3 out of 4 stars
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The Bible has been a source of encouragement, comfort, and confirmation for many people throughout the years. It is still considered to be one of the best selling books of all time and with the number of 'easy to read' translations available in today's language, those who desire to read it from cover to cover have a greater chance of reaching that goal now more than ever.
Besides reader-friendly options to help better understand the text, various authors have put together companion books to assist bringing a deeper revelation of what the scriptures are conveying. Susan Butler has done that in her daily devotional First Fruits where her goal is to have readers discover a stronger spiritual life that includes open communication with the Creator.
The book is laid out so that an entire year is broken down into fifty-two weeks. At the beginning of each week, the author presents the reader with what she calls a 'precept' that is explained in detail by personal stories and scripture. For example, in Week Thirteen, she focuses on the subject of healing. She goes on to write about how God can heal people emotionally, physically and spiritually. Various passages from the Bible are used to exemplify the point she is trying to get across to her audience. Before moving on to the readings for the week, there is space on the page left open for those who wish to write down their reflections. This adds a nice touch because it transforms the material into a personal journal for a keepsake that could be reviewed in the future to realize personal progress.
Another feature not found in all books of this nature is that the author wrote down what she heard God speak to her. This part of the material gives a rather up close and personal feel for the relationship the author has with God. While she has thoroughly studied and chosen passages that are enlightening, it was inspiring to see that she was brave enough to lay bare to the public her private conversations with God. While she merely listened, He spoke, and she recorded the message so that others can benefit from it.
I liked the brevity of the daily passages. The book is supposed to be about giving God the first part of your day. I know that many of us, myself included, don't want to set an alarm to start the morning earlier to read the Bible for a lengthy amount of time. Some of us might be under the impression that in order to grow, we have to labor to get there. This devotional makes it clear that this is not so. I think readers who take this on for a year are going to find that each section is written in a straightforward manner and brief enough to fit into a time schedule that should not be too hectic. The writing may be short, but the depth of the subjects touched upon will stay with the reader throughout the day. I was impressed by the vast amount of scripture included. Even though I could not take a full year to read and write my review, I found myself strengthed by the parts where the author shared her own struggles and how she used her faith and the promises of God to overcome some of life's biggest heartaches.
While the book has many good qualities, it may not be for everyone. First, it is clearly Christian based, so those who do not adhere to that way of living would probably find no interest in it at all. Second, in the 'About the Author' section at the end of the book, she states that she attends a Baptist church and has been highly involved there for over thirty years. There are many sects of Christianity, and what is taught as the gospel truth in one may not be in another. Her belief system may not reflect that of all followers.
Third, I was somewhat disappointed by the arrangement of the book. When I first began to read, I thought each week would have a topic, and that every reading for that week would stay on that topic. This did not occur. For example, in Week Five, she introduces the subject of sacrifice and what God expects from believers in regard to this. Only two of the seven readings for the week stay on the subject and then veer off onto others such as protection, judgment, and praise. I found this happened throughout the entire book. It was confusing because if the point is for the reader to dig into the idea presented at the beginning of the week, then each passage following should focus on the original subject.
Last, there were a few minor errors with commas and capitalization. This was not enough to draw me away from the messages, however. In its current state of PDF form, these should be easy to fix. The entries where she expressed what God had spoken to her personally, I gave much room as it was written in a free-flowing style, and this reader fully knows what it is like to get insight and direction from an inward source, so I chose not to hold her to the standard writing protocol in those sections of the book. Others might find that not right, but I viewed it as journal entries where a little bit more leeway should be considered.
For her huge undertaking of trying to make the Bible a more understandable resource as well as encouraging people to come up higher in their faith, I am giving this devotional 3 out of 4 stars.
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