I love blogging, and recently I have started experiencing some of the unique benefits that blogging brings. One of these is the occasional free book. Of course in return, we bloggers are expected to showcase the book with a raving review, hopefully.
One of the first free books I received is Alone with God [Greenville, SC: Journey Forth/BJU Press, 2006] written by Jason Janz the site publisher of Sharper Iron. Don’t worry, the review is going to be good, because this book is both unique and exceptional.
If you are like me, you struggle with a good routine, not to mention consistency, in your devotions. And I’m sure you have experienced times when you read your Bible and pray and yet don’t feel like you really encountered God at all. Jason’s book was written with you and I in mind, so don’t worry there is hope!
Now I’m sure you are also aware that no book will prove to be the panacea for all of our spiritual maladies. No single book, short of the Bible, contains the cure-all for every spiritual problem. And as Jason admits, books written to help readers have meaningful times with God are a dime a dozen these days.
But Alone with God is different. It is not a devotional guide, nor is it a mystical, new age, “fresh” approach. Rather it is designed to be a book that both encourages us to press for a real and sustained relationship with God and gives us a practical approach or plan to make it happen. It is the combination of these two aims which make the book so unique and so valuable.
Now, nothing magical or brilliant is necessarily offered within its pages. Jason believes we should be reading the Bible and praying and that this will be the absolutely indispensable means for us to know and commune with God. But Jason (an assistant pastor for 10 years) also knows a little bit about how people tick. And so his book contains just the right mix of “preaching” and encouragement along with a do-able plan so that the average person will be empowered to consistently have a meaningful time “alone with God” each day.
The book is so helpful, because it was born out of Jason’s need to help himself. He faced his own struggles with consistency and vitality in devotions—faced them and won. Jason’s plan draws from his experience at beginning a disciplined work-out and exercise routine. He has found that planning out each step of what he is going to do was immensely helpful. Then he applied a similar approach to his personal time with God. The result is a simple and organized plan which frees a person to experience a deep and meaningful relationship with God.
The book is basically an explanation of his practical approach to planning out his quiet times with God. At times it seems to simple. In all it is only 148 pages (thirty or so from the appendix section). But who needs something complicated when it comes to revamping your walk with God?
This book challenged me about the seriousness and importance of time with God. But it also encouraged me and provided real hope. Jason doesn’t push for Bible reading or memorization so much as he pushes for encountering and knowing God through the Word. He claims, “We are not simply seeking facts about God; we are seeking to know Him personally.” This focus weaves its way throughout the book and is one of its greatest strengths. Jason also includes a very helpful chapter on meditation, a practice which modern Christians have all but abandoned. Jason also goes out of his way to dispel many myths which surround a daily time with God.
The book, as I said, is not much more than an explanation of the plan, and so you will want to know more about that plan. Again, like the book it is fairly simple, but it draws from insights from George Mueller and others (the book includes a fascinating four page excerpt written by Mueller describing his own habit of meditating and praying from Scripture). Jason has also given a timeline for his plan to be used in either a 20 or 30 minute session. The best thing about the plan is that it’s flexible and includes variety. It should keep you awake and also engaged in the Word and in prayer. What more could we ask? What follows below is my own explanation of Jason’s approach. [I keep using “Jason’s” rather than “Janz’s” because I think its easier. Hope you don’t mind, Jason.]
- Preparation — This step prepares your mind for time with God. It might be a brief prayer, worshipful song, or even a short reading form a Christian book or devotional.
- Confession — This step includes a time of searching one’s heart to confess known sin. It may even just be a time to look over a list of sins that the book provides and seriously examine whether they are present in your life. It allows you to get sin out of the way and dealt with before a more intimate time with God ensues.
- Revelation — This step is an intentional reading of the Bible with the goal of learning about God. It is the longer time of Bible reading that is included in the plan.
- Adoration — This step is where you praise God intentionally. You may praise Him for the things you just learned about Him in your reading. Also the book provides lists of the names of God for you to ponder. Jason encourages a song of praise or thanksgiving to be sung.
- Transformation — This step is an interactive reading of a passage of Scripture, primarily from Psalms or Proverbs. It is a time for reading slowly and praying back to God or meditating over and rejoicing in each line or thought that you read. This method will prove to be worth the time it takes to learn. This is when God is speaking to you and you to him in a very personal and transforming way.
- Communication — This step is for personal and intercessory prayer—praying for needs. It includes a time of casting your cares on God intentionally and may include a time of claiming one of God’s promises.
- Meditation — This step is where you actually write down what God has taught you and recording a verse or thought from your Bible readings which you will try to meditate on throughout the day.
- Application — This step includes more journalling. You are to write down what God has told you to do, or what you plan to change because of this time with God. You may also journal other insights during this time.
I would encourage you to get this book and read it. There is a companion journal available to purchase in conjunction with the book. Amazon even offers a deal when you buy both. The book certainly has helped put a fire in my heart again to really and truly know God personally each day. I want to be “alone with God”, and this book can help me actually do so by giving me a simple plan to aim for each day. With God’s help I intend to follow this plan for the remainder of this year (at least).
Before you go, you may be interested in reading Jason’s own review of his book. It includes his reasons for writing it.
This review is also available in pdf format at CrossFocusedReviews.com.