley of suffering, offers jewels of delight in God's character and presence during our times in the valley.
"They tell of the "nether springs" which flow from the depths of sorrow, in the hard places, the desert places, in the lone places, in the common places which seem farthest from all that is sacred and Divine.
How delightful it is to have His gladness in the low places of sorrow, and to be able to glory even in tribulation also" (January 1).
There is a devotion for every day of the year and each one begins with a Scripture. Ms. Cowman inspires readers with her ability to find joy in sorrow.
Morning and Evening - Charles Spurgeon
Number one on my list. I am a huge Spurgeon fan. One of Spurgeon's greatest gifts was his masterful, oratory skills and use of word pictures. He also does a blue-chip job of teaching the meaning of a particular word or phrase in the original language. He is one of the most quoted preachers of all time because no one can say it so wonderfully as Spurgeon.
Morning and Evening have readings for both times of the day. Each entry begins with one line or sentence of Scripture and from there he weaves a tapestry of meditations that fill you to the brim with insight into God's Word and the Christian life. Spurgeon's word pictures are brilliant, vivid, creative, and so incredibly effective. They bring the meaning and application home in a unique and meaningful way. He does this all so effortlessly, so naturally; with no pretense or pomposity. When Spurgeon speaks or writes, he is just one of us, a brother on the journey of faith as we are. The lessons he gives are ones he has had to learn along the way himself.
Spurgeon has a gift of making us look at ourselves as God looks at us. His rebukes are firm but born of love, and that love is felt. His affirmations and encouragements warm readers as a hearthside fire in the evening. When I read Spurgeon, I love and treasure Christ more. Furthermore, his passion for and delight in the Lord oozes from his writings. It's like a fragrance that permeates the room. I often think of what Spurgeon does much like the woman who anointed Jesus with the expensive aromatic ointment.
Morning and Evening can be found in the original language, with Spurgeon's quoting from the KJV. I prefer to read it in all its originality. But there are many updated and edited versions for those who prefer a more modern language and Bible versions. Alistair Begg came out with one using the English Standard Version. This devotional classic is offered in every venue known to modern man. I get it via email every morning from the Spurgeon Archives website.
Charles Spurgeon was the 19th century, English preacher, known to this day as "The Prince of Preachers." He pastored at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for 30 years with an average attendance of 10,000 parishioners. He was an ambitious, zealous, servant of God who had ministries galore in and outside of his London church. He was also a prolific writer whose works are still available today. A must-read devotional if ever there was one.
* When I get to heaven, after Jesus and loved ones, Spurgeon is the first one I want to meet.
- Morning and Evening for today, July 31
A sampling from Morning and Evening; one in which you will see and hear of what I speak. Enjoy!
My Utmost for His Highest - Oswald Chambers
Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest is probably the most widely known and highly treasured devotional of all time. A best-seller and a timeless classic. Oswald Chambers' wife compiled this devotional from sermons and essays written over the course of his lifetime. Many of the entries are a bit lengthy and deep, so if you're looking for a quick read in the morning and skip off into your day, it's probably not the devotional for you.
Chambers stays loyal to the word and sound doctrine throughout his writings and makes the text practical and simple to understand. He sometimes drives home a point by making us see the absurdity of our self-centered approach to God and life. That is his wit and wisdom all in one package. He is often startling in his expression of truth or insight. My Utmost for His Highest should never go out of vogue, as evidenced by the millions who read it today.
Oswald Chambers was a convert of Spurgeon's ministry. He was a gifted artist and musician and hoped to bring Christ through his work in the arts, but God called him to study for the ministry. He was a Bible teacher, speaker, representative, and spokesman for the Pentecostal League of Prayer, and a YMCA chaplain to British Commonwealth soldiers in Egypt. During his lifetime, Oswald Chambers did not know the fame he has today. He had published three books by the time of his death at age 43. Much more was published by his wife after his death.
Daily Light - Jonathan Bagster, Reedited by Anne Graham Lotz
Although this gem is not as widely known as the other classics I mentioned, it is nonetheless a classic. Daily Light was originally written by Jonathan Bagster of London, England many, many years ago. Anne Graham Lotz has republished it in recent years in the New King James version. Ms. Graham-Lotz has had this devotional handed down throughout her family for generations.
Daily Light is unique in that is Scripture only. There is no commentary whatsoever. There is a theme verse to start every reading, with other Scriptures following that is relevant to the opening theme. It's a wonderful way to read on a specific theme and not have to look it all up in the course of a day. The passages blend and build on one another purposefully. There is both a morning and evening reading. The Scripture references are given at the bottom of the page. When I open up Daily Light it often speaks into my life in that moment of time. But then, that is what Scripture does, doesn't it?
Daily Light lives up to its name. I do believe Amazon carries it. You can also get it via email at the Daily Light website. Get it, it's a treasure.
Jonathan Bagster was the tenth child of Samuel and Eunice Bagster. The Bagster family owned their own publishing company, Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd. It was the family custom throughout the years during family worship for Jonathan to select a Scripture and the family finds corresponding Bible verses and further discussion. It was Jonathan who conceived the idea for Daily Light and became editor-in-chief of the publication.
* * * *
Anne Graham-Lotz is the daughter of the great Evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth. Anne is an effective evangelist and Bible teacher in her own right. She began her Bible teaching at a Bible Study Fellowship and continued for 12 years. She went on to found AnGel ministries to support her worldwide speaking engagements.
Anne has not had a life of ease. Her family (husband and children) have gone through some daunting trials that tried their faith. As a result of these difficult years, she wrote her first book Just Give Me Jesus. Anne continues to write books and use her gift in evangelism around the world.
Our Daily Bread
I know many people who start their day with this little devotional booklet put out by RBC ministries. There is an opening Scripture to read, usually followed by anecdotes and stories that illustrate the opening Scripture. The daily devotion often ends with a little poem and a phrase written by the author.
Our Daily Bread also gives a daily Bible reading for reading the Bible in a year.
I have to admit this devotional is not my preference for a devotional. I feel there is a lack of depth and the Scripture gets lost in the stories. The poems and phrases at the end can sometimes be trite and cliché. However, as many people find this little devotional a gem, I share it with you and invite you to try it and decide for yourself.
Daily in His Presence - Andrew Murray
Andrew Murray has written so many wonderful books on prayer; this is one of many. One devotion for every day of the year, Murray ponders, challenges, and shares the secrets of finding God's presence through prayer. Scriptures are sprinkled throughout each page and each chapter is titled beginning with "The Secret of..."
The table of contents will whet your appetite to find the secrets to finding God's presence through prayer:
January - The Secret of Adoration
February - The Secret of A New Life in Christ
March - The Secret of the Cross
April - The Secret Life of Faith
May - The Secret of Power From on High
June - The Secret of Fellowship with God
July - The secret of the Throne of Grace
August - The Secret of Intercession
September - The Secret of Inspiration
October - The Secret of United Prayer
November - The Secret of Brotherly Love
December - Abiding Presence
Each chapter contains a devotion for each day of the month. Daily in His Presence is definitely a classic of profound yet practical insights into prayer.
Andrew Murray was born in South Africa into a family with a rich heritage of faith and ministry. His father was a Dutch reformed pastor and Andrew and his brother sat under the training of his uncle, also a minister, when they were young boys. The brothers studied together and became ordained ministers in 1848. He had several ministry seasons in his life, from being an itinerate preacher on horseback to being a pastor in a local church, teaching and preaching at revivals, etc. Andrew was privileged to have many mentors in his life that influenced and inspired him. He witnessed revival up close and personal in Mottligen, Germany, and England. He was a prolific writer, having penned over 240 books, many on prayer.
Mornings with Tozer
Mornings with Tozer offers 366 daily devotional messages gleaned from sermons in his later life. Each day starts with a verse of Scripture, followed by a short excerpt from his messages, relating to the passage. Every devotion ends with a prayer.
AW Tozer is deep, discerning, and penetrating. He rightly divides the word of truth. I always say Tozer cuts to the chase. His words pack a punch; his messages are powerful. On the back cover of Mornings with Tozer, Ravi Zacharias states "Reading his books has always left me yearning for more." Yes, that's it exactly.
Tozer's messages are very much relevant today. He died in 1963, but if you didn't know this, you'd think he was still around today; his messages are that abiding. He not only has great biblical insight but also a keen acumen for human thought and behavior. He understands the spiritual struggles in the human experience. Many have said he was a prophetic voice in his time.
Like Spurgeon, AW Tozer also is an oft-quoted preacher and writer - not surprising at all. As I feel I am failing to give Tozer his due, the following is a sample few sentences from his January 1 devotion entitled Created for Eternity.
The opening Scripture says:
Having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto himself...whether they be things in earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:20
"Men and women may argue and make excuses, but it does not change the fact that in our human society we are completely surrounded by three marks of the ancient curse: Everything is recent, temporal, and transient! That is why the Holy Spirit whispers faithfully, reminding us of the Christ of God, eternity walking in the flesh, God Almighty come to live among us and to save--actually to give us eternity!
This we know: When we turn our faces toward the Eternal One, asking "God have mercy on me, a sinner," we are finally being what God intended us to be in the first place!"
AW Tozer was minister of the gospel in the Missionary Alliance Church in Chicago, Ill., and editor of the Alliance Witness, a publication of the Missionary Alliance Church. He was a prolific writer, among his best are the classics The Pursuit of God and Knowledge of the Holy.
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