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on November 4, 2015
Ortberg's book takes a different look at spiritual disciplines and how using them can result in a more complete life. Discussing things like celebration, slowing, prayer, servanthood, confession, and more, Ortberg offers readers an opportunity to engage in spiritual disciplines in meangful ways. Often Christians are reluctant to engage in these disciplines because they have a perception that they are for the "super holy". Ortberg does a great job of breaking this mentality and offers real life examples of how an "ordinary person" could complete these disciplines. In my personal opinion, the book is worth whatever you pay for it for Chapter 5 on Slowing. However the entire book is well worth the price of it. It is in my top 5 most underlined books ever. You should pick it up!.
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on April 1, 2014
I know people like short (4-6 week) small group curriculum. But in my opinion this was not good material to cram into 6 weeks. It basically does two lessons each week. And even though they are paired well and fit together fairly nicely, it's just too much. I'm using it as a church curriculum/program over three months and I break it all up. I'm basically designing my own curriculum around the book and using these videos from the small group plan (and some of the questions from the Participants Guide) in a Sunday school class as little supplements. It works and I like the videos. But I end up with most only being about 5 minutes, which does feel a little choppy.
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.
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on August 7, 2016
I was assigned to read this book for my REL 105 class and I am so grateful. I loved the book. Refreshing. Enlightening. Helpful. Good Perspective on how to intentionally live every day from one's heart ... not before man (as if performing for acceptance + significance) but before God alone as one's friend. There is so much in this book to feast on.
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on March 29, 2000
The best book I read this year! Usually, I find that books or sermons on 'Spiritual Disciplines' cause a short-term spurt of motivation, followed by longer-term disillusionment. Eventually I feel guilty for not measuring up, and finally I ignore the issues.
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.
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on January 10, 2018
This is a great book am I am enjoying the read. Practical insights for taking you to the next levil of your relationship with the Lord.
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on September 17, 2012

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).

Main points

* 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).

In terms of usefulness, three of John's ideas and suggestions resonated strongly with me at my current stage of spiritual development and inquiry. First, as far as slowing is concerned, one piece of advice is to deliberately place ourselves in situations where we have to wait (p. 83). As recommended, I've tried waiting in the longest supermarket checkout line (with just three items in my basket) and I can truly say it's a simple yet powerful 'getting-back-on-track' experience. That said, I'm still not convinced, as a city dweller, that choosing to travel on slow, crowded buses and trains instead of driving the car is desirable or practicable. Let me see.

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.
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on September 13, 2017
Great book, great series. Bottom line meat and potatoes stuff anyone needs to work thru if your serious about living "The Life" you always wanted, but with faith firmly planted in it. Your selling yourself short if you think a few minutes a month for your faith walk/journey in Christ will get it done. It won't....Read it.
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on March 13, 2009
John Ortberg (2002), through his book, The Life You've Always Wanted, is attempting to answer the age old question, "how do I become Christ-like?" or as the once popular acronym once asked, "WWJD?" Rather than just accepting that salvation is the "minimal entrance requirement for getting into heaven" (Ortberg, p 29), the author contends that salvation is about living a glorious human life - now, on earth. He describes the process of becoming a person who lives victoriously and Christ-like as morphing, and describes the pre-morphed life as one of disappointment and guilt. Ortberg confesses his life disappointments which are common to most of us - desiring to be a better parent, spouse, and Christian. Rather than just trying to act like a better person or doing the right things, Ortberg suggest that the morphing process will make us want to do the right things and make us be a better person.
In making his assessment of the current state of the church, Ortberg (2002) quotes William Iverson who wrote: "A pound of meat would surely be affected by a quarter pound of salt." (p. 33.) He contends that Christians are not bringing about the changes in the world that Jesus spoke about and concludes that it is because very few people actually morph into the Chris-like beings we are instructed to become. Ortberg reveals that the reason Christians are not worth their salt in the earth, is that we have been trying instead of training. He points to the disciplines of studying the Bible, prayer, being joyful, and unhurried as training methods that must be practiced in daily life. He also includes a section on servant hood, and confession before he sums it all up with a discussion on the role of the Holy Spirit as He leads us into transformation. The book ends with a chapter on suffering which deals with coming to terms with unanswered prayers and persevering through our suffering.
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on December 31, 2010
I absolutely love this book. I've read it three times now and I'm sure I will reread it several more times. It's very engaging and enjoyable, but is also full of profound insights. If you're looking for strong discipleship material or a vehicle for spiritual growth, you will be very pleased with this work. It is set up for a Bible study group as well, having a section for each chapter with discussion questions, scripture readings, and suggestions for prayer or devotional activities.

Just be careful to look at the size of the book when you order. It was published in an inexpensive but very small size, with very small print. If you have a problem reading small print, don't order the standard hardcover. Be sure to order this large print edition.
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on January 2, 2016
From the first sentence, I identified personally with Ortberg. I felt as though he wrote from personal experience of my own life and struggles with spiritual disciplines, especially the last six months.

So, I don't have a single negative thing to say about this book. I'm biased, I admit it. But, I'd recommend this to any person who feels burdened by the guilt of 'failing' at spiritual discipline or who feels lost looking for ways to grow. This refreshing book is a map leading to practical, actually doable disciplines. It opens your eyes to the freedom that is found in Christ from burdensome spiritual transformation. It points the way to life enjoying Jesus, following Him as well as you can, and turning around to see that you've come farther than you ever thought possible.

He describes the life you've always wanted, and it really is.
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