I have not always been a fan of “devotionals,” which I mostly considered sappy and sentimental emotional drivel with no real substance or power to effect me.
This might be due to the fact that my grandmother loved Open Windows, which fit, in my perception, the unfavorable assessment described above, and she turned dog-eared each page to the center as she completed it, resulting in an odd self-supporting mantle decoration that she would leave out for a few weeks.
My early encounter with less than satisfactory devotional materials did not extinguish the desire to find something useful in that genre. But it hasn’t been until now, some thirty years after my conversion to Christ, that I am comfortable recommending devotional materials to friends and church members.
A Guide to Christian Living (John Calvin). This is not your normal morning devotions a la Open Windows, by any means, and many will refuse to consider this to be devotional because it is John Calvin, after all, and he is dry, cold, and emotionally barren (isn’t he?).
If you already have a copy of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, you already have this, because this material constitutes one of the chapters there. It has remained relatively unchanged, even through the many revisions and additions Calvin made to the Institutes. This has been excerpted from the larger work, and reprinted as a stand-alone book.
Calvin’s Guide is wonderfully pastoral, but theologically rich and divided into sections of a couple of paragraphs each, which lend themselves easily to a morning devotion and meditation throughout the day.
The Mystery of Providence (John Flavel). This might actually be more difficult to employ for your daily devotions than Calvin’s Guide, but should you choose to use it this way, you will be pleasantly surprised. Flavel explores God’s sovereignty in all areas of our lives, and gives practical means to observe him more readily and to increase our devotion because of him.
Saving Grace (C. John Miller). In the “devotional” format that most will recognize, Miller’s daily meditations print the day’s Bible text and offers a suggested thought or meditation.
Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives, (ed. CCEF). This daily format devotional is edited by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, and has submissions by David Powlison, Paul David Tripp, and Timothy Lane, among others. Daily Bible passages are cited, but the text of them is not printed.
For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word (D.A. Carson). Carson’s works are in two volumes, and track the M’Cheyne yearly Bible reading plan. Carson focuses on one of the Bible passages each day and offers insights and devotional encouragement.
John Piper’s Devotionals. John Piper has several good devotional works, including Taste and See, A Godward Heart, and A Godward Life. Any of these would be edifying, although they tend to be longer than the traditional “devotional” format of a few paragraphs.
If one includes the desktop, tablet, laptop and smartphone formats, there are even more good devotional resources, but these suggestions focus solely on printed, book formats.
If you know of other good devotional resources, I’d love to hear from you.