From Friday to Sunday, a handful of young men from AACF CSU Long Beach gathered in a house in Santa Ana, CA. It was their annual men’s retreat. This was the first time they met in a home, but the second time that I have spoken for their retreat. It was a small group of men, nine of them. But it was a full weekend of fellowship: meaningful sharing and exploring Scripture. Rather than give a weekend of messages, I wanted to have more interaction so I shared two sermons and led two Bible studies.
The focus of the weekend was to develop a stronger sense of self through Scripture. We opened the retreat by talking about being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Humanity is uniquely made in God’s image; nothing else in all of creation is made in God’s image. Men and women have a unique capacity for relationships, creativity, morality, physicality, spirituality, critical thinking, and much more. We must recognize that every person was made in God’s image. We affirm the dignity and respect of each person. But sin has blemished that image within us. The image is not destroyed, but it is distorted. Faith in Jesus Christ is the first step to completely restoring God’s image within us. It is a lifelong renovation, and it will only be finished when we are in heaven with God. We continued with a Bible study the next morning to explore our strengths. We used Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 to assess their strengths. A paradigm of StrengthsFinder is “talents + investment = strengths.” So we looked to Scripture to understand what it means to be a mature Christian; what it means to invest in our talents so that they become strengths. In the evening we continued to explore the restoring work of the Gospel. As Christians, we understand that the Gospel completely heals and restores us. God doesn’t just absolve us of our sins; He also transforms and reconciles. We closed the retreat with a message on being authentic. Authenticity is more than being transparent and honest; it is embracing our true purpose and true nature. We are made in God’s image. We acknowledge our sins, and we embrace our calling.
I asked the group to share some takeaways from the retreat. One of them mentioned that they were blessed by the StrengthsFinder assessment. Others agreed and were excited to name their strengths and work on developing them. They saw themselves differently. Another person shared that he were blessed by the openness of others. They felt blessed to be able to share so deeply. It was a good weekend of fellowship.
I continue to pray for those nine men. That they would see themselves as God sees them: beloved and redeemed. God names each of their sins so that He can forgive all of them. He is doing a good work in their lives, and Scripture promises that He will bring it to completion. My prayer is that they would look beyond the circumstances of their lives and see Jesus working in their lives: to seek after a blessed life rather than a perfect life; a life that seeks to glorify God.