Christianity 201

February 26, 2014

Help, I Need Somebody

Syd Hielema is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Campus Chaplain at Redeemer University College, located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was gracious to send us a copy of this devotional after it appeared in the campus newspaper.

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8: 30-31).

Help! I need somebody,
Help! Not just anybody,
Help! You know I need someone,
(“Help!,” Lennon/McCartney).

We live in a self-help culture. Our definition of adulthood includes navigating our way through life’s challenges on our own, independently. If we run stuck, we have bookstores overflowing with self-help books and, of course, that greatest self-help guru of all time: Google (or one of its many spin-offs). If I was given a dollar for every person who walked into the chaplain’s office and said, “I never expected to need any help, but I’ve hit a wall and I need to talk…,” I could retire to Mexico by now (well, almost…).

The assumption is that if we can’t figure things out on our own, there’s something wrong with us.

In the Kingdom of God, the reality is exactly the opposite: if we think we can figure everything out on our own, there’s a lot wrong with us. The very first comment that the Lord God made about us as he observed us in that wondrous Garden of Eden was, “it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2: 18).

Syd Hielema - DevotionalDid you catch that? In a perfect world, before the fall into sin, we were created in such a way that we needed help! And that need is only multiplied now that we walk with our Lord in a fallen world that he has redeemed. That’s why Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you” (I Cor. 12: 21). The community that is led by the Holy Spirit is an interdependent body in which every single one of us needs the others.

This need for help applies to every dimension of our lives (in different ways at different times), but it always applies to our devotional life. We easily assume that praying and reading Scripture are just simple activities that anybody can do, and then we beat ourselves up because we discover that our devotional life isn’t going that well (sound familiar?). That’s why in November we chaplains sent out “30 ways to pray” and this month we’re doing the same with reading Scripture.

Do you desire to strengthen your own reading of Scripture? Do you recognize that you need help to do this?

Because we all need a little help.

Syd then provided us with a detailed, annotated list of devotional resources in print he recommends to the students at Redeemer, which follows this paragraph. (If it’s not visible, clicking the “more” tab below will take you there.) Some of these may not be available where you live and I know one is possibly out-of-print, but I wanted to include it here in full so that you can see that breadth of materials available, and this list is hardly exhaustive. I’m surprised that in four years of recommending devotional materials we’ve never done a list like this, but today makes up for it!  Be sure to click through. Comments and additional recommendations are welcome.

A Guidebook to Prayer, MaryKate Morse

This guidebook helps you to find joy in prayer and dilutes the notion that prayer is hard.  Each of the twenty-four chapters looks into a different angle of prayer focusing on each of the persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each chapter offers ways to pray individually, with a partner or in a group and personal reflections about experience with these practices.  Also included are additional resources on prayer.

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Sarah Young

A devotional book for all 365 days in the year.  Sarah Young, a missionary decided she needed to spend time listening to the Savior’s voice.   Each of the pages contains words and scriptures Jesus laid on her heart.  A years worth of short, daily readings can be found inside this book with the intent to bring you closer to Christ.

Ancient Christian Devotional, Thomas C. Oden & Cindy Crosby

A 52 week guide designed for reflection includes opening and closing prayers drawn from the ancient church, scripture and excerpts from the writings of the church fathers.  Reflecting on words from the ancient church fathers points us towards the joy that can only be found in Christ through scripture.

Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year, Philip F. Reinders

This book is all about prayer, and seeks to help the reader pray the scriptures.  Each chapter includes several different elements of doing just that.  First an invitation into God’s presence followed by a time of quiet stillness.  Next comes a Bible song, usually a Psalm followed by scripture and a call to dwell on the scripture.  Next is free prayer, where you are invited to share about your family, and personal life although there are some suggestions for prayer.  Next is a set prayer rooted in the Reformed confession of faith and lastly a blessing as you go out into your daily life.

Knowing God: Devotional Journal, Carolyn Nystrom

For those who enjoy or want to learn how to journal, this book is a 365 day daily journal devotional that provides the framework for journaling.  Each day includes scripture, a short meditation, a short offer for reflection and space for you to journal your thoughts and reflections.

My Utmost for His highest, Oswald Chambers

A classic, updated to today’s language, Oswald Chambers and his wife Biddy were firm believers that taking the gospel to the whole earth involves following God’s example of “keeping open house for the universe.”  This book reflects that belief.  A book of 365 short daily readings with scripture and a small reflection.

Living the Message: Daily Help for Living the God-Centered Life, Eugene Peterson

From the author who created the translation of the Bible The Message, a 365 day daily reading created to connect the biblical text of the message to daily living.  Each day includes a short meditation and scripture as written in The Message.

Daily Light on the Daily Path

Daily Bible readings based off of the New International Version with 365 days of readings.  Each day includes a morning and an evening reflection supplemented with Scripture.

Near Unto God: Daily Meditations Adapted for Contemporary Christians, James C. Schaap

Meditations based on Abraham Kuyper, James C. Schaap had a mission of preserving Kuyper’s work and translated into modern day language for easier understanding while keeping the reflections from the King James Version.  Each chapter includes scripture and a short meditation.

Spurgeon’s Daily Treasures in the Psalms: Selections from the Classic Treasury of David, Roger Campbell

A 365 day daily devotional book about the Psalms based on Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic work, The Treasury of David.  Campbell has updated Spurgeons language and put a focus on the real issues of daily life for practical use of the words you read.

The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel, Walter Wangerin Jr

The Bible written as one big story. Walter Wangerin Jr opens your imagination and brings the places where events took place to life.  He is known as a master story-teller and here he is telling to ultimate story of truth.

The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People

The story of the Bible condensed into 31 chapters.  Turns the stories, poems, and teachings of the Bible into text that can be read like a novel.  The contents are from the New International Version and placed in chronological order.  Each chapter also includes a timeline of events.

Every Day With Jesus: Daily Bible, Selwyn Hughes

A 365 day daily devotion for spending time with Jesus everyday and reading through the entire Bible in one year.  Each day includes several scripture passages, a short reflection from Paster Hughes, a sample prayer and some more scripture for further reading.

Reflections on the Psalms: The Celebrated Musings on One of the Most Intriguing Books of the Bible, C.S. Lewis

In this book, C.S. Lewis reflects on both the form and the meaning of a few of the Psalms.  He urges the reader to remember that the Psalms were originally written as songs that should be read like lyrical poetry.  Each chapter is several pages long and scripture is weaved throughout.  Also included at the back of the book is an appendix with all the Psalms in full text that are discussed.

A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself, Renee Swope

A book for women that offers a 60 day daily reading to discontinue the self-doubting thoughts and transform them into God’s truth.  This book is about turning your self-doubting heart into a confident one.  Each chapters includes a reflection, sample prayer and a section called When I say- God says.

To be Near Unto God, Abraham Kuyper

Abrahm Kuyper, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands offers a book full of 110 mediations on one single thought from Psalm 73: “As for me, it is good to be near to God.”  Each chapter includes words from Kuyper that reflect the spirituality and doctrinal loyalty he expressed in his own life.  The entire book is supplemented with scripture.

Living and Loving Life: Devotional Reflections, Howard Vanderwell

Vanderwell use his own experiences and the idea that Christ came that we might have life to the full as the basis of this devotional book.  It includes eight major themes of life including Heart Health, Formation, Worship, Living Deeply, Praying on the Psalms, When It’s Cloudy, The Seasons of life, and Healthy Habits for Daily Living – each of them having ten devotions.  This book encourages a lot of self-reflection and journaling.  Each devotion includes a few scripture passages and questions that encourage further reflection.  This is a good devotion for personal reflection or accountability within a small group.

Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey From Genesis to Revelation, Dianne Neal Matthews

This book is meant to be an additive to reading the Bible by providing historical information about the Bible as well as practical suggestions for your life today. This book is for both new and mature Christians with the intent to bring you closer to the scriptures and deepen your relationship with God. This book has a daily devotion for all 365 days of the year and goes through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Pray the Scriptures: A 40-Day Prayer Experience, Kevin Johnson

This book is for those who desire a deeper prayer life and guides you in praying the scriptures back to God and applying them to your life.  There are 40 days, each provides you with scripture and short meditation and a few prayer starters to guide your prayer, but lets you personalize and pray you own words to God.  As the end of each chapter are questions for reflection, prayer and discussion.

Beyond Doubt: Faith Building Devotions on Questions Christians Ask, Cornelius Plantinga Jr

This devotion guide addresses the “big questions” that Christians ask, like What is God like? Why pray? Why do we suffer?  This book of twenty-seven questions is designed for both new and mature Christians.  Each chapter begins with scripture, then goes into short meditation of the question and ends with a brief prayer.

Guide Me, Savior: 365 Timeless Devotions from Portals of Prayer, Erik Rottman

A 365 day daily devotional with each one having s scripture passage, a short reflection and concluding in a short prayer.  Just a few minutes each day is required to read and  reflect on the words in each chapter to bring you closer to Christ and have a deeper understanding of God’s love and mercy.

Prayers on the Pslams: From the Scottish Psalter of 1595

The Scottish Psalter was unique in that it contained prayers on the psalms.  A small book, easy for carrying in travel, full of short prayers on each of the 150 Psalms.

Devotions for Dating Couples: Building a Foundation for Spiritual Intimacy, Ben Young & Dr. Samuel Adams

This weekly devotion for dating couples serves the purpose of deepening your commitment to God as individuals and as a couple.  Each chapter focuses on a different   topic that is very important in your relationship with God and your partner.  Each day includes accompanying scripture and sample prayers.  Each week includes a prayer journal and discussion questions.

Blessings for the Evening: Finding Peace in God’s Presence, Susie Larson

A soothing, daily evening devotion for finding peace in God’s presence.  Each reading includes a short page covering all aspects of life, accompanying scripture and some pages for specific needs and occasions.

The Grad’s Guide to Time With God: Daily Devos for a Deeper Relationship

Ten week daily devotions designed for students by students in just seven minutes.  Each devotion urges you to look at how your life can be different by spending just seven minutes with God daily.  Each day has Scripture, a sample prayer and questions to help you reflect on that.

Limitless: Devotions for a Ridiculously Good Life, Nick Vujucic

Nick Vujucic, born without arms or legs has experienced both hope and despair, but he has been able to overcome his physical limitations by embracing his faith and realizing the limitless love and power God has for everyone.  Each of the fifty chapters begins with scripture and moves into Nick’s encouraging words of wisdom for all of life’s struggles.

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