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The perfect devotional

Over the years, I’ve tried first this devotional book or site, then another. I find some good in most of them. But I’m always on the lookout for the perfect devotional. To qualify as the perfect devotional, what must it do?

First, the perfect devotional is obviously true to the sound teaching of the Bible. With many of them, it’s a bother to have to wade through denominational doctrine, identify false assumptions, ignore religious language strange to the Scripture. So it must ring true and guide in the straight path.

The perfect devotional deals with the biblical text in some detail. Rather than explain ancient English words in an outdated translation, it delves into the meaning of the original words. It brings new insights, new connections, new discoveries of the old text. It doesn’t have to be an exegetical commentary, but it must engage the text.

The perfect devotional uses a Bible version that is both up to date and faithful to the original languages. No thees and thous, please. Make me feel like I’m living in the 21st Century. The fear of God isn’t found in King James English. Reverence doesn’t mean using linguistic garb of past centuries.

The perfect devotional respects the context of the passage. It doesn’t allegorize or fly off in unauthorized directions. Neither does it tie phrases together than have little to do with each other. It refrains from making much of phrases that lead away from the text. It sets the passage within its proper framework.

The perfect devotional applies the text in a meaningful way. It doesn’t need to spend most of its space telling a story with dubious value. Often, only a hint is needed. The truths and principles it highlights are forceful in and of themselves.

The perfect devotional site speaks my language. It grapples with real discipleship. It refuses to let me off the hook easily. It challenges my prejudices, throws light upon my blind spots. It deals ruthlessly with my selfishness and develops my selfless service in Christ.

The perfect devotional dispenses with visuals. It shows me words. For this easily distracted reader, just the black and white will do, thank you.

The perfect devotional breathes the air of reverence, joy, faith, and hope. It leads to love, is written from love, is wrapped in love. It doesn’t forget the seriousness of divine judgment, but it always comes back to the goodness of God.

The perfect devotional uses writing that is vivid and not stale. The use of language is proper and artful. In its simplicity, it becomes profound.

The perfect devotional points to Jesus Christ as the culmination of the divine plan and situates me between his two comings. It develops a keen sense of past, present, and future. It keeps me pointed in the right direction. It sharpens my mission as a follower of the Lord and a proclaimer of eternal hope.

For all that may be said about much good devotional writing, my own included, the perfect devotional is found in one place only: the Bible. However much we appreciate the encouraging and positive articles of others, the inspired word of God is indeed the perfect devotional — and so much more.

And each of those devotional writers says amen!

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet.

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