Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action, (James 2:17-18).

Rebekah and I are trying to scale back our library, but we still have more volumes than I can count. The reference bookcase under the kitchen bay window tells the story of what we’re reading from day to day, and it always holds several devotional studies. Scripture, meditation, and prayer together put whatever comes next into the proper context.

We’ve been using a book that samples the work of great writers over several centuries. It’s a helpful exercise, both in devotion and the discipline of thinking. None of these folk wrote in the same context, used the same language, followed the same doctrine or saw Christianity in the same light—yet we listen to them all and learn and respect their point of view.

This week, having just finished a selection from 18th-century preacher Johnathan Edwards, we’re reading Francis de Sales (1567-1622). De Sales, who was bishop of Geneva during the time of the Reformation, was known for his grace and his discernment when those around him were less reasonable.

Like Edwards, De Sales understood that faith-in-action was dependent on a passion for God’s love. Faith could not exist in the absence of good works because putting love into practice is the evidence of real faith.

The New Testament writer John was even more direct. We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars, (1 John 4:19-21).

Here’s the thing about these masters of devotional literature: they don’t argue points of doctrine so much as they present us with inspiration to grow closer to God and to let Jesus guide our lives in all grace, mercy, generosity and peace.

How is your day-to-day devotional discipline? I can’t say enough in terms of recommending you join us in this practice. – Derek (and Rebekah)

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Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at