All it takes is a cursory glance at our world to notice that everything seems centered around getting people to worry about themselves. From multi-million dollar media campaigns to the songs sung in our churches, the message is that my personal preferences are of the highest priority and seeking after those things are the greatest goal.
Into that confusion, the Living Hope Spring Retreats, led by Ricky Chelette and the LHM leadership team, called men and women from all over the country and the world to a different way of looking at their lives. Across two weekends, over 120 people from every walk of life heard the message that the purpose of their lives is not their own happiness. So, if my life isn’t about me, who or what is it supposed to be about?
When you tell someone that everything in life is about God and His glory, it can make even those who have grown up in church bristle. Doesn’t that make God egotistical and self-centered? Yes, in fact, it does, but as Ricky clarified on the first night of the retreats, that is the most appropriate posture for God to take. When we take the position that we are the center of everything, we sin and roots of pride and narcissism grow deeply in our soul. When God takes the position that He is the center of everything, He is humbly declaring reality in a way that will bring us the greatest joy should we choose to embrace it. Humility isn’t seeing oneself as less than another; it is merely seeing oneself rightly in comparison to everything else. So while it is sin for man to seek to be the center, it is the greatest example of humility for God to lift Himself up and demand that His followers do the same.
The next several sessions were spent giving application to the reality that it isn’t all about me with respect to God’s glory. At the first retreat, our young adults were given the opportunity to serve at a community development project through one of the local churches and get hands on experience giving of their time with others. For both weekends, D’Ann Davis, Women’s Ministry Director at Living Hope addressed the walls of self-protection that many use to avoid the pain that comes from living in a sinful world, and how trusting in those walls is actually a mistrust of Jesus and the work that he has promised to do in our lives. Ricky’s main sessions then addressed the issues of surrender and sacrifice that will most assuredly come to those who see God’s glory and then begin to pursue after it.
The 2013 retreats ended with a call to freedom that transcended any specific sin stronghold. As Ricky explained, when we have seen the glory of God and are willing to suffer whatever it takes to be more like Him, we are finally free to experience the joy that comes from obedience and give love in a way most like the love we receive from Christ. The call to holiness and selflessness is impossible without Jesus and those who attended left with that truth clearly imprinted on their hearts.
Here are what some of our people had to say about this year’s retreats:
I’ve been a member of LHM Online Forum for years and have been active for the last 2 years or so. This was my first retreat and I was so excited to go!
God really challenged me this weekend. He showed me more about how much I struggle with pride and selfishness. And my fear of rejection came up REPEATEDLY. The theme and the teachings all seemed to apply directly to me. I want to surrender everything and focus on the One who everything is really about! It’s not about me!
Getting to meet people from the forum face-to-face was awesome! Now when I read what people are posting I can see their faces and hear their voices. I can already see how the forum experience is going to be so much deeper and more meaningful now. I can totally understand why people come to retreat year-after-year! I’m already ready to sign up for 2014!
This year was different for me I personally have had a year of transition and deep levels of inner healing. I am in counseling and dealing with the scars left upon my soul from childhood sexual abuse. Life has been hard as the pain and emotions attached to them are being faced and I am feeling other emotions than rage.
Reuniting with my fellow sojourners this year was like a family reunion. From the moment I walked in the door I sensed a deep healthy love from the LHM men and women in attendance.
I am forever thankful I have connected with Living Hope and learned to build healthy relationships and am becoming more vulnerable and trusting of people over time.
This year retreat wasn’t an emotionally intense or dramatic thing for me. It was just a break, a much needed one, where the Lord reminded me that He has been calling me to Himself. I need to respond, and am seeking to be more intimate with Him. The Lord dealt in my heart a lot with relational idolatry. In forming a lot of new relationships in the metroplex, there are a few guys that I’m not totally emotionally healthy with, and I’ve fallen into running to them to try to get them to meet my needs instead of the Lord. The pride in me had called out to me saying that I was past this and didn’t deal with ED stuff anymore, but the fact is that just isn’t true. I am still weak, and I’m still in need of the Lord. I have lost sight of my most important relationship of all–the one with Jesus.
I’m learning about my own brokenness and learning how to be sensitive to others’ brokenness…they can be very different, and yet…brokenness is just that…BUSTED!!! D’Ann and others here have been SO very instrumental in helping me SEE how whack my own boundaries have been for so many years…insanity IS doing the same things over and over again…and still expecting different results. Each of us longs to just “give in” to the flesh rather than pressing into JESUS. Not just one of us…ALL of us. It is a CHOICE to follow HIM, smell like HIM, look like HIM, love like HIM…and oh… how sadly I fail daily.
While my struggles may or may not look like some of the others attending retreat, the solution is still the same….JESUS PLUS NOTHING. GLORIFYING GOD not self.
I have been angry at God because of my inability to express those testimonies of His Glory and who I’ve powerfully known Jesus to be. I have held back pursuing Him and allowing Him in further because I didn’t want more of His Glory to be self contained in my life because I can’t share with others my brokenness or my struggles with homosexuality and who He has been through my lifetime.
My story of brokenness and this struggle is so radically overshadowed with God’s Glory and I want to tell others His Story in my life.
The retreat and the forums have been a place I can learn to share these things and deal with my painful experiences and hindrances with my relationship with God.
I have walked away from the 2013 Adult Retreat open and willing to embrace yet again God’s powerful Glory in my life and have begun actively doing that. My relationship with Jesus has deeply changed.
Being a part of LHM for 5 years now, I haven’t had the chance to go on Youth Retreat until now. I think that has to do with all these years I was not yet prepared in my faith to receive God wholeheartedly. There are so many things that I learned from this retreat!
It was mainly a reminder of where my focus must be constantly. That focus must be on bringing God glory in the midst of relationships, work life, sin struggles, and life in general. In believing in the Almighty Lord and how much He loves us is shown throughout the Bible. Beginning with that fact, our actions and desires will naturally point toward Him and we will want to follow His command more than ever.
God was preparing me for this retreat for many months before the retreat. He has been faithful as I have been obedient to him.
As I arrived at retreat, I was overwhelmed with joy as I saw the faces of so many I already knew as well as so many new faces. It seemed the entire weekend there was something that someone said that had to do with what God was trying to tell me. And, apparently, God had his own theme for me this weekend… NOW is the time to deal with hidden secrets.
I am finally feeling the release…I realized that when I nailed up the well in my heart that I was actually shutting off the living water that existed in that well.
Retreat has made a lasting impact on my life. I came to retreat not knowing what to expect but knowing I needed something from the Lord and believing that I could find it at retreat. I got to experience fellowship with brothers and sister who knew what it was like to have this struggle and hear God’s voice speaking to me through every message. The message of denying myself, picking up my cross, and following after Jesus was just what I needed to hear. I needed to hear that it wasn’t about me and my desires, but it’s about Jesus and reflecting his glory. I started to recognize the type of things that has fogged up my mirror and kept me back from fully reflecting God’s glory. But the more I spent sitting in worship and speaking in family group I knew God’s was clearing up the mirror and allowing me to reflect his glory. I’m so glad that I got to experience God’s work in my life during retreat.
I was struck by Ricky’s statement about how he believes that we first must obey before we can surrender. Those words just nailed me! I have tried so many times to surrender all of my heart to God while putting obedience to Him on a back burner. Wow, I am changing my mind and attitude about that approach now!
I left the retreat with an acute awareness of something changed in my heart. I still feel that change, though I’m not sure what it all is yet. I truly believe that the general body of Christ needs to attend an LHM retreat or something presented by LHM so everyone can see and know how life isn’t about sin but about the One Who came to die to forgive us. Not once did I think of being an SSA struggler while I was at the retreat, I just felt totally encouraged and led to focus harder on Jesus than I ever have before. I am a work in progress and I needed LHM to walk with me to on the way to Jesus, His Way. I still do. I love and appreciate you all like never before.
Probably the biggest thing I learned at retreat is that my struggle is not my identity. I am not gay. I am not a lesbian. What I do and what I struggle with do not define me. I am God’s kid, and that’s all the identity I need.
This was my first LHM retreat after meeting the group at Exodus this past year. I came to the retreat in a better place than when I had seen everyone at Exodus. The Lord has been moving in my heart and life and has begun to heal some deep wounds. I must attribute this to His faithful character, His word that revives, His truth that sets us free, and friendships that have supported me through this journey.
This weekend showed me that the cross is enough. That it is all about Jesus. I was really spurred on to get deep in the Word. To get serious about living my life like I know and truly believe that the cross was enough [and] that my life cannot be filled with things of this world to be enough. Finding good community won’t be enough, not being attracted to girls won’t be enough, getting over sexual addictions won’t be enough, finding a husband and starting a family won’t be enough, getting a new job won’t be enough. Those things may bring happiness, but if I don’t get that the cross is enough for me, I will not find the JOY that only the Lord can give.
(All comments reprinted with the permission of their authors.)