Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Applications are now being accepted for the Spiritual Formation Certificate September 2015 Cohort
Application deadline June 1, 2015

We whole-heartedly believe that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37) which involves the transformation of our entire being, by God’s Spirit, into the likeness of Christ.
In light of this command, the Spiritual Formation Certificate program has been created to intentionally assist individuals to radically deepen their relationship with Christ and be inwardly conformed to His image.

Key features of the program include:

  • A cohort style approach comprised of 4 modules over a one-year period with no more than 18 persons in order to ensure an optimal level of engagement and growth. 

  • Each module includes a 2½ day retreat where participants will develop spiritual community, interact with course content and receive personalized spiritual direction.

  • Following each retreat participants will engage with 10-12 weeks of carefully designed content (see attached sample) that follows the framework of The Spiritual Exercises developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and integrates engagement with Scripture and contemporary spiritual formation principles and content. 

The purpose of the Exercises is very practical: to grow in union with God, who frees us to make good decisions about our lives and to “help souls.” Ignatius invites us into an intimate encounter with God, revealed in Jesus Christ, so that we can learn to think and act more like Christ. The Exercises help us grow in interior freedom from sin and disordered loves so that we can respond more generously to God’s call in our life. The Exercises demand much of us, engaging our intellect and emotions, our memory and will.
                       - Kevin O’Brien in The Ignatian Adventure, p. 14

Module Theme Overview

Module 1: God’s Love Story
We focus on God’s ideal and boundless love for us and see that our response to God’s love has been hindered by our brokenness and patterns of sin. We face these sins as we rest in God’s forgiving mercy.
Module 2: The Gospel
We enter into the journey with Christ and identify with His values, goals and methods as we reflect on various Scripture passages of His life.
Module 3: The Cross
We reflect deeply on living the cruciform life and the obedience and redemptive suffering of Christ.
Module 4: The Resurrection Life
We meditate on the reality of the resurrection and discovering and living into our own unique call.
Nancy Kane, Associate Professor in the Educational Ministries Department of Moody Bible Institute will be leading the program. She has been teaching on spiritual formation for 10 years, is a clinically trained therapist and co-director with her husband Ray of Grace Family Counseling Center. Special speakers will be included as part of the learning experience.

Retreat Dates:
September 11-13, 2015 
December 4-6, 2015 
February 12-14, 2016 
April 22-24, 2016

For more information or questions about the program email Lori Shoults at spiritualformation@moody.edu or call 847.508.0282.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Moody Bible Institute Announces Spiritual Formation Certificate

Certificate in Spiritual Formation
Applications for first January 2015 cohort accepted through November 30, 2014
We are pleased to announce that with our collaboration, Moody Bible Institute’s Distance Learning Program is launching a new Certificate in Spiritual Formation. The cohort-style program is comprised of 4 modules occurring over a 1-year period and has been designed specifically to assist individuals in deepening their relationship with Christ and to be equipped to help others do the same.
We whole-heartedly believe that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). This call to radical following involves the transformation of our entire being, by God’s Spirit, into the likeness of Christ. We live in times where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to live the supernatural reality of the kingdom of God here and now leaving many with an intensifying hunger for a more intimate connection with Christ Himself. In light of that, this program is designed entirely around promoting growth in the believer’s inner life of faith and prayer with God.
Through the Spiritual Formation Certificate, we are excited to share that participants will first and foremost attend to their own personal growth, seeking to remove the barriers that keep them from growing spiritually. Each participant will learn spiritual practices experientially and in the process develop their own personal rule of life. All we ask is that participants commit to pursue passionately and receive joyfully God’s gracious invitation to be more fully transformed into the image of Christ. We believe that a natural byproduct of this will be greater service for the kingdom as participants also learn to identify and guide others into deeper conformity with Christ.
Students who complete the program will earn their certificate through four modules over the course of just one year. The cohort will be led by Nancy Kane with input from other experts in the field. The first cohort will be launched this January 2015. During each module, participants will attend a 2 1/2 day retreat with other members of the program to discuss course content and receive personalized spiritual direction from Nancy. Assigned reading, direction and coursework will guide each student through the certificate to personal growth. An ideal size for each spiritual formation cohort is 10 to 15 people.
Program Objectives

           Participants will begin to understand through experience and teaching that growth and intimacy with Christ is based upon an encounter with God that touches every aspect of the human experience and the very core of their beings.

           Participants will be provided avenues in which they can honestly assess themselves in light of God and His truth.

           Participants will grow in courage to face into sinful patterns and blocks that prevent them from intimacy with Jesus Christ.

           Participants will interact with and come to appreciate the biblically informed sources that have been influential throughout the history of the church.

           Participants will develop skills in selecting disciplines, practices, rules, circumstances and relationships through which they can be matured into Christlikeness.

           Participants will cultivate deeper intimacy with Christ in prayer by exploring how best to strengthen their own personal communication with God.

           Participants will be learning how to integrate spiritual formation as a vital part of their everyday life and ministry.

We could not be more delighted to invite you to consider the possibility of joining a cohort with Nancy this upcoming January to pursue the next formative step in your spiritual transformation through this blessed opportunity.

For more information go to http://www.moody.edu/spiritualformation/ or contact Moody Distance Learning at 800-758-6352.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Journey into the Season of Lent

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent and the time when the church enters into a time of deep reflection on Christ’s life and death. In churches throughout the world believers receive the symbolic gesture of ashes on their foreheads in the sign of a cross. In that small but powerful gesture is a reminder that “you are dust and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19) It is also an outward sign of an inward condition as we begin the process of confession and repentance over the ways in which we have turned away from Christ Himself.

Thomas Merton addresses the heart of this day:

"Ash Wednesday is for people who know that it means for their soul to be logged with these icy waters: all of us are such people, if only we can realize it."

"There is confidence everywhere in Ash Wednesday, yet that does not mean unmixed and untroubled security. The confidence of the Christian is always a confidence in spite of darkness and risk, in the presence of peril, with every evidence of possible disaster…"

"Once again, Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before. The light of Lent is given us to help us with this realization."

"Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior." (You can read the entire essay in Seasons of Celebration - Meditation on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts, 113-124.)

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the 
earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our 
mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is 
only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; 
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. Book of Common Prayer 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Journey into the Season of Lent

The word Lent has been indicated to mean “Long Days” or from the Germanic word for springtime. In a very significant way, it points us to the springtime of Eternity that becomes clearer when we pull away from focusing on the things of this world and feed upon “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. (Matthew 4:4)

Lent is a time of spring-cleaning for the soul. A time when the cob webs of patterns of sin are cleared away and new ways of responding and embracing the love of God and a life of virtue in a deeper way are put in place. During Lent, we examine our relationships to find the unhealthy and unloving ways we relate to those around us and bring them before Christ. We discover new ways of relating based on respect, mercy, forgiveness, and sacrificial love.

During Lent we are more intentional about sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his guidance and then asking for the power and grace to walk it out. It is a time of personal retreat where we reflect more deeply on Christ’s life, sacrifice, death, and crucifixion. We abstain from the ways we might numb or distract ourselves from eternal realities so that we can walk more closely in our identity in Christ. During Lent, we are invited to reflect on the things that subtly tempt us and face the spiritual reality of the battle that Satan wages for our souls. We fast from what is temporal and material so that the inner person can be filled with the power of the Spirit. We are intentional in scheduling times of solitude, prayer, meditation on Scripture and attending Lenten services with our local congregation.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Journey into the Season of Lent

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Book of Common Prayer

There are seasons in our lives when we need to take time to slow down, reflect and examine our lives and relationships. Beginning Wednesday, March 5, Ash Wednesday, the church will begin the season of Lent, those days before Easter that commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before his ministry began. It is also a time for each of us to reflect on our own walk with Christ and how we can deepen our relationship with Him.

Lent is a period of prayer, fasting, Scripture reading and repentance recalling Jesus' 40-day fast in the wilderness, leading up to the feast and celebration of Easter. Lenten fasting and repentance continues until the end of Holy Week, and all of Holy Week is included in the traditional 40 day Lenten fast culminating in the Saturday before Easter. While Sundays are typically excluded from the Lenten fasting and abstinence restrictions, and are not numbered in the traditional "40 Days" of Lent, they are still part of the Lenten season, as can be seen from their Lenten themes of services during this time period.

Perhaps it is the long winter we have experienced in the Midwest or perhaps it is this stage in life for me. For whatever reason, this year I find myself hungry for a fresh breathing of God’s spirit in my soul. I want see what hinders me from greater joy. I want to know a deeper identification with Christ in the daily rhythms of life. I want God to touch and transform everything that is unholy in me and bring forth His light and truth.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What keeps us from finding intimacy with God?

For most people intimacy is a frightening word.  It connotes vulnerability, risk-taking, and being exposed.  Yet, it is also being known, being validated in our existence, being seen and accepted for who we really are beyond all the layers of protection with which we often cover ourselves.  When we think of intimacy with God, all of the well-meaning but deficient ways we have been loved by our caregivers can come rushing forward.  With our minds we can report with the testimony of Scripture who Christ is, yet we often respond to Him from our unhealed hearts where there have been wounds we have carried for too long from those that have hurt us.  How do we find the intimacy we so long for?  We ask for the faith to stand in the truth - to believe that Christ really is who He says He is.  He is the only one who loves us perfectly and completely.  I am quite fond of the following quote by James Stewart, a Scottish theologian who describes who Christ is.

"He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him, and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break, his whole life was love, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all of our stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes.  He saved others, yet at the last Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts, which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality."
Amazing Christ - James Stewart, Scottish theologian

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Prayer, Listening and Finding Intimacy with God

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
- A.W. Tozer

How is it that we find prayer so difficult?  For most of my life I vacillated between seeing prayer as a dutiful obligation (feeling guilty when I wasn't doing my part) to a welcome respite from a world that was too much to bear at times.  It has only been in the later stages of my life that I have come to see prayer as the singularly most significant avenue to experiencing the intimacy of knowing God, and being known by God.  It is also where I will find the healing and change I desperately desire.  Prayer, quite simply, is a conversation with the One we love and who loves us.

God desires our hearts and full attention.  The Scriptures often refer to God's pursuit of us as a lover to a wayward spouse.  In prayer we open ourselves to listening to His voice, being directed by His thoughts and being touched by His love.  Prayer then is the avenue in which we are transformed.  In prayer we begin to think God's thoughts, to desire what He desires, to love the things He loves.  If we are unwilling to change, we will usually find that we quickly abandon the discipline of prayer.

As some conversations may be more of a monologue than a dialogue, so in our communion with God we may rush into His presence talking at Him rather than with Him.  The key element in prayer is listening with the heart and mind.  Henri Nouwen explains, "If prayer were just an intelligent exercise of our mind we would soon become stranded in fruitless and trivial inner debates with God.  If, on the other hand, prayer would involve only our heart, we might soon think that good prayers consist in good feelings.  But the prayer of the heart in the most profound sense unites mind and heart in the intimacy of the divine love." (Reaching Out, p. 146)  In prayer there is a tender balance between listening and speaking.

But what keeps us from entering into this place of intimacy with our Creator?