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Spiritual Formation Articles

  • Joanne Jung — 

    Joanne Jung (Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Talbot School of Theology) recently finished writing Character Formation in Online Education: A Guide for Instructors, Administrators, and Accrediting Agencies and it will be released on October 13, 2015. We wanted to learn more about this book, so we had Joanne respond to some questions ...

  • Kevin Lawson — 

    This is fourth and final in a series of blogs on José Bowen’s book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2012). I shared in my first blog that the main thrust of his book was for teachers to use technology to deliver content outside of class sessions, and shift the use of class time to processing that information, promoting critical thinking and the application of knowledge to real life situations. I then identified three ideas from Bowen’s work that I think have the potential of deepening the impact of our teaching in the church. In my second blog, I put the focus on his first idea, finding ways to use technology to provide content to group members, preparing them for active learning in your Bible study group. In the third blog I focused on how to better use your class time to help students in processing and applying the content of the Scripture you are studying together. In this final blog, I want to give our attention to ways we can use social media and other online technologies to connect with those we teach, promote a stronger sense of community as we follow Christ, and promote the application of what we are learning over time, deepening the impact of our studies ...

  • Joanne Jung — 

    Have you ever wondered what theology and ice cream have in common? Some Zondervan authors shed some light on the matter, and our very own Dr. Joanne Jung chimes in.

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim comes to a close: Michael: But what if it doesn’t happen the way I hope? What if I set out on a course of action and my impact turns out to be minimal? Jim: I don’t believe that anyone who lives a life of whole devotion to God will only have minimal impact. But it’s not until eternity that we will be able to see all that has occurred through our lives. In other words, we don’t always see fully now. But, let’s say that you really don’t make an impact; you can’t even see a dent. Even then, you’ve lived life according to the purpose for which you were created, and that can never be called an empty life. Michael: But if your ministry is unsuccessful, you haven’t succeeded. Jim: Not necessarily ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Michael: I think I’ll never find a church I can take my family to. Jim: WHY NOT?! Michael: There’s just too much hypocrisy! Jim: I have to agree with you there. Michael: (not listening to Jim’s answer) … I know it’s hard for you to hear this, since you’re in the ministry and everything … (all of a sudden catching on) … did you say you agree?! Jim: Of course I do ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Michael: I admire your courage. But I still think that what you’re trying to do is almost impossible. Jim: That’s one of the reasons we’re trying it. God is the one who makes the impossible possible. What do you think, Michael? Is the church a triumphant church, or are we just a band of persecuted idealists? Michael: In your case I’d say that you look more like a group of persecuted idealists. At the same time, the church does seem to be making strides in many places in the world ...

  • Joy Mosbarger — 

    For many of us who are not pastors or missionaries, integrating our walks of faith and our vocational callings can be a challenge. Throughout church history, there have been some remarkable men and women who have excelled at meeting this challenge. One such example lived in the early centuries of the church. Her name was Bathild (c. 630-c.680), and she found herself in various vocational situations at different stages in her life. In each of those situations, she found opportunities to be a blessing to others and to advance the kingdom of God ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Jim: The issue, as I see it, is this: Are we supposed to make decisions according to wisdom or should we look for special guidance from God? Michael: That’s the question. Jim: Proverbs tells us that we’re supposed to seek after wisdom in every area of life.[1] Michael: So wisdom is obviously important. Jim: Definitely. But Paul describes the believer as one “led by the Spirit.”[2] This description may be broader than simply the internal processes in decision-making, but also probably includes those as well. The Bible also presents many examples of God giving specific guidance to individuals for specific situations by various means ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Michael: How do you know things are going well? How do you know you’re not actually doing badly in your walk with God and that you just don’t realize it? Jim: What kind of question is that? Michael: A question to frustrate you. Jim: Thanks ...

  • John McKinley — 

    ... In meditation, I now listen for God’s message through the text in a different way. I have stopped merely thinking about the sermon and drilling into the passage, chewing on what the commentary says, and that has helped open things up for me. The result is a different sort of sermon ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Jim: Even in areas of sin, simple confession is often not enough to rid you of the habit that has been formed through patterns of sin. Sin has two main dimensions, the rebellion side and the habit side. Rebellion is dealt with through confession. Ungodly habits are usually eliminated by putting good habits in their place. And the only way to develop permanent good habits is by implementing self-discipline. Michael: (looking frustrated) By raising the issue of discipline, you’ve really hit a sensitive nerve with me. I’ve heard countless messages on self-discipline and am extremely uncomfortable whenever I hear them. Is a disciplined person like you more spiritual than a lazy bum like me? ...

  • Octavio Esqueda — 

    En el 2006, Ken Ferraro, un profesor de sociología de la universidad Purdue publicó un interesante artículo en la revista especializada “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religión” en el que reportaba los resultados de su investigación acerca de la relación entre la religión y el índice de masa corporal. En su estudio, Ferraro descubrió que sí existe una relación entre algunas religiones y la tendencia de sus miembros para ser obesos. Lamentablemente, los cristianos tienen la masa corporal más alta y los bautistas, en particular son los más obesos en los Estados Unidos. De hecho, cerca del 27 por ciento de los bautistas son obesos y, por lo tanto, el grupo religioso con mayor sobrepeso en un gran contraste con religiones no cristianas como la judía, musulmana y budista donde menos del uno por ciento de sus miembros son obesos ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Jim: Maybe we should talk about sin today. Michael: That sounds like a good way to mess up a nice morning … Jim: At least it’s a useful subject. Michael: I’m not so sure about that. Jim: Maybe it would be good to try. Michael: OK, if you insist ...

  • Freddy Cardoza — 

    As we consider doing personal discipleship, who we disciple is an important factor. It's important to keep in mind that who God might have you disciple may not be the ideal candidate at first glance ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Michael: You said that the issue is whether the world determines the look of our lives, or whether the Bible determines it. Jim: Sometimes, biblical truths look extreme to us because we’re using the values of the world as our yardstick. Michael: So you think we should all be fools for Jesus. You think that we all need to make a decision to live radical, cut-loose lives for Jesus. Right? Jim: Right. Michael: I thought you said that the Lord has been teaching you about balance recently ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Michael: Do you remember last week—one of the final things you said to me was, “I hope that you’re able to take hold of the life that the Lord has planned for you”? I think I responded with an “I hope so, too.” I’ve been thinking about this all week and I have another question I want to talk about. This one’s really nagging me. Jim: Shoot. Michael: Don’t start that again! Jim: OK. Michael: Do we ever actually get what we’re seeking? We’re told many times in the Bible that we’re supposed to seek the Lord. Is the Christian life all seeking, or is there any finding involved? ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Jim: Haven’t you noticed that some preachers concentrate on themes of forsaking all to follow Christ, personal discipline, faithfulness in prayer, radical discipleship, the lordship of Christ, and the like, while others exhort us to let go of our self-reliance and learn about the inner joys of the life that God offers? Michael: I’ve never really though of it that way, but you’re right. Jim: Which should they be preaching? Michael: I’m not sure. Jim: I’ve got a theory ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    The dialogue between Michael and Jim continues: Michael: But isn’t there any way that I can have the joy and peace of the Christian life without the necessity of suffering, pain and personal discipline? Jim: You want to have your cake and eat it too? Michael: That’s not what I mean. Jim: What do you mean? Michael: What about all those people who talk about the peace and joy they experience as Christians? Their lives don’t seem to be all that difficult. Perhaps I should aim at that type of life ...

  • Kenneth Berding — 

    Two men in their in their late 20’s walk into a coffee shop around 7:00 a.m. In college they had been good friends, but over the past few years had gotten out of touch. Having lived in the same dormitory for three of their four years at City Christian College, they still had many fond—and a few not-so-fond memories—of their time together in college. Just by accident (or so Michael thought) they had run into each other in a hardware store about three weeks before, and had set up a time to talk over breakfast. Jim thought of their accidental meeting as a divine appointment. He considered any accidental meeting to be a divine appointment ...

  • Klaus Issler — 

    One early evening at six, my wife Beth’s brief comment—"Remember, I'll be needing the car at seven tonight"—suddenly stirred up my inner parts and brought about an energized outburst. I yelled, "You didn't bring this up when we were coordinating our schedules last Saturday!" Where is all that unexpected display of energy and irritation coming from? Why would I react so strongly to that comment? Various factors contributed to this surprising flare-up. I would have to rearrange my schedule and thus not make progress on an important project I was working on. Coupled with a few other similar setbacks earlier in the week unrelated to Beth's involvement, this schedule change had finally set me off ...

  • The Good Book Blog — 

    Adam Johnson (assistant professor at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute (’01, M.A. ’07)) recently released Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed. To learn more about this book, we asked Adam a few questions ...

  • Thaddeus Williams — 

    This series began by noting how we live in the Age of Feeling and Authenticity. We have come to see how Jesus can save us from it, how he can restore just sentiments like outrage, compassion, and joy. This leaves us with two hanging questions: First, how do we actually come to feel just sentiments the way Jesus did? Second, why Jesus’ feelings? Can’t we learn just sentiments from the emotional lives of Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Rosa Parks? Or from that friendly janitor, that magnanimous co-worker, or that self-giving mother? Or perhaps even from Homer’s Ulysses, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Aragorn, or J.K. Rowling’s Harry? Aren’t there a billion admirable feelers, real and fictional, who show us what life can look like beyond the confines of the modern fact box and the postmodern feeling box?

  • Charlie Trimm — 

    Although I talk about many controversial topics in my classes, I receive no greater pushback from students than when I talk about the need for church discipline in churches today. We spend a class period introducing the topic, discussing various reasons why Americans do not like it, how to go about practicing all stages of church discipline, and reflecting on some difficult cases. The main point I want them to take away from the discussion and the assignment is to see how church discipline can be helpful for spiritual formation and encourage them to develop relationships in which their friends feel free to rebuke them over sin. For the assignment (see details below) I have them read a chapter on confession from our textbook on spiritual formation (Joanne Jung’s Knowing Grace), reflect on the practice of church discipline, and meet with a trusted friend or mentor to practice confession.

  • Thaddeus Williams — 

    As we learn emotions from Jesus, not only does our blood start to boil (see Part 2) and our stomachs turn (see Part 3), he also shows our hearts how to beat with real joy. There is a stereotype floating around which says that Jesus and the faith he represents are about cold-hearted duty, doing the right thing at the expense of our happiness. There are enough grim-faced moralistic systems out that brandish the name of “Christianity” to keep the stereotype alive. But they have more in common with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant than with the kingdom of Jesus. The day after he stormed the Temple, Jesus returns to the same Temple courts to announce that his kingdom is like a big party, and everyone is invited; not a boarding school, not a boot camp, not a prison chain gang, but a party.

  • Thaddeus Williams — 

    If we peer underneath Jesus’ table-flipping rage at the Temple (explored in Part 2), we find a still deeper emotion to reflect. Matthew’s account tells us that immediately after protesting the poor-oppressing, God-mocking Temple system, “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them" (Matthew 21:14). What a beautiful moment. In it we see that Jesus was outraged not in spite of His care for people but precisely because of it. The very people marginalized and trampled under the religious power structure are brought into the spotlight and elevated by Jesus. (He has a way of doing that.) He didn’t take anything from them or treat them like chumps in a captive market. He gave them vision and sound bodies. He treated them like the intrinsically valuable human beings they each were—and all for free.