Well, I think I'm going to break from my current series, because God has placed something on my heart that is just too good not to share! Please read on; we'll continue my Mixed Tape next time!
As many of you know, a large group of men just returned from a weekend men's retreat. Now, I know that some of you may love going on retreats, while others could come up with a thousand reasons why you wouldn't want to go on a retreat. Regardless of your preconceived notions, a retreat is a great opportunity to get away from day-to-day life, get to know others better, and clear your head so you can hear more clearly from God. This retreat was no exception!
I went up on the mountain fully expecting to be encouraged by the Lord. I figured I would get to know some guys better, encourage them in their walks, and grow a little bit in my walk with the Lord. What actually happened up there was something completely unexpected. To be honest, I experienced God in a way that I have never experienced Him before... at least not that I can remember. God was vividly present up on that mountain, and His Spirit was moving greatly in the hearts of the men, myself included. I came back with pages of notes, way more than I can cram into a blog post, but I wanted to share with you three important lessons that God installed in my heart during this short time. Grab your coffee, and come along!
Lesson One: I am God's beloved child!
Over the course of the weekend, we heard multiple times about Joseph and the multi-colored tunic that his father made for him. This fine tunic signified Joseph's status as beloved child of his father (and of course that's one of the main reasons his brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery). Just as Jacob made the tunic for Joseph, God has provided us with a prized "tunic" through the man, Jesus Christ. Did you catch that?! His sacrifice adorns us and allows us to come close to God -- His sacrifice is the tunic that tells us and everyone else that we are His beloved! When was the last time you thought of yourself in that way? As a beloved and coveted child of the Creator of all things, if we truly understand this part of God's heart, we can be unstoppable for Him. Once we fully own the truth, that we are God's beloved children, we will walk in courage, strength, and victory through all situations!
Lesson Two: I need to slow down and just spend time with God.
The first night of the retreat, I hiked around the camp looking for the perfect spot to watch the sunrise and study God's Word (cuz that's what you do at a retreat right?). I found a great spot that looked east over the valley, a perfect place to watch the sun pop up over the mountain tops. Clearly the camp directors knew this was a premium spot, because they conveniently set out rocking chairs looking over the valley. The next morning I got up early, grabbed my Bible, and headed for my spot. I sat down in that rocking chair, spread open my Bible and gazed at the words, ready for God to miraculously download wisdom into me.
The next moment, I was struck with a truth that I wasn't expecting. God said, "I don't need you to study right now, I just want you to be with Me." In that second, I realized that I was too focused on learning more about God, and not focused enough on simply KNOWING God.
I closed my Bible and spent the next half hour praying, talking to God, singing to Him, and simply being WITH Him. It was incredible! After that sweet time of prayer, I moved to another area where I did open the Word, and God led me through a fantastic study about the call on my life! It turns out, this time spent in prayer and just focusing on God didn't hinder my study of His Word. It accelerated it! We need to remember that this walk with the Lord is not just about studying to learn more about God (granted we do need to study God's Word to draw closer to Him). This walk is about growing to KNOW God, and in order to do that, we must get in the habit of slowing down and simply being WITH Him!
Lesson Three: God's calling on my life is so much more than a formal ministry.
If I were to ask you to describe God's call on your life, many of you may have a hard time answering. You might be inclined to say it's to serve in children's ministry, maybe it's to help others, maybe you're not even sure. When thinking about God's "calling," most people default to some kind of formal ministry. Yet on this trip, God showed me very clearly that God's calling on my life is so much more than formal ministry. Joseph was a man who was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison, and then... after all of that, he was given one of the highest positions of power in all of Egypt. Although we may say that God's calling was for Joseph to lead Egypt, I would submit to you that God's calling on Joseph's life was to honor Him every step of the way, and we see that so clearly in Joseph's story! God calls us to walk with Him, spend time with Him, and get to know Him. He calls us to be an example to everyone we encounter. He calls us to lead our families. He calls us to worship Him. He calls us to simply be His child. He calls us to all of this in the good times and the bad, in the times of prosperity and the days of famine. When it comes to God's calling, ministry is simply the by-product of following God's calling in every aspect of our lives. In fact, you'll find that if we try to run into formal ministry before following His call in the other areas of our lives, we will quickly become overwhelmed trying to do the "works" of being a Christian.
There is so much more to share, but that's enough for now. This retreat was fantastic. I pray the next time an opportunity comes along to go on such a trip, that you take it! Go, even if it seems out of place for what you like to do. Break away from your day-to-day, and put some extra focus on the Lord. Remember, you are God's beloved child, spend time just hanging out with Him, and remember that His calling on your life is so much more than some formal ministry. Once you grasp a hold of these realities, you'll surge forward in your walk with God!
God bless! See you next time!