Category: Spiritual Formation

Exploring the Liturgical Year

Being a student at Asbury has been really enlightening to me in the way of learning about other denominations, particularly Methodism. One thing I have noticed about students at Asbury is their appreciation of the liturgical year.

The liturgial year begins with Advent, moves to Christmastide, then some Ordinary Time, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost, and then more Ordinary Time. With each season there is a different thing to focus on, and much in the way of spiritual contemplation and formation that goes with it. For some reason this has really resonated with me, so when The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister became an option on booksneeze (Thomas Nelson’s book review program), I jumped at it.

Although the book started out slow and slightly redundant, when Chittister moved into discussing the parts of the Liturgical year, their histories, and the spiritual themes that went along with them, I couldn’t put the book down. I actually learned a lot of new things- things that will hopefully help our family to better start some intentional, life-giving traditions as it relates to holidays (Jake and I were waiting until after this book was read to start discussing/brainstorming on what that could look like). Anyway, Chittister does a good job of succinctly explaining the feasts, and helps the reader to understand that the reason for us celebrating these days and weeks is not to impress anyone or to work at some holiness. Instead, it’s about pressing into the life of Jesus, learning to think as He thinks and live as He lived. There is a beautiful paragraph on page 179 of the book that I want to leave you with:

Liturgical spirituality is about learning to live an ordinary life extraordinarily well. Fidelity to the liturgical life is the cement that keeps us grounded in Jesus, no matter what other elements of life emerge to seduce us as the years go by. It gives us the sense of balance we need to choose between spurious and things sacred. By its very unremitting regularity, it dins the Word of God into our very souls until we can finally hear it. Then, alive in that Word, we find ourselves becoming what we seek. It is fidelity that keeps us on the road when we would most like to simply sit down in the dust and let the world pass us by.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I received this book free to review! Thanks so much, TN!

An Aid in Scripture Memorization

Jake and I used to memorize a LOT of Scripture. One summer when we were dating, we memorized two new verses every day. And we actually memorized them! By the end of the summer, I think we had the entire sermon on the mount committed to memory. That was a fruitful time for me, and not just because I had memorized so many verses and could check it off some list…but because I was hiding Scripture in my heart, which the Holy Spirit has used again and again since then- to instruct me, encourage me, and lead me in making the right decisions. Scripture memory is good stuff…and a discipline I haven’t kept up for awhile now.

In the mail a couple months ago, I received the Topical Memory System: Life Issues from NavPress to review. It comes with a book of memory verses that you can cut out and put in a memory verse pack (also provided). The memory verse pack is a little envelope-type thing that can fit in a purse or back pocket. The memory verse cards that you put in the pack come in six versions (NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, and NLT), so you can use the version you like and then pass the rest on to friends!

In addition to the verses, it comes with a book where each verse provided is written about by various authors. Some of the verses are related to anger, perfectionism, sex, guilt, self-image, depression, etc. The authors discuss the verse (in context), and then they also expand a little on the issue being dealt with. There are a couple questions to think about at the end of each chapter, along with MANY other verses that you can go to that deal with that topic. It’s pretty good!

So, if scripture memory is something you have been wanting to start for the first time or get back into in the new year, this may be a helpful tool. But, if you don’t want to spend money on it and don’t need the extra help of organization, just start memorizing! =)

p.s. I received this book free, thanks to the NavPress bloggers program. Thanks NavPress!

Characteristics of a Disciple

For one of my classes, Equipping the Laity, we’ve been talking about what it means to be a disciple of Christ (as opposed to being a cultural christian). Below are some characteristics that we talked about (as expressed in Dr. Steve Martyn’s lecture, What is a Disciple?). As we were discussing, I thought to myself- how does my life reflect or not reflect these values/characteristics/traits that I would agree make up a true disciple of Jesus. It was challenging to me, especially in the area of “means of grace” (aka spiritual disciplines for those of you in the southern baptist world). If these are traits I hope and pray and labor towards for others in my future congregation/campus ministry, how much more should I be modeling and living these myself?

What about you? Which ones are challenging to you? Any that you hope to grow in? Any you disagree with? Or anything you would add to this list?

We want to make disciples of Jesus Christ who:

  • Understand the whole story of the Bible and where they fit into the history of salvation
  • Know how to enter into transformative study of God’s word
  • Are living in and practicing the means of grace and are experiencing ongoing transformation
  • Are walking in purity of heart and the freedom of the Gospel and are experiencing release from destructive addictions and collapse of prideful sin
  • Are living in life-giving relationships with others and are allowing the directives of the Gospel to define their roles in those relationships
  • Are seeking to accept and live into the gifts of ministry given to them by the Holy Spirit
  • Are taking the time for critical thinking/discernment and for thoughtful reflection/meditation upon the actions of God in their lives
  • Are missionally engaged for the transformation of the world
  • Understand that ministry is to be done and the Gospel spread through a community of committed disciples who love and honor one another and who seek to unfold the Kingdom within the context of ministry teams
  • Love God’s church and are faithfully engaged in worship and are building up the body of Christ
  • Are tithing their income (as a minimal standard) for the work of the God’s Kingdom
  • Are seeking to be stewards of all of God’s good gifts including creation, their physical bodies, their resources, and their very lives
  • See themselves as followers of Jesus Christ and full-time ministers of the Gospel of grace and understand they are to be servant leaders in the work of redemption

Living the Kingdom Life

The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation is a book written by several different theologians/authors/professors who belong to a group called TACT (Theological and Cultural Thinkers). This group came together, several years ago, to discuss how to encourage and strengthen the American church, especially in light of the discouraging statistics from Barna and Gallup research.

This book was a really encouraging and fun read for me because it has brought together many of the things I’ve learned and worked through over this past year in my classes. In the first half of the book, the authors discussed various parts of spiritual formation, exploring issues like what is the gospel? What does community look like for us? What role does suffering play in our formation? What is mission and why are we on it? How do we form spiritually? In the second half, the authors discuss the theology behind spiritual formation- trinitarian theology, the role of the Spirit, and the role of Scripture.

There are a lot of different parts that I could highlight in this review, but I’m making myself choose just one for sake of time and space. The aspect of the book that I liked best was its emphasis on real life transformation, and how it not only CAN happen, but it should happen. For many American Christians, we see the conversion, re-birth experience as the most important part of our spiritual life. We look back at a moment that we “accepted Jesus Christ as Savior” and that’s enough. Maybe most of us want something more, but we are willing to settle for the insurance and assurance of salvation. These authors emphasized that this conversion-centered gospel that many preach and emphasis is incomplete, unhealthy, and results in the research that Barna and Gallup reported.

Instead, we need to learn and model for one another what it looks like to be on the road of discipleship- following Jesus, practicing disciplines that help us to hear and understand God better, learning to say n0 to the flesh, living in open communities of grace, etc. For these authors, they seemed to be wanting to challenge church and lay leaders to first apply these principles to their own life, and then to re-structure, if necessary, the church in order to make sure that they are truly making disciples (and not just converts).

This is a five star book and one that I will certainly be re-rereading during parts of this semester (especially for my Equipping the Laity class). I would highly suggest this to any leader in the American church, and to anyone who thinks that spiritual formation will “just happen.”

As Dallas Willard said, “God is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” – The Divine Conspiracy

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Cross in Not Enough

The Cross is not enough.

1 Corinthians 15:17 “If Christ has not been raised…you are still in your sins” (NASB).

From The Kingdom Life, p. 45: “We must have both Cross and Resurrection, or we do not have a kingdom or the Christ of the kingdom, and then we will also have a mistaken view of salvation- one that odes not relate to the present spiritual life of the believer, which is to be precisely a resurrection life.”

Be careful when preaching “only the cross”… because the cross is not enough.