Thursday, April 11, 2013

Living Out Grace Retreat-A Report by Chris Kirby

Report from Winter Retreat: “Turn the Page”

Back in early March, the Youthreach spent a weekend in Gatlinburg, TN.  It ended up being a great time of fellowship, fun, and snow.  It snowed off and on all weekend.  I think we ended up with 5-6 inches of snow at our chalet perched on top of a mountain a few minutes from down town Gatlinburg. 

It was great to spend time with the teens playing a few games, going on a scavenger hunt in Gatlinburg, eating Donna’s fantastic cooking, worshipping together, and pelting a few people with snow balls.  But, I’d like to share with you the meat of what our weekend was all about.  We had a powerful guest speaker with us.  David was one of Jill’s good friends from high school.  He graduated high school last century in 1996.  Now, David is different from many of the speakers we hear on our “circuit” of youth ministry events.  There are guys out there who are very moving with the rhythm they speak with or can really draw you in with story-telling and the dramatic ability they have.  This isn’t a bad thing.  God has blessed these speakers with the ability to deliver God’s message in a captivating way. 

David was powerful in his speaking.  But, it wasn’t quite like many of the polished orators we hear.  David’s power came through the story he told.  But, it wasn’t just any story.  It was his story.  Not long after his high school graduation, this “kid” (he was 19 at the time) that grew up as a leader in Jill’s youth group was involved in a serious crime.  He wasn’t the primary assailant, but none the less, he played a role in a mugging gone bad.  After being convicted of murder, he spent more than a decade in prison before being released early on good behavior.  He has now been out of prison for a couple of years.  David came and shared his story of going down the dark path and poor decisions that led to his incarceration, what his time was like in prison, and how he rediscovered what freedom in Christ is all about.  The message really made an impact on our group as David talked about recognizing the need that he had for God’s grace and how even while still imprisoned physically, his soul found freedom through the peace and hope of God’s grace.  That realization led to some great opportunities while still in prison for healing and to share his faith with others. 

David’s story was powerful.  It was real.  It gave us a foundation to talk about finding redemption through Christ and living that out in our daily lives.  Our primary passage for the weekend was 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.  This presentation of the gospel by Paul encourages us in assurance that we are made new by the grace of Christ.  However, it goes on to challenge us to accept our roles as His representatives, or ambassadors, in delivering God’s message of reconciliation to the world.  We, as His saved children, have been blessed through God’s great gift of salvation.  Let’s not be a people that keep that gift to ourselves.  Instead, just as David did for our teens, let’s humbly share our stories of being set free from the imprisonment of our sin.  Each of us has a story.  If we’re honest, our stories include sin that has held us captive at some point.  But, the awesome thing about God being the author is that we get to look forward to what happens next when we “Turn the Page.” 

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