Living Without Lack

life without lackOn January 5, 2018 I was at lunch with some friends when I got a call from my doctor’s office.  My liver enzymes had spiked ten-fold from the low-average level they had maintained throughout my sixteen year journey with cancer.  At that point I was already a full year beyond the average life expectancy for a person with breast cancer metastasized to the liver and lungs, and I was well aware that I had been living on borrowed time.

As I processed the news of dramatically elevated enzymes my first thought was “I made my burial arrangements last fall, so I’m good to go.”  (Previously, each time I learned of cancer progression I would think, “I really need to make my funeral arrangements.”)

My second thought: “I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death without fearing evil.”

My third thought: “I wish everyone I love could walk in peace as life in this world draws to a close.”

It wasn’t a conscious prayer, but the Lord still heard the cry of my heart and answered.

Just four days later, on January 9, I was offered an advance copy of Dallas Willard’s most recent book—Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of the 23rd Psalm.

Now, I know that five years ago I gave away to friends at least fifteen copies of The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard; I convinced about the same number of people to buy it for themselves; I recommended it to I-don’t-know-how-many others (including strangers in a check-out line); and I even led a small group study based on the book.  Alas, as far as I know, only one person entered fully into the delight and wonder I found in Dallas Willard’s teaching.  And yet, I am undaunted by the tepid/bewildered response to my enthusiasm in the past.  I am compelled by the Spirit to share another Dallas Willard treasure with anyone who just might listen.

Here is the review I posted on Amazon on February 27 when Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 became officially available for purchase. (You don’t have to rely on my opinion alone; there are now 103 reviews.)

Through the skillful editing of his daughter and his friend, Dallas Willard has given the church a book for all who long to follow Christ more than they long for anything else. 

The Divine Conspiracy is God’s master plan for his people throughout the entire course of human history.  Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 is a practical guide for any individual who wants to live in daily intimacy with Jesus.  Larry Burtoft and Becky Heatly have transformed spoken words from one of our generation’s best teachers into a book that captures both his voice and his wisdom.  Dallas marks a path through the twenty-third psalm that the youngest believer can follow.  At the same time he reveals endless horizons of peace and joy to delight the heart of the most mature saint. 

As I read through the first time, I imagined Jesus asking, “Dallas, do you love me more than these?” After Dallas answers simply, “Yes, Lord, I do,” Jesus repeats the charge that follows the question: “Feed my lambs.” And so Dallas shows us plainly that the Lord is our Shepherd who will supply all our needs in abundance. 

If you don’t see how a Life Without Lack is possible, Dallas will guide you step by step until you do. The process is relatively simple, but you must commit completely. You must surrender your life to the transforming work of the Spirit.  If you have already surrendered your life completely to the Spirit, Life Without Lack may bless you with a fuller understanding of God’s design in the transformation process, a greater appreciation for the necessity of personal effort, and a deeper trust in the One who made transformation possible. But perhaps the most important blessing could be that you will learn how to better nourish any little lambs in your care.

If you love Jesus, I think you will be pleased with this book. 

Whether you or not you purchase and read Life Without Lack, I am content because God, in his infinite grace and love, has assured me that everyone I love can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fearing evil. He sweetly reminded me yet again that he is my Shepherd and I shall not want.

Since my liver enzymes started climbing in January, I have had one MRI, two CT scans, and I-don’t-know-how-many blood tests. After a trip to Pittsburgh for a second opinion, I had a port placed on June 22, and started IV chemotherapy on June 25 with no end to treatment in sight.

Because of the cancer in my body, I am constantly aware of the reality that life in this world is drawing to a close.  Whether my remaining time is measured in minutes or decades, I look forward to learning with friends and family how to live fully in the blessings and abundance that the Lord pours out generously without finding fault.

I look forward to watching the Lord bring hope and healing to our divided nation as His children learn to live without lack.

 

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Best thing since the printing press!

My renewed commitment to blogging is a good way to share treasures I have found while exploring cyberspace.  I can hardly believe it was only in March that a young friend directed me to one of the richest resources on the internet.  For the past three months,  I’ve been obsessively recommending The Bible Project to friends and family, and so it only reasonable that I extend that recommendation to all of you as well.

I have the same deep and abiding level of appreciation for Tim Mackie and Jon Collins that I have for Johannes Gutenberg.  And as a dyed-in-the wool bibliophile, that is not something I would say lightly.  I am not using hyperbole when I say that I believe that The Bible Project does more to make the Bible accessible to all people than anything since the printing press.  The brilliant combination of biblical knowledge and imaginative art has created a 21st century gateway into an ancient book for anyone and everyone who is even slightly interested in the Bible for any reason whatsoever.

I have heard Bible stories all of my life.  I remember turning the pages in My First Book About Jesus as I learned to recognize the printed words .  I have been seriously studying my Bible for over forty years, and yet brighter light shines on the familiar and beloved stories and poems whenever I watch the short, fast-paced videos created by Tim, Jon, and their dedicated team.

However, the most remarkable thing about The Bible Project is certainly not that I learn new things.  I constantly find teachers who can add to my understanding through books and lecture series.  The most remarkable thing about The Bible Project is that the videos bring an Ancient Middle Eastern text instantly to life even for a novice.   It seems almost supernatural to me that every video has something for the child and for the scholar and for everyone in between.

But don’t take my word for it! Follow the link to the website and check it out for yourself.  Judge for yourself whether or not they are accomplishing their mission “to show that the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus.”

Good tidings of great joy to all people

I gave a copy of The Divine Conspiracy and my review of the book to a friend.  She in turn mentioned the book and my enthusiastic endorsement to her sister.  Sister asked friend if I had not made similar claims for other books in the course of our acquaintance, and her question sent me on a quick mental review of my library.  After thinking of the books I cherish, of the books I share, of the books that I reread periodically, I conclude that The Divine Conspiracy is in a class of its own.

I am sure that every Christian will find blessing in A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest, Andrew Murray’s Abide In Christ, E.M. Bounds, The Weapon of Prayer, Evelyn Christenson’s What Happens When Women Pray, Paul Brand and Philip Yancey’s Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks At the Twenty-Third Psalm, Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, Tom Wright’s How God Became King, K.P. Yohannan’s The Road to Reality.  If I actually went to my shelves, I might find a few more books to add to this list.

But then I have books by Hugh Ross, Ravi Zacharias, Gene Edwards, Richard Swenson, John W. Kennedy, Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, Madame Guyon, Hannah Hunard, Augustine, Richard Foster, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Peter Whyte, Max Lucado, Donald Kraybill, Ann Voskamp and others that I recommend rather selectively.  I have topical collections of books about abortion, apologetics, biblical inerrancy, child sexual abuse, cancer, counseling, discipleship, education, eschatology, gardening, government, Haiti, herbs, history, language, leadership, nutrition, origins, peacemaking, prayer, science, slavery, spiritual gifts, writing fiction, and any other subject that captured my interest since I earned my first paycheck many, many years ago.   I only mention books in those collections when someone expresses a common interest.  I own too many books that are still waiting to be read.   I own many books that I would gladly give away to a good home.  I own unnumbered books packed in boxes somewhere that could disappear and I might never know they were gone.   I delight in my Kindle because now I can carry a library in my pocket and constantly add to it with just one click.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile.  I love books.  I am repeatedly blessed by books in many ways, and so I recommend a wide variety of books to my friends for a wide variety of reasons.  It is simply the nature of the beast.  But I can assure my friend’s sister that have never before recommended a book to EVERYONE.  Not only have I recommended The Divine Conspiracy to Fundamentalist and Catholic, Baptist and Methodist, Calvinist and Anabaptist, Continuationist and Cessessionist, Dispensationist and Amillennialist, OECs and YECs, mature saints and new believers, readers and non-readers, young and old, I have also recommended it to total strangers encountered in the waiting room, in the check-out line, in the coffee shop. And perhaps most incredibly, I recommend it to agnostic and atheist as well.

The Divine Conspiracy encompasses all that I have learned in decades of following the Lord and reading book after book after wonderful book.  It distills the good tidings of great joy for all people into its purest form.  Dallas Willard communicates the essence of the gospel in a way that anyone can thoroughly understand and actually experience as a disciple transforming into the likeness of Christ.  Because Dallas Willard devoted his life to obediently learning from the Master teacher, he has become like him.  Within the pages of The Divine Conspiracy, the author fades away and leaves me looking directly into the face of the God who gave his life to save me, who reaches out his hand to me, and asks me to simply surrender to his love in the ordinary moments of life.   I now know without a doubt that I can become daily more like Christ because I now see clearly exactly how God works to overcome evil with good.   That is why I think The Divine Conspiracy is in a class of its own.  But don’t take my word for it: read it yourself, whoever you are!