“Be thankful for quiet days, when nothing special seems to be happening. Instead of being bored by the lack of action, use times of routine to seek My Face. Although this is an invisible transaction, it speaks volumes in spiritual realms. Moreover, you are richly blessed when you walk trustingly with Me through the routines of your day.”
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. —Colossians 3:23
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. —John 15:5
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. —Psalm 105:4
We read the above from Sarah Young, author of the runaway bestselling Jesus Calling series. One description of her is that she is “quietly leading millions of men and women worldwide on a journey of intimacy with Christ.” And indeed, her books, comprised of what she describes as God speaking to her, have sold millions upon millions of copies—along with calendars and ancillary products.
An “up” side is that the person who reads an entry like the one cited above gets three verses straight out of the Word. And that’s a good thing.
But claiming to write from God’s point of view? Seriously? That’s scary. Indeed, others have addressed that part of the phenomenon, so I won’t belabor the point here.
I have an additional concern—that any sort of daily devotional guide can become “the good that keeps us from the best.” What happens in general when we use devotional guides? In times past, believers knew the Psalms backwards and forward. A believer I know who is into the Duck Dynasty devotional saw a copy of “The New Testament and Psalms” recently, and she had no idea what it was. I had to explain that many believers used to read the psalms for daily devotions. Thus, even when they were reading through the New Testament, readers wanted the psalms bundled in so they wouldn’t have to carry two books.
Eventually devotional books replaced the psalms. Such books tend to be packaged for short, daily consumption, and they speak “more directly” to readers’ individual lives.
Now, I’m not saying they’re all bad. Truly! I plan to write some this year.
But sadly, the end result of using only such guides is that (1) we don’t know our Bibles; (2) we never learn the psalms; (3) we are left with the idea that the Bible is written directly to us (a self-focused Western approach) and that (4) it’s a collection of motivational quotes rather than one grand story of Creation, Fall, God Wooing His People, Redemption and Restoration. Additionally—and this is my greatest concern: (5) we end up worshiping a God who is all love and encouragement and never angry, holy, or willing to give people a good kick in the pants. Case in point: I’ve yet to see this passage in a "devotional thought for the day":
“Just then, the anger of the LORD blazed against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark, and he died right there in the presence of God. The LORD was so furious with Uzzah, he killed him, because he reached out his hand and touched the ark” (2 Chron 13:10).
Our God is so holy that he would rather have his ark fall to the morally neutral dirt than have it touched by the hands of a sinner! How we need such reminders. Are they part of your intake of truth?
I find it ironic that some of the very people who would criticize Bibles that leave out the “less interesting parts, like the genealogies,” would willingly neglect much meatier parts parts that aren’t easily massaged into sound bites and motivational points.
So my advice? If you don't have a Bible study guide handy (so you know what you'll read tomorrow), create a custom Bible reading plan starting today. If the entries feel too long to you, expand your plan to two years. Or three. But whatever you do, get yourself on a steady diet of real food. Take your health seriously. Don't limit your intake to synthetic substitutes.