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Update from the President: February 8, 2018

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Update from the President

February 8, 2018

2018 Feast Coordinator Conference

The annual Feast Coordinator Conference convened on Feb. 6 and 7, using a combined web conference format, including additional training for newer coordinators live at the home office. Additionally, 10 home office staff contributed to presentations, for a total of 29 involved in the conference.

The newer coordinators and trainees were brought into the home office for orientation and additional review of procedures and policies. Face-to-face interaction has many advantages, and the interaction was very beneficial.

After the initial morning of training for the newer coordinators ended, all of our coordinators joined a web conference. I opened the conference and then a detailed analysis of Feast of Tabernacles planning began.

This year each coordinator is to train a designated assistant coordinator to create a larger pool of additional Feast coordinators for future years. A number of updates to the Festival Coordinator Manual will be implemented. Online registration and individual Feast websites will be upgraded to assist with getting information to both the coordinator and members.

A clarification will be made regarding using church approved housing versus searching and finding personal housing. This will be outlined in the Festival Planning Brochure. There will be two speaker teleconferences for each site prior to the Feast to improve communication and the messages at the Feast.

Other topics covered were special music, budgets, youth education and seminars, membership surveys, and Church employee ministerial transfers.

Beyond Today

Also, this was what we call "BT Week" when we record new Beyond Today television programs. On Wednesday, three programs were recorded which were "God's Enduring Love for Israel" by Darris McNeely, "Shocking Teachings of Jesus: The Dead Will Live Again!" by Steve Myers and "Pentecost: Your Need for the Holy Spirit" by Gary Petty. This brings the total number of programs recorded to date to 351.

In addition, Rick Shabi, Operation Manager for Finance, came from Florida to help finalize our projected 2018-2019 budget for all operations for the coming fiscal year. We are very pleased with the resources that God has given His Church and discussed in detail how to allocate funding for everything we do around the world. This will be further discussed by the Council of Elders during their meeting in East Texas at the end of this month before its presentation to the General Conference of Elders.

Return from South America

Bev and I returned just over a week ago from Argentina. We are still reflecting on the wonderful experience of spending three days with a Sabbath and Holy Day-keeping group that has sought us out to pastor them. Our ministry in Chile has been traveling there regularly since October 2015 to provide pastoral services.

I have described in detail our meetings and impressions on my TravelArk blog which you can access at I describe exactly where these people came from and their association and proposed future with the United Church of God. They already call themselves the United Church of God. I include many photos of the people we met and what we did.

One highlight was when Mario Seiglie and I spoke on their radio station a week ago Saturday night. Esteban Freiberger, one of the members owns this non-profit FM radio station called Radio Atalaya at 100.1 on the dial. He continually plays sermons by our Spanish-speaking ministers as well as Christian music through the day. He hosts a three-hour nightly program about the beliefs of the United Church of God. Mario and I gave shortened versions of the sermons that we delivered earlier in the day. Our time was divided into 15 minute sections with music played in between. I found this free format with ample time to express thoughts to be very refreshing and liberating as a speaker.

Making a Marriage Great

While visiting our brethren in Argentina, my wife Bev and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. With more than three and a half decades together, Bev and I have been through a lot. These include happy times as well as trying times.

At a Thanksgiving gathering a few years ago, one of my brothers produced a very old home movie that included scenes of a younger Bev and me. Even though there was no soundtrack from this old movie, laughter and humor were obvious. I wonder today what Bev and I would have thought if we knew what was in front of us back then. Since the time when that video was taken, we've served together in multiple congregations, had heartfelt times when we had to temporarily say goodbye to friends who had reached the end of life, and had more joyous times when we welcomed new members to the body of Christ. Like many others in the ministry, we've stayed up all night numerous times and have traveled together for multiple thousands of miles in the service of the church.

Bev and I have served together in Africa and Eastern Europe through church projects as well as LifeNets. We have seen firsthand the aftermath of radioactive horror in Ukraine, helped with the establishment of a children's rehabilitation center in Europe, made friends (actually more of a truce) with very large spiders in Africa, encouraged tardy workers for building projects in remote areas, and much more.

In short, we've been blessed with a rich, fulfilling and happy marriage. And we're certainly not finished yet!

Here's my point: when we were married 36 years ago, we took our marriage vows with our eyes wide open. We knew what we were committing ourselves to. We knew, like other couples, that there would be great times, but that there would also be times when things might be tense and uneasy. I'm by no means boasting, because I'm certainly not perfect. But from personal experience—including in my own marriage, in helping many couples counsel for marriage, and in working with couples whose marriages have been in trouble—I believe that success in marriage comes from some core principles. Allow me to share a few with you:

Mutual submission and respect in love. When they are courting and first married, many couples idolize each other. No one could be more perfect, they believe. Courting and newly married couples do everything together and generally share everything in common.

Then reality sets in.

A small misunderstanding may inadvertently grow into something much bigger. A spat or fight may ensue. Doubts rise. How did this happen? This is a point of personal growth, where couples can either grow together more deeply in love, or they can start to grow apart if differences are not resolved. Here's a key: successful marriages—the kind that endures internal and external storms—are grounded in mutual respect. As Paul wrote, successful couples have a practice of "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
American King James Version×
). The Bible is plain in how the husband has a leadership position in a marriage. But the Bible is also plain about a husband's obligation to actively love his wife. As Paul sums up, "each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:33 Ephesians 5:33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
American King James Version×
, New Living Translation). That means that neither the husband or the wife ever do anything intentionally to harm the other, including any form of abuse.

Successful marriages recognize physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Men and women are quite different in their mental and emotional makeup. These differences are God-given. Understanding and appreciating them helps us deepen our human experience and know better what God is like. Successful marriages feature a lot of listening by both the husband and wife. And they feature honest and open communication, particularly when one doesn't think that the other understands a key point. When conflict arises, believing the best and forgiving one another can restore the relationship.

Continued and deepening physical and emotional intimacy represent key hallmarks to successful marriages. We in the church—especially—should know that this sacred intimacy represents one of the key points of attack by our spiritual adversaries. The world we live in hammers us incessantly with enticing messages of sexual bravado and forbidden pleasures. Because of our human nature, we must understand how vulnerable we can be to this awful temptation. Sexual adventure is artificially made to look great outside of marriage, even harmless. If one falls for this falsehood, they can be certain that a terrible bill will come due for illicit behavior.

To be successful, we must realize—from the first day onwards—that marriage represents a sacred covenant with God. As we stand before the minister, the marriage ceremony is one of the few times that a vow made to each other and to God is both appropriate and required. Once complete, the couple emerges from the ceremony in a dramatically different state. As we read in Malachi, "Did he [God] not make them one, with a portion of the [Holy] Spirit in their union?" (Malachi 2:15 Malachi 2:15And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And why one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version). The state of a married couple reflects the close and powerful relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.

Successful marriages take work. Once the intoxicating days of courtship and early marriage wear on, couples need to be on guard that they don't neglect their mate and their marriage. Building love and deepening a marriage takes time, but the positive rewards are incredible. One can never take the other for granted. Marriage produces an environment where we can grow together and grow spiritually to be more in tune with God's will. Little things count, like recognizing your mate for a task well done, or leaving little notes of affection and remembering key dates and events, showing gratitude, work wonders. A regular "date"—minus kids or others where a couple can focus on each other without distraction—can revive and sustain a marriage.

Keep God and Jesus Christ the focus and bedrock of your marriage and look forward to years of fulfilling fun and experiences together. Make your marriage great!