Book Review: A Year with God—Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines
Publisher: HarperOne ISBN: 9780061768200
I have been a fan of Renovare and the ministry they are engaged in to help people to live the Christ-in-you life for a number of years now. A Year With God is another great tool in this ongoing ministry of the Renovare Group. The book is arranged in 365 daily readings grouped in reflective studies of eighteen spiritual disciplines including: The With-God Life, Prayer, Study, Confession, Worship, Service, Secrecy, Guidance, Meditation, Solitude, Fellowship, Fasting, Chastity, Submission, Sacrifice, Silence, Simplicity, and Celebration. The book is well annotated in the notes section and features a short list of recommended reading to accompany each discipline studied at the end of the book.
Each devotional reflection is a short page long and begins with a selected Scripture passage. Following the reading is a brief commentary reflection and application of the text. The devotion ends with a question or exercise prompting an action step. All in all, the format is succinct and directly to the point. Don’t let this fool you… succinct does not equal shallow and short doesn’t mean easy. As the title suggests, spending a year with God living out the spiritual disciplines, is not shallow or easy. The devotions are thought-provoking and challenging. If the participant engages in the reflections with the intent of allowing the Triune God to change them and mold them into the image of Jesus Christ, they will reap the benefit and fruit of their effort. Chris Webb, President of Renovare, writes the following words in the Forward of A Year with God:
If read quickly, these pages will yield a few nuggets of insight, perhaps some interesting quotes to share with friends at church, but little more. Absorbed slowly and thoughtfully, A Year with God will continue to bear fruit in your life long after the book itself has been placed back on the shelf.
I heartily agree with Webb’s insightful words. My family has been using A Life with God this year for our morning devotional time before heading on with our respective days. We allow for approximately thirty minutes of our morning together to reflect upon God’s word as a family. We are able to focus our thoughts on a particular reading with a specific theme over the course of 2-3 weeks (the length of study for each discipline). This is good for us; as each of us head off into different directions, we still carry with us a central idea that shapes us as individuals and as a family. In this respect the length of the reflections is just right. Also, I don’t think A Year with God is meant to be relegated to a single style of use (as I have described for my family). It would be great in a number of group settings and would be equally beneficial for individual use.
The one thing I don’t think this devotional book should be used for is a substitute for reading and study of the Bible and/or a substitute for prayer. This book is a supplement and a catalyst… to assume that it can be used in the place of regular Bible reading and prayer is to invite problem and difficulty. Used as in the spirit and design the book was intended will produce life-changing results as echoed by Chris Webb. I recommend it with highest marks.