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Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Magnificent Tree with Birds Nesting in its Branches

A Magnificent Tree With Birds Nesting in Its Branches
When Jesus wasn’t loving and healing people, He was telling stories.  And many of His stories were about seeds and plants. One of His shortest stories or parables was the parable of a little seed growing up into a very big tree.  Here from Scripture is Jesus’ parable of the seed becoming a tree: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it becomes a large tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”  (Matthew 13:31-32) 
Jesus’ told His parables to teach lessons, and I believe this little parable teaches us that this small seed planted in the ground doesn’t look like much in the beginning!  At first this seed, the body of Christ, the gospel, His Church, would start out small.  But then it would take root and spread and grow and multiply and spread love and life. And the gates of hell could not prevail against it.
The follower of Christ, the farmer, dutifully spreads his gospel seeds around as he has been commissioned to do. (Matthew 28:19-20 and Matthew 13:1-23) The heat and the mosquitos, the snakes and bugs and wild animals, the bad weather, diseases and robbers all can come against him as he goes about his holy work. He plants the seeds in tears but later he will reap the harvest with joy! He will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. Scripture says: “He who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6) To be given the privilege of spreading these magical seeds and then watching for the spiritual harvest of souls is indeed a joy beyond description! 
The mighty Wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing these mystical seeds where it wishes.  And we can-not tell where it is coming from or where it is going. (John 3:8) Gospel seeds blowing in the Wind, alive and powerful! Spreading love and peace and joy and mercy and salvation as they blow around the world turning darkness into Light wherever they go.
You plant a tiny seed and you get a huge tree! When the Church grows into full maturity it is like a great tree where the birds of the air nest in its branches.  People all over the world come to this mystery tree for food and rest, shade and shelter, love and mercy and new life!  It’s over the top! And Jesus is the trunk of the mystical tree.  The trunk brings nourishment and life to the branches and connects them to one another. And His people are the branches. This majestic tree will eventually spread throughout the whole world!  The Bible tells us that this is what the kingdom of God is like! 
Right after Jesus tells this little parable He tells another one that teaches the same lesson.  The lesson that Gods’ Word, His kingdom, will spread throughout the world.  The seeds will take root and grow.  Here is Jesus’ second parable with a similar meaning as the first one.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all the way through the dough.”  (Matthew 13:33) 
In the Bible, yeast usually symbolizes that which is evil or unclean. (Mark 8:15) But here, it is a symbol of growth.  As yeast permeates a batch of dough, so the kingdom of heaven spreads through a person’s life and through the world. The followers of Christ by their preaching have hidden a handful of leaven in the great mass of mankind, and it has had a wonderful effect. it puts the world into a ferment, and in a sense turns it upside down. (Acts 17:6) 
The Holy Spirit works a change – a universal change.  It diffuses itself into all the powers and faculties of the soul.  The world doesn’t understand because the kingdom of God is a mystery that only those who follow the Lord can view through a glass darkly sometimes. Only those who ask and believe can see glimmers of this holy mystery.
We plant the seeds of God’s Word and we reap a bountiful harvest! The Bible says that “God’s Word will not return to Him empty.”  (Isaiah 55:11)   The powerful seeds of the gospel are alive.  Alive in our life and alive in the world! The yeast of the gospel will spread through the whole loaf of life and change it forever.
Other religions around the world worship God but they all follow the teachings of their various leaders who are all dead now: Mohammed/Islam, Buddha/Buddhist, the sages who wrote the Vedas/Hinduism, and others. Followers of these religions follow teachings of dead men from long ago. The Christian religion is the only faith that follows the teachings of a living Lord and Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) is in each of His followers alive and growing and guiding our lives, like seeds sprouting into living trees. All of the other religions of the world teach their followers that their good works will earn them a place in heaven or paradise or Nirvana. Only the Christian faith offers salvation as a free gift to be received by faith in Christ.
We serve a risen Savior who promises to be with us and guide us in our journey through life. God’s kingdom has nothing to do with common sense, but it is extraordinary, miraculous, unexpected! Surprising! Over the top!  
A magnificent tree whose branches spread across the whole world where the birds of the air nest in its branches.  People all around the world come to this mystical tree for food and rest, shade and shelter, mercy and new life. And we are part of this glorious tree. Jesus tells us that this is what the kingdom of God is like!



Saturday, July 22, 2017

How Many Times Should We Forgive?

How Many Times Should We Forgive?
“How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Peter asked Jesus.  “Should I forgive him up to seven times?”  And Jesus answered Peter with these words: “I tell you, not seven times, but seven times seventy.”  (Matthew 18: 21-22) I think that was Jesus’ way of saying that we should just always keep on forgiving and not keep records of how many times we forgive.
God, who gave his Son for us, reveals Himself as merciful.  Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God our heavenly Father is always ready to welcome any of his wayward children when they take a step that leads towards home.  To follow the way of the Lord, Christians are called on to pour their mercy over all of those who recognize themselves as sinners, and who feel the need for forgiveness. 
Scripture says: “For God did not send His Son (Jesus) into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”  (John 2:17) And we Christians are to follow His example. In his book about mercy Pope Francis writes:” The Church does not exist to condemn people but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy.”  He goes on to say that “…the Church’s deeply maternal and merciful side, is a Church that goes forth toward those who are “wounded”, who are in need of an attentive ear, understanding, forgiveness, and love.” 
Someone asked Pope Francis if God can forgive and extend mercy to a person who is not sorry for his or her sins. Here is part of his answer.  Pope Francis answers that mercy is there, but if a person doesn’t want to receive it, doesn’t recognize himself or herself as a sinner, it means that he doesn’t feel the need for it. The Pope believes that there is a narcissistic illness that makes people bitter. That there is pleasure in feeling bitter. The person may rationalize why they sinned, or not believe that there is anything wrong with their sin in the first place.  They can even be proud of their sin. 
The Pope answers that it is easier for us to want God’s forgiveness and be sorry for our sins when we are humble.  When we remember where we come from.  That we come from dust.  He insists that it is important that we not think of ourselves as self-sufficient.  For Scripture says: “In Him (God) we live and move and have our being.”  (Acts 17:28) Without God we would be nothing!
Pope Francis speaks out against religious leaders who are scholars of the law but forget to be the shepherds of God’s people.  These scholars of the law who live attached to the letter of the law but who neglect love: people who only know how to close doors and draw boundaries.  He rails out against proud judgmental people who formally adhere to rules and to mental schemes.  
 He believes that some very religious people feel that they own the doctrine and the power of their faith and they close themselves off from God’s surprises.  He warns us to always leave an open door for the sinner. He adds that “a few very rigid people would do well to slip a little, so that they could remember that they are sinners and thus meet Jesus.”   
The Pope goes on to explain the importance of repentance.  The necessity for all of us humans to acknowledge our sins.  He says that God forgives anyone who is repentant and He showers His mercy on everyone who asks for it.  We humans are often the ones who do not know how to forgive. 
Pope Francis says that there is a difference between a regular sinner and a corrupt person.  He goes on to say that the sinner who sins again and again and keeps coming back to ask for forgiveness, is forgiven and accepted by God.  But the corrupt person is the one who does not repent and who believes that he or she is just fine sinning and doing things his own way.  The corrupt person is not humble and he does not believe that he needs God’s help. 
Pope Francis warns against the evils of corruption and says these words: “We must not accept the state of corruption as if it were just another sin, even though corruption is often identified with sin. In fact, they are two distinct realities.” He continues with these words: “Corruption is not an act but a condition, a personal and social state in which we become accustomed to living.  The corrupt person is so closed off and contented in the complacency of his self-sufficiency that he does not allow himself to be called into question by anything or anyone.” But the pope insists: “God can find His way into the hearts of the corrupt and grant them the grace of shame, the grace to recognize themselves as sinners in need of His forgiveness. “
We live in a society that teaches us that we should be self- sufficient and proud of ourselves.  But as followers of Christ we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And now we march to a different drummer and follow a different logic. As Christians we are in the world but not of it (John 17:16)   Scripture also says: “If anyone is in Christ he/she is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17) The rules of the kingdom of heaven are often backwards from our worldly rules. But we believers in Christ are given the Holy Spirit to guide us in the ways of this new logic. God’s logic of love.
As citizens of the heavenly kingdom we are to live in the presence of God, turn the other cheek, and imitate God’s mercy.  We are born again into this heavenly kingdom and Jesus has given us new ways of living.  “Give to the one who asks and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.” (Matthew 5:42) and “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Gods’ logic is different from the world’s logic.  His logic is an over-abundance of mercy and love. 
Jesus does not send us out as His disciples to be holders of power or judgmental law givers.  His kingdom is not political but spiritual! We cannot serve God and money both. (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13) Jesus sends us out into the world to live in the logic of love and selflessness.  We are to pass on the message of Christ by embracing the outcast and the sinners and the marginalized.  The serve the lost and the least.
The world’s logic is money, sex and power. But God’s logic is the over-abundance of mercy and love.  We can’t serve both the world’s logic and God’s.  We have to make a choice.  God calls us to  get involved and open our hearts.  The world will know we are Christians by our love.  (John 13:35) “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” (words of Saint John of the Cross)
This blog was taken from Pope Francis’s book “The name of God is Mercy”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

What Place Does Mercy Have in Your Life?

What Place Does Mercy Have in Your Life?
I read Pope Francis’ book “The Name of God is Mercy” and I was blessed by this book.  So I would like to share some of his deep thoughts concerning mercy with you. The Pope starts out by saying that mercy is God’s identity because He gives Himself to us, accepts us and promises to forgive if we repent.  Since mercy is part of who God is, He remains faithful to us even when we are very unfaithful because God cannot deny himself.  We are to be children of our merciful Father and follow in His forgiving footsteps.  
When Pope Francis was asked what mercy means for himself personally, he answered that when he is having trouble forgiving a person’s sins he remembers his own sins. The text from Ezekiel  16 teaches us to feel shame, he says. And we learn to confess our sins when we are ashamed. He believes that the tragedy of our age is that it has lost its sense of sin and shame. 
Pope Francis talks about the gift of confession.  1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Pope Francis states: “Sin is a wound: it needs to be treated, healed.”  If we are not ashamed of our sins, we will not confess them to God and receive this gift of cleansing and healing.  So that is why the gift of shame is so valuable to us.   Scripture does not teach us that God extends His mercy when we are not sorry for our sin!
The Pope says that there were times in the past when he as a priest would be listening to the confessions of members of his church, and he would worry that he could not offer God’s forgiveness.  A priest cannot forgive the sins of the one who is confessing unless that one says that he or she is sorry for their sin. The Pope said: “As a confessor, even when I found myself before a locked door (someone who may not be sorry for their sin)  I have always tried to find a crack, just a tiny opening so that I can pry open that door and grant forgiveness and mercy.”  The Pope adds: “When in doubt, decisions should be made in favor of the person being judged.”
Then the Pope tells the story of a priest who was listening to the confession of a young German soldier who was about to be sentenced to death by the French partisans.  The soldier confesses his love of women and the many amorous adventures he had had.  The young priest explains that he has to repent to obtain forgiveness and absolution.  The soldier answers, “How can I repent?  It was something that I enjoyed, and if I had the chance I would do it again, even now.  How can I repent? 
The priest who wants to absolve the soldier has a stroke of inspiration and asks, “But are you sorry that you are not sorry?”  The young man answers impulsively, “Yes, I am sorry that I am not sorry.”  In other words, he apologizes for not repenting.  The door was opened just a crack, allowing absolution to come in… “ 
Then Pope Francis adds: “That story is a good example of the lengths to which God goes to enter the heart of man, to find that small opening that will permit him to grant grace.  God does not want anyone to be lost.  His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins, his medicine is infinitely stronger than our illnesses that He has to heal.”   
Pope Francis talks about Peter and how he denies knowing his Lord Jesus three times the night when Jesus was taken prisoner before He was crucified. The next morning Peter weeps bitterly and feels terribly ashamed for denying his Lord. And yet, despite Peter’s sin, Jesus forgives and still asks Peter to “Tend my sheep” (John 21:16) Even though Peter betrayed Jesus, he was chosen.  That example is encouraging for those who serve God and tend His sheep even though they are reclaimed sinners. It shows us God’s mercy for us since He forgives and chooses us to serve even after we have sinned.  Can we not follow His example and extend mercy when people sin against us?
Pope Francis believes that God is not only a God of mercy but also a God of justice.  But God’s mercy goes beyond His justice, the Pope proclaims. Because of original sin, our whole humanity is wounded.  But the God of justice, our heavenly Father, didn’t judge us with only the strict rule of justice, He also added mercy to his justice and He went way beyond and sacrificed his Son to redeem us and heal our wound.  The Catholic church celebrates the guilt of our forefathers (that original sin of Adam and Eve) as a “felix culpa”, which translated into English is the “happy fault”.  The fault (our sin) is happy because it deserved such a redemption. 
We most likely know the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-31) The younger son of two brothers asked his father for his half of the inheritance and then the son left home and went far away to the big city where he wasted all of his father’s money on bad living, liquor and wild women.  Finally, when the younger son had no more money, in order to survive he was forced to take a job feeding hogs and he ate some of the food he fed the hogs.  The young son hit bottom and was ashamed of his reckless living and decided to go back home to his father and ask if he could be one of his father’s servants.  The boy felt that he did not deserve anything better after he had messed up his life and his fathers too.
Every day the boy had been gone the father, with a heavy heart, had looked down the long road hoping to see if perhaps his wayward son might be returning.  How the father had missed his boy! And then one day the father saw a person coming down the long road.  Could it be his son?  The father’s heart was pounding! The father started running to the son when he was still a long way off. 
The father was crying and breathless when he reached his son and he immediately threw his arms around his son and kissed him.  “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The boy tried to say to his father.  But the father didn’t hear a word.  “Go bring a robe and sandals for my son and put rings on his fingers.” The father shouted to his servants.  “Kill the fatted calf and we will throw a party tonight to celebrate my son’s homecoming!! My son was lost and now he is found! “
That night when the older son came home from working all day in his father’s fields, he wondered why he could hear music and partying coming from his father’s house.  He asked one of the servants and learned that his younger no good brother had come home and his father was throwing a big celebration in his honor! The good older son was furious! 
This faithful, hardworking older son refused to go in the house and join the party.  He stayed outside fuming.  The father went out and begged him to come in but the older son answered his father,” All these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.  Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him.”  
The older son is right.  He speaks the truth. But it seems that the truth isn’t enough.  Being right still doesn’t bring the family back together. But at the same time the older son disqualifies himself.  Pope Francis says that the good faithful older son disqualifies himself! Why is that?  How can it be?
The older son in our Bible story represents the “law.”  The father by law should have punished the sinful younger son.  But the father’s love for the younger son represents “grace”.  Only grace can bring the family back together.
The older son represents “justice.”  The older son was legally right.  His younger brother did not deserve to be received back home with a celebration.  But the father’s love for the younger son represents “mercy”.  Our broken families and our wounded world will not survive if “justice’ is the last word.  But when “mercy” follows justice the miracle occurs!  Mercy will make it happen every time!
The ideas and quotes in this blog were taken from Pope Francis’s book, “The Name of God is Mercy”.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

What is True Faith?

What is True Faith?
Everywhere in Scriptures we read about how important our faith is to God.  Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without “faith” it is impossible to please God.”  And having a viable faith is important to us too since Scripture says that we live our lives by “faith”. Romans 1:17 says that “The just shall live by faith.”  These are just two passages out of many thousands in the Bible that deal with this all-important thing called “faith”.  But what is “faith”? What does Biblical faith look like?
We Western Christians may have a problem understanding all that the Bible means when it speaks of “faith.”   Are we missing something? Our modern day Western society puts a lot of emphasis on the individual doing his or her own individual thing. The Western Christian’s ideas of “faith” is something like a single person intellectually agreeing with a specific set of religious doctrines.  
Believing the correct doctrines is certainly important.  But perhaps this view of faith is not enough. Perhaps it is still incomplete. The legalistic Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel who persecuted Jesus, believed all the correct Biblical doctrines. They said long prayers and fasted and went through all of the many religious rituals.  But they didn’t recognize their Messiah when He came to them. The Law without the Spirit is dead. 
I am not saying that our Christian doctrines are not vitally important!  They are.  But it is what we do with them that makes the difference. The Word of God is living and powerful.   Believing in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord has the power to change our lives.  But we have to be willing to let it change our lives. This faith opens the door for the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and make us new creatures.  But true Biblical faith is not only an intellectual belief in Christ, but it includes a personal relationship with Christ, and a moral obligation to honor and obey Him.
 The word “faith” meant something more than belief in the right doctrines to the Jewish people of antiquity. Their culture and all the cultures of middle eastern peoples back then were different from our Western democratic societies today.  The land of Israel had what some might call an “honor-shame” culture when Jesus lived.  So when God called ancient Israel to have “faith” in Him, the word “faith” meant more than just believing that God existed. (The devil believes that God exists and he trembles)  Having real faith meant that they were to be committed to God to honor, obey and worship Him. 
Honor-shame cultures place a high value on members being committed and loyal to the group and to the leader of the group.  Leaders or kings provide safety and protection for their people.  And in return the members of honor-shame cultures reciprocate by honoring their leader.  And by pledging their allegiance and praise and loyalty to their leader.  Life runs on relationships, reciprocity, and honor.  These dynamics of honor and allegiance illuminate many aspects of the Bible.  And they are considered to be part of what God wanted from His people when He asked them to put their “faith” in Him. And He still wants that out of His people.
God does not demand that we put our faith in Him.  He asks for it.  The decision is ours.  He offers us eternal life through Christ. A free gift. But in exchange we are expected to follow Him.  That is part of what “faith” looks like.  In honor-shame cultures people perhaps understand this concept better.  A person’s reputation is all important and he or she earns a good reputation (honor) by being trustworthy and loyal.  By being faithful in his or her relationships.  People who flake out on their relationships are shamed. 
We visited our daughter and her family in Japan, which is an honor-shame culture. We discovered that the Japanese people do not steal from one another very often if ever.  Our daughter was able to leave her expensive baby stroller un- locked outside her apartment for years without any concern of it being stolen. Expensive bicycles and other strollers and valuables were also left outside in public places in Japan without any concern, and were not stolen.
 Japanese owners of small shops would leave their stores open when they were not able to be in the store.  They would leave the merchandise out for customers to take and a basket for them to leave their payment. A Japanese citizen would feel a great deal of shame and lose face if he or she were to steal.  The whole Japanese society seems to “help” their members do what they are supposed to do.
In these honor-shame cultures a person’s reputation as a reliable stable person that can be counted on is all important. There is a strong sense of family loyalty where a child’s obedience brings honor to his or her parents. Being reliable in their relationships is a supreme virtue. This sense of loyalty is spoken of as “pistos” in the New Testament, which we translate in English as “faith”.  Servants in Jesus’ parables are called “pistos” which was the word for ‘loyal’, ‘faithful’, or ‘trustworthy’.  (Matthew 24:45: 25:21: 1 Cor. 4:2)
This strong relational feeling of group loyalty is part of what Biblical “faith” looks like.  God wants us to belong to Him and He expects our loyalty and obedience and love in return.  We are not to run off to another!  We read the first command of the Ten Commandments which says: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3) Our God is a jealous God so Scripture tells us.  We are never to stray and give our attention to other gods. 
When early Christians confessed that “Jesus is Lord” they were declaring Jesus’ sovereign provision and their allegiance to Him.  They are to live for Him and not for themselves. “Jesus is Lord” was not just a statement of their personal devotion but a claim that Jesus is the One Way to the Father.  That He is the King who provides salvation to the whole world.  That we are never to bow to any other! 
We Westerners often value our independence and freedom more than we value community since we must give up some of our precious independence and freedom to be part of a community.  When “pistos” or family or group loyalty and respect are missing, the family or group falls apart. One in every four families are missing a father.  Sexual relationships are often casual or recreational and couples fear marriage and commitment. Songs of true love and romance are no longer popular as they were in past generations.
 All the rules have changed.  Parents are discarded by some grown children.  And children are abandoned by parents.  Families members sue one another over any misunderstanding, real or imagined! And many of the younger generation today are afraid to marry or become committed to parenthood.   
Teachers today often complain that the old relationships between student and teacher are gone.  The teacher or professor is no longer respected.  And the ability of the teacher to control the classroom has been replaced with anarchy.  We wonder why public education is having problems!  Violence on our streets along with the number of suicides have gone up astronomically.
There are still many strengths in Western society today, but individualism has replaced community in many areas of our lives leaving lonely desperate people. Is there an answer to all of this? Scripture tells us: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:39) We may be trying so hard to compete for our own individual reputation that we find ourselves overwhelmed and unsatisfied with life. But God asks us to put our faith in Him.  To give our allegiance and our lives to Him.  And He will give our lives back to us. And so much more too!
Some of the thoughts in this blog were taken from Jayson Georges article, “True Faith”  White Horse Inn


Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Persevering Prayer

The Persevering Prayer
Many of our prayers are answered quickly, but some of our prayers require patience and an attitude that refuses to quit praying until God answers.  Sometimes we must keep on knocking  and knocking on the door of heaven with faith until the answer comes.  This is what persevering prayer is -to have a holy boldness that will not take “No” for an answer.  And to keep on waiting and praying until the break-through comes.
When we know what we are praying for is God’s will we need to keep on praying for however long it takes.  Sometimes we may feel that God has placed an assignment or a desire on our heart to keep praying about a certain person or problem.
We don’t know all of the reasons why some of our prayers aren’t answered quickly. God perhaps urges us to keep on praying because He may be developing our faith as we learn how to wait in patience and hope for the answer.
 Jesus said that if his disciples (and us too) had the faith the size of a tiny mustard seed that they (and we) could move mountains.  And nothing would be impossible to them.  (Matthew 17:20)   Do we sometimes have to wait patiently and pray while building up our faith to the size of a mustard seed so our mountain can be moved?  Our faith is all important to our heavenly Father.   
Scripture says that we have a heavenly Father who loves to give us good gifts.  A God who wants us to pray and wants to answer our prayers.  We are invited to ask. Scripture says: “Ask and it will be given to you: Seek, and you will find: Knock, and it will be opened to you.”  (Matthew 7:7) And the Bible also says that God will give us the desires of our hearts if we delight ourselves in Him.”  (Psalm37:4) 
If we delight ourselves in God, God will direct our desires to the things that we ought to want.   God will teach us our wants and desires. We are not meant to understand God, we are meant to trust Him. There is no such thing as trust without some unanswered questions in our lives. While we are here on earth the Bible says we are to “live by faith”.  But the day is coming when Jesus will come again and make everything new.  All the wrongs will be made right and what we see with the eyes of  faith now will finally become reality!   
 Sometimes we want things that are not good and we ask God to give those things to us.   God does not promise to answer those prayers.  Scripture says: “When you pray to God you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your worldly pleasures.” (James 4:3) But when we love God and delight in Him, the Holy Spirit begins teaching us to want the things that God wants.
I have a friend whose daughter became addicted to drugs and then stopped having any contact with her, saying she no longer wanted to be part of the family. My friend and her husband, the girl’s father, tried again and again to contact their beloved daughter but with no success. Years passed and their many letters, gifts and phone calls to their daughter were left unanswered.  My friend and her husband prayed each day that their beloved daughter would be reconciled to them. That she would be set free from her addictions. But there was no answer.
Because my friend and her husband knew that they were praying for something that was in God’s will, something that was good and right, they believed that someday God would answer their prayer.  Someday their daughter would come back to God and also to them. They prayed against the anger they felt because they had been rejected. And they kept picturing their daughter the way she would be when she became willing to fight her drug addiction. More years passed and these parents simply kept refusing to quit praying until God answered. What a deep mystery this is of persevering prayer!
And then one day, twenty- seven years after their daughter had become lost to drug addiction and had shut them out of her life, their prayers were suddenly answered and their daughter came back! Came back to them and came back to God!  She had successfully gone through a drug re-habilitation program. Their perseverance with God really had prevailed. And now their daughter had come to Christ and was a new person!  And a new daughter! It was a miracle!  They had believed all those years that God would answer their prayer for their daughter.  And it was awesome to pray and ask God for something, and believe Him to do it and see it come to pass!
Sometimes we do not approach God with confidence in prayer because we feel worthless or condemned or ashamed.  We feel that we are not good enough for God to answer our prayer.  But the Bible says that we do not come to God in our own strength, but we go to Him in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Scripture says: “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21) We can come boldly to the throne of grace because we are sons and daughters of God the Father and we are made righteous through the blood of Jesus.  
It's an exciting way to live, following the lead of the Holy Spirit and praying for those He leads us to pray for and those we care about.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit puts the burden to pray onto your heart so heavily that you can- not stop praying.
 Many years ago when I was young, a well- known Bible pastor visited my church and held a three- day retreat.  On the first night of the retreat, as the pastor was preaching, a still small voice seemed to speak inside my heart and I seemed to know that it must be the Holy Spirit speaking.  The message I seemed to feel, urged me to pray.  Pray for my friend Arlene who had come with me to the retreat. If I would pray diligently for her, then before the retreat was over my friend would accept Christ as her Savior.  The voice seemed to promise that!  My job was to pray. 
My friend, Arlene, was a member of a cult group.  She had no interest in becoming a Christian and she made fun of the Christian faith.  Arlene came to church with me because there were many eligible young men attending my church and Arlene came to church to flirt with them.
After this urging came to me to pray, I felt a deep desire to pray for Arlene and I just kept praying and praying.  I prayed that night and the nest morning.  I prayed in my bed at night and when I was going about my work the next day.  I prayed the next night as we went back to the retreat at church.  And again all the next day.  While I was eating and while I was studying. I felt such a heavy desire and burden to keep praying for Arlene.
 And then, on that last night of the retreat when the call was made to come to Christ, the break through happened! The miracle!  Arlene walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar and confessed that she wanted to follow Jesus.  I sat in the second-row crying.  I always felt close to Arlene after that and she never knew why.  I felt like God had allowed me to help bring her into the kingdom. To have a small part in this miracle! What a privilege!  The Holy Spirit guides us in our prayers, perhaps more than we realize.         
How many lives could be changed if we would continue praying when things look impossible.  When people hurt or when problems come.  If we would pray and not give up or become bitter.  If we would keep praying and watch God turn our problem into a miracle.  We can keep on praying because we know that God will answer. Even when we must wait a very long time.
Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Joyce Meyer’s book “The Power of Simple Prayer”