What is Spiritual Formation?

I’ve written on this before, but the question is coming up again. Simply put, spiritual formation is a new buzzword and perspective on the one thing the Church has been doing since the very beginning, discipleship. However, this new perspective (some may even argue an old perspective) is not the kind of discipleship that you may find in many mainline churches. The discipleship programs that I see most often involve getting you to commit to attending church weekly, go to Sunday school or join a small group, tithe (can’t forget to get our money!), and commit to personal Bible study. To me, this feels a lot like the “Gospel of Sin Management” that Dallas Willard talks about in The Divine Conspiracy. True discipleship is not about ticking the right boxes and saying “I am a disciple of Jesus.” Rather there is something different that is called for. Enter the perspective of spiritual formation.

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Why Should I Pray?

“What’s the point of praying?! It never does anything!” There are times in our lives when the disciplines that we practice seem to carry no weight in our lives. We know that we should do things, like praying, because we’ve been told our entire church lives that that is what Christians do. Yet, prayer feels meaningless when life doesn’t change or we do not recieve a response. Does this mean that we should be prayering? What if it means that our expectation of prayer has been wrong all along.

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What More Do I Need to Do?

The world has become a strange place as I am without a church and am “church shopping” in the middle of a pandemic. My wife and I have decided that it is best for us and our family to maintain our distance from people that we do not know and spend our Sunday morning streaming church services. Recently we were listening to a message from one of our perspective churches, and the pastor chose to do a sermon series that was based on the Rapture. While I could certainly argue against such a concept, the subject matter wasn’t even the most offensive piece of this pastor’s message. After spending weeks laying out the idea that the Church is going to miraculously disappear right before the world needed it most, the pastor looked at the congregation and said, “You have to get ready. You have to be ready when Jesus returns.” I believe the implication of this statement is that there is some lifestyle or personality changes that need to be made, so when Christ comes he will make you disappear too. I have been thinking about this ever since. Not because I was convicted to change my life for Christ, but because I was so terribly offended by the statement. Let me explain.

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Faith and Mental Health

Hi friends! I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written. Honestly, I got super excited about working from home as I saw an opportunity to write A LOT! However, as you can tell from my lack of posting, the exact opposite is what happened. I didn’t write at all. As a matter of fact, a lot of things changed for me with regards to practicing my faith, Bible study, reading, writing, and a whole lot of things I like to do. The major thing that happened is that I have had a major battle with depression over the last few months with regards to my profession and other life stresses. Then, on top of that, I had to walk away from my church back in July due to some ethical conflicts. The total impact of everything has made it quite difficult for me to find much enjoyment in anything that I like doing, that isn’t some form of escape (e.g. playing a bunch of video games). The good news is that I think I’m finally making some progress with my own well being, even if nothing has changed (as a matter of fact, a lot has gotten worse, but I’m more hopeful that I used to be).

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Tending Soul, Mind, and Body: The Art and Science of Spiritual Formation

Something that I have been giving a lot of thought to has been spiritual formation. I’m sure some of that has to do with my education, but when, honestly, was the last time you considered your spiritual life? This month’s book, Tending Soul, Mind, and Body: The Art and Science of Spiritual Formation, published by InterVarsity Press in October 2019, seeks to open the eyes of pastors and laypeople to consider taking care of one’s spirit/soul. This book is a published version of reflections and presentations made during the 2018 Center for Pastor Theologians conference. Topics in this book reflect the fields of theological anthropology, spiritual formation, and psychology and how they can be used to look at the person as a whole; not merely physical, mental, and spiritual health.

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Oh No! I Messed Up

We often hear how important it is to develop spiritual disciplines. These include fasting, Bible study, prayer, and many more. We are told that the importance of these disciplines is develop ourselves in Christlikeness; so we can be the people God created us to be. Yet, we’re human and therefore, imperfect. What does this mean for our spiritual disciplines? It means that we will mess up. We may set out to prayer, every morning, at 5am (before anyone else in the house is up), for 15 minutes. We are able to accomplish this task for awhile, but one day you wake up and its 7am. Oh No! You messed up but what do you do now? Below are some ideas that I have for you to remember when this happens.

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Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship

If you have been paying attention to the Heart Man Book Reviews, you will remember that I read a book on the use of modern technology and a book about fostering online education. Admittedly, this field has been of interest to me ever since I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. So I couldn’t help myself when InterVarsity Press released Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship by Jacob Shatzer. Shatzer has a PhD from Marquette University and is an ordained Baptist pastor. This book was released in April of 2019 and is incredibly important in our world as we live with increasing usage of technology. Shatzer argues that digital technology trains us, little by little, in transhumanist philosophy, allowing us to one day accept it completely. He asks the simple question of whether this is an appropriate formation for Christians or if we should be cautious about trying to adopt new digital technologies.

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Becoming an Ordinary Mystic: Spirituality for the Rest of Us

Just like last year, we will start this year with a book that helps us to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions. Many people say that they want to pursue having a closer relationship with God in the New Year. However, many people also have no clue how to do that. They often resolve to goals of praying more or reading their Bibles more. While these can push us in the right direction, do these practices truly push us to have a deeper relationship with God? Enter Becoming an Ordinary Mystic: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Albert Haase. Haase is an experienced Fransican friar with experience as a missionary in mainland China and as a spiritual director. This month’s book was released by IVP in August of 2019, and it shows us that spirituality is not something attained by the spiritual elite, but is accessible for all of us.

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The Book of Ezekiel: Ezekiel 9

If you are reading this book a chapter at a time, this is where it might be important to remember that chapters and verses are editorial editions added much later to Scripture. This is important to note, because normally when we see chapters in our contemporary reading, that means we are on a whole new topic. Often within Scripture that is not the case. In this week’s chapter, we see a continuation of the vision that started in the previous chapter. Without that information, you may be prone to ask a lot of wrong questions about what is happening in chapter 9.

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What I’ve Been Up To

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here (outside of that book review last week). Mostly this is because of school. I got very busy over the last couple of weeks trying to get all the work done I needed to, that I just didn’t have the brain space to write for this blog, for that, I apologize. Now that the school year is over, and I have a small break before my summer class begins, I think I have the opportunity to reflect on some of the ideas I have been wrestling with this past semester. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Up To”