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    Book Review :: Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith & Formation

    Image via Christianity Today

    Early May 2013, I found out that Dallas Willard had died. My wife read an announcement of his death on social media as we rode together in a car. We both shed tears.

    This surprised me. I had never mourned a public figure. I never met Dr. Willard, but heard him speak on three occasions: in 2006 at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, in 2009 at the Renovare Conference in San Antonio, and in 2011 at the Apprentice Conference in Wichita.

    But I had read his books. One beautiful benefit of the written word is the opportunity to commune with other minds. Through his writings, Dr. Willard had deeply impacted my thinking.

    At his death, in a very full sense I felt grief rooted in hope. Dr. Willard was in Christ. I am quite confident he still is.

    Since Dr. Willard’s death, his fellow kingdom workers and scholarly colleagues have prepared his last manuscripts for publication.  I have continued to seek the treasures, old and new, God so graciously brought forth in him.

    It was only a matter of time before a work like Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation would be produced.  The book is a collection of essays written by many who knew Dr. Willard best. It is structured on three pillars of Willard’s life and work: the personal and familial, the scholarly and academic, and the pastoral and ecclesiological.

    Many of the contributors are familiar: Richard Foster, J. P. Moreland, Gary Black, Todd Hunter, James Catford, John Ortberg, and others. Contributions by family members Jane Willard, Becky Heatley, Larissa Heatley, and John Willard add authenticity and insight. Willard was a human being, possessing faults. But he was good, thanks to the sanctifying work of God. Gary Moon, director of the Martin Family Institute and Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation at Westmont College, served as editor for this collection.

    The essays range from anecdotal to analytical, possessing something for every reader. For anyone seeking to grow in any field of endeavor, it is important to identify models for living, and to follow them. Dr. Willard taught valuable lessons as a friend and family member, as a scholar, and as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    One of my favorite passages in this book is from an essay by James Bryan Smith of Friends University. Dr. Smith cites numerous questions he asked Dallas through the years, one of which was, “So Dallas, which do you think is right, Arminianism or Calvinism?”

    I have wondered this myself, both who is right, and what Dr. Willard might think.

    Smith recalls Willard saying “Neither.” Willard then “went on to say that both were right, and both were wrong, and he did not fit into either camp.” 

    In each reflection, we are reminded that Dr. Willard understood that in order to thrive as a friend, family member, scholar, or disciple, Jesus is of utmost importance. We are disciples first. The question is, "Of whom?" Willard feared “Willard-ites.” Rightly so. His best students will learn to look beyond Willard to the one who summoned him forth as a witness. 

    Reformers are often memorialized, and their time is heralded as the coming of the kingdom. We build statues and tell stories of their past victories, often as an excuse to avoid the task before us. Eternal Living could be regarded as a monument, or a charge.

    I choose the latter.

    As a student of Dr. Willard, I hope to continue his legacy, not by celebrating Willard, but the God who gifted us with such a life. The church is in continued need of reformation. There remains among us a hunger for knowledge of God. 

    May God rise up for us more teachers like Dallas Willard, who will immerse us in the Trinitarian reality of God and the everlasting kingdom, disciple us in the good news of Jesus, and help us to know eternal life, both now and forever.

    Note: Thank you to InterVarsity Press, who mailed me a copy of Eternal Living.


    The Menagerie :: Around the Web 01.22.15

    I'm Mario! I'm Gonna Win!


    Ping Pong :: Chain Reaction



    NBA Fandom :: Twitter Tracking


    Visit the study, and customize based on your favorite team

    It's a Secret Passage!


    A hidden speakeasy. Read more and discover what's inside at WebUrbanist.

    Brilliant Video, Full of Truth (Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics)


    HT: Matt Perman


    Dear Father Always Near Us

    Dear Father always near us,
    may your name be treasured and loved,
    may your rule be completed in us--
    may your will be done here on earth
    in just the way it is done in heaven.
    Give us today the things we need today,
    and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
    as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
    Please don't put us through any trials,
    but deliver us from everything bad.
    Because you are the one in charge,
    and you have all the power,
    and the glory too is all yours--forever--
    which is just the way we want it!

    -- Dallas Willard, A Paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer, in The Divine Conspiracy 



    Book Deal :: Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith

    James Bryan Smith's extended meditation on Colossians 3:1-17, Hidden in Christ: Living as God's Beloved (Apprentice Resources), is available from a couple of different booksellers at a discounted price. Amazon lists the book at $2.99 for Kindle, and Christian Book is offering the book in diverse formats at $2.39.

    If you click and purchase via Amazon, a sliver will support my book habit.

    I bought this book at release and enjoyed it, as I have all that Jim has written. He's a good storyteller, has a sincere heart for Christ, and is a great ambassador for the kingdom.

    If you've never read Colossians 3:1-17, take a moment to do so.

    Then, couple your study of the passage with what Jim has offered.

    Check it out.


    The Communion of Saints :: A Thought Experiment

    Oftentimes, when people think of our eternity with God, they imagine the opportunity to converse with saints of old. There are those we say we would like to meet, particularly those within the pages of Scripture.

    We have tensions we would like for Paul and James to resolve.

    We have prophets with whom we would like to discuss justice.

    We have women, like Mary or Priscilla, who we would like to learn more about.

    For those who like church history, we'd push our way through the throngs until we could sit down for tea with John Wesley, or ask Augustine questions concerning his theology, or inquire of Julian of Norwich, seeking an explanation for her mystical experiences.

    But what if within the company of the saints, there was a person whose name you did not know, whom history had made obscure, but whose influence within God's providential history was the most pivotal in your own eventual coming to know Jesus Christ, whose legacy you could identify with your own hearing of the good news of and about him?

    What if there was a person who uniquely served God's purposes as a vehicle of grace, through whom God appointed that the great gospel story would one day reach your ears, penetrate your heart, transform your mind, and bring you in to fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ?

    This wouldn't preclude the possibility that one of those well-known persons named above is not also a part of your story. But the hinge may rest upon an unlikely seam.

    If this were true, how might that effect your own sense of wonder, your degree of awe at the mysterious workings of God's eternal will?

    How also might this effect your own sense of calling, your degree of availability at likewise being a vessel for the unfolding glory of God's redemptive story?

    For in the end, the Communion of the Saints is not a happy fellowship formed for the purposes of eternal and enlightening conversations on finer points of doctrine or gripping bits of personal narrative. God has appointed the calling of his people so that we might all ascribe to him the glory that is due his name. God has called us unto himself, so that we might delight in him, and in delighting, to worship, and in worship, to delight.

    As it is written:

    “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
        to receive glory and honor and power,
    for you created all things,
        and by your will they existed and were created.”