Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church

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Overview

In simple, updated language, Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell provides a year of inspiring readings drawn from the earliest teachers and writers of the church---the Church Fathers. In every reflection you will be refreshed by deep wells of wisdom and spiritual insight.
“In the age of Twitter and Facebook, where glib sayings abound, one yearns to read some deeper wisdom about life and faith on a regular basis. Well, here you have it, a compendium of wisdom, devotion, and ...
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Overview

In simple, updated language, Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell provides a year of inspiring readings drawn from the earliest teachers and writers of the church---the Church Fathers. In every reflection you will be refreshed by deep wells of wisdom and spiritual insight.
“In the age of Twitter and Facebook, where glib sayings abound, one yearns to read some deeper wisdom about life and faith on a regular basis. Well, here you have it, a compendium of wisdom, devotion, and biblical insight from some of the most thoughtful and faithful Christians from the early eras of the church's history. And in Facebook sized posts. That's a nice change of pace!”
---Mark Galli, editor, Christianity Today
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310514879
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 10/22/2013
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 933,624
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

James Stuart Bell, Jr., is a former director of religious publishing at Doubleday, executive director of Bridge Publishing, and executive editor at Moody Publishing. The writer, editor, or compiler of more than 140 books, he owns Whitestone Communications, Inc., a literary development agency, and makes his home in the western suburbs of Chicago. Bell is married with four children.
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Awakening Faith

daily devotions from the early church


By James Stuart Bell, Patrick J. Kelly

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2013 James Stuart Bell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-51487-9


CHAPTER 1

LOVE UNITES US

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)


If Christ is with me, what should I fear? The waves and the sea and the anger of powerful people might be rising against me, but they are no scarier than a spider's web. Had you not detained me here, I would have left today to face those things at home. For I always say, "Lord, your will be done," not what this or that person wants me to do, but what God wants me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never breaks. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.

Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For my body may die, but my soul will live on and be mindful of my people.

You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my mothers, my brothers, my sisters, my sons, my daughters, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. What the rays of the sun give me does not compare to what I get from your love. The sun's light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.


John Chrysostom

CHAPTER 2

THE TRANSFIGURATION IS OUR VICTORY

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2)


The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples and to prevent the humiliation of his passion from disrupting the faith of those who witnessed it—even though it was a hidden glory.

A second reason is to allow the whole body of Christ to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of the church look forward to a share in that glory that first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord himself had spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: "Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). Saint Paul the Apostle bore witness to this same truth when he said, "I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). In another place he says, "You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory" (Col. 3:3–4).

No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.


Leo the Great

CHAPTER 3

JOY IN YOUR BLESSINGS

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24–25)


Lord, shed the brilliant light of your wisdom upon our darkened souls, so that we may be enlightened and serve you with renewed purity. Sunrise marks the hour for men and women to begin their toil, but prepare a dwelling in our souls for the day that will never end. Help us to know the resurrection life and let nothing distract us from the delights you offer.

Teach us to find our joy in your blessings! Lord, we have your memorial inside of us, received at your spiritual table; let us have its full reality, when all things will be made new.

You give us a hint of the goodness you have prepared for us when we observe your Spirit working inside of us to make our souls beautiful.

Savior, your crucifixion marked the end of your mortal life; teach us to crucify ourselves and make way for our life in the Spirit. Use your resurrection to make our spirits great, and show us our new selves in the mirror of the sacraments.

Lord, bless our souls with the spiritual vision of you, and our bodies with your warmth and sweetness. The mortality lurking in our bodies spreads corruption through us; cleanse this corruption with the healing waters of your love. Help us come to our true city and see it now in a vision, like Moses on the mountaintop.


Ephrem the Syrian

CHAPTER 4

LET US NOT OFFEND GOD

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one's inmost being. (Proverbs 20:27)


We must remember how near God is and that no thought of ours nor any conversation we hold is hidden from him. It is therefore right not to turn our backs and flee from God's will. We should prefer to offend stupid and foolish people, puffed up and taking pride in their boastful speech, than offend God.

Let us revere the Lord Jesus, whose blood was shed for us. Let us respect those in authority and honor the elders. Let us train the young in the fear of God. Let us lead our wives toward all that is good. Let them show that they are lovers of chastity by their conduct; let them reveal a pure and sincere disposition by their gentleness; let them manifest the control they have over their tongues by their silence; let them love all who have a holy fear of God equally, without prejudice.

Your children must also become disciples of Christ. They must learn how effective humility is before God, what chaste love can accomplish with God, and how good and noble is the fear of God, for it brings salvation to all who live holy lives with a pure heart. The Spirit in us is the searcher of our thoughts and the counselor of our hearts.

The Father is merciful in all he does and full of generosity; he is loving to those who fear him. He gives his graces with gentleness to those who approach him with undivided hearts. We should remove all our duplicity and distrustfulness in response to his excellent and honoring gifts.


Clement of Rome

CHAPTER 5

PRAY AS HE TAUGHT US

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20–21)


Christ has already foretold that the hour was coming when "true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). And he has fulfilled this promise, in that we have received the Spirit, and the truth given to us by his own holiness, so that we may worship in spirit and truth using the prayer he has taught us.

What prayer could be more in the spirit than the one given to us by Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit upon us? What prayer could be more in the truth than the one spoken by the lips of Christ, who is truth himself? To pray contrary to the way the Son has taught us is ignorant and sinful. He spoke of this command when he said, "You reject the command of God, to set up your own tradition" (Mark 7:9).

So let us pray as God our master has taught us. When we approach the Father with the words his Son has given us, and let him hear the prayer of Christ repeated with our own voices, we recite a family prayer. Let the Father recognize the words of his Son. Let the Son, who lives in our hearts, be spoken from our lips. He is our advocate before the Father; when we ask for forgiveness for our sins, why not use the words given to us by our advocate? He tells us: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you" (John 16:23). What could be a more effective prayer than the words of Christ's own prayer?


Cyprian of Carthage

CHAPTER 6

DO NOT DELAY YOUR MERCY

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)


Not even sleep should interrupt you in your duty of mercy. Do not say, "Come back and I will give you something tomorrow" (Prov. 3:28). There should be no delay between your intention and your good deed. Generosity is the one thing that cannot be delayed.

"Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the needy and the homeless into your house" (Isa. 58:7) with a joyful and eager heart. "He who does acts of mercy should do so with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:8). The grace of a good deed is doubled when it is done with promptness and speed. Giving spitefully or against one's will is distasteful and far from praiseworthy. When we perform an act of kindness we should rejoice and not be sad about it.

If you think that I am right, then let us visit Christ whenever we can; let us care for him, feed him, clothe him, welcome him, and honor him; not only at a meal, as some have done; or by anointing him, as Mary did; or only by lending him a tomb, like Joseph of Arimathea; or by arranging for his burial, like Nicodemus, who loved Christ halfheartedly; or by giving him gold, frankincense, and myrrh, like the Magi did before all these others. The Lord of all asks for mercy, not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13), and mercy is greater than myriads of fattened lambs. So let us show him mercy in the persons of the poor and those who today are lying on the ground, so that when we leave this world they might receive us into everlasting dwelling places, into Christ our Lord himself, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


Gregory of Nazianzus

CHAPTER 7

FORGIVENESS AND HOLINESS

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)


Dear friends, at every moment "the earth is full of the mercy of God" (Ps. 119:64), and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens and the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvelous beauty of the elements' obedience to him warrants an expression of gratitude from the intelligent creation.

But with the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the Easter feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit.

The special note of the Easter feast is this: the whole church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who believe for the first time and are baptized, but also of those who are already numbered among God's adopted children.

Initially, men and women are made new by the rebirth of baptism. Yet we still require a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and despite whatever progress has been made everyone must continue to grow in holiness. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption none may be found in the sins of their former lives.


Leo the Great
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell, Patrick J. Kelly. Copyright © 2013 James Stuart Bell. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
365 Entries
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 5, 2013

    There¿s a consistent problem in modern life, whenever modern is

    There’s a consistent problem in modern life, whenever modern is for you. That problem is this: we tend to think that we are the smartest people to ever life. No one else has had the same problems or come up with the same solution to those problems. No other generation has figured out what we know—it was refreshing to hear a conversation recently about the plethora of “Gospel-centered” books and how we come across as if we discovered the Gospel in the last decade, when the Church has been around for two millennia. It’s not healthy.

    Into that problem comes a few good ideas. One of those ideas is to reach out and read from prior generations. That can be intimidating to tackle in one fell swoop, but a good way is to take little bites and see what has been said in ages past. If you couple that with the excellent idea of daily readings to help draw us nearer to God, then you can accomplish this by picking up James Stuart Bell’s Awakening Faith. It looks like this:

    Now, let’s be honest with our credits. Bell did not truly write Awakening Faith. He wrote the introduction, and he selected the writings, but these daily devotionals were written by people like St. Patrick or the Venerable Bede. I am uncertain, based on the information in the book, whether or not Bell did all the translating or if he worked from existing translations.

    That does not particularly matter to the value of Awakening Faith. You have here a year’s supply of devotionals developed by the giants that stand in the early years of church history. I cannot find a bad day among them all, and I will enjoy reading and rereading this for years to come.

    If there is a fault to find here, it is more the fault of history than of Bell. There is a reason that these are all devotions from the Early Church Fathers. No women are featured in the writings, but the well is pretty dry to draw from in that slice of time. So, again, it’s no fault of Bell, but it’s worth noting. More a reminder of the missing half of wisdom from the last two millennia than anything else.

    In all, though, do not let that scare you away from Awakening Faith. Keep in mind that these Early Church Fathers wrote before over verbosity became a virtue, before printing presses. These men say more in a page than most of us say in a blog series or a book. Grab a copy for yourself and for a history-minded Christian friend.

    Note: free book from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for the review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2013

    Over the last year, I have found myself desiring to read and lea

    Over the last year, I have found myself desiring to read and learn more of the thought and writings from the Early Church. So when the opportunity to review Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell was offered, I quickly accepted.

    This is a daily devotional with 366 entries in the collection from 69 different Church Fathers. In the back of the book is included a brief biography of each one which I found both informative and interesting. There is also included a Scripture Index.

    This book is an excellent compilation of early church fathers. Each devotional includes a Scripture and is written in updated language making it easy for the reader to comprehend and apply. I found each devotional to be full of wisdom, spiritual insight and give much food for thought. It was refreshing to read thoughts that were not in keeping with the trendy writing styles of today's authors but were timeless in their presentation.

    Some of the topics covered by the various writers are: holiness; prayer and devotion; thorns and thistles; the Church; our spiritual inheritance; and service and stewardship. There were many writers that I recognized but some I had not which made for engaging reading. It is amazing that while each of these were written a long time ago, they are applicable for today's day and age. The presentation seemed similar to that of blog posts which drew me in immediately.

    Some of the thoughts that spoke to me included:

    Be Subject To A Mentor. Learn how to listen to at least one individual at first, who speaks harshly but with healing words. (Clement of Alexandria)
    Wounds Of Love. So we ask that we might know you better and more fully, and that you give us nothing but yourself. (Columbanus)
    The Way Of Light. Accept as a blessing whatever comes your way, knowing that nothing ever happens outside of God's sovereignty. (Barnabas)
    The Richness Of The Psalms. When we read it, we find a medicine to cure the wounds caused by any of our passions. (Ambrose)

    The cover to this book is beautiful making this a great book to give as a gift. It is a wonderful resource that would be greatly appreciated.

    ****I received this book for free from Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2013

    I was excited to read this book from Zondervan Publishing in exc

    I was excited to read this book from Zondervan Publishing in exchange for my review. I am always looking for resources to incorporate into my daily devotions to grow in faith and knowledge of God. This book provides a year of readings taken from many individuals considered to be the early Church Fathers.

    The book provides 366 readings that each begin with a passage of Scripture, then a written passage from an individual considered to be an early Church Father. Included at the conclusion of the book is an index of the authors (complete with a few sentences describing each individual and detailing the pages of readings attributed to each individual) and an index for the Scripture passages used.

    I have not read all 366 readings, but I have read many. There is beauty in the words of these men from the early days of the church. All of them lived during a time when "many Christians were being killed for their faith and when doctrinal controversies threatened to split the church" (found in the introduction). Despite the fact that they faced serious physical, economic, and emotional threats they understood the importance of theology, of following Christ, of running the race to completion. Their exhortations and their wisdom about Jesus Christ, the Church, the Bible, salvation, service, stewardship, holiness, prayer, etc. will greatly enrich your devotional time and your spiritual life as you meditate on them. I was a little disappointed. The book is set up almost to be a devotional book, but not quite. In a time where many, many, many devotional books abound that use wise sayings, or lukewarm Christian principles as the basis, it is even more important that a devotional book use the Bible as the basis. This book almost fits into that category. While the readings included are full of rich wisdom (see the following paragraph for an example), the opportunity to take these readings even further for the good of the reader is almost wasted. I saw almost, because the book itself is not a waste. It is actually very beneficial.I just have to include my favorite reading, number 171, by Augustine. "There is a place in the church for the chastity of the virgin, for the temperance of the widow, and for the modesty of the married. Indeed, all her members have their place, and this is where they are to follow Christ, in their role and in their way of life. They must deny themselves; that is, they must surrender themselves to Christ. They must take up their cross by enduring whatever pain the world brings for Christ's sake." How excellent are these words? 




    A word of careful warning: do not use this book in place of the Bible for devotional time. Use it in addition to deep study of the Scriptures to propel deeper consideration of the principles within the readings. In addition to this, be sure to use discernment in reading through each one. Always return to the Bible to affirm that the words each individual speaks are true. 




    I received this book for free from Zondervan Publishing via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2014

    This book really came at the right time. I have very much enjoye

    This book really came at the right time. I have very much enjoyed reading it. I love that time when it is quiet in the house and the kids have gone to bed - and I can read, study and reflect. This is a great devotional. The language is very easy to read. The messages are timely. Each devotion is one page long - so easy to read before heading off to bed. Really wonderful messages. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    One of the concerns facing the current condition of the Church i

    One of the concerns facing the current condition of the Church is a lack of connectivity with other believers. We huddle into autonomous church buildings or disconnected denominations and close off our communication from other Christians. We also insulate ourselves from those outside our circles and we suffer relationally, as well as intellectually. The truth is that there is much to be learned and gained from our Christian brothers and sisters, both now and throughout history.

    This is one of the many reasons that I am thankful for books like “Awakening Faith” by James Stuart Bell. This book is a gold mine of wonderful devotions from the Early Church period. Each page is a window into the faith that has stood for millennia. The Christian reading these daily offerings will be blessed, encouraged, and educated by those that have been so critical in establishing the foundations of the church.

    The reader will find these devotions to contain enough of an excerpt to get the mind and heart moving but not so much that the focus is on the book. Topics are included, as well as biblical references to encourage some more thought on the topic being discussed by the Church Father. This is a book that will be one of you favorite devotions to have by you in the morning.

    The only areas of criticism are that the writings being used in the devotion are not referenced. The reader cannot go and read more by this particular writer. I would hope to see this addressed in a second edition. I would also hope to see better indexing. There is some in the back but I felt that having a few paths through the devotional would have been nice (and simple enough). To move through the devotional by topic, by author, and chronologically would have been a vast improvement to the indexing of the devotions.

    That being said, this book is well worth your time and money. You will be using it for years to come. If you are looking for a devotional that breaks out of the typical mold then you will want to consider “Awakening Faith”.

    Zondervan provided me a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. This was not an effect on the review that I have written. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    The genre of daily devotional reading is one with an overwhelmin

    The genre of daily devotional reading is one with an overwhelming number of entries of varying quality, but in Awakening Faith, James Stuart Bell (with Patrick J. Kelly) provides a unique and edifying offering. As the title indicates, Bell has assembled 366 readings from the Early Church Fathers, discussing a variety of topics related to the Christian life. In addition to providing short daily expositions on the Scriptures, Awakening Faith serves to introduce readers to the writings of some of the earliest Christian thinkers and leaders.

    Each daily entry begins with a Bible verse (or two), followed by a reading from a Church Father that either references/alludes or has a thematic connection to the Scriptural passage. The selections have been updated into modern language for improved readability. The selection of authors is diverse, ranging from the highly-esteemed, such as Athanasius and Augustine, to the unknown, such as Pseudo-Chrysostom and the author of The Letter to Diognetus. Some of the included authors, such as Origen and Commodianus, are known for having problematic teachings, but as Bell notes in his introduction, the selected readings were chosen to "showcase those things they emphasize that today's evangelicals do not, generally to our detriment." At the end, the book contains brief biographical notes for each of the included authors. Many of the book's readings focus on Christian virtues and personal holiness, often in the form of exhortation. Each passage is limited to a single page (though some extended passages are split over multiple days), which makes for a short but substantive read.

    Overall, I found Awakening Faith to be a very useful devotional collection. In the introduction, Bell makes a brief but cogent argument for why modern evangelicals should make a point to familiarize themselves with the wisdom of Christians from eras past. For those with limited (or even non-existent) knowledge of the Church Fathers, this book would serve as a great point of introduction. And even for those with previous experience reading the Fathers, these readings are both encouraging and convicting. As Bell observes, these writers were committed to the Scriptures, and their works overflow with explanations and applications of the Bible. That grasp of Scripture, combined with the exhortation to piety and holiness, provides a model that modern readers would do well to emulate. I also appreciated how the Fathers had a completely different outlook than I do, and I often found myself stopping to ponder their words in ways I might not have if they were modern authors discussing similar topics.

    I had no real complaints about the book, although a couple of improvements could be made. First, the book identifies only the author of each selection; it would have been helpful to include the specific work from which it was taken (even if relegated to an appendix). Secondly, the heading for each page lists the topic addressed, such as "Holiness" or "The Church"; it would have been useful to have an index of all the topics and associated selections. Neither of these omissions detract from the overall quality of the book.

    In sum, if you are looking to pick up a book of daily devotional reading, are interested in learning more about the early Church, or both, Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church is highly recommended.

    (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for providing an unbiased review.)

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  • Posted November 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is an insightful and inspiring devotional with hundreds of

    This is an insightful and inspiring devotional with hundreds of years of wisdom from church fathers. It was interesting to learn about more of our church history and to read their insights into the Bible. Each devotion is a page with a Scripture verse written out. There are bios of each of the writers in the back, about sixty total. Some of the names I recognized, such as Augustine, and others were unknown to me. The language is quite easy to understand. This is a beautiful hardcover with a dust-jacket and ribbon bookmark. It would make a wonderful gift for yourself or someone you know!

    I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 24, 2013

    I remind myself often that my little ones are not so little; tha

    I remind myself often that my little ones are not so little; that one day I will have all the quiet time I long for, me and my Bible. In the meantime I need to enjoy my time with them; hang onto that joy and share God’s word as much as I can that they heart and mind may grow more and more in love with Him each day.

    We use devotionals. I never use them as a stand alone; some days it feels they are though. So I was thrilled to be able to read Awakening Faith. I love the early church fathers; such wisdom and depth in their words. So much of the power and truth that is so lacking today. I also enjoy the history that is woven into their words. And this devotional is no different. It reminds me of the power of His word; it helps to strengthen me on those days when I am so very weary. I have learned and continue to learn much of the early church. Many names never before heard – there is a handy appendix full of details about the various church fathers; a list of scriptures indexed within too. Often I find devotionals to be soft and fluffy but this one is a gem. In fact this is one you keep close and read again and again gleaning much each time.

    Right now those days come often. Much to do. Preparing for family and friends. Baking and gathering; crafting. This is a season full of busyness. Let us not lose our faith and our Lord though in this time.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    A Review of Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Chur

    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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  • Posted November 11, 2013

    Awakening Faith fills a much needed void in today's Christian cu

    Awakening Faith fills a much needed void in today's Christian culture by giving us a brief glimpse into the writings of the first seven centuries of the church fathers who have gone before us in our faith. For a culture that remains so focused our ourselves and self-help material, reading from the church fathers' reminds us that we worship God as a part of "a cloud of witnesses" that spans throughout history and across the globe. It also reminds us that God is a "God of the living," and that the input of those "living" Christians who have gone before us are just as valuable as contemporary Christian writers.

    Awakening Faith is a collection of 366 daily readings from a wide range of about 70 different church fathers. Each entry is a page long excerpt from a specific church father, which contains a title header and a relevant Scripture passage along with the text and author below. In some cases, if the excerpt cannot be limited to single page entry, there will be a part 1 and part 2 so that you can get a full understanding of the text broken into sections. These page entries are well formatted, and make it easy for you to read just a little each day from saints ranging from Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and Clement, to later greats such as Augustine, John Chrysostom, Basil, and Benedict. If you are unfamiliar with the church father for the day's reading, there is a helpful index listing of the different church father's in the back with a brief (one paragraph) biography of each. There is also a Scripture index in the back.

    Overall, this is a great introduction to get Christians reading the early church fathers - for which I heartily applaud Bell & Kelly. My one qualm with Awakening Faith is that there is absolutely no citation of the work, chapter, or page from which these excerpts come - only a listing of the church father's name. For the average reader, this may not be as big an issue - but as someone who wants to read more of the church father's than just the excerpts, this is a travesty. It may be easy for those who are familiar with the church father's works to recognize where the text comes from, but if I were to give this to someone and they enjoyed a passage from Ephrem the Syrian, they would have no help whatsoever in knowing where they could read the context of the passage. The editors could have easily added at least the work cited (if not book/chapter/etc.) after the church father's name, without sacrificing any aesthetic appeal or creating any formatting issues. I am not sure if this was the decision of Zondervan, or Bell & Kelly - but I do hope future editions will remedy this problem - but until then I can only give this work 4 stars. (To be fair, in the biographical index in the back, under some of the church father's there is a listing of some of their works - but even this is partial and gives no direction for further reading on specific passages used in the entries).

    Note:I received this book for free from Zondervan via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  • Posted November 11, 2013

    "History instructs us, the law teaches us, prophecy foretel

    "History instructs us, the law teaches us, prophecy foretells, rebukes condemn us, wisdom persuades us, but the book of Psalms goes further than all of these. It is medicine for our spiritual health. When we read it, we find a medicine to cure the wounds caused by any of our passions. Whoever studies it deeply will find it to be like a gymnasium for their soul, where the different psalms are like different exercises set out before them. In that gymnasium, in that stadium of virtue, they can choose the exercises that will best train them to win the victor's crown." Ambrose
    Is it possible for speakers, writers, musicians, artists, teachers, political leaders, missionaries and ministers to reach out to an audience 2,000 years in the future? Could they have something to express that we want to hear? Do we have anything in common with such persons of the past? If we strip away the culture, the dross and history of the ages, is there anything left to communicate? In my opinion, there certainly is.

    When I received the book, Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell, I was excited at the opportunity to finally fill in some of the gaping holes in my knowledge of the early history of the Christian church and the Church Fathers. After reading several of the 366 offerings, I haven't been disappointed. While the language has been simplified, the content is deep and thought provoking. This is a book of devotions presented by many writers, speakers, and leaders of the early church; it is not a history book. However, there is a section at the end of the book that offers a brief history of each contributor. Armed with the synopses and the Internet, I enjoyed expanding my understanding while reading the devotions. 

    I've often heard pastors teach that Christ came at one of the most opportune times in history, where the Roman Empire offered a tremendous means for the Gospel message to travel the length and breadth of Europe, the Middle East, the British Isles and the northern regions of Africa. In reading some of the devotional entries, I noticed how widespread so many of the contributors were...from Patrick of Ireland, and Sulpitius Severus in Gaul (France) to Cyprian of Carthage, Egypt, and Boniface known as the Aspostle of the Germans to Braulio who was a bishop in Spain, and Ephrem the Syrian, a deacon and hymn writer in Turkey to Theodore the Studite, a monk in Constantinople. 

    Another thing I noticed is that many of the early writings were in response to heretical beliefs that had gained popularity, drawing Christians away from basic Biblical truth. The abundance of heresies and the incursion of pagan beliefs in the early church prompted many leaders to write encouragement for young believers to stay true to Jesus' teachings, and to refute errors. Consequently, there is a prolific amount of written documents kept and preserved to this day. What was written is still relevant for us. 

    Here are a few examples of wisdom that never grows old.

    "The [Holy] Spirit makes one person a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret Holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one person's self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. The Scripture says, 'In each person the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good' (1 Corinthians 12:7)." Cyril of Jerusalem

    "When the Holy Spirit saw that virtue was difficult for us, and that we neglected holy living because of our inclination toward pleasure, what did he do? He mingled the doctrines with delightful melodies, so that we would receive the benefit of divine wisdom through soft and pleasing sounds, just as wise doctors do who smear the cup of medicine with honey. Therefore, he devised these harmonious melodies for us to sing and, while singing, to be trained in goodness. For while it is difficult to hold in our mind an apostolic or prophetic message, we easily chant the words of the Psalms, even in the home and around in the marketplace. They can even sooth our wrath and lull us to sleep through their sweet melodies." Basil the Great

    "But how can we correct someone else when we are neglecting ourselves? We are wrapped up in worldly concerns, and the more we devote ourselves to superficial things, the more insensitive we become to spiritual things." Gregory the Great

    Apparently human nature and our spiritual needs haven't changed much in the past 2,000 years. 

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this commentary from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)and Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  • Posted November 10, 2013

    I'm not usually into supplementing along with my devotions, main

    I'm not usually into supplementing along with my devotions, mainly because I tend to get distracted by books enough as it is, so I try to focus only on the Bible. But this past week I incorporated a book, "Awakening Faith" by James Stuart Bell, into my devotional time. I just read a couple or a few (depending on my time frame) each day. I have to say, I really enjoyed these devotions. The back copy states, "In the age of social media, where glib sayings abound, one yearns to read some deeper wisdom about life and faith on a regular basis. - Mark Galli". That is certainly true about this book.

    You will run across familiar names of faith in this book, such as Augustine, but I didn't know many of the men referred to throughout this book. Fortunately, the author includes a short snippet about each writer at the back of the book. It was so interesting to read about these men of great faith.

    I definitely recommend this devotional. The devotions are short but contain a lot of wisdom. They are easy to understand but they make you think. Very well written.

    Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Zondervan for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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