Men’s Retreat Goes Online! (4/24/20)

Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Bible Study, EventReport, men, UMM | 0 comments

We were scheduled to go on our annual Men’s Retreat in April of 2020; but then the Coronavirus pandemic came along and upended all of our plans.  Pastor George DeVol had volunteered to lead our retreat and was in the process of preparing the sessions when the retreat was abruptly postponed… until some unknown date in the distance future. 

It would have been easy for Pastor George to stop working on the presentation; maybe he’d never have the opportunity to use the material anyway.  He could have stopped this work and moved on to something else.  However, he turned what was supposed to be a face to face weekend into a You Tube virtual weekend.  

In a series of three videos, Pastor George guided us through a study in the Gospel of Matthew.


The Retreat that We Planned…

In anticipation of what was going to be our 19th annual retreat (at the Black Rock Retreat Center in Quarryville, PA), we posted an announcement on our website to tell people about the retreat and to give them details on what we were planning.

Click the following “drop Down Box” to read Pastor George’s bio and an introduction to the retreat…


Writer: Matthew

The theme of our retreat will be entitled “Following the Master- Studies from the Book of Matthew.” From the sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 through the Great Commission in chapter 28, the book of Matthew teaches us many challenging messages. During the weekend’s four sessions, we’ll dig into these lessons to see how they apply to us as men and how we can “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.”


Speaker: George Devol

Our speaker for the weekend will be a familiar face to us- Pastor George Devol. Pastor George led our retreat in 2018 when we studied the book of Philippians, and we are excited to be able to meet with him again.

Pastor George DeVol

Pastor George has been serving full-time in ministry for the past twenty years. He is currently serving as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Cape May Court House where he and his family have been for the past two years. In his time in ministry Pastor George has spent several years as a youth and family pastor as well as the director of Camp Haluwasa in Hammonton NJ. During this time, he has had the privilege to serve as a guest speaker at a number of churches, ministries, and retreats.

Pastor George has a master’s degree in the Bible with a specialization with youth and family ministry.

He has been married to his wife Shannon for 18 years and they have 4 children. His interests include sports, hiking, and outdoor activities.

Here’s a look at the last retreat that Pastor George led with us (2018)… (Use your browser’s “back” button to return to this article)…

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


The Retreat that God Gave Us…

In this season of “Coronavirus”, we’ve all learned too well that plans can disappear and be replaced by something totally unexpected.  We’ve also learned to adapt.  Things that were in our comfort zone of “normal” can still morph into something enriching under the conditions of “new normal.” 

Our Retreat weekends normally consist of four sessions:  Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning.  After the Sunday session, we hold a worship service, clean up, pack up and come home.  But this year, there was no packing up to be done!  And, our Sunday Worship service was “at” our own church (via Live Stream). 

After the retreat was cancelled, Pastor George created a series of three videos: one for each of three retreat sessions (click on the “drop down” boxes under each period to view that session’s video). 

The rest of this article shows what “might have” been.  We’ll attempt to force the videos into a “typical” Men’s Retreat weekend.  But even if the sessions don’t fit into our “normal” schedule, they contain lessons on following our Master that can guide us… regardless of our situation.

(Tip:  don’t play more than one video at a time!)



“Friday Night”

In a “normal” retreat, we would gather at the Black Rock Retreat Center throughout the afternoon.  As groups of people arrived, we would meet at the Quarryville Family Restaurant.  After an always-filling meal, we would return to Black Rock for our opening session…

Click the following “drop Down Box” to view the session #1 video…

Session 1: Temptation

Session 1: Temptation

In the opening video session, Pastor George led us into the wilderness with Jesus.  It wasn’t an easy, comfortable walk, Instead it was a difficult time of temptation under rough conditions.  Satan did his best to derail Jesus’ mission before it even got started.  The story is told in Matthew 4:1-11

From Jesus’ wilderness experience, Pastor George gleaned four lessons that we can learn about temptation:

1:  Temptation is Normal-  It’s Part of the Christian Experience  –    “Bad things” can strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).  Don’t avoid it, be victorious over it; grow from it. 

2:  Temptation Often Comes after a Spiritual High  (3:13-17)  –  These temptations came right after Jesus’ baptism.  

3:  We can Resist Temptation through God’s Word   (v4, 7, 10)   –   Train yourself to know the real thing so you can avoid counterfeits (Psalm 119:11).    

4:  The Devil Flees when We Resist Temptation  (v11) –   We’re not alone in our trials; God will provide a way out (1 Peter 5:8-11,   James 4:7) .            





“Saturday Morning”

Friday is a long day.  After working all day, arriving late in the afternoon, and attending the evening session, we’re all pretty tired.  So it’s good to hit the sack and get a good night’s sleep (depending on the snoring volume!).  And- food is a big part of our retreats; the Black Rock folks always start our days with a big breakfast buffet, and (of course) we always bring  a lot of our own “nutritious snacks” to munch on during the sessions…

Click the following “drop Down Box” to view the session #2 video…

Session 2: Mission

Session 2:   Missionary

Session #2 took us to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus purposely goes to visit a broken, naked, demon possessed man.  The story is  described in  Matthew 8:28-34.  Mark (5:1-20) and Luke (8:26-36) add different facets to the story.  There are four lessons from this passage:  

1:  Jesus wasn’t Afraid (v28)–  He knew who God is and trusted Him.  The same is true for us.  Being a follower of Christ allows us to be free from fear (Romans 8:38-39).

2:  Jesus is in Charge (v29-32)–    The demons addressed Him as the Son of God.  They didn’t even try to overpower Him.  Instead, they shuttered.  We too can take courage because of Christ’s position of absolute authority.

 3:  Jesus Cares About the Person (v33-34)–    Jesus sees past people’s mistakes and shortcomings, and He is focused on His mission to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  We are empowered to see past our prejudices and to be passionate about people.

  4Jesus Sends the Healed Man Out (Mark 5:18-20)–   Jesus saw past this man’s checkered past and used him to help build His Kingdom.  God loves to take broken things and make them whole again.  We must avoid being held back by focusing on our limitations.  Allow God to use us, regardless of our shortcomings.           




“Saturday Evening”

After our Saturday morning session, it’s time to eat again!  So it’s off to the cafeteria again, for a hot lunch.  After lunch, we disperse.  There’s no afternoon session so we’re on our own for a while.  Some of us take a nap, some take a walk, others stick together and play games.  On this afternoon we don’t have to be productive; we’re here to get away from the normal routine and to take some time to reflect on our relationship with the Master.  In the evening, we re-convene for dinner and then return to our meeting room for the evening session…

Click the following “drop Down Box” to view the session #3 video…

Session 3: Focus

Session #3:   Eyes on the Prize

Even Jesus needed some down time.  Things were changing in His ministry.  He was becoming a “celebrity,” opposition was growing, and He needed to prepare His disciples for the road ahead.  He had just received the news that His cousin (John the Baptist) had been executed, and He wanted to be alone for a while.  But the crowds came, so He stayed with them.  After a busy day of preaching, healing and feeding, He needed a break.  So He sent the disciples to their boat and went up into the mountain to pray.  As He was praying, the disciples ran into a fierce storm on the lake.  But Jesus, ever mindful of His mission, came to their rescue.  The story is told in  Matthew 14:22-33. 

Pastor George took the following lessons from this incident:

1:  Jesus Makes Time for the Father in Prayer (v22-23) –   Before making decisions, Jesus prays.  The world draws us into focusing on earthly things, but our true treasures are in heaven.  Prayer “sharpens our ax” so we can focus on God.   

2:  Jesus Demonstrates His Power (v24-31) – The disciples were experienced fishermen and “should have been able” to row through this storm on their own.  And Jesus lets them see that their own strength wasn’t enough.  We need to depend on Him and trust Him to save us.

3: The Disciples Start to Focus on the Right Thing (v33)  –  They finally recognize that Jesus is the Son of God (not just “man” or “David”).  Jesus is still trying to get us to focus on Him (Matthew 6:33).  We try to row with all our might, but Jesus asks, “Why didn’t you use all the strength you had?”  Pray.  Trust.  Reach out to Him.






The Life that God Offers Us…

And so the retreat is over.  We’ll pack up, some of us will grab some lunch, and then we all drive home.  But other than a few pounds from eating so much all weekend… what do we bring back home with us?  If the retreat doesn’t somehow change our lives, has it really served its purpose?

We’ve looked at three passages in the Gospel of Matthew.  We first saw Jesus overcoming temptation.  Then we saw Him heal a demon-posessed man.  And then we saw Him pray and rescue His disciples by walking on the water.  What can we learn about ourselves from these three incidences in Jesus’ life?

In no particular order, below are some take-aways from our retreat.  (click the tabs to view each slide)…

1:  God Helps Us Overcome Temptation and to Grow From It

It’s not sinful to face temptation; even Jesus was tempted.  But unlike Jesus, we’re going to have our moments when we give into temptation.  We can’t avoid temptation, but we can have the victory over it:

  1. Know your Bible– Jesus answered temptation with scripture.  Can we?
  2. If you’re on a high, don’t get cocky!  Temptation is the most likely to strike when we feel we’re on top of things.  Always be on the lookout.
  3. Jesus is really in charge.  He has power over the devil.  If you resist the temptation while hanging on to Jesus, the Devil will run away.

As we saw with the demon-posessed man, God likes to use people with checkered pasts.  We can look past our past and trust God to forgive and empower us.   God can use our distant times to bring us closer to Him. 

2:  We Have a Purpose!

We tend to drift along. We fight the fires that life throws at us and then try to enjoy ourselves during the easier stretches.  But we’re on a mission to be God’s witnesses in the world; to not “hide our light under a basket.”  Jesus had a passion for people.  He wasn’t afraid to confront evil.  Yeah, He is JESUS… but He promised that He will be with us and will help us.

We can have the same passion for God.  He wants to develop a faith in us that will allow Him to work through us.

We need to keep trying to remain focused on Him and on His purpose.  But Jesus is always focused on us!  His mission on earth was (and continues to be) to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Even when we wander off and mess up, God seeks to restore us so that we can help Him build His Kingdom.  He’s gone through incredible lengths to restore our relationship with Him so that we can love Him and be His hands and feet in the world (John 3:16-18).

If God is so focused on us, then there must be a reason.  If He goes through so much to keep us in tune with Him, then we must have a role to play.

3:  Keep Sharpening Your Ax

When Jesus answered the Devil He KNEW His Bible!  Satan tried to twist things around, but Jesus could see through it.  And we saw that even He needed to keep praying.  Before just about every big event in His life, every difficult decision, the Gospels record that He went off by Himself to pray. 

Just like Peter walking on the water despite the waves, God gives us the freedom to focus on Him instead of focusing on earthly things.  He provides for our needs, He cares for us, He calms our fears.  We can look for God in the little things instead of always looking for an easy way out. 

Growing your faith prepares you for difficult times.  It’s like sharpening your ax in preparation for the next tree.  Ax sharpening takes effort; it goes against the flow of our lives.  But so is walking on water!  God is giving us opportunities to  keep our eyes on Him, to shut out the worries, and to stop being absorbed with ourselves.  When we step out with our eyes on God, He will strengthen our faith, love, and commitment.

4:  Our Future is in Heaven

We really do get worried about the little things in life.  We worry about what we’re going to wear, how we’re going to fix the lawn mower or dishwasher, or how we’ll ever find the time to put up the Christmas decorations.  But God has bigger plans for us.  Cars, lawn mowers and Christmas decorations are all going to fade into the past.  Jesus could risk (and give) His life, face temptation, fatigue, hunger, and physical pain because He knew His heavenly Father and He totally trusted Him.  He knew that His home was in heaven, not in Galilee. 

He kept His eyes on the Prize.  He wasn’t holding back or fighting against His Father’s plan. 

God has big things in store for us, both in this life and in the next.  We don’t have to keep looking around to earthly concerns.  Instead, we can look up for heaven’s eternal blessings.   Knowing our eternal destination, we can use our lives to fill our hearts and the world with love for our Creator.

5:  Use All the Strength You Have- Keep Looking at Jesus

The disciples did their best to row against the waves.  They were strong and experienced fishermen.  But even their strength wasn’t enough to save them from the waves.  Peter entered the water.  But when he began to look at the waves and measure the task at hand against his own abilities, he began to sink.  Jesus kept teaching His disciples to look towards Him and to trust in the power that God gives. 

We need to guard our focus too. Our intellect may tell us that we aren’t “limited to our limitations” and that we are “freed for joyful obedience.”  We may even remember that God’s “perfect love drives out fear.” 

But sometimes our hearts forget God’s truths.   We see our inability to go it alone and that just strengthens our bull-headedness to force things to work out with our own strength.  Like the boy trying to push that big rock out of his sandbox, sometimes we try to do things on our own instead of turning to the Father who’s standing right beside us.   We don’t need to be sinking in fear when Jesus is reaching out His hand to us. 

Instead of being mired down in our limitations, God wants us to become more and more connected with His unlimited power.

6:  God has Plans that are Better than Yours!

Back in January we started planning for this retreat.  We booked places at Black Rock, we put down deposits, we lined up our speaker…. but we never made it to Black Rock.

But the speaker we selected was kind enough to complete his preparation as if we were going to meet in person.  And when it was clear that we weren’t going to meet, he made the videos that are given above.  That’s not what we envisioned.  We sure didn’t plan on being stuck at home in the midst of a pandemic.

And yet God provides.  He provided Live Stream worship services.  He provided Zoom and the wherewithal to continue our team meetings online.  He gave us the imagination to teach online Sunday School lessons, to create curbside pantries, to congratulate our preschool graduates with lawn signs and drive by parades.

We might tend to think that these are all compromises or second choices. But we can trust God with this turn in events.  He’s used Live Stream worship services, Facebook Sunday Schools, and Devotional Emails to bring people to Him during this time.  

He can even use You Tube videos of a Men’s Retreat as a way to strengthen His disciples!   

God is faithful and committed to us, but are we committed to Him?  Are we on board with His plan or are we still trying to force things to go the way we thought they should go? 




We’ll end with a look at some past retreats.  Each of the 18 retreats that came before this “virtual retreat” is a unique experience.  And, yes, this 2020 Retreat was certainly a different experience.  

But our God hasn’t changed, and neither has His love for us.  We missed the Black Rock Retreat Center, we missed seeing each other, and yet- we know that we are still joined together in Christ.  We look forward to returning to Black Rock again.  Until then, we rest sure in the faith that our God protects and provides.



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