This week the church has lost a great saint and a shining light. Dallas Willard succumbed to cancer. As John Ortberg says in a wonderfully written tribute, Willard was brilliant, but "his heart and his life were better than his mind."
I thought it would be appropriate to bring out ten quotes that do a pretty good job of getting at what Willard spent his life teaching and working on.
1. This quote states the central problem Willard spent his career working on:
"My hope is to gain a fresh hearing for Jesus, especially among those who believe they already understand him. In his case, quite frankly, presumed familiarity has led to unfamiliarity, unfamiliarity has led to contempt, and contempt has led to profound ignorance." (opening paragraph of The Divine Conspiracy)
2. The central problem, restated:
"The governing assumption today, among professing Christians, is that we can be 'Christians' forever and never become disciples." (The Great Omission, …
I am working on a book chapter on humility, and as I was beginning the chapter, I realized that humility is pretty hard to define. And yet we tend to know when people are humble and when they are not. So I asked on Facebook, "How do you know when someone is humble?" The responses helped me clarify things in my mind on a couple of points. I'll quote a handful of the responses that consistently focused on two signs of humility.
Selflessness Humility involves a certain kind of self-forgetfulness. Humility liberates us from self-obsession and frees us to focus our energy on others. The humble person "goes unnoticed much of the time," and that's okay. Humility means being willing to go unnoticed.
When a humble person circulates socially, there is quiet peace about oneself and boisterous joy in the accomplishments of others. For humble people, "it’s not all about them all the time. They give
credit when credit is due and don’t worry when credit for themselves …
Sometimes it feels like life is one long wrestling match against a stronger opponent. Very few things come easily. How we come through life's many challenges is a matter of having a biblical perspective and some practical steps to take.
Our family bought a house this summer. The inspector said, "For a 60-year-old house, this place is in great shape." He went on to say those magical words: "it has really good bones." Well, no sooner did we move in than things stopped working and we discovered all sorts of problems. One morning Susan was turning on the shower, and the shower handle came off in her hand. You know, stuff like that. On the more serious side, when Sacramento got its first good rain of the year, I came home to find water dripping steadily from the ceiling in the living room onto one of the television speakers we had bought five days earlier. Living in this house has felt like a wrestling match in which I'm being outpointed rather badly.
This morning I head a short interview of Bob Richter, author of A Very Vintage Christmas. I haven't read the book, but I connected with his comments. Richter says the reason we love the Christmas season is that it allows us to pause and become sentimental. It's like our whole culture gives itself permission to look into one another's eyes and tear up just a little.
Christmas traditions are like historical connective tissue. An old glass ornament knits together childhood and adulthood. Grandma's plastic Santa reminds us of her sugar cookies and what the house smelled like when she was baking.
The spirit of Richter's interview was this: go ahead and indulge yourself in the sentimentality of Christmas. Gifts are only a springboard for the real treat: having a heart-to-heart connection with others. And the theology of Christmas is just as simple: God dwells in those connections!
I am gearing up to lead a discussion this Sunday at Sanctuary about possessions and happiness. Jesus warns people not to make too much of money. For the typical American -- even the typical American Christian -- this message falls on deaf ears.
I will argue that Jesus wasn't out to require his followers to live in poverty. Rather, he wanted them to be acutely aware how a desire for money and all it can buy us can worm its way into our hearts and become the key by which we make decisions. Be free, and you can live free -- and this can happen for both the poor and the rich.
Personal finance write J. D. Roth holds a fascinating discussion of the relationship between possessions and happiness in the first chapter of his book, Your Money: The Missing Manual. He makes the argument that whereas money can help bring you limited happiness, money's impact on happiness is actually much smaller than we usually think. After you have gained the basic necessities of food, safety, clothing an…