Persistent Prayer

Written by Becky Perkins

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

 

Over the years, I have learned much about prayer, and I have studied much about how to pray.  I have kept prayer journals, prayer lists, prayed scripture, and have learned how to pray aloud when needed.  I have had many prayer partners in each stage of my life, usually other women who wish to pray together for our children and husbands.  I have studied prayer with other people in classes and led Bible studies about prayer.  In the midst of all of this, I still find myself wearing out when I pray about certain subjects or situations.  Sometimes I have wondered if God was hearing my prayers, especially when the time element went on for months and years. 

 

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells a parable about a persistent woman.  The parable tells of a woman who goes to a judge in the town to have him hear her case.  She wanted justice from her adversary.  The judge refused to help her several times, but the woman kept returning to the judge to solve her case.  After a while the judge, even though he did not fear God nor care what people thought, avenged her case because the woman troubled him so much.  He was afraid that her persistence of coming to him would wear him out. 

 

Jesus then tells His listeners, “And shall God not avenge His own people who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

 

This parable reminds me that I too need to persist in prayer.  Some versions say to not lose heart, get discouraged, or give up praying.  The Greek word for “not lose heart” is ekkakeo, which means to be weak, to fail in heart, to faint or be weary.  God reminds me there is power in prayer.  If we do not lose heart or become weary, He will answer in due time.  Of course, the answer may not always be what we wanted.  There is an element of surrendering to God’s will when we pray.  Although I do keep prayer lists and journals, prayer is not a wish list of what I want to happen and hope God will give me what I want.  It is surrendering to what God desires and His way.  Most of the time, God answers my prayers in a way that I could have never dreamed.  God never delays in helping people who love Him and persist in prayer.  He does not put us off.  He is not like the unjust judge who gave in just because he was tired of the woman coming to him.  God delights in us and listening to our prayers. 

 

There is another element to this parable.  Jesus says, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  This tells me that we should persist until the end.  What if we give up on praying to Jesus day and night, and then one day we are placed in a situation of spiritual decline or persecution?  Will we still persist when the going gets rough?  I believe we have to have the strength of prayer and power to get through rough times.  We need the comfort of prayer and the strength of prayer to get through times when our prayers are not answered as we desired.  This requires us getting outside of ourselves and the self-pity we sometimes feel when things do not go our way.  If we will focus on Jesus and our relationship with Him, we will gain the strength to get through whatever we walk through.  We need the persistence and stamina of prayer to survive in this life. 


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Compassion

Compassion – Based on The Gospel of John
Written by Rhonda Altsott

 

In John Chapter 9, we find the disciples asking Jesus whose sin was responsible for a man that had been born blind; was it his sin or his parents’? It was an accepted Judaic belief that those born with a physical disability was the result of sin. Jesus told his disciples that neither party was responsible for this man’s blindness and instead said it “was so that the works of God would be displayed in him”. Jesus proclaimed himself the light of the world before he spat, made a clay, put it on the blind man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man came back seeing. This was a true Messianic Miracle. 

 

People noticed and before you know it, the man was brought before the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees. Some of the Pharisees were not happy because Jesus had performed this miracle on the Sabbath. It wasn’t just any Sabbath, but the Sabbath of the Feast of Tabernacles making it a High and Holy Sabbath. Some questioned how a man, who was a sinner, could perform such a miracle. There was a division among them.

 

They went on to question the man’s parents, asking if he had really been born blind. His parents were afraid to answer truthfully as it was known that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of synagogue. They deferred back to their grown son. The Pharisees, not liking his first answers, asked him the questions again. The man gave Jesus credit again for giving him his eyesight. The Pharisees, not getting the answers they wanted, put the man out of the synagogue. They could not believe that a man who broke the Sabbath, could be working on behalf of God. Jesus had told the Pharisees who He was with His words. The majority did not believe Him. Now Jesus showed them who He was and they could not get over Jesus healing on the Sabbath and instead of rejoicing in the miracle of restored vision, kicked the healed man out of the synagogue. The religious leaders also began working on a way to stop Jesus.

 

Several points about the Pharisees I want to point out:

*They were the religious leaders of the day, the keepers of the Mosaic Law.

*They believed they were doing the will of God.

*They knew the scriptures.

*They missed the Messianic Miracle.

*They began to plot to kill Jesus, as well as Lazarus, after Jesus brought Lazarus back to life,   (John Chapters 11/12).

 

With all the religious accolades the Pharisees had, with all the knowledge of the law and the Holy Scripture, they missed Jesus. They missed He was the Christ, the one sent from God. It seems like with all their religious practices, they leaned heavy on tradition and missed the Messiah. In contrast, Jesus over and over displayed compassion and displayed the works of His Father in healing the broken and wounded of His day, even if it happened on the Sabbath.  Pastor Wayne Barber, who has gone home to be with the Lord, said of the Pharisees, “Their traditional religion killed their capacity for compassion”. My prayer is that never happens to us.

 

 

* There are 145 occurrences of the word compassion in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here is one of my favorites:

Ephesians 4:32. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. 

Not surprising, it’s from Paul’s letter on Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ.


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All Women of Faith

Written by Kim Hardin

Mathew 9:18-26 – As Jesus was saying this, the leader of a synagogue came and knelt before “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.” So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment. When Jesus arrived at the official’s home, he saw the noisy crowd and heard the funeral music. “Get out!” he told “The girl isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him. After the crowd was put outside, however, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up! The report of this miracle swept through the entire countryside.

 

The trip to the Holy Land that I took in November 2021 with 30+ other pilgrims changed my life and faith. The challenges in getting there were unprecedented due to the global pandemic. The timing of making sure all vaccines and the booster were received, along with having a PCR Covid test in which we had to get the results in a specific window of time, were daunting. We arrived in Israel on November 2; the country opened to tourists just the day before. We returned to the States on November 12, and Israel again closed their borders to tourists only two weeks later. It was a miracle that we even got to go.

 

There were several locations and opportunities to walk where Jesus walked and each was a blessing. However, one place in particular had an impact on me and several of the women on the trip. We visited Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A large part of the ministry of Jesus took place in the region of Galilee. In 2009, the ruins of a first century synagogue were discovered in Magdala. Jesus is believed to have taught in this very synagogue.

 

At the synagogue and the areas around it in Magdala, Jesus taught and performed miracles. Two of these miracles are described in the scripture shared above. Also in this town, Jesus expelled the demons from Mary Magdalene. We don’t know if Mary’s demons were evil spirits or mental illnesses. We don’t know if Mary was a prostitute or one of the courtiers of Herod’s court since she spent time with the wife of Herod’s steward.

 

These points did not matter to Jesus. He took care of what Mary Magdalene needed in order for her to be a productive part of society and His ministry. The same is true for you and me. Jesus is our Lord and Savior. He loves us despite our flaws and failures. He will do for us as he did for Mary Magdalene, the suffering woman, and the leader of the synagogue and his daughter.

Through our faith, He will give us what we need in order to be a productive part of the Body of Christ.

 

In Magdala next to the location where the first century synagogue was discovered, a building called Duc in Altum, the Latin phrase meaning “put out into deep water”, has been constructed as a place of prayer, teaching and worship for all Christians. In the building is an atrium that honors the women of the Bible and all women of faith. It is a motivating thought to know that the women around Jesus were faith warriors, who often outshined the men through their faith and belief in the Savior of the world.


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Divorce, Remarriage, and Faith

Written by Amanda Wacker

Acts 18 1-11

1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Paul’s story of perseverance even in the face of persecution is not for the faint of heart. Many people would give up, walk away, and not do the right thing, the Godly thing.  

I was asked to write this blog about my perseverance through a divorce, remarriage, and the faith that got me there. When I read these verses, I fixate on the words of Jesus. “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”  

Divorce is never the easy thing to do. It’s messy, it turns your whole life upside down and the lives of those you love and care about. Every decision you make affects someone else. People get hurt and the life you once knew and loved is not there anymore. Divorce wasn’t in my vocabulary when I got married the first time. Even though my parents had been divorced before, their marriage was strong and one to live up to. My grandparents all had wonderful, thriving marriages. Their examples were Godly and loving. The decision to divorce was not one I took lightly. We had children together, two beautiful girls that didn’t ask for a life with divorced parents. But sometimes, divorce is necessary. Thankfully, I had the most wonderful, supportive family and friends. They prayed with me, prayed for me, helped me financially, and stood with me when I couldn’t stand on my own. They were my “many people in this city.” God gave me an army of believers to get me through. 

The decision to divorce was one of the hardest I had ever made, but the peace I felt when it was over, is one only God can give. I was at peace and I knew God would take care of the rest. He’s done more than I can imagine. 

I decided to wait several years to date after that. I wanted the best for my girls. Sure I made mistakes, we all do, but God continued to provide. 

My wonderful husband now had been through a tough divorce and we were both looking for the same things in life. He too wanted the best for his boys. Somehow we had never crossed paths, even with many people we knew in common and working for the same school corporation. When we met, it didn’t take long for us to know that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. So 4 short months later, we were married. There was never any doubt, because we both had God at the center of our lives. Blended families are hard, too. But we make it work every day. We couldn’t do it alone. Our lives are surrounded by loving family and friends that are always there when we need help, prayers, and love. God gave us more than we ever could have imagined. The blessings that we have in our 4 children are more than we could have asked for. But God gave us exactly what we needed. 


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Walking in a Manner Worthy of My Calling

Written by Rhonda Alstott
 

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit of the bond of peace.

Lately, this has become my daily prayer I begin and end my day with. It has already been a rough few years with navigating the pandemic in our church community and now I find myself, along with everyone else, in a discernment process that has become divisive. I have endured many restless nights as I see us as a congregation ask some hard questions. I have heard some words that have rattled me to my core and left me questioning motives, but as much hurt and disbelief I am feeling these days, I know the only words and motives I have control of are my own. I know I am responsible to God for my motives, actions, and words. My daily prayer has become “Am I walking in a manner worthy of my calling? One thing I know is that the only way I can do that is with God’s Spirit to help me. A place of worship and peace has become for me an anxiety-producing space of late, and I know that is not in the will or plan of God. I have made it my purpose to love God more deeply because I know that it will affect how I live in my day-to-day thoughts, speech, and actions. In 1 John 4, John reminds me that love casts out fear and in my growing faith, there is no room for fear or the tactics of fear. Many have tried to recently scare me about my husband’s future, which is connected to the future of me and my family. I have never questioned the call of God on my husband’s life or the ability of God that we love and serve to see it through to its completion, whatever that may look like.

Ironically, my New Year’s resolution for 2022 is rooted in the Serenity Prayer. . . the part about accepting the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. I cannot change a thing about the thoughts and actions of others. I can only change my thoughts and actions. In my life, it has been a work of prayer. In the coming few months I invite you to join me on my daily request through prayer for God’s wisdom (discernment), and I also invite you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling Christ has called you to.


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Study Habits

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.“  Acts 17:11 (NIV)
 

Studying scripture builds and strengthens faith in three ways: 1) Knowledge of scripture reminds us of God’s promises and connects us with Christ, 2) Application of scripture further deepens our understanding of God’s Word and, 3) Studying scripture with other believers builds Christian Fellowship.

As a child and youth, growing up in the United Methodist Church (Cresaptown United Methodist), scripture was a big part of my faith foundation.  Through the loving guidance of Miss Dolly, Miss May, and Mr. Porter, we learned the Beatitudes, John 3:16, the 23rd Psalm, the 10 commandments, and the passages of the creation story (among others).  However, I would not exactly classify this as studying scripture.  I joined my first Bible study group as a freshman in college, but I would say that “study” was still not a true description.  It was more like a high level group discussion with a lot of memorization.

It was not until I was in my mid-20’s that I experienced the true definition of studying scripture.  My mother had been traveling to The Cove in Asheville, NC a couple of times a year to hear various Christian speakers, to take part in intensive study sessions, or just to spend some time of renewal at one of their various retreats.  She invited me to a session, in which John Piper did a deep dive into the book of Romans.  What an amazing experience!  For four days, Dr. Piper opened my eyes to this incredible letter.  In addition, we were able to dig deeper during small group time and then reflect on all that we absorbed while taking in the beautiful scenery on daily walks through the numerous trails or sitting quietly in the beautiful chapel.

I would love to say that this experience changed my spiritual life and that when I returned home, I made it a daily habit of studying the Word.  However, as often happens, the daily grind of life awaited me when I returned home.  This experience did plant a seed and a desire to learn more about God’s Holy Word and how it applies to my life.  So, over the years, I returned to the Cove or other similar places (Mountaintop in Wheeling, WV, Tuscarora Conference Center in Mt. Bethel, PA and Sandy Cove in North East, MD) for Christian renewal, fellowship and reflection.

But, it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I truly developed a somewhat daily habit of studying scripture on my own (rather than dabbling in it a couple of times of year at various conferences).   And, this practice has allowed me to better understand God’s role in my life and has served as a guide in my daily activities.  I also have a greater appreciation for the amazing world God has given us thanks to these in-depth studies.

The final step, though, was to get back into the practice of studying God’s word with fellow believers on a regular basis through Sunday School and Bible Study groups.  This not only has given me a routine, but it has a built-in accountability factor.  In addition, I have learned so much more from the various viewpoints I have encountered with these groups than I would have with self-study.  Lastly, Christian fellowship encourages me as I travel on my lifelong faith journey.

Speaking of journeys…one of the greatest experiences of my life was to travel to the Holy Land in 2018 to see scripture come to life.  The travel company gave us some reference material to prepare us for our journey, but it was not until we were walking where Jesus had walked that it really hit home.  In addition, Pastor Tony led us in a devotion at every location with an applicable scripture reading.  When we were back home a small group of us (more fellowship opportunities) met weekly for several weeks to reflect and process our amazing experiences.  To this day, when I read scripture that takes place in one of the locations we visited, the scriptures takes on a much deeper meaning than it did prior to this amazing journey.

 

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.   Romans 15:4 (NIV)

 


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