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The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People Paperback – May 5, 2015
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The Life You've Always Wanted by popular pastor and bestselling author John Ortberg reveals the God you've longed to encounter: a Father head-over-heals in love with you and committed to your highest joy.
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Still Ortberg is great and the material is the best I know to introduce people to spiritual practices as training tools to allow God to transform people toward to maturity.
I just don't know whether I would advise anyone to try to use the DVD and participant's guide "as is" for a 6 week small group curriculum.
Ortberg has a totally different approach, which had a very different impact on my life. Instead of telling us to work harder, pray more, get up earlier, etc, he shows us how to view the daily activities in our own lives as spiritual disciplines. He explains that the phase of one's life is no excuse for not growing spiritually. For example, a mother of small children might not be able to schedule large amounts of solitude and quiet time, but rather can learn to see her daily tasks as the "discipline of the mundane".
The most ordinary situations of our lives contain spiritual activities. Reading this book made me feel more hopeful, because it did not equate spiritual growth with the ability to spend countless hours in solitary prayer, rather it describes how to train ourselves to use our own life circumstances as a path to maturity. The measure of a spiritual discipline is not how many chapters of the Bible you read, or how many hours you kneeled, but how much you grew in love.
In his letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle Paul outlines the objectives of his Church ministry in celebratory yet nonetheless sacrificial terms. He writes: 'He [Jesus] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me' (Colossians 1:28-29 NIV). Paul's labour and cautionary tone challenge us today. Do we, as professed Christians (followers of Christ) strive for maturity (in Greek, teleios which means fully grown or having reached a goal or end) in Christ using all the strength God provides? Or are we merely rambling, perhaps disappointingly, along a path that hinders spiritual progress? I think most of us would wish--optimistically--for growth. But what if our discipleship journey is devastatingly distorted and off track?
Senior Pastor John Ortberg's, The life you've always wanted: Spiritual disciplines for ordinary people [expanded edition] describes, illustrates and explains Christian discipleship in contemporary, total-life encompassing terms. This is a crucial, urgent issue because if we cannot or do not know and experience transformation at the core, the risk is we will settle for being just informed or conformed (pp. 30-31).
* The transformation of the human personality through the Gospel is really is possible. It's never easy or frequently quick but we can see it happening in people sometimes (p. 9).
* Spiritual growth means wanting to live increasingly as Jesus would if he were in our unique place (p. 14).
* Adopting spiritual disciplines requires focused, purposeful training. Simply trying hard (even very hard) will not help us 'do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit' (pp. 43, 50).
* Joy is at the heart of God's plan for human beings (p. 61). Celebration exercises our ability to see and feel goodness in and through God's gifts.
* An unhurried, uncluttered life is the basis for a loving, patient, spiritual life (p. 83).
* We must discipline ourselves (learn how) to pray. While Biblical prayer may be 'impertinent', 'persistent', 'shameless', and 'indecorous' (p. 95), it's also relational (with/to God) and a spiritual progress-marker, for '... where there is much prayer, there's much love' (p.106).
* In place of pride, Jesus invites us to a life of humility (p. 111). Humility is the freedom to stop trying to be what we are not (p. 112).
* Confession--when done wisely--helps us in our transformation (p. 130). Confession involves: preparation, self-examination, perception (we're to see our sin through the eyes of those we've sinned against), investigation, a new feeling (entering into the pain of the people we've hurt and God's pain over sin), and acknowledging and accepting God's healing grace (pp. 130-138).
* When we listen to God, we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit (p. 140). But, guidance only makes sense for people who are resolved to respond by seeking the kingdom of God first and foremost (p. 152).
* Receiving praise gracefully requires a well-ordered heart. It means loving the right thing in the right way to the right degree with the right kind of love (p. 166).
* Meditation on Scripture helps us learn how to live in the kingdom of God here and now (p. 181).
* Disciples must develop a 'rule of life' (pp. 200-201) along the lines of Colossians 3:17: 'And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (NIV). In other words, do everything as Jesus would do if he were in your place.
*Endurance is the gift we can offer. Our spiritual transformation is based, in part, in learning how to respond to and benefit from life's trials both small and large.
The book is organised into 13 chapters with a complete list of sources and a chapter-by-chapter study guide for use in small-group meetings and, I've found, personal study. There is a subtle and deliberate progression of ideas within chapters and across the book, as a whole, such that Chapter 12 (Life with a well-ordered heart: Developing your own 'rule of life') and Chapter 13 (A life of endurance: The experience of suffering), make better sense based on knowing and understanding what comes before. This is, of course, only to be expected in good, well-ordered, priestly (in the sense of presenting and professing the goodness and greatness of God; see 1 Peter 2:9) writing.
The life you've always wanted is about spiritual growth/formation along strong Biblical lines for ordinary people on earth. Essentially, this is a matter of building a deep, personal relationship with God. Although John Ortberg's wisdom and guidance may cover familiar ground to those who've read other discipleship books and related curricula, I think he's successful in showing that God cares for us and that His kingdom is attainable under the right circumstances. Importantly, Ortberg isn't prescriptive about which spiritual disciplines we should practice. Rather, it's up to us to identify those barriers that prevent us from getting closer to God and overcoming them through immediate, purposive action. We can start off slowly and small (say, praying just five minutes a day if prayer is not a part of what we do) but ultimately we need to arrive at a wide, all-encompassing vision: viewing and appreciating every moment, potentially, as an opportunity to by guided by God in(to) his way of living (p. 54).
Second, the book mentions the ministry of bearing each other's burdens (p. 124) as a cure for self-centredness. This is more, we're taught, than simply tolerating difficult people. Ortberg says we must learn to hear God speaking through them. This is purification and truth operating at a deep level.
Third, when it comes to reading the Bible (something I do everyday with varying levels--I have to admit--of concentration and purpose) for transformation, the suggestion is to meditate on a short passage or story only. The goal, put brilliantly, is not to get through Scripture but to get Scripture through us (p. 188). I must remember and practice that!
I recommend The life you've always wanted as an instructive, entertaining and meaningful tool.