Is It Really Jesus Calling?

Disclaimer: This is NOT a rant! This is what happens after I have ranted to my husband, and sister, and random other people. This is me attempting to write a logically thought-out response toward something I feel passionate about. 🙂 

“What do you thinking about the book, ‘Jesus Calling’?” This post started with an innocent question from a friend. What did I think? I didn’t know…

what do i think

I’ve never been a fan. In the twelve years since it was first published, I’ve never owned a copy. The few times I picked it up at a friend’s house, I thought it was a little sketchy and kind of weird; but, I’ve never thought I needed to vocally condemn it either. I basically dealt with my iffy feelings about “Jesus Calling” by ignoring it. However, after looking into the book, the author, other people’s opinions, and deciding what I personally think, I can’t ignore it any longer. (Especially since “Jesus Calling” has been a top seller for the past decade.)

I started by looking into people’s criticisms online. There are some pretty negative reviews, including accusations of New Age and occult influence. Some of the reviewers were crazy, fundamentalists yelling about demons and women preachers. I crossed them off the list. A few complained about Sarah Young’s mystic version of God. I could kind of see their point. I found one critique that seemed intelligent and balanced, although I still didn’t agree with everything he said. That author was concerned about how similar Young’s teachings were to a popular New Age book he recently read. It made me curious.

I borrowed a copy of “Jesus Calling” to look at for myself. I read the entire Foreword where Sarah Young gives her testimony of finding salvation, her experiences in Jesus’ Presence, and how she came to write the book. Even though she writes as though her words are coming from Jesus Himself, she makes sure to tell her readers that they are not Scripture. I also paged through the book, reading sections here and there and looking up the Bible verses she used to support her thoughts.

So, what do I think?

I don’t think that “Jesus Calling” is an evil book from the devil, and I do believe that the author, Sarah Young, has a good heart and purpose behind her writings. That said, I also have some serious problems with the book and cautions for those who love it.

altar-window-1059741_1920My biggest problem is that Sarah Young created this “pretend Jesus” who does all the talking. Maybe this would be fine if the real Jesus was just a good teacher, or if she was paraphrasing his actual quotes. But, she isn’t paraphrasing Jesus, she is coming up with words and phrases and ideas that never came from Him. Some of these are Biblical concepts, and others are not. Jesus wasn’t just a good guy who said nice things; He is the very Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign God, the Beginning and the End! Imagining things and pretending Jesus said them seems…presumptuous. Okay, honestly it terrifies me!! God is WAY too big for me to be putting words in His mouth. I struggle to even read some of the sections because I can’t deal with the fact that “Jesus” is supposed to be talking to me… I just keep wondering what the Real Jesus thinks.

I worry about new or immature Christians who don’t have a good background in the Bible. Will they get confused and think these are truly the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Do they have discernment to see that some of the things she says are not in fact truth (even though they sound wonderful)?

Are people actually looking up the verses at the bottom of each page? I know that’s how the author wants the book to be read, but is it happening? Are they reading the context surrounding those verses to see what they really mean? Are they actually getting into the Word of God or are they only reading the words of “fake Jesus”? This is especially concerning to me after coming out of a cult where every lie was backed up by a Bible verse reference. (But when you read the verse in context, it didn’t make any sense.)

Maybe growing up in and then leaving a cult has given me a highly sensitive B.S. meter, or perhaps God has given me the gift of discernment. All I know is that “Jesus Calling” is setting off warning signals in my brain. Reading the Foreword, where Sarah Young talks about how she came to write the book, is where it started getting sketchy for me.

bench-1289528_1920“I began to wonder if I could change my prayer times from monologue to dialogue. I had been writing in prayer journals for many years, but this was one-way communication: I did all the talking. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God might want to communicate to me on a given day. I decided to “listen” with pen in hand, writing down whatever I “heard” in my mind…My journaling thus changed from monologue to dialogue. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thought God gave us the Bible to communicate with us!

Sarah Young doesn’t claim that her writings are inspired (which is good), but I still feel like she is setting aside the living Word of God to pursue “subjective experiences”. In my own life this is usually when things start getting weird. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Holy Spirit speaks, and I have felt often Him speak to me personally, but it’s not normally when I’m seeking it, and it’s usually through the Bible itself.

“In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and peace.” This quote explains why Young chose to wrote this devotional. I appreciate her heart. I agree with her conclusion. But, I worry that her fake Jesus has distracted people from the real One.

Jesus says He is with us always (Matthew 28:20); if we are in Christ, we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us (Romans 8:9-11). We don’t have to seek after a Presence or an experience, rather we need to become more aware of the God who is always with us. Where do we learn more about Him, who He is and what He sounds like? The Bible.

My challenge for you:

If you want to know what the real Jesus sounds like, then I challenge you to do this. Put away your “Jesus Calling” for a while and S.O.A.K. your way through the gospel of John (the gospel with more of Jesus recorded words than any other). Read a little section or a couple of verses at a time. This is not a race or a competition, this is a slow soak. You will need a notebook.

S – Scripture, take a minute or two and write out your verses for the day. This slows you down and makes you actually think about the words.

O – Observe. What’s going on in the passage? What just happened? What comes next? Who is He talking to? What is the context? Etc.

A – Apply. How do these verses apply to your life right now?

K – Kneel in Prayer. Obviously you don’t have to actually kneel, but take some time to talk with Jesus about what you just read and observed and want to apply to your life. I like to write out my prayer because it make me think and it gives me something to look back on.

Jesus Calling

What am I trying to say? Here it is in a nutshell. I have problems with “Jesus Calling” because of the fake Jesus who does all the talking. Not everything Sarah Young writes is Biblical and I think God is WAY too big for us to presumptuously put words in His mouth. I agree that we are looking for a deeper experience with Jesus, but I believe that we will find Him in the pages of the actual Word of God and not in the imaginations of a human author.

I realize that this blog post holds potential for controversy, but I’m still curious to know your thoughts!

 

An interesting article for futher reading: http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue125.htm

Chased by Grace – How God’s Word Changed a Life

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I love hearing stories (testimonies) about people finding Jesus, so I am going to be sharing a few of my favorites with you! You can find them under the “And Then I Met Jesus” category.

This first story is from my husband’s great-uncle Jim. The italicized words are my summary and the regular words are Uncle Jim’s. I hope you enjoy this account of the relentless pursuit of Jesus and the power of His living Word.

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Jim was raised in a loving, Christian home, exposed to the Bible, and taught the difference between right and wrong. He even married a wonderful, Christian girl who tried to keep him grounded and encouraged him to go to church, but he wasn’t interested.

“I suppose when it comes right down to it, I was completely without excuse. Like many, I ran away from the very thing needed for a fulfilled life; I ran away from God. I spent the first fifty-four years of my life without any desire for God. I was such a beach person and ocean enthusiast; I use to think I enjoyed that recreation because I had evolved from an ocean creature and was just returning to my origins. Perhaps I was an atheist or an agnostic, who knows, all I know is that my life had moved away from God and any plan he had for me. But, God has his ways.”

Through a course of events, Jim lost his job on the East Coast and was reassigned to an office in Southern California. Nothing went smoothly, and because their house wouldn’t sell, he ended up packing his car and driving across the country by himself. Jim was looking forward to the 4-5 day drive:  the freedom to choose his route, enjoy good restaurants, and listen to great music all by himself. God had other plans.

“Within the first hour, things changed. I realized there wasn’t going to be any music coming from my radio since it was on the fritz. Unless I had cassette music, which I didn’t, it would be 4-5 days of total silence. Shortly after beginning my journey west, I pulled off the freeway to get a cup of coffee. As I pulled into the parking spot, I noticed a lady just opening up her bookstore. I went in and started to look around. Long story short, I walked out ten minutes later having purchased a set of Bible cassette tapes Old and New Testament.

Just weeks before this, Jim had been in another bookstore in Canada and purchased a book on Bible prophecy. God was beginning to move in his heart. So, what made him decide to buy the Bible cassettes?

“Regarding the cassette tapes, I remember thinking it would be a good opportunity to take a close look at what the Bible was all about, since I really hadn’t paid much attention to it before. Besides, I didn’t have much else to do for the next 4-5 days and it would be a good chance for me to check it out and see if it was true. I got back on the freeway and was a few hours into Genesis when I remembered that I hadn’t gotten my cup of coffee. That was the reason I had pulled off the freeway in the first place! It seemed a bit odd, I thought. I pulled off again and got an extra large cup to keep me going.

After several days of continuous listening to the Bible, I was getting so engrossed that I would not even get out of the car to have lunch at a restaurant. Instead, I would search for a fast food drive thru so that I could keep the tapes playing. I even felt annoyed when I had to interrupt the cassette to order my food.”

Jim found himself feeling frustrated with the Jewish people. They were so stubborn and rebellious, but God just kept loving them. It seemed clear to Jim what God wanted from the Israelites, but they were always going off in their own direction. He was intrigued when God punished them, but then forgave them, and started dealing with them in love all over again.

“I had the sense that God really loved these Jewish people more than anyone else. In fact, I think I was jealous. I remember thinking that maybe I should call my mother when I got into my motel room that night to see if we had any Jewish blood in our family somewhere. Sort of silly now that I think of it, but it just pointed out how clear the Bible was about God’s love for these people. I grew up in a Christian family, so I knew enough about the Bible to know that God had a plan for all people, not just the Jews. About the time I entered California, my Bible cassettes were getting into the New Testament. That picture of God’s love for all people became clear, but I was not ready to believe it, not yet.”

At, the end of the fifth day, Jim made it to Long Beach, CA where he had an extended-stay hotel room waiting for him near his new job. Instead of going to his hotel though, Jim continued to drive around the local area because he didn’t want to stop listening to the New Testament. It finally dawned on him that he could purchase a portable cassette player and finish the Bible in his room. It was the weekend and Jim had a few days before his new job started so he was able to finish his audio Bible.

“I found a church close by that first Sunday and picked up a few Christian books to read that discussed various aspects of Christian theology. The next few weeks were a challenge for me. First, my new job was on the very fringe of my skill set. Second, I was getting frustrated with my time examining what the Bible was all about and who this God was. This was mostly due to my drinking habits.

Alcohol had become a part of Jim’s lifestyle as he spent years entertaining clients and enjoying first class flights and free drinks. After a long day at his new job, he would head back to the hotel and have a glass or two of wine as he read his new Christian books. Problem was, he would fall asleep and when he woke up the next morning everything he read was a blur. In frustration, Jim would pour the remaining wine down the sink. This became a pattern: buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with Christian books, fall asleep, wake up frustrated, and pour out the rest of the wine. Finally, he’d had enough! Jim realized that he needed Jesus.

“It was clear that God loves each one of his creations and had this wonderful plan for their lives. Every morning, I would resolve to take wine out of my life so I could understand more clearly what his plan was. One morning, after again not being able to remember clearly what I had read, I got down on my knees and cried and asked God to take away my urge for alcohol. I told him I could not do it on my own. I asked him to be a real part of my life and to take control. It was an emotional time for me. I was never an emotional type, but I understood my needs and my weaknesses.”

Jim saw his weakness and sin and understood his need. He believed in Jesus as his own Savior (John 3:16-18) and he found eternal life. The Spirit of Jesus Christ came into Jim and began to change him just as He has promised.

“Several weeks later, as I finished one of my books and was making notes in the margin, I realized it had been a few days since I’d had a glass of wine. It seemed strange that I did not notice it sooner. I can’t recall how many days of struggle I continued in before the grip had been broken. All I know is that I was spending more time reading Christian literature and waking up clear-minded in the morning remembering what I had read. God works in his own timing.

God has certainly changed my life and brought new meaning and purpose. It’s been twenty years now and I cannot thank him enough for his grace and forgiveness. My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28. After I gave my life to Christ, I immediately felt I had wasted my earlier years. I had spent 54 years serving my shallow desires and worldly lifestyle. But Romans 8:28 suggested to me that all things, including my early years, work for good to those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. That verse helped me put my life in perspective. And indeed, God’s word is powerful. I’ve often said that the Bible should have a warning stamped on the front cover: “Caution, read at your own risk. This book will change your life!”

Isn’t this an amazing story of God’s grace and persistence in pursuing us? I love it! I hope you have been encouraged too. The Word of God is so powerful and His love is unstoppable!