Category Archives: Devotionals

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Humphrey

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. They have complicated, detailed designs that help calm and focus and ultimately reduce stress. Coupling this with a daily devotional sends like a great idea. But it isn’t done well at all.

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood
Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom
by Sarah Humphrey
Abingdon Press
August 2016

See the included picture for example of how this utterly fails at being a coloring book. This is a random picture that is very representative of what can be found. The drawings are sparse and uninteresting. They are all hearts and flowers with very little detail and no difference between pages. There is a ton of open space. Nothing that makes the artist do fine designs or focus on the miniscule details.

The cover design is more detailed than almost every page inside the book.

I’m very disappointed.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Jesus Today by Young & Fortner

jesustoday“Rest and hope go together – like macaroni and cheese, cookies and milk, you and Me.” (p44)

Jesus Today
Devotion for Kids
by Sarah Young
adapted by Tama Fortner
Tommy Nelson

There has been some controversy surrounding Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and associated works because of the way that she writes in the first person as Jesus. There can be danger in this kind of activity, but there isn’t automatically danger here. In fact, in almost every sermon you’ll ever hear you will experience a similar activity by the pastor concerning what God says or is saying. Sometimes it is reworded to be first person, like, “Jesus is saying, ‘I’m here for you and will help you,'” and sometimes it is kept in third person, “God is saying that he will carry your burdens if you will cast them upon him…”

I’m being generic here, but let me give you an example from page 114, “Because you belong to Me, I’ll guard your heart and mind with My peace. Let My peace control your thinking-and always be thankful.” Verses accompanying this daily devotional include Colossians 3:15, Psalm 18:30 and, of course, Philippians 4:6-7. All this to say, that so long as Sarah Young is paraphrasing Jesus in line with Scripture then we shouldn’t have an issue. I didn’t see anything that put up a red flag.

Each daily devotional is clear and short, which is perfect for kids, and comes with two to three accompanying Bible passages. Most of the topics are about how God loves us, is there for us, wants us to follow him and is a safe place for us. Tama Fortner did a very good job making sure that the topics and reading level were appropriate for younger kids.

As for me, I liked this devotional and my kids do as well.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Forty Days of Celebration by Baxter

CelebrationI’m a big fan of devotionals. And too often in our society I feel we focus more on the negative than the positive and when we focus on the positive we focus on false positives. True joy, though, is something we Christians need more of – and should be known for. Does this Scripture Journal help us with joy? Maybe.

Forty Days of Celebration
A Scripture Journal
by Elizabeth T. Baxter
Common English Bible
January 2015

Each day the “journal” has two to three passages from the Bible, all in Common English Bible version, with a meditation question. The verses focus on the goodness of God and our response to him in the Bible. Lots of praise the Lord, promises of God’s love and character. The meditations tie the passages together and then ask us to consider some questions. For me, I’m expecting these to be about joy and celebration, but many just aren’t. And some are confusing. Day 22, for instance, we are asked to think of those who are “vulnerable and powerless in our world today” and then how we can “responsibly use power to respond to” them. What power? I’m not sure. Shouldn’t this ask us who we should pray for? Maybe support financially? But then, how is this tied to celebration? I’m just not sure I get the connections between the meditations and the passages and topic.

But there’s another question of whether or not I should buy this at all. Like all devotional publishers, I believe that the hurdle you have to get over in order to entice buyers is to somehow show more value in the paid product than all the free devotionals available online (via email lists, websites or great apps like Bible by LifeChurch.) In this case, I just don’t see the need. Some good stuff here, but I’m not convinced as a consumer to spend $10 when I can get daily devotionals for free on my phone – where I can also make notes and highlight, see the verses in different translations and see what popular authors and teachers have to say about the verses?

Like another Scripture Journal (Meditation also by Common English Bible) there is very little room for “journaling.” There is no room set aside on the page for your thought and if you just want to write you’ll have less than half a page on the majority of days. This devotional is 124 pages (the previous one is 122), which makes it very short and pricey (at the $9.99 publisher suggested price.)


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Forty Days of Meditation by Hawkins

meditationReading the scriptures every day and then pondering thought provoking questions are worthy uses of a devout Christian’s time. So this book has to be a great resource, right? For several reasons this book falls short of its goals.

Forty Days of Meditation
A Scripture Journal
by Pam Hawkins
Common English Bible
January 2015

Each day the “journal” has three to five passages from the Bible, all in Common English Bible version, with a meditation question. Day 1 for instance has Exodus 20:1-6 (God warning against making idols with threats about punishment to the third or fourth generation), Psalm 95:1-7 (a song of thanks to the God and Lord of all things and an exhortation to bow down to him), Mark 12:28-31 (Jesus saying that the greatest commandment was loving God, with everything in you, and loving neighbors), and Ephesians 4:1-6 (Paul calling believers to live in unity with other believers because there is only one Lord.) The meditation for this day is, “What difference does it make for you that the Lord of life is “one Lord,” one God, and that you are called to have no other gods? Recall a season of life where another “god” claimed your loyalty.”

On the face, that’s not a bad combo. There are passages about idols and a single God to worship from the Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles with a question about “one Lord.” But where it fails is in exposition. There is an assumption here that the reader would understand what idols are, which I think is not appropriate. Consider a normal person looking to get closer to God. Ask them what other “gods” they worship (and maybe read them the Exodus passage) and they may honestly be confused. They are not Hindu, or Muslim, or any other religion that worships another “god.” It is the responsibility of the writer to engage the reader at their level and briefly explain what they mean by other “gods.”

Not all meditations are clear. Day four asks the reader to “Name and describe a “wide open” or “deserted” place where you have felt close to God…” without context of what to do with that feeling. Conversely, some of the meditations are excellent. Consider Day 11, “What is the difference for you between believing something about God and believing in God?” Others are just as poignant. I’d like to believe this isn’t a preference thing, but the fact is that when we read books it’s impossible to remove our bias and expectations. For me, the meditations were generally loosely tied to the passages and in many cases vague in a not helpful way.

I also have a problem with calling this a “journal” because there is often less than half a page on which to write. For such a small book (122 pages), there was certainly room enough to add 40 more pages to give room to actually journal. (Not having these pages to write on cannot have been a cost saving thing as we are already being charged $9.99 suggested retail for 120 pages. That’s 0.08 a page! Normal novels – 350 pages or so – come in at $0.02, or four times less. My point: this is overpriced and certainly could have added the “journal” part into this “scripture journal.”)

In conclusion, it’s hard to imagine someone reading this and actually meditating on each day and not growing. I believe, however, that it could have been much better with a little more clarity in the meditations and the addition of the journaling pages.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last by DeArmond

chooseyoutodayThe problem with marriage today isn’t any kind of external pressure. Instead it’s internal expectations. “Happily every after,” marriages of “my” dreams, and so on. We think the other person is automatically going to make us happy and meet our needs. We think that marriage is about what we get out of it. We count on our spouses to “complete us.” But that’s not how it works.

I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last
by Deb DeArmond
Abingdon Press
January 2015

DeArmond does a great job resetting expectations in this book. Love is a choice that has to be made every day by both spouses. True love is sacrifical, not selfish. And for those who want the best possible marriage, this is a great place to start.

I Choose You Today starts with choosing God, then moves into choosing our spouses. First in pursuit, loving and blessing then on to honoring, trusting, forgiving to finding our places in relationship by sharing burdens, submission to each other, service and then to fun things like intimacy, romance, laughing and so on. Each day we read about a topic with witty, charming illustrations, along with purposeful self discovery questions to consider, a Bible verse and a common sense quote and then a sample prayer.

I found that following through this guide helped remind myself of my responsibilities in my marriage. If you’re looking for something to remind you of the best parts of marriage and maybe give your marriage a boost this is a great place to start.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Mom’s Night Out Devotional by Pomarolli

The movie and novelization of Mom’s Night Out is a hilarious, adventurous tale about finding hope and value in motherhood. This devotional ties the humor and the Biblical message together.

Moms’ Night Out and Other Things I Miss
Devotions To Help You Survive
By Kerri Pomarolli
B&H Publishing Group
April 2014

Pomarolli is a comedian, actress and author who strikes a conversational and authentic tone throughout. Her devotions on motherhood range from silly to thoughtful and formatted from Top 10 lists to devotions you’d find in any other less humorous devotion. All clearly Christian without being denominationally specific.

This is a very funny book that serves as a great devotion to mothers who may be interested in something a little different than your average devotional.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The God Puzzle by Ackerman

godpuzzleAs much as Sunday School is for education and edification, the fact is that most of a child’s moral development will happen at home as they watch and learn from parents and siblings. That’s why it’s so very important to have some kind of Biblical learning going on in the house. That’s where books like this one come in to play.

The God Puzzle
How the Bible fits together to reveal God as Your Greatest Treasure
Valerie Ackermann
HigherLife Publishing
October 2013

Built in workbook form, the God Puzzle takes children ages 7 through 12 through 26 lessons on basic Christian theology. Starting with the fundamentals of God, sin and redemption and then digging deeper into how the Old Testament and New Testament are a unified story of redemption followed by practical guides on what worship, the church, spiritual gifts and the sacraments are. Each of the lessons has multiple types of illustrations and worksheet questions allowing for multiple different types of learning styles. For instance, there are reading and comprehension questions where you’d read a passage and then circle the appropriate, related words or questions that deal with emotional intelligence where you read a statement and then decided how that should or does make you feel. There are fill in the blanks and short answers as well. And each lesson ends in a journaling exercise with prayer.

The first thing a parent should notice is that this is a workbook that requires reading. So if your child is not a capable reader yet then you’ll want to work through this with them or come back to it when they are. Second, these lessons are written in a way that should be very familiar to younger elementary students and they may respond the same way they do at school: I have to do work!? If you set them down and assign this to them they are likely to resent it instead of enjoy it. A group setting or pairing up is recommended. This is a parent plus child workbook (if you want it to be effective.)

I really like how this book avoids the pitfalls of majoring in the minors, if you know what I mean. Consider the Spiritual Gifts lesson (p157) where so much could have gone wrong and so much could have been polarizing but the author does a great job of only using the Bible passages and then goes in to a detailed way that we can exercise the gifts in our lives. I think this works well for both Charismatic and non-Charismatic believers because there is room to personalize to family beliefs without undermining the workbook.

This is a great workbook and I believe it fills a gap between Sundays and Wednesdays that every Christian family has.


Scott Asher is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The One Year Devotions for Women by Spangler

oneyeardevoIn a world of devotions, the only reason to recommend this one is that you’ve probably read the others. The upside is that you’re reading devotions and (hopefully) the Bible along with it. The downside is that so many devotions seem to be exactly the same as all the others.

The One Year Devotions for Women
by Ann Spangler
Tyndale
August 2012

This devotion is from Tyndale and most of the Bible verses are from the New Living Translation – a favorite of mine. The author is content to build women up with common topics like handling stress, listening to God, living with purpose, trusting God and peace. The focus is on peace, which so many women I know (and men too!) sorely need.

It’s not that this isn’t good – in fact, all the devotions I read were fine and would do any reader good – but it’s more that it’s all been done so many times. With the rise of online devotions and apps with great devotional options for free (like the Bible app from LifeChurch) there doesn’t seem to be as much of a need for a physical copy.

However, there is a market still for devotions like this and if you are looking for a good devotion with content that will draw you closer to God and live a more purposeful life then this will serve that purpose. If you have a mobile device with a good app you can probably do just as well for free.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Rainbows for Rainy Days by Campbell

The sight of a rainbow is more than a beautiful natural phenomenon. For behind each physical show is a reminder of a God who always keeps His promises – especially in the middle of life’s storms.

Rainbows for Rainy Days
by Catherine Campbell
Monarch Books
May 2013

‘Rainbows for Rainy Days’ is a full colour, hard back book containing 40 devotional readings. Bringing together a selection of promises from the bible, Catherine’s writings encourage the reader to trust God for whatever situation they find themselves in.

Uplifting and inspiring, this little gem will brighten any rainy day!

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this devotional. Reading these devotionals has been very encouraging to me. Sometimes a book just speaks volume to you and this one did for me. It met me where I am at in my journey.

Catherine is no stranger to heart ache and deep valleys. I haven’t lost a child but, as a mom who has a child with special needs I sometimes need to be reminded that there is a rainbow for those too often rainy days.

Each devotional starts out with a scripture. The illustrations throughout the book are lovely and quite tranquil. The book is a good quality hard back. I like that the pages are thick and you don’t have to worry about them ripping so easily.

There are so many devotions that I enjoyed in this book.The one that spoke to me today was #17 from Isaiah 40:3. I am not telling you what the verse says if you don’t know. So you will have to look it up yourself.

Thank you Catherine for putting your heart into this book-it really shines through. I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It would sure be a wonderful jewel for someone you know who has lots of rainy days.


ReneeK is a sweet tea addicted mamma who loves to cuddle up to a good book. She blogs at Little Homeschool on the Praire and writes about family, homeschooling, having a special needs child, and about whatever else tickles her fancy.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Year with G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton has an amazing, and mostly forgotten, capacity for intelectual wit and a book that proposes offering a daily dose of that wit is fine by me. The problem is that it’s not much of a devotional, which is what this book is trying to be.

A Year with G.K. Chesterton
365 Days of Wisdom, Wit and Wonder
Edited by Kevin Belmonte
Thomas Nelson
October 2012

Each day you get a brief Bible verse and a devotional (although who wrote the devotional is not clear as they aren’t cited) and then a quote that loosely fits the discussion from a writing of Chesteron’s. Sometimes it works, like March 4th where there is a passage from Job 28 then (someone’s) devotional about the failure of Agnosticism followed by two wise and witty quotes from Chesterton that do tie in. Other times, the book doesn’t connect the dots for us. So many of the devotionals start with the pasage then move on to a poem or song (uncited and unclear) and then move to Chesterton. Some just jump straight to Chesterton leaving the reader to form the connections.

As a devotional this book fails, but as a collection of quotes it wins. In fact, I enjoyed simply reading through the quotes and skipping everything else. If this were simply a collection of quotes by topic it would have been much more interesting. Even a calendar with quotes for each day makes more sense than this devotional format. It’s not that devotionals can’t be made from quotes, but that Chesterton didn’t write most of this as a devotion but as a lecture, argument or conjecture. It just isn’t the right genre for his work.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.