I don’t like reading daily devotional books. I believe I should tell you that up front since this book – Heart of the Matter is a one year daily devotional from the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. Daily Devotionals often seem generic in a sense – they are typically too broad to really speak to the heart and too short to really make an impact. So much seems left unsaid in a daily devotional and I have often found with many daily devotional books what ends up happening is that they are take Scripture and end up twisting it in a dozen different ways to fit the application part of the devotional (which is usually found in the last two sentences).
Heart of the Matter is a different kind of devotional book from what I am accustomed to reading. The book is a selection of excerpts from books and other materials written by the counselors at CCEF. Each daily you are anchored into the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ by such writers and counselors as Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, William Smith, among several others.
You won’t find very many “feel good” stories here. There are no word pictures being painted for us about Timmy’s dog showing us a parallel of God’s faithfulness, or taking Philippians 4:13 to show us how God will give us the strength and skill to improve our golf swing. I’ve read devotional books that have tried to show me both of those things. This is not that kind of book.
Instead we are given Gospel-Saturated truth for our time of prayer and meditation in seeking the Lord. Each day you are given a Scripture and some things to challenge you in your prayer time that cut straight to the heart of the matter.
Five days into reading this devotional series last year I was hooked, as God took the words of Timothy Lane and pierced my heart in his reflections on 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18.
“Taking you out of the center of things, deep and thorough repentance and faith enable you to see those around you. You know see them through eyes cleansed by the forgiving grace of Christ. You begin to see things that, in your sin, you were not able to see.”
That day’s devotion talks about the grace of God giving us eyes to see and a heart to love the lost, to repent of our sin, and our selfishness.
I have been encouraged and challenged through this devotional, convicted and convinced.
I think one of the reasons why this book has made such an impact in my heart is because the writers know that the Gospel is truly the heart of the matter and apart from the power of the Gospel there is no lasting change in our lives.
Another reason why I think this devotional book gets it right is because it is a devotional book that actually does what it was purposed to do – it leads your heart to devotion to God. It leads you to worship. It’s not a nice encouraging read, although it does it encourage, it goes beyond what your typical devotional series does, because it grasps the heart with the beauty of Christ, the glory of His grace, and the transformation power of the Gospel.
The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation exists to teach people how to explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace-centered message to the problems of everyday living. This is evidenced throughout the pages of this book and I would encourage anyone who has ever struggled with reading a daily devotional book to pick this one up and dive deep into the treasury of riches that are written in these pages. I believe it will encourage you, strengthen you, and ultimately draw you closer to the truth of God’s Word.