The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

God’s Love Letters to You: A 40-Day Devotional Experience

It’s a while since I read anything by Larry Crabb, and then it was more in the realm of his renowned writings on counselling. So I didn’t quite know what to expect when I received a copy of this little devotional book for review. God’s Love Letters to You is described as “A 40 Day Devotional Experience” and is a collection of selected passages from another book , 66 Love Letters, a book which I was not previously aware of and so have no knowledge of.

The format of the book is that for each of 40 days, Crabb takes a book of the Bible, in canonical order, highlights a key verse (though not always drawn from the book in question, for some strange reason) and then offers a short devotional thought. This is followed by some pointers for reflection and a short, suggested prayer. It’s an interesting approach to devotions but it leaves me with some concerns.

1. I personally don’t like the way the comments are written in the first person singular, beginning with the phrase, “God says”. Some of the devotionals are also entitled with a statement directly attributed to God, such as ‘Come to my feast of love’ and ‘Beneath your doubt, you long for me’. However accurate the application of a text may be, in this sort of context and format I don’t think it’s helpful, and it could even be dangerous and misleading, to ascribe divine origin to the thoughts shared by the human author. This is not inspired biblical text we are being encouraged to reflect on but a writer’s insights.

2. In each of the 40 chapters, the impression is given that the key verse and title somehow summarise the Bible book being reflected on, and the simple fact is that they don’t. It would have been better to simply have 40 texts rather than head each chapter with a Bible book, such as “Day Twenty: Malachi”. If the devotional passage is meant to reflect the heartbeat of the Bible book in question, never mind the key verse, the fact is that they often don’t.

3. Sometimes, the application of a verse is simply misleading. For example, on day 27, the key verse chosen from 1 Corinthians is the NKJV rendering of 15:51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” The first line of the devotional says, “God says: The change I bring about somes slowly.” completely misapplying the biblical text.

4. Perhaps an even bigger danger of this style of devotional is that it encourages the individual reader to believe that the Bible is all about me and Jesus. Now I know that it is partly about me and Jesus but it’s much, much more about Jesus as the King who is working out the eternal, preordained and sovereign plan of God to bring everything in the universe, me included, into willing submission to his rule. However, Crabb appears to turn every biblical text he handles into a personal counselling application.

Even in a short selection of 40 devotionals there’s a great deal of repetitive thought and covering of very similar ground. If you’re looking for a devotional guide, I would steer you away from this and towards something more biblically robust and spiritually nourishing, such as Don Carson’s two volumes of For the Love of God.

For the purpose of review, I received a complimentary copy of the book from the Publishers. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

Thomas Nelson (7 April 2011) Review written in 2011

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