When I was ordained and began serving as a fulltime United Methodist pastor I was advised that United Methodist pastors are expected to take an annual week for a personal spiritual renewal retreat. At first I used that time to do a lot of church planning that I never seemd to have time to do during the rest of the year. In other words, I was doing church work away from the church.
Eventually, I heard God telling me that a spiritual retreat wasn’t about doing church work. It wasn’t a vacation either. It was to be a time away from the daily routine of church and personal life, to do nothing but listen to God. During my remaining years of service as a full-time pastor I did just that. Usually my wife, Joan, and I spent that retreat week at the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting on the Jersey shore.
I have a special memory of something that happened during one of those weeks. This happened at one of the boardwalk praise services that we attended every evening. We were singing Shout to the Lord. As we sang “…mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of His name…”, the worship leader pointed to the ocean in front of us. There, on this stormy night, we saw and heard the waves of the sea literally roaring as they came crashing onto the shore, demonstrating how even nature, as part of God’s creation, worhips him (Psalm 98). I’m sure it was due to neither coincidence or human planning that this was followed by the scripture text and a sermon about Jesus calming the storm on the lake (Luke 8:22-25).
In all this I heard God reminding me of his awesome power to make the seas roar and to calm them. God is in charge. No matter what things look like, God can and ultimately will do whatever he wants to. I was reminded that God doesn’t depend on me or the church to accomplish His purposes. However, because he loves us, he has chosen to give all of us the opportunity of working with him in accomplishing his vision, mission, and ministries.
I came back to my church with a renewed understanding that what God expects of us is simply this – to worship and praise him, listen to and discern his will for us, and then faithfully do whatever that is. Then firmly believe that he will give us all the grace we need to do whatever we are called to do and to be. Even when, because of our own sinful nature, we don’t always do it right, and never get it perfectly right, it doesn’t matter. What matters is our faith, trust, and obedience. Our awesome God, who is ultimately in control of everyone and everything – will make sure that whatever he wants to be done, will be done. That’s what we pray for whenever we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “…They kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”. And our hope that God will answer that prayer, will be fulfilled, in his time and hos way.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
Patty Perez and Ray Gough
We also invite you to view our other web-site Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study www.rohmbible.wordpress.com
We have also published the book shown below in the form of an e–book. We invite you to read, copy, or down-load it free at this web-site:
A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City