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40 Days with the Holy Spirit: Fresh Air for Every Day Paperback – February 1, 2015
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Breathe… Pray … Practice … Learn … Lead … Build … Blossom
Levison chooses passages that are both well-known for the presence of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost, for example), as well as passages in which it can be inferred that the Holy Spirit is at work.
For me, this balance of passages was one of the most interesting aspects of the book: I came to faith in a more charismatic community and now worship in a more meditative community. I was encouraged to find a Holy Spirit book that deals with both the wind whispers and the dramatic fire of the Spirit’s presence in different situations. This balance also provides an inspiring growth edge for people of either worship style.
Make sure to get your hands on these two excellent books before Pentecost to add wind and fire to your journey with the Holy Spirit! —Alexis Cruza, Building Faith
Jack Levison’s new book 40 Days With the Holy Spirit is filled with insights about the Holy Spirit. The book is divided into several brief meditations on the Spirit — and the language the Scriptures use to speak of the Spirit’s role.
And, in reading this new book, I came across a insight about the passage above that was new to me. I am quite familiar with the passage that reads: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Some scholars call this the Johannine Pentecost — the Gospel of John’s way of speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the Christian believers. More traditional believers have had some difficulty reconciling this bestowal of the Holy Spirit with the later event of Pentecost — wondering when the Spirit really came upon the first disciples of Jesus.
But, I had never looked closely at the language used here. The typical translation “he breathed on them” (understandably) tones down the language. It really says: “he breathed into them and said….” Levison writes:
But translators usually avoid the appalling intimacy of inbreathing by saying Jesus “breathed on them,” in the way, I suppose, we might breathe on our glasses or a mirror before cleaning them with a rag. This is a mistake.
Indeed it is. Looking at the passage more closely, I discovered that the language here is quite interesting — just as Levison says. When I looked up the verb used in verse 22 for “breathed” I discovered that it was ?μφυσ?ω — a word that means “to blow or breathe into, inflate” [Mounce Greek Dictionary]. Levison writes:
Breathing into someone is more intimate, more intense, more indiscreet than breathing on could ever be.
And, he also cites places in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures (called the Septuagint or LXX) were this verb ?μφυσ?ω appears. It appears in Genesis 2:7 where it speaks of God breathing life into the first human being: ?νεφ?σησεν ε?ς τ? πρ?σωπον α?το? πνο?ν ζω?ς (“breathed into his face the breath of life“). It appears again in 1 Kings 17:17-24 when the prophet Elijah lays on the widow’s dead son, face to face, and breathes life back into him. In the Septuagint it reads κα? ?νεφ?σησεν τ? παιδαρ?? τρ?ς (“and he breathed into the boy three times“). It appears in Ezekiel 37:9-10 when, in the prophet’s vision, the Spirit of God enters into the dry bones to bring them back to life: ?μφ?σησον ε?ς το?ς νεκρο?ς το?τους (“breathe into these corpses“). Levison writes:
In each case, Spirit-breath enters into a body to bring it to life. Adam, once dust, now pulses with life. The widow’s son, once dead, comes alive, turning a mother’s bereavement to delight and praise. Israel, once a hopeless heap of bleached bones, turns not a nation looking to its future. And, finally, in a private upper room, it occurs again. This time, Jesus gives to his friends the newfound authority of the Spirit, to forgive or not — but not from arms length. The very personal act of inbreathing turns into a fresh call for his frightened and timid friends.
That is a remarkable new insight into that passage of Scripture that I must confess, I hadn’t looked at it that closely before.
This insight is found already in Day 6 of Levison’s 40 Days With the Holy Spirit. I am looking forward to many more insights to come. The book is well adapted for use by individuals in personal study or by church study groups. It might be a good thing to read during the 40 days of Lent. —Craig L. Adams
Jack’s book is designed to do that: 40 days. Stories, good Bible study, and a prayer at the end of each short chapter.
Gathered around seven verbs and these verbs organize the themes of the book:
breathing, praying, practicing, learning, leading, building, and blossoming.
This is a devotional … by a world class Bible scholar… and he’s not pandering to anyone’s theology … and he opens the Bible and lets the Spirit turn chaos into order. —Scot McKnight
For the large majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is the third person (hypostasis) of the Trinity: the "Triune God" manifested as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each person itself being God. The New Testament includes over 90 references to the Holy Spirit. All three Synoptic Gospels proclaim blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles. In the Johannine writings, three separate terms, "Holy Spirit", "Spirit of Truth", and "Paraclete" are used. The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew and the Nicene Creed state that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary". The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove during his baptism, and in his Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his departure. The theology of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology. "40 Days with the Holy Spirit" will inspire you to encounter God in fresh and surprising ways. You'll develop stronger spiritual muscles as you breathe, read, reflect, and pray -- all with an eye to cultivating a relationship with the least familiar member of the Trinity. "40 Days with the Holy Spirit" is interactive, offering the opportunity to write and pray each day; intelligent, rooted in a rigorous study of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation; and inviting, with 40 insightful, well-planned 20-30 minute daily exercises; and prayerful, with 40 original prayers that capture each day's insight into the deep, spiritual work of the Holy Spirit. "40 Days with the Holy Spirit" is very highly recommended to the attention of all Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted that "40 Days with the Holy Spirit" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95). —Midwest Book Review
“40 Days with the Holy Spirit opens a door for all seekers, religious and irreligious, to experience ‘God’s Spirit-breath within.’ This is more than a must read-its food for busy and hungry hearts.”—Dr. Michael Rakes, Pastor at Winston Salem First
Christians are people of the Spirit. Since the day of Pentecost, we have acknowledged that the Spirit of God plays a central role in the Christian faith. It is true that the Holy Spirit seems marginalized in the creeds, and great effort has been undertaken by church authorities to keep the Spirit under wraps, but without the Spirit Christianity is simply a gathering of dry bones. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit stands as a reminder that we are not alone in our journey through life. God is with us, breathing divine life into our human lives.
Levison uses seven verbs—Breathing, Praying, Practicing, Learning, Leading, Building, Blossoming—to organize the forty meditations, with the final meditation set apart under the moniker "Looking Ahead." Levison points out that there is a sequencing to this layout, leading “from deep within to the world outside” (p. xvii). We start with our inner life and gradually move outward into the world. Due to his desire that we finish the course set before us, he offers us directions – first plan out when you will engage the book, find an appropriate place (I don’t think my choice of my desk chair is what he had in mind, but it worked), have a pen (I used pencil), and finally notice the patterns that develop in your spiritual life. Oh, and patience—if you miss a day, he says, don’t worry, just come back when you can. The point is keeping on with the journey.
Forty days is often linked to Lent, and this makes for an excellent Lenten devotional exercise. It is, as I said, how I read it. That said, it can be used productively at any time of the year. It should prove valuable at any time that one wishes to devote forty days to a journey with the Spirit. In the course of the forty days you will have the opportunity to be engaged the Holy Spirit and learn of the Spirit’s practices and teachings. Because the Spirit is so often linked to Pentecostalism, many Christians are leery about exploring the Spirit and the Spirit’s blessings. With this in mind Levison is an excellent guide to a life in the Spirit that is often quiet in its expression, but which will lead to a deeper encounter with God. As he notes the journey moves from deep within to the world outside. It is a call to grow in faith and practice. It is an experience worth embracing, and I found it a deeply enriching and rewarding experience, which meant that I completed the journey. —Robert Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey
Levison, who teaches Old Testament at Perkins School of Theology, has made a career of studying Spirit in scripture. He puts his significant learning in accessible form in this book intended for use as inspirational reading over a 40-day period, which could be used for Lent or any time of year. Whenever they think of Spirit, Christians are inclined to think of Pentecost, baptismal liturgy, gifts of the Spirit—or noisy charismatics. Levison shows that there is so much more about the Spirit that can enrich our thinking about the God who is Spirit. The Spirit is involved in the biblical story from the outset: in the first creation story in Genesis it was the Spirit who brooded over the primordial chaos. It is God’s spirit that gives each person breath. The simple prayers Levison offers at the end of each day’s reading are themselves worthy of meditation. —The Christian Century
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.
40 Days with 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:
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.
—Luke Geraty, Think Theology
What might happen in our lives and our congregations if we gave more attention to the Holy Spirit? Jack Levison has been asking that question for many years as a scholar and teacher. In fact, few biblical scholars have given as much attention to the Holy Spirit as Levison who teaches biblical Hebrew at Perkins School of Theology. This is not a scholarly book, though it is grounded in a wealth of scholarship. This is a book designed to guide readers into greater understanding of the Holy Spirit. As the author puts it, “It’s intended to prompt you to reflect at your own pace and to absorb, slowly and deliberately, the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, your community of faith and the world.” Within the biblical universe the Spirit is the One who gives power to sustain faith, courage to face fears and conviction to speak boldly. This same Spirit is alive now. This book of 40 daily devotions is designed to be a practice that will both increase your learning about the Spirit but more importantly expand your experience of the Spirit. Read—meditate—reflect—breathe—pray. This is the pattern of the book; it’s a pattern that leads inward, outward and back again. What might happen in our lives and our congregations if we gave more attention to the Holy Spirit? Find out. —Roy W. Howard, The Presbyterian Outlook
Jack Levison studies, meditates, prays and writes of the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives with more skill and understanding than anyone I know. —Eugene Peterson, from the foreword
"Jack Levison's new devotional will guide you into the theme of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, aiming for spiritual formation, not just spiritual information. My favorite part: the simple prayers at the end of each reading. A beautiful, accessible, and soul-nourishing resource!" —Brian D. McLaren, Author of We Make the Road by Walking