Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Wrap On The Vancouver, B.C., Men's Retreat

I love the men from Hillside Church and New Life Church.

The Men’s Retreat in Vancouver, BC, went well beyond my expectations. The men were incredibly sincere—they arrived full of desire to know God and to grow in Christ. It seemed all I needed to do was light a match and—woosh—desire met God.

We began on Friday night with a Q & A time, an unusual manner by which to start a retreat. Simply, it’s what I thought the Spirit wanted to do. And the guys were great, asking me about my family, my ministry, life in Colorado, my upbringing, and when I thought the US would get out of Iraq!

One young man (a theology school grad) offered that he was concerned that there were so few men in the church. “Why do you think that is?” he asked. “I don’t think they have found God most desirable,” I answered, “I don’t think they’ve discovered Him to be the very best pursuit that life offers. Instead, they’re enjoying sports and beer and job commitments and being weekend warriors up in the mountains and out into the sea. There’s no fire in their hearts for God, no heat coming from their passion for Him. If we tell them to be committed and to behave well and to do good things for God when they have no heart for Him, we make them worse off. Instead we should be telling them about His heart for them—that He has reconciled them and made them very much like Himself, that He is not counting their sins against them but calling them to come near and to find their life in His life for them. When we start giving that to them, we might see more hanging around.”

When another man asked a question in keeping with the subtitle of my book, “What astounding thing has happened to you?” I told the story of the two most important beatings of my life: one I received, and one I gave.

The one I received was from a neighbor kid when I was in, oh, maybe eighth or ninth grade. The affects of that one lasted for many years of intimidation every time I saw him, until I beat him up years later. And I got him good.

I beat him up with the gospel.

A chance meeting at a gas station led to him asking, “What’s this Christian thing? Why did you become a Christian?” I immediately began pummeling him with how hell is no place I want to be—The fire there burns FOREVER AND EVER, and one never stops BURNING IN PAIN. And because I didn’t want to GO TO HELL, I became a Christian.

While that description is true, what do you suspect my motive was? You got it—to beat the hell outta him. However, I was interrupted by the Holy Spirit’s words in my mind: “You don’t like him, do you? But I do. Would you like my love for him?” After blubbering an inward, “Yeah. I mean, yes.” the very love of God filled me for my opponent. . .I mean neighbor. And His love suddenly was my love. It was the most natural and amazing and uncomplicated love I had ever felt. I found no fault with him and there was not one remnant of bitterness as I began to explain the love of God—from one bully to another.

“And that’s what I want to talk with you about this weekend,” I explained to the men at the retreat. “God in you. Wouldn’t it be thrilling to find Him in you, ready and capable for everything you face?”

So that’s what we talked about: Where is God? (In me.) What’s He doing there? (Having a fight with the flesh.) How can I let Him do whatever He wants from within me? (Hit my pause button.) How can I assist others to know God? (Set my mind on what the Spirit says.)

After communion and some more worship, we concluded with this:

Ephesians 3:14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

It was, perhaps, the best retreat I have ever been a part of. . .at least until the next one.


  1. All of this is so very true, sadly. We get people to church and then we tell them all the things they're supposed to do, do, do, and we don't share God's heart of love and grace for them... His deep desire and passion for them. No wonder people don't want to go to church or have much or anything to do with God!

    I love this prayer in Ephesians. Indeed, may this be what we, the church, prays for and desires for those who we encounter and interact with in our daily lives.

  2. Loved your comment, Joel.

    Thank you.