SE Introduction: Session Six.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 11: 28-30 MsgB)
So now, we’re only a little over one week away from beginning our thirty-two week adventure through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Have you gotten your copy of The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien yet? I hope so. We will be using that excellent resource book as the source of the scriptures we’ll be studying. Are you prepped? Are you ready?
As I’ve been sharing with you thus far, one of the best ways one can prepare themselves for a walk through the Spiritual Exercises is to spend a bit of time reviewing your God-history. My hope is that as I have been sharing a bit of my story with you, you’ve been reflecting some on the journey Jesus has been taking with you as well.
As I wrote earlier, my trek toward the Spiritual Exercises actually began seven years ago. After ten years of successful church-planting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1998-2008), the Lord came dramatically into my life, dismantling and re-working just about everything I’ve ever known about doing pastoral ministry. As a result, I stand here today in 2015 understanding that Jesus wants me to see myself now as a recovering 3-B pastor on my way to becoming a contemplative activist. I’m sure over the next thirty-two weeks of blogging with you through the Exercises, we’ll talk more about that in detail.
But let me conclude my story here today by taking us back to January 2010. At this time in my life, I was still reeling from all the fallout and burnout in my church that began after the flood of 2008. I was taking my pastoral coach’s advice and trying to do more listening for the Lord’s voice, believing indeed, that He did have more to say to me than anyone else. I was feeling the Lord challenging me and my church in Cedar Rapids to “give our lives and our church over to Jesus” in ways we had never done before.
Maybe you feel that way right now. Maybe you’re a pastor and you’re tired and weary of doing church just for the sake of doing church. Maybe you’re a ministry worker, a volunteer for Jesus. Maybe you’re like so many people in my church, burned out on religious activity, tired of the same old-same old.
So back to January 2010.
At the time, I’d been reading about the great 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. At age 30, after already being powerfully used by God to reach many for Jesus, Moody was challenged by the British evangelist Henry Varley to an even deeper commitment to God than that in which he was presently walking in. It was 1867 and Moody had already found great success in being a “traveling shoe salesman for Jesus”. As a matter of fact, Dwight had already won countless young street kids to the Lord, walking the sidewalks of Chicago, filling his missionary church to the brim. Yet as he sat on a park bench across the street from a cathedral in Dublin, Henry Varley, an evangelist in the great revivals led by Charles Spurgeon and George Muller, challenged Moody with this comment…
“Dwight, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man who is fully consecrated to Him.”
In later writings, historians say that Varley only vaguely remembered making this powerful comment to Moody. Yet as Dwight returned home to America, to his mission work on the streets of Chicago, the Lord wouldn’t let him forget this haunting challenge. On the ship returning to New York, Moody reasoned with himself that Varley hadn’t said “an anointed man, or a wealthy man, or a well-educated or seminary-trained man”. No, the challenge was just “a man who is fully consecrated to God”. Moody consciously committed himself during that return trip to Chicago and be, with God’s help, “that man”. He called it “O and O” for God. “Out and Out for Jesus!”
History proves that as Moody returned to his mission work in Chicago and kept Varley’s unique challenge before him, God used Dwight in amazing ways to reach a nation for Christ. Over the next 32 years, Dwight L. Moody, who also experienced a personalized indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit as he was reeling from disastrous ministry setbacks that stemmed from the great Chicago fire of 1871, went on to become one of the major contributors to the work of God in America during the second half of the 19th century.
So what about you and me today?
Do you suppose that Henry Varley’s challenge to Dwight Moody can still ring true in our generation?
What would it look like if a few of us decided, like Moody, to take on this powerful statement as a personal challenge?
What would it look like if a whole church decided to step into a level of “consecration to God” that we haven’t done before?
What would happen if a group of people decided to go to Jesus and ask Him to take charge, leading and empowering us to discover, embrace, and walk out our unique God-given call and purpose in our lives? Giving our “O and O” for Him?
I don’t know about you, my dear reader, but I’d like to be around a group of people asking questions like that! Wouldn’t you? I’d love to find a way to hear all that God is saying and doing within a group of people who are taking a challenge like this seriously.
So here’s the deal.
Back in January 2010, a few people in our church began to respond to this challenge. I started my blog As I See It back then and asked folks to join me as we blogged our way through some scriptures, asking Jesus to consecrate us wholly for His cause. Many are continuing that challenge with me to this very day.
Now it’s five years later. And here’s my challenge to you. Join me as we journey through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Get out a Bible. Pencil an hour into your schedule three days per week beginning Monday. Next time, we’ll give you a few practical suggestions on how you can best prepare yourself for our thirty-two week journey.
The world has yet to see what God will do with a man or woman who is fully consecrated to Him.
Are you ready?
My prayer: Holy Spirit, the challenging words of Henry Varley to Dwight Moody stand recorded in time for all to see and hear. They remind me of the words of another one of your servants, Isaiah, who said on Your behalf so long ago, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” Like Isaiah and Dwight Moody, I choose this day to respond back to You, “Here am I, Jesus. Send me!” For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What needs to change in my life to make room for my response to Henry Varley’s challenge? What might it look like for me to become, in the days ahead, one person who is fully consecrated (set apart) for the purposes of Almighty God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry in Our Ignatian Adventure…click here.
If you’ve been reading our My 3-B Story click here to finish up the series.