What do you like about daily or weekly devotionals?
Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell (with Patrick J. Kelly) (Zondervan, 2013) includes 366 daily devotions with modified excerpts from writings of the early “Church Fathers” of the Christian faith. A sentence on the front jacket flap sums the book up fairly well:
“Avoiding dry theology in favor of spiritual insight and practical relevance, Bell’s compilation features gently updated language and an eye for modern application.”
Each daily devotion fills just one page with a topical label (ex: “salvation,” “service and stewardship,” “holiness”), a focus verse, 2-5 paragraphs from an ancient writing signed with the Church Father’s name. Authors include Leo the Great, Bede the Venerable, Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great, Augustine, and over 50 more.
Bell makes the case in the introduction that every believer should study the Church Fathers because the Church Fathers were for every believer – in their mindsets, their actions, their focus. And I agree. With a range of writings over at least 7 centuries, this compilation boosts the reader’s thirst for (or awakening to) more knowledge of the early church founders. In regards to this book, I consider this both a positive and a slight obstacle. For a daily devotional, the general reader may not have time to study for hours more on a particular Church Father, but this desire to learn more would likely also lead to wonderful study of both history and the faith (which is likely part of Bell’s intent). This book offers no additional interpretation or study of each excerpted writing, but presents each excerpt to stand strongly alone (as they do).
I found myself wishing I knew more of the history and backstory of these authors often in my reading. This book does include one paragraph bios for each Church Father cited in an appendix in the back, which helps. This appendix also includes a listing of all the devotion numbers using that author’s writing.
Because I haven’t compared these writings to the originals, I assume the term “simple, updated language” means each excerpt is slightly modified. Even so, the reader can distinguish different voices and perspectives between writings.
These devotions provide a deeper daily study into the history and theological truths of our faith and introduction to some fantastic writings. The reader can depend on being intrigued and enlightened through reading.
“…let us visit Christ whenever we can; let us care for him, feed him, clothe him, weclome him, and honor him…” – Gregory of Nazianzus, excerpted in Awakening Faith
What accompaniment for further study would you suggest for a devotional like this one?
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.