Before the first session of the Souly Business retreat officially started I was introduced to a man I’ll call Joel. It was one of those awkward moments where we are all waiting for whatever was up next on the schedule and essentially making small talk. I asked Joel how he ended up here at the Souly retreat and he said his AA sponsor invited him. Joel’s refreshing honesty took me by surprise as told how he had fought to be sober for 9 months. I shared how my dad faithfully attended AA and has been sober for 29 years. As the conversation stalled the bell beckoning us to the opening meeting saved us, we shook hands and bid farewell.
But in God’s good providence Joel and I were assigned to the same table and sat beside each other over the next 3 days. Early on it was apparent that Joel was extremely uncomfortable in this type of retreat setting. I came to find out he had never stepped foot in a church, and singing worship songs with a bunch of strangers was more than frightening. Later on, Joel shared with me that if there was a way he could have snuck-out, he certainly would have. However, since his truck was blocked in, it was just not going to happen.
Yet, in the midst of the battle going on inside of Joel, the Holy Spirit was at work. After a time of individual mediation each of us returned to our table of eight and Joel blurted out, “I don’t know how to be a loving husband or a father to my kids.” We all nodded our heads in agreement and stated that this was an impossible task for each one of us. My heart started to race as I sensed the Holy Spirit prompt me to ask Joel about the 3rd Step in AA? He hesitantly responded, “To surrender your will over to God as you understand Him.” I reiterated what the group had just said with, “That is exactly how to start loving your wife and kids because we can’t do it on our own; we need supernatural help.” Again moved by the Spirit I asked him, “Would you be ready to put Step 3 into practice? Surrender your life to Jesus Christ, and ask Him to take over as your Savior and Lord?” He responded, “YES!” And right then and there Joel prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus into his life!
You could tell Joel was overwhelmed by what had just happened and after hugs by the guys in the group he sat back exhausted. Our assignment that evening was to write down a list of specific sins that stood in the way of our relationship with Father God. After a good length of time, the lights were turned off and we sat in the chapel reflecting on the words we had just written. The only light emitted was from a roaring fire at the front of the room, reflecting the outline of a wooden cross nearby. In the midst of the silence, men made their way to the cross and nailed those pieces of paper into the wood. This tangible act of repentance was a powerful moment for all. I followed right behind Joel as we each pounded our list of sins with the blow of the hammer-the echo reverberated throughout the room. As we walked back to our table, I gave Joel a hug, and watched him keep walking past his seat. A few minutes later one of the leaders ripped off all the pieces of paper nailed to the cross and threw them into the blazing fire. It was a wondrous sight to see all “our sins consumed” by the glowing flames of red and orange.
The next morning Joel wasn’t seated next to me as the session was starting. I glanced around the room and began to wonder if all the events of the day before were just too much for him and he found away to maneuver his truck and drive off. But a few minutes later he entered the room and I saw him hugging his AA sponsor. He eventually made his way to our table with tears and smiles and greeted each of us with a hug. He proceeded to tell us that he just couldn’t sleep last night as he prayed for God to make Himself real to him. Joel went on to say that in the middle of his restless night a fire burned down deep in his soul and ignited a powerful love that he had never felt before. It was a combination of both joy and freedom and he just couldn’t find the words to describe it. Later that day Joel found himself standing in front of 140 plus men and sharing his newfound relationship with Jesus Christ. All those present that weekend shared what Joel was talking about, the promises found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If My people, who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, seek My face, turn from their wicked ways. I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land.
Not only did Joel experience the promises of 2 Chronicles 7:14 at Souly, but most of us there that weekend felt the fire rage anew in our hearts. I’m holding onto these promises believing that Abba is getting ready to release them in a powerful revival that will bring down the fire all over the earth. Please continue to pray into and practice these truths with me until the Father sends the fire of His Holy Spirit to our needy hearts.