I love the popular saying “This ain’t my first rodeo.” It’s often used to indicate that a person has more than a little experience in a particular area. In that sense, this ain’t my first book of devotionals. But unlike many such daily readings, GRACE NOTES goes beyond the simple “scripture/story” formula; it is more like spending time every day with a bright, insightful friend who can both challenge and encourage you. That is something I enjoy regularly, but not nearly enough.
The daily topics include everything from learning about prayer with street people in “Word on the Street” to Yancey challenging believers to lighten up in their reactions toward others in “Church Hypocrites.” He writes, “God is the ultimate judge of hypocrisy in the church, I decided; I would leave such judgment in God’s capable hands.” This also provides some encouragement to those who use hypocrisy as an excuse to stay away from church. As Yancey points out, just because we have imperfections in our families, we do not cease to be part of a family. One of the most significant needs of a Christian is fellowship with others. It’s the way we were created.
Perhaps because he began his career as a journalist, Yancey refers to himself as “a Pilgrim” --- not the kind we picture having Thanksgiving dinner with the Natives, but the kind that is traveling towards a destination. This is a good indicator that he possesses the humility that God requires of His believers. Regardless of the years he or she has been a Christian or the numbers of books he or she has written, a child of God does not place himself or herself above others or thinks that he or she has arrived at his or her destination. When reading GRACE NOTES, the author’s humility is obvious and causes the reader to be more open to his challenges and teachings.
For many believers and non-believers alike, the idea of “Grace” is a concept that is partially understood but often difficult to explain. Getting a clear understanding of Grace can be life-changing because it causes one to finally realize that God’s love is given freely and is not based upon who we are or how we perform. Yancey provides an excellent illustration of this concept when he writes, “In short, Jesus moved the emphasis from God’s holiness (exclusive) to God’s mercy (inclusive). Instead of the message ‘No undesirables allowed,’ he proclaimed, ‘In God’s kingdom there are no undesirables.’”
If you have a person in your life who is struggling with his or her faith or having trouble understanding the importance of his or her relationship with God, joining Philip Yancey on his Pilgrim’s journey could be exactly what is needed. GRACE NOTES is more than a five-minute read to satisfy your need for a “quiet time”; it will spark your conversations and move you to delve deeper into the wonderful plans of God. It will provide answers to questions that you might have about the Christian life and encourage you to continue your journey no matter how difficult it may seem. And what it won’t do is beat you over the head with legalism or condemn you with verses out of context. Personally, I believe that GRACE NOTES will become a classic to be enjoyed over and over through the generations.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on November 13, 2011