Cover Image: A Habit Called Faith

A Habit Called Faith

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In "A Habit Called Faith", Jen Pollock Michel offers a 40-day devotional to developing what she refers to as the habit of faith. I enjoyed that she leaned heavily on both the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy and John, specifically) to illustrate the points she was making. Each day's devotional was easy to read and included study questions. Also interspersed throughout the book were testimonies of international believers and how they came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

This would be a good devotional book for anyone looking to develop their faith. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
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An excellent study to go through if you're looking to reestablish a habit of daily Bible reading, or as a new believer, or any time!

The first 20 days Michel spends in Deuteronomy (that famous place where people abandon their Bible-in-a-year plans), and the second 20 in John. So you really get to examine who God is and what He says about Himself and His people in scripture. Interspersed throughout are mini biographies of believers who in some way came to belief by practicing the habit of faith.

She's made it very adaptable so there is one chapter of scripture a day but if you find that too daunting she gives some focus verses within the chapter. There are also a devotional and two contemplation questions each day. She handily provides a suggested eight-week schedule for groups, including a whole section of group discussion questions in the back.

If you're looking for a good guided general study, this is a solid option.
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Or maybe it's the longing for real faith that acts like a lure. Maybe it's impossible to pretend that we're not hungry for a word from God. Even if we've kept to our forty-day commitment, we can easily despair when our engagement with the Bible produces little visible results-when it doesn't make us instantaneously more loving, less anxious, more joyful, less fearful. Are we doing it wrong if it doesn't microwave us into saints? The payoff of reading Scripture is not usually found in the occasional epiphanies, when God thunders with an unmistakable word. The blessing is in the habit. Habits reap rewards-but the kind of rewards that require patience to notice, then measure.

I actually finished this one way back so I had to refresh. Habits good and bad can make us more productive or habits can make us lazy. I see that in myself. I am trying to be more intentional in my good habits because they do not come easily for me. And usually the habits we form, we do not see the good or bad until its to late. Our habits reflect the goodness of God in the way we live life. The book is not behavior modification but a rediscovery of faith.

Jen's writing is very conversational and relatable to the struggles of faith. It is a great resource to remember the strength of faith in a fallen world.

A special thank you to Baker Books and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.
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Don't just think your way to faith. Practice it. This is the crux of this book about spiritual formation via the practice of faith. Practice it regularly enough until it becomes a habit. This is the way of faith. For repetition is one of the most proven ways to cultivate memory. What better way than to use 40-days as a memory forming benchmark. The use of "40 days" has been well-documented in both Scriptures as well as popular literature. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Stephen the first martyr told the story of Moses in three 40-year segments. Rick Warren's famous book about purpose-driven was based on 40 days on intentional purpose forming. Written like a devotional, there are 40 days of exercises with daily readings, Bible verses, the author's reflections, and two questions. Designed more for individual and to some extent for group use, the key advice the author gives to any reader is to simply finish the book. The fruit is sweetest if this is practiced to the fullest. Michel divides the book into two parts. The first 20 days are based on the book of Deuteronomy while the other 20 days are reflections on the gospel of John. Interspersed every five days are testimonies of faith from different people. Mark Lawrence talks about his habits of church attendance and Sunday School. Ian Cusson's experience of Church is very much liturgical. In spite of his indigenous background of the pains of residential schools, he aims to be a bridge between "indigeneity and Christianity." Shannon Galvan shares about the habit of going to Church. Kevin Feiyu Li shares about his conversion to Christianity through small groups and how he learned that Christianity is more relationship rather than responsibilities. Mika Edmondson talks about how his early years in Church didn't impact him much until he meets a preacher named Prophet Morris. When young, Premi Suresh did everything expected of a pious Catholic. From attending TED Talks and abandoning Facebook, she started reading the New Testament regularly and that changed her life. Kim Demchuk grew up in a United Church in Canada, she shared her struggles as a young child in tumultuous family life. At a healing service, she was transformed from a nominal believer to a passionate one. Deborah Smith shares her story of deliverance from drug addiction, and how Christianity played a big role in her revival. Darius Rackus describes his spiritual search as beginning from the series of studies from Christianity Explored. Through the regular gatherings and discussions, he encounters the Bible in a way that increases his faith. 

My Thoughts
The main thesis is that just as practice makes perfect, faith can be deepened through practice. Equating it "by virtue of repetitive motion," constant practice will enable believers to strengthen their faith. I remember after graduating from my undergraduate studies, some of my peers were complaining that what they had studied in school was not practical at all. My response was it is never a waste because education is less about the content but more about the cultivation of the mind. It helps one to grow as a person. As far as faith matters are concerned, some people might critique the methodology as a kind of indoctrination. I would caution anyone from jumping to this conclusion. Fact is, there is a far bigger and deeper challenge: That of a stubborn human heart that is resistant to change. The Bible calls it pride or hardened hearts. Time and again, the LORD gave Israel opportunities to repent. They didn't. Knowing full well the human propensity to be restless, the first commandment is a call to keep the LORD God as the One True God and no other. Faith in God is essentially about keeping God as #1 always. The practice of keeping God first is never indoctrination. It is faithfulness to God who had proven Himself to be immensely faithful to us when we are not! The Bible has many instances of the importance of meditating on the Word. It is a spiritual practice to enable the Word to penetrate the stubborn hearts of humans. This book helps us do just that, without heavy theological jargon. 

In an age where faith is increasingly being challenged and questioned, many believers need a sense of assurance about hope and the importance of keeping the faith. The steps put forth made the spiritual devotions practical. The testimonies shared help make it personal. Jen Pollock Michel helps make it available to us for cultivating faith. Like following a doctor's prescription, I would urge readers to follow the 40-days plan as closely as possible. Trust Michel as a spiritual guide. More importantly, let God speak. Faith is not faith if it can be perfectly proven or totally visible. There are things that we still do not fully comprehend. Even if we think we can, our level of comprehension can never compare to God. In the end, faith is simply what it is: Faith. Remembering how volatile our emotions are and how restless our souls can be, we need something to anchor such restlessness from running after all kinds of idols. Faith in God is the key to anchor our spiritual sanity. This book gives us a way to do just that.

Jen Pollock Michel is the award-winning author of Teach Us to Want, Keeping Place, and Surprised by Paradox. She holds a BA in French from Wheaton College and an MA in literature from Northwestern University. An American living in Toronto, Jen is a wife and mother of five. She is the lead editor for Imprint magazine, published by Grace Centre for the Arts, and host of the Englewood Review of Books podcast.  

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

conrade
This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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The format (a Bible verse, a personal story, then a Q & A section) is one many have used, but it usually ends up being pretty light on content, a Hallmark-y inspiration book. Michel goes much deeper with her personal stories, communicating ideas that go beyond usual Sunday School material and will appeal to educated adults who didn't grow up in church.
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I read this book over the course of Lent and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the focus on Scripture and making it a part of your daily life, not just as a box to be ticked but as an introspective examination.
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This book is a great Lenten resource as it is broken into daily sections of reading. I appreciate Michel's personal stories as well as offering reflection questions.
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With so little time available in the average day for faith formation, I want to be diligent and focused–no fooling around on rabbit trails or trivialities. The believers I most admire (from historical figures like Blaise Pascal to book mentors like Elisabeth Elliot) stress the importance of establishing habits of holiness, so when I learned that Jen Pollock Michel had written a book titled A Habit Called Faith: 40 Days in the Bible to Find and Follow Jesus, she had my immediate attention.

Michel argues that habit is not equivalent to empty ritual–a message that could be considered controversial in a culture that decries “going through the motions” in favor of something more “spontaneous” or “authentic.” Making a practice of our faith, showing up in the presence of God, opening the pages of scripture by faith can be a powerful routine, and Jen offers a forty-day trellis upon which the habit of faith may grow.

A reading schedule that travels through most of Deuteronomy and the entire gospel of John is supported by brief chapters offering background, clarification, parallel passages, and the author’s own unique insights. It’s a good beginning, and if your own habit today has been to forget God and to live disconnected from his truth, this book may offer you a turning point for continuing the good work God has begun in you.

Many thanks to Baker Books and Net Galley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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Jen Polluck Michel is a great writer; she's poetic, and inviting. This 40 day devotional is designed to help you build a habit of faith, by digging deep into the Word every day for...40 days. Each devotional is a blend of story and teaching that ushers you through the books of Deuteronomy and the Gospel of John, with reflection questions at the end of each, and a collection of group discussion questions at the end. This is an excellent resource for the Lenten season, but could be used anytime.  Often devotionals are story-driven, but if you are looking for something with more "meat," this one could be for you.

*Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.
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This is a beautiful book of 40 daily readings which is suitable for individual or group study. Our daily lives are full of habits but what if we were to intentionally grow a habit pattern of digging deeper into God and growing our faith? What if we were to court the habit of praying more or reading our bibles more? Jen takes us through New and Old Testament passages and uses them to teach us how to apply them as a habit in our spiritual lives in a relatable way. I highly recommend it.
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This was a nice book with good ideas but it didn't blow me away. I didn't feel the concepts were particularly fresh but it was really well written.
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