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Reviews: Devotional guides to 1 Samuel and 2 Timothy

Posted 10 Jul 2020

Nikki Tomkins and Ben Thompson review two volumes in 10Publishing's devotional series.

Guard the Gospel cover

Carolyn Lacey’s addition to the Undated Devotions series is encouraging, challenging and good for the soul. Working very carefully through 2 Timothy a few verses at a time leaves plenty of space to ponder and reflect on the great Biblical truths found in this epistle.

Each page includes a reference to the day’s reading, a short and helpful thought on the passage and a “reflection” which is sometimes a prayer suggestion or often a direct, cut-through-the-nonsense question to help us really grapple with how the day’s verses apply to our heart attitudes, thinking, emotions or behaviour. In the thought for each day, Lacey gives a wonderful mixture of useful context for the original hearers, contemporary illustrations and examples, and a humble inclusion of “we sometimes…” or “we may…” providing clear evidence that the author has pressed the truths home in her own heart before laying them down for the reader.

In the busyness of life when we are so often harried and short on time (and discipline) to sit and read the Bible carefully, with thought for our own response as well as space to allow the Holy Spirit to change us, this month of devotions is just what is needed and utterly worth it. I am a big fan of this series’ USP that the meditations are undated and simply labelled “Day 1,” etc. While relieving the guilt that often comes with missing a day, the very manageable and nourishing “days” of this 2 Timothy copy motivated me to keep reading in real time without wanting to miss a day! The book gave me a desire to obey Paul’s call to Timothy to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14).

This would be a good buy for the new believer to consider ways in which their thinking may not yet match up with biblical theology, and equally good for the mature believer who may have settled into particular patterns of unchecked sin. Hugely good for all who want to come before the Lord and check that our hearts and lives are lining up correctly to “guard the gospel, suffer for the gospel, continue in the gospel and preach the gospel” (from Day 30).

Nikki Tomkins, Audley, Staffs.

The coming king cover

This is one of the latest in a series of resources designed to help believers who want something to help them with a daily quiet time. The series is well designed—each page directs you to read approximately a chapter of 1 Samuel; it then offers three or four paragraphs of comment, followed by a couple of questions for reflection. The content is designed to fit within a 15-minute daily routine, but the portions are undated so it will not add to the guilt that many believers feel about struggling to maintain a daily pattern of Bible reading. The challenge is to work out a routine for yourself.

There are many strengths to the structure of each devotion—Bible, then comment, then questions—not least it has confidence in letting the Bible speak to the Spirit-indwelt hearts of God’s people. Mason is clear that his goal is to help you hear from God’s word, not to use a morsel of that word as a launchpad for his own devotional thoughts. This is much to be commended. In keeping with this, the comments are of a very high standard. Mason succeeds in providing enough biblical and literary context to help the reader not get lost, but without drowning in detail, or rehearsing the same story every page for a week.

I appreciated the variety within Mason’s approach to the text, at points walking us through a strong biblical theology which connects the coming king David with his greater Son, who fulfils many of the motifs and patterns of David’s life. At other points, Mason is comfortable drawing a (fairly!) straight line between the Old Covenant believer (or more likely un-believer) and the Christian: day 3’s meditation on the failure of Eli’s sons as spiritual leaders was a penetrating example of this. First Samuel describes a crucial step in the unfolding purposes of God, as his people become a monarchy for the first time. It explores the great theme of kingship, and leadership of the people of God, as well as issues of pride, jealousy, friendship, and conflict. If it is a part of the Bible unknown by any child of God, then spending a month with Mason would be a great investment.

Inevitably there were days when my thoughts from the text went in a slightly different direction from those suggested by the reflection, although this may well be one of the strengths of the book—God’s word is meant to be read in community so that we can teach and correct each other. On the whole, it was a privilege to be able to spend a month reading 1 Samuel with this pastor who clearly loves God’s people, God’s Word, and, above all, God’s Son.

Ben Thompson, Moreton-in-Marsh

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