Overview: This book is the most honest, thorough and insightful analysis of the discipline required to order the inner man ensure a depth of mind body and spirit required to have an ordered, healthy and vibrant life. McDonald organizes this book into the following five sectors:

      1. Motivation
      2. Use of Time
      3. Wisdom and Knowledge
      4. Spiritual Strength
      5. Restoration

In each of these sectors, MacDonald explores the various disciplines required to order ones private world with a vulnerability and insight that is truly gripping!

Chapter 1: The Sinkhole Syndrome

Central Analogy: This chapter introduces the concept of a sinkhole as an analogy to describe what will happen to the person who does not have an ordered private world.  No matter how impressive the exterior may look, the man with out an ordered inner world will inevitably crumble.

“We are naively inclined to believe that the most publicly active person is the most privately spiritual.”

Chapter 2: A View from a Bridge

Central Analogy: This chapter likens the inner world to the bridge of a naval vessel.  A captain needs only to check in on the bridge to determine the condition of the entire ship.  Am ordered and calm bridge indicates that all is well.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23)

“We must choose to keep the heart. Choose! Its health and productivity cannot be assumed; it must be constantly protected and maintained.”

“There must be a quiet place where all is in order, a place from which comes the energy that overcomes turbulence and is not intimidated by it.”

“It is easy in the world, to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Chapter 3: Caught in a Golden Cage

This chapter begins with the question of why Jesus chose the disciples he did, rather then men who were more driven.  MacDonald postulates, “We would have found that they were men with their own plans and schemes, goals, and objectives. And Jesus Christ would not do mighty works in the private worlds of people who were so driven. He never did then, and He won’t now.”

Called vs. Driven: MacDonald introduces the central difference in motivation between those who have am ordered inner world and those who don’t. This chapter explores the difference between the driven person and the called person.

Those Whom Jesus “Called” in the Bible:

    • They listened intently when He spoke
    • They watched carefully when He acted
    • They responded seriously when He asked questions
    • When it was least expected, He called or invited them

Symptoms of a Driven Person:

    1. “A driven person is most often gratified only by accomplishment”
    2. “A driven person is preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment”
    3. “A driven person is usually caught in the uncontrolled pursuit of expansion”
    4. “A driven person tends to have a limited regard for integrity”
    5. “A driven person is not likely to bother with the honing of people skills.”
    6. “A driven person tends to be highly competitive”
    7. “A driven person often possesses a volcanic force of anger”
    8. “A driven person is usually abnormally busy, averse to play, and usually avoid spiritual worship”

Chapter 4: The Tragic Tale of a Successful Bum

This chapter contains several stories, biblical and contemporary, of driven people. Some who got their life in order and began to live a “called” life, while others, tragically, never surrendered their driven lifestyle.

“Can the driven person be changed? Most certainly. It begins when such a person faces up to the fact that he is operating according to drives and not calls.”

“To deal with drivenness, one must begin to ruthlessly appraise one’s own motives and values”

Chapter 5: Living as a Called Person

This chapter explores how to identify what it looks like to live as a called person.  The second half of the chapter explores the steps we can take to become called in how we live rather than driven.

Indicators that a Person is “Called:

    1. Has an understand stewardship
    2. Knows exactly who they are
    3. An unwavering sense of purpose
    4. Practices unswerving commitment

The Road to Calledness Runs Through the Desert: “The call demanded submission to God’s ways, God’s methods, and God’s criteria for success”

    1. In the desert one learns about dryness
    2. In the desert one learns about dependence
    3. In the desert one learns to be called.


Chapter 6: Has Anyone Seen My Time? I’ve Misplaced It

This chapter tackles how we can tell when we are slipping coward a state of disorganization and introduces the concept of budgeting out time so that we ensure prioritization of the essentials.

“Ours can be a wordy religion, meaning that one can go a long way, impress a lot of people, simply through a facility with words”

“No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.” ~ William Barclay

Symptoms of Disorganization:

    1. My Desk – becomes cluttered
    2. My Bedroom – dresser becomes cluttered
    3. My Car – dirty inside and outside lose track of maintenance schedule
    4. My Self Esteem – I become aware that it is diminishing
    5. My Appointments – I become late for meetings, deadlines and returning calls
    6. My Productivity – I tend to invest my self in unproductive tasks
    7. My Attitude – I tend to have a negative attitude towards my work
    8. My Quiet Time – I begin to not enjoy intimate time with the Lord
    9. My Relationships – time passes without deep conversations with family
    10. My Perspective – I begin to be dissatisfied with my life, my work and my world

Budgeting our Time: “We must resolve to I’ve control of our time… We must budget our time.”

“Jesus understood that… time must be properly budgeted for the gathering of inner strength and resolve in order to compensate for one’s weaknesses when spiritual warfare begins”

Jesus Controlled His Time:

    1. He understood His mission
    2. He understood His limits
    3. He set aside time for training the twelve

Chapter 7: Recapturing My Time

This chapter explores how we can become the master of the time we have been given.  MacDonald suggests several simple, yet powerful strategies for ensuring that our time allocation aligns with our priorities.  This chapter alone is worth the cost of the entire book.

“Not everything that cries the loudest is the most urgent thing.”

MacDonald’s Laws of Unmanaged Time:

  • Law #1: Unmanaged Time Flows Toward My Weaknesses”
  • Law #2: Unmanaged Time Comes Under the Influence of Dominant People in My World”
  • Law #3: Unmanaged Time Surrenders to the Demands of All Emergencies”
  • Law #4: Unmanaged Time Gets Invested in Things That Gain Public Acclamation”

Tips for Recapturing Lost Time:

    1. “I Must Know My Rhythms of Maximum Effectiveness”
    2. “I Must Have Thoughtful Criteria for Choosing How to Use My Time”
    3. “I Manage Time and Command It Best When I Budget It Far in Advance”

“If we are to command our time, we will have to bite the bullet and say a firm but courteous no to opportunities that are merely good but not best.”

“There can be intemperance in work just as in drink. What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one’s self importance” ~ C.S. Lewis


Chapter 8: The Better Man Lost

Central Analogy: This chapter begins with a story from when MacDonald was an athlete in school.  He lined up to compete in a race against a far faster competitor.  However, the race was a longer distance than his competitor had been preparing for.  As a result, although the competitor was faster over a shorter distance, MacDonald won, over the longer distance.  This analogy highlights the need to ensure we are training g for success over the long run in our spiritual lives.

“The man of action has the present, but the thinker commands the future from his study.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“It would do us good to see ourselves as sponges. Throughout the expanse of creation God has hidden things for humankind to discover, to enjoy, and with which to perceive the nature of the Creator Himself. We should sponge it all up.”

“Some Christians appear be afraid to think… The consequences are a drift toward mediocrity in personal living and mental activity… The unthinking Christian does not realize it, but he is dangerously absorbed into the culture about him. Because his mind is untrained and unfilled, it lacks the ability to produce the hard questions with which the world needs to be challenged.”

“Just as my coach once taught me to train my body in order to finish the entire race, so I had to learn what others are having to learn: that the mind also has to be trained.”

“When I once evaluated the order of the intellectual sector of my private world, I thankfully came to see that a few natural gifts or a few years of education were never going to make me the man God wanted to use in any part of the world where He wanted me to do work.”

“A great fear has been at work in my mind and God has used it to arouse me to prayer. I came across a man whom I knew years ago, a mighty man of God, and now ten years have gone and I meet him again—garrulous and unenlivened [shallow and superficial]. How many men seem to become like that after forty years of age! The fear of sloth and indulgence has come home with a huge fear and fairly driven me to God to keep me from ever forgetting what I owe him” ~ Oswald Chambers

Chapter 9: The Sadness of a Book Never Read

This chapter outlines the need for Christians to be deep thinkers and continually on a journey or learning, cultivating their minds to be strong and analytical.

Putting Yourself in Growth Mode:

    1. “The Mind Must Be Disciplined to Think Christianly”
    2. “The Mind Must Be Taught to Observe and Appreciate the Messages God Has Written in Creation”
    3. “The Mind Must Be Trained to Pursue Information, Ideas, and Insights for the Purpose of Serving the People of the Public World”

“To think Christianly means to look at our world from the perspective that it is made and owned by God, that what we do with creation will have to be accounted for, and that it is important to make choices according to the laws of God.”

Comparing Grow Journey of the New and Seasoned Christian – Great comparison here between a new and old Christian. The new Christian has higher levels of commitment and determination, but instinctually responds in an unchristian way. The older Christian instinctually process things from a Christian cultural contexts but often lacks the commitment and determination.  “The long-term Christian has a struggle of a different sort. Although he may have an instinctive Christian reaction to most situations, his commitment may not be as enthusiastic as the newly converted believer.”

Organizing the Mind to Make it Grow:

    1. “We Grow by Becoming Listeners
    2. “We Grow Through Reading”
    3. “We Grow Through Disciplined Study”

How to Listen Effectively:

    • Learn to ask good questions
    • Visit people at their work
    • Listen to mentors
    • Listen to critics

Great List of Thought Provoking Questions:

    • Tell me what it takes to do a job like yours with excellence.
    • What are the great challenges a person faces?
    • Where do you confront ethical and moral questions?
    • What is there about this sort of task that brings on fatigue or discouragement?
    • Do you ever ask yourself about the ways God is present in this job?
    • Tell me your life story in four minutes and don’t leave anyone important out.
    • Define each decade of your life with one word. (These last two are not in the book, but are from a message given by MacDonald in September 2012)

Defensive Study: the studying required to successfully navigate the current demands

Offensive Study: the studying required to grow and be continually more effective


Chapter 10: Order in the Garden

Central Analogy: This chapter introduces the analogy of a gardener taking care of his garden. Like a garden must be cultivated and maintained, the mind is the same way. “The inner garden is a delicate place, and if not properly maintained it will be quickly overrun by intrusive undergrowth. God does not often walk in disordered gardens.”

There is No Quick Fix: “Many of us are tempted to reach out for a sort of “quick fix” that makes God seem real and more intimate. Some feel deeply enriched if they are caused to feel terribly guilty by a preacher who angrily thunders forth with accusations and denunciations. Others quest after emotional experiences that lift them out of themselves into ecstatic levels. Sometimes one looks about in a so-called contemporary worship service and wonders what is really happening as people get caught up in the rhythmic, unbelievably loud, repetitive music. Is it worship, or is it a hypnotic experience that simply helps one forget the difficulties or the routines of real life outside the building”

Privileges We Can Lose Without Discipline:

    1. “We will never learn to enjoy the eternal and infinite perspective on reality”
    2. “We will lack will be a vital, life-giving friendship with Christ”
    3. “We will lose is the fear of accountability to God”
    4. “We lose the awareness of our real size in comparison to the Creator”
    5. “We forget our specialness and value before Him as His sons and daughters”
    6. “We have little reserve or resolve for crisis moments such as failure, humiliation, suffering, the death of a loved one, or loneliness”

The Benefit of a Cultivated Garden: “When the inner garden is under cultivation and God’s Spirit is present, harvests are regular events. The fruits? Things like courage, hope, love, endurance, joy, and lots of peace. Unusual capacities for self-control and the ability to discern evil and to ferret out truth are also reaped.”

Chapter 11: No Outer Props Necessary

The chapter summarizes and teaches the first two of four sets of spiritual disciplines MacDonald indicates seem to be missing in many Christian’s lives. “They are: the pursuit of solitude and silence; regular listening to God; the experience of reflection and meditation; and prayer as worship and intercession.”

“I need no outer props to hold up my faith,” he wrote, “for my faith holds me” ~ E. Stanley Jones

Silence and Solitude:

    • “God does not normally shout to make himself heard.”
    • “God is the friend of silence” ~ Mother Teresa
    • There must be times of rhythmic withdrawal.
    • “Silence is not native in our world… You can nurture silence in your noisy heart if you value it, cherish it, and are eager to nourish it.” ~ Wayne Oates
    • “Most Christians learned at an early age how to talk to God, but they did not learn to listen as well.”

Journaling: a great way to listen to God and force silence and solitude in ones life. The second half of this chapter contains a great teaching on how to journal in such a way that you truly begin communicating to and hearing from God

Chapter 12: Everything Has to Be Entered

This chapter introduces the third set of spiritual disciplines required to order one private world, reflection and meditation.

Central Analogy: this chapter uses an old computer concept to help us understand the need for the discipline of reflection and meditation.  Once we have found silence and solitude and once we have listened to God… We must enter what we hear into our lives.  Like the “enter” function on old computers “saved” the work, reflection and meditation helps save what we hear from God and make it permanent.

“The discipline of the spirit—what I have called the cultivation of the inner garden—depends upon the willingness of men and women of Christ to seek solitude and silence and to listen for the whisper of God.”

Three Steps to Hearing From God: “Our first step in spiritual discipline is finding solitude and silence; the second step is learning to listen to God. The third step, the pushing of the “enter” key, is done through reflection and meditation”

C.S. Lewis: “We all go through periods of dryness in our prayers, don’t we? I doubt whether they are necessarily a bad symptom. I sometimes suspect that what we feel to be our best prayers are really our worst; that what we are enjoying is the satisfaction of apparent success, as in executing a dance or reciting a poem. Do our prayers sometimes go wrong because we insist on trying to talk to God when He wants to talk with us?”

Chapter 13: Seeing Through Heaven’s Eyes

This chapter introduces the fourth set of spiritual disciplines required to order one private world, prayer as worship and intercession.

Bridget Herman: “When we read the lives of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure which went hand in hand with a remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark; every bit of their life told; their simplest actions had a distinction, an exquisiteness which suggested the artist. The reason is not far to seek. Their sainthood lay in their habit of referring the smallest actions to God.”

Thomas Kelly: “Let inward prayer be your last act before you fall asleep and the first act when you awake.”

Reasons People Struggle with Prayer:

    • Worship and intercession seem to be unnatural acts
    • Worship and intercession are tacit admissions of weakness
    • Worship and intercession seem unrelated to actual results

How to Pray:

    • “To pray meaningfully, the mind has to be slowed down to a reflective pace.”
    • Adoration – “reflecting upon who God is and thanking Him for the things He has revealed about Himself”
    • Confession – “regular acknowledgement of our true nature and the specific acts and attitudes of the recent past that have not been pleasurable to God”
    • E. Stanley Jones’ Topics of Confession: “anger, resentments, fear, worry, desire to dominate, self-preoccupation, guilts, sexual impurity, jealousy, a lack of creative activity, inferiorities, a lack of love. These are the twelve apostles of ill health.”
    • Intercession: praying on behalf of others. “Intercession literally means to stand between two parties and plead the case of one to the other.”


Chapter 14: Rest Beyond Leisure

This chapter concludes the book, by introducing the concept of the sabbath rest.  Like all the other disciplines presented in this book to help us order our private lives, this must be chosen, defined and protected.

“There can be little order in the private world of the human being when there is no appreciation for the meaning and pursuit of genuine rest, a cessation, as Wilberforce called it, in the routines of our times.”

Even God Needed Rest: On the 7th day God rested. In so doing he modeled a crucial discipline we all must embrace, the sabbath rest.  “This rest was not meant to be a luxury, but rather a necessity for those who want to have growth and maturity”

Purpose of the Sabbath Rest:

    • Closing the Loop (Past) – an opportunity to reflect on the work we have done for God and acknowledge its completion. “A restless work style produces a restless person”
    • Returning to the Eternal Truths (Present) – an opportunity to slow down and separate from the frenetic pace of the world and rest in the externality of God.
    • Defining Our Mission (Future) – “we affirm our intentions to pursue a Christ-centered tomorrow. We ponder where we are headed in the coming week, month, or year. We define our intentions and make our dedications.”

Identifying the Meaning of Our Work: “The rest God instituted was meant first and foremost to cause us to interpret our work, to press meaning into it, to make sure we know to whom it is properly dedicated.”

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