Anyway, as I get closer to actually pushing send on this wretched book (that's its official name right now) I've begun to bear a certain measure of guilt about how much I loath the devotional world. I mean, I can't even remember the last time I read even a page of Our Daily Bread, scattered as it is all over the church. I haven't even been able to read blog posts under the sort of devotional genre. What business do I have even attempting such a task, given my uninterest in other people's books in this line?
It sounds like a humble question, maybe, but I will now procedd to ruin all my false humility and answer it.
First of all, while I am a fairly emotional person, liable to wave my arms in rage and burst into tears at a whim, I don't like emotionalism very much, especially in Christianity. Along the way, because I was an evil little kid, and an angry adolescent, I came into the dumb belief that you had to feel emotion for God, that the level of your emotional affection for God was the measure of your real belief. So, for example, if you could say the Nicene Creed outloud, with sincerity of the will (like, I intellectually believe all these statements and believe they have a true bearing on my life and will submit my will and actions to the God here described) but felt no great affection as you said them, you were maybe a little bit Christian but there was a great lack in you and Jesus, most of all, was disappointed, and you should go out of church sad and angry. Somehow the mind, contemplating the scriptures and singing all the songs, was supposed to produce an emotion, an affection, and it was the emotion/affection that mattered. If you didn't have it you were sub-rate, or maybe not even Christian at all. Now, I can't think of any actual preacher or teacher who said this to me, but the way an evangelical service is ordered–the praying, the singing, the sermon, the altar call–whether or not anything is explicitly said about it, this message is pretty clearly conveyed. And, since I posses a dried up angry disposition, most every Sunday, as you might say, I wasn't feeling it. And yet I did believe, yet I did submit myself to God, yet I did read the scriptures regularly. By all externals, I would have definitly counted as a Christian…three hundred years ago. Now, I, and sometimes others, were wondering whether I was really saved.
Secondly, this emotionalism seems tangled up in modern day Christianity with a real deep uninterest in the bible. The bible is a good book, and people should read it, but it is not, and here is a really churchy word, sufficient. It is not enough. God will not speak to you through its pages. You need some kind of direct, emotional communication with God, with Jesus. You need some extra language from him, some sense of his presence. And of course, Of Course, the ordinary daily reading of the bible does not very often produce an emotionally palpable sense of God's presence. You can't toil through Judges, in particular, and feel God's love. In fact, the ordinary human response to Judges is revulsion, horror, shock, and then some long moments of utter boredom. The Christian has been led to expect something from the scripture and from church attendance that isn't, as far as I can see, promised. God doesn't say, 'Come into my presence and feel my great deep love for you'. He says stuff like, 'I'd love for you to be in my presence, to climb up my hill, but you are way too evil and will go up in a ball of fire unless blood is spilled out on your behalf, you evil, evil, rebellious, idolatrous person. Oh, and, you've also rejected my Son, you evil evil person. I will now proceed to save you.' That's not a direct biblical quote.
The thing is, and this is my third and last point, the Bible is enough and you don't have to feel it all the time. It is enough to just keep showing up. It is enough, in some cases, to 'go through the motions' if your will is inclined towards God and you believe and trust in him. You don't have to be constantly transported into a deep, passionate moment of love for Jesus. He isn't going to be angry with you if you are not overcome by emotional love for him any more, hopefully, than your wife or husband would be if you didn't swoon everytime he or she sauntered through the living room. Going through the 'motions', but really the tasks and actions, of life together is what matters. If those tasks and actions are hollow, or are carried out without the inclination of the will, without the trusting belief of the heart and mind, then you might have a problem. And certainly, examine yourself, if you like. Do you really believe? But apply a reasonable and true standard. Don't expect something of yourself that is not required by God himself. Which brings me to the scripture. The bible is actually Enough. It is, for real and true, Sufficient. If you read it over and over and over and over and over and over again, and then again after that, relentlessly and devotedly, you will come to understand and know the character and nature of God.You will come to see who he is, what he has done and why he bothers. It is enough. You can go and read all over the Internet and in books, trying to get a glimpse of God and feel a love for him, but you are going to be always lacking, in a way that you woudln't if you just opened up to Leviticus and tried to get through it.
Of course, I hope most desperately and passionately for you to exclude my own little devotional endeavor. I hope you will read it and the bible. cough. I guess I hope it will be a tiny way that the reader will get back into the bible, or go there for the first time. But, we'll see.