Here we are with another month that has slid past me, so I’m left doubling up again for the Book of the Month feature (where is this year going?!).
This month’s book is a compilation of devotional readings from Christians throughout church history:
Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, Ed. Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith (Harper Collins, 1993).
This was one of my texts in a college course and has served me well since as a rich resource in both personal discipleship and ministry. Foster is peerless in bridging the gap between the spiritual writings of times past and the present concerns facing today’s church. He is at home in these works and at accompanying us through them in the path of spiritual formation.
The book if arranged in thematic sections. There are a group of writings for each of these categories: Preparing for the Spiritual Life, The Prayer-Filled Life, The Virtuous Life, The Spirit-Empowered Life, The Compassionate Life, and The Word-Centered Life. Foster draws on a wide stream of historical Christianity, offering us perspectives from various traditions that guide us into a well-rounded, deep, sustaining faith.
Each reading is prefaced by an introduction to the author, and is followed by a pertinent Bible selection, and questions for personal reflection and/or group discussion. Moreover, Foster includes suggested exercises to begin to put the insights of the reading into practice, a personal reflection on its significance, and an annotated list of books related to that subject for further study.
This book is a great introduction to the spiritual classics. A tendency in Christianity in our culture is to esteem what is novel over what is ancient. We make the false assumption that if something is new it is more relevant and valuable than something that is old. Even a short time in this book will reveal the opposite: the rich and living resource we have in our faith ancestry.