As this year draws to a close, I am preparing a list of my top 10 books of 2014 (drumroll, please?), as I did at the end of 2013. In the meantime, I wanted to offer you a few recommendations if you are looking for a devotional reading for 2015. What I’m referring to is a resource written to help you understand the Bible and the Christian life, giving you daily encouragement for your journey of faith. I have found a good devotional and a daily Bible reading plan to be essential to nurture my faith. It provides a space for me to bring my questions, doubts, joys, and sorrows; and I know that I am heard by God and through the Bible, God speaks to my heart. Some favorite words on the value of daily time spent in prayer and study of God’s Word from spiritual director and author, Henri Nouwen:
“When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative. … solitude begins with a time and a place for God, and God alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that God is actively present in our lives– healing, teaching and guiding– we need to set aside a time and space to give God our undivided attention. (Matt 6:6) … We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with Him and Him alone. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. Solitude is a place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.”
365-day devotionals (note: it usually takes me way more than one year to get through one of these!) –
- Grace Through the Ages by William P. Smith – I’ve written about this one in the past. It’s incredibly rich, and it’s written by a friend and former counseling colleague and supervisor. I love the way Bill discusses grace, and the way he shows how grace is on every page of Scripture.
- Heart of the Matter by CCEF – I am planning to read through this one in 2015. I’ve read excerpts here and there. It’s a compilation of writings by biblical counselors who seek to connect God’s Word to the heart.
Topical devotionals –
- For moms – best one is Jen Hatmaker’s Out of the Spin Cycle. Witty, encouraging, practical, and short. Blessedly short.
- For counselors/pastors/other helping professionals – In Our Lives First by Diane Langberg. Soul-refreshment that helps carry you in the burdens and dangers of being on the “front lines” of caring for others.
Yearly Bible reading plans –
- A reading from Old Testament, New Testament, and Poetry for each day (you print out the three bookmarks for each section of your Bible – PDF here.)
- Chronological Bible Reading Plan – read the Bible in the order in which it was written. I did this last year with my friend Kiran. We both said the downside of this plan is that you don’t reach the New Testament until October though!!
- Read Me Bible Plan – similar to #1 above, but without the Poetry section.
- Customizable plan here – choose whether to do chronological, historical, or another assortment, and select whether to start on the 1st or the 15th of the month.
- 5x5x5 plan – 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, with 5 suggested questions. It takes you through the entire New Testament in a year. I think I’m going to go through this plan for 2015 since I tend to fall behind a traditional (long) reading plan fairly quickly, and then the perfectionist/performance-oriented part of me feels guilty. When the main point is to spend time reading the Bible regularly so that I can soak in God’s love for me and be equipped to pour out his love to others. If a plan helps you do this, great! If not, find something else. I offer these merely as suggestions and guides.
*note: some affiliate links included (for the books – if you click on them and order them through Amazon, I’ll get a very, very small percentage of your order from Amazon)