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Jesus Calling (Me!)

Jesus Calling

I have always had an ambivalent relationship with the “daily devotional” genre of writing.  On the one hand, I appreciate the value of taking time for quiet and reflection each day and for those whose writing is an attempt to help with this (in fact, I will be trying my hand at devotional writing later this year!).  It’s not always easy to know how or where to begin if you want devote more sustained attention to being quiet and listening for God’s voice.  Help on the journey is not, I suppose, to be spurned too quickly or carelessly.

On the other hand, most of the devotional writing I have encountered has struck me as pretty light and theologically suspicious fare, truth be told.  It is often extremely individualistic, extremely selective with Scripture, and, shall we say, exegetically creative?  It almost always leaves me with the impression that my most important priority at the outset of a new day ought to be, well, me—or at least my relationship with God.

I wish I could say that reading Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling has changed all that.  But it hasn’t.  In fact, it has reinforced a lot of my suspicions about the devotional genre in general. It can be a tricky thing to be critiquing someone’s devotional writing or the “messages from God” they received during times of prayerful quiet—especially when the practice is borne out of a difficult period of life.  But I found Jesus Calling to be highly individualistic, highly subjective, and highly sentimental.

I should say at the outset that Sarah Young seems like a very sincere, committed follower of Jesus.  It is very obvious from observing her life’s trajectory thus far—time spent at L’Abri, an eight-year period doing missionary work in Japan, studies in Biblical Studies and counseling—that a lifelong commitment to God and to people animates much of what she does.  And her claims for this book of reflections are, to be fair, modest and honest: the daily entries are personal journal reflections submitted for public consumption in the hopes that they will help others achieve a “deeper experience of Jesus’ presence.”  Her intentions are certainly good and worthy of affirmation.

But from the perspective of an incurably skeptical rationalist, the daily offerings can seem a bit vapid.  Here’s a sample from August 13:

Learn to enjoy life more.  Relax, remembering that I am God with you. I crafted you with enormous capacity to know me and enjoy My Presence.  When My people wear sour faces and walk through their day with resigned rigidity, I am displeased.  When you walk through a day with childlike delight, savoring every blessing, you proclaim your trust in me, your ever-present Shepherd.  The more you focus on My Presence with you, the more fully you can enjoy life.  Glorify Me through your pleasure in Me.  Thus you proclaim My Presence to the watching world.

I do not doubt that there are people—many people, perhapswho would find this to be an inspirational way to start their day.  But I am not among them.  In this entry and throughout the book, God is consistently portrayed as being interested in little more than ensuring that the reader is sufficiently aware of his constant love and understanding and affection.  At times, Jesus Calling reads like one giant attempt to convince the reader that (s)he is OK and that God loves her/him.  A good and necessary thing for some?  Maybe.  But one looks in vain in this book for any sense that God might have priorities that go beyond the reassuringly therapeutic or that the way in which Jesus sometimes (often?) calls is uncomfortable, jarring, and painful.

Maybe that’s OK.  One shouldn’t, I suppose, look to very specifically and personally crafted devotional/inspirational writing for robust theology.  And for those requiring daily assurance that God loves them, is pleased with them, is near to them, is watching over them, delights in them, understands them, and has a glorious plan for their life, this book might be a worthwhile investment.  But for those expecting more from a book with a title like Jesus Calling—that something of the difficulty and countercultural nature of hearing (and following) Jesus’ call might be conveyed, for example— I would suggest looking elsewhere.

I received a copy of Jesus Calling through Booksneeze‘s book review program.

110 Comments Post a comment
  1. There are women in my congregation who love this book. Strong women, who do courageous, counter-cultural things. And they love Sarah Young. Maybe they need that sense of security and rootedness in the love of Jesus to go out and do the things they do. I have a copy of Jesus Calling and occasionally dip into it myself.

    Over the years I have had daily readings books from CS Lewis, Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle, and several others, but I have never sustained the habit of reading them each day for more than a week or two. Philip Yancey’s Grace Notes is good, and I kept at his for a while longer, but even then I set it aside; I don’t see it on the shelf now… may have loaned it out.

    I hope your devotional writing goes well.

    August 24, 2010
    • I am glad for these women of faith in your congregation, Chris, and I am glad for the role Jesus Calling plays in their lives. Truly, I am. Every book review is at least part biography and in this case, for me, this is probably more true than in other kinds of books. I tried to be fair, to acknowledge my own biases, and the scope of the author’s intent, and I know that there are people for whom Young’s words will be received with profound gratitude and hope. Having said all that, some of the themes I identified in the review still make me uneasy.

      I have used the daily readings of nearly all of the authors you identify, with similar results to yours. I just don’t seem able/willing to sustain the discipline. Again, it’s quite likely that this has more to say about me than the writer in question. Perhaps it is too much to expect a nicely packaged paragraph or two of “daily inspiration” from anyone (or to assume that it is necessary and worth seeking). Perhaps I should just be grateful for inspiration whenever and wherever it comes.

      August 24, 2010
      • Marla #

        Hey Ryan; just another woman who has had some amazing mornings in prayer and meditation brought about by time spent in Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” devotional. I realize that your critique of the publication is just your personal opinion and I appreciate our right to express them. I actually have spent over $200 purchasing the book for family and friends – have gotten positive feedback from all who are using it. Some people may need the reassurance of God’s lasting and unconditional love in order to move forward in their spiritual walk. I’m one of those. Hard to imagine that I am loved in spite of the mess I am….LOL! God Bless!

        January 21, 2013
      • Very glad for how this book has influenced you, Maria, and for whatever role it may play in convincing people that they are loved unconditionally by God. Truly.

        January 21, 2013
  2. Ken #

    Your posting makes me think about the ways we worship God, especially outside of church. I think it implies that we will be judged by how we worship. Interestingly, one of the passages I have been meditating on lately is Exodus 34, the commandments on the second set of tablets, perhaps. They pertain to ritual, to right worship, rather than morality. I wonder what Christianity would be like if the second set of tablets had been mentioned in Deuteronomy 5. I think that maybe the author of Hebrews wondered about that – that understanding of covenant seems to be reflected in chapters 8 and 9.

    One of my “devotional” practices involves a calendar, an ecological calendar. It is an artistic creation by Chris Hardman. Each week there are artistic representations of the heavens and the earth and brief descriptions of creatures and phenomena. Each day is named. It stimulates meditation about who we are and what we are part of, a biotic community, I guess.

    Another practice involves hiking, climbing mountains mostly, some again and again, and sometimes riding a mountain bike along a creek or lake. I cannot explain this one, but religious it is.

    Another practice involves reading literature and history and philosophy, as well as the Bible, again meditating about who we are and what we are part of.

    And another practice involves listening to music, mostly classical and including choral works and polyphony and chant. My mind roams so freely when I do.

    One’s life can be a long and perpetual lectio divina or devotion.

    Such devotions are not difficult or demanding, except when they involve climbing. (Mystics sometimes pay attention to their breathing – climbing takes care of that.) And I guess I don’t really think about Jesus much either, unless one counts the constancy of presence that lectio divina invites.

    August 24, 2010
    • I am certainly not trying to argue that anyone will be judged by how they worship. My task in the post was simply to honestly review a book, not to pronounce upon the value of various forms of devotion. As I alluded to above, I am truly glad that people encounter Jesus through devotionals like Sarah Young’s.

      Your devotional practices sound wonderfully varied and life-giving. I am also grateful for the times when I experience God’s presence and am inspired to consider “who we are and what we are a part of “through nature, music, and reading.

      August 24, 2010
      • Ken #

        I know you did not mean to argue that anyone would be judged by how we worship. I think the concern is there in the scriptures and it is tough to avoid that association in anything we write about worship. It is there in Exodus 34, Hebrews 8 & 9, and throughout, even in the words of Jesus, about whom Hebrews 9 nevertheless says that he will come again “not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” To some extent we always seek the right way, for we are eagerly waiting.

        I was lost in a canyon last weekend, thirsty, and so eager to find the right way home.

        August 24, 2010
      • I think that’s a good approach to worship. We seek the right way as we wait.

        Glad to hear you made it out of the canyon :).

        August 24, 2010
  3. Ryan: I didn’t mean to sound critical about your critique. You have a right to have an opinion about a book… especially on your own blog!

    Different tastes in books reminds me of a Jane Austen quote: “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other half.” A lot of people live on a steady diet of novels… I cannot finish a novel to save my life.

    Ken: your ‘biotic community’ made me think of Steve Austin, the bionic man, whom I worshipped as a pre-teen. This has nothing at all to do with the post, of course. Kinda weird, actually.

    August 24, 2010
    • Ken #

      The associations we make are interesting.

      Bionic: that is what I am on my mountain bike. Its hot out, but I am headed for the lake anyway. Got to be bionic today out there in the biotic world.

      August 24, 2010
    • I like the quote from Austen—so true.

      I have only recently returned to being able to enjoy novels. For the six years I was in university and grad school I barely touched a novel. One of the treats of finally finishing my degrees was being able to read for pleasure! Novels are still a pretty small part of my diet, but I did manage to make it through the Stieg Larsson trilogy over summer holidays. At present, I am thoroughly enjoying the Harry Potter series. Who would have thought “kids books” would be so absorbing (and such fun)!

      August 24, 2010
  4. Hey Ryan,

    I appreciate the review. My mother-in-law bought Julie and I a copy of Sarah Young’s book this past Christmas. I have mixed feelings about it. In a way I’ve connected with some of her metaphors and images. There have been the odd gems in the book – like when she writes, “sometimes God’s greatest kingdom work takes place on sick beds and in prison cells.” I’ve also connected with her personal story in that she wrote this during a year when her and her husband were caught up in immigration problems. This has been the story of our year as well.

    However, I do find this book worthy or many of your critiques. I stopped reading it after about a month into the year because I found that it went nowhere. Every day it seems to say the same thing – to recognize God’s presence. Along with this, the book does not draw the reader beyond themselves. It is all about finding consolation and peace for your own struggles. There is little if any emphasis on mission. You are also right to say that it is overly therapeutic in orientation. This is probably to be expected as she is a professional therapist!

    This book may have something to offer the spiritual seeker but it must be supplemented with much more if we want to truly understand Jesus’ call on our lives.

    August 25, 2010
    • Thanks for this, Philip. Very balanced, and a good reminder that there we all come to books like these seeking different things from different perspectives and with different life experiences colouring how/what we see.

      August 26, 2010
  5. Sounds like an interesting book. I quite liked the snippet you posted. You know, I really think it would be valuable for many many people to be reminded daily solely of God’s love and good pleasure in them. I think it can be so easy to forget this, that God loves us more than we can imagine, and has done the almost unimaginable because of his love for us (giving his son).

    It’s easy to get caught up thinking we have to earn God’s love. So if grace is what the book is all about (and solely about as it sounds) I think it might be a very worthwhile devotion indeed. Of course it could hardly be the be all and end all of one’s learning and/or interaction with God and is hardly a substitute for the spiritual disciplines and serving one another. But aren’t devotional books only supposed to be a small part? I mean, they can’t really be expected to replace the whole of one’s spiritual/devotional/social life.

    I just think if I was going to read any one devotional passage a day, a consistent message of God’s grace might be the best one. I just know so many people who consistently forget this: that God loves them plain and simple.

    Then again, I haven’t read the book. So I can’t be entirely certain. So I will get back to you when I have!

    August 28, 2010
    • Fair comment, Kimberly. If the book can make people more aware of the grace of God on a daily basis, that’s a very good thing. My main worry is the individualistic nature of the book. I think that we in the west are already pretty self-focused and we don’t need more encouragement to think about ourselves.

      Having said that, do I think that we all need to hear that God loves us on a consistent basis? Absolutely. And if this book is a part of a more balanced diet of reading and reflection, then I’m all for it.

      August 28, 2010
  6. paulthinkingoutloud #

    In a recent interview in Christian Retailing magazine, Sarah Young admitted the influence of a book with a similar title and similar format, God Calling; a book about which many people have some serious misgivings.

    Jesus Calling is hugely popular right now, but I appreciate your willingness to challenge that popularity. There’s something unsettling about books which try to put words in God’s mouth, prophetic gifts notwithstanding. I was extremely surprised to see author Larry Crabb do this in his recent book, 66 Love Letters. Like you, I don’t find myself drawn to either of these titles.

    On the other hand, I am not as dismissive of the whole genre. Our family enjoys the monthly devotional booklet, Our Journey, mailed out by James MacDonald and coauthored with eight other writers. The late British writer Selwyn Hughes is also a source of excellent daily reading material, with a central theme for each 60 day period that focuses your attention. (Most people can’t tell you what they read this morning, with Hughes that changes.)

    The problem occurs when the devotional reading is the only thing that some people read that entire day.

    August 29, 2010
    • I am not dismissive of the whole genre of devotional writing. As I said in the main post, I’m even going to be doing a bit of it myself this fall. I think the genre easily lends itself to overly-individualistic emphases, but this is certainly not necessary. I have come across some good ones, myself. At the risk of repetition, I am very aware that my discomfort with this book has a lot to do with myself (my expectations, my biases, my experience, etc) as well as what I am reading.

      Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve not read ( or even heard of!) the devotional authors you mentioned, but you’ve given me some research to do :).

      August 30, 2010
  7. BARBARA #

    Interesting comments and conversation. My experience with “Jesus calling” is: as I write each Bible verse Sarah has included and read the before and after verses as well as perhaps some interpretations from my study Bible, it turns into a good and revealing (short) Bible study to start my day. I don’t think any daily devotional is meant to be the only exposure to God’s Word we have on any given day…just a start. And that is what Sarah does….gives me a STARTING POINT. And a good one at that. For me, Oswald Chambers provides the abrupt jolt that I often need to alter my sometimes self-centered approach to life. Also, Elisabeth Elliot offers “no holds barred” Bible teaching, straight to the point. I am glad I happened upon this blog; very interesting/inspiring. THANKS!!

    November 22, 2010
    • Thank you Barbara. I’m glad for the good starting points this book provides.

      November 22, 2010
  8. Jason #

    No one here has mentioned the most obvious problem I have with this book: Sarah Young wrote down what she thought God was whispering to her soul. So, is this a book of revealed prophecy? No, Sarah Young denies that explicitly. So, what is this “whispering” of God to your sould and how exactly does one “listen to God with your pen in hand” unless you’re copying Bible verses/passages?

    I have often copied out by hand key Bible passages, especially ones I’m memorizing and I’ve often kept a prayer journal. This is something different. This is a claim that God has spoken to Sarah Young in these words and sentences. This is not a subjective feeling of assurance or peace or even guidance, but claim to verbal revelation, though in an inaudible voice.

    In Reformed theological circles (Sarah Young is a PCA missionary with MTW), this is not generally accepted, as we are cessationist in our theology. My conviction, based on Scripture, is that when someone writes down that they “hear from God,” their writing is really just their own thoughts and reflections. Sometimes these thoughts may be more Biblical (like JesusCalling) and sometimes they are more explicitly un-Biblical (Convservations with God). In both cases, the books are really just products of the author’s own imaginations, an exercise in mental creativity and not the voice of God in any way.

    November 29, 2010
    • If someone was inclined to record an ongoing dialogue between themselves and God in a prayer journal, how else do you think they might communicate what they thought God was saying to them without using “words and sentences?”

      November 29, 2010
      • Jason #

        God speaks to us through His word. If we think we hear His voice some other way, whether in our head or audible, then it’s just our imagination or possibly another voice altogether. In this case, I think this is Sarah Young’s own imaginative ponderings, her own self-reassurance and self-talk.

        November 29, 2010
      • I don’t really have much interest in defending Young’s book, but your criteria for how and when God speaks seems unnecessarily rigid. Although I think that Scripture is unique and authoritative, I think God can and does speak in other ways as well. I don’t doubt that there is self-reassurance and self-talk at work in Young’s book, but I’m also not prepared to say that God cannot communicate to people except through Scripture.

        November 29, 2010
      • Jason #

        God “speaks” through general revelation in the creation and I also believe that God can lead and that He does convict, reassure, guide and give us His peace. He can speak to us through the wisdom of counselors and through faithful preaching or teaching based on His word. However, to sit in silence with a pen in hand and a blank sheet of paper and to say that God has spoken to you as you have written down is, I think, very misguided. Scripture gives us no guidance or example of this method of God “communicating” to us. Scripture should be our only authoritative guide for Christian living and Scripture says nothing about this method of “listening to God.”

        November 29, 2010
      • Still not exactly sure what you’re defending here. All kinds of people have prayer journals where they write down what they think God might be saying to them. Young’s happens to come in the form of a book. She’s not claiming it’s authoritative or “inspired” or anything like that. As I see it, she’s offering a window into her experience, nothing more.

        November 30, 2010
      • Jason #

        It doesn’t really matter if “all kinds of people” do this, it still doesn’t make it right. Scripture does not establish this as a pattern for God’s people and the fruit of it is suspect because people are mistaking their own thoughts for God’s voice and that’s actually pretty dangerous.

        To get back to your original review, you critiqued the book, quite rightly I think, for being rather monotonous and repetetive. But if this is indeed a recording of what God said to her in her private prayer life, then how can you possibly critique it without criticizing the voice of God? If Scripture is going to be authoritative for us as believers, then we need to follow its principles, precepts and precedents. This kind of “listening” journaling is not one of them. Not at all.

        November 30, 2010
      • But if this is indeed a recording of what God said to her in her private prayer life, then how can you possibly critique it without criticizing the voice of God?

        Very easily. In my view, she is recording her impressions of what God has said to her. Impressions are not always accurate or reliable. Impressions are also highly contextual (i.e., it’s entirely possible to affirm that God did “say” x or y to Young to help her through some event without somehow making this binding for all people and all times).

        I remain highly unconvinced that Young is even remotely equating what she thinks God is saying to her in her prayer life with the words of Scripture (her practice of appending passages of Scripture to each entry would seem to underscore this point).

        November 30, 2010
    • Jason #

      The Voice of God, if it is indeed the Voice of God, must be authoritative and binding upon our conscience. To say this is the Voice of God but that it is less-then-binding is, in fact, to admit, in a back-handed way, that this is not really the Voice of God. While God may speak, lead, guide and convict using other means, I maintain that the only Voice of God that we can hear today is in the Scriptures. The burden of proof would fall on those who want to say that God can speak linguistically to people in a way that can be written down on paper and yet is not binding or authoritative. Give one example in Scripture where God ever “spoke” in such a way, saying “Here are My words, but they might not really be My words, so you don’t have to take them seriously.”

      November 30, 2010
      • I remain mystified as to exactly why you find this little collection of prayer reflections threatening. It strikes me as more than a little strange that your main problem with this book seems to be with the notion that God could have communicated something to someone (mainly encouragement, if I recall the bulk of her entries) who then had the audacity to write down what she thought God was saying.

        If I were to say that this morning while I was praying, God told me to send a check to help out with a relief project around the world, would your conception of how God speaks be threatened? What if I wrote it down on a piece of paper? What if I published it?

        November 30, 2010
  9. Jason #

    Calling your own imagination the words of Jesus. I have a problem with that and so does Scripture.

    November 30, 2010
  10. Amie #

    Interesting how it is predominately males who have answered to this male critic’s review. Simply an observation. I only recently purchase Jesus calling, and have only read 11 days, but so far I have found it to be very encouraging. I was impressed with, as you pointed out Ryan, her sincerity in the intro, and have thus far been impressed. I am also a BIG fan of God Calling, it was the biggest contributor to this born-and-raised-in-a-church-going-family girl’s deepening walk with God. I mean, I knew who God was, I had accepted Jesus into my heart, I was a Christian, I was living a life that was relatively worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ, but I did not know God intimately on ‘heart’ level, if you know what I mean. And if you don’t know, you never will until you actually know God in spirit, because its one of those things that you “don’t what your missing until you try it.” Yes I know that the words in God Calling are not inspired scripture, I’m not adding them to the cannon, but they line up with Scripture (and I’ve been memorizing and vigorously studying the Bible since childhood), and they resonate within my soul. There are some days where what I read speaks to me in a way that could only be God; how it lines up with the Bible passage that I had just read or reassures me about an issue that I had just presented to God, it’s not coincidence, its God, and again, as with anything dealing with faith, I can’t prove this to you, it’s all based on my relationship with God and your belief in my report is based on your relationship with God. I really recommend God calling to anyone, as the previous lady mentioned, this devotional is a starting point, it is not to be the meat of the our relationship with God. The Bible and prayer are to be the main tools that we use to grow closer to God. And ultimately, at the centre of the relationship should be God. Not rules or customs or beliefs, but God. Because if God is at the centre then everything else will fall into place, in His time. He will perfect us, if we let us. So…now that I’ve gotten slightly off topic, so far I really do like Sarah’s book, I can’t say if it’s repetitive, I haven’t gotten that far, but so far it lines up with Scripture, and really it’s very well sourced. Sarah is not perfect, she could be lying through her teeth about her life, but so long as her book contains the holy scripture of God, he will use it – He says “My word will not return void” – Is 55:11.
    And if Jason is still reading, I would suggest that he examine the New Testament verses that talk about the gifts of the Spirit, especially the gifts of knowledge, prophecy, interpretation, tongues and wisdom. Those gifts are still active in the world today.

    January 11, 2011
    • Thanks for your comment, Amie. I won’t address everything you’ve said here, other than to say that I am glad for the way that this book nourishes your soul, reinforces Scripture, and contributes to your relationship with God. I really am glad for whatever good this book does, regardless of what I think its shortcomings are.

      I would like to think that my critiques of the book have little to do with gender (mine or the author’s), but I suppose there’s no way of escaping the context from which we write and evaluate from. I can only think and write as a male just as you can only think and write as a female. I don’t think it’s very helpful to implicitly attribute a specific kind of critique to the influence of gender. I doubt, for example, that you would appreciate it if I attributed your lack of engagement with my main critiques (that the devotionals were overly individualistic and therapeutic) to your “femaleness?” I think we need to be careful how (and why) we bring up gender in discussions like these.

      January 11, 2011
      • paulthinkingoutloud #

        I was involved in this discussion back in August and have been following it by e-mail ever since. I had to jump back in on this one.

        I agree that we need to be careful how (and why) we bring up gender, but I also work in the Christian book trade, and know that there are a number of books that simply resonate with women that don’t resonate with men. And vice versa, as in the case of Wild at Heart which is considered a kind of ultimate men’s book.

        It’s also true of Bible passages, different types of worship songs, and different types of church services. It’s extremely true of Bible studies, and it’s also true of the types of conversion experiences people share.

        Along this line, I believe there are different types of Christian books that some people “get” and some people simply “don’t get.” I think that beyond the great doctrinal and theological discussions that took place, The Shack was in this category. Perhaps there is some aspect to which gender was a factor in that book as well. I don’t want to get us off-topic with this though, I’m just trying to respond to Amie’s comment.

        On the other hand, as I said, I work in the book trade, and my number one customer for Sarah Young’s book is a guy, who buys them 4-6 copies at a time to give away to people in his church. The church where he’s the pastor. So clearly, I don’t think the gender thing can stick as relevant to the larger issues discussed here.

        January 11, 2011
      • Yes, I think gender differences are real and affect how we read, what we are drawn to, how we talk about things like conversion, etc. I suppose I just don’t think they are definitive, as you allude to here (especially in your example about your customer). I have never read Wild at Heart, and don’t plan on it. I am regularly drawn to, and profit greatly from, the work of women. All we can do is be as transparent as possible about the social location from which we read and write. I would like to think I would have the same critiques of Jesus Calling regardless of the gender of the author.

        January 12, 2011
  11. Amie #

    I’m sorry Ryan, I have a stats/ psychology background, so my observation was born of that training. I did not intend to make you think that I assumed that your opinion of a written work is dependent on the gender of the author, I simply observed that more men were responding your male person’s critique. Or perhaps I should have phrased it: most of the responses on the critique made by an author with a traditionally masculine name were made by individuals who used a traditionally masculine identifier. No whys or how-comes, simply a comment on an observed correlation.

    January 12, 2011
    • No need to apologize, Amie! You are certainly free to “observe.” Looking back now, I may have read more into your response than was there :). Due to the nature of this blog—the topics discussed and the kinds of conversations that sometimes take place—I often find myself in “defence” mode. At times, I can certainly read things into comments that aren’t there. It seems I have done so here. Sorry!

      January 12, 2011
  12. David #

    This sounds too much like a combination of “God Calling”, a pure heresy, and “The Shack,” another book of heresy. It is absolutely wrong to put words in Jesus’ mouth, which this book obviously does. She “quotes” Jesus continually, which is blasphemy if it isn’t Scripture.

    If she wanted to write a devotional, she should have discriminated between her words and the Word of God, and not presented her words as if they came from Christ.

    January 14, 2011
    • Cece #

      David,

      Thank you. I was invited to a neighborhood “Bible” study and really wanted to get to know my neighbors…Jesus Calling is the text. I was not at all comfortable with someone putting words in Jesus’ mouth. If Jesus wanted to say the things to us that Sarah Young says He says – the Bible would have been written with them. Like Ryan, I believe that Sarah may be sincere in her faith and desire to impart what she has learned about the Lord; however, one may be sincerely wrong in what they do. I understand that she is writing her own thoughts about who Jesus is, but then she should attribute them to herself and not our Lord, Jesus Christ.

      After my first visit to the neighborhood study, I thought I might be able to attend the study by just reading the Bible verses for each day and sharing about them because I really want to get to know my neighbors and they are sincere women, but after I shared my concerns with the group – one of the leaders let me know that maybe a BSF Study is a better place for me to be…maybe Jesus is calling me somewhere else…

      Cece

      October 2, 2012
  13. Paul Johnston #

    Hey David, if it’s not too late to ask, do you think that God could be speaking to modern day prophets?

    I hear you saying, correct me if I’m wrong, that only ancient biblical claims of dialogue between man and God can be considered authentic and true and that any modern claim is pure heresy.

    January 17, 2011
    • Tyler Brown #

      That’s an excellent question Paul. I’d be curious as to the response.

      January 17, 2011
  14. Jolene #

    I feel a bit deceived. I also received the book as a gift, and I thought it was scripture paraphrased. I have been reading it thinking – wow, this is really my kind of bible, but something didn’t seem to match up to the Bible that I know – the one that convicts and challenges me.
    Then someone mentioned that this book is not a scripture paraphrase.
    The publisher or whomever really made an effort it seems to make the book look like a bible, especially with the bible-type leather and silky bookmark. I thought the book was a Message-type paraphrase. But it is not. It’s all sweet though, and I don’t doubt it is words from our Jesus. But… it’s not the bible. Just wish they would make that clear on the cover. Because I’m with you on the thoughts about devotionals.
    Thanks for your courage in writing this. I will put this book down and pick up my bible!

    January 20, 2011
  15. Jolene #

    I should say – the book is not ALL scripture paraphrase. And the book just doesn’t speak to me like the bible does or like I am spoken to in my personal prayer time. It just doesn’t make sense to go by what Jesus was telling this author, when He will talk to me directly when I take the time to be quiet. This book is like reading someone else’s diary.

    January 20, 2011
  16. As I read back on the comments on this post, I can’t help but think that Ms. Young would be more than a little confused by some of the reaction here. I re-read the introduction to the book and, at least as I read her, Young was quite clear about what this book was/was not intended to be. I think she was quite clear that she was not attempting to add to Scripture or offer a substitute for it. I think she was quite clear that this is, in fact, a kind of diary. I think she would be horrified to hear that people were placing expectations on these devotionals here that would more appropriately be reserved for the Bible.

    Again, I stand by my critiques of the book. But I think it is appropriate and fair to evaluate a book, at least in part, according to its own expressed aims. Readers of this book can obviously decide that this it is not worth returning to (I certainly did), but let’s make sure we’re making this decision for the right reasons.

    January 21, 2011
  17. bluebayou #

    I received “”Jesus” Calling” as a gift, by a person who assured me it would soon replace “My Utmost for His Highest” as the most popular daily reading alongside the Bible. But I was disappointed in it, it is extremely shallow, and not at all comparable to “My Utmost for His Highest”, in my opinion.
    If people nowadays prefer Sarah Young’s musings to Oswald Chambers exhortations based on the Bible, that’s up to them, a matter of taste, perhaps, just as many prefer fast-food to a good home-cooked nourishing meal!

    January 25, 2011
    • Yeah, I’m not sure I would mention Jesus Calling in the same breath as My Utmost… Reminds me of Eugene Peterson’s unfortunate comparison of The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress.

      January 25, 2011
      • bluebayou #

        I agree!

        January 25, 2011
  18. Judy #

    My sister just sent me several pages of this excerpt of Jesus Calling.
    I immediately felt uncomfortable with it as it reminded me of some of the New Age stuff, and more particularly some of the Unity types of mediations.

    I was glad I came upon at least your site that at least has a discussion, be it pro’s and con’s regarding it.

    As I re-look at the January 11 devotion that says “Trust Me by relinguishing control into my hands. Let go and recognize that I am God…Nurture it with the Light of My Presence..

    First of all, the Bible says we are to take every thought captive and she instead is saying, “Let go.”

    I personally do view this as New Age, Eastern-style, Unity-style type of mediations.

    When we read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enlightens us and I believe that is plenty enough for my devotions and I do not feel another person who I do not know, nor am sure of where she is coming from with this “guided” type of devotion, whether it mentions Jesus or not, is in my opinion, Eastern type of meditation.

    I agree with some of the posts that say she presumes to speak for God.
    For her to personally experience these thoughts is one thing, but to put them in a book for all to read, makes me suspect.

    I am not looking to draw near to God by these meditations as I find prayer and reading the Bible more than adequate and do not like another unknown-to-me speaking for God instead.

    Thank you for at least having this open discussion and an opportunity for me to post my concern re these devotions, and concern for my sister’s discernment or lack thereof in sending it to me.

    February 16, 2011
    • You are most welcome, Judy. Thank you for your comment.

      February 16, 2011
  19. Theresa #

    A friend of mine who suffers from depression, has read to me excerpts from “Jesus Calling” over the phone. She reads a variety of devotionals but has found this one in particular speaks directly to her. I read this blog offerring differing opinions on this type of writing as well as this specific book with great interest as I contemplate purchasing a copy.
    I too, although not clinically depressed, depend on God to redirect my thinking. Especially in the mornings, the trials and tribulations of life weigh heavily on me. Ms. Young’s devotionals do remind me that I am a child of God and cherished by Him. I also find this encouragement from reading the Bible and know that God wants me to study His inspired Word. As long as I do not replace Bible study and meditation with devotional reading, I believe God approves. I have to be sure to commit myself to times each week that I reach out to other believers in fellowship and discuss the application of the Word in my life, receiving inspiration in return on how they apply God’s touch in their own lives. My friend has to really push herself to get out of her house, to fellowship in person with others after years of isolation. Sarah’s words, among others, helps her face her fears and live more abundantly.

    February 21, 2011
    • I am glad that this conversation has been helpful for you, Theresa. And I truly am glad for the way this book speaks to you and your friend, and for the needs it meets in people’s lives.

      February 21, 2011
  20. Mama Shug #

    Why don’t you give Oswald Chamber’s, My Utmost For His Highest a try…it’s a challenging read…but it’s Biblical and focuses on the whole plan of God for Christians…including repentance from daily sin and regeneration through dependance on the Spirit. Also, if you want something less “vapid” just avoid the devotionals written by frail humans and read The Daily Light…a daily compilation of like-minded Scriptures written by God Himself! There is a morning and evening selection. But the best devotional out there is the Bible itself. My suggestion is for you to learn homiletics or some other in-depth study method and develop your own devotional each day by a structured applicable reading of the Scripture.

    March 2, 2011
  21. Jason Van Bemmel #

    We have been reading Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings. It’s fairly brief and yet deep and meaty, too.

    March 2, 2011
  22. marilyn #

    Revelations 22:19 tells us not to take away from the words of this book and Proverbs 30:6 tells us not to add or we will be rebuked and proved a liar. So how can anyone write in the first person of Jesus.

    April 12, 2011
    • Judy #

      Yes, this is what i noticed that stared out so very awkwardly to me. Now, this year, my sister has given my son and I a devotional entitled, Heaven Calling that looks very simlar and speaks in the first person, that I find very troubling since God speaks to us so eloquently through His Word, the Holy Bible, through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit..then I ask, why would we need this “add on”. I am currently witnessing to Mormon relatives and have been trying to share with them how, it is apparent to me that Joseph Smith seemed to think that he could improve upon the Word of God found in the Bible.

      Ryan, are you aware of this devotional as once again, it reminds me of the false religious type of material put out by Unity that believes in the “Christ within” that ultimately ends up showing people that they can be Christ, yet, they do not believe in the physical presence of Christ..ie Hindu based religion. The Lord showed me the false beliefs of Unity when I turned to 1 John 4:1-3 and I was saved from further delving into their daily devotional as well as a book of daily meditations I had ordered and studied for a short time. (I think the name of their daily devotional is called, Daily Word, but would have to research it further to be sure.) My point is that this newer Heaven Calling – Hearing Your Father’s Voice Every Day of the Year again, to me sounds much like the New Age Eastern type of meditations that I walked away from.

      January 11, 2012
      • Hi Judy. No, I am not familiar with a book called Heaven Calling.

        I would say that of the many criticisms that could be directed against Sarah Young’s book, the charge that it is “new age” isn’t one of them. I think that the Spirit of Christ does reside in all who have chosen to follow him. As you say, this is very different than the claim that we can “be Christ,” but I can’t recall a single instance where I thought that Jesus Calling was heading in that direction.

        For me, the main problems are the ones that I identified in the original post. And, as I said in the post, despite my criticisms, I have no doubt that Ms. Young is a sincere, committed Christian.

        January 11, 2012
  23. Melanie #

    Ryan,

    Thank you for your post. As I wrote on another website my biggest problem with the book are the New Age terms that are scattered throughout. Just a few I noticed were “…through the Light of My universal Presence” and “Shimmering hues of radiance tap gently at your consciousness, seeking entrance” as well as, ” Presence is the focal point of your consciousness” and ” Breath me in with each breath”. For me it isn’t so much the debate of whether God can speak to us directly or different styles of worship but the blurred lines between New Age sentiments and true Christianity that bothered me. I believe that each individual will have to decide what they believe is beneficial and brings them closer to Jesus Christ and I pray that the Holy Spirit will give discernment to His followers. If you go to a bookstore, you will often find New Age books in the Christianity/Religion section and I don’t think it is any different with the “Christian” books that are being published today. May God bless and give wisdom to His people!

    April 26, 2011
  24. Brad #

    A friend gave us the book, Jesus Calling, as a gift, sharing something that she feels has been been of spiritual value and something she looks forward to sharing. In the Los Angeles area you can pick up on a show on Sunday mornings called “The Jesus Show” on KFI AM. Callers call and ask “Jesus” questions and he gives answers from the first person, like Ms. Young’s, as if Jesus is speaking through him. Both things trouble me. In reading scripture and praying, one may sense the calling of Jesus to lead us places and to lead us through life’s journey. At times our “spiritual sense”, as it were, is seemingly strong and certain, other times not so much. There are Christian sects that “hear” what the Lord is saying all the time and will let you know in first person what He wants to tell you. In all these cases there is a huge element of what I would call misguided sentimentality, an inflated sense of self importance, sensational need and a disregard for solid historical Church teaching. I am sure that many people are now sitting quietly with pens in hand, waiting on the Lord to give them assurance in the first person. folks are sharing this stuff with one another, praising God for it. Some will be better at it than others and become more spiritually in tune/aware than others. Sarah Young does explain it as a technique, after all, and one that sounds suspiciously cult like.

    How about a new bumper sticker,”What would Jesus say?”. Well, didn’t he already say it? Aren’t we to find his will through Word and Sacrament? Through teaching and preaching? Prayer and fasting? Sitting down with pen in hand? I will leave it at that.

    June 13, 2011
  25. Meriam #

    As a teacher of advanced Bible studies, I must agree with you on all counts. Young’s sincerity isn’t the issue; the issue is that it’s fluffy and superficial. We have enough superficial Christians who want only to hear the sweet, loving, gentle Jesus. But Jesus is a complex God/Person. A FAR better devotional is Oswald Chambers’ “Prayer: A Holy Occupation”. With Chambers you get depth; maybe a bit too much depth for nominal Christians, but at least he makes you think.

    For a better and fuller understanding of God’s justice, grace and mercy, I’d recommend John MacArthur’s “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore”. It’s not a devotional, but a full book. The prologue and Introduction alone is worth the price of the book. It fleshes out Jesus so that we know all His character and all His depth. Like other posters here, many of my students love “Jesus Calling”. I am always silent when someone recommends it. My silence conveys my skepticism about the universal appeal of this devotional, which I categorize at “Christianity Lite”.

    June 19, 2011
  26. Ed #

    For me, “My Utmost For His Highest” (O.Chambers) has been a devoltional mainstay for a number of years. When I get to Dec.31, I just go back to the beginning. His insights, encouragements and challenges to live out the discipleship of Christ we say that we have, (or need to have) have been most invaluable in daily walking with the Lord. One caution however, is Chambers at times erronously encouraging born-again believers to ask for the Holy Spirit, when the New Testament makes clear that we have all of the Holy Spirit Who comes to live in us from the day we’re saved.

    July 7, 2011
    • I have used (and appreciated) Chambers’ devotional as well, Ed. Thanks.

      July 7, 2011
  27. tiger #

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    July 14, 2011
  28. Stef #

    I truly believe although important university has ruined so many these days. It is important for all of us to know that God is love and his most important priority is us! This devotional and everh one i have read have brought comfort and healing. Perhaps this devotional’s concept is to simplisic for u. Please dont write a devotional until u have truly experiencex God and his love …we have enough confused christian university students and people in general. By ur pist u soundyoung and very inexperienced in the Lord.

    July 24, 2011
  29. Stef #

    I truly believe although important university has ruined so many these days. It is important for all of us to know that God is love and his most important priority is us! This devotional and every one i have read have brought comfort and healing. Perhaps this devotional’s concept is to simplisic for u. Please dont write a devotional until u have truly experienced God and his love …we have enough confused christian university students and people in general. By ur post u soundyoung and very inexperienced in the Lord.

    July 24, 2011
  30. Jen #

    I understand your critique of this devotional. I was skeptical at first; when someone “speaks” for Jesus we need to be discerning. Since I enjoy meaty studies, I also wondered if this were perhaps too fluffy. I have to say I was mildly shocked to discover that this book is influencing me in a way I never saw coming.

    We love God because He loved us first, period. I believe this fully. What these daily devotionals do is remind me of His love for me. This goes beyond intellectual investigations (which have their place) to our hearts – to the part of us that, because of our experiences, tends to forget His love. Or has a really hard time understanding it. The daily reminder is incredibly helpful, and I find myself returning to the truth of His love more easily because of those reminders. This, in turn, influences the decisions I make through the day.

    A surprise, for sure, but a great one. Sometimes simple is just what we need.

    I don’t believe Sarah’s intent was to write a theologically challenging devotional. I believe her desire was to remind us that God’s love can radically influence our earthly lives and the lives we touch, here and now. Besides, without confidence in His love for us, obeying Him becomes distinctly difficult.

    A comment about language: while Sarah’s word choices may sound new-agey (and I understand that upon first glance, it may), I believe a fuller reading reveals Sarah’s firm tethering to Biblical truths. She speaks of God’s love in an atypical way, but her words always direct us back to Jesus/God, personal savior and creator of the universe. New Age ideas direct us to ourselves.

    July 28, 2011
    • Wise and gracious words, Jen. Thank you for sharing this.

      July 28, 2011
  31. Lisa #

    Interesting dialogue. I don’t have a post at this time, but would like to keep up with this…..

    September 15, 2011
  32. kcbegley@ymail.com #

    HOnestly… If you feel this way… So negative … Keep it to yourself. For that matter, keep it between you and God. I don’t think you had anything to share of any relevance other than just complaining. Your comments offered nothing other than basic bitching and complaining. Who needs that? In other words…if you don’t have anything to offer then don’t say anything

    January 7, 2012
  33. Judy #

    The Bible says we are to contend for the faith and to refute error when we see it. Who can presume to speak for Jesus, other than Jesus who has done so in the Bible that is a true love story and book of showing His immeasurable love for us.

    January 11, 2012
  34. Judy #

    To Melanie, I appreciate your comment and further phrases you’ve cited that are indeed, in my opinion, quite troubling. Thank you.

    January 11, 2012
  35. Claire #

    I’m always saddened by what seems to me to be theological snobbery. Most Christians do not have advanced degrees and have not had the opportunity to sit in class after class disecting Biblical discourse. This book speaks to the masses, and in very positive and uplifting ways. I keep it side by side with my Oxford Commentary, each having unique value.

    I understand that the first person voice is disconcerting to some, but it is simply a literary device, and apparently one that is very effective for many readers. Ryan, I think you make some valid points in your critique but too many of the responses seem to be trying to jump on an entirely different bandwagon.

    Didn’t see anyone mention Foster’s Devotional Classics; might better meet the needs of those lookiing for a more academic treatise ~ and of course if you think you really want “meat” go through the Bible with the Oxford Commentary, you will learn quite a bit. For me, academics doesn’t always get to the heart of things, there are many ways to “know Jesus.” I choose to pursue the academic side of things because that is my nature, but I am always challenged and called to consider the more emotional side which has equal value. This devotional helps lead me there and for that I am grateful.

    February 16, 2012
    • Thanks for your comment, Claire. I hope that I have not come across as a “theological snob” in my initial reflections on Young’s book and my subsequent comments in this thread. I do recognize that this is an easy trap to fall into, though, and I want to be open to correction if I have done so.

      I absolutely agree with you re: the first person voice. I have been a bit baffled by some of the comments above that take such issue with this. It is, as you say, a literary device. And unless we are prepared to rule out the possibility that God can and does speak to us as individuals, I don’t see why the words of this book should be dismissed because they are somehow claiming to speak for God. The critique that Young somehow thinks she is speaking for God or that her words are on par with Scripture seems absolutely bizarre to me.

      As I’ve said a number of times on this thread, I really am glad that this book has proved useful for many people. Regardless of the merits of my critiques, I am pleased that God can and does draw people to himself via a wide variety of (necessarily flawed) human efforts.

      February 16, 2012
      • Claire #

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Ryan. I found your blog while “googling” Jesus Calling. I had recently recieved a copy from my college-aged daughter who by grace alone has a fierce heart for God. I have since taken a look at your blog site and have enjoyed reading your thoughts and reflections.

        Please know that it was not my intent to name-call, which would put me in the exact category I was saddened by. I do find however, that I can get way too caught up in thinking about what I think than drawing nearer to Jesus. I have been trained, for too many years perhaps, to think critically. My first reading of the Bible cover to cover took almost 3 years. My second time through I think was in under a year. I’m now going through the Oxford commentary and at 50 something, am sure it will take more years than I have left. I feel sure there will be a copy waiting for me in heaven! :)

        In any event, your contributions are appreciated and I plan to continue to read along with you. Thank you for sharing your sincere journey!

        February 18, 2012
  36. With an $80 list price, I doubt Claire’s recommendation of the Oxford Bible Commentary will cause people to rush out and buy one, but if they do, they should know it mixes the thoughts of both Jewish and Christian writers. This isn’t a bad thing if you want more OT background, as long as you know who is saying what. Additionally, Library Journal notes, “There are brief chapters on ‘Post-Biblical Jewish Literature’ and ‘Extra-Canonical Early Christian Literature,’ dealing with such writings as the Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls and with the New Testament Apocrypha and the Apostolic Fathers, respectively.” The very thought that it includes the Apocrypha would be enough to frighten away many Evangelicals. For that reason, I can see this as a research tool, but can see where some people might be cautious about allowing a Bible reference book to speak into their lives in lieu of a devotional book.

    Clair also mentioned Devotional Classics, which, while edited by Richard Foster, contains the writings of Augustine of Hippo, Blaise Pascal, Francis of Assisi, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, Soren Kierkegaard, Annie Dillard, Thomas Merton, Madame Guyon, Watchman Nee, Kathleen Norris, and others. Unfortunately again, the inclusion of Catholic writers and early Christian mystics becomes problematic for some Evangelicals, who probably represent the largest consumption of devotional books; while for others, this sample list makes the book a must-have.

    February 18, 2012
    • Thanks for this, Paul. For my part, I would fall into the latter category—I really enjoy the Foster book and appreciate its breadth and depth, as well as the wide variety of voices it includes.

      February 18, 2012
  37. Jerry #

    Ryan: I must respectfully disagree with your statement:

    “She’s not claiming it’s authoritative or “inspired” or anything like that.”

    She clearly claims that she is communicating exactly what Jesus told her to write and she writes in the first person as if she is Jesus actually speaking to us. It would be quite different if she wrote what she thought she was hearing from God, but this is another thing altogether. When any person claims to be writing/speaking direct words from Jesus, I have but two options:

    1. Accept what they are saying as directly from Jesus and add them to my bible

    or

    2. Reject what they are saying altogether, for God has made it clear that if anyone claims to be directly speaking His words (prophesying: to reveal by divine inspiration), they are either truly God’s source for communicating to us or they are false. The scripture doesn’t give me any other options here, as much as I might think that her intentions are good.

    One can’t have it both ways: if God speaks it is, by its very nature, divine & inspired. God doesn’t speak any other way.

    February 22, 2012
    • Do you feel that Sarah Young is putting her words on par with Scripture? That she is claiming they ought to play the same kind of normative role in the lives of her readers?

      February 22, 2012
      • I agree with what Jerry has said, Ryan. No, Sarah Young would not claim that. She claims that these are the words of Jesus but then denies that they are authoritative on the same level as Scripture. Jerry’s point is that she has taken an untenable position: If God speaks His Word, it is divine in origin and thus authoritative, binding on believers. Because I do not accept what she has written as being authoritative inspiration, I regard what she has done as writing down her own imagination, her own internal voice, and calling it “Jesus” – a very dangerous thing, indeed.

        February 22, 2012
      • Jerry #

        Jason has expressed it well in that Sarah Young has taken a position that is untenable. It violates basic logic: the law of non-contradiction (“A” can’t be both “A” and “not A”). If she says that Jesus is speaking to her specifically, then by its very nature, it is divine & authoritative. Her claim of specific, verbal dictation from Jesus goes even beyond the basic, evangelical doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration & is virtually identical to the revelation such as we see with Jeremiah or Elijah or even Moses when he received the 10 commandments. We certainly accept the concept of verbal, plenary inspiration as providing inerrant, divine scripture, so even more so must we acknowledge that anyone who claims to receive direct, verbal dictation is either a delusional and/or deceived false prophet, or giving us divine scripture. It can’t be both “A” and “not A”. This is classic, eastern mystical (a.k.a. new age) thinking/logic. (I’m not intentionally trying to use harsh language by saying “false prophet”, I’m just calling it what scripture calls it.)

        February 22, 2012
      • I don’t really have much to add to this (in my view) odd critique of this book, beyond what I have said in our dialogue above. Throughout Christian history, people have believed that they have heard—correctly or incorrectly—messages, exhortations, encouragements, etc from Jesus. This shouldn’t be that unusual, if we believe that Jesus is a living being and that he communicates with his followers in various ways. Ms. Young’s transgression, in your view, seems to be that she wrote them down.

        Perhaps a more interesting question, given the direction this thread has headed, is this: if Sarah Young had no intention of her words being interpreted as on par with Scripture or authoritative in any sense, and if there is no real danger of anyone interpreting them as such, why do people (at least here) seem threatened by her book?

        February 22, 2012
  38. Jerry #

    Wow, I’m struggling with your conclusion, Ryan. I’m not sure why you would think that I’m struggling with the author writing anything down on paper. I have some questions that will help me understand your frame of reference, since I’m new to your blog. If these things are clear from past blogs, please forgive redundancy.

    1. Do you believe that Jesus (God) clearly, specifically, verbally speaks/dictates messages to us (believers), in addition to what He has already provided in the Scripture? (I’m not talking about “leading” or “impressing upon” or “feeling” or even conviction of sin, but specific, verbal communication just like I’m communicating with you in writing this question or if we were actually talking rather than “blogging”.)

    2. Do you believe that when God specifically speaks, it is divine & authoritative?

    Your answers will help me know how to respond to your question.

    February 22, 2012
    • I could provide my answers your questions, but I actually don’t think they would contribute much to this discussion. The main issue here is not, “what is your theory of divine inspiration/communication?” but “what kind of a book is this and what is Ms. Young claiming/trying to do with it?”

      Jesus Calling, as I read it and based on what Ms. Young herself says in the introduction to the book, is a prayer journal. Nothing more (or less). I think people are getting unnecessarily hung up the manner in which she expresses what she hears/experiences from Jesus during prayer.

      February 22, 2012
      • Jerry #

        OK, so I’ll do the best I can to answer your question. First of all, I love you because, from reading the whole of your content here, I fully believe that we are united as brothers in Christ’s blood. Please understand that most of all and that I have no desire to do anything other than to sound a warning when I see a brother overlooking a deceptive publication purporting to be the very words of Christ. Here goes: her “intent” is irrelevent in the light of the fact that she says clearly that she says she is writing what God (Jesus) has spoken to her. She’s not simply writing down her thoughts as she prays. It matters tremendously how she expresses her experiences, not to mention the very strong new age experiences that she describes as her common practice in her forward (visualization, etc.). If she were to simply claiming that these were her thoughts as she read through scripture passages, then there would be no issue. The issue arises when she clearly purports to be Jesus speaking to her audience. If it’s actually Jesus speaking, then, as I explained in earlier posts, we must take it seriously, for whether she wants to acknowledge it or not, when Jesus speaks, it is divine & authoritative. It goes from being just her impressions when she prays to a new revelation. This is extremely problematic if you believe that God has preserved His revelation to man in its entirety, in the Bible. It is very similar, if not identical, to eastern mystical/new age channeling. Not to mention all of the esoteric gobbledygook that makes absolutely no sense and is in fact supported no where in Scripture. It introduces dangerous occult practices & takes our eyes away from the sufficiency of scripture and opens the door to the idea that we need new revelation from God to have a complete and fulfilled spiritual life.

        February 22, 2012
      • From the introduction to Jesus Calling:

        The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard.

        Re: visualization, New Age, eastern mystical channeling, etc, I see no evidence of any of that in this book. If you have evidence of this from the book, you’ll have to direct me to the relevant passages that demonstrate this.

        (It continues to strike me as ironic indeed to find myself defending a book that I care very little for.)

        February 22, 2012
  39. I think there are degrees of fallibility when it comes to hearing from God. I offer this as something others can refine further:

    (1) The reading of scripture. If it’s in context and the translation is reliable there should be little margin for error as to what God is speaking. Obviously, everything else listed below should not conflict with scripture.

    (2) “I think what God is saying to us is…” Form employed by a pastor in a sermon after a week (or more) of study on a particular passage or theme. Includes not only what the passage is saying in general, but what the pastor feels it addresses in the local church context. The pastor usually uses the form “I think…” or “I believe…” however; he (or she) is not claiming divine inspiration.

    (3) “The saith the Lord…” Words of prophecy and knowledge (or interpretation of tongues) as spoken in Pentecostal or Charismatic meetings can sometimes get off the rails, but are generally received as reliable in a majority of cases. Not generally recorded or transcribed, though some elements may be remembered by that local church for years to come.

    (4) First person speech. The literary form used in God Calling by A. J. Russell or Jesus Calling by Sarah Young hasn’t been vetted by a pastor’s arduous study or a local congregation, but has been seen by editors and publishers. Still, nobody knows the identity of the “Two Listeners” of the book A. J. Russell compiled. (Are there interviews with Sarah Young someone can provide a link to?) This could just be a stylistic variant on (2) above, but it brings with it the presumption of inspiration, and is, in my opinion, at best very risky.

    (5) Dreams and visions. Given usually to an individual and distinct from (2) and (3) above, and usually highly subjective, though God does speak through these and other similar means.

    (6) The general revelation of nature. Psalm 19 describes this as “speech” as the creation proclaims God’s existence. Ranks with (1) above in terms of its purity, but listed last here as so few outside the faith “listen to” the message the heavens are speaking, and so few of us within the faith take the time to appreciate its constant reminder of God’s greatness. If this one is (1a) then certainly we’d also want to include as (1b) the inner witness or voice of the Holy Spirit; provided our hearts are properly tuned to the Spirit’s frequency; as this also becomes partially subjective, as Paul’s use of “I believe I have the mind of the Lord…” (italics added) in I Cor. 7: 39-40 I’m also not sure how the inner voice of the spirit (or even the revelation of nature) would fit with those most strongly committed to sola scriptura.

    February 23, 2012
    • Thanks for this, Paul—the variety of ways in which God has seen fit to communicate to his people surely ought to inspire gratitude and attentiveness.

      Re: #4, having re-read the introduction to the book, and thumbing few a number of the entries, I remain unconvinced that the form Young employs “brings with it the presumption of inspiration.”

      February 23, 2012
  40. writer #

    I am a counseling therapist and find, by far, the biggest issue for my clients is amidst their troubles they have forgotten Jesus loves them. They feel punished and far away from our Lord. I recommend this devotional often as it assists in bringing thier focus back to how God loves them. I understand deep theological issues are absent and, yes, it is often repetitive, but what it repeats that is so valuable is that when we center on Christ we “un-center” on ourselves. We give it all up over and over and for the laymen that is enough.

    February 23, 2012
    • Thank you for this. Whatever issues may be present in the book, the reminder to people that they are loved is surely necessary and welcome.

      February 23, 2012
  41. Pam Lester #

    I have been using Jesus Calling for a number of years now – we find it uplifting and encouraging. We accompany our devotional reading with the bible. I give this book as a gift
    to those that are struggling with life’s situations so they can keep trusting God – to help them along.

    March 26, 2012
  42. Cheryl Dumais #

    The comments here made me stop and reflect on my own devotional journey. I too have never been good about sticking to one version for very long although I am currently rereading God Calling. Strangely this appears to be the right time for me for this particular work. I read it years ago and although it was enjoyable it really didn’t seem to touch me in any special way. This time around much later in life I have slowed down my striving and am perhaps more sentimental and able to appreciate the message of God’s love. God calling and Jesus calling are very similar in style and I am using Jesus Calling off and on as a supplement. One thing I wanted to note is that I am older (55) and my father worked pretty much 7 days a week when I was growing up. This affected my ability to see God as a loving father simply because I had nothing in my experience to relate it to. I’m not saying I wasn’t loved just it wasn’t experienced often like it is today. In my era fathers were often busy and the “children are to be seen and not heard” attitude was commmon. So this may not be for you but some of us who grew up with a “big guy in the sky with a stick” view of God are touched by this simple view of a loving creator. I know it is sometimes theologically weak but that’s not the purpose of this work. I appreciated your qualified explanation and understand we are all different and I wish you good luck on your writing attempt. I’m sure it will be wonderful.

    God Bless,
    Cheryl

    April 25, 2012
  43. Constance B. Steinbach #

    AMEN, Brother!! (Or sister?). You gently but clearly brought up a few of my concerns. THANK you for writing. May GOD richly BLESS you! Connie

    May 4, 2012
  44. Wendy #

    For years I have struggled with my spirituality, I have always been a christian and felt very close to God in my younger years but as the years went on I withdrew from Him. Daily life (children, job, home) can be overwhelming and most of the time I tried to handle it all myself. In 2011 that all changed. My brother in law, who I was very close to, had a mental breakdown which also involved felony charges, he ended being admitted to a mental facility for 10 days. When he came out he was on a drug that made him feel like superman, when that drug wore off he fell into a deep depression. From June of 2011 till November 2011 I was with him almost every day. I made him go to the Dr. because he was suicidal and we also got him on meds. He kept saying “Wen, if I was going to do it I would have already”. I tried to make him move in with us and he said no, I asked him to go back to the hospital he said no, we got him to go to a counselor a few times but he stopped going and wouldn’t go back. We honestly tried everything. It was quite honestly the worst struggle of my life also, dealing with a depressed person is a very difficult thing to do on a daily basis. I hardly saw my children at all because I was always taking care of him. The stress at times was almost unbearable. And then on November 11, 2001 I went over to his house after I left work and I found him hanging from a rafter in his home. He had committed suicide. At that point I started shutting down, I couldn’t function anymore, we stopped seeing friends, went nowhere, my husband and I were just struggling to get through each day. Those were definitely dark days. I don’t tell you this for pity, I tell you this because I received Jesus Calling from my Mom that year for Christmas. I left it sit until the beginning of February and then started reading it. Thank you Jesus for that!!! It has been a true inspiration to me and brought me back to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have basically always read devotions in the morning, but nothing every touched my soul like Jesus Calling. It was what I NEEDED at the time. I needed to hear on a daily basis that Jesus Loves Me and is with me each moment in time. He will NEVER leave my side. I needed a basic devotional that spoke to me at the lowest time of my life and I found it. I read my bible every morning, read Jesus Calling and then my prayer time. It has brought me back to my Lord and I wil be forever grateful that it was written because I feel it was specifically written for me at this moment in my life. I know you review books and I understand if you don’t feel it fit what you think a devotional should be, but for a person who was struggling (and still is), It was a gift from God.

    May 21, 2012
    • I want to thank you very much for sharing your story here, Wendy. This is a humbling reminder of just how small some of our critiques and arguments can seem in the light of what some people must face and the many and varied ways that God meets people in the depths of pain and need. I am grateful for your story, and incredibly thankful for the good done by Ms. Young’s book in your life.

      Thank you.

      May 21, 2012
  45. Rachel R. #

    Ryan, thank you for your review. I am also very concerned about this devotional. The May 9th devotional really set off alarms because it does not line up with the Bible. Just to be honest, most Americans are not really all that familiar with the Bible (we tend to “cut and paste” Scripture to make it say what we want to) and many are cultural Christians, like the German Lutherans in the early 1900’s. If you are really interested in exploring this more, if you have not read it yet I would highly recommend the Eric Metaxas authored biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I just want to encourage you not to back down. I have friends who love this devotional, and we are still very good friends, but we will disagree on this thing. Just reading the introduction to the devotional sent off big alarms for me. I believe Sarah Young’s intentions are good and she means well; I am not demonizing her. I just believe that this devotional is more of the “God loves you the way you are, you should feel good about yourself” type of religion that has invaded our churches. And that is definitely not the full message of the Bible. Yes, God does love us, but He wants to change us to be more like Him, not leave us in our sin to wallow around in it.

    May 23, 2012
    • Thank you for your encouragement, Rachel. I suspect that we Canadians can be just as adept at cutting and pasting to suit our preferences :). As you say, it is important to know that God loves us, but equally important to know how God loves us and what he wants for and from us.

      I have read Metaxas’s book on Bonhoeffer and appreciated it very much (even wrote a post about it here).

      May 24, 2012
  46. If what sarah states is true, that she gets these “words” from CHRIST, why doesn’t this become part of holy scripture? Didn’t GOD through the HOLY SPIRIT allow men to write down what waas given them? Logically all bibles should be redone to include “The book of Sarah”

    November 21, 2012
  47. stef #

    preachers share what God speaks to them every Sunday…

    January 12, 2013
    • Allie #

      Hopefully preachers expound on the written word of God and do not claim Jesus is speaking through them other than what is written in the word. There is a difference.
      Jesus never refers to himself as “The Presence” in the written word of God. (Full revelation.)

      Another key New Age teaching surrounds “the Presence.” The NAM “Presence” forms a mystic, impersonal pantheist “presence” of God. The following quotes reveal the importance of the “Presence” in the New Age agenda.

      Occultism sums up the ‘One Existence’ thus: ‘Deity is an arcane, living (or moving) fire, and the eternal witnesses to this unseen Presence. . .”
      (Blavatsy, H.P. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, Page 2)
      The Christ Self, then, has communication with the Father who in both Principle and Person is the Presence of God, the I AM THAT I AM, or the I AM Presence.
      (Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Mysteries of the Holy Grail, p. 217)
      Alice Bailey reveals the “Presence” strikes a blow at the Biblical “transcendent” God or a God that exists apart from nature and man.

      This inevitably brings in the concept of the Presence, or of God Immanent and is the result of the needed revolt against the one-sidedness of the belief in God Transcendent.”
      (Bailey, Alice, The Externalization of the Hierarchy, p. 355)

      Btw- The Message uses this type of language as well.

      February 6, 2013
  48. Nancy #

    I find her writings deeply inspirational. After all, what else is there that really matters other than our intimacy with God. The bible is clear that knowing him takes precedence over acknowledging him. Perhaps I am simple but my childlike faith will see me home I am sure. The wisdom of this world is not as important to me including the greatest of theology because maybe even the best theologians have missed the mark here and there. But, if I stay in tune to him with my child like faith in tow I am sure he will not fail me. I do not know of anyone, if they are completely honest, that does not need this kind of reassurance of God’s love and concern on a daily basis. I wish you well in your writings and pray God will illuminate your heart and mind with his great wisdom & love.

    February 2, 2013
  49. I couldn’t agree less. This is the thinking of someone who requires God to speak the language of their theology in order to be understood. God forbid we should be TOO aware of God’s love, which is why we are told Christ died for us. I guess God needs to be more reformed in His theology, so he wouldn’t be so preoccupied with communicating how much he loves us. God IS love. That IS profound theology.

    June 2, 2013
  50. Is Galatians 2:20 deep enough theology for you? Paul says he lived his life by the faith of the Son of God who LOVED him and gave himself for him. THis is the same Paul who wrote that without LOVE, we are nothing. What a shame God chose such a theologically shallow person to write so much of the New Testament, and say so MUCH about the love of God. Is Jesus Christ theologically shallow? How foolish for him to pray that God’s love would be in us, or to think that the world would know we are Christians by our LOVE. I guess his education was theologically shallow.

    June 2, 2013
  51. Seriously Ryan, if you desire a deeper theology, think MORE about the love of God. Scripture affirms that the ONLY way the church can be filled with the fullness of God is by knowing the love of God, some thing beyond knowing. It can never be done intellectually, only by the free gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe strengthening us in our inner man. NOT through a theology, but the presence of Christ Himself in our hearts, which is the source of the transformation we need. Not theology but living relationship with the risen Christ on the basis of the New Covenant.

    June 2, 2013
    • I always find it interesting when person “A” is convinced that person “B” is lacking in an understanding of God’s enveloping and consuming love; but expresses this in a way that isn’t consistent with that love, or is almost accusatory toward person “B.” The tone of your middle post sounds like, ‘Is Galatians 2:20 good enough for you?’ It’s the language of picking a fight with someone.

      I subscribed to this particular post back in 2010 when it first appeared because as someone who is involved in the book industry with the distribution of Jesus Calling I had some concerns. I’ve only jumped into the discussion twice before, however.

      Ryan is interested in the format of the book. This is not about judging who knows and has experienced God’s love and who hasn’t. It just remains that with a couple of exceptions — such as God Calling and Come Away My Beloved this particular type of devotional writing (i.e. first-person narrative attributed to God) is somewhat rare; and I would think that anyone from a new believer to a veteran Christian would be extended some grace for wanting to take a second look at it. Why out of the vast history of Christian publishing are there only a handful of books that take this approach?

      II Peter 3 ends with an admonition to grow both in the grace (and love) of Jesus Christ and the knowledge (and understanding) about Jesus Christ. Sarah Young’s book offers much of the former with very little of the latter. Unless it is being supplemented with other study resources, it is a little out of balance, and from my first-hand observation of people seeking this particular title, for many of them, their daily reading from it constitutes the entirety of their daily time in the Word; dare I say the book attracts people who are looking for Sermon Lite.

      At that point, I would say we have a problem.

      June 2, 2013
      • Thank you for this, Paul. You’ve articulated much of what I might have said in response to Bruce’s comments (and probably better than I would have).

        June 2, 2013

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