Life Without Lack, by Dallas Willard

Life Without Lack is a bit different, as it is not so much a book as an adaptation from a series of teaching sessions done by Dallas Willard, at Valley Vista Christian Community, in Van Nuys, California, in 1991. Larry Burtoft, then pastor of that community, along with Dallas’s daughter, Rebecca Willard Heatley, compiled the teaching sessions, adding bits and pieces along the way for smoother flow, into this book.

Based on what is probably the most famous passage of Scripture, Psalm 23, this book teaches us what kind of life we could be living if we would but base our way of living on this Psalm. A stunning truth in this book is that Dallas Willard actually “believed it was possible to keep our minds constantly on God and that this was the heart and soul of spiritual formation in the kingdom of God.”

Since there were eight teaching sessions, the book is divided into eight chapters, each building on the previous. But, lest we think that all we have to do to have “Life Without Lack” is to meditate on Psalm 23, Dallas points out three characteristics that must be present in the believer’s life in order to have this kind of life.

1. Faith (which he defines as “trust”)
2. Death to self
3. Love

Out of those, it might be easy to say that “death to self” is the hardest, and I believe this to be the case. “Love” is certainly difficult, taking into consideration that Jesus commanded us to love other disciples as he loved us. But the reason that love is so difficult is that we have not fully realized death to self.

The book concludes with a chapter on how to spend an entire day “with Jesus.” This, again, is something that Dallas believed is entirely possible, and he describes it, with some good advice and instruction, in chapter eight.

Like most of Dallas’s work, this one is not one that can be fully comprehended in just one reading. I will, at some point, take a slower trip through it, spending more time meditating on the principles, and trying to bring them into play in my own spiritual formation.

TTFN, y’all!

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Renovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard

Let me start out by saying this is a tough read. John Ortberg once described Dallas’s writing as being “dense.” Well, this book is certainly “dense.” It took me just over a month to finish it, and I will read it again, even more slowly, right after I finish my re-reading of Practice Resurrection, by Eugene H. Peterson.

In this book, Willard introduces the concept of “spiritual formation,” and goes through all of the various parts of the human being that need to be renovated, or transformed: the mind, the will, the body, the soul, and even the social dimension of the person. He tackles each of these dimensions individually in one or two chapters each.

He finishes the work with talking about how we need to be children of light, and then goes into a final chapter about how this all should play out in the local congregation.

There are many moments in this book that caused me to stop and think about what he had written, most especially what he wrote concerning being and making disciples, from Matthew 28:18-20. I’ll end this with a quote from Ray Stedman, that Dallas quoted in the last chapter.

“God’s first concern is not what the church does, it is what the church is. Being must always precede doing, for what we do will be according to what we are. To understand the moral character of God’s people is a primary essential in understanding the nature of the church. As Christians we are to be a moral example to the world, reflecting the character of Jesus Christ.” (From Ray Stedman’s book, Body Life: The Church Comes Alive)

For anyone interested in spiritual formation, this is a must read.

TTFN, y’all!