Mixed Flowers

Choosing a Devotional

In an open-air market (the kind with proprietors and booths), it is common for the produce vendor to have a piece of fruit – like a peach or a pineapple – and a knife.  As potential customers pass by, he cuts pieces of the fruit off and offers them a bite.  Short of picking the fruit off of a tree, that’s about the freshest that fruit will be for many of us.

In the same way, reading the Bible is fresh and filling just as it is.  Pick it up, read a chapter or two, and see what God has to speak to you.  I hope you have daily opportunities to do this.

However, I live in Northeast Ohio, and sometimes I don’t have access to fresh fruit, especially during the winter.  In those cases, I need someone to pack up the fruit and ship it to me.  (Personally, I’m a fan of fruit packed in heavy syrup, or getting my fill of cherries through cherry pie filling, but that’s not important to this illustration.)

In a similar manner, we can often learn new things about the Bible by reading it along with writings from someone else.  We can’t each devote our lives just to studying the history, context, language, and meaning of the Bible, but there are many – both now and in the past – who have done so.  Like the person who picks the fruit and pre-packages it for me to use right out of the can, these scholars take countless hours of study, and pre-package what they learn for us to read.  (By the way, while this depth of study may not be our role in the Body of Christ, we each have an obligation to learn from the Bible at our own level.)

To find devotionals (others’ writings of their observations about the Bible), today’s environment offers countless options.  Depending on your situation, devotional books can be found in bookstores and online.  Select Bible printings include in-line, parallel, or footnote devotions.  Devotions are available in abundance on-line (including this site, but don’t limit yourself to just this source).  A trusted minister or mature Christian friend may also have suggestions to offer.

To select a devotional that is right for you, consider the following suggestions:

  • The devotional should focus on getting to the truth, not just the author’s opinion.  Cross-check what the author is saying against what you can read for yourself.  You may not know where to look up things in the Bible on every subject, but watch for red flags that differ from what you’ve already read (see The Bereans).
  • The devotional should encourage you to read more of the Bible, not less.  A good devotional is a way to supplement your Bible reading, not replace it.  Many devotional thoughts come with a passage of Scripture for you to look up.  If it’s just a few verses, consider reading a paragraph or two before and after these verses, to see the context where they fit in.  You may also find some new parts of the Bible that capture your attention for additional study.
  • The devotional should speak to you, and to your situation.  I was halfway through a 30-day devotional series once when I realized that it was written for women (which I am not).  There were still some topics that were helpful to both men and women, but I didn’t learn as much from that devotional as others I could have selected.

I appreciate you reading through this devotional thought, and hope that you will find that it meets these criteria.  For those sharp students who may point out that I missed including a Bible reference, try these out:

  • Ezra 7:6 (an example of one who knew God’s law, and was blessed by God)
  • Psalm 119:97-104 (a Psalmist’s word of praise about God’s word)
  • 2 Peter 2:1-3 (a reminder that not everyone who speaks about God is telling the truth)

See also:

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