of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the
LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. They are more precious
than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than
honey from the comb.”
Psalm 19: 8, 10
by Sarah Young, and other similar books by her, have multiplied
themselves into a publishing empire with offerings of Jesus
books for teens and for children, calendars, special editions,
accompanying journals, a Jesus
Calling Bible Storybook,
and even a Jesus
Calling Devotional Bible.
is not a conventional review of the book or her story, nor is the
purpose to analyze the whole content. Although several troubling
areas are addressed, this paper is a response primarily to two
1) The claims made by Young regarding what she wrote and the
alleged words spoken to her by Jesus; and
2) Young’s admission that
a primary influence on her was the book, God
by “Two Listeners.” Due to Young’s admiration for and admitted
inspiration from this latter book, it will also be examined.
Word – Enough Nourishment?
offers daily devotions composed of words as though spoken by Jesus,
with accompanying citation of verses. Before looking at the content,
it is crucial to examine what claims Young is making about the source
of these words: why she wrote this and how she wrote it.
the introduction to her first book, Jesus
Young writes, “I
knew that God communicated with me in the Bible, but I yearned for
Why would God’s word be seen as insufficient in delivering the
spiritual nourishment God Himself claims it offers?
Young’s yearning “for
with how the Bible portrays God’s word. In response to one of
Satan’s temptations, we have Jesus quoting Deut. 8:3:
He answered, "It is written: Man must not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
First Peter, we read, “As
newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that
by it you may grow unto salvation” (1
Pet 2:2; also see 1 Cor. 3:2, Heb.5:14). Paul exhorted Timothy to be
with the words of the faith and of the good teaching which you have
(1 Tim 4:6).
back to the Old Testament, we see God’s words likened to food:
your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight.
sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey
to my mouth!
he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and
fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet
in my mouth.
Ezekiel 3:3 (see also Rev. 10:9, 10)
of the Bible’s themes is the power of God’s word to comfort,
exhort, encourage, and nourish those who have believed. One can never
come to an end of studying or knowing the Bible because, reflecting
God’s nature, his word is infinitely profound and wise.
is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and
training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly
equipped for every good work”
(2 Tim. 3:16, 17; see also Ps. 19:8;10; Matt. 22:29; John 10:35; Acts
17:11; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
someone is not satisfied with God’s word as the way to grow closer
to Christ and to grow as a Christian, that opens the door for
extra-biblical avenues of deception. While it is true that prayer,
fellowship with other Christians, and worship are necessary for
maturing in the Christian life, these are additional and different
venues, never substitutes for God’s word. Dissatisfaction with
God’s word from a professing Christian should be a warning, and it
did indeed lead Young into an avenue of communication fraught with
Jesus or Channeling Jesus?
the pattern in God
and seeking something beyond Scripture, Young decided “to
listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He
She determined that this message was “short,
biblical, and appropriate,”
so she wrote it in her journal.iii
Declaring that her journaling “had
changed from monologue to dialogue,”
she writes that “messages
began to flow more freely”
and she bought a special notebook in which to record these words.iv
that she might be charged with equating these messages with the
Bible, she notes, “I
knew that these writings were not inspired as Scripture is.”v
One is compelled to ask, why not? Are these words from Jesus or not?
(Young uses the term “God” but the book titles use the word
“Jesus” and the messages are made to sound like they are from
Jesus). In her book, Dear
she claims she wrote
the same listening-to-God mode that I used with Jesus Calling. I’ve
continued to write with the help of Christs’s Spirit, who guides my
thinking while I listen in His Presence. I believe the Bible is the
only infallible Word of God. My writings are based on that absolute
standard, and I try to ensure they are consistent with Scripture.vi
is blatantly asserting that the Holy Spirit is “helping”
her and guiding her thinking in writing these messages from Jesus. So
why does she need to “ensure
they are consistent with Scripture?”
If the writings need to be checked, why does she think it is Jesus
who is speaking, and if there is doubt, why record the words,
especially in books to sell? Moreover, if they are from Jesus, which
is how they are presented, then, by definition, they are inspired.
can’t have it both ways or halfway or every which-way, saying these
words are from Jesus but need to be checked; they are from Jesus but
are not inspired; or the messages are written with Holy Spirit
guidance but not on a par with Scripture. Does Young not see the
incredible claims being made and the resulting insoluble
contradictory problem? Apparently not.
someone formerly involved in the New Age, I am bound to say that
listening for a message from a supernatural being in order to write
down words heard from or dictated by this being is a form of
automatic writing, an occult practice. There is no other fitting term
for this. If Young had confined this method to herself, it would be a
matter between her and God. However, marketing these messages, which
are written as though spoken by Jesus, places the book(s) in a public
forum, and obligates Christians to examine Young’s claims and the
purported messages from Jesus.
major red flag is Young’s positive acknowledgement of the book God
which she asserts became a “treasure”
to her. Writing about the two women who authored this work, Young
women practiced waiting quietly in God’s Presence, pencils and
papers in hand, recording the messages they received from Him.”vii
Young’s fondness for this book and use of it as inspiration for her
communication mode with God is deeply disconcerting when one examines
the history, method, and content of this “treasure.”
CALL FOR DISCERNMENT
first encountered God
as a very new believer while browsing in a Christian bookstore.
Curious, I picked it up and saw it was a devotional for each day of
the year. Reading through several of these, I was alarmed at some of
the concepts and ideas because many were reminiscent of New Age
views. Although at that point I did not know the Bible very well, I
recognized statements I knew were not compatible with what I had read
in the Bible and knew of God. I almost went to the clerk about my
concerns, but being such a new Christian, I was not confident enough
to say anything.
daily devotions in God
written as though God/Jesus is speaking, came about in 1932 when two
anonymous women decided
sit down with pencils and paper and wait to hear words from God.viii
The claim is made in the foreword by editor A. J. Russell that these
two women received messages “from
the Living Christ Himself.”ix
listener, writing in the introduction, declares how grateful they
were to receive this direct communication “when
millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from
the Bible, sermons, their churches, books, and other sources.”x
Here again, as with Young, is the dissatisfaction with God’s word
and the normal channels of guidance for a Christian. The listener
states that this book “is
no ordinary book,”
thereby claiming a special status for it. In fact, the Jesus of this
book affirms it in the May 15 reading:
are very privileged, both of you. I share My plans and secrets with
you and make known to you My Purposes, while so many have to grope
the rest of the Christian world is left to “grope
with the implied paucity of God’s revelation in the Bible? This is
James Russell, editor of God
became a follower of Dr. Frank Buchman, who founded the Oxford Group,
first started under another name in 1921, but taking the name of
Oxford Group in 1931.xi
Meeting in groups, this movement emphasized fellowship and receiving
direct guidance from God.xii
writes that “I
learned that it was a practice of the Group to keep a guidance-book
and record in it those thoughts which came in periods of quiet
listening to God,”
Guidance must come in all those who surrender to God’s will. As Ken
Twitchell announced the Quiet Time the undergraduates fumbled for
pencils and guidance-books and began to “listen in” to God. This
was not simple meditation, which may be concentration on some aspect
of Christ or the Gospel, but something more.xiii
Russell writes that criteria were used to measure this “guidance,”
some of the criteria were quite subjective. Continually seeking
guidance in this fashion, which is no different from automatic
writing, is opening the door to false doctrine.
the “two listeners” were followers of this method and undoubtedly
part of the Oxford Group. So it is not surprising that so many
unbiblical statements are made. For example, one that is repeated a
few times and is one of the most egregious is this:
I said to My Disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you,
but ye cannot bear them now." But to you, and the twos who
gather to hear Me as you do, I can declare those things now,
that then I left unsaid.
statement is being used as though Jesus was referring to people later
on, like the two listeners and others, who would receive further
revelation. However, Jesus is not saying that. Jesus is speaking to
his disciples and makes it clear in the next verse what this means:
still have many things to tell you, but you can't bear them now.
the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For
He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He
will also declare to you what is to come.
John 16: 12, 13
was referring to when the disciples would receive the indwelling Holy
Spirit at Pentecost and the further teachings through Scripture.xiv
To turn this into an endorsement of listening and writing down what
one senses coming from God is mangling the text. This is the type of
Scripture twisting done by cults. Other examples of Scripture
twisting pepper the book.xv
noted New Thought concepts embedded in God
although I did not find anything online that critiques the book from
this viewpoint. This explains why the book struck me as New Age when
I first looked through it.
Thought, a movement in the 19th
centuries, claimed to be Christianity but actually taught that all
men are innately divine, Jesus was just another man who realized
this, and that the way to true wisdom was to realize this truth and
change one’s perceptions. Man is naturally connected to God, and by
affirming these new truths, one’s thinking is changed, thereby
bringing one’s spiritual status (consciousness) to an alleged
While referring to Jesus and acknowledging the biblical story, New
Thought imbues the biblical text with entirely different meanings.
The New Age adopted the core of New Thought as yet another facet of
its massive corpus and so the two often overlap.
noticed in entries for (but not limited to) Feb. 27, March 10 and 13,
June 19, July 29, Aug. 18, and Nov. 17 include
“material manifestation,” “Spirit-life,”
“Spirit-communication,” “Spirit-Kingdom,” “the material
plane,” “Sprit Sounds,” “spirit understanding,”
This language is used in New Thought and the New Age, denoting a
Gnostic-based spirit-material duality. Even taking into account when
this book was written, these terms are not Christian and never have
been, and some are used in Spiritualism (although one reading
ironically condemns Spiritualism).xvii
least one blatant Spiritualist reading is found:
often mortals rush to earthly friends who can serve them in so
limited a way, when the friends who are freed from the limitations of
humanity can serve them so much better, understand better, protect
better, plan better, and even plead better their cause with Me.xviii
freed from the limitation of humanity”
are the dead. This piercing glint of Spiritualism is further
suggestion of New Thought influence, since the two were so
intertwined at the time.
God is a servant to men, a tool for manifesting their joy and
happiness, as it is in New Thought. The April 3rd
devotion has God saying, “I,
who could command a universe – I await the commands of my
This idea is also in the Jan. 28 piece.
March 16, God declares,
am actually at the center of every man’s being, but distracted with
the things of the sense-life, he finds Me not.
concept, emphasizing the innate divinity of man as well as the
spirit-material duality, is New Thought. It is more apparent in the
you realize your high privilege, you have only to think and
immediately the object of your thought is called into being.
dwell in thought on the material, when once you live in Me – is to
call it into being.”
other words, once your mind is turned onto the New Thought
wavelength, which is awareness of one’s divine nature, you can
manifest into reality that which you are thinking. This is exactly
the same message given by the bestselling book and DVD, The
This popular work teaches that one can produce what one thinks
through certain techniques and is derived directly from New Thought
teachings. (Many early New Thought teachers are quoted, and author
Rhonda Byrne crafted this work as a result of reading New Thought
teacher Wallace Wattles.)
this New Thought ability to manifest applies to “the
as well, so one must take care in how one thinks. This is the concept
that gave rise to the “positive thinking” craze (“spiritual
is an authentic Spiritualist and New Thought term):
you must be careful only to think of and desire that which will help,
not hinder, your spiritual growth. The same law operates too on the
Thought terms for God, such as “Divine
(used more than once; this is a term used in Christian Science for
Force,” “Divine Voice,” and “Divine Spirit” are
found throughout the book, including Jan. 31, Feb. 9, Feb. 15, Aug.
17, Sept. 29, Dec. 18 and elsewhere. “Divine
is found in the Sept. 5 entry – would Jesus even use such a word,
which describes a form of sorcery? The Feb. 9th
reading is brief and has a striking New Thought ring:
Divine Voice is not always expressed in words. It is made known as a
chillingly, an unsound view of the atonement is found in the Jan. 14
I died on the Cross, I died embodying all the human self……As you
too kill self, you gain the overwhelming power I released for a
wearying world….it is not life and its difficulties you have to
conquer, only the self in you.
self in New Thought is the false self springing from the false
perception that man is separate from God. The New Thought Jesus came
and died so that this false perception could be destroyed, enabling
man to have the correct perception of his True Self, which is divine.
Salvation comes not from faith in Christ, but as you “kill
the false self. Note that this Jesus says his death “released”
a power. This is a New Thought metaphysical view of Jesus’ death,
which released a power (similar to Agnes Sanford’s belief, who
exhibited New Thought thinking throughout her life).xx
odd command (though not odd for New Thought) is given for Sept. 5 in
words reminiscent of New Age bestseller Conversations
by Neale Donald Walsch:
ever higher, rise to Life and Beauty, Knowledge and Power. Higher and
J. Russell was deeply involved with the Oxford Group at a time when
New Thought influence was strong. What I read in the book, in my
view, echoes New Thought beliefs in the tone, language, and ideas.
GOD CALLING TO JESUS CALLING
is much more material that indicts God
but enough has been given to make a point. The point is that since
this book inspired Young and gave Young her method of “hearing”
from Jesus, and because Young considers this book to be such a
then Young’s discernment must be questioned. She used the same
method and model for her other books.
content of Jesus
is almost numbingly repetitive, boring even. The term “My Presence”
saturates almost every page. “Jesus” also says some strange
things, like this:
Me to open your eyes so that you can find me everywhere…[…]...this
is not some sort of escape from reality; it is tuning into the
I am far more Real than the world you can see, hear and touch.
Jesus is real, does he need to be “more
there such a thing as “more
Does He need to be the “ultimate
Is not being the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Lamb slain for our
Jesus says, according to Young:
part is to be attentive to my messages, in whatever form they come.
When you set out to find Me in a day, you discover that the world is
vibrantly alive with My Presence. You can find Me not only in beauty
and birdcalls, but also in tragedy and faces filled with grief.
are meant here, and what kind of “form”
might they take? “Whatever
raises troubling questions: does Jesus give messages in multiple
venues that we need to watch for and then figure out somehow? More
crucially, how do we know the messages are from Jesus?
other part is similar to panentheism – finding Jesus as part of
creation. I do not find Jesus in birdcalls or in tragedy. Beauty may
point one to Jesus and tragedy may cause one to turn to Him, but He
is not in those things.xxi
are numerous passages where Young’s Jesus tells the reader to go within to hear and know Jesus, such as:
am central to your innermost being. Your mind goes off in tangents
from its holy Center from time to time….the quickest way to
redirect your mind to me is to whisper My Name. (Aug.
above is similar to Eastern meditation concepts, especially the “holy
comment. This is not a biblical concept. Equally alarmingly we read:
Me control your mind. The mind is the most restless, unruly part of
mankind..[…]…I risked all by granting you freedom to think for
thinking and the mind is a tactic of the New Age and Eastern
spiritualities, about which I steadily warn. While it is true we can
think evil thoughts and it is true our minds can lead us astray, this
statement goes further than anything in Scripture. Our mind and
ability to think, unlike animals, is part of how we are made in the
image of God. Moreover, many scriptural passages exhort people to
think and reason.
does God/Jesus ever take a risk? This would imply that God does not
know the future and/or has no control over things. To risk is to take
action without being sure of the results. This stunningly leads to
the conclusion that God is not omniscient.
is used at least three times (Jan. 18, Jan. 27, June 16). This is a
curious phrase since it has many secular meanings but no real
to walk on the high road with Me, for it is the most direct route to
heaven. The low road is circuitous: twisting and turning in agonizing
point is to trust, but how is trust (assuming that this is what the
“high road” refers to) the “most
direct route to heaven?” Even
if a Christian is on the “low
will she not get to heaven as well? If a road is the “most
it means there are other roads to heaven that are less direct. This
ambiguous term and rather confusing statement is not an idea found in
is an excessive focus on silence and stillness found in so many
readings that it would be impossible to list them all, implying that
these are superior spiritual practices. As in numerous other texts,
sermons, and online websites, Psalm 46:10 is misused. Psalm 46:10,
translated as “Be
in some versions is “Cease
in the New American Standard, and is actually a rebuke to the nations
fighting against God’s people. When read in context, it is quite
clear that this has nothing to do with being physically still in
order to meditate or contemplate.xxii
most important question to ask about this book is: Is this Jesus
speaking, as Young claims it is? Aside from the troubling issues
mentioned, a few more are worth considering.
of the entries resemble bad greeting card messages with sappy
language. For instance, “Let
the dew of My Presence refresh your mind and heart”
(Sept. 3; this one also misuses the “Be still” words); “Feel
you face tingle as you bask in My Love-Light”
(Sept. 7); and “Like
a luminous veil of light, I hover over you and everything around you”
(Dec. 3). Considering who Jesus is and the rich language of
Scripture, why would He use such maudlin phrases?
other places, Young’s Jesus displays a martyr complex with a sly
tone of self-admiration. “Imagine,”
He says, speaking of Himself, “the
self-control required of a martyr who could free Himself at will!”
(Dec. 20). For Dec. 25, this Jesus says,
accepted the limitations of infancy under the most appalling
conditions --- a filthy stable. That was a dark night for Me.
statements do not reflect the character of Christ; Christ does not
seek our sympathy or thanks via self-pitying remarks.
the verses listed at the end of each day’s devotion, the words do
not sound like the Jesus of the Bible. Those who promote this book
will say that Young is not maintaining these words are from Jesus,
but as I demonstrated earlier, she is indeed doing this very thing.
There is no other reasonable way to interpret her claims. And when
one reads each entry written so unmistakably as though Jesus is
speaking, how else is one to take it? At the very least, it is
misleading and puts words in people’s heads that some may come to
believe are from Jesus.
answer to the question is: No, this is not Jesus who is “calling.”
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND RESEARCH
not imply an endorsement of nor agreement with websites listed)
information on the Oxford Group’s teachings, such as:
one sense Buchman did not care what a person believed, except for
atheism, as long as he listened to God, aimed at adherence to moral
standards, and thought his work was a good thing. The movement has
always been quite sincere in asking people to believe more intensely
in whatever religious convictions they already have and to be more
faithful in whatever religious duties their own traditions urged…” (online source)
Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004),
God Calling, ed. A. J. Russell (Eversham, UK: Arthur James
Ltd., 1989), “The Voice Divine” in Introduction (this edition
has no page numbers).
Ibid., “The Two Listeners.”
Ibid, “The Voice Divine.”
There are other serious problems with the teachings of the Oxford
Group, which developed in 1938 into Moral Re-Armament (MRA),
considered by some to be a cult; however, that is outside the scope
of this article. See Resources for further information.
For more examples and an analysis of this book, see Edmond C. Gruss,
“God Calling,” Christian Research Journal
New Thought was heavily influenced by Spiritualism and many New
Thought teachers openly spoke of communication with the “spirit
world” (the dead). So although one of the entries denounces
Spiritualism, that does not mean there is no influence from it.
This quote, which I could not find in my copy, is cited by Edmond C.
Gruss in his article “God Calling,” Christian Research