“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (1970)
At a time when a movement is determined to forcibly revise history, our spiritual heritage is especially vital. Secular history chronicles man’s successes and failures. Real history chronicles the waxing and waning of man’s relationship with God. Real history is, after all, His story.
The root of C.S. Lewis’s observation is that, no matter how revered current authors may be, they are all subject to the influences and biases of modern culture. Similarly, historical authors were subject to the biases of their cultures. Reading books across a broad time span allows cultural biases to be offset.
C.S. Lewis’ quote drove this writer to search older books, leading to a rocket launch devotional plan. Consider these original source materials (origination time in red).
- Ancient–Bible—Choose a reliable translation. Others have masterfully written comparisons of scripture versions. Generally, avoid paraphrases except for occasionally clarifying difficult passages in a translation. Commonly, believers read a chapter each day.
- Modern-Federer, William J. (2012). American Minute: Notable Events of American Significance Remembered on the Date They Occurred, Amerisearch, Inc. (St. Louis, MO). Each daily reading spotlights famous figures and events from the earliest American colonies to the present day. The massive collection of original quotations repeatedly reinforces the principle that the United States form of government is not sustainable in the absence of a virtuous people. The Great American Experiment intends for the people to be self-governing. If the Christian faith and the government are separated, the government will fail. Conversely, the government will succeed only to the extent that people of Judeo-Christian faith are or become engaged.
- 1600s-Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2012). The Puritans Daily Readings, Christian Heritage Imprint by Christian Focus Publications (Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire). The Puritan movement crossed denominational lines and was perhaps larger in Europe than in America. The daily readings feature a different author each month. Although some of the names may be unfamiliar to the modern reader, the readings are all spectacularly powerful. A few of the most familiar names include Richard Baxter, John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress), Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Rutherford, and Thomas Watson. The vivid daily readings will excite any reader.
- 1700s-Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2010) George Whitefield, Christian Heritage Imprint by Christian Focus Publications (Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire). George Whitefield was one of the two best known preachers of The Great Awakening, which was the driving force for the War of Independence (later called the Revolutionary War). Without the Great Awakening, there likely would not have been an American revolution. Whitefield’s preaching, profiled in daily readings, is jaw-dropping.
- 1400s-â Kempis, Thomas. (2004). The Imitation of Christ, Hendrickson Christian Classics (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA). Originally written circa. 1421 A.D. Thomas â Kempis was one of the leaders of a reformation movement separate from and predating the Reformation launched when Martin Luther nailed his 99 theses to the Wittenburg church door. Luther’s Reformation exploded in part due to the contemporary invention of the printing press. Nevertheless, â Kempis’ Imitation of Christ remains one of the greatest Christian classics of all time. Each daily reading is dynamite.
- 1700s-Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2005) Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody MA. Jonathan Edwards was the other of the two best known preachers of The Great Awakening. Although, his best known message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” may conjure a mental image of hellfire and brimstone, his extremely extensive writings and these daily readings brim with God’s infinite beautiful love.
- 18-1900s–Spurgeon, Charles (1991) Morning & Evening: A devotional classic for daily encouragement, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, Peabody MA. The “Prince of Preachers” wrote these daily morning and evening devotionals himself. His imagery is colorful, inescapably captivating, and inspiring beyond any ability to express in a brief summary.
- 1600s-Bennett, Arthur, ed. (2013). The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, The Banner of Truth Trust, (Versa Press, Inc. East Peoria, IL) Although some believers may not be used to reading the prayers of others, this collection is so vibrant it will bring tears to the eyes of many readers. The prayers in this volume have been written by saints such as Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, David Brainerd, William Jay, and Charles Spurgeon.
Personally, as time passed, a pattern emerged to my devotional time:
- At first these devotional materials were simply read.
- A bit later, I found myself highlighting occasional thoughts; eventually highlighting virtually everything with color coded highlighters.
- Notes were occasionally jotted in the margins of the daily readings.
- Today, virtually every page is filled with handwritten notes; some seem to be special thoughts from the Lord; others are 1-3 sentence summaries of the reading.
- Finally, good writers seldom write in the first person (I, me, my, etc.). However, since the devotions are personal, intended primarily for my own use, the message skyrockets off the page when it is personalized. Example: “Christ, is a Mediator of the new covenant, a mediator between God and me. Jesus is a friend to both. He is a reconciler and a servant to both. He suffered for both. Jesus suffered for God’s justice and He suffered for my rejections.” And another example: “I MUST NOT handle God’s magnificent Word or the moments of my life carelessly. Instead, I MUST take great care to honor God’s Word and the moments of my life as special gifts from Him.”
Two other observations burn brightly from this collection of historic readings:
- All of these great spiritual leaders fully integrate the Old and New Testaments in their teaching/preaching. The Bible and the biblical worldview is a whole, from creation to the return of Jesus. Such a holistic view seems to be often diluted or piecemealed in present day materials and messages.
- The same early spiritual leaders lift up all three members of the Trinity equally and treat the wholeness of the Trinity equally with the roles of each member. Today, many denominations seem to focus on one member of the Trinity more than the other two. Similarly, in a zeal for analyzing Scripture, the wholeness of God too often seems to be overlooked as people zoom in on one member of the Trinity or another.
It is my hope and prayer that YOU will benefit from these suggestions.
What does it take to wake up the body of believers?
What does it take to wake up the clergy?