Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Birthday of the Church

Most Christians know that the birth of the church occurred on the day of Pentecost, but I suspect most Christians don't know what Pentecost meant to the Jewish people at that time. Pentecost was a Jewish festival fifty days after Passover. It  celebrated the giving of the law to Moses and two loaves were offered to God in gratitude for the harvest. The Jewish law required that no work be done on the day of Pentecost. Crowds of Jews gathered in Jerusalem from various countries to celebrate this Jewish festival.

The Disciples Waited in Prayer
At the Ascension Jesus ordered the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait. Just wait. Waiting is not easy for most of us but they obeyed. Scripture says:

"They all joined together constantly in prayer." (Acts1:14)

There were 120 believers gathered together including the disciples, and other followers, both men and women and Jesus brothers. They prayed for ten days! Perhaps this is a lesson to us that we need to pray more in order for the church to be in tune with and full of Holy Spirit power.

The Day of Pentecost
On the day of Pentecost the disciples were in the upper room praying. Scripture says: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4).

Hearing the noise, a crowd gathered. Peter preached to the throng of people. He gave a powerful, convicting message explaining that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again. He ascended to the right hand of God and sent the promised Holy Spirit.
When the people heard Peter's message, "they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37)

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call."
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:38-41)

Following this "They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer....And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42, 2:47)

As a result of this small group of Holy Spirit empowered men and women, within a century half the then-known world came to Christ.

There is so much more in the first two chapters of Acts. Read all of it today; learn more and be inspired by the birthday of the Church. And vow to spend more time in prayer and in the Word.

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, May 28, 2012

Red Words in Scripture

Matt. 5:31-32 Do not divorce except for unfaithfulness as this equals adultery.
Matt. 19:9 Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.
Mark 10: 11  Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.
Luke 16:18   Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Do not divorce” seems harsh in view of our culture’s acceptance of divorce, in view of how difficult marriage is, and in view of the fact we are all sinners. On the other hand, look what has happened to our culture with the acceptance of divorce. Families are torn apart. Many children know only one parent. Extended family members lose beloved in-laws or aunts and uncles. The easy acceptance of divorce has devastated the foundation of our culture – the family.

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says that Jesus’ point here was that divorce was contrary to God’s plan for marriage and should never be taken lightly. Hayford’s Bible Dictionary says “Behind every broken marriage is a heart hardened against God, then hardened against one’s mate.” This rings true to me as a counselor, for at least one of the two people divorcing. 

I thank you for your plan of life long marriage. I also thank you for my marriage which survived in spite of my hard heart and controlling ways. Marriage has enriched my life in so many ways - with my husband’s friendship and love, with children, grandchildren, and wonderful memories.  Even the struggles blessed us and forced us to grow throughout more than fifty years together.
I pray couples will honor their vows to each other and to you and will stay together. 

Friday, May 25, 2012


Couples blame each other for the problems in their relationship. Actually, the problems are often the result of a circular interaction. Each person’s behavior is the result of an action that preceded it and is also a trigger for the partner’s action that follows it. For example, a husband may work late. The wife may interpret his coming home late as lack of love for her so she withdraws emotionally and won’t allow touching. He then stays late at work again because of her withdrawal.

Couples also develop balance in the roles they assume. If one person is very responsible about keeping the house clean, the other one may be more casual or even sloppy. Michele Weiner-Davis in her book Divorce Busting compares this type of balancing to what happens when riding a tandem bicycle. If one person stops pedaling, the other one must do all the work. 
Notice the behavior between you that you want to have happen more frequently. Often couples stop doing fun things together or stop being affectionate with each other because of a negative cycle. What they don’t realize is that the lack of these fun or affectionate behaviors increases and compounds the problems between them. 
The reverse is also true. Enjoyment in a relationship does much to help us forget the hurt or the differences. Couples don’t realize that changes in behavior lead to changes in their positive feelings toward each other. Feelings don’t change first, in other words. What do you want your marriage to be like? What kinds of things do you want your partner to do that will show you that he/she cares? What kinds of things does your partner want you to do that will show him/her you care? What were each of you doing when things were going well that you are no longer doing?

If we want romance in our marriage we must purposely act in romantic ways toward our partner. Give spontaneous hugs and kisses. Give compliments. Send cards and flowers. Spend fun time together. Go out together. Our feelings toward others don’t just happen. Our own actions and involvement with our partner shape our feelings. Therefore, if we “act romantic” we will feel more loving. If we give of ourselves to the other person we will feel more commitment.

Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” Matt. 7:12 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, May 21, 2012

Challenging Red Words in Scripture

Matt. 5:27 Do not commit adultery.  Don’t lust in your body or in your heart. Live a morally pure life no matter what it costs.
Mark 10:18  Do not commit adultery.
Luke 18:20  Do not commit adultery.

Questions to Ponder:
What am I looking at? What do I desire? 
Where is my focus - on what the world offers or on what God desires?

Help me recognize when I lust in my heart. We live in such a sexualized and materialistic world it is difficult not to be influenced by the images we see on TV or elsewhere. We must guard our thoughts and keep them true to Him and true and pure toward our partner in marriage. 

It’s also common to lust for “things” and rationalize that it’s OK to buy things for myself, for the house, for my family. Ironically, Christmas, the celebration of your birth here on earth, is one of the most difficult times in this regard. We give and receive a lot from our family. But what do we spend helping the least of these? Help me keep my focus on you and listen to you in this area.

Matt. 5:29-30 Cut off/out whatever causes sin.
Matt. 18:7-9  Get rid of or cut yourself off from anything that causes you to sin.
Mark 9:43-48 Cut off/out what ever causes sin.

This is a difficult commandment though I understand it’s necessity. My most difficult sins to overcome are my self-centeredness, my anger and my need to control my life. You have opened my heart a great deal and have helped me focus more on others. Your Word has helped me understand that feelings come and go and are like a ship tossed about in the sea. I’ve learned most of the time to bring my anger to you and to realize it often stems from my self-centeredness, wanting things my way. My controlling personality has also been gradually changed some. You have been gentle with me in all of these so I’m growing toward the goal of your perfect love. Keep on pruning me.

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, May 18, 2012

Can a love/hate relationship ever change?

A love/hate relationship is one in which couples can't live with each other but they also can't live apart. Some caring or dependency holds them together in spite of much unhappiness. No marriage is free of ambivalence. We all experience some disappointment in our marriage. However, a love/hate relationship is characterized by bickering, anger, bitterness, and blame.
Love/hate relationships provide little happiness, love or warmth, but they do provide security. These couples are often stuck in destructive complimentary patterns—mother/son, daddy/baby or master/slave, for example. The best marriages are based on mutual support and allow both individuals room to grow. Love/hate relationships stunt the growth of both partners.

Ironically, the partners in love/hate relationships are most in need of love and support. The basis for their destructive pattern is rooted in childhood abuse or neglect. Each partner is consciously or unconsciously expecting the partner to make up for all the lacks from their childhood. At the same time there is an underlying belief that they do not deserve the love they crave. They expect and demand love yet push it away when it is offered.

Because the childhood traumas and deficits were so overwhelming there is an inability to show neediness or even an outright denial of vulnerability. Little or no empathy was shown them as children. As a result they withhold their own caring for fear of being too vulnerable. This sounds pretty hopeless, but it isn't.

Couples who have faith in God and a meaningful connection to a church can overcome past patterns through acceptance of God’s love and purpose in their life. A life-changing faith in God can be life-changing in the marriage, also.  

Couples in a love/hate relationship often love each other deeply but are caught up in their own needs and in their negative interactions. To change these interactions they need to:
      1.  Stop the angry interactions, they only do harm.
      2. Apologize. Take responsibility for your own part in the problems.
      3. Give and receive support to each other. 
      4. Communicate in a constructive way - this means listening to the other's point of view, avoiding labels, blaming, or criticism.
      5. See one's partner realistically, as a person with needs, wants, hurts and vulnerabilities.
      6. Nurture each other; learn to make up for some of the childhood lacks. 
      7. Take the risk of sharing your vulnerability; be open and this will eventually encourage your partner to be so.      
      8. Build fun times into your marriage; develop a sense of humor even about your repetitive problems.
      9. Assume the best about your partner; be empathic.
    10. Work on your own childhood issues so they won't be played out in your marriage. 
Marriage enrichment programs and counseling can help couples take the above steps necessary to change a love/hate relationship into a supportive, satisfying one. Couples married for a long time can continue to grow and change. Their maturity is an asset in tackling difficult problems. 

“Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.” Proverbs 10:12 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ascension Day 2012

High and Lifted Up!                                                                                                               Scripture tells us that forty days after Jesus resurrection, that is, forty days after Easter, He ascended to heaven. This means that Ascension Day 2012 is tomorrow, May 17th.
The Scripture account in Luke reports:
Luke 24:50- 52 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands   and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and   returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continuously at the temple, praising God.

The Ascension of Jesus is also reported in Acts 1. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus met His disciples on the Mount of Olives. Imagine their excitement, believing that now Jesus would establish His kingdom on earth and fulfill the great promise the Jews had clung to for centuries. Christ would be king, not just of Israel but of the whole world. Then the moment was upon them; their beloved Jesus was with them. Acts 1:6-12 then reports:

They asked Him, ”Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times of dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood before them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.

We need to take note today of this amazing event in history. Barclay says, “The Ascension was an absolute necessity. There had to be a final moment when Jesus was taken back to the glory that was his.” He notes that the end of his resurrection appearances had to come to a definite end rather than just peter out. Also he says, “If Jesus was to give his followers unanswerable proof that he had returned to glory the Ascension was absolutely necessary.”

There is much to ponder about this amazing event in history when Jesus returned to glory.

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Red Words in the Bible

Matt. 5:21-22 Do not murder and do not express angry words that can wound and kill.

Matt. 19:18  Do not murder
Mark 10:19   Do not murder.

Luke 18:20   Do not murder.

Dear Father, I’m very aware of my anger which flares up far too often toward those I love the most. It even happened today over such a minor issue. Help me change. Today the irritation was related to feeling “quizzed” at breakfast on a subject on which I had no instant opinion about. I also was irritated at the interruption to my reading the newspaper. My emotions and my own interests certainly seem to come ahead of others. I don’t want to wound anyone. I want to show your love to all.  Lord, help me.

Matt. 5:23-24 If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.

Matt. 5:25-26 Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way…”

Father, You have been teaching me to bring up even minor issues to those I love and settle them. I’ve learned to say “I was wrong” and “Will you forgive me?”  Neither of these is easy to say. Yesterday when irritated at breakfast I later realized I needed to repent and ask for forgiveness and I did later in the day. Thank you for prodding me with this scripture study!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Do opposites attract?
Sometimes opposites do attract. It is extremely common for partners to be temperamentally opposite. Even couples who are not opposites will discover they have some opposite traits. All couples struggle with how they are different from each other. One person may be a loner while the other loves to socialize. One person may like adventure and the other avoids change. One person may be very generous and a spender and the other one very frugal.
The key to handling opposite traits is to make these differences work for you rather than against you. Often the differences which bother a couple after marriage are the very traits which attracted them to begin with. During courtship, for example, your partner's carefree, spontaneous temperament fascinated you. After marriage you view it as impulsive or irresponsible.
After marriage we make the mistake of trying to make our partner behave like us. In order to live together happily we need to respect each other's personality and realize that it has deep roots in that person's childhood or even in their inborn temperament.
There are several things couples can do to ease the problem of being opposites:
1. Don't attack each other's basic personality. Instead, be specific about what bothers you.  For example, instead of saying, "You never want to plan anything," say, "I feel nervous if I don't know ahead of time what we're going to do."
2. Be adaptable.  For example, experiment with doing some things on impulse that your husband or wife wants to do. If both partners are willing to modify the extreme aspects of their styles, both will have learned from each other and will have grown in the process.

3. Communicate about the ways in which your styles differ and how you would be willing to adapt. You might, for example, let you husband know that you are fearful of anger. He may then realize the need to control his anger by cooling down before attempting to talk about an issue. You may realize that you admire your husband’s ability to express feelings. He may realize that he admires your self-control. The trick to getting along and to your growth as individuals is to recognize that there are some benefits to the other person's approach as well as some draw backs to your own. 
Problems arise when couples are unable to appreciate their differences; when either individual can only operate in one fixed way. Someone who is spontaneous or impulsive all the time would lead a chaotic life. Someone who always plans everything ahead would not know how to relax on a vacation. 
I hope these ideas will help you realize that you and your partner are well suited to each other and learn to appreciate your differences.

Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. Proverbs 18:15 NLT

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Red Words in Scripture

Matt. 5:17-19 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Dear Father,
I need to think more about your commandments and apply them to my life. No one can keep these even some of the time without you enabling them to do so.  Hopefully, this study will help me take your commandments to heart and your Holy Spirit will teach me and enable me to put them into practice - even the most difficult ones. Help me also teach these commandments to others, in the words I speak and in the way I live.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I'm No Longer in Love

When you say you are no longer in love with your husband or wife what do you mean? I hear “I care about him; I just don’t love him any more.” Yet doesn’t love mean caring? Do you mean that you no longer experience “butterflies in the stomach” feelings when with your wife? Is your infatuation over? But infatuation is not love.
Often when a person says “I no longer love my husband or wife,” they have already begun an infatuation with someone else. They had no intention of beginning an affair—“It just happened.”  But they have begun to invest romantic feelings elsewhere. They have begun to withdraw from the marriage.

We may decide we no longer are in love when we begin to see our husband or wife’s flaws; when we discover he or she isn’t as perfect as we expected or thought. We may decide we are no longer in love when we are angry at him or her or when there is a power struggle going on. Our partner may have done something to hurt or even to betray us. Anger that we hold on to becomes resentment and this blocks our ability to love the other person. We may decide we are no longer in love when we feel bored with our partner or too distant from him or her. The marriage has become routine or stale. There’s little connection. We fail to see our own part in contributing to this and we don’t realize that we can help change it. We may decide we are no longer in love when our current relationship seems as frustrating or as hurtful to us as our childhood relationships were. 

We can find many reasons for believing our marriage is untenable. Society today supports leaving a relationship which doesn’t fulfill us. There are some marriages that cannot be salvaged but many, or even most, can be.
Marriage is a very complex relationship. We bring to it all our hopes and dreams and all of our unmet childhood needs. The infatuation stage brings us together in a bond with our partner that makes us blind to his or her flaws and leads us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to our marriage. But we must move beyond this stage and beyond the power struggle phase to a more mature love.

A mature love accepts the other person, flaws and all. Mature love includes forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, kindness and affection. How can you love your partner when you don’t even like him or her? How can you love when you believe you are the one who has been wronged? We can choose to love by acting as we would if we felt love. Feelings often follow our actions rather than the other way around. Love is not just a wonderful emotion that we respond to. Love requires hard work and giving of ourselves. 

Marital therapy is recommended to help you understand the unhappiness in your marriage and (if you decide to do so) to work on rebuilding your love and commitment to each other.

“Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Forty Days After Easter

Often we spend the forty days before Easter focusing on Christ's journey as he sets his face toward Jerusalem and crucifixion. What about the forty days after Easter?  

Scripture describes a number of Jesus' resurrection appearances including the fact that He appeared to 500 people. (1 Cor. 15:6-7) His resurrection was no delusion by a few ardent disciples.

He talked with them, ate and drank with them, showed them His nail scarred hands and wounded side. And He taught them, loved them, and prepared them for his Ascension. And He prepared them to be His Church on earth.    

Fishing, Failure and Reconciliation 

One of the most compelling resurrection appearances (John 21:1-17) describes a fishing excursion of Peter and six other disciples. They caught nothing after hours of fishing. Early in the morning Jesus greeted them from the shore asking if they had any fish. They reply, "No" and He tells them "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."
They do and are unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

John (recognizing Jesus) says, "It is the Lord." Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore. (So eager!) The other disciples follow in the boat, towing the net full of fish. 

They have breakfast with Jesus on the shore and Scripture says, "None of the disciples dared ask Him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord." I think they knew it was Jesus, but they were ashamed of their failure - their abandonment of Him after his arrest. And Peter was ashamed of denying Him three times.

The Scripture continues (John 21:15-16)
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
 "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."

 Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."                                                      
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me.
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time He said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

Jesus lovingly questions Peter's commitment and He questions it three times to give Peter the opportunity to affirm his devotion three times - thus erasing the failure in Peter's mind (already erased by the cross).

Peter is identified as the overseer of the church. Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, take care of my sheep - all refer to his being the shepherd entrusted to feed the Word to the sheep - to the Church.

Take time to read and study his Word today and teach it to those in your care.

Blessings, Dottie