Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Reading List for Pastors/Ministers Concerning Daily Devotionals


For those who frequent the BarnabasBlog, you have discovered that I have taken a little over a month off from posting anything here. I am now officially back in the saddle and will continue on.

From some previous posts, I have written about books that pastors could use the assist them with their pulpit ministry, you can check those links here and here and here. I have gathered from the Word that the most important thing that a pastor can do is to preach the Word. Good preaching is hard work especially in a society that wants 20-25 minute sermonettes. Good Biblical preaching is going to take more than just 20-25 minutes and it is going to have to be more than just volume.

Sometimes a minister’s inspiration runs a little low and at other times he may be banging one drum without a lot of variation in his thoughts. Both Kelsey Griffin and A. B. Keating, two of my Bible College instructors, cautioned us against getting on a “hobby-horse” and riding it to great lengths with your preaching and teaching.

Sometime back I started putting my notes on SermonCentral and it was a worthy experience for me to get involved in. I am not certain if my notes were what they really wanted but I did discover something during this exercise. Contributors have to take the sermon and apply one word to it, sort of a thesis or central thought of the sermon, and use it to define the sermon. I found that much of my preaching fell into three categories: Perseverance, Encouragement, and Revival. While all three of those are needed concepts in the church, I was neglecting prayer, worship, stewardship (which is far more than just money), eternal judgment/reward, and a whole host of other things.

One thing that I found to be helpful was to go into areas of Scripture that I did not frequently read. Two specific sections of Scripture really begin to challenge my thinking and it played over into my preaching and teaching. The book of Ezekiel is full of very rich bible imagery and paints numerous pictures of some very colorful character-types. Also, I started hanging out in 1st John and I have started the preliminary process of putting some material together to work through 1st John in 2007.

Therefore, I believe that one thing that can help a minister with the “dry” spots along the way is to make some forays into segments of Scripture that he may not have visited in quite some time.

The second thing that has provided nuggets of thought to develop over the years is to take indexes of commentaries and just scout through them.

Consider a few of these thoughts from the index of The Pulpit Commentary:

  • Are You on The Margin of the Kingdom?
  • Similitudes of the Kingdom
  • The Silent Starting of the Kingdom
  • Pain: An Offering to Christ
  • Hidden Forces of Pain
  • Peace Deeper Than Pain
  • Pierced Armor
  • Purifying Power of Divine Love

Here are a few more from the index of Spurgeon’s Sermons:

  • Prisoners of Hope
  • Pride the Destroyer
  • The Rough Hewer
  • Royal Emblems for Loyal Subjects
  • Runaway Jonah and the Convenient Ship

There are times when my thoughts are not flowing as I would like for them to and I look to the indexes and it is not long before there is a seed that begins to grow in my weak little mind. I have just to a message from one of my favorite preachers and there was the relating as to how that sometimes learning can be a drudgery and study can be very tedious but when one will push on through those times, the harvest will come.

The third area that I have gained much inspiration from over the years has been from single volume devotionals. Perhaps the classic of all time is “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. If you are going to purchase this devotional, I recommend the updated version that is edited by James Reimann. Some of the daily chapters:

  • All or Nothing
  • Readiness
  • The Habit of Rising to the Occasion
  • Pouring Out the Water of Satisfaction
  • The Far Reaching Waters of the Rivers of Life
  • The Distraction of Contempt

Another devotional that is an old classic is “Streams In the Desert” by L. B. Cowman. Again, I recommend the updated version by James Reimann. Some of the chapters which are included:

  • He Withdrew To A Solitary Place
  • Allurement
  • Certain Songs
  • My Hope

Another devotional is Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening.” I confess that I have taken some of these short chapters and developed them into full-blown sermons. Some of the chapters:

  • Wolves At Dusk (I have developed a message from this thought.)
  • Fortified Things, Reserved Things
  • Close to His Heart
  • Without Fault
  • Water In A Thirsty Land

Another fine devotional is one I found in my Texas Bible College Days. Our president, J. R. Ensey, preached an incredible message in chapel one day entitled “The Ghost of Ephraim.” For days afterwards, a lot of buzz was around the campus about how powerful the message was. The gist of it was about how that Ephraim had turned back in the battle and had lost out. Bro. Ensey preached about quitting too soon and giving up and then made a challenge to persevere and not to quit. To this day, I haven’t forgotten it. I also must add that Swindoll's other devotional, "The Finishing Touch" is a very good devotional with a lot of similar seeds that can really send your mind into some valuable and resourceful sermon thoughts.

But there came a day. . . (sort of sounds like Scripture). . . that I was musing through the shelves at the TBC library and pulled down a little volume by Charles (Chuck) R. Swindoll called “Come Before Winter.” It was a devotional and the titles were exceptional. So as I scanned down through there. . . . what do you think I saw. . . yes! There it was. . . “The Ghost of Ephraim.” I promptly turned to the page and read through Swindoll’s devotion and had discovered something. Swindoll’s devotional had been Bro. Ensey’s seed thought. Needless to say, I bought this little volume years ago and it has served it’s purpose very well to me. Some of the chapters:

  • Hidden Heroes
  • The Tailor’s Name Is Change
  • Writing With Thorns
  • The Fine Art of Blowing It

Another devotional that has prompted some good sermon thoughts for me has been a little volume by Rod Parsely. It is entitled “Daily Breakthrough.” Some of the titles:

  • Sowing in Famine (I developed “Farming In A Famine” from this one.)
  • The Devil’s Hit List (I developed “Sifted But Saved” from this one.)
  • The Price of Glory
  • Raise the Standard

Another volume that is not so much a devotional as it is a journal is “The Journals of Jim Elliott.” It has been edited by his widow, Elizabeth Elliott. Since the book is divided up into dates, it is difficult to give the chapter titles. However, this book has multiple pages that are dog-eared and I have written all in the margins, front-cover, and underlined all through the book with exceptional seed thoughts to work on.

Another devotional that packs a wallop is J. Sidlow Baxter’s “Awake My Heart.” Some of the chapter titles:

  • Transfiguration through Prayer
  • Servant and Conqueror
  • The Fragments
  • Caution and Reason
  • How Trials Become Triumphs

Lastly, I mention two books by John Piper, “The Godward Life, Part 1” and “The Godward Life, Part 2.” These two books are now “Taste and See” which is a compilation and has a few added chapters. Some of the titles are:

  • God Was Up All Night
  • You Shall Take Up Your Tambourines
  • The Ripple Effect of the Word
  • Talk To Your Tears (Jerry Dean prompted me to this chapter and I developed a message from this one. Bro. Dean did also but his message took a different turn than mine.)
  • Take Heed How You Hear

Maybe some of these suggestions can provide some inertia to your life. One other thing that I have done in the past is to take a hymnal and read through some of the song titles or to take a song and read through the stanzas. Some very powerful sermon titles are found in those old songs. May your life be overflowing and your messages be marked with weighty words, challenging thoughts, and the anointing of the Spirit.

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