John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines For Ordinary People, Zondervan, 2009.
Pastor Ortberg tells this story:
“A friend who had just started attending church asked a wonderful question about the role of knowledge in spiritual transformation. “Now, as I understand it, one reason people devote so much time to listening to preaching and teaching is to be able to understand the Bible better, right?” he asked.
“And the reason to be able to understand the Bible better is . . .?”
It’s a question worth asking. John Ortberg continues to suggest that you look at someone whose knowledge of the Bible is ten times greater than the average unchurched person and consider this: is the person with a greater Bible knowledge also ten times more loving, ten times more patient, or ten times more joyful?
When it comes to reading the Bible, it’s not how much you read, but how.
Ouch! I found these words both convicting and liberating. I’ve never been happy with “Read the Bible in a Year” programs. Nothing wrong with these programs. The issue was how I approached them. I get so competitive with a “conquer the miles” mentality. So many days I would exemplify the person James describes in James 1 by looking into the mirror of God’s word, do my bit to please God and man, and then turn away, promptly forgetting what I read. I admit, I would even do math problems as I read, calculating the percentage of the Bible I had read so far that year. Even reading one Psalm a day left me speculating on the date I should reach Psalm 150.
Why? Why was I in such a hurry? Did I think God was going to remove a few stars in my crown if I didn’t reach the end of Psalms by Nov 5, 2013 at 9:05 in the morning? Isn’t God far more interested in what I DO with His word than how much I read?
That’s just a sampling of the gems I found in my most recent read, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. The author takes a new approach to this thing called spiritual disciplines. For years, spiritual disciplines are often seen as the externals we do in our Christian walk that are earmarks of our faith: Bible reading, prayer, fasting, church attendance or Christian service. The problem with spiritual disciplines is that people often stay at the externals, not willing to go any further in their faith. If you attend church regularly, read your Bible ten minutes a day and spend as much time praying, you’re good to go. John Ortberg pushes the reader beyond the external to the internal attitude, to the art of living our faith on the everyday level.
He covers such spiritual disciplines as joy, slowing down, prayer, seeking purity and humility, appropriating God’s word to the everyday details of our lives, and doing everything we do, everything, in the name of Jesus which means doing it like we think Jesus would do it.
I appreciate Ortberg’s humility and transparency in this book. He isn’t afraid to tell stories on himself. He’s just a fellow traveler on the same journey as I am and he shares his wisdom learned from the mistakes he has made. Ironic how I’ve had so many of the same misconceptions about my faith and my walk with my Lord. Ortberg is also practical in his approach. He gives solid suggestions of how I can order my life around Jesus today, from the moment I awake to a new morning.
What do you want out of life? What do you REALLY want? As you seek after Jesus, centering your life around Him, disciplining your attitudes and taking your thoughts captive to become more like Him, a wonderful thing happens, Ortberg says. You find that’s what you wanted in the first place. You find that you really do want to know that the Lord is God, you aren’t Him, and He’s in control.
I want to read this book a second time! I want to gather a group of people together to study the principles found in this book, a group who will hold each other accountable to keep pursuing that transformed life that we all want but that we have to put some resolve into the attainment of it.
If you long to weave your faith in Christ into the inner workings of your everyday life, this book is a great guide on how to go about it.
From the back cover: The heart of Christianity is transformation—a relationship with God that impacts not just our “spiritual lives,” but every aspect of living. John Ortberg calls readers back to the dynamic heartbeat of Christianity—God’s power to bring change and growth—and reveals both the how and why of transformation.