Is “God Calling” Through That Devotional Book?

The books God Calling and Jesus Calling have become very popular devotional readings over the years, making numerous “best-seller” lists. But from the moment I began to see quotes from the books being posted on Facebook and other places I had some grave concerns. Upon investigation, I discovered that I am not the only one with reservations about these books. Indeed, many discerning Christian leaders are concerned that they are dangerous spiritually in several ways.

Of first concern is the method of “inspiration.” The writers did not sit with open Bibles to gain the truths they share in the books, instead one of the authors of God Calling said in the introduction that “we sat down, pencils and paper in hand and waited” and that then “beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself.” But there is no promise or indication in scripture that God speaks to us this way. He does state repeatedly that He communicates to us in His word. The kind of “inspiration” the authors used for these two books is in fact the same sort of “revelation” that cult leaders often indicate that they have received. Bible-believing Christians believe that there is ONE source for us of “beautiful messages by our Lord Himself” — and that is His inspired word. (II Timothy 3:16)

Secondly, the use of the first person language in the books is troubling. “First person” means that it is written as if Jesus Himself were speaking: “I want you to know x-y-z” — as if the Lord were directly communicating these truths to the readers. This was my first “red flag” regarding the books. Kathy Keller (wife of respected pastor Tim) writes:

“If Sarah Young, the author of the words attributed to Jesus, had only used ‘He’ instead of ‘I’ in her book, about half of my objection to it would be gone.”

But as it stands, writing a book which reads as if God were the author is at minimum presumptuous beyond measure, and at worst blasphemous: putting words into the mouth of God which He did not speak! There is only ONE place where we may confidently state “thus saith the Lord”, and that is the word of God, the Bible.

Of next concern is the actual content of the books. Those who have read them in their entirety indicate that the content itself is indeed troubling. The Christian Research Institute points out several “problem passages” in God Calling, including:

– “I need you more than you need Me.” (p. 60)
– “I await the commands of My children.” (p. 63)
– “Yes! But remember the first hail must be that of the Magi in the Bethlehem stable” (p. 204).

Edmond Gruss of CRI points out here: “‘Christ’ slips up on this last one. Matthew 2:9-11 indicates that the Magi arrived at Bethlehem a considerable time after Jesus was born. Note that verse 11 mentions their being at the ‘house.’ The Magi never did visit Jesus at the stable, but the shepherds did (Luke 2:1 5-20).”

Any man-made book is bound to have errors, certainly. But compounding the problem here is that these books are written as if GOD were speaking — and He is not the author of such error.

Finally, my desire in this post is not merely to criticize a false path, but to point out a better way. If you want to hear every day from the Lord, there is a sure-fire way to do it: read the Bible, the authoritative and genuinely inspired word of God, and ask for the illumination of the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to enable us to understand His word!

I Peter 2:2 commands us as believers: “long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Scripture repeatedly commands God’s children to find His truth for them in His revealed word. What every believer needs each day is time with an open Bible — no “devotional books” or helps or commentaries — but just “the pure milk of the word” and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Devotionals and commentaries have a place, but only after one has had time of his own with the “pure milk” of the word, the unadulterated word of God itself.

One of the most revealing, and condemning statements about these books was made by Sarah Young, the author of Jesus Calling, who wrote in the introduction: “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.” This statement alone should serve as a warning to any potential reader, and is exactly the problem: “more” than the “pure milk” of the Bible is not “more”; it is LESS; much less! Unfortunately, too many believers today are looking for “more” — but they are looking for it in the wrong place. Look for more in what we know for certain is His word, not some questionable book claiming to speak for Him.

It is just as the old hymn asserts:

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word. What more can He say than to you He hath said … ?”

II Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable …”. There is ONE place where we can know for certain that it is indeed “God calling” and “Jesus calling” — and that is in His word. I would encourage you to rededicate yourself today to experiencing His leadership in what we know is the God-breathed truth of the Bible.

If I do not have enough credibility with you, or if I have not elucidated my concerns well enough, I plead with you to check out the following reviews before you read these two books — or before you pick them up again. These are not from obscure “reactionaries”, but from some of today’s most respected, Bible-believing Christian leaders:

– Kathy Keller, wife of pastor Tim Keller: http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=414
– Tim Challies: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/jesus-calling
– Christian Research Institute: http://www.equip.org/PDF/DG100.pdf

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About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief daily devotions from own personal Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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8 Responses to Is “God Calling” Through That Devotional Book?

  1. Connie says:

    I think another book that is of similar concern is “His Princess…Love Letters from Your King” by Sheri Rose.

    • PB says:

      What about the books on how people die, go to heaven, and then return here for more of this life??!! Have you blogged on such prior to now? There’s definitely a need for your elaboration if you have not. If you have, please direct me to it.

      • Shawn Thomas says:

        Hey Mrs. Peggy! I have not yet written on those books, though I have considered it — I just haven’t done so yet. The short version is that we should not put our trust in those experiences, many of which are theologically imprecise and/or ambiguous, but rather our hope should be in the scriptures.
        One of the primary reasons I look with skepticism upon them is that Jesus specifically said in the story of the Rich Man & Lazarus that He would not send someone back from the dead because people would still not believe, if they did not believe His word. So are we to believe that He has now “fallen back” to that position and is now trying to convince people that way? I don’t think so.
        I may yet write more regarding this, but Tim Challies has written several posts on it at http://www.challies.com. Type “heaven is for real” into his site search and you will find several good posts on the different books, and the concept in general. Hope that helps!

      • pegbrown says:

        Bro Shawn –

        Just read your post for the day and am rejoicing in God’s revitalizing your body! 

        Curious – who gets to see this email reply?  Does it get “posted”???

        ________________________________

      • Shawn Thomas says:

        Hey Mrs. Peggy! Yes, we are thankful for God’s blessing on my health for sure.

        And when you post on the blog like this, yes, everyone gets to see it, for good or for ill! :-)
        You can always Facebook message or e-mail me if you need to send a personal note.

        Good to hear from you!

      • pegbrown says:

        Have lost track of your personal email address.  Please remind me of it so I can communicate with you privately on occasion.  Thanks so much!

        ________________________________

      • Shawn Thomas says:

        setfbc@bellsouth.net is Cheryl’s & my home e-mail address. We’d be glad to hear from you!

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