Dipping into the Devotional Classics with Rebekah

My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action. 

James 2:14-18

Rebekah and I may have radically scaled back our book collection – first, when we left Florida in 2013, then upon her retirement – but we still have a good number of active bookcases throughout our home. The one under the big bay window in the kitchen usually tells a good story because it tends to hold what we are reading and referencing from day to day.

Each morning, as we finish breakfast, Rebekah and I share a short time of devotion with a reading, prayer, and reflection. It’s a great way to start the day together, and it puts whatever comes next into the proper context.

We have been using a book that samples the work of a dozen or so pivotal Christian writers over several centuries. It is a helpful exercise not just in devotion but in the discipline of thinking too. Interestingly, none of these folk wrote in the same cultural context, used the same language, have the same emphases of doctrine, or see Christianity in the same light – yet we are able to listen to them all and learn from them and respect their point of view.

This week, having just finished a selection of work by 18th Century preacher Johnathan Edwards, we are reading Francis de Sales (1567-1622). De Sales, who served as the Bishop of Geneva during a time of Reformation, was well known for his grace and his discernment when those around him were less reasonable in the face of disagreement.

Like Edwards, de Sales understood that faith-in-action was dependent on a passion for knowing and experiencing God’s love. Faith could not possibly exist in the absence of good works because putting love into practice is the evidence of real faith.

The New Testament writer John was even more direct.

We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen! This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

1 John 4:19-21

Here’s the thing about these masters of devotional literature: They don’t argue points of doctrine so much as they present us with inspiration to grow closer to God and to let Jesus guide our lives in all grace, mercy, generosity, and peace.

How is your devotional discipline? I can’t say enough in terms of recommending you join us in this practice – Derek (and Rebekah)

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