Marriage Encounter Weekends
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
a weekend like no other


Hope For a Difficult Marriage
Dr. Ronald W. Mitchell

Marriage in the modern world is a Kaleidoscope of ideas.   Remember the kaleidoscope?  This tube of multi-colored pieces of glass reflected off two mirrors.   It is a “buffet” of colors and experiences.  If you don’t like the present image just turn it till you are satisfied.  Turn it ever so slightly and it looks one way and turn it again and it takes on a completely different look. 

Many in our culture view marriage as one views the ever-changing kaleidoscope.  They keep looking for something different.  “I’m looking for something that will bring me greater happiness” my friends often say as they reflect on their marriages.  Can’t find it--turn it again. 
In our Kaleidoscope culture there are only so many turns before many conclude, “I can’t find what I need in my present spouse.”  So, turn that one in, and get another.

Divorce and re-marriage is as common today as a weekly trip to Wal-Mart.  Could it be that in our never-ending pursuit of personal happiness we have somehow lost our way?  The following letter was sent to columnist Ann Landers and makes a point:

“A Warning From One Who Knows.”

Dear Ann: I'd like to share my story because I know a lot of people think of their lives the way I thought of mine.

Sometimes you feel lonely and unloved in a marriage- even after 23 years. You feel as if there's got to be more to life, so you set out to find someone who can make you blissfully happy. You believe you have found that someone and decide he is exactly what you want. So you pack up and say goodbye to your 23-year marriage and all the friends you made when you were part of a couple. You give your children the option of coming with you or staying with their father.
You live the glorious life for a few years, and then a light bulb goes on in your empty head.

You realize that you have exactly the life you had before-the only difference is that you've lost your friends, your children's respect and the best friend you loved and shared everything with for 23 years. And you miss him.

You realize that love doesn't just happen, it must be nurtured through the years. You cannot undo what has been done, so you settle for a lonely and loveless life.

Ann, please print my letter so others won’t give up something that is truly precious- and let them know that they won’t know how precious it is until they have thrown it away.
                        HEAVY-HEARTED IN PHILLY

It was a near perfect day to golf in the bright sunshine of a Florida afternoon as my friend Bill* and I approached the 12th green. Golf is something that is very unpredictable for me, but one thing that was certain that day, the conversation would be entertaining. Bill was highly successful in his profession and moved easily in the exclusive circles of the wealthy. This is what most people knew about Bill. The deeper reality that most were blind to was, in spite of the success and wealth, Bill was empty. Much of what people saw, the bravado and arrogance, was only a front to mask the hurt that was never far away.  Bill’s marriage was failing and he had convinced himself that the only thing that stood between him and happiness was Maggie*, his wife. Sure Maggie was difficult at times but I also knew that Bill had “change points” he continually neglected. That day on the golf course, figuring our friendship was strong enough, I took a deep breath and told Bill, “You are one of the most selfish men I know. It’s always Maggie. When was the last time you really listened to her without correcting her or having to win the moment?” I guess our friendship survived my directness but sadly, Bill and Maggie’s marriage died. BILL IS A KELISOSCOPE KIND OF GUY.

Donald W. McCullough accurately describes this counterfeit philosophy: "We think we know what will secure greater happiness---marriage or divorce, a higher salary or professional recognition, steamier sex or deeper intimacy, a new faith or better spiritual experiences---the list is as long as humans are ingenious in finding greener grass on the far side of the fence.   But we don't realize how hungry we really are.  Small potatoes won't satisfy.  We need a banquet table only God can spread."'

God has created us for Himself and until we look to Him to meet the deepest longings of our soul we continue searching in vain; ever seeking yet never finding.  “By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled. With all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3-4). Wisdom and knowledge is for sale at every street corner.  New age gurus, phone-a-physic, and other expressions of man’s desperate and vain attempt to connect with the spiritual is abundant evidence that “human need drives the market.”  People are looking; but looking in all the wrong places.  Again, it’s Jesus.  The scriptures declare, “in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Every married couple needs wisdom and insight to meet the responsibilities inherent in relationship.  These responsibilities are best fulfilled in the context of a meaningful and vigorous relationship with Jesus Christ.  Now it must be said that aspects of a good marital relationship can be enjoyed apart from a relationship with Christ.  Even a non-religious person can be kind and loving to their spouse.  But only those who are in Christ are able to connect with the whole person.  Those who have a common bond in the spirit share life that transcends the body and soul or the physical and emotional/mental.
Two people who share on a spiritual level discover an enrichment of the physical and emotional.  Marriage in God’s design is for the total person; body, soul and spirit.  This is absolutely critical to understanding all God has for you together.  It’s like an “upgrade” God has reserved for those who lay down their plans to take up His.

Most of my flying is “coach” class.  It’s basic and I have no complaints.  A few times I have been given a complimentary “upgrade” to first class.  Wow, what a difference.  I could get used to first class in a hurry.  Listen to me—God’s instruction for marriage is nothing short of an “upgrade” that, if faithfully followed, will bring you internal rewards in ways you can never dream of in two life times.

Building Character in the Home
Ronald W. Mitchell

Character Matters! And parents are the primary shapers of character formation.

How important is character?  Ask the discouraged investors whose life savings have been lost in the aftermath of Enron, Tyco and WorldCom debacles, the answer will be “character is worth everything.”  Questionable accounting procedures and lavish life-styles of some CEO’s and their top lieutenants have left employees and investors with little or nothing.  The financial security of so many people has been shaken by the pervasive dishonesty within corporate America.  Even the president has weighed in on the subject, vowing to “hold people accountable for misleading not only shareholders but employees as well.”   

Could it be that what we see in the financial institutions of our country are only a sampling of what is underneath the soil of moral relativism and situation ethics?  I’m sure for every wrong committed there is someone who can argue for its “rightness.”   Even the horrible abuses of power and wealth cannot be condemned in a climate where moralists and ethics professors cannot agree.  How can something be wrong when the definition of wrong is constantly shifting?  Is this only the first fruits of casting off our fixed moral point, which is God?

While the focus of change is aimed at the top I would suggest we also take time to take a hard look at where character is essentially formed.  The seeds of moral character are first planted in the home.

In Deuteronomy, chapter six, God urges us not to make this mistake: "These words which I command thee this day," he says, "shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down and when thou risest up."

Some parents don't believe spiritual things are all that important. They even go so far as to say that they're not going to try to influence their children one way or the other when it comes to spiritual matters. Instead, they're going to allow them to decide those things for themselves when they grow up.

This has a pious ring to it, but under careful analysis it falls apart. If we've discovered a good and useful thing in life, like brushing our teeth, combing our hair, using soap and deodorant, we're not doing our children a favor by letting them discover these things for themselves when they grow up.  If we're going to
be concerned about our children's grades in school, about their eating habits at home, about the strength of their muscles and the enamel on their teeth, in all honesty doesn't it seem logical that we should be concerned about their moral and spiritual welfare also?
Without God a whole dimension of life is missing; children grow up in a spiritual vacuum. I'm not alone in this. Millions can testify that the spiritual training they received during their youth brought a great deal of meaning, purpose and fulfillment to their lives. Plus, it gave them a moral foundation that otherwise they would not have had. The moral and spiritual training they received during childhood by being with their parents in church, worshiping and learning about God and His purposes, became the stabilizing force of their lives. The highlights of their growing-up-experience were not limited to a concert hall, dance recital or athletic field. Church, spiritual retreats, summer camps brought them experiences that significantly shaped their character.  Spiritual training, provided by parents, builds a foundation upon which moral and ethical decisions are decided.

Stroll along Times Square in Manhattan and your senses are assaulted with commercial messages.  Everything from clothes to entertainment is there in bright lights and on gigantic billboards.  Like a walk along Times Square, today’s young person is constantly bombarded with the sensual messages of today’s culture.  What are we doing in our homes to provide a moral and spiritual foundation that can give our children courage to act with character?

Courage rooted in Character

Perhaps a personal story here will give us some insight to the point I am making.  It’s actually the story of a young man.  Joseph is his name.  His parents taught him to love God and value sexual purity from child-hood up.  Under their guidance he developed
moral and spiritual values that were rock solid.  Joseph wasn't a religious fanatic; he just wanted to do what was good and just and right, and to please God with all of his heart.  Joseph worked for a man by the name of Potiphar.  Potiphar’s wife began a sexual pursuit of Joseph, daily inviting him into her bedroom.  One day, when all the servants were away, she literally pulled him onto herself.  In this moment of passion, Joseph’s character prevailed as resisted and ran from the situation.  With his character and values firmly in place, he refused.  He didn't refuse because he was afraid of being caught, or because he was afraid of contracting a disease. He refused because pleasing God was more important to him than a moment of self-indulgence.  Someday he'd get married to the girl of his choice and sex would then be a good and beautiful part of both of their lives.  Joseph wasn't about to throw this away for a night of pleasure with another man’s wife.

The thing we need to realize is, Joseph didn't develop these principles an hour, a day, or a week before temptation came.  His character was formed day by day from childhood up.  Night after night he heard stories about Abraham and Isaac and God's dealing with them.  Soon the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac became the God of Joseph also.  The reason Joseph had the strength to turn down the sexual favors of Potiphar's wife is because he treasured his relationship with God too highly to give it up for a night of sin.

One of these days your children are going to walk out of your home to begin life on their own. They're going to make decisions based on their own convictions - on the moral and spiritual values they've adopt-ed for themselves, on the training they've received.  As parents, the character we consistently model today will prepare our children to tomorrow’s challenges.

Character development is a journey but, thankfully, it’s not a journey we make alone.  God said, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  How does God do what He declares here?  In the person of His son, Jesus Christ, God not only reconciles the believer to Himself but begins a process of “interior remodeling.”  Call it true character formation.

In the first century, followers of Jesus Christ recognized and feared one man above all others.  This was a man who formed what we would call lynch mobs for the purpose of killing these followers of Christ.  During his reign of terror, if someone had suggested that this man would lay down his sword for the Cross of Christ, he or she would have been labeled lunatic.  Nothing would have been more unbelievable.  But then it happened.  Paul became a man whose character was radically transformed by the power of Christ.  He declared that the presence of Christ within was the power behind his transformation (Colossians 1:27-29; Philippians 1:9-11).

Christ is the hope for anyone who ever grew up in a dysfunctional home void of any good role models.  Christ is the hope for anyone hoping to break with the past and give something new, something better to their own children.

One of the things Christ does for us is he gives us a moral foundation on which to stand. Without this we're vulnerable to every temptation that comes along.

Another thing Christ does for us is he puts meaning and purpose into our lives. He gives us a cause bigger than ourselves for which to live. Life is more than a few years of self-indulgence and career advancements. It is a stewardship given to us by God.

A third thing Christ does for us is he fills our life with his presence. He brings to us comfort in times of sorrow, peace in times of distress, strength in times of weakness, forgiveness in times of failure, light in times of darkness, and hope in times of death.  Children who aren't introduced to Him miss so very, very much.  A home where the presence of Christ is real and expressed in dynamic faith is the best gift parents can give. 

Like the sun piercing the darkness of what had been concealed, so the disturbing events of corporate dishonesty have shined a bright light on the value of character.  Build something great… something that precedes you and something that will outlast you.  Build a character upon the principles of God’s truth, the Bible.  Start where you’re at, start in your own home and why not start today?  Parents who play with their children and pray with them and instruct them in the ways of God are providing their children with the greatest treasure children can have.