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Book Review: The Year of Living Like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do by Ed Dobson

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When Ed Dobson heard a radio interview with A.J. Jacobs, author of the bestselling The Year of Living Biblically, he was inspired. Touched by the dedication of someone whom isn’t a believer digging into the Word and literally living it out sparked a desire to do the same thing in his own life – only this time with a New Testament perspective. The Year of Living Like Jesus – Ed planned on taking 'What Would Jesus Do' to a new level for one entire year – while living with ALS.

From January through December Dobson sets off on a course to examine Jesus’ life and to do his best to follow in His footsteps. Written in an accessible, personal diary format, Dobson chronicles his journey and his reflections. He vulnerably shares both his triumphs (few) and his shortcomings and all-too-human shortcomings (many).

As a relatively new believer it was actually comforting in a sense to read of another’s struggles to follow Jesus as Lord while living in the flesh. Jesus is perfect, we’re not, and thankfully Dobson explores the deeper aspects of heart attitudes and temptations rather than leaving things at growing a beard and celebrating Jewish holidays.

Of course, there is a certain amount of that. Dobson sets out to do some fasting, dress modestly, keep the Sabbath, and much more, while aiming to read through the Gospels each week in an effort to more fully understand Jesus’ life here on Earth. His focus on keeping the Old Testament laws might be disconcerting to some, but Dobson is clear in his writings that believers are saved through faith and not through any obligation to keep the Law.

There is a groundswell of interest in the Church to recover her Hebraic roots. Believers are seeking to understand Jesus’ life as a Jewish man, the cultural understandings which shaped His parables, the setting in which Jesus fulfilled His calling. If you’re interested in doing the same I recommend Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus over this work.

Dobson seeks to live like Jesus in a modern setting – instead of wearing a long robe and sandals, washing his feet when he arrives at work, he wears clothing similar to that of an Orthodox Jew. He seems to do little research into actual first century Judaism and refers to modern texts on Judaism, and the advice of a local Rabbi, Orthodox priest, and Roman catholic priest for advice on a range of spiritual issues. Both the included aspects of his written journey and the closing notes and bibliography prove this out. Being admittedly inspired by The Year of Living Biblically, I was expecting a more literal adherence to first century practices in this regard.

Oddly while he neglects some of the ‘easier’ topics he could have addressed during his “Jesus Year”, Dobson veers off into a strange journey of using ritual, repetitive prayers. Picking up the rosary, Orthodox prayer rope, and Episcopalian prayer beads, this new technique of praying stays with Dobson throughout most of his book. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what any of this had to do with living like Jesus apart from a tenuous connection to praying the scriptures. His preoccupation with the rosary was even somewhat disturbing to me, as Jesus never indicated that any believer should pray to anyone other than God.

After reading The Year of Living Like Jesus I feel like I know Ed Dobson in some small way. His transparent confessions and struggles with sin display a great deal of humility on his part to be able to share these tender parts of his life openly. As a slice of life spiritual memoir, it's a great read. However, if you’re looking for a good deep digging into first century Judaism, or a spiritual journey that is limited to scripture alone (sola scriptura), this likely isn’t the book for you.

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