Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What You've Been Looking For (Excerpt)

This Sunday, free copies of my new devotional guide, What You've Been Looking For will be available at the church. Here's an excerpt that should give you a taste of what the book will be like:

It was one of those moments of amazing clarity for me. I was sitting across the table from a friend, someone I respect deeply, and he was pouring his heart out to me. He was at a point of personal crisis; some things in his life that he thought were unshakable were beginning to crumble. He needed a friend to listen, to pray for him, but he also wanted to know what to do. I gave him the best advice I know, advice I have given dozens of times before to people who are hurting and fearful. I said, “You need to see this as an opportunity for spiritual rebirth. Take advantage of this time of brokenness to get closer to God.” His response was so honest, so obvious, that it took my breath away: “How do I get closer to God?” This was a man who had been in church all his life, who had heard many of my sermons, who prayed daily, yet he had no idea how to deepen his relationship with His Lord. I realized then that this was my fault. I am responsible for the spiritual condition of my flock. I wondered how many people in my church and in my broader “sphere of influence” were like my friend: Wanting to grow closer to God, but not having any idea how to do it.

That led me to the idea of writing a devotional guide. Actually, I hate to use that term. This book isn’t your standard book of devotions, nor is it simply a tool to use in one’s “personal quiet time.”...

An athlete goes through training camp to prepare for a season. An actor hires a personal trainer so he can pack on muscle for his role as a gladiator or superhero. But what we’re talking about is bigger than sports or movies. Imagine a man goes to his doctor and finds out that unless he dramatically reduces his weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure, he’ll be dead within a year. He thinks of his wife and the plans they had for the “empty nest years.” He thinks of his kids, of the experiences he wants to have with them in years to come, and of the possibility of holding grandchildren someday. He has some vague concept of what it would take to get into shape. But with his life on the line, he doesn’t want to tinker around with diet and exercise plans he can find on the internet. If only there were a sort of “boot camp” for out of shape middle-aged men, like the camps that prepare athletes and actors. He could whip himself into shape and, along the way, establish habits that would keep his body at its best for years to come. That’s what this book is intended to offer: a spiritual boot camp for people who want to have a real relationship with God, but who don’t really know how.

You want someone who’s in great shape running your boot camp, so I’ve found a great source. I am basing this book on The Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. Celebration was named by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th Century. Foster’s book is simply sharing the collected spiritual wisdom of great devotional writers that the contemporary church has largely forgotten, but who showed us how to truly know and serve God; people like Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas a Kempis, and AW Tozer. Foster’s book lists twelve spiritual practices, or disciplines, that lead us closer to God. Of course, you could read Foster’s book, or any of the great devotional masters, and I hope you do. The book you are holding in your hands is simply a guide to help you walk through these classic disciplines. Think of it as Spiritual Disciplines for Dummies.

Here’s what you will need: A Bible; a place to write down your thoughts as you travel this journey (a notebook or a computer file will do fine); a designated time of the day to read this book (I prefer the early mornings, but you do it when you’re the most mentally fresh, and when you can spare a half-hour or so); and a serious commitment level. Again, this is a spiritual boot camp. We won’t just be running through a quick devotional thought and a Scripture each day. We’ll be learning to practice the classical spiritual disciplines that have enriched followers of Jesus for millennia.

2 comments:

laine said...

Hi, Jeff -
My book club at church just got started on Soul Feast, which led me to Celebration of Discipline. Mike and I would love to read your devo. I don't suppose you'd have an e-version or pdf?
Best to you and the family!

Potterwatcher1997 said...

Laine,

Sorry for the delayed response, but the ol' computer has been down. I'm using Carrie's right now. I would be happy to send you a Word file of the devotional. Would that be good? If you need another format, I can probably convert it. This of course is all contingent on me getting my computer back in working order. And I can't help but laugh at the term "devo." Always makes me think of guys in flower-pot hats singing "Whip It!" Good to hear from you.