Foster, Richard J. and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005 (Revised and expanded edition).
The only surprising thing about this week’s recommendation, at least to me, is that I’m just now getting around to let you know about one of my very favorite books. I had to actually check back through the blog – two years of notes! – and to my surprise, there is no mention of this wonderful book. So, now it’s time for me to remedy this lapse.
Devotional Classics was originally published in 1993 and then released in a revised and expanded edition in 2005; the Stamps Library has copies of both editions (and our regional center libraries with theological collections have copies as well, including a copy in Korean). When I have taught Christian classics and church history classes, this book always appears on my recommended reading list (to blend head and heart) and I have probably purchased about 30 copies through the years to give as gifts.
So, what is special about this book?
The editors have taken 52 devotional writings from Christians throughout the history of the church, updating the translations with modern English when necessary, and partnering them with short biographies of the writer, a related Bible selection, questions for personal or group reflection, spiritual exercises, a short reflection from Richard Foster and a brief bibliography of the devotional writer’s works. The writers selected span Christian history – from leaders in the early church to modern writers such as C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard. Each devotional section is about 6 pages in length, making it ideal for a small group gathering as well as personal devotion reading.
I was introduced to the book in a course on spiritual formation in seminary (ironically, a mandatory class that I didn’t especially want to take…and one which I look back on as having been a favorite). I have found in the reading and study of this volume that there were introductions to wonderful writers that I lacked familiarity with – and the concluding bibliographies served as a guide to future reading. I have used this book in several of my D-groups and Bible studies with students and each time I return to it, I learn something new or find myself “formed” in new ways. I have received wonderful responses from the students and friends who have read the book as well, for they realize that like me, they have discovered a treasure too.