Review of “A Testament of Devotion”

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By Thomas R. Kelly Copyright 1941, 1962, 1992

Once in a while you may read a book that really alters your perception of reality. It will have an impact on your faith, your convictions, and your relationship with God. This is such a book. A Testament of Devotion is not a very big book. It has a total of only 129 pages, but sometimes, dynamite comes in small packages. One could easily read it in less than a weekend, but I would not recommend it. It’s the kind of book that should be read slowly, and digested, with as few distractions as possible.

Thomas R. Kelly wrote a classic in this small volume. I believe it was first copyrighted in 1941, so it was certainly written to a different audience than what we have today. Yet, many of the truths in this book are simply timeless. It may be difficult to find, but it is well worth the search. I found a used copy on ebay. It was well loved and has lots of underlining, and dog-eared pages. Someone scribbled notes in the margins. I found myself adding my own highlighting of passages to come back and read again later. It is among the best things I have read outside of the Bible in a very long time.

I want to just give some highlights, while not giving away everything in the book. Kelly has a way with words that I admire. In the section on holy living, on page 34, he writes about the times we slip and fall in our walk. He eloquently writes, “If you slip and stumble and forget God for an hour, and assert your old proud self, and rely on your own clever wisdom, don’t spend too much time in anguished regrets and self-accusations but begin again, just where you are.”  Later on the same page he says, “Don’t grit your teeth and clench your fists and say, “I will! I will!” Relax. Take hands off. Submit yourself to God. Learn to live in the passive voice – a hard saying for Americans – and let life be willed through you. For “I will!” spells not obedience.” This is such good advice. Not to get too theological, but I think sometimes we slip and commit a sin, and then beat ourselves up over it for too long, rather than repenting, and moving on with what God has called us to do.

Many Christians today frown on any show of emotion when worshipping God. I don’t know where they get this from, as if being solemn, and looking like you have been sucking a green persimmon makes you some how holier than those around you. The Bible talks about how King David danced mightily before the Lord, and instead of being rebuked, it was said of him that he was a man after God’s own heart. Kelly talks about feeling the presence of the Lord, and the emotions that may go with this. He writes on page 70 of these periods of feeling the presence of God, “Sometimes these periods are acute and brief, too dazzling to report to anyone. Sometimes they are less elevated but more prolonged, with a milder sense of glory and of lift, yet as surely of a piece with the more acute experience.” I have experienced these moments with the Lord, as I have sought spiritual formation, and to partner with the Holy Spirit in this.

Sometimes we can get so full of ourselves that there isn’t room for much of anything else. Kelly warns against us having this kind of prideful attitude. He writes on page 72:

“Religion is not our concern: it is God’s concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine. Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self-sufficient religionist trying to please an eternal deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the Seeker, and not we alone.”

As you seek to draw closer to the Lord, I want to encourage you to find those quiet times with the Lord, spending time in silence. Bring your petitions to the Lord, but instead of ending your prayer at that point, ask the Lord what He would have you to know. Then take time in silence to listen for that still small voice.  I would also recommend you begin a library of good books on spiritual formation. Don’t substitute these for spending time in your Bible, but use them to supplement your devotion time. Become a well read follower of Jesus Christ. I invite you to return to this blog frequently as I hope to not only review books on spiritual formation that will help your growth in Christ, but to include articles by myself and guest writers to encourage and strengthen you.

God bless you my faithful friends.

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