Joy that Renews (Book Review)

  • Author: Steve Akerson
  • Publisher: River Birch Press
  • Available Now
  • Synopsis: Akerson’s 150 day devotional offers a meditation on one verse from each chapter in the book of Psalm.
  • Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author. Opinions expressed are my own.

Scripture Connection

Each daily devotional focuses on a single verse from the book of Psalms.

Format

Each chapter is just a page long, making for a light and quick reading experience. This is a good thing, because the author often invites the reader to imagine/bring to mind a specific scenario. Additionally, the author packs a lot of content into this short space.

Devotionals consist of a title (which is handy for if the reader feels led to explore a specific theme), the verse of the day and two sections of discussion. The first section is directed toward the reader, while the second section is Akerson’s personal commentary about how the Lord spoke to him about the verse in question (It reads a little bit like a typical prayer section, although it’s not addressed to God. Nonetheless, I think it does furnish an invitation to prayer).

Spiritual Themes

The devotional incorporates a number of themes, based on common ideas in the Psalms. Akerson highlights six central ideas, in the Introduction:

  • God’s goodness
  • God’s steadfast love and faithfulness
  • Living in freedom
  • Joy and praise
  • Being thankful
  • Hearing God’s voice

Each of these themes emerge multiple times throughout the book. I also remember a few passages about repentance.

What I Liked

While there are multiple themes listed above, I would say that the key themes (or at least the ideas that form the framework of the book), are God’s grace and love. This is such a refreshing message for a devotional, and reminded me of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling books.

I appreciated the centrality of Christ, throughout the devotional. Even though Psalms is in the Old Testament, the author consistently reads and comments through a Messianic lens, filtering all of Scripture through the beautiful reality of Jesus’ coming. I feel that this is an excellent contextualization, for the reader. And, it consistently points back to the One who matters most of all.

Joy that Renews is a book that overflows with hope, but it’s not a false hope. While each devotional makes it very clear that God loves His children, Akerson also acknowledges the hardship of life. Although God has the best for us, that does not mean that life will always go exactly as we please. However, Akerson emphasizes, we are called to praise God in everything.

My favorite passages were actually the ones on repentance, because they weren’t laden with the guilt I often find (or personally read into) such discussions. Instead, the author emphasizes the importance of confessing our sins to Jesus and moving forward. “He wants the practice of confession and repentance to lead you into more freedom and happiness,” Akerson writes.

I also feel that the messages about thanksgiving are so relevant!

Overall, I would describe the book as deeply encouraging.

Respectful Critique

The Introduction makes some very bold statements about what will happen as you read the book (i.e., “you will be refreshed in these ways”).

This is a style that I feel very uncomfortable with, because it makes assumptions about what God will do. The truth is, God DID use this book for me and I think it may be a handy tool for me to continue to reference as I feel led. I just wish the author hadn’t made such assurances, or had said something like, “my prayer is that…”

I also would have liked to have seen additional Scripture references, within the daily devotional commentaries. While I do feel that the arguments were Scriptural, I would have liked to see a bit more grounding, especially with very broad statements (such as “God wants only good for you,”) which would have benefited from clarification. When I look at the whole book, I feel that the author did demonstrate, wholistically, that God works for good in everything, but there were individual parts that could have been misinterpreted as almost a “prosperity gospel.” Nonetheless, the overall thrust of the book is clear.

Translation

Quite a few reviews mention the Bible translation (The Passion). Prior to reading this devotional, I was not well acquainted with the translation used. However, the author explains in the introduction that the Lord really spoke to him, through this particular translation.

I resonate with the idea that the Lord can use a new (to the reader) translation to bring new life to words that may seem meaningless in their familiarity. One of my main concerns, with Bible translation, is how genders are treated, and whether gendered passages are being rewritten to convey points that go against the original meaning of the text.

With that said, I will admit that some of the passages were difficult for me to recognize, and I’m not committed to wholeheartedly endorsing (nor dismissing) the translation. For this reason, I think that a reader could benefit from reading a familiar translation of the verse, alongside the verse in the book.

Recommendation Status

In light of the mixed feelings I had, this is a book I would recommend with reader discretion. I felt uncomfortable with the wording of the introduction and I would have liked to see more Scripture references, throughout.

At the same time, there was SO MUCH really strong content that the Lord used to minister to me. I also agreed, overall, with the themes/thrust of the book. There is so much to commend and I believe the Lord can use this book to bless many people!

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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