The three Marg churches in Pune met at Bible Center for our first-ever marriage & parenting retreat, earlier this month. This much-awaited retreat began with a session on the gospel. Where else to start but the one place that is the joy of and the most important thing for the Christ-follower!
1. Marg & Baptist-wale John
It is so easy to believe that I have been living and mostly obeying the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. That was until the session began with the question – “who qualifies for John the Baptist’s repentance?”.
Baptist wale bhai ka message was simple – You drop everything. Cut your ties with the values and things of this world, for
anTHE emperor is coming, to build a nation who trust and obeys Him, a people possessed by God himself!
Sadly I realised that I was comforting myself by trying to obey a diluted, easy version of the gospel. I “believed” the true gospel alright. But actions like hoarding possessions and money especially when there are people in dire need and my recurring lack of discipline assured me that such actions are in direct opposition to the good news John preached (Mark 1:1-4).
If John the baptist came today to my home, I am afraid he might say “Aravind, you say you are a Christian, but I don’t think I can baptize you”.
The Holy Bible is abundantly clear on what happens to those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ in 2 Thess 1:8, Rom 2:8 and 1 Peter 4:17 – flaming wrath and punishment. That’s hard to digest. Those who repent and believe in the message of Jesus Christ have radically different lifestyles, as was shown in the life of the early church (Acts 2:42-47). It’s time for examining my actions, motivations and the kind of spending I do for “normal needs”.
2. The Marriage Sessions
The 1st session on marriage took us through Genesis 2, Genesis 24 and Ephesians 5, to show God’s total control in selecting marriage partners, man’s sustaining them to represent the amazing relationship between Jesus Christ and His people.
The 2nd session “Murder Within Marriage” discussed various aspects of two sins that need to be eliminated within Christian marriages today; Individualism and Isolation.
Put to death – S.L.A.P.
Selfishness- Are you against your spouse? Do you look to support them or oppose them more?
Lies- “Every thing’s fine”. Hiding failures, out of fear.
Apathy- Husbands who come home from work, don’t think that their wives have spent the same time in an often tougher work environment- the home.
Profanity- We profane our spouses by not being diligent in keeping them pure through study of God’s Word and praying together to Him and praying for their spouses.
Live as Christ -K.I.S.S.
Knowing your spouse- Your love for your spouse will be affected by your knowledge of them or by your ignorance about them. Ignorance about how your spouse would like to be loved, is in direct disobedience to 1 Peter 3:7.
Impress- Don’t be lazy in marriage. Shave, work-out, do all those things you used to do as a single person! Impress your spouse! The church is being impressed by Christ’s amazing nature each hour. Learn from Him to not be lazy in the right things!
Serve- Yes, do the dishes! Yes, tire yourself cleaning out so she doesn’t have to! Quite a few of us have had wrong examples of service in our culture that we think is not wrong. It could be!
Sanctify- The ultimate service you could do for your wife. Some of us think “family devotional” time is for our kids’ benefit! Men need to be diligent in who God has entrusted with first, their wives!
This talk was about the kind of excuses we make to get isolated from what Jesus has called all couples to- making disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20).
Put to Death
Solo Love – “My husband and I” matter most – attitude.
Relaxation- To live as if life is about relaxing with your spouse.
Hoarding things- Is the stuff inside your home, yours? If not, you should be generous with it because it all belongs to God?
Privacy- Do people feel comfortable coming to your place? (Rom. 12:12-14) Or do locked doors define you?
My Time/ My Priority/ My Hard Work- Do you and your spouse live as if “your” time is yours alone? Do you behave like you have to keep things in control because this is your hard work? Whatever happened to “God is my provider” blah, blah?
Live as Christ-So, how can spouses practically escape the curse of Isolation?
Walks in your neighbourhood- To pray, To see real needs, Gives time to stop and talk to neighbours.
Live as if money belonged to God, not to you.
Have an open door home and have meals with church family and neighbours. Hebrews 10:33,34,35.
Work – John 6:27
3. The Parenting Session
Here are some brief pointers from the parenting session. If you have attended these sessions, I urge you to write in the stuff I have missed that you think might benefit people!
To Invade the future for Christ, CAPTURE your kid’s present
a. Beware of sinful nature- first your’s, then your child’s.
b. Be a model to them, but be real. Do not fake things. Apologise when you know you should.
c. Start at the heart but don’t neglect behaviour. – Trust God the Holy Spirit to convict your children. Pray for that to happen!
d. Develop a learning plan for them- one that involves their minds, hearts and hands- actions. Let their character be rooted in the Good News their parents received.
4. On Break-out sessions
Each session was followed by break-out sessions, where families gathered together while a few singles from Marg took care of the small battalion of children we had over there (can’t thank you enough Sachin, Tina, Jonathan, Anurag and Romilla)!
The break-out sessions were a real blessing. I was mightily encouraged by the one with just the men talking about their struggles in marriage (and my wife testifies that the women’s one was stunningly convicting!).
I want to thank the lead speakers from Marg who not only led these sessions in much labour before the Lord and in spite of illness, but also for opening up about their temptations, sex lives and details, wisdom issues in marriage and what helped them follow Jesus in the details – and what did not!
The authenticity and self-sacrificial honesty that was witnessed in these sessions, I have not seen in my eight years as a Christian.
Such incidents remind my puny heart about the work our risen Lord is doing even now, in the hearts of people who He is possessing to be His own. Wow.
“Lord, please help me and our churches trust and obey what we learnt. Let us remember John the Baptist’s message and what it means to bear fruits as per repentance, and what it means to not do so!”
Thank you Jesus,
P.S. – A big “thank you” to our friends at Bible Center, who worked hard to serve us!
Also thankful for the handy booklets printed out for our convenience and for the resources we studied in the weeks right up to the retreat:
“You and Me Forever” – Francis & Lisa Chan.
The Heritage Series on Parenting – Grace City Church.