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Encountering God through Contemplation: Listening for the Spirit | POD 026

Encountering God through Contemplation: Listening for the Spirit | POD 026

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HOSTS & GUESTS

Nydiaris Hernandez-Santos – Guest

Gabe Coyle – Guest

Bill Gorman – Host

 

Show Notes

Encountering God through Contemplation: Listening for the Spirit

Have you ever wondered how to find a moment of divine peace in the chaos of daily life? Together with our guest, Nydiaris Hernandez-Santos, we explore the transformative journey through the discipline of contemplation—distinct from prayer and meditation—and how it can lead us to a more profound awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our daily lives. Drawing from Psalm 63, the wisdom of Christian mystics, and stories from our own lives, we uncover the power of contemplation to connect us more closely to God. We confront the modern challenge of silence in a noisy world and consider how the practice of contemplation is both the road we travel and the destination we seek. Join us for a conversation that promises to enrich and realign our approach to spiritual disciplines and our understanding of what it means to truly be with Jesus.

 

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  1. Understanding Contemplation: Begin by setting aside regular time for stillness to engage with God. Embrace the art of contemplation, distinct from prayer and meditation in its focus on simply being with Jesus. Pay loving attention to His presence and let the Holy Spirit’s influence become a perceptible force in your life. Minimize distractions and commit to this discipline with intentionality, allowing the peace and presence of God to suffuse your being.
  2. Real-Life Experiences: Open your heart to the possibility of encountering God in all aspects of life — from family interactions to personal reflections inspired by art. Take inspiration from our guest’s stories and be prepared for unexpected moments of spiritual revelation. Encourage yourself to stay alert and responsive to the divine presence in seemingly mundane experiences.
  3. The Value and Practice of Contemplation: Acknowledge contemplation not just as a practice but as a lens through which you view the world. It is a holistic approach that calls for extending grace, compassion, and empathy towards others, drawing on examples like Psalm 63 to seek God earnestly in all circumstances. Let the practice of contemplation guide you to a deeper level of communion with God, and let that connection inform your interactions and perspective on the world.

#RomansContemplation #SpiritualDisciplines #HolySpiritPresence #PrayerMuscle #TransformativeJourney #ChristianMystics #ContemplativePractices #ScriptureMeditation #theFormedLifePodcast #BeingWithGod

 

RESOURCES:

The Practice of the Presence of God | Brother Lawrence

Interior Castle | St. Teresa of Ávila

Dark Night of the Soul | St. John of the Cross

Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings – Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner

The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence  | Henri Nouwen

Psalm 63:1-5 | Scripture Reference for Meditation

 

GUEST BIOS:

Nydiaris Hernández-Santos grew up in a small coastal town in Puerto Rico, surrounded by mountains and a beautiful community of people that deeply shaped her faith. A fascination with science led her to pursue a B.S. in Biology/Microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico, which resulted in a two-year internship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda M.D. Her passion for germs and the immune system led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Pittsburgh and subsequent postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nydiaris loves to learn and study! Her life turned one hundred and eighty degrees when the Lord asked her to pursue ministry and her passion for preaching in a more traditional way which included pursuit of an M. Div. degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Nydiaris loves meeting new people and deep conversations. She also loves music, particularly her beloved Latin American tunes. If you are a passenger in her car, you will likely hear some salsa or Latin jazz playing. A long walk, good food, a nurturing book, and passionate prayer are her version of spa treatment.

 

QUOTES:

“So that there is something that contemplating God does that grounds you so that when hardship comes, when difficult times come, you’re not tossing around like a wave. You have something, a foundation to be grounded in and so you can do life with God.” — Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

 

“There is a reason Jesus said that we had to pray for our enemies, and that that is hard. Yes. But I’m thinking when I think about contemplating God through people, and I’m like, oh, that’s why. Because you will end up loving them after you contemplate God through them.” — Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

 

 “What it really is is to sit in prayer with no other objective than to be with Jesus. Yeah. You have no agendas for intercession, no list. Yeah. You simply have a phrase and the other day I did this… with the sole purpose of sitting there being with Jesus, and that’s that’s all there is.” — Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

 

CHAPTERS:

00:00 Exploring transformative journeys through Romans 6-8.

05:57 Attend to God, notice, and contemplate him.

10:02 Contemplation grounds, provides strength, approaching spiritual disciplines.

12:11 Love nature, art, and contemplation of God.

16:29 Finding direction and quiet in a noisy world.

18:45 Symone Wey leaned in and found God’s presence.

21:02 Finding hope and purpose in everyday life.

25:13 Revelations about God’s love for people.

29:42 Contemplative prayer teaches being with God, impacting relationships.

32:17 Contemplation: image, love, engagement, discipline, transformation, road.

Three Things I Learned from Tim Keller

Three Things I Learned from Tim Keller

The first time I heard Tim’s voice was on a pair of cheap earbuds in a noisy Caribou Coffee in Deerfield, Illinois. I was a first-year seminary student and was there studying with some friends. At some point, I took a break from studying and that’s when my friend Josh waved me over to his table. “You ever heard of Tim Keller?” he asked. “No,” I replied. He all but forced me to sit down and put his cheap, and not super-clean, earbuds in my ears. “You’ve got to listen to a few minutes of this sermon!” So after wiping off the earbuds, I put them in and started listening. To be honest, I don’t remember what sermon it was or what it was about. Part of me was just thinking: How long do I have to listen before I can take this guy’s earbuds out of my ears? What struck me in that moment was Tim’s thoughtfulness and winsomeness. 

I didn’t know it then but that borrowed-earbud moment introduced me to someone who would profoundly shape who I would become as a pastor and preacher. Apart from Tom Nelson, our Senior Pastor at Christ Community who I have known for over 20 years, no one has more profoundly influenced my pastoral ministry and particularly my preaching, than Tim Keller.

Tim died on May 19, 2023 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. In appreciation for him and his impact on me and so many others, I want to share three things Tim taught me through his writing, preaching, and teaching.

 

The Gospel: The A-Z not just the ABCs

First, Tim taught me that the gospel is not just the ABCs of the Christian life. It is the A-Z. He taught me that we never get beyond the gospel, we only go deeper into it. He writes in his book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City:

The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians, and then Christians mature by trying hard to live according to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.  

The work of discipleship and spiritual formation is engaging practices, habits, and routines that remind us of, and shape us with, the gospel in every facet of life. 

 

The City: An opportunity not just an obstacle

Second, Tim opened my eyes to the reality that city centers are not obstacles to gospel ministry. They are incredible opportunities for gospel influence. Growing up in a suburb of St. Louis during the 1980s and 90s, I typically thought of “downtown” or the “city center” primarily as a place that was difficult to navigate as well as potentially physically dangerous and spiritually detrimental.

In fact, if you had told me as a high school student that my first permanent pastoral position after seminary would be leading an effort to plant a church campus in downtown Kansas City, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But Tim’s teaching on the city captured my imagination and transformed my affections. In my beat-up, well-worn, spiral-bound copy of the Church Planter Manual from the Redeemer Church Planter Center, Tim writes:

Because of the power of the city, it is the chief target of the forces of darkness, because that which wins the city sets the course of human life, society and culture. …if the Christian church wants to really change the country and culture, it must go into the cities themselves, and not just into the suburbs or even the exurbs. Three kinds of persons live there who exert tremendous influence on our society.… They are: the elites who control the culture and who are becoming increasingly secularized; the masses of new immigrants who move out in the mainstream of society over the next 30 years; the poor, whose dilemmas are deepening rapidly and affecting the whole country. 

This, along with Tim’s compelling teaching on Jeremiah 29 as a vision for Christians seeking the flourishing of the city, transformed not only how I thought and felt about city centers but gave me a picture of what sort of church was possible in the city. 

 

The Church: Evangelism not just formation

Third, Tim showed me a “third way” between “seeker-sensitive” church services and “believer-focused” worship gatherings. Tim challenged church leaders to always speak and act as if non-believers were in the room. The goal isn’t to make the service comfortable for those who don’t yet believe, but rather to make it comprehensible for those who don’t believe. He wrote in Center Church:

Contrary to popular belief, our purpose is not to make the nonbeliever “comfortable.”…Our aim is to be intelligible to them…. Seek to worship and preach in the vernacular. It is impossible to overstate how insular and subcultural our preaching can become. We often make statements that are persuasive and compelling to us, but they are based on all sorts of premises that a secular person does not hold. …So we must intentionally seek to avoid unnecessary theological or evangelical jargon, carefully explaining the basic theological concepts behind confession of sin, praise, thanksgiving, and so on. In your preaching, always be willing to address the questions that the nonbelieving heart will ask. Speak respectfully and sympathetically to people who have difficulty with Christianity.  …Listen to everything that is said in the worship service with the ears of someone who has doubts or struggles with belief. 

Tim didn’t just write about this as an ideal. He lived it out in every sermon he preached. Through his preaching, I learned from Tim that there is a way to engage people who are skeptical about Christianity while continuing to encourage and equip those who are followers of Jesus.

 

Conclusion

When I heard the news he had died, tears welled up in my eyes. I knew that he was sick. I knew that he would die soon. But I was still surprised by the emotional impact on me when he actually died. While talking to one of my best friends about the impact that Tim’s had on us, he paused and reflected that there are thousands of other people across the country and around the world who are having similar conversations about Tim’s impact. I’m deeply grateful to Jesus for the gift of Tim Keller. I miss him already. Thank you for all you taught me, Tim.

Sleep, Rest and Renewal: God’s Rhythm in Creation and Our Lives |  POD 008

Sleep, Rest and Renewal: God’s Rhythm in Creation and Our Lives | POD 008

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RESOURCES

HOSTS & GUESTS

Dr. Gayln Perry – Guest

Paul Brandes – Host

Liz Nelson – Guest

Show Notes

Sleep, Rest and Renewal: God’s Rhythm in Creation and Our Lives

How important are rest and sleep for renewal and spiritual growth? In this episode, we discuss how God’s design for rest affects all of creation, with sleep being a crucial element. Dr. Gayln Perry and Liz Nelson regularly work with patients who struggle with sleep disorders. They share their expertise, clarifying and addressing common contributors to sleep and rest issues. We talk about practical ideas for improving sleep quality and how inconsistent sleep schedules, napping in the afternoon, and engaging in non-sleep-related activities in bed can negatively impact the quality of sleep. Other negative contributing factors emphasized are caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Exposure to bright light in the evenings from electronics can also confuse our circadian rhythm. We find out more about the importance of understanding and prioritizing sleep and rest for our physical and spiritual health.

In the latest episode of theFormed.life, we explore the importance of rest and sleep in our lives.

 

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:

Join us in this conversation about the importance of rest and sleep in our daily lives.

  1. God designed us to need rest, and resisting a Sabbath rest can prevent us from experiencing the joy, beauty, hope, peace, and calm that God intended for us to flourish.
  2. Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, can be triggered by life stressors, but prioritizing rest and building connections with others can lead to improved sleep.
  3. Best practices for improving sleep quality include consistent wake-up times, avoiding non-sleep-related activities in bed, and minimizing exposure to caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

#TheFormedLife #RestAndRenewal #SleepQuality #SabbathRest #MentalHealthAwareness

 

GUEST BIO(S):

Dr. Gayln Perry is a pulmonologist dedicated to helping patients with all aspects of sleep, including sleep disorders. Her passion for this field stemmed from her personal struggle with insomnia over 30 years ago. She understands the importance of getting proper, restful sleep and empathizes with those who are facing life stressors that make it difficult to do so. With her expertise and compassion, Dr. Perry strives to help her patients achieve the restful sleep they need to live healthy and happy lives.

Liz Nelson earned her MA in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University. She is a Clinically Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Kansas. Her areas of focus are adult counseling for individuals and couples. Elizabeth works from a psychodynamic theory and the attachment perspective that honors the client’s experiences of personal and relational struggles that interfere with well-being. Together with the client, Liz explores the symptoms and causes of distress. She works with a wide variety of needs and in diverse populations. Elizabeth also has over two decades of experience serving the non-profit community in Kansas City, and is deeply committed to coming alongside these leaders, caregivers, and volunteers.

 

 

QUOTES:

“…the circadian rhythm is driven by… the master clock. Every cell in our body has a clock and… it lines up with the master clock… and that clock again wakes us up when the sun comes up and puts us to sleep at night… In the morning when we wake up, we really should get bright light exposure and that resets that clock every day.”
– Dr. Gayln Perry

 

“I would prioritize sleep because it impacts your immune system, it impacts your emotional margin with your family, it impacts your productivity at work… it’s extremely important.”
– Dr. Gayln Perry

 

“[We need to] schedule times of holistic rest prior to other priorities, like where are the walks, where is nature, where is community, where are the sunsets? Schedule that ahead of other priorities or it disappears.”
– Liz Nelson

 

“…there’s an understanding that rest is designed by God, and we are designed by God to need rest.”
– Liz Nelson

 

 

RESOURCES:

The Body Keeps The Score: Book

Reading Resurrection in the Book of Nature: Blog from The Gospel Coalition

How Shorter Work Weeks Could Save The Planet: BBC Blog

 

CHAPTERS:

00:01:49 “Pulmonologist tackles a wide range of sleep issues”
00:02:24 “Doctor’s Insomnia Struggle Inspires Patient Care Approach”
00:12:16 “The Divine Importance of Sleep for Health”
00:14:58 “The Importance of Sleep for All Ages”
00:16:01 “The Fascinating Biology of our Circadian Rhythm”
00:18:16 “Improving Sleep Quality Through Addressing Mental Health”
00:26:30 “Tips for Better Sleep: Consistency is Key”
00:28:53 “Prioritize Sleep: Impact on Health, Family & Work”

Addressing Sexual Brokenness: Clues to Healing Through Story and Curiosity |  POD 007

Addressing Sexual Brokenness: Clues to Healing Through Story and Curiosity | POD 007

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RESOURCES

Hosts & Guests

Jay Stringer – Guest

Paul Brandes – Co-Host

Bill Gorman – Co-Host

Show Notes

Addressing Sexual Brokenness

Unwanted sexual behaviors are not random but reflect unaddressed parts of one’s story. Dealing with these underlying issues can lead to wider stories of healing. In this podcast episode, we talk with Jay Stringer about bringing the problems, heartache, brokenness, and sin into the foreground and get really curious about the origins of how that all began. And then, with curiosity and kindness, that’s how we are able to heal and grow.

 

Three key takeaways from this episode:

  • Insights into the journey out of unwanted sexual desires and behaviors
  • The church can be a significant place for sexual shame to develop due to secrecy, silence, and judgment. Christians need to open up about the realities of sexual brokenness and renew their sexual mind by submitting and being curious about it.
  • Sexual brokenness can be a roadmap to healing rather than a life sentence of shame or addiction. By addressing underlying issues, we can experience wider stories of healing.

Don’t just take our word for it; listen to the entire episode to discover more insights about the journey out of unwanted behaviors.

 

Guest bio:

Jay Stringer is a clinical researcher, author, and speaker best known for his work on the topic of unwanted sexual behavior. Jay’s research looks at the origins of this behavior, which often results from unresolved childhood trauma and present-day issues such as a lack of purpose, depression, and anxiety. His book, Unwanted, challenges the traditional approaches of shame and lust management, instead encouraging people to embrace their brokenness as a roadmap to healing. Through his work, Jay is committed to helping people understand their stories of brokenness, and ultimately find healing and growth.

 

Episode quotes:

“The danger of purity culture is that we can’t fail to educate, and then also try to trap and convict people of sin. I think that’s very sinful behavior…”

– Jay Stringer

“Become your child’s Google.” “The reality is that the average age of initial exposure is nine to eleven with porn; the parent has the choice to either say I’m going to be the primary sex educator of the child or [it will be] porn or my middle school peers.”

– Jay Stringer

“Deprivation and Entitlement: We live with a lot of deprivation. We don’t feel like our needs are that important. We don’t take care of ourselves well. And so then when we actually get the opportunity that we sign off for the night, we move from this place of deprivation and then seesaw into entitlement of, “I deserve this thing.””

– Jay Stringer

Chapters

02:19 Unwanted sexual behavior is not random
07:59 Renewing the sexual mind
14:38 Harm of the Purity Culture
21:20 Primary sex educators for children
26:31 Finding calm in healthy ways
28:04 Emotional and physical calming and healing
31:02 Deprivation and entitlement
34:57 Swim toward fear
38:47 Churches provide education

Legalization of Cannabis: How Should Christians Respond? |  POD 006

Legalization of Cannabis: How Should Christians Respond? | POD 006

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Hosts & Guests

Todd Miles – Guest,
Professor of Theology at Western Seminary

Paul Brandes – Co-Host

Bill Gorman – Co-Host

Show Notes

 

The cannabis debate is raging, with some countries legalizing it and others banning recreational use. In this episode of theFormed.life Podcast, Dr. Todd Miles joins us to discuss the legalization of cannabis and how Christians should respond. We explore a biblical framework, the different elements in cannabis, and some wisdom questions that can help us make informed decisions. Todd is a pastor and author with a beautiful Christian perspective on this topic

Is recreational marijuana a sin? What are the risks and benefits of cannabis use? How should Christians respond to the legalization of cannabis? This is an important topic, and we want to ensure we offer a biblical perspective. Whether you’re a Christian or not, this episode is a must-listen! We hope you enjoy the conversation and find it helpful as you continue to think about your response to cannabis.

Dr. Todd Miles is author of Cannabis and the Christian: What the Bible Says about Marijuana, and a Professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, OR. He also serves as an elder at his local church.

The health risks of cannabis are not discussed at length in this conversation; however, in his book, Dr. Miles points out the increasing risks that are often overlooked or minimized. In fact, he cites a study showing that “while marijuana use is on the rise, perception of the risk is on the decline” (pg.33). We’ve included a short summary of some of those risks here, and Dr. Miles has a whole chapter on these risks in the book, so check it out there. Of note, marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, due in large part to the health risks. 

 

Health Risks Associated with Cannabis Use (from the book)

Four main categories of risks:
  • Addiction: While it is true that marijuana has been shown to be less addictive than nicotine and alcohol, less addictive doesn’t mean not addictive. Of particular concern, studies show that 17% of adolescent users develop an addiction.
  • Lung and heart issues: Both the American Heart Association and American Lung Association warn against smoking or vaping any substance, including cannabis, because of “potential harm to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.” (pg. 38)
  • Teen use interferes with brain development: He writes, “THC has been proven to interfere with brain development [in teens], and the losses created by that interference cannot be restored… The evidence is overwhelming, and there is no credible disagreement with that conclusion” (pg. 40).
  • Psychosis and mental illness: Since the late 1980s, “study after study has been performed showing that marijuana use increases the risk for psychosis in general and schizophrenia in particular” (pg. 45)

RESOURCES:

Cannabis and the Christian – by Todd Miles (book on Amazon)

More information about health risks can be found here:
https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects/index.html

Mental Health and Spiritual Formation as Followers of Jesus |  POD 005

Mental Health and Spiritual Formation as Followers of Jesus | POD 005

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Hosts & Guests

Liz Nelson – Licensed Counselor

Tom Nelson – Lead Senior Pastor

Paul Brandes – Host

Bill Gorman – Co-Host

Show Notes

In this episode, we explore the intersection of mental health and spiritual formation as followers of Jesus. Tom and Liz Nelson join us for this important conversation. 

One in four of us will experience a mental health crisis in our lives. If we knew that one in four of our church family experienced this trauma, wouldn’t we want to know about it and have the church be a place that considers the unique needs of those dealing with these issues? 

Even if you never personally experience a crisis, your mental health and emotions are a part of how God made you, and Jesus cares deeply about you as a whole person.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • how to “undo the aloneness” in our lives
  • the coming together of theology and mental health
  • the importance of not just knowing God but being known by God
  • Some practical advice on what to look for in mental health professional 
  • Attachment theory

You’ll hear us use the language of “attachment” and “attachment theory” a number of times. If you want to learn more about attachment and how it affects your relationships with others and God, here are a few resources: