Christian Spiritual Formation and Emotional Development

This is one of six famous Eastern Orthodox Christian monasteries in Thessaly, Greece.  They are built on the Meteora Rock formations.  This monastery is second in importance only to Mount Athos.  Christians inhabited these mountains from the 9th century.  Photo credit:  Danel Solabatierra | CC2.0, Flickr


christian spiritual formation and emotional development

Messages and Essays on Christian Spiritual Formation and Emotional Development

Shame and Glory: How Jesus Heals Your Self, Desires, and Emotions A curriculum for small group discussion or personal reflection. Shame is the desire to hide the self. Glory is the response of God to invest Himself in us and renew His image in us. This material explores humanity as fundamentally good, but corrupted by sin, and not entirely in control of our own desires and emotions. Part of the spiritual and emotional struggle, then, is to know ourselves, know how God sees and loves us, and to receive into ourselves the Spirit of Christ. Peppered with insights from the early Christians, including some “desert fathers and mothers” who were the earliest “spiritual directors.”

The Emotions of God

How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God

The Emotions of God: How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God A curriculum for small group discussion; a subset of the Shame and Glory material. Scripture often invites us to consider emotional language as it applies to God. Jesus also demonstrated very human emotions and called forth our participation in God’s joy, sorrow, etc. These passages give us valuable insights into God’s character and love for us. Part of our life with Jesus is to allow him to shape and reshape our emotions, that we would respond to others and circumstances with the consistency of Jesus. This guide helps us do that.

A Biblical Theology of Desire

The Desire for a Happy Ending: Interpreting the Movies, Songs, and Stories Around Us 

The Dreams that Refuse to Die 

Jesus is God's New Humanity (Romans 5:12 - 21)

God's Victory Over Human Evil: Our Death and Resurrection With Jesus (Romans 6:1 - 11)

Paul's Language of Motivation: Our Union with Christ (Romans 6:1 - 11)  

Jesus and the Problem of Jealousy (Romans 7:14 - 8:4) 

Jesus and the Shaping of Desire: An Exploration of Early Church Practices

Whose Family? Which Union? Reflections on Scripture, Human Sexuality and God's Purposes

Loving God First, Then Loving People (TBD)

Desires, Beliefs, and How We Know Truth

How Our Choices Shape Our Desires: Experiencing the Triune God

Your Personality, Desires, and Spirituality (although read this critique of the MBTI)

Jesus' Mission and Passion:  Being Light in Darkness (Ephesians 5:8 - 14)

Christian Spiritual Development Based on the Gospels:  A Diagram

Developing a Spiritual Rhythm of Life to Cultivate Godly Desires

Beauty's Transformation of the Ugly in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses An essay for Dr. Maximos Constas and Dr. Evie Holmberg, for their respective classes at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, Fall 2018; examines Gregory's work (c.390 AD) as a critical engagement with the Platonic tradition on beauty and desire, especially Origen and Plotinus; pays special attention to Gregory's statements about Jesus' atonement

Books and Articles on Christian Spiritual Formation

Christian Classics of Contemplative Meditation a website with downloadable pdf files, including early works (such as Athanasius’ Life of Antony; the Desert Fathers and Mothers; Patrick’s Confession), medieval works (such as Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle and Juan de la Cruz’s Dark Night of the Soul), and modern collections and reflections (such as Coptic Bishop Daniel’s The Spirituality of Icons; the Philokalia; and George MacDonald’s Diary of an Old Soul).

C.S. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics" in God in the Dock (Amazon book, 1970)

Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline (Amazon book, 1978)

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society (Amazon book, 1979)

Ralph Winter and Steve Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Amazon book, 1981 - 2009)

Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (Amazon book, 1988)

Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Amazon book, 1989)

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (Amazon book, 1992)

Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath (Amazon book, 2003)

David G. Benner, Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Amazon book, 2003)

David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself (Amazon book, 2004)

Adele Calhoun, Handbook of Spiritual Disciplines (Amazon book, 2005)

David G. Benner, Desiring God's Will: Aligning Our Hearts with the Heart of God (Amazon book, 2005)

Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms (Amazon book, Mar 10, 2006)

James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Amazon book, 2009)

Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence (Amazon book, Nov 1, 2010)

Henri Nouwen, Spirituality of Fundraising (Amazon book, 2010)

Helland, Hjalmarson, and Hirsch, Missional Spirituality: Embodying God's Love from the Inside Out (Amazon book, Nov 2011)

David G. Benner, Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human (Amazon book, 2011)

David G. Benner, Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation (Amazon book, 2012)

Carol Harrison, The Art of Listening in the Early Church (Amazon book, 2013)

Jason Todd, The Socially Acceptable Sin (Relevant Magazine, Apr 24, 2013) on gluttony

Rachel Held Evans, Everyone's a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony (blog, June 2013)

Ryan Thomas Neace, Consecrated Sexual Attraction (blog post by a Christian counselor, Aug 2, 2013) on exploring the desire behind the desire

Eve Tushnet, Coming Out Christian: How Faithful Homosexuals Are Transforming Our Churches (The American Conservative, Jan 29, 2014)

Scott Bessenecker, The Martyrdom of Obscurity (blog, Oct 2, 2013)

Dan Blazer, What Faith Communities Can Teach Psychiatrists About Depression (youtube video, Apr 13, 2014)

Father Stephen Freeman, Tolkien's Long Defeat (Ancient Faith blog, Jul 15, 2014)

N.T. Wright and Miroslav Volf, Theology of Joy (video, Sep 24, 2014) excellent reflections on suffering, emotions as well

Fabienne Harford, Sex and the Single Woman (The Gospel Coalition, Oct 16, 2014)

Nancy French, Living Without Sex: How Christian Singleness Doesn't Mean Ignoring the Hunger for Sex (Patheos blog, Oct 17, 2014)

Scott Bessenecker, The Advantage of Being Taken Advantage Of (Urbana blog, Nov 18, 2014)

Daily Content, Eat, Fast, and Live Longer (Daily Content, Jul 10, 2015)

Artur Rosman, Top 10 Books on Theology and Neuroscience (Patheos, Oct 22, 2015)

Simon Fellows, The Science of Fasting (Simon Fellows, Nov 19, 2015) a one hour youtube video about the health benefits

Chelle Stearns, Willie James Jennings, Laura Lasworth, Theology Between Art and the Body: Reimagining Our Future (Seattle Pacific University, Nov 6, 2015)

JesComPH, 5 Reasons Why Ignatius Of Loyola Was The First Jedi Master (Buzzfeed, Dec 18, 2015)

David G. Benner, Human Being and Human Becoming: Living the Adventure of Life and Love (Amazon book, Jan 19, 2016) says, "Eastern Orthodox and Celtic Christians have also never held a theology of the essential sinfulness of humans as part of their beliefs. Other Christian traditions, however, consider belief in the depravity of humans to be a cornerstone of orthodoxy. Unfortunately, this has led many to mistrust their bodies, emotions, sexuality, intuitions, and much more. This basic mistrust then easily spills over onto others—even onto the natural world. In short, it leaves people cut off from their deepest selves and misaligned with the flow of life."

Evelyne A. Reisacher, Joyful Witness in the Muslim World: Sharing the Gospel in Everyday Encounters (Sep 20, 2016) intriguing chapter on art and the desire for beauty

Jerry Bowyer, Looking for a Cognitive Enhancer? Skip the Drugs and Try Fasting Instead (Forbes, Jan 6, 2017)

Brendan Buse, Grace Enough: Andrew Garfield on the Ignatian Journey That Led Him Through 'Silence' (America Magazine, Jan 10, 2017) led him to appreciate Jesus

Jason Baxter, Nostalgia for the Future: Antiquity & Eternity (The Imaginative Conservative, Jul 6, 2017) “The experience of nostalgia is a feeling of beauty’s remoteness, but only because it is so far in the future. It is hope…”

Jackson Wu, Does Myers-Briggs Type Affect How You Experience Shame? (Patheos, Aug 24, 2017)

Susan Ashbrook Harvey (editor), Knowing Bodies, Passionate Souls: Sense Perceptions in Byzantium (Amazon book, Oct 2017) features how the Byzantine Christians thought about smell, taste, and touch, not just sight and sound, as ways of knowing and experiencing earthly and heavenly realities. Harvey builds on her earlier work in Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (Amazon book, 2006)

Stephen Freeman, The Life of Beauty in an Ugly World (Glory to God for All Things blog, Sep 26, 2018) parallels the beauty of the natural world and the beauty of Orthodox iconography

Patt Morrison, New Linguist George Lakoff on What Democrats Don’t Understand — and Republicans do — About How Voters Think (Los Angeles Times, Nov 28, 2018) about the importance of storytelling in civic, political life; touches on how private enterprise depends on public development and funding (and how the left tends to fail at both; shows how Christians need to rely on the arc of biblical storytelling)

Rod Dreher, Sohrab Ahmari’s Conversion (The American Conservative, Feb 15, 2019) an Iranian-American intellectual travels from a secular Muslim heritage through postmodern nihilism to the Catholic Church

Stephanie Reuter, Faith Formation with Flannery O’Connor (Church Life Journal, University of Notre Dame, May 23, 2019) thought-provoking quotes from O’Connor and questions for reflection

Luke J. Wilson, Spiritual Disciplines of the Early Church: Ancient Practices for the 21st Century (That Ancient Faith, Jun 17, 2019)

desire: Jesus guides us to true beauty: topics