Do you ever get the feeling when you watch the news that the reporter or network’s views are just a bit skewed? Like they’re only telling you part of the story about the person they’ve quoted? Even if they claim to be unbiased, they can’t help but slant their edited version according to their own world views. So the quotes they pull from an interview or speech may in fact be part of what the person said, yet not represent the whole message or heart of that individual.
My daughter’s pastor expressed some misgivings about a particular devotional for similar reasons. Even though it’s one of my favorites, I can see his point. It weaves together selections from the Bible as if Jesus is speaking to you personally. You can almost feel His breath as you read. However, it is not the Bible. And it’s not meant to be. I’m sure the author would agree.
Devotionals are fantastic tools. They are appetizers to prepare us for the main course—the Bible. They help us better understand and personalize specific passages, offering warm and personal examples from the author’s life we can relate to. But they do not replace reading the Bible. Neither does biblical fiction.
Why not? Because even the best devotionals can only lift a verse or two out of context to focus on something that has ministered to the writer. No matter how closely an author tries to keep the purity of God’s message, we still fall short. Here are some of my favorites: Edges of His Ways by Amy Carmichael, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene H. Peterson, Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGard Smith, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts, and Four Gifts of Christmas, Forty Days of Lint, and Devotionals for Homeschool Moms, by yours truly.
The Holy Bible, however, was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and is therefore the complete Word of God. So even though devotionals, by diligent authors who love God’s Word, are a tremendous help, we still need to consider them a delightful side dish to our Bible reading.
As I repeat in all my classes—you don’t have to read the whole thing in a year and you don’t have to understand everything you read the first time through. (If we could understand everything at a glance, it wouldn’t be the holy, mysterious, eternal Word of God capable of nourishing us for a lifetime.) So cut yourself some slack. There’s no right or wrong amount to consume each day. Just do it.
Years ago, a fellow student of the Word told our group, “I read until the Spirit stops me.” At that point I had gotten discouraged with the Read the Bible in a Year program so I decided to give this a try. It has brought me so much freedom! I have read the entire Bible from beginning to end more than twenty times now and I still love it.
Whether I stop to laugh and thank God for His delightful sense of humor, ask forgiveness, praise God for insight, write a prayer in my journal, ask for understanding, look up cross references, study it, or copy a passage to memorize or look at throughout the day—it is God's personal message for me. Some days I read chapters, other days I may only read a sentence or two before I stop.
In this way, even at a snail’s pace, you can read the entire Word of God over and over throughout your life. This is the only way to receive God’s words in their original context. Speed and volume are not the point; intimacy with our Lord and Savior is what we’re after.
So, rather than limiting your relationship with God to tiny snippets quoted by somebody else, let devotional writings whet your appetite. Then go to the Source and get to know Him personally, intimately, fully, even as you are fully known.
#howtoreadtheBible #aredevotionalsagoodidea #knowingGod #outofcontext