Friday, November 22, 2013

A Treasure Trove of Devotion

A Review of Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church, by James Stuart Bell with Patrick J. Kelly

I'm a history buff - all kinds of history. I'm especially interested in church history and the history of theology. Therefore, I was overjoyed to hear about this book and to add it to my library.

The average Christian is ignorant of faith history outside of Bible times (and even in Bible times!)  If they know anything at all about history, the average protestant Christian thinks God stopped acting when the last apostle died, and started doing things again in the 16th century. By use of the term "ignorant" I do not mean stupidity; but just lack of knowledge. Frankly, there is not much happening in most churches that could provide that knowledge, but this book can be a great help in that direction. God was doing a lot back then, and those believers have a lot to teach us.

The book consists of 365 daily devotional readings drawn from writers who lived during the first 8 centuries of Christian history, i.e. from the end of the 1st century until about 900 AD. The writers include the greatest theologians, pastors, martyrs, apologists and founders of movements from the formative period of Christian life and belief. Topics include prayer, faithfulness under trial, community life, holy living, spiritual disciplines, fasting, and the Trinity. There is even a statement on justification by Basil the Great that sounds like it was written by Martin Luther! If you are not familiar with Clement, Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Chrysostom, Leo, Benedict or Cyril, here's your chance to get acquainted, Yes, there are a few statements in the book that I do not agree with and consider to be theological errors, but the overall quality of the book more than compensates for those passages. I have underlined many passages and have been quoting them on my blog. What a treasure trove!

Each entry is only a page in length, and thus easy to read. The appendix gives brief biographies of each writer cited, and there is also a Scripture index. I wish the specific work by each author had also been cited, but interested students of church history can easily search citations out via the Internet. The hardcover version of the book I read even comes with a handy ribbon bookmark to help you keep your place.

I have enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to consulting and using it for a long time to come. Five stars indeed!

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Note: I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews ( See my book review policy)