Tag Archives: spiritual formation

20 Questions

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Below are some random questions. Some are more reflective than others, but all are ones that cause me to think and do a bit of “soul searching.” Hope you spend some time thinking through them as well.

Isn’t discipleship much more than just information?
Why are we always in such a hurry?
Why do we not share the gospel with others?
Why have mission trips become so popular?
Can a church be too big?
Why is contentment so hard?
What does it mean to be the church?
Have we complicated what it means to do ministry?
Is reaching the world as simple as beginning a movement of making disciples who make disciples who make disciples…?
Why does it seem that church planting is becoming more popular than pastoring existing churches? Is this a good thing?
As technology grows, does it appear that we are becoming more impatient?
Why are many afraid of being bored?
Why do we like to brag about how busy we are?
What does it mean for a church to be growing?
Do we really understand the power of prayer?
Is it okay to be ordinary?
What does it really mean to be successful?
How difficult is it to treat everyone, including the guy who cuts you off in traffic, as someone created in the image of God?
Why is it hard to say “I was wrong?”
Do we really know how amazing the love of God really is?

What’s Forming Us?

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Blaise Pascal wrote, “All men seek happiness, this is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” If this is true, then it means that we will do whatever it takes to find happiness. But our search within the creation, according to Pascal, is to no avail. We seek and seek only to come up empty. Why? Because we are searching in all the wrong places.

“The infinite abyss,” writes Pascal, “can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object.” Augustine more famously stated the same type principle when he wrote, “God, You made us for yourself and our soul will not find rest until they find rest in thee.” We were created to be loved by God. And not only were we created to be loved by Him, but we were created in His love as well. We were not designed to be apart from God.

You know the story, however. Our first parents made the decision to go it alone. And we have followed suit ever since. Now I know we know this (or at least I’m assuming most of those who are reading this do), but it seems we still seek after those things that only bring fleeting happiness. Why is this?

I have recently been reading some of James K. A. Smith’s work. In You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, he writes that we are unconsciously being lured into loving ultimately those things which in themselves were never meant to be loved so strongly. Notice that he said “unconsciously.” We are not even aware of how we are being shaped.

For Smith, our formation as humans is bigger than what we know. We are more than just cognitive beings. It’s what we love that forms us. “We become what we love,” he writes. “And you might not love what you think.” The world around us does really well at molding our hearts without us even knowing it.

One example for Smith of how the world forms us is in the area of consumerism. Consider the mall experience or the commercials we watch. These things go after our heart, not just our minds. They show us that to have the good life you need to own this product or buy this experience. And it’s all so subtle. Personally, I think we know that having the new iPhone won’t lead us to the promised land, and yet we have to have it (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with getting a new phone…I think).

So what do we do? Smith argues that we need to see through the “liturgies” of the world around us. And how do we do this? One way is through story. Though the “consumerism story” can be quite appealing, there is a better story. A story that brings ultimate fulfillment. We know it as God’s story. And we must let it rewrite the story that our world tells us.

To have our story rewritten according God’s story, however, involves more than just our minds. It involves our bodies. Smith writes that the “practices of the church are a spiritual workout, inviting us into routines that train our heart muscles, our fundamental desires that govern how we move and act in the world.” Our days must be spent adjusting our lives to God’s word in obedience. It is the actions of obedience that move our hearts and cause greater belief.

I’m still thinking through much of what I’ve written in the paragraphs above. As a result, you may read more of what I’m plodding through in later posts. But until then, let’s dive into The Story and let it redirect what we do and therefore, change what we love.

Spiritual Formation Is…

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Some good words about spiritual formation from Dallas Willard…

Christian spiritual formation is focused entirely on Jesus. It’s goal is an obedience or conformity to Christ that arises out of an inner transformation accomplished through purposive interaction with the grace of God in Christ. Obedience is an essential outcome of Christian spiritual formation (John 13:34-35; 14:21).

Spiritual formation is, in practice, the way of rest for the wear and overloaded, of the easy yoke and the light burden (Matthew 11:28-30), of cleaning the inside of the cup and the dish (Matthew 23:26), of the good tree that cannot bear bad fruit (Luke 6:43). And it is the path along which God’s commandments are found to be not “heavy,” not “burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

But Christlikeness of the inner being is not a human attainment. It is, finally, a gift of grace.

(From Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ by Dallas Willard)

“You Gotta Love Other People”

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One of the most influential persons in my life was my grandfather, A.D. Wheat. Today was his birthday. Though he passed away several years ago, there are not many days that pass by in which I don’t think of him and the life he lived in front of me.

One thing that my grandfather always told me was, “You gotta love other people!” But this was more than just something that he talked about it. He lived it!

Before my grandfather passed away, he tape recorded many of his life stories and adventures. Paige, my wife, transcribed them into a book we put together so we could give it to our kids. Below is one of the stories he told. It’s of one of his many visits to those who lived in the nursing home. As I reread this story of his today, I was struck again of how blessed I am that God would put a man such as my grandfather in my life. How blessed I am!

I used to go and visit many of the nursing homes. There was one lady who was in one of them who never smiled. She just looked terrible. The ladies at her table said she was a grouch and to not pay any attention to her. So, I thought, “She’ll be my challenge now!”

I finally got her to where she would let me have her ice cream. We had ice cream socials every Monday at 4pm. I would go over there and she would give me her ice cream Well, the others in the nursing home couldn’t understand it.

One day, my church had some Day Lilies that many people had given to the church in memory of some of their family. The gave them to me to take over to the nursing home. When I went over there, this lady was the only one in the dining area. So, I walked over and put the first Day Lily on her table.

“Who’s this for?” she asked.

“It’s for you,” I said.

“For me?”

“Sure!”

“Well, it sure does show that some people love me!”

“Sure, we love you!”

A week or two later, I was back in the nursing home and was told that this lady was really sad because she lost her car due to her driver’s license being taken away. So I went over and began to talk with her.

“Nobody loves me,” she said. “I should just go away and die. I’m no good for anybody.”

“Yes, you are,” I said. “You always save your ice cream for me. I think the world of you.”

And then, I hugged her. 

Later on, I was told that I really cheered her up. I really like doing those kind of things.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7-8).

Shaped By Suffering

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What is God doing in the midst of suffering? Could it be that He is moulding us and shaping us? But isn’t there a better way to be conformed to His image? C.S. Lewis, in his book The Problem of Pain, writes of this dilemma…

We want not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven–whose plan for the universe was such that it might be said at the end of each day, “A good time was had by all.”

I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines, but since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe nevertheless that God is love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction….

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life–the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a women or a mother a child–he will take endless trouble–and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but less. 

The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis, pages 39-42