John Wesley is the founder of Methodism (for better or for worse), from which the branch of Christianity I serve in grew. I found this great quote in Willard’s Hearing God book and thought it deserves it’s own post.
I do preach to as many as desire to hear, every night and morning. You ask, what I would do with them: I would make them virtuous and happy, easy in themselves, and useful to others. Whither would I lead them? To heaven; to God the Judge, the lover of all, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant. What religion do I preach? The religion of love; the law of kindness brought to light by the gospel. What is this good for? To make all who receive it enjoy God and themselves: to make them all like God; lovers of all; contented int heir lives; and crying out at their death, in calm assurance, “O grave, where is they victory! Thanks be unto God who giveth me the victory, through my Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dallas Willard is a professor at USC and an author. This book, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, is considered a classic on prayer and one’s relationship with Jesus. My dad suggested this book to me a couple years ago, and I read it with my book club.
The book is great for understanding the way that God desires to communicate with His people and the conversational nature of God. Willard spends a great deal of pages on the power of God expressed vocally (in words) and the way that the universe works according to words, especially God’s words.
There is one point where he seems to say that ESP is an actual and real phenomenon. Which is striking to me. How come nobody noticed this and told me about this when I read about this book? It left me wondering, does everybody just assume this is real?
If you want to have a more conversational prayer life with Jesus, this book will help. It is pretty wordy though, so it is a slow read. The very end has a 7 point list of everything he says, you could just read that if you wanted to spend only 10 minutes in this book. If that’s the case though, you probably need to slow down and relax if you want to have a conversational relationship with God!
Here’s some quotes:
- p.32, “Our highest calling and opportunity in life is to love him with all our being.”
- p.33, “Like King Saul many of us have our own versions of a witch of Endor.”
- p.69, “[Jesus] taught in parables so that those who did not really want to hear the truth could avoid it.”
- p.70, “When our lives are devoted to the will of God, he has reason to speak to us.”
- p.111, “It would not be too much to say, however, that where these phenomena [visions, dreams and angels] were the main, as opposed to occasional, means of interaction, it indicates a less developed spiritual life both in the individual and in the church group.”
- p.111, “That Aaron and Miriam could be jealous of Moses is a sure indication that God could not trust them with the kind of knowledge he shared freely with Moses.”
- p.118, “Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by the ease of its workings. As ‘the quality of mercy is not strained,’ so also with faith. Most of what we think we see as the struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.”
- p.129, “‘…we met ‘a certain centurion.’ He had implicit faith in Jesus- not, it seems, on a religious basis but from his secular knowledge of the power of authoritative words.”
- p.212, “Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to know how to live well.”
As far as pastoring goes, I don’t know of another author who has wrestled with this vocation more (and better), and from within, than Eugen Peterson. He’s a church planter, an author of books and he did translation/paraphrasing work on The Message, a modern day language version of the Bible. He’s been a big influence on so many.
So, this book by Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir was given to me as a gift, and it was an amazing gift. Peterson is gifted similarly but differently than I. He’s well thinking, yet primarily priestly. I love to be theological, yet I’m primarily prophetic. Peterson manages to share his struggle with being a pastor right in the contexts of his life and his relationships. He opens his life to the reader and brings us into the journey of his life.
I’m not sure how people who aren’t pastors would dig it, but pastors would all grow from this book. It’s simple and easy to read, yet profound and asks deep questions of calling, motivation, values and direction.
Here’s some killer quotes:
- p.4, “The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistent.”
- p.10, “My father boasted to his friends that we even had running water: ‘Eugene runs down to the lake with a bucket, and runs back up the hill with the water.’ “
- p. 16, “…the most effective strategy for change, for revolution – at least on the large scale that the kingdom of God involves – comes from a minority working from the margins.”
- p.29, “No need for hurry if you’re confident in who you are.”
- p.33, “The way we learn something is more influential than the something that we learn. No content comes into our lives free-floating: it is always embedded in a form of some kind.”
- p.90, “I realized that for most of my life the people I had been living with and who had taught me had been primarily interested in getting the truth of the gospel and the Bible right, explaining it and defending it…Barth didn’t have much interest in that. He was a witness (a favorite word of his). He was calling attention to the lived quality of the Christian life, the narrative of the Bible, the good news of the gospel. Listening to God as God reveals himself in Christ and the Bible and preaching.”
- p.254, “But there is a problem here: a program is an abstraction and inherently nonpersonal. A program defines people in terms of what they do, not who they are. The more program, the less person. Church was understood not in terms of personal relationships and a personal God but in terms of ‘getting things done’. This struck me as violation of the inherent personal dignity of souls.”
- p.258, “A way of worship that was nonmanipulative. A way of community that was nonprogrammatic. One of the things I relished about being a pastor was being immersed in these ambiguities, the not being in control that allowed for the slow emergence of insights and resolve that developed into confessions of faith, and the unplanned, spontaneous attentiveness ‘one another’ that over the years became a culture of hospitality.”
- p.310, quoting a Canadian, “Welcome to godless Canada, this godforsaken desert.”
- p.313, “By this time we were used to godless and godforsaken, to death and deserts. Jan and I had been living among the godless in godforsaken deserts all our lives under the patronage of Pastor John of Patmos. Barth again: ‘only where graves are is there resurrection.’ We rather like the company.”