Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: God's Love Letters to You by Dr. Larry Crabb

Do you ever see the Bible as one 66-piece jumbled puzzle and wish you knew how each book fit together to tell one story? Psychologist, teacher, and best-selling author Larry Crabb did, and his 40-day devotional titled God’s Love Letters to You helps you to put the pieces of God’s Great Story together on your own. Each day introduces a new book of the Bible, its theme, a key verse, Crabb’s thoughts about what God is saying as he is communicating to us in the book, a few reflection questions, and a short prayer. I was intrigued to discover God’s Love Letters to You because I also want to better understand the big ideas of each book of the Bible, how they fit together, and be able to communicate the bigger story God has been weaving together since the beginning of time. While this simple devotional book has a few strengths, I believe it has more weaknesses, however.

Strengths of God’s Love Letters to You:

1- It’s a greatly condensed version of his previous book, 66 Love Letters, and it helps you to do an even speedier “fly over” the Bible to get the big picture. If you want something fast and simple, this may appeal to you.

2- Reflection questions help you to personalize scripture and see where your little story fits into God’s bigger story. Crabb is big on personalizing scripture and hearing how God is speaking to you through His word. I don’t disagree with that.

3- This devotional motivates you to spend 40 days thinking about the bigger story God is telling and applying it to your life.

Weaknesses of God’s Love Letters to You:

1- It does not cover all 66 books of the Bible, which was the goal of 66 Love Letters.

2- This truly is a companion to 66 Love Letters (or at least it should be) and should not stand on its own. If it were supposed to be used independently, it would have been helpful to include more from the prologue from 66 Love Letters to understand the context and the goal of the study. It is far too simplified and exploratory in nature. While Crabb writes from the perspective of being more of a seeker than a scholar, this devotional guide would be much more helpful and meaningful if it included several corresponding scriptures to read and reflect, as well as historical information for each letter.

3- God’s Love Letters to You takes a different approach of surveying the scriptures quickly in 40 days. While this may appeal to some, God’s Love Letters to You, if not used with 66 Love Letters (and a Bible), is a weak substitute.

4- Crabb’s approach in both God’s Love Letters to You and 66 Love Letters is not my favorite. While it is meaningful to hear how Crabb summarizes each book of the Bible, he does this by writing as if God is talking directly to you in the first person. This is helpful in one sense to hear how he personally applies the message to his life, but I found this continual conversational style annoying. It was also weakened by the lack of scholarly scriptural, historical, and cultural references that would further point readers to the ultimate goal of seeing how God’s story transcends time, is tied together, and while applies personally, also applies corporately to all of God’s people as a whole.

5-The big ideas in God’s Love Letters to You do not correspond to those presented in 66 Love Letters. This is confusing.

6-I wish Crabb would have offered a “So What?” section at the end of his devotional to help guide seekers who are desiring to understand more of how the Bible fits together and how to apply it to life. This would be helpful for people who want to know reliable resources for Bible study and where to go next in their application of God’s Word.

Here’s my recommendation: Read God’s Love Letters to You for a brief overview of the Bible and then let it springboard you into spending more time in God’s book. Dwell there. Dig in deeper and spend more time in the actual Word of God rather than just merely stopping short with Crabb’s insights. God’s own words are the real and best thing that will ultimately bring us all life and hope.

Disclaimer: These are my honest opinions and I don’t get paid to give them, but I did get a free copy of God’s Love Letters to You to review as a part of the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program. Thanks, Thomas Nelson, and I do look forward to reading and reviewing more of your publications in the future.

1 comment:

Tiffany Nevil said...

I've never heard of either of these books by Crabb, but I'm glad to see your recommendation! I will have to add the original 66 book to my list...:D