Friday, July 29, 2016

Prayer Meeting

How important is prayer? Jesus has much to say about prayer and teaches its importance by his own habit of prayer. He also teaches his disciples to pray, offering the Lord's Prayer as a model to follow. 

Someone has suggested that the types of prayers can be summed up as “Help”, “Thanks” and “Wow.” I would add “Listen” and “Melt me, Mold me, Fill me, Use me.” And “Forgive me.” Our "Help" prayers need to be for ourselves, our church and our world - specifically spelled out needs. God hears our prayers.

We’re to pray in private – for some time every day and at meals. We also need to pray together as a church. Prayer together is powerful. Here’s what Jesus says:

“If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. For when two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19-20

Have you ever been to your church prayer meeting? Jesus promised that every prayer meeting is filled with His Spirit! Are we passionate about praying for the needs of the church? The pastors and elders need our prayers. Our church services need to be bathed in prayer.

Are we passionate about praying for the needs of our missionaries? They lead difficult lives and may be persecuted or in danger. They need our prayers.

Do we pray for the needs of our country? We can pray specifically for the Supreme Court, for Congress, for specific bills or decisions they are about to make. Right now we must pray for the presidential election, that it will be orderly, honest, and peaceful and that the new president will unite our country.

Do we pray for the needs of our world? We can pray for Muslims to come to know Christ. Many are doing so. We can pray for our country to turn back to God; to return to the standards of morality God’s Word commands. We can pray for our unsaved family members.

Andy Stanley in his book Handle with Prayer says:
“We are to pray for the body of Christ – the church. We are responsible for praying for all the saints. (Eph. 6:18) One part of the body of Christ is under persecution. Another part is lukewarm. Another part is cold, having set aside the truth of the Word of God and doubting its authenticity. Still another part of the body is in financial need. We are to intercede for each part according to its specific needs, not just toss out a general request such as, “Bless the church.” We are to pray for all the saints, not just the group we are personally involved with.” Pg 115

Andrew Murray in his book With Christ in the School of Prayer says:
“Who can say what power a church could develop and exercise if it would assume the work of praying day and night for the coming of the Kingdom, for God’s power, or for the salvation of souls?.....God rules the world by the prayers of his saints…Prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered and through prayer the Church on earth has access to the powers of the heavenly world.” Pg 115

The world is standing in the need of prayer and so are we. Don’t miss the sweet hour of prayer available at your church weekly.

“If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matt. 18:19-20 NASB

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, July 28, 2016

PRAYER MEETINGS

How important is prayer? Jesus has much to say about prayer and teaches its importance by his own habit of prayer. He also teaches his disciples to pray, offering the Lord's Prayer as a model to follow. 

Someone has suggested that the types of prayers can be summed up as “Help”, “Thanks” and “Wow.” I would add “Listen” and “Melt me, Mold me, Fill me, Use me.” And “Forgive me.” Our "Help" prayers need to be for ourselves, our church and our world - specifically spelled out needs. God hears our prayers.

We’re to pray in private – for some time every day and at meals. We also need to pray together as a church. Prayer together is powerful. Here’s what Jesus says:

“If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. For when two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19-20

Have you ever been to your church prayer meeting? Jesus promised that every prayer meeting is filled with His Spirit! Are we passionate about praying for the needs of the church? The pastors and elders need our prayers. Our church services need to be bathed in prayer.

Are we passionate about praying for the needs of our missionaries? They lead difficult lives and may be persecuted or in danger. They need our prayers.

Do we pray for the needs of our country? We can pray specifically for the Supreme Court, for Congress, for specific bills or decisions they are about to make. Right now we must pray for the presidential election, that it will be orderly, honest, and peaceful and that the new president will unite our country.

Do we pray for the needs of our world? We can pray for Muslims to come to know Christ. Many are doing so. We can pray for our country to turn back to God; to return to the standards of morality God’s Word commands. We can pray for our unsaved family members.

Andy Stanley in his book Handle with Prayer says:
“We are to pray for the body of Christ – the church. We are responsible for praying for all the saints. (Eph. 6:18) One part of the body of Christ is under persecution. Another part is lukewarm. Another part is cold, having set aside the truth of the Word of God and doubting its authenticity. Still another part of the body is in financial need. We are to intercede for each part according to its specific needs, not just toss out a general request such as, “Bless the church.” We are to pray for all the saints, not just the group we are personally involved with.” Pg 115

Andrew Murray in his book With Christ in the School of Prayer says:
“Who can say what power a church could develop and exercise if it would assume the work of praying day and night for the coming of the Kingdom, for God’s power, or for the salvation of souls?.....God rules the world by the prayers of his saints…Prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered and through prayer the Church on earth has access to the powers of the heavenly world.” Pg 115

The world is standing in the need of prayer and so are we. Don’t miss the sweet hour of prayer available at your church weekly.

“If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matt. 18:19-20 NASB

Blessings, Dottie


Thursday, July 21, 2016

IS GOD IN CHARGE?

Have you ever noticed God intervening in your life in a way that seems miraculous? Have you ever been in danger and felt God rescue you? Jesus’ disciples did and we have. Remembering these times helps us trust him more.

In Mark 4:35-40 he calms a catastrophic storm. Here’s what Mark writes:

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:35-40 (NASB)

Michael Card, in his book Mark:The Gospel of Passion, notes that the Gospels tell two different stories about storms on the Sea of Galilee. The second one is “merely a contrary wind” and Jesus calms it and walks on water. (Mark 6:45) The first storm is very different and is unlike any storm the disciples had ever seen though they were experienced fishermen. Card believes “the violence of this storm has nothing to do with meteorology.” He says it’s a demonic attack on their lives and notes that Jesus speaks to the storm with the words he uses to silence demons:“Be Muzzled!” (Mark 1:25).


Our miraculous rescue occurred in 1996. We were driving from our home in Hamilton to meet friends for dinner and then go to a play at the Playhouse in the Park. It was Friday evening at 6 pm during rush hour traffic and our car stopped in the middle of I-75. It just stopped, with no warning. Cars and trucks whizzed by on both sides of us and traffic backed up. M turned on our flasher lights and worked the ignition. Time stood still as the cars and trucks continued to speed around us. I pictured spending the evening being towed back to Hamilton – as well also picturing imminent danger. After five very long minutes the car started and we were on our way. Soon we were eating dinner with our friends. It felt unreal to have escaped disaster or even inconvenience.


The next evening we met with a group of friends who were unbelievers. We had been friends with these people for decades but had returned to church and Christ about six years before this. That night the despair in the group was evident. Without God they had no eternal perspective or purpose.

A few days later I awoke thinking about the scene on I-75 and God plucking us out of that, saving us. Then I realized he also plucked us out of The Group (out of their belief system) and plunked us down in a wonderful, joyful Christian fellowship giving us an eternal perspective and purpose. It still amazes me and proves to me God can do anything.

The disciples after their miracle rescue said “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” (Mark 4:41) Card says “the great wind that had attempted to claim all of their lives had become a great calm.”

Our faith grows as we notice his interventions in our lives. We serve a mighty God. He is greater and mightier than we can comprehend. We can trust in the Lord no matter what kind of storm or disaster we face.

Blessings, Dottie



Thursday, July 14, 2016

HOW TO HAVE “SMART MARRIAGES”

Q. My marriage is miserable. We love each other but we can’t talk to each other. My wife and I argue constantly. We have been to counseling and it did no good. We’ve separated and reconciled a couple of times also. I’m ready to throw in the towel. Isn’t it better to have a good divorce than a bad marriage?

A. No it is not. There is no such thing as “a good divorce” though there may be some necessary divorces when abuse or violence are the rule. Divorce tears apart families, hurting children and extended family as well as the couple themselves.
         
Many couples as well as many in the helping professions - counselors and clergy alike, have become resigned to the idea that divorce is inevitable. This is not true. In an article in Strengthening Marriages, a newsletter from the Marriage Coalition, Judith A. Charlick, Ph.D. says, “Most people do not divorce because of a bad marriage with mental or physical abuse, alcohol or drug problems! They report that they have grown apart and can’t communicate well. Marriage skills can increase marital happiness and prevent many divorces.”
         
Similarly, in the same newsletter, the Reverend Christian Just is dismayed that many clergy often view divorce as inevitable. He says, “Not so......We can fix them! We don’t have to tell people to “stick it out” in unhappy and conflicted marriages; we can help them find the tools to make their marriages fulfilling, sustaining and joyous.” 
         
How is this possible? Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, says, “The idea is that love and marriage are actually skill-based propositions.” Sollee compares it to football in which we send a couple out to win with only love and commitment. “That’s like asking a football team to win on team spirit.- ‘for the Gipper’ but not teaching them any plays or signals. The basis for smart marriage is exciting new research that finds that what is different about marriages that make it - that go the distance and stay happy - are behaviors or skills.” Easy to learn skills!
         
I recommend you and your wife take a class together to learn the skills needed to make marriage work. Many churches are now offering weekly or weekend courses to help couples. One of these programs for building marriages is The Third Option.
The educational portion of The Third Option teaches couples skills necessary for a contented marriage and offers insight into the cause of problems. These are presented in an interactive way with skits, stories and demonstrations. This often gives couples a new model for understanding their relationship. They also learn that every marriage takes effort throughout life - just as any sport does.
         
A unique feature of The Third Option is the use of "Sharing Couples" who have had problems and worked things out. These couples share in a very open, vulnerable way the hurt and pain they have experienced and overcome in their own marriages. They also share the important role their faith has played in their reconciliation. Couples who come to the program do not need to talk about their problems in the group. The focus is on solutions and self-change. A number of couples say they would not be together today if it had not been for The Third Option.

I suggest you find a group where you can learn and practice communication skills. The Third Option, Marriage Encounter, and Weekend to Remember are three possible educational groups. A Christian counselor can also see you together to work on these issues. Also, read together Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas or Making Love Last Forever by Garry Smalley. Also see my blogs on Communication in Marriage.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Proverbs 3:3

Blessings, Dottie


Thursday, July 7, 2016

SCARS

While walking on the treadmill one day I thought about SCARS. Everyone has scars. Some are physical scars inflicted by a surgeon or by a conflict or accidentally. I have scars on my abdomen – one small one looks like an appendectomy scar. I received it when my younger sister and I, as toddlers, fought over a pair of scissors. I have another large scar running from my belly button downward about four inches. It’s a Caesarean scar from my daughter’s birth. The emergency operation saved her life and blessed us with a beautiful baby girl. My younger sister has a big scar the shape of an iron on her right leg. She sat playing near the ironing board while our older sister ironed. The iron fell and boy that must have hurt. Her scar is visible and affected her view of her appearance growing up.

Jesus had scars also – in his hands, his feet and his side.

These are all physical scars. These scars serve as reminders of injury. They no longer cause us physical pain. Scars show the amazing power of our body to heal. My thoughts about scars were prompted by the Deacon in charge of Senior lunch. He talked about how amazing the body is – healing a cut in just a few days. And he said we don’t see the holes in our streets magically fill up like this. Yet the human body often quickly repairs damage done to it.

We all have scars but many of them are inside, unseen, hidden. We’ve all been hurt. No one goes through life unscathed. Some of us are hurt more deeply than others. Some have lost a mother or father when they were a young child. Some have been abused, abandoned, or misunderstood as children. Some were scarred by parents divorcing - it hurt so much. Conflicts in families abound – between spouses, with parents, with children. Some of us experience major life-threatening illness. We weep over these kinds of hurts. We also weep over words people say to us that criticize or hurt us. And we inflict others with unkind words. We live in a world of hurt. Hurt people, hurt people.

Jesus had inner scars also. He wept over Lazarus death. He wept over Jerusalem.
Though he reached some people with his message of love and grace – others mocked and killed him. He went through much suffering, rejection and even death for us. And he rose again. Scripture says: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

By his wounds we are healed! He covered our sin, hurt, injury and scars with his own wounds of love and grace. He died to save us.

Why does God allow such pain and brokenness in our lives? Paul suggests our brokenness perfects us. Paul writes: In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

God’s power is made perfect in our weakness! How can this be? Our scars and hurts and hardships humble us, break our self-will, tear up the smooth fa├žade of our settled lives – then our weakness allows his power to shine in us.

In time, Christ heals us of our sinful, difficult, painful or traumatic experiences. Then in our weakness He empowers us to minister to others with similar trials. Our scars and disappointments and trials result in helping others and bring glory to God.

This is hard to believe while we are in the midst of a trial. Healing takes time. In the meanwhile we must cling to Jesus. We must trust him and cherish our difficulties/scars. Are you clinging to Jesus? Have you thanked Him for your scars?

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Blessings, Dottie Parish