So in something a bit different, I want to post a short recap and some takeaways from the retreat I attended. There won’t be many pictures here, so apologies in advance if that’s what you’re here for.
The theme of the conference was “Refined as Gold”, taken from 1 Peter 1:6-7, which reads:
In all this you greatly rejoice,though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
It’s also a bit of a double entendre, since the host city is the Gold Coast. See what they did there? But kidding aside, it’s a relevant verse that’s important for Christians to hold on to.
I feel like it can be challenging explaining the idea of a singles retreat to people, just because the common idea is that a singles retreat is designed for finding a romantic partner (or, for the less spiritually-minded, temporary hook-ups). This retreat was not that. In fact, there were no lessons on dating or romance or sexual purity or really any of the typical singles topics, which I found refreshing (having been to plenty of singles retreats and conferences where those topics are front and center!). Which is not to say that those are unimportant lessons to learn, but I was glad the sessions had a bit more meat to them.
My favorite lesson was the one Saturday night on worship and praise. I believe glorifying God is one of our primary roles, and one way we bring God glory is through song. James Coker, a song leader from the Sydney church, did a great job teaching us about worship. One cool verse he highlighted was Zephaniah 3:17, which reads:
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only verse which talks about God Himself singing. The book of Zephaniah, as with many of the prophets, is about God’s disappointment and anger toward Israel for their continual disobedience. But (as in Hosea 11) Zephaniah stops the prophecies of destruction to declare in God’s own words His continued love for those who repent and are not soiled by the world. I love to think of God being so fired up about our faith and repentance that instead of being angry over our past deeds He rejoices in song! It’s definitely a foreshadow of the story Jesus tells in Luke 15 of the good father and the wayward son. What an amazing picture of God’s love!
On Sunday morning, the sermon was preached by Felix Tokwepota, leader of the church in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Felix is a single man (and is younger than me, I must add :) and has stepped up to lead this church in a very challenging area (side note: there is a serious drought going on in PNG right now. It’s not making the news very much, even around here, but any relief or prayers you can give would be appreciated).
Felix reminded us that we are refined for a purpose. We don’t suffer trials so that we can just grow and be more experienced for the sake of growth. We are being refined so that we can then go forth and do greater things than we could have done before. This is a super important point that I personally must not forget. Any troubles or difficulties I face are absolutely wasted if all they do is give me more wisdom, experience, or character. So what? It’s only when I use those gifts — the results of my refinement — that I’m proving the value of the work that’s been done in me.
So that’s my summary of the retreat. There were many more great lessons and experiences than I have time or space to share here, but I wanted to post at least some highlights before moving on to more bird pictures and photos of Auckland.
Speaking of which, next time we’ll be back in NZ! Look forward to it!