One of the books I love to dip into for inspiration and revelation is Daily Devotions from the Puritans, edited by I.D.E. Thomas. The book is a collection of writings by prominent Puritan preachers and teachers and as such is full of gloriously long-winded explanations for the simplest of concepts! Why only make one point when you can have a point with several sub-points, each of which has its own set of sub-points? For me, it is this richness of language and expression which makes these daily devotions so beautiful.
Now, I have to admit, I'm not very good at reading from this book every day, even though it is laid out in a daily format, complete with dates for each entry. I tend to read from it each morning for about a week, then lay it to one side and read something else for a while. Even so, I always find it fascinating how the Holy Spirit can pull together a thread of revelation from these perhaps random readings. Let me give you an example.
On January 1 2021, the few verses to read were from Hebrews 12:1-2 and the reflection was taken from John Bunyan's The Heavenly Footman (a book I haven't read). The focus was on running the race ahead of us as though to win the prize. The entry was fairly short and I had a bit of time on my hands so I decided to continue reading the rest of Hebrews 12. I got as far as verse 12, 'Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed,' and knew that the Holy Spirit was highlighting this to me. I felt Him say that this portion of the race I am running is one that can easily tire me, with its rough, uphill terrain on which I can easily turn an ankle and be injured. However, the good news is there is a way to make the path before me straight - to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and to take intentional time to read the Bible, studying what I read and praying through what I am shown.
'Nice,' I thought, and read my Puritans diligently for a few days, Bible at my side. Only to flounder after a week or so.
After a bit of a pause, I gave myself a talking to and returned to my regular readings. On the 27th January 2021, the title for the day was 'Five helps in the Christian Walk'. And the suggested verses? Hebrews 12, verses 12 and 13! This time I got the message!
What to read?
Although I enjoy my Puritan devotions, I found myself wanting something a little more in-depth than the 'verse and reflection' style it offers. Last year I completed a reading plan that required ten chapters of the Bible to be read each day. Although I didn't stick to the schedule, I did complete it and actually found that I wanted something similar again.
I had found that plan on the YouVersion Bible reading app, an online Bible reading and study tool that I have installed on my phone and tablet. I had a browse through the available options (there are many!) and found something I liked the look of which presented a year-long 'through the Bible' programme but in an order that I haven't seen before. A fresh approach often brings fresh revelation, and so I signed up. And it's perfect.
I now use the guided reading programme together with Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible open on my Kindle so I can read his interpretation of certain passages at the same time. Some days I don't have time for more than a quick read through which is when I turn to the Puritans instead! Either way, this daily time spent in the Word has become so vital to me. My day works better - the path is smoother - when I make the effort. Of course, there are some days when it just doesn't happen, when I wake up late or having something urgent to get on with. This isn't a superstitious talisman that I must do or else face terrible consequences. Rather, it is a delight and a genuine privilege to be in a phase where I have the time and the resources to explore and converse with the Author of the best book ever written.
Sharing is caring!
So why am I telling you this? Because I love to share something that's working for me in the hope that it will help someone else too! There is much confronting us all right now that overwhelms and makes the path difficult and treacherous. And yet there is a way to make it smoother, less tiring. And it's really quite simple; spend some time each day with our Father who sits enthroned in Heaven, with Jesus who is interceding for us and with the Holy Spirit who is our Guide and Counsellor. What better perspective for the day that lies ahead than to hear from the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End? And what better way to hear than through His Word?
I'd love for you to become excited at the idea of finding a personal reading plan that you can enjoy and use to make your own path firmer and straighter. Getting started is often the hardest part, so I've added a couple of suggestions here that might inspire you, including some of my own books which were published over the course of 2020 which I hope will stir your interest!
YouVersion Bible app
If you haven't already tried it, take a look at the YouVersion Bible app. It can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet, or can be read on your computer. There are heaps of Bible reading plans you can try, from short two or three-day ones to full Bible-in-a-year options. You can choose which version of the Bible you prefer - The Amplified to Young's Literal Translation and everything in between. And you can track your progress, either on your own or with friends.
In All Things set of daily devotions
You might find it a bit hard to get a copy of the Puritans (I bought mine years ago in Cambridge) and besides, it might not be your cup of tea anyway. But here's something you might enjoy, and it's easily available via Amazon - the In All Things boxed set which I'm sure you've heard me mention before. Thirteen weeks of daily readings and reflections, written by eleven authors inspired by Africa. And yes, one of them is me.
I recently received an email from someone telling me how much they were enjoying using this collection in their own daily reading and prayer times. Each author's devotions are spread over the course of one week and offer personal stories and reflections; poems; Bible readings and teachings; thought-provoking questions; and guided prayers. You can read over them quickly or take a little longer to wait on God for Him to whisper.
Just one thing - don't leave it too late if you are interested in buying a copy, as this is a limited edition and you could miss out! And if you're in South Africa and would like a paperback copy, please email me at email@example.com for more information.
Poetry and Prayer
If you're looking for something a little different, my book 'Poetry and Prayer' features seven poems I wrote over the course of 2019. As well as the poems themselves, each entry includes a reflection and prayer about the poem and its inspiration.
Available on Amazon. This makes a great gift as it is available as a small paperback. Again, if you are in South Africa and would like a paperback copy, please email me!
Captivated by the Creator journal
You might find having somewhere to jot down your thoughts or even doing a spot of colouring might help you focus while you read. There are some beautiful journals on sale with stunning designs that are guaranteed to inspire.
I published The Captivated by the Creator journal in the middle of last year. This small book encourages you to hear the voice of God in the wonder of His creation through poems, stories and carefully chosen artwork and includes space for you to write or doodle as you go along.
Again, this is available on Amazon or directly from me if you are in South Africa.
Making Straighter Paths
I trust that you have found this is a helpful selection of resources that you can draw on as you seek the straight paths of time spent with Jesus.
Another way to make the journey less arduous is to walk in the company of others. Just as I've shared some of my own ways and means, I'd love to hear from you. What works for you? Are you a morning or an evening reader? What books and Bible versions do you like the best? You can connect with me by email, or via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!
Let's lift our weak hands and strengthen our feeble knees with words of encouragement for one another as we continue on the path set before us!