I think I could sit at a table talking about the Holy Spirit with Dr. Jack Levison for hours. The way that he thinks and writes is ever engaging and many of the questions and concerns he poses go on to raise countless hours of reflection. Those of you who are into pneumatology will likely know of Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith and Filled with the Spirit, not to mention a few of his other books. As the W. J. A. Power Chair of Old Testament Interpretation and Biblical Hebrew at Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University), Dr. Levison is a well respected authority of pneumatology, the study of the Holy Spirit.
Jack’s latest book is 40 Days with the Holy Spirit: Fresh Air for Every Day (I’m going to refer to the author as “Jack” rather than his last name simply because I think this fits with the type of book we’re looking at; this is not a sign of disrespect!). The publisher states that this new devotional “inspires daily, fresh and surprising encounters with God.” Eugene Peterson writes that this new book “is conspicuous for its lively, down-to-earth conversation.”
I think these two statements are quite accurate. Jack had me when he writes:
“Whenever I write about other topics, I itch to get back to the Holy Spirit. Whenever I’m asked to teach in churches, I teach about the Holy Spirit. Whenever I blog, I tend to blog about the Holy Spirit. Whenever I find my mind wandering, it’s usually in the realm of the Holy Spirit.”
Seriously. I’d love to sit and have a beverage of his choice and talk about the Spirit. You had me at “whenever,” Jack… you had me at “whenever.”
The author breaks the forty day devotional into seven sections, identified by seven verbs: breathing, praying, practicing, learning, leading, building, and blossoming. In the introduction, Jack states that “there is a sequence to these verbs” and that “they lead from deep within to the world outside.” After providing a compelling reason for a forty day devotional and an explanation for these seven verbs, Jack provides some great advice for those looking to spend the next 40 days intentionally focusing on relating to the Holy Spirit.
Critically reviewing a book like 40 Days is somewhat challenging because any constructive pushback one would have tends to be related to style or format or perhaps even thematic proportionality. Yet each of these issues would largely be one of preference and the reviewer would have to say something like, “Were I to have written this book, I’d have…” One cannot expect a book to be what it is not. And what makes “reviewing” 40 Days especially challenging is the simple fact that, quite frankly, I love this book.
So for the remainder of this review, I would like to provide several reasons why I think you should purchase a copy and get everyone you know to purchase a copy.
First, 40 Day with the Holy Spirit is a perfect devotional blend of biblical, theological, and practical reflection. Jack’s forty readings are rich with an integrated approach that provides us with a balanced emphasis on what Scripture says, what it means, and how it can be both applied and experienced. 40 Days is obviously written by a student of Scripture with rich theological insights who cares deeply about how these insights might be of service to the Church.
Second… my oh my is 40 Days readable! It’s full of what I take to be Jack’s personality on paper. Readers, both women and men as well as young and old, will easily connect with the sheer humanity found within. Jack’s devotionals give simple snapshots that point to his hunger for more of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work, including in his personal life and his life with others. You almost have to force yourself to not read further than each day’s devotional because they are written so well.
Third, 40 Days is ecumenical and catholic. I suggest that this book is ecumenical because I am convinced that Christians from many different traditions could and would benefit from reading it. Those who identify with the Charismatic movement and those from outside of it will both benefit. High church and low church; traditional and contemporary. Jack writes in a way that even Catholics and Protestants can easily benefit from despite knowing that each of these traditions have differences. Furthermore, 40 Days maintains catholicity in that it flows out of the Great Tradition, fleshing out the pneumatology of the ecumenical (and catholic!) creeds such as the Chalcedonies or Athanasian. 40 Days is trinitarian and written to flesh out the reality of the Holy Spirit being God, how we experience and encounter God, and the agent by which God works in our lives (to use “economic” terms famous in systematics).
Fourth, I love the format of reading a text, meditating upon a devotional, writing a reflection (there’s actually room on each page to do so), and then praying a prayer directed to the Spirit. Did I mention that I love this? As one who identifies with the Vineyard tradition, which is somewhat known for praying, “Come, Holy Spirit,” the format and direction of the devotional is familiar.
And while 40 Days is certainly ecumenical and can’t be pigeon holed by a “charismatic” or “non-charismatic” label, I would like to suggest that those of us who identify with (p)entecostalism or the (c)harismatic movement will have a rich resource to within 40 Pages. Jack may not consider himself a Pentecostal but this devotional assumes the reality of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people. Furthermore, Jack maintains a balanced approach to the natural and supernatural which those of us in the Vineyard might call the “now and not yet.”
All in all, 40 Days is highly recommended. You will not be disappointed as you engage with the Spirit over the course of forty days. You’ll deepen your awareness of the Spirit’s presence, thicken your understanding of Scripture, find helpful practical ways to consider a variety of related topics, and experience some life-giving encounters with the living God. I fully intend to now go through this with my wife and children over the summer.
If you’d like to read an excerpt of this excellent resource, click here!
Get 30% off of the book!
Paraclete Press, the publisher of 40 Days with the holy Spirit has graciously agreed to offer our readers 30% off of the book if you order directly from the Paraclete website. The code to use is: SC40Days
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Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.