23/06/2006

The Life You've Always Wanted (by John Ortberg)

'The Life You've Always Wanted' is the first book I've read by John Ortberg (best known for 'If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat) and I found it enjoyable to read, inspiring and thought-provoking. It's the most straightforward book I have ever read on spiritual disciplines, written for ordinary Christians wanting to grow, without the need for guilt or pressure.

The author first looks at what discipline is - ie training for long-term benefits or goals, as in sports or learning to play a musical instrument. The results aren't things we can naturally do, and they won't be easy - otherwise we would not need to persevere and train. There are plenty of Biblical examples given, some of which use sporting analogies of the need to keep going, whatever we feel like, as we look towards Jesus. Ortberg also explains that our goals must depend on our circumstances, and that all our lives should be considered spiritual, not just certain things like Bible study or prayer. A mother with small children may need the discipline of patience, and spending time with her children whatever she feels like, with the goal of being a good mother.

Then several disciplines are outlined, with examples and anecdotes, occasional jokes for light relief, and strong Scriptural references. These are not 'proof-texts' but reference points for the practical suggestions given to aid us in our growth.

It's not really a book for one sitting, as there's a lot to think about. I read a chapter or two each day for a week, and found that about right. The style was easy to read without being at all condescending; the author's character came across clearly without being intrusive. All in all, highly recommended.

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