Noticed the Signs of Spring?

DSC01707April of 2016 is already well underway and the signs of spring are unmistakable — perennials are blooming, lawns are turning green, leaves on the trees are budding, and… the pace of registration activity is picking up for the Committed for Life Marriage Retreat!

We on the planning team are excited about what’s in store for this 35th annual retreat.  Our hope and prayer is that you have been planning to join us!  As some couples are already completing the process, we encourage you to get your own registration started today, if you’ve been waiting for just the right time.  Freshly-updated registration brochures and forms can be downloaded from the website, with options for paperless or conventional-mail submission.

We also invite you to “share the love” by forwarding this information to your married friends and family members.  We hope to see you at Potawatomi Inn when this milestone retreat kicks off on June 3rd!

Born this Day, a Savior

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When you think of Christmas, do your thoughts begin and end with the birth in Bethlehem?  As awe-inspiring as the nativity account is, there is so much more to the arrival of Messiah than the stable, the shepherds, and the star.  The significance of The Savior’s birth is rooted in who He is, and in what He accomplished on our behalf!

For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see —
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through Him and for Him.
He existed before anything else,
    and He holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body.
He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.
    So He is first in everything.
For God in all His fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
and through Him God reconciled
    everything to Himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.  – Colossians 1:13-20 NLT

What an amazing description of The Son of God!  What amazing truths to take to heart… this season and always!

May the all-sufficient grace of God and the blessing of salvation through His Son bring you joy this Christmas and in the coming new year!

“Naked and not Ashamed”

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.  Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 

And Adam said: 

“This is now bone of my bones 

And flesh of my flesh; 

She shall be called Woman, 

Because she was taken out of Man.” 

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were  

not ashamed.  – Genesis 2:21-25 NKJV 

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.  – Hebrews 13:4 NKJV 

If your experience has been like ours, perhaps one of the applications you’ve heard, based on this passage from Genesis, is the significance and benefit of mutual acceptance between a husband and wife; an acceptance that is undeterred by any so-called flaws in one’s outward appearance.  We’re thankful, however, for Dr. Aaron Lavender’s exposition of verse 25 (at this year’s [2012] marriage retreat) regarding the words “naked… and were not ashamed.” When the emphasis and focus of that verse are viewed relative to God’s perspective, the absence of shame reflects His divine approval of the physically-intimate, one-flesh relationship between Adam and Eve!  

 The Lord reiterates this attitude in Hebrews 13:4.  In some other translations, you find the phrase “marriage bed” because “bed” in this verse is koite, a derivative of a term for sexual relations between a man and woman.  Outside the context of marriage, such interactions are condemned and shameful.  Yet as believing husbands and wives we can enjoy sexual intimacy with the assurance that The Creator applauds our expression of mutual love! 

(Originally published in August, 2012, in CFL’s Marriage Messenger e-newsletter)

Leadership and Submission

Our struggle with the question of ʺWhoʹs going to lead [in our marriage]?ʺ seems to be ageless… and that should come as no surprise.  One of the repercussions of sinʹs arrival was the onset of a virtually instinctive resistance to servant‐minded leading and humility-driven following.

Iʹm thankful that we can look to God and His Word in order to combat those areas of resistance.  When the temptations come, we can reinforce our resolve by remembering the examples of Christ.  He led, not by wielding His authority with a tone of condescension toward His disciples, but with loving patience and compassion.  Furthermore, He submitted to The Father in all things, without ever negating the oneness that He and The Father share.

ʺYou call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.ʺ  

‐ John 13:13‐17

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  

‐ Philippians 2:5‐8

When we align our marital roles with Scripture, we not only reinforce our unity with one another, but we also glorify The Lord and fulfill His purposes for our lives as wives and husbands!

(Originally published in July, 2010, in CFL’s Marriage Messenger e-newsletter)

Deny, Take, Follow

Mark 8:27-38 (NKJV):

27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them,“Who do men say that I am?”
28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

30 Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

When reviewing the feedback from couples who attended the 2014 Committed for Life Marriage Retreat, it was encouraging to us to see how many positive comments were written in reference to Dr. Johnny Parker‘s session based on verses 31-36 of the passage above.  Although Mark 8:34b is key, and commonly-quoted, it was eye-opening to consider it in context with events that preceded, and with the full content of Christ’s declaration.

As the text reveals, the fact that Jesus is the Messiah was a certainty in Peter’s mind.  Nevertheless, Christ’s actual immediate future did not coincide with Peter’s worldly expectations.   Jesus then clarified for His disciples that real allegiance to Him required that they esteem Him – and the proclamation of the good news – more than they valued their very lives!  Then, and now, The Lord has instructed each Believer to:

1) DENY yourself – This concept goes far beyond the idea of settling for a Toyota, rather than a Lexus.  In this case, it means to renounce (to abandon) your right to act as though your life belongs to you.

2) TAKE up your cross – This, of course, is not fashion advice about what type of jewelry to wear.  In the age of Christ’s ministry on earth, those dwelling in Israel were all too familiar with the practice of forcing condemned men to carry the beams upon which they would be executed.  Here again, He calls you to regard your life as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), given up for Him.

3) FOLLOW Him – In our marriages, our careers, or even our ministries, we can find ourselves wishing, “Lord, here’s where I want to go; please come along and help me reach my goal.”  Conversely, when we understand what He means by “follow”, our prayers will sound more like, “Lord, lead me daily – through Your Word, and by Your Spirit – in the way You want me to go; my life is in Your hands.”

To deny, take, and follow requires deliberate, selfless action.  You miss the mark as a disciple if you’re more concerned about preserving a way of life that is comfortable for you and inoffensive to lost sinners, than you are about giving your life wholly to The Lord.

So, here is the challenge: to choose obedience to The Savior over the temptation to compromise in the face of opposition, giving top priority to Christ’s will and purpose, above and before personal agendas.  Just as The Son denied Himself, took up His cross, and followed The Father’s will (to bring us salvation), let us be husbands and wives that embolden one another to maintain a deny-take-follow attitude, and to represent the cause of Christ in every aspect of life.

To Perceive His Glory

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.  — Psalm 63:1-8

The words of this Psalm reveal the difference between a person who is merely religious and one who possesses a relationship with The Lord.  As you read these verses, you can practically visualize the writer — or yourself — experiencing a range of perspectives and feelings about God: from a deep longing to sense the strength and glory of God in a time of corporate, vocal worship… to meditation on the provision of God during the quiet darkness of a bedroom at night.  Clearly, faith in The Living God is more than a passive, intellectual pursuit; it’s a heart-and-soul interactive involvement with The Creator who personally loves you with an immeasurable, sacrificial, unconditional love!  Wow!!

Consider your own personal walk of faith.  Is fellowship with Christ — including a hunger to know and apply His Word — integrated into every facet of your life?  When that is true of our lives and husbands and wives, then we (like the psalmist) can find ourselves ready and willing to joyfully praise The Lord!

Stormy Weather. Sturdy House?

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” — Matthew 7:24-27

In this text, we find the conclusion of a discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus had been teaching the multitude on a wide range of subjects – from wealth and anxiety, to prayer and salvation.  He even touched on the subjects of lust, adultery, divorce and remarriage.  Now, consider the imagery of His summation: two buildings, only distinct in the type of foundation upon which each was built; both subjected to the same severe rains, winds, and floods; one endured and the other suffered a catastrophic collapse.  What a vivid picture!

Of course the question here is, “which kind of builder are you?”  For the house that is your marriage, have you been building on rock, by remembering the Biblical truths you’ve learned and putting them into practice?  Adversities and challenges are unavoidable, but they should not lead to the destruction of your marital union.

Perhaps you’ve been building on sand — having heard truth, but persisting in believing the lies that your personal happiness is an entitlement, and that your spouse owes it to you to meet your needs to your satisfaction.  With that kind of mindset, it’s no wonder that conflicts and disappointments can eventually destroy a marriage.

Yet it’s never too late to begin transitioning to a secure foundation.  Absolutely, attended the marriage retreat! By all means, learn Biblical truth through your local church!  Then become intentional in adopting the attitudes and actions that you have been taught from God’s Word.