19 October 2011

The "Jesus Calling" Devotional Bible

This past summer, I briefly reviewed the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. In that post, it was demonstrated that Young claims to have received her messages, her devotions, directly from God. From Young's own words, we saw that she admitted to practicing visualization, a mystical practice that is supported nowhere in Scripture. We examined her descriptive experiences with the "Presence of God," noting that even her own "conversion" story is wrought with warm mists and hug-like feelings, but is absolutely devoid of any mention of sin, conviction, repentance or full trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as a way of reminder, Young details her "conversion" story on Page vii of the Introduction:
"One night I found myself leaving the warmth of our cozy chalet to walk alone in the snowy mountains. I went into a deeply wooded area, feeling vulnerable and awed by cold, moonlit beauty. The air was crisp and dry, piercing to inhale. Suddenly I felt as if a warm mist enveloped me. I became aware of a lovely Presence, and my involuntary response was to whisper, "Sweet Jesus." This utterance was totally uncharacteristic of me, and I was shocked to hear myself speaking so tenderly to Jesus. As I pondered this brief communication, I realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to Him."
Several things jump out at me here. First of all, I did not know that Jesus was a warm mist. Intersting. Notice that shefeltthis supposed misty presence. Then, after muttering a blasphemous phrase that is common among unregenerates, she decided that she was converted. There is no talk of conviction or acknowledgment of sin, nothing of repentance, nothing of a crucified and risen Savior. In short, there is nothing indicative of a biblical conversion. Of course, I can make no unequivocal claim that Young is not actually saved, and that is not what I am doing here. But her account of her conversion, in combination with the presumptions and claims made in her book, are those of a confused believer at best, and a deceived unbeliever at worst. In either case, the Christian ought to either completely avoid Young's works (which would be my recommendation), or exercise extreme caution when reading, recognizing that her words are not the words of Jesus as she claims.

On page x of the introduction, Young describes how she practiced visualization when her family began to encounter spiritual warfare:
"One morning as I prayed, I visualized God protecting each of us. I pictured first our daughter, then our son, and then Steve encircled by God's protective Presence, which looked like a golden light. When I prayed for myself, I was suddenly enveloped in brilliant light and profound peace. I lost all sense of time as I experienced God's Presence in this powerful way."
Visualization is not a Christian practice. On the contrary, it is a practice of the occult. Nowhere does Scripture teach the Christian to pray by means of visualization, especially of "God's presence." Let Us Reason Ministries offers more detail:
Occult practices intangible images are brought into (physical reality) the material world, our 3rd dimension, by a number of ways. The attainment of this experiential knowledge (gnosis) leads to a self-realization . It has been said by occultists it lead's one to the mastery of spiritual technology and the attainment of psycho-spiritual powers.
The belief is that energy follows our thought. Our mind and thoughts produce energy, which begins to be birth in the spiritual realm first and then is reproduced in the natural. As the image we hold is incubated in thought it becomes birthed in the physical material world. Everything is first spiritual then physical. They claim this is how God created, he first had the image and then spoke it .This is clearly Christian Science and mind science also found in eastern ways of philosophy and metaphysical thought.
Mental imaging is a common practice in the occult. One holds an image in their mind and puts in the details like coloring in an outline. As they envision it each day, meditate on it becomes clearer and will come to pass. This technique is now used for healing traumas that are emotional, cancer and other diseases. One sees the cancer or disease being fought and conquered and essentially leaving.
What the new age is teaching is that one holds an image in their mind and goes in to experience it or uses it to change their reality. This is spiritual manipulation for power and healing. The Bible calls this sorcery, divination and vain imaginations.
We are told by some to visualize Jesus as we pray. When those into imagery and visualization believe that the "Jesus" being imaged in their mind is not just a image, but the real Jesus, even going so far as to dialogue and touch Him, then they have opened the door to counterfeit "spirit guides.' You might think you're focusing, on Jesus. You might have a real spiritual experience. But, when you create Jesus in your mind, He is not the historic Jesus of the Bible. He is The Jesus of your imagination, and the Bible warns about "another Jesus.' And many through these techniques have testified that the Jesus they encountered was not the resurrected Christ, but another Jesus, a counterfeit, "an angel of light"  impersonating the Jesus of the Bible. How can Jesus who is at the right hand of the father in heaven come down and make a personal appearance to each of us materially. If each of us visualize Jesus we would all probably have a different picture of what he looks like our minds. Which one has the right Jesus, the real one? None of us! We probably would make him into some image of the pictures we saw. (Online Source)
I have yet to find the passage in the Bible which describes one's conversion as a feeling of being enveloped by a warm mist. I am also searching in vain for the instance when Jesus taught His disciples how to experience Him through visualization. These things are not there. Why? Because they have no biblical basis and are, quite bluntly, occultic practices. Sarah Young may have heard from somebody, but she has not heard from God.

Young's story continues and becomes more disturbing:
"During that same year I began reading 'God Calling,' a devotional book written by two anonymous 'listeners.' These women practiced waiting quietly in God's Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him (page xi)." 
So here we learn that Sarah Young admits to being influenced by women who entered altered states of consciousness in order to "hear" from God. "Listening Prayer," also known as "contemplative prayer" or "centering prayer" is when one stills himself, both mind and body, empties his mind and waits quietly to "hear" from God.
Learning to hear the Lord’s voice isn’t complicated.  But it does require some discipline to find a quiet place and to allow some time just listening.  Perhaps the hardest part is clearing your mind.  With all the noise of life regularly cascading through your mind, it can be hard to hear God’s voice.  There’s no formula, but let me share a few principles that have worked for me:   

  • Set aside at least half an hour to start.  When you are ready, quiet yourself.  If stray thoughts come through your mind, write them down on a separate piece of paper.

  • Read some scripture.  Ask the Lord to speak to you through it in a way that you can understand.  Ask God to protect you in Jesus’ name from deception.

  • Then write down your question for prayer.  Pause.  This is where you wait and listen.  God may direct you to another passage of Scripture.  He may share a tender word. Whatever you feel he may be saying to you, write it down.

  • Ask him to confirm anything he shared with you.
  • (Online Source, emphasis mine)
    Tell me, if one is reading God's Word, and if one is allegedly waiting to hear from the God of the universe, why would that one need to ask that same God for protection from deception? Answer: because this is not how God speaks to us today. If you are waiting to "hear" from God outside of Scripture, then you are telling God that His Word is not enough for you. Moreover, you are opening yourself up to "hear" from deceptive and lying spirits. "If you want to hear from God, read your Bible. If you want to hear audibly from God, read your Bible out loud." (I believe that quote is from Justin Peters, but I don't have an online source for it).

    Though not included in the instructions above, oftentimes this type of so-called prayer involves repeating a word or phrase - a mantra - over and over again as a means of stilling and emptying the mind. This is the process of New Age or Eastern meditation. And, before someone argues that they're using the name of Jesus as their mantra, ask yourself: does tacking the word "Christian" onto the word "murder" make it sanctified and acceptable? An extreme example to be sure, but the logic is the same. Just because you call something "Christian" doesn't make it so, especially when the original practice is directly opposed to biblical Christianity! To that point, what does the Bible say about how we are to pray? How gracious of our Lord to offer us a clear teaching of how to pray!
    “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
    “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 
    Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
    Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:7-13)  
    (To further study how Jesus taught His disciples to pray, I suggest listening to the sermon series The Disciples' Prayer from John MacArthur)
    What is further described in the above quote of Young's is that these women, these "listeners" who influenced her, practiced automatic writing. What is automatic writing? Infinity Institute offers a definition from a New Age perspective:
    When we talk about automatic writing, we are talking about channeling. We are allowing information to come through our hand from the other side or from our own higher self. Although there may be no way to prove whether or not automatic writing is real, you will come to your own conclusions. At first it may be hard to understand how easy this process is, but being able to set your analytical side aside will help you to accept the wonderful tool that this can be in your life.
    With automatic writing you can access all the ideas, knowledge, and wisdom that is and ever will be known. It involves consciously shifting your mind and mental space in order to achieve an expanded state of consciousness that is called a trance. To achieve the Trance State to allow your guides in, you can use either a progressive relaxation or “trigger” technique. Triggers are very easy to develop. Remember that anything we do on a consistent basis becomes a habit. (Online Source)
    With the exception of places like Deuteronomy 18:10-14, where Scripture is condemning practices such as divination and contact with spirits, one cannot find any biblical basis for a "Christian" version of channeling - let alone allegedly channeling Jesus Himself! To suggest such a thing is an abomination and a lie. These "listeners" who wrote God Calling and who so heavily influenced Sarah Young were engaged in a practice of the occult. No doubt the Enemy has utilized a thin, "Christian" veneer over this deception in order to draw ungrounded believers into a dark, dangerous web of deception.

    So, why have I decided to revisit the topic of Jesus Calling? Because not too long ago, I was made aware of a new product lining the shelves of the "Christian" bookstores. That product is the Jesus Calling Devotional Bible. What an atrocity to think that the Word of God is resting alongside these  so-called personal messages from Jesus as penned by Sarah Young! How disgraceful to think that lies from the Great Deceiver are lining the same pages as the unfailing Word of God! A review as posted on Amazon reads as follows (emphasis mine):
    The devotional content will be the purchasing point for this Bible, and it is prevalent and poignant. Each devotional page insert features a portion of the text block, a written out prayer from an individual identified by a first name and a section of writing in the first person portraying God's voice selected from Sarah Young's writings. Some will read the content, and it will be like God speaking to them. Some will think, "that sounds just like Jesus." Some will think, "That sounds just like someone trying to sound like Jesus." Those with a critical mind but an open heart will make the most out of this devotional as they scrutinize and weigh the words in the balance of scripture and the witness of the Spirit, ready to receive and recognize the voice of the Lord. At its best, the devotional can lead someone into a dialogue with the Lord and with His Word, teaching them to recognize His voice. At its worst it could lead someone away from what the Lord is actually speaking to them. (Online Source)
    Some will think this is "like God speaking to them?" Only if they are reading the Scripture portions of this book! I can agree only with the last sentence of this paragraph, "At its worst it could lead someone away from what the Lord is actually speaking to them" and then I still must add to it, that these devotions will lead away from the true triune God and into a walk with a deceptive, lying, false "angel of light."

    It is my fear that, just as Jesus Calling was a runaway success, this newest "devotional Bible" will be resting in a brightly colored package under far too many Christmas trees of undiscerning Christians. If Scripture is not enough for you, then I suggest you take it up with God Himself. But do not allow yourself to be deceived into thinking that someone who once took an experiential nature walk is now hearing personally from the Lord Jesus Christ. If you desire true communion with God, engage in biblical prayer and then open His Word and read it, study it, and reflect upon it. God has not made Himself inaccessible. On the contrary, He has been gracious enough to grant us sufficient knowledge of Himself through His great Word, the Bible. How dare we shun such a great gift.
    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
    Jesus Calling
    Tim Challies Reviews "Jesus Calling"
    Jesus Calling: Um, Well, I Think He Did (from Apprising Ministries)
    What is Spiritual Formation (from Sola Sisters)


    1. This is what happens when people do not understand that God is holy and we must come to Him on His terms, not by our man-made methods. Occult practices and anything resembling them are an abdomination to the Lord and Christians must avoid them like the plague. We are called to a life of faith and that includes trusting that His promises as recorded in the Bible are true. We can take comfort trusting that He is with us because He says so in His word. We can pray as He has taught us to, knowing that because of Christ's work on our behalf, we can draw near to him knowing we are accepted by Him.

    2. Not Just Another ConsumerOctober 19, 2011 at 8:29 PM

      Thank you for posting this.

      A number of years ago, a very Godly wise man told me that, in his opinion, most (not all) of what Christian bookstores sold was garbage. I took what he said with a grain of salt....not anymore!

      Trash like this is unfortunately going to fly off the shelves. How sad that what most North American Christians have now become is simply another "demographic/marketing" group which means that any moron who supposedly has a "God experience" can write a book, throw in a couple of Scripture references, make it sound good, send it to a publisher and, if the publisher feels it will make money, then it goes into mass production. The publishers do no screening, no looking to see if what is being written lines up with Scripture, it's all driven by marketing, demographics and money -- sell, sell, sell!

      Recently, I went to a pre-screening for the movie, "Courageous". The organization spent almost half an hour after the movie was over making us all aware of the many, many "helpful" products we could buy that went along with the movie. They also wanted our names and addresses for future "updates" on other similar types of movies coming out. I provided them with NOTHING and was very aggravated by the whole thing. The movie was excellent, but the REAL reason and the money to come will be all of the "stuff" that will be sold (it's not cheap either!) long after the movie is finished it's run in theaters.

      I'm venting now, but it's the same idea. Christians have just become another demographic and Christian booksellers and media outlets are only too happy to take advantage of it.

      Here's a radical idea...why not produce the movie and then let the Holy Spirit (the only way true change is going to happen in the first place) work in the hearts and minds of those people who saw it. Oh yeah, that's right...there's no money in that.

      I'll finish now...thanks for the posting and the opportunity to reply.

    3. Dear Erin,

      Thanks for spotlighting "Jesus Calling". It is just a modern day version of "God Calling".

      Several women who are respected in women's ministry in varying churches suggested reading "God Calling", so I did. After completing the introduction page I was horrified by what I was reading. It was further horrifying to discover this book has been around since the 1930's. How? Who by ommission failed to soundly denounce this book?

      Well, not on my watch. I decided o write a review with my friend who also contends for the faith here http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=3764

      It is very exhausting, but thank you for continuing to shine light in the darkness.

      In Christ alone, Charisse Graves

    4. Well everyone is always entitled to their opinion so I will give mine. I have been using the Jesus calling devotional for almost a year. It has been a blessing to me. This devotional is that....a devotional. It is not intended nor was it ever intended to take the place of God's word. It is simply a woman's best attempt to describe her devotions and or her experiences and conversations with God. This is what she felt God was revealing to her through His word in a way that was applicable to her daily life.

    5. Anonymous,
      Indeed, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I thank you for sharing yours. It is important to understand that I do not speak against "Jesus Calling" simply because it does not suit my tastes. Rather, I speak against it because it is a direct attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.

      The words you used in your comment are extremely telling, and point precisely to why we ought to be concerned about "Jesus Calling" in the first place. You said, "It was a woman's attempt to describe...her experiences and conversations with God." I would add to that, it was Sarah Young's attempt to describe her experiences and "conversations" with God outside of the closed, holy word of Scripture. In the end, it doesn't matter what Sarah Young "thinks" she "felt" God revealing to her...what matters is what Scripture actually says.

      As Christians, we ought to be gravely concerned about anyone who utilizes the pagan practice of channeling, and this is exactly what Sarah Young has done. Hebrews 1 tells us that in the last days, God spoke to us through Jesus Christ - we have no need for additional revelation! And the Bible warns us more than once against adding to God's Word, and yet Sarah Young, with her claims to be hearing directly from God, has done just that. Why would we want to read even "just a devotional" that has been composed through a pagan, mystical practice of channeling false and lying spirits? Young may believe that she is having conversations with a god, but I fear it is not the God of the Bible, but rather the god of this world. I pray that you will take another look at this "devotional," and test it against Scripture.

    6. I have been a Christian for 40 years. I believe that Jesus Christ is my personal Lord & Savior and no man comes to the father but through Him. I believe that the Bible is the only book that I am supposed to follow in order to know God's word.
      I do not see anything wrong with this book. God is using her as a teacher like he uses thousands of Sunday school teachers. She tells you from the very beginning that this is from HER prayer journals. This is what she believes God has said to her.
      She gives you scripture to read each day. If you read those scriptures they make reference to what she believes she has heard from God.
      She does not tell you to follow her instead of the Bible. She is sharing her experience with God in an attempt to help others to come to know God.
      God wants us to have a RELATIONSHIP with Him. That is why He created us. He wants us to listen for His voice speaking to us. Otherwise, how do we know if we are doing what He wants us to do? God's plan is individual for each person. What is right for you is not the plan that God has for me and vice versa.
      Sometimes, He speaks to us through other Christians. If what those people are saying does not agree with the Bible then you should not listen to their counsel.
      This book is a tool to guide people to God and to His word, through the scriptures that she references on each page.
      I personally enjoy knowing that there is someone else out there who goes through the same daily struggles as I do. It helps me to know just because I am a Christian it is ok that I still struggle with issues, that other Christians ACT as if they no longer deal with and they believe I should not be dealing with after all these years.
      This book guides me to scriptures that help me through those particular struggles.
      There are times when I have been praying to God about a particular issue and I am struggling wanting to "hear" from Him, to know His will and plan. I want Him to "speak" to me. Then I open this book and it is like He did just "speak" to me. Because what she has written for that day answers that exact question. Then I read the referenced scripture (usually the entire chapter of the referenced scripture, so I am not taking it out of context to satisfy my own desires) and there is the answer supported by the Holy Word of God.
      How can that be bad? It is our job to help as many people as possible come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

    7. Anonymous,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Since this is quite an old post, I am not going to engage in too much discussion here, but I did want to address a couple of your comments.

      You said: "She is sharing her experience with God in an attempt to help others to come to know God."

      You have hit on one of the problems. Young is sharing her experience, not the objective truth of Scripture. And, even worse, her experience is one of extra-biblical revelation, which is forbidden by Scripture. The Word of God is sufficient. We do not need someone's subjective experience in order to "help others come to know God." We come to know God through His Word.

      You said: "He wants us to listen for His voice speaking to us."

      Are you listening for an audible voice from God? If so, I pray that you will search the Scriptures and discover why this is such a dangerous practice! God has spoken to us already, through Jesus Christ and His Word. We are not to be waiting for a voice from Heaven. If you want to hear from God, open your Bible and read it.

      I pray that you will consider the dangers of "Jesus Calling." The methods by which Sarah Young has supposedly received her revelation are gravely dangerous. Her misuse of Scripture is detrimental. Pray for discernment and wisdom, and be a good Berean.

      Blessings to you.

    8. Very interesting debate. I must say I fall on the side of Scripture. I always felt uncomfortable when I would read or someone would read to me out of Jesus Calling. Now I know why. Thanks.

    9. WOW! Really amazed by what you have written about this devotional book. I have been blessed by these devos and this is my second year for going through this book. It was of particular comfort to me last year as I was facing breast cancer.

      Your opinion is that....your opinion. Just like mine is mine. There are several women in my ladies classes at my church and we have all used this book - several times....many are on their 3rd or 4th go round....

      So, that being said, I have printed your opinion to share with my classes....it will be interesting to see what my friends say. I know that the ladies I worship with do not by any means worship the occult or those such things, I think we will all get a giggle or guffaw over your opinion and review.

      God Bless you as you continue to seek His will in your life.


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