Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category

We all are wounded by life. These wounds can cripple us or we can grow stronger through confronting the fears and distorted thinking behind them that threaten to keep us from becoming the healthy people God designed us to be.

My scars have slowed me down. I came from an abusive, Non-Christian home which left me with considerable distorted thinking. What people thought of me was who I was. My worth was determined by my achievements. It wasn’t okay to be me.

These false beliefs could have crippled me if not confronted and transformed by God’s power. By confronting them, I have gradually realized what people think is not as important as on what God thinks of me. Achievements don’t increase my importance which helps me relax more in being precious to God.  And it’s okay to be me. My passions, interests, and desires need to be lived out in God’s power to become the person he created me to be.

People who are learning to overcome their wounds are setting aside the crippling thoughts, beliefs and practices from their pasts and embracing God’s liberating truths.

One of my ministries is mentoring medical students in how to integrate their faith with their future medical practices. But many of them have been wounded which has led them to become addicted to pornography. This addiction can cripple them and rob them of a fulfilling life. But they can also fight back against their wounds and cooperate with God in their healing. Many of them are joining support groups for encouragement and accountability in this area.

Too often we tolerate our wounds. We get used to living in a sick reality because it makes us feel safer. But God wants to heal us from our wounds and put on his ways of dealing with life (Ephesians 4:22-24). Pornography is a false way to intimacy that only God can fully satisfy.

We need to face our brokenness. This takes courage and desperation. We may need to revisit our childhoods and reflect on the messages we had trained into us about how life worked. Sometimes we will realize we have been radically molded differently from God’s ways. If we have been trained to please others to be safe, we may spend the rest of our lives trying to live other people’s expectations instead of being true to ourselves and living the life God has planned.

But we will need to work at it. Learning and using the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit, and practicing spiritual disciplines can be helpful in cooperating with God in our transformation.

The bottom line in avoiding becoming crippled is a healthy heart. “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NAS). Knowing the Word only and not practicing it, depending on ourselves only and not the Holy Spirit, and practicing the spiritual disciplines as a way to grow ourselves will fail to change us. Only God can do this. He will use the Word, the Spirit, and the disciplines we know and practice to transform us.

We can be healed of our wounds so they don’t cripple us. But we need to count the cost. Are we willing to fight the battle with the world, the flesh and the devil to be healed? Or do we want to take the worldly path and miss the supernatural one God offers us as we heal? I choose health over being crippled.















Read Full Post »

A person involved in looking for a new senior pastor at a church I used to attend recently asked me if I had any suggestions that would help them in choosing the right person.

Probably the most important suggestion I have is to choose a man who understands and practices how to work with God in making his people godlier “He gave pastors for the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Only godly people will accomplish much for the kingdom of God. “The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Yet, many pastors seem to emphasize quantity over quality. They also seem to know little about how to cooperate with God in equipping their people for ministry through increased godliness. They often cling to traditions and practices handed down to them that hinder and limit the spiritual growth of their people. Instead, they need to be open and teachable to how God actually produces godliness in his people.

The following are some things I will recommend to the person who asked me for suggestions:

Look for a man who

  • Teaches and models that developing a love relationship with God is the most important thing. “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
  • Teaches and practices depending on the Holy Spirit for life and ministry (Galatians 5:16).
  • Teaches and models the importance of knowing oneself. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
  • Teaches the Word and how to live it. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).
  • Emphasizes prayer as a key spiritual weapon in life and ministry (Ephesians 6:10-20).
  • Teaches and models how to overcome sin bondages (Ephesians 4:22-24).
  • Teaches and models forgiveness for those who have wronged them.
  • Recognizes and practices the value of body life through small groups (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Teaches that our life with God is a partnership where we do life and ministry together (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • Recognizes and models the value of discipleship and mentoring in helping Christians grow godlier. “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  • Recognizes and trains his people in how to operate in the spiritual war that they are in. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
  • Models and encourages his people toward transformation at the deepest levels of the heart (Psalm 51:6).
  • Models and encourages his people to do a variety of practices that God uses to transform his people including the Word, prayer, retreats, and listening to God (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

So, in addition to checking for how big a church the man has pastored, his degrees, his speaking ability and his knowledge of the Word, these characteristics should be checked too.

We need pastors who can lead us into a deeper walk with Jesus.

Read Full Post »

1.   How come my church does not teach Spiritual Formation?

  • Many seminaries have tended to neglect connecting theology to how people are transformed.
  • Many pastors have tended to not provide practical application of the Word to the daily struggles with sin that people face.
  • Too many pastors have tended to make knowing the Word an end itself, instead of it being a means through the Spirit of experiencing God at the heart level.
  • People are often taught by word and example that knowing the Word is more important than being godly.
  • There has been the tendency to lose God among the wonders of his Word, and fail to cultivate a relationship with him.
  • The focus of much teaching tends to be on doing the right things and doctrinal correctness. This can lead people to believing and doing right things, instead of being the right person through changed heart beliefs.
  • Many pastors often do not teach people how to experience the presence of God in their daily lives.
  • Many pastors have tended not to teach people how to cooperate with God practically in growing spiritually.

2.  How may this approach to spiritual transformation affect my church?

  • There would be much more dependence on prayer, and less dependence on intellect to lead the church.
  • There would be a greater emphasis on small groups, mentoring, discipleship and spiritual direction.
  • The sermons would not lose their emphasis on teaching truth, but also they would be tailored to help people to engage the text at the heart level.
  • There would be less busyness and ineffective programs, and more informal one or two-day retreats.
  • There would also be greater transformation in the lives of the elders that leads to a more open, loving fellowship at the Board-level that God can use in a more powerful way to do his work through the church.
  • Small groups would provide fellowship at a much deeper level, and be more of a living all of life together, as they relate at the heart-to-heart level.
  • Many people would become “unstuck” in their growth process by being provided with spiritual disciplines that can help them to better cooperate with God.

3.   Whatever happened to just knowing and doing the biblical commands and principles in the Bible?

The doing of the biblical commands from the heart requires God’s participation in the process. Spiritual Formation trains practical disciplines and concepts that aid in receiving God’s power to live the Bible’s commands and principles.

4.   Doesn’t Spiritual Formation tend to lead people to neglect the ministry?

In the short-run, there will often be some withdrawal from church activities to provide time to practice the spiritual disciplines. However, the purpose of the disciplines is to connect to God in a deeper way, so that a person’s life becomes more supernatural. So, in the long-run, as people do the ministries of the church, they will often become more fruitful, for God will be increasingly leading and empowering their efforts.

5.      What are these spiritual disciplines that you are talking about?

The following list includes several of the most commonly practiced spiritual disciplines of Spiritual Formation:

  • The Word disciplines (reading, hearing, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible)
  • Contemplative and Centering prayer
  • Small Group
  • Silence
  • Solitude
  • Mentoring
  • Retreats
  • Spiritual warfare
  • Ministry
  • Walking in the Spirit
  • Putting off the old and putting on the new
  • Journaling
  • Being yoked to Jesus
  • Asking God to reveal beliefs of the heart
  • Spiritual Direction

These are some of the most common practices of Spiritual Formation. Some of these are widely practiced by evangelical churches today. Many are not. God will lead each of us  in which ones to practice during each day and season of our lives. These practices are not to become a form of earning spiritual growth, but as a means to position ourselves for God to transform us.

6. Is Spiritual Formation charismatic?

No, not as the term is commonly used. Spiritual Formation does emphasize an experiential love relationship with God that lives truth from the heart. It does not teach focusing on the charismatic gifts at the expense of all the other gifts. It teaches that all the gifts are important in the body today. It does emphasize relating to God through his Word as of primary importance, but also teaches the importance of prayer and other spiritual disciplines as important means that God uses to fellowship with us. It does teach the importance of feelings as an indicator of the truth about the condition of our hearts, but stresses that the truth of the Word is our guide for life. It does teach that the Christian life can only be lived in the power of the Spirit.

Read Full Post »

I am often asked, “What is Spiritual Formation?” I prefer to refer to Spiritual Formation as the spiritual transformation of the heart.  I have complied a list of questions that I am frequently asked or heard asked about Spiritual Formation . The following is some of those questions and my answers to them:

1. What is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual Formation has been a generally recognized movement for the past thirty years that emphasizes lifelong spiritual transformation of the heart. One of its emphases is the importance for us to intentionally seek spiritual growth through practicing various disciplines. This provides us a way to position ourselves for the Spirit to transform our hearts.

Spiritual Formation emphasizes that the Bible is the standard of truth, but does seek truth in other disciplines, like psychology and sociology. However, these teachings from other disciplines cannot conflict with the Scriptures, or they will be rejected. Spiritual Formation also draws on appropriate spiritual traditions from the historical church. It uses the Bible as a means to deeper spirituality, and not Bible knowledge as the end-goal.

2.   What are some ways that Spiritual Formation may differ from the usual  approaches to spiritual growth?

  • Stresses that the Bible is the standard of truth, but does accepts truth not explicitly stated in the Bible from other disciplines, as long as the teachings do not conflict with biblical truth.
  • Emphasizes developing a love relationship with God, rather than just serving God.
  • The focus is on heart change, and not just on knowledge and behavioral change.
  • Emphasizes knowing self, as well as knowing God through the Bible.
  • Stresses that knowing the Bible is a means to transformation, but does not automatically cause transformation.
  • Emphasizes prayer, as well as knowing the Bible, as important for spiritual growth.
  • Values feelings as a means of knowing the heart, rather than regarding them as unimportant.
  • Emphasizes the high value of community in the transformation process, rather than regarding community as an option.
  • Emphasizes living the Bible, as well knowing it.
  • Teaches the practice of a large variety of disciplines to position oneself for God to work, rather than trying to obey Scripture through trying harder.
  • Teaches that God is the change agent, and not us.
  • Helps us realize how sinful we really are and in desperate need of change, rather than just needing a little tweaking.
  • Stresses the need to be intentional about transformation, and not think it just happens as we study the Bible and do ministry.
  • Emphasizes relying on the Spirit, besides fortitude and knowing the Bible.
  • Stresses that God is the one who makes things happen, not us.
  • Accepts that we are in a spiritual war and teaches how to function in this reality, rather than assuming that it is largely a naturalistic world.

 3.  Is Spiritual Formation biblical?

Yes. Spiritual Formation emphasizes that the Bible is the standard of truth, but does seek truth from other disciplines, like psychology and sociology, as long as the teachings do not conflict with the Bible.

4.  What benefit will I likely receive from studying and practicing Spiritual Formation?

  • You can learn to more fully cooperate with God in the spiritual growth process and grow more Christlike.
  • You can become more skilled at recognizing bondages to sin in your life, and take them to God for transformation.
  • You can become a more godly person deep within your heart.
  • You can live a more supernatural life.
  • You can experience a more intimate love relationship with God.
  • You can experience living life with God, rather than performing for him, in deeper way.

5. How does Spiritual Formation work?

  • Recognizes that the Word disciplines are very important to practice to cooperate with God in the spiritual growth process.
  • Provides practices to work with God in putting off the old and putting on the new.
  • Helps you to better recognize sin in your life.
  • Provides many additional practices to cooperate with God in the transformation process.
  • Teaches how to allow the Spirit to lead the way in the transformation process.
  • Helps you to live from your identity in Christ, and not from a false self.
  • Helps you to walk in the power of the Spirit.
  • Encourages and trains mentoring and body-life support.
  • Helps you know what is really going on in your heart, and how to cooperate with God in transforming it.
  • Recognizes supernatural opposition, with prayer and the Holy Spirit as important weapons.
  • Recognizes that the Word is a means to an end, with the end being transformation and ministry fruit.

Read Full Post »