I had the opportunity to share this past weekend with 180 students and 30 adult leaders at Restoration Church’s Disciple Now 2 (DNOW2) retreat.
I have made it a practice to take some time to reflect on experiences like this in order to process the God-moments. I returned home and found myself talking non-stop to my wife about all that God did over the weekend. I tried to avoid fire-hosing her with stories but I couldn’t stop. I still feel that way as I type these words.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the weekend. I knew that I was given the opportunity to co-lead a small group of 11th/12th grade guys. I also knew that I was paired up with Mat Fisher and all his intensity. I remember looking over the following schedule and wondering how everything would develop:
I can share a million different memories from this past weekend but I will use this blog post to share about what God taught me through the speaker (Mike Cramer) and, even more, through the conversations with students about the content.
Mike shared the life-changing and life-restoring truth that, “Jesus doesn’t want you to be good, he wants you to be ALIVE.” He hit on this point from all angles all weekend long. He shared that Jesus gave up his life so that we could have life. He wants our entire heart so that he can restore all of it. He hammered home the idea that we need God to change our hearts as opposed to merely adjusting our behavior. I needed to hear this word of grace.
Mike drew a picture during the Saturday evening talk that drove him this point to me. Here is the picture:
He shared how we can be fully alive when our true north points toward Christ. We are drawn, however, in many directions by all kinds of pulls. We experience these pulls in areas such as our identity, relationships, finances, sex and work. He drew circles to represent these areas and arrows to indicate how we can be pulled off course. He then added a line with a box to show the specific weights that drag us away from directing our hearts toward Jesus. He shared that these are the idols of our heart.
I saw my life right in front of me.
I sensed God showing me how and why I lose my focus on what is truly important. I felt God inviting me back to being fully alive in Christ by realigning my heart. I sensed that God was asking me to cut off the weights (idols of my heart) that were pulling my heart and weighing me down. The Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus doesn’t want me to be merely good (behavior) but he wants me to be fully alive (heart).
Limitless (youth outreach band) led a song after the talk and I felt my heart pounding inside. I asked God what He was doing and I sensed that He wanted me to let go. I closed my eyes for a few seconds and when I opened them I looked over the sea of students and adult leaders worshiping God. I asked God to flood every person with the love of Jesus in that moment.
I didn’t realize how much God would answer that prayer for me. I felt a flood of warmth come over me and I couldn’t hold back my tears. I knew without a doubt that God loved me and that He wanted my heart and not just my good behavior. I knew without a doubt that God wanted me, all of me. I closed my eyes and took in the music. I kept my eyes closed and I prayed, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” I asked God to cut the lines that were holding the weights that were pulling my heart away from Him. I asked God to do the same for every student and adult leader in the room.
That was one of many powerful moments from the weekend for me. I can’t imagine how many other powerful moments occurred. I know that God was there and His love flooded the entire weekend.
I can write and write… I don’t have the time to share all that I would like to share but I will share some images, snapshots and memories that come to my heart and mind from the weekend…
- student leaders taking the initiative to lead and serve
- college students returning to give their lives away for the weekend to encourage the next wave of students
- students sharing their hearts and encouragement with one another at an “open mic” night on Saturday night
- memories being made on zips lines, rock walls, Gaga pits, basketball courts, swings and around fires
- adult small group leaders creating relational spaces for sharing questions, doubts and insights
- laughter and more laughter
- F3 workout with 20+ who braved the cold and wind to post for the first ever DNOW2 F3 AO
- Limitless leading all of us into the presence of God through music and prayers
- Craig and Mary Grace doing their emcee thing and leading us through games, laughter and all kinds of unpredictable greatness
- Charlie and Leah stepping up to emcee on Saturday morning and showing that the future is unstoppable (and also unpredictable)
- new friendships forming and outsiders being included
- hands raised and eyes closed during worship songs that connected all of us to God’s great love for us
- young men committing to going deeper in an accountability group together
- sacrificial help for those who encountered health challenges
- confidence growing in the eyes of every student as they experienced the weekend
- some ridiculously yummy food
- little to no sleep
- the hot chocolate
- more laughter
- more hot chocolate
- more wood on the fire…
- then… more hot chocolate and laughter
- hugs and smiles that are markers of new and eternal relationships!
I saw and experienced Restoration Church’s mission – “with love, we embrace life together as we multiply deeper relationships in Christ.”
This blog post can’t capture all that God did but it hopefully provided a window into a special weekend that only God could orchestrate.
To God be the glory!