Home. Quotes Piquantes. Personal. Shorter Writings. My Books.

Book Review

Spiritual disciplines

I’ve never been a great fan of ‘how to’ Christian books. But not wanting to paint myself into a corner by my preferences I decided to give this one a go, in spite of its pretentious title, which presumes to know what we all want. It is  The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines For Ordinary People by John Ortberg (Zondervan, 1997, 2002. ISBN: 978-0-310-56589-5).   

Ortberg gives us well-written chapters on some topics we would expect in such a book, like prayer, confession, servanthood and Bible meditation, but adds other, less predictable, ones like celebration, slowing down, dealing with suffering, and ‘secrecy’. They are all thought-provoking and fresh in tone, with plenty of real-life illustrations to keep them relevant. And this ‘extended version’ of the book comes with a helpful Study Guide.

Maybe in my retirement I’ve taken the ‘slowing down’ lessons too seriously, because after reading the book I felt it was all a bit too ‘busy’ in its guidance and requirements, at least for me. I just wanted to put it aside and get on with following Jesus. But when it comes to books it’s ‘horses for courses’, so while the going in this one didn’t suit me well, it may be just what others have been looking for. So give it a try.


God is not interested in your “spiritual life.” God is just interested in your life. He intends to redeem it.  (p15)

This was the great irony of Jesus’ day: The “righteous” were more damaged by their righteousness than the sinners were by their sin. (p34)

I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul or the apostle John about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, “Am I growing in love for God and people?” The real issue is what kind of people we are becoming. (p39)

Spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely. (p43)

Many of us got the impression somewhere that for an activity to count as a spiritual discipline, it must be something we would rather not do. However, if we are in training for a life characterized by joy, peace, and affection, we should assume that some of the practices are going to be downright enjoyable. Many of us need to discover “disciplines” such as celebration that will regularly produce in us rivers of wonder and gratitude. (p46)

A disciplined person is someone who can do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit. (p50)

. Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for human beings. The reason for this is worth pondering awhile: Joy is at the heart of God himself. We will never understand the significance of joy in human life until we understand its importance to God. I suspect that most of us seriously underestimate God’s capacity for joy. (p61)

anger.” How often have people misunderstood God because they attributed to him the grim, judgmental, defensive, soul-wearying spirit of many who claim to be his followers? (p64)

Jesus urged his disciples to take time out. Following Jesus cannot be done at a sprint. If we want to follow someone, we can’t go faster than the one who is leading. (p79)

The most serious sign of hurry sickness is a diminished capacity to love. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is one thing hurried people don’t have. (p81)

What makes solitude so important? Solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us. (p84)

Prayer is learned behavior. Nobody is born an expert at it. (p96)

It may well be that when your mind wanders, it is wandering to what your heart most needs to speak with God about. (p102)

At the deepest level, pride is the choice to exclude both God and other people from their rightful place in our hearts. Jesus said that the essence of spiritual life is to love God and to love people. Pride destroys our capacity to love. (p110)

One of the hardest things in the world is to stop being the prodigal son without turning into the elder brother. (p113)

When Jesus came in the form of a servant, he was not disguising who God is. He was revealing who God is. (p115)

The ministry of bearing with one another is more than simply tolerating difficult people. It is also learning to hear God speak through them. It is learning to be “for” them. It is learning that the difficult person I have most to deal with is me. (p125)

sin is usually tied to some need or another. Indeed, sin is often the attempt to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. If we don’t address that need in appropriate ways, we will go right on sinning. (p134)

A key test to know whether we really want God’s guidance is to ask, How often do I seek God’s guidance when I’m not facing trouble or a difficult decision? (p148)

We are not the passive victim of others ’ opinions. Their opinions are powerless until we validate them. No one’s approval will affect us unless we grant it credibility and status. (p163)

that attempting to control the way others think of us is one of the primary uses we put words to in contemporary society. Human conversation is largely an endless attempt to convince others that we are more assertive or clever or gentle or successful than they might think if we did not carefully educate them. (p169)

The Desert Fathers had a saying for the connection between secrecy and a heart that is warm toward God. If you want to keep the fire hot, they said, you must not open the door of the furnace too often. (p171)

To be filled with knowledge about the Bible but to be unwashed by it is worse than not knowing it at all. (p184)

Testing is reserved for those in a covenant relationship with God. (p213)

Having faith does not mean never having doubts or questions. It does mean remaining obedient. (p216)

Life is filled with minitrials. When someone interrupts me, I can learn to graciously hold my tongue. When my co-worker borrows something and doesn’t return it immediately, I can learn patience. When I have a headache , I can discover that it is possible to suffer and not tell everybody about it. As simple as it sounds, the place to start being formed by trials is with the mini variety. (p221)

Buy hard copy

Buy for Kindle

Previous. Next. The Life You've Always Wanted

Go to top of page for Twitter and Facebook buttons >>>