Men’s Fellowship Refocuses during 2018 Retreat! (3/16/18)

Posted by on Apr 8, 2018 in Bible Study, EventReport, men, UMM | 0 comments

The Men’s Fellowship group set aside the weekend of March 16-18 (2018) as a time to “retreat” from the day to day activities of “normal life.” Once again, we went to the Black Rock Retreat Center in Quarryville PA to share in fellowship around the dining table, fireplace, and around God’s Word. This was the 17th year in a row that we have held a weekend retreat at Black Rock. It might seem like we’re in a rut; that every year is a routine “time for another retreat.” The surroundings and itinerary might be similar from year to year, but each weekend is a unique chance for God to touch us in a special way. This year was the best attended weekend: 28 men participated.

This year’s speaker was Pastor George DeVol, and he led us on a study of the book of Philippians. Along the way he challenged us with many deep (and not so deep) questions about ourselves and our relationship to God.

Pastor George DeVol

This year’s speaker was Pastor George DeVol. George was formally a pastor at Laurel Hill Bible Church in Clementon, NJ and more recently was a director at Camp Haluwasa in Hammonton New Jersey.

Pastor George’s theme for the weekend was entitled: “To Live is Christ: Studies from the Book of Philippians”


Retreat… Advance. Go… Come…

A big part of living a new life in Christ involves “Go.” To turn from sins, to allow the Spirit to “Transform your mind (Romans 12:2). To be born again. Repent.

But Christ also beckons us to “Come.” God called Moses to the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). Jesus invited the crowd to “Come unto me all who labor…” (Matthew 11:28). The final verses of the Bible is an invitation to come: “The Spirit says Come…” (Revelation 22:17).

In the book of Philippians, Paul also invites us to “Come”: “Our citizenship is in heaven”… “rejoice”… “to live is Christ, to die is gain”… “Look to the interests of others”… “continue to work out your salvation.”

“Come” invites us to look forward and to grow. Not simply to leave the past behind because it has bad things in it, but to move ahead to something bigger and better. Christ has invited us to experience inner joy, fresh purpose, and new relationships.


Serious Study and Reflection…

During our time together, Pastor George took us through a quick tour of the book of Philippians. We met for four sessions during the weekend. Below is a summary of each session’s message.

At the beginning of our first session, Pastor George gave us an index card and asked us to make a list of 3 “little known facts” about ourselves. Throughout the weekend, at the beginning of each session, he pulled several of the cards, read each fact one at a time, and then we tried to guess who the author was.

In addition to learning more about Philippians, we also learned things like the following about eachother:

Raised on goat’s milk…
Born on his parent’s couch…
Nearly became a big league pitcher…
A retired “Bubblehead” (sub-mariner)…
Is Learning to play harmonica…
Sold cigars in Cuba to pay for trip home…


After opening each session with music and trivia, we got into the meat of the weekend: Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “Conveniently”, our retreat weekends consists of four sessions, and the book of Philippians contains four chapters. So, each session covered a section from each chapter. We followed this general outline:

  • Chapter 1 (Friday PM): “Situation”
  • Chapter 2 (Saturday AM): “Relationships”
  • Chapter 3 (Saturday PM): “True Citizenship”
  • Chapter 4 (Sunday AM): “Leaving Tracks”

Click each “drop down box” to drop into each of our four sessions…


Friday Evening

Philippians 1:12-30

We began our weekend by looking at chapter 1, verses 12-30. Paul was in a Roman prison, chained to two guards. He was a prisoner, but his chains also gave him a “captive audience” for preaching the Gospel! We need to understand our identity as men. In this section of Philippians, Paul demonstrates that he understands his identity and role as a “prisoner for Christ ” (verse 13). We might only see the negatives of his situation, but Paul’s identity as a prisoner actually allowed him to see the positives of his imprisonment.


Paul’s Ugly Situation…

What good can come out of this!?! Paul most have felt angry. He must have questioned God: “God- What are You doing?!? Why have you put me on the shelf? I was preaching the Gospel and starting churches all over the world. You were using me to change lives, to save souls. What happened? I thought things were going pretty well.”

He might have felt like Joseph. This son of Jacob’s was sent to Egypt as a slave by his own brothers. He was beyond reproach; until his master’s wife framed him. Then he wound up in prison.

Both lives (Paul’s and Joesph’s) looked like a train wreck. In prison, we wouldn’t consider ourselves to be successful. In our minds, we define God’s will as being tied to “success.” What good was Paul doing in jail?

We may never fully understand, but when we’re in a “train wreck” situation, maybe we’re right where God needs us to be. God can use our valleys for His glory.

Later on, in chapter 4 (4:22), we see that those who “belong to Caesar’s household” send greetings to the churches. Because of Paul’s chains, the Gospel of Christ reached even Caesar!


Hope in an Ugly Situation…

If we were in Paul’s situation- chained between two ugly guards, our hope would probably be summed up by: “Get me out of here!” We’d want the situation to end. But Paul had a different attitude about his situation, and about his life. In verse 21 of chapter 1, he expresses this attitude: “For to me, to live is Christ and to Die is Gain!

He wasn’t focused on his ugly situation; he was focused on Christ. In verse 27 he says “Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel….” We’re adopted by God. We’re given God’s name. When we mess up, we drag God through the mud.

And, he was even hopeful. In verse 20, Paul expressed three hopes:

  1. That he would not be ashamed of his actions when he faced Christ in heaven.
  2. That regardless of what happened to him, Christ would be exalted.
  3. That he would be able to have the courage to speak boldly; even while in prison.

How do we “spend” our lives? Are bad situations an impediment to our enjoyment of “things”, or are they opportunities to glorify God? Paul believed that his situation was a direct result of his relationship with Christ and that his life was all about living for Christ. Do you know what you believe? What’s your life about?

Personal Reflection

At the end of each session, George gave us some personal questions to consider. Our first session ended with these questions…

  1. What would “to live is Christ” look like in your life?
  2. Are there areas of your life that would change if you were to live for Christ?

Saturday Morning

Philippians 2:1-11

On Saturday morning, we looked at chapter 2, focusing in on verses 6-11. We noted that life is made up almost entirely of relationships. In this passage in Philippians, Paul outlines Christ’s relationship the the Father. Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 describes a variety of human relationships. We noted the similarity of Christ’s relationship to the Father and each of the relationships described in Ephesians. In each case, there is a “submissive partner” (the Son… the wife, the child, or the slave) and one “leader character” (the Father… or the husband, parent, or master). The “submissive partner” trusts and obeys the “leader character”, while the leader loves, protects, and even lays down his life for the “submissive partner.”

Christ’s Relationship to the Father

Jesus had the very nature of God, but He didn’t use it to His advantage. He could have said, “Hey God- I’m your equal. I don’t have to do all of this.” But He chose to submit to the Father. He chose to be obedient, trusting, and selfless.

The Father’s Relationship to Christ

The Father loves the Son and He rewards, protects, and provides for Him. And, God does the same thing for us; as long as we acknowledge Him and submit to Him.


We then turned back a few pages to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:22-6:9), and we saw this same dynamic at play in each of our human relationships. In Philippians 2:5, Paul tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s. And that attitude should permeate all of our human relationships.

Personal Reflection

  1. What relationships in your life to you need to apply God’s word to (in a better way)?
  2. What are some ways that you can personally have more Christlike relationships?

Saturday Evening

Philippians 3:4-11

We started our Saturday evening’s session by reflecting on the things we value. What’s important to us in this life? What marks us as successful?

Paul pointed out a lot of characteristics that made him look good in his day: Pharisee, persecuted Christians (the religious leaders… and Rome… liked that!), kept the Jewish Law. He was everything an upstanding Jew in that day wanted to be. He had a right to be proud of himself. In our day, we might talk about the things we “should be”: right school, right family, right job, right car, etc.

But then Paul hits us in verse 8 when he writes: “I consider them to be rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” His accomplishments, just like all of the stuff we might value as “self made men” are worthless in Paul’s mind.

We then turned our discussion to the topic of Citizenship. If you’re a citizen of earth, the things listed above ARE of value. But if you’re a citizen of heaven, all of that is “rubbish.” It’s temporary. Paul didn’t value the things an earthly citizen would focus on. Instead, he identified himself with Christ. Like the merchant who would sell everything he owned to buy a pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45), Paul did all he could to “know the power of His (Jesus’) resurrection.” For him, to die (to give up all of the things the world values) was gain if he could know Christ better.

Citizenship Rights Duties
Earth Speech, worship, fair trial, vote, run for office Support constitution, serve on jury, be informed, obey laws, pay taxes
Heaven Eternal life, be a child of God, God works for good, full life Share Gospel, love others, love self, fellowship, Loyalty is in Heaven


Personal Reflection

  1. What earthly accomplishments do you need to count as loss in order to fully know Christ?
  2. In what ways could you be a better citizen of heaven?


Sunday Morning

On Sunday, we looked at Paul’s closing remarks in chapter 4. In this section, Paul gives us three commandments:

  1. Rejoice
  2. Don’t worry- pray instead
  3. Guard your mind


Rejoice?!? What’s there to be happy about? Paul is in prison, chained to two ugly stinky Roman guards. And yet he tells us to “Rejoice” (in verse 4)! What- are we supposed to just smile regardless of what’s happening?

The key is the difference between “Happiness” and “Joy.” There’s nothing happy about being chained to Roman guards. But happiness is temporary; it depends on circumstances. Happiness is when the Eagles won the Superbowl (at least for those of us in the Philadelphia area). But that’s going to wear off as soon as they loose a game. “Joy” is deep; it doesn’t ebb and flow with the circumstances. It’s continual; it may have started with a past event, but it keeps stirring up flames in our hearts.


Don’t Worry- Pray

Prayer re-connects us to that joy. It pulls God’s Peace into our lives, even when the circumstances are anything but peaceful. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 that God uses everything- even the bad stuff- to connect us to Him. When we know that God ultimately wins, we don’t have to worry.

One of the guys told us that he couldn’t watch the superbowl; he had to work. But he put it on his DVR so he could watch it later. Of course- the Eagles Won! How could you not hear about that? So as he watched the recording of the game, he knew the outcome. Even during the rough spots, he didn’t worry: he knew the final result.

Prayer is one of our best tools for connecting to God. And when we’re connected to God, we know the outcome; we don’t have to worry.


Guard Your Mind

In verse 8, Paul tells us to “think about praiseworthy things.” This doesn’t mean to put blinders on to the bad stuff that’s always around us, but it’s meant to give us a better choice. What we dwell on is up to us. We can be aware of the negative (un-praiseworthy) things that bombard us , even as we focus on the positive things that that fall on us like quiet snowflakes. Remember, we are citizens of heaven! The things of the earth are temporary. My mind isn’t mine to fill with earthly things; they are temporary. Since we have been purchased by God and live in His Kingdom, we should fill our minds with heavenly things; things that will last throughout our eternal relationship with God.

Personal Reflection

  1. Do you see signs of these three commandments in your life?
  2. Where could you take steps in your life to guard your heart and mind?



It’s not all Serious Stuff…

George posed some thought provoking questions and got us to dig into the message of Philippians. But the weekend also included some time to kick back and to “be one of the guys.”



Each session began with a time of singing, led by the “Men’s Praise Team”.


Break Time

In between sessions (when we weren’t eating meals), we kicked back and enjoyed the fireplace, wandered around the grounds, or just took a nap…



Some of us took the time to take some pictures. The “Selfie” variety was pretty popular this year…




And, of course, we had all kinds of chances to eat. Several of the guys were celebrating birthdays, so we seized the opportunity and got a birthday cake (so we could have something else to eat… of course we did sing “Happy Birthday”… and then dug in)…



Movie and Pizza

On Saturday night, we continued our tradition of staying up late after the PM session, watching a movie, and eating some pizza. This year we watched the movie The Bible… and ate lots of pizza. Here is the evidence…



After the final session on Sunday, we posed for our traditional picture in front of the Black Rock lectern…


Was it worth it?

It’s nice to study a lot of scripture, delve into deep discussions, engage in honest conversations. When when it’s all said and done, has the experience changed you?

During our last session, George quizzed us on identifying pictures of animal tracks. At the end of our time together, we were challenged to consider the tracks we’re leaving behind. What are we leaving with? Are we closer to Christ because of our time together?

He ended with the story about a prince of Granada, who was imprisoned for 30 years. All he had in his dark cell was a bible. After his death, they discovered that the cell was filled with writings that the prisoner had scraped into the wall. The space was filled with verses and trivia about the bible. But, in spite of being alone with the bible for 30 years, there was nothing inscribed on the wall that indicated that this prince had grown to know, love, or depend on Christ. For 30 years, all that was learned was trivial facts.

In our times apart, are we filled with trivial facts? Is that all we leave behind? Or, when people look at our tracks, can they tell that we have been with the Lord?


To learn more about the retreat, open the following “drop down” box…

Announcement Post

Our Men’s Fellowship group has booked spots at the Black Rock Retreat Center for the third weekend in March, 2018.  We’re getting ready for our annual retreat!  Circle the dates: Our retreat will be from Friday 3/16/18 through Sunday 3/18/18. 

This year’s retreat will be the 17th year in a row we’ve gone to Black Rock, and each time we have bonded together as friends, learned more about our Amazing God, and we always leave Black Rock closer to God and more inspired to walk closer to Him.  There is a small core of “oldtimers” who have attended most of these 16 retreats, but many of us have never attended (or haven’t attended in a while).  The fellowship is always fresh.  Each year’s group has had a different “flavor” and each year has given us the chance to deepen old relationships and to make new friends.

This year’s speaker will be Pastor George DeVol.  George was formally a pastor at Laurel Hill Bible Church in Clementon, NJ and more recently was a director at Camp Haluwasa in Hammonton New Jersey, which is a Christian camp (“Haluwasa” stands for “HALLelujah What a SAvior!”).

Pastor George’s theme for the weekend will be:  “To Live is Christ: Studies from the Book of Philippians”


17th  Annual Men’s Fellowship Group Retreat: March 16-18, 2018

This year’s retreat will be held on the weekend of March 16 at the Black Rock Retreat Center.  The Black Rock Retreat Center is located in Quarryville, PA. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Pitman to Black Rock, and car pools will be organized. Plans are still in the works, but here’s how our retreat weekends usually play out:

  • Friday- Dinner at the Quarryville Family Restaurant (Optional)
  • Friday- First session
  • Saturday morning- Session #2
  • Saturday afternoon- free time
  • Saturday evening- Session #3
  • Sunday morning- wrap up and worship.  Depart by noon.

The retreat is open to any man 17 years or older.


Details and Payments

The initial payment is due on Sunday January 7.  You can pay the entire cost or leave a $50 deposit.   Checks can be given to Chris Valianti or Gene Sevene, or they can be placed in the offering plate.  

Make checks payable to “Pitman United Methodist Church” and put “UMM Retreat” on the memo line.



You have three options on where to spend your nights.  All of these facilities are on the Black Rock Grounds (everything is within easy walking distance- you won’t need your car all weekend).  The price shown is the entire cost for the whole weekend (including meals).  Click the link for more info on each facility…

  • Bunk Cabin:                     $129.00 (sleeps 10)   (no linens included)
  • Whip-poor-will Lodge:   $179 (sleeps 8- Queen and Twin beds w/ sheets)    
  • Dogwood Motel:              $167 (sleeps 3 per room- 1 Queen & 2 Twin beds w/sheets) 

Click this link for more info about the:  Black Rock Facilities



Lots of it!  On Friday we’ll meet at a local restaurant (optional).  After that,  all meals are included and served in Black Rock’s cafeteria…

  • Saturday:  Breakfast, Lunch, and dinner
  • Sunday:    Breakfast and lunch


For a taste of one of our retreats, here’s a look at last year’s retreat…

Men Retreat to Strengthen their Mission (3/17/17)



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For more information about our Men’s Fellowship Group, click this button:  Mens Fellowship  





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