Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Love That Lasts

Q.  My wife of ten years says she loves me but she’s not “in love” with me.  She thinks she has to have a romantic feeling for me all the time to be in love. We’ve disagreed about what married love should be. Can you tell us? 

A. Most people think that “being in love” is what makes a good marriage. Yet what do we mean by this? What are the ingredients of love? Married love is wonderfully complex. We can experience love and anger, excitement and boredom, security and hurt, contentment and disappointment all within marriage. We may even experience all of these in a single day.

Robert Sternberg, a Yale University psychologist, identified a three sided picture of love made up of passion, intimacy and commitment. Passion involves sexual and sensual arousal. It involves an intense desire for physical affection with the beloved. Passion alone can blind us to each other’s faults. It can lead to extreme possessiveness and to an unhealthy dependence on each other. It can be self-centered and demanding.
The second side of the triangle is intimacy. Passion alone is not enough. We must truly know the other person. Intimacy involves knowing each other better than we know anyone else. Trust is high and we share our deepest, truest self with the other person. We are accepted in spite of our flaws and failures. Intimacy provides closeness and acceptance. We are best friends, soul mates.
The third side of the triangle is commitment. To be committed involves a decision, a choice, and an act of our will. We commit our life to the other person - no matter what the future holds. When we disagree, our commitment to each other holds us through the struggle. When we face illness or misfortune, our commitment allows us to hang in there. When committed it doesn’t matter what the other person does or how I feel, we love no matter what. The length and health of a marriage depends on the strength of commitment.
Sternberg’s triangle changes shape depending on the varying levels of passion, intimacy and commitment. A triangle with three equal sides is well balanced, ideal. But love is unbalanced when one side is longer than the others. 

“Romantic love” is unbalanced with a great deal of passion and some intimacy.  “Foolish love” involves passion and commitment but no intimacy. It is foolish because the commitment is made solely on the basis of passion without an intimate knowledge of the other person. “Companionable love” includes intimacy and commitment with passion absent or minimal. This type of marriage is a long term committed friendship. 
A marriage with all three components equal is the ideal. Most marriages achieve this some of the time. Expecting to have this all the time is unrealistic. At times couples will be out of step with each other. One may want more passion, the other more intimacy. Or passion may fade during misfortune, illness or aging. Married love requires effort, struggle and work. It doesn’t just happen.

Christian marriage goes beyond the above description and is based on unconditional love and mutual submission to each other. Christians are to love each other as Christ loved the church –  with sacrificial love in action. This kind of love is not a feeling – it’s a total commitment of mind, body and soul.       

Marriage Encounter, Weekend to Remember and the Third Option are three programs that can help your marriage. Two excellent marriage books that can help are The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I suggest you and your wife go to one of the above programs and also read one of these books together. Don’t ignore the problems you’re having. Seek help in one of the groups mentioned or in counseling with a pastor or Christian counselor.

“Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 NLT

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Birthday of the Church

This Sunday is the day of Pentecost, 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. Pentecost 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.

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.

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 the Christ and was crucified, died and rose again. He was seen by many witnesses for forty days and then 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

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ascension Day!

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 2015 is this week on Thursday, May 14th. There are accounts of this in Luke and Acts.
The Scripture account in Luke reports:
Luke 24:50- 52 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethanyhe 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.

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.” Barclay 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. And He’s coming back!

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Reviews on Time, Aging, Death, Grieving and Heaven #3

Here are two books about heaven that will give you new perspectives about what living and dying is all about. These books will grow your faith, help you live with purpose and guide you through grief.

Letters to Heaven by Calvin Miller

Letters to Heaven is a fascinating book. Calvin Miller writes to people who have preceded him in reaching eternity. Each person impacted his life. A number of the people he writes to are well known including C.S. Lewis, Todd Beamer, and Madeleine L’Engle. Many are unknown. The girl in the iron lung brings memories of polio, the most dreaded childhood disease in the 20th Century. Another letter is written to a man who died beside him on a flight. He includes a letter to his mother and one to a brother who died in childhood. Miller's own experiences and wisdom weave throughout the book.

Calvin Miller was a pastor, a professor and a writer. I previously read his books Life is Mostly Edges (a memoir) and Letters to Young Pastors (both excellent). I wanted to read this book because he replied kindly when I sent him a copy of my book, Changing Churches. Also, I knew he recently went on to heaven himself. He impacted my life in a small but meaningful way.

HEAVEN: A World of Joy by Jonathan Edwards

I discovered this sixty-three page booklet in my church library and was intrigued to read what the famous preacher Jonathan Edwards had to say about heaven. Many have heard of his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

His thoughts on heaven are both simple and complex and all very beautiful. Citing 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Edwards says “The doctrine I would desire to draw from this text is, that HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF DIVINE LOVE.” 
Edwards covers 
1. The great cause and fountain of love in heaven.
2. The objects of love in heaven.
3. The subjects of love in heaven.
4. The principle or essence of love in heaven.
5. The excellent circumstances in which love is exercised, expressed and enjoyed in heaven.
6. The happy effects and fruit of all this.

The circumstances he lists in chapter 5 inspired me.
1. Love in heaven is always mutual.
2. The joy of heavenly love shall never be interrupted or stifled by jealousy.
3. There shall be nothing within themselves to block or hinder the saints in heaven in the exercises and expressions of love.
4. In heaven love will be expressed with perfect decency and wisdom.
5. There shall be nothing external in heaven to keep its inhabitants at a distance from each other, or to hinder their most perfect enjoyment of each other’s love.
6. In heaven all shall be united together in very near and dear relations.
7. In heaven all shall have property and ownership in each other.
8. In heaven they shall enjoy each other’s love in perfect and uninterrupted prosperity.
9. In heaven all things shall combine to promote their love, and give advantage for mutual enjoyment.
10. The inhabitants of heaven shall all know that they will continue in the perfect enjoyment of each other’s love forever.

No more tears, no more night – the fullness of love given and received eternally. What a vision and promise for those who know Christ and have accepted him as Lord and Savior.

Readers can Google the title and find Jonathan Edwards book on line in its entirety.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Blessings, Dottie