Tag Archives: Dallas Willard

Three Books that Provide An Overview of the Life & Teachings of Dallas Willard

By now you know that the writings and teachings of Dallas Willard have had a profound impact on my spiritual formation and my understanding of the kingdom of God. You really should read everything he’s ever written. If you’re new to Willard you might want to start with these three and then work back to others such as The Divine Conspiracy (which is the most significant book I’ve ever read outside of the Bible):

EternalLiving        LivingInChrist        DivConCont

  • Overview of Eternal Living (Edited by Gary W. Moon)
    Dallas Willard spent his life making eternal living concrete for his friends. After his unexpected passing in 2013, the kaleidoscope of memories and the diversity of the lives he had touched could not be confined to one or even two memorial services, but three. It is this wide breadth of impact that inspired friends, family, colleagues, students, and leaders of the church to gather their reflections on this celebrated yet humble theologian and philosopher.
  • Overview of Living In Christ’s Presence (with John Ortberg)
    Dallas teamed up with John Ortberg in February 2013 for the Dallas Willard Center’s inaugural conference in Santa Barbara, California. John and Dallas have been ministry partners for decades, which was quite evident as they taught together and shared insights into living more fully in the presence of Christ daily. The primary passion for the conference was to provide an overview of Dallas’s writings and ministry. His most impassioned ideas. The conference was built around the theme “Knowing Christ Today” and as a way to present the golden thread that runs through all of his primary writing: that it is possible to know the Trinity intimately and to step into their glorious kingdom.
  • Overview of The Divine Conspiracy Continued (with Gary Black, Jr.)
    Co-authored by Dallas Willard and Gary Black Jr., this book is the sequel to The Divine Conspiracy and continues Dallas’s series on the Kingdom of God by looking at God’s plan to intervene in human history through His disciples who live out His calling in their life through their professions. To fulfill the Christian calling is not to remove oneself from the outside world and take shelter from its shortcomings, but to step into the world to lead and serve as agents of change. Dallas and Gary provide wise guidance on how to enter into our culture’s leadership positions and transform the world from the inside out. The material in the manuscript began in a course Dallas designed at USC called The Professions and the Public Interest in American Life. Dallas and Gary worked together with the concepts from the course and applied them to many different contemporary contexts for Christian leaders and professionals throughout our society. The manuscript was largely assembled prior to Dallas’s passing in 2013.

Your turn… What impact has Willard’s writing and teachings had on you?


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Filed under Books, Discipleship, Jesus, Spiritual Formation

Three Books That Will Help You Care for Your Soul

Caring for our soul is the most important thing a person should do. Notice the significance Dallas Willard places on the soul:

What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, or your thoughts, or your intentions, or even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. It is the life-center of the human being. It regulates whatever is occurring in each of those dimensions and how they interact with each other and respond to surrounding events in the overall governance of your life.

Our soul is like an inner stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other element of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. — Renovation of the Heart

With that in mind, here are 3 books (including the one referenced above) that will help you better care for your soul:

reno     SoulKeeping         StirBookCover

Erich’s notes about these 3 books…

  • You absolutely must read every thing Willard has written. In this book, Dallas outlines the  general pattern of changes in the six key aspects of a person’s life (thought, feeling, will, body, social context, and soul). You can find more great resources by Dallas here: Dallas Willard Ministries
  • Outside of the Bible, Soul Keeping by John Ortberg is the second most significant book I’ve read to date (The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard is number 1). You can connect with John and his resources here: John Ortberg
  • I had the chance to meet Mindy Caliguire at a recent Groups Conference. Her 2 classes focused on the importance of Soul Care. You can connect with Mindy and her resources here: SoulCare

Your turn… What are some other resources you’ve found helpful on this topic?

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Three Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading Soon

I recently bought several books I’m looking forward to reading soon:

“FRAMES—short yet meaningful reads on the top issues facing us in today’s complex culture. A new kind of book, brought to you by Barna Group, to help you read less, and know more.” Read more about FRAMES here.

“In these pages Dallas Willard explores what it means to live well now in light of God’s kingdom. He reflects on the power of the Trinity in our lives, the meaning of knowledge, the importance of spiritual disciplines and much more. Dallas Willard offers poignant thoughts about what it will be like to transition into the very presence of Christ in heaven. This book is adapted from the talks given at the February 2013 Dallas Willard Center “Knowing Christ Today” conference in Santa Barbara, California. Each chapter is followed with an illuminating dialogue between Dallas Willard and John Ortberg. The book closes with the theme of offering a blessing to one another. These reflections form an apt conclusion to Dallas Willard’s public ministry. It is a gift of grace. A conversation guide written by Gary W. Moon is included.”

“Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple—it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization. It’s what helped Apple recover from near death in 1997 to become the most valuable company on earth in 2012. As ad agency creative director, Ken Segall played a key role in Apple’s resurrection, helping to create such critical marketing campaigns as “Think Different” and naming the iMac. This book makes you a fly on the wall inside a conference room with Steve Jobs, and on the receiving end of his midnight phone calls. You’ll understand how his obsession with Simplicity helped Apple perform better and faster, sometimes saving millions in the process. Segall brings Apple’s quest for Simplicity to life using fascinating (and previously untold) stories from behind the scenes. Through his insight and wit, you’ll discover how companies that leverage this power can stand out from competitors—and individuals who master it can become critical assets to their organizations.”
Your turn… What are some books you are looking forward to reading soon?

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Three Amazing Books by Dallas Willard

This trilogy of books by the late Dallas Willard focuses on the spiritual life. The first one was written to make real and clear the intimate quality of life with God as “a conversational relationship with God.” Since that is something that doesn’t automatically happen, the second book “explains how disciples or students of Jesus can effectively interact with the grace and spirit of God to access fully the provisions and character intended for us in the gift of eternal life.” The third book presents “discipleship to Jesus as the very heart of the gospel.” This is a must read trilogy (I hope you’ll invest the time to check them out — not easy reads but well worth the time and effort):

“Being close to God means communicating with him, and this communication is a two-way street—telling him what is on our hearts in prayer and hearing and understanding what he is saying to us. It is this second half of our conversation with God that is so important but can also be so difficult. How can you be sure God is speaking to you? The key is to focus not so much on individual actions and decisions as on building our personal relationship with our Creator. Hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship, and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God. This updated classic, originally published in 1984 as In Search of Guidance, provides rich spiritual insight into how we can hear God’s voice clearly and develop an intimate partnership with him in the work of his kingdom. The reader will learn that divine guidance goes beyond the anxious, sometimes neurotic, quest for “what God wants me to do,” to having a critical role in my becoming a responsible co-laborer with Him, the kind of person He expects me to be. God is inviting us to reorganize our lives in a way that keeps us walking so closely with him that it becomes easy to know his mind and hear his voice.”

“To perform appropriately in the moment when you’re “on the spot” you must be preparing when you’re “off the spot.” We understand this principle when we think of great athletes or musicians, but rarely see it’s application in our own efforts to be a “good Christian.” The Spirit of the Disciplines presents a way of living that enables ordinary men and women to join with God and realize their highest aspirations of well-being and -doing. The key to this self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Readers will learn why the disciplines work and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest.The Spirit of the Disciplines places solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, meditation upon God’s word and ways, and service to others at the heart of the gospel. “We can increasingly resemble Christ in character and in power by following him in his overall style of life … This was the method of his earliest disciples, and it is as valid today as it was then.” After all, if Jesus regularly engaged in these activities, how is it that we simple humans expect to get by without them? To enter into the spirit and practice of the disciplines is to move toward the authentic life of faith in Christ and active participation in the Kingdom of God around us.”

“Is Jesus part of your daily life—here and now? Or, by failing to take him seriously, have you relegated him to the realm of the “hereafter”? In The Divine Conspiracy, biblical teaching, popular culture, science, scholarship, and spiritual practice are weaved together to capture the central insights of Christ’s teachings in a fresh way and show the necessity of profound changes in how we view our lives and faith. Christians for the most part consider the primary function of Christianity to be admittance to heaven. But a faith that guarantees a satisfactory afterlife, yet has absolutely no impact on life in the here and now, is nothing more than “consumer Christianity” and “bumper-sticker faith.” In an era when so many consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, readers of The Divine Conspiracy will explore a revolutionary way to experience God—by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, an integral part of every aspect of our existence. The Divine Conspiracy calls us into a more authentic faith and offers a practical plan by which we can become Christ-like. It challenges us to step aside from the politics and pieties of contemporary Christian practice and inspires us to reject the all too common lukewarm faith of our times by embracing the true meaning of Christian discipleship.”

Erich’s note: You can read more about my thoughts on this book in the post Three Books That Have Impacted My Life the Most.

Your turn… If you’ve read any of these 3 books take a moment to share your impressions.

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Filed under Books, Spiritual Formation

Three Audio Books You Should Listen To

I love to read but I also enjoy listening to some great books too (when I really enjoy reading a book I get the audio too). I usually get them via iTunes or Audible.com. Here are a few of my favorite ones to listen to:

In this book of compelling stories coupled with eye-opening truths, author Bob Goff shows you a new way to live, a way that’s drenched with the whimsy of God’s love and the spontaneity of following where he leads when he says “Go!” In this book, you learn what it looks like to be secretly incredible and advance God’s kingdom everywhere you are and wherever you’re going.

Erich’s note: You’ll absolutely love this audio version read by Bob. The chapters are short and full of great stories and powerful truths that will compel you into action. FYI: Bob Goff will be speaking at our Men’s Conference at The Hills, January 24-25, 2014!

“Once justice is seen as the thread woven into the fabric of biblical history, the whole Bible becomes much clearer. Justice is the issue when God redeems Israel from Pharaoh. Justice is at the heart of the Sinai law and justice is what Israel must show the world as a kingdom of priests. Justice is the measure the Jews failed to meet in their days of power and empire in Jerusalem. It was justice the prophets proclaimed as the way of return during the exile of the Jews in Babylon and it was justice that Jesus incarnated.”

Erich’s note: Although I don’t always agree with everything Rob Bell says, I’m a huge fan and always learn something from his teachings. This book in particular is very convicting (Rob Bell and Don Golden, VP of Church Relations at World Vision, take turns reading this book). I think you’ll like their style and be challenged by their message. You can find a great summary of this book here.

This book lays a foundation for understanding the ruin and restoration of humanity, by discussing human nature and its components, how they operate, and how they are renewed. It describes common misunderstandings about our human nature, and the discipleship process. Most importantly, it outlines the general pattern of personal transformation—not as a formula, but as a systematic process that we have the responsibility to undertake as intentional apprentices of Jesus. Only then will our transformation be accomplished, through interaction with the grace of God in Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual treasures stored in the body of Christ.

Erich’s note: This is a great book but it is not an easy one to get through (so you’ll really have to pay attention as you listen but hang in there because it is very rewarding and full of great truths). Christian Book Summaries provides a great summary of this book here.

Your turn… What are some audio books you’d recommend to others?

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Three Resources That Focus on Learning to Live As Jesus Taught

I believe it is possible to learn to live as Jesus taught. That is what the process of Spiritual Formation is all about (putting on the character of Christ). And that is what this trilogy of books aims to do. James Bryan Smith believes the gospel is about change in our lives today, not just our eternal destiny. In his Apprentice Series he aims to help Christians develop a robust discipleship by helping them understand who God is, what it means to be a Christian and what it means to live in community as a part of God’s kingdom. You’ll find all 3 of these books helpful if your desire is to learn to live as Jesus taught:

We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here.

“I have never met a person whose goal was to ruin his or her life. We all want to be happy, and we want it all of the time.” So begins James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Life. The problem is, he tells us, we have bought into false notions of happiness and success. These self-centered decisions lead us further into the vices that cause ruin: anger, lust, lying, worry and judging. Eventually we find ourselves living a beautifully packaged life of self-destruction. Following the Sermon on the Mount, this follow-up to The Good and Beautiful God guides us to look behind these character flaws and to replace our false beliefs with Jesus’ narratives about life in the kingdom of God.

In this third book in the Apprentice Series, James Bryan Smith helps us know how to live in relationship with others as apprentices of Jesus. “Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders,” he writes. “They live in continuous contact with the kingdom of God, and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells. They do not sometimes tell the truth, sometimes live sacrificially or sometimes forgive. There are myriad opportunities for us to impact the world in which we live.”

Erich’s note: This series came about as the result of his learning from two great men, Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Foster was a mentor to him and James eventually served as a teaching assistant to Willard for more than 10 years. It was during that time that Willard encouraged him to create “a curriculum for Christlikeness.” You can learn more about this series including downloading some leader guides for taking groups of people through this curriculum by visiting their website.

Your turn… What are some other books on Spiritual Formation that you’ve found to be helpful?

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Three Books That Have Impacted My Life the Most

I’ve read a lot of books through the years. Outside of the Bible these 3 have impacted my life the most:

Is Jesus part of your daily life—here and now? Or, by failing to take him seriously, have you relegated him to the realm of the “hereafter”? In The Divine Conspiracy, biblical teaching, popular culture, science, scholarship, and spiritual practice are weaved together to capture the central insights of Christ’s teachings in a fresh way and show the necessity of profound changes in how we view our lives and faith.

Christians for the most part consider the primary function of Christianity to be admittance to heaven. But a faith that guarantees a satisfactory afterlife, yet has absolutely no impact on life in the here and now, is nothing more than “consumer Christianity” and “bumper-sticker faith.” In an era when so many consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, readers of The Divine Conspiracy will explore a revolutionary way to experience God—by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, an integral part of every aspect of our existence.

Erich’s note: This book came out in 1998 and has been considered a masterpiece by many ever since and it’s impact will continue to grow even after the recent “passing” of Dallas Willard on May 8, 2013 (you can view his memorial celebration here). This book focuses on the true meaning of Christian Discipleship and Spiritual Formation. The thing that first resonated with me when I read it several years ago was the discovery that the eternal kind of life begins now (the gospel is about living now, not just for dying / for “someday”). These 3 chapters are priceless: Chapter 2) Gospels of Sin Management; Chapter 8) On Being a Disciple, or Student, of Jesus; and Chapter 9) A Curriculum for Christlikeness. The middle section of this book explores the Sermon on the Mount in great depth. As Richard Foster says in the foreword, “It helps me see that the teachings of Jesus are intelligent and vital and intently practical.” Disclaimer: it is not an easy, quick read but it is well worth the time and effort. I’m sure you’ll find yourself going back to it as frequently as I do.

You can live a deeper, more Spiritual life right where you are. The heart of Christianity is transformation—a relationship with God that impacts not just our “spiritual lives,” but every aspect of living. John Ortberg calls readers back to the dynamic heartbeat of Christianity—God’s power to bring change and growth—and reveals both the how and why of transformation. As with a marathon runner, the secret to winning the race lies not in trying harder, but in training consistently—training with the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines are neither taskmasters nor an end in themselves. Rather they are exercises that build strength and endurance for the road of growth. The fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, kindness, etc.—are the signposts along the way.

Erich’s note: This book actually introduced me to Dallas Willard as Ortberg even notes in his preface that a private working title for this book was Dallas for Dummies. Willard had an enormous impact on Ortberg’s life (read what Ortberg wrote after Willard’s death). I love how it focuses on spiritual disciplines in a fresh, ordinary way. You’ll discover this helpful and significant principle for transformation: “There is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something.” You will find this to be an easy, practical and life-changing book to read.

Max Lucado takes you through the drama of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—bringing to life Peter’s denial, Pilate’s hesitancy, and John’s loyalty. Relive the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, from the foggy garden of Gethsemane to the incandescent room of the resurrection. No Wonder They Call Him the Savior leads you up the hill of mankind’s highest hope and reminds you why he deserves to be called our Savior.

Erich’s note: I grew up in a very conservative church in Ashland, MS. I had a great experience there and it was there where by spiritual life began to form. But it wasn’t until I was a freshmen in college that I began to first learn about grace and it was this book by Max Lucado that begin to revolutionize how I saw Jesus and experienced God’s grace. Max has written many great books since this one back in 1986 but this one will always have a special place in my heart. If you haven’t ever read yet it check it out. If you have, it might be time to read it again.

Your turn… What 3 books have had the most impact on your life so far? Also, if you’ve read any of these take a moment and share some thoughts about them.


Filed under Bible, Books, Reading, Spiritual Formation

Three of My Favorite Verses

Earlier this week I posted about some of my favorite sermon podcasts. It was hard to narrow that list to 3. It’s even harder to narrow the list of my favorite verses. I thought it would be good to reflect on a few as we move into the weekend (on Monday I’ll share 3 books outside of the Bible that have impacted my life the most). But for now, here are the verses that are most meaningful to me today:

  • “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Erich’s note: God’s love for us amazes me. Scripture reminds us that He lavishes His great love on us (that means He pours it on us without limit) and calls us His children.  And since that seems too good to be true, John has to remind us, “And that is what we are!” So, as you go through this day no matter what circumstances you face or what voices you hear; never forget that your Father loves you!

  • “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Erich’s note: The main reason I love this verse is because it reminds me that God demonstrated His love for us while we were still sinners. He didn’t wait for us to get better (as if we could on our own) but He became one of us at just the right time (when we needed it the most) so that He could save all of us. Now that’s good news!

  • “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Erich’s note: This verse is important to me because I know there are so many things in the world that go after my heart. Our hearts have been so badly bent out of shape by the world in which we live that they no longer look like the hearts shaped by God.  Dallas Willard notes, “The greatest need you and I have is the renovation of our heart.  That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God.  Now it must be transformed” (Renovation of the Heart, 14). So, we must guard our hearts above all else…

Your turn… What are some of your favorite verses?


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