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Strange but True

Talking to yourself may not be natural, but people do think out loud.  When you hear voices or whispers, you may be imagining something that is not there.  However, when God speaks to certain individuals using a still small voice, this may sound strange but it is true.  According to Genesis 2:5-6, God’s initial creation did not include rain as a high water table allowed springs to water the earth.  Thus, when God addressed Noah about building an ark, no one had ever seen rain before.  Building a giant boat is one thing, but doing so without understanding the concept of a flood required a rock solid faith.

God said to Noah, “I intend to make an end of all that lives, for through men the land is filled with violence; and behold, I am about to destroy them together with the land. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make in it rooms (stalls, pens, coops, nests, cages, compartments) and coat it inside and out with pitch (bitumen), Genesis 6:13-14.

After the scattering of nations at Babel, God sought out a man named Abram.  The Lord promised Abram a great nation.  However, there was one major problem, Abram’s wife Sarai was barren, nearing the age where having a child is unlikely.  Initially, Abram took matters in his own hands, having Ishmael with a maid servant named Hagar.  As Sarai’s biological clock was nearing an end, the Lord performed a miracle as Isaac was born.  However, Genesis 21 unveils God’s request for Abraham to sacrifice his son.  As this drama unfolds, Abraham reaches a point where the only logical explanation for this offering is that God will resurrection his son.

Now [in Haran] the Lord had said to Abram, “Go away from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2  and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you [abundantly], and make your name great (exalted, distinguished); and you shall be a blessing [a source of great good to others]; Genesis 12:1-2.

These are just two examples from history that illustrate God’s ability to communicate with human beings.  Sometimes God uses a burning bush, a dream or sends an angel to supply his next set of directions.  Sometimes these words don’t make sense, but that is where faith comes into play.  Testimonies allow present Christians to tell their story of how God is working in their lives.  While these stories may appear strange as information is revealed, fellow believers will be encouraged by the wonderful ways in which God moves and works.

by Jay Mankus

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Anointed with a Great Power

One of the disciples makes an interesting observation about Jesus.  Just as Lois Lane sought to comprehend the source of Superman’s powers, Peter points to the anointing of the Holy Spirit to explain Jesus’ great power.  As someone who spent nearly 3 years living and traveling with Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit defied logic and science.  This anointing occurred as followers watched John baptize Jesus in the Jordan River, Matthew 3:13-17.

You know the things that have taken place throughout Judea, starting in Galilee after the baptism preached by John— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power; and He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him, Acts 10:37-38.

As Peter watched Jesus day after day perform miracles, a doctor attempts to explain how the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to heal individuals oppressed by the Devil.  In an era where mental health continues to be a mystery, the Holy Spirit served as x-ray vision to identify unclean spirits messing up the lives of human beings.  The four gospels are filled with testimonies of where Jesus addresses, confronts and casts out demons using the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I have told you these things while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you, John 14:25-26.

As Passion Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, drew close, Jesus gathered his disciples together to reveal a future gift from God.  The disciple whom Jesus loved refers to this spiritual entity as an Advocate, Counselor and Intercessor.  On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the Holy Spirit fell upon followers of Jesus.  According to the New Testament, this great power is available to those who are baptized following their conversation.  While the presence of the Holy Spirit may not be as visible today, this great power is awaiting for those who believe.  May the words of the prophet, Joel 2:28-29, deliver a new anointing with great power.

by Jay Mankus

Realigning Your Dreams with God’s Will

Over the course of an automobile’s lifespan, owners will experience a gradual decay.  The initial shine will fade, tires will grow bald and hoses will eventually start to leak.  For the financially strapped, unable to buy a new one or trade in their current vehicle, alignments need to be scheduled to prolong the life of any vehicle.  Bumps in the road, potholes and unseen dips will knock frames out of their proper alignment.  To maximize fuel efficiency, ensure a smoother ride and avoid expensive auto repairs in the future, realignments are a wise investment.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will].  Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

One of the minor prophets in the Old Testament makes a plea to Jews sometime between 425 and 432 Before Christ.  According to Malachi, when people drift apart from God’s laws, a lack of knowledge leads to self-destructing acts.  Apparently, the Bible serves as a means to stay in tune with God.  Those who stray from biblical teaching will repeat the sins of their past, resulting in separation from God.  If this trend of forgetting God continues, you will reap what you sow.  Human nature assures that at some point in everyone’s life you will need to realign your dreams with God’s will.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

A letter written to the church at Corinth suggests that everyone is given a specific gift or talent from God.  When utilized in the context of a church, spiritual gifts are designed to illuminate the presence of the Holy Spirit.  While human dreams are inevitable, the Bible encourages believers to realign all of your unique talents with God’s will.  As individuals let go of hidden agendas, fame and impure motives, God blesses those who use their gifts for the common good.  As I reflect upon my current situation, I have dreams of becoming a screen writer of dramaties and movies.  Yet, I understand my present calling is simply to express my faith through this blog.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I pray that each day I draw closer to God’s will.

by Jay Mankus

How Praying Can Direct Your Life

A first century doctor provides a case study on prayer in the book of Acts.  Luke also served as a historian, traveling along side of the apostle Paul to document each missionary journey.  In the chapter below, Luke interviews a man named Cornelius and Peter about a special God instance.  Before meeting one another, each man prayed to God within a 24 hour period.  What takes place in the passage below illustrates how praying can direct your life.

About the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had come to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius was frightened and stared intently at him and said, “What is it, lord (sir)?” And the angel said to him, “Your prayers and gifts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God [an offering made in remembrance of His past blessings], Acts 10:3-4.

A centurion from an Italian Regiment is described as God fearing.  This reverence for God resulted in a devout faith; becoming a family man.  Cornelius earned a reputation for being a charitable man, giving donations to Jews and known as a prayer warrior.  Apparently, praying in the afternoon was a daily habit, resulting in a vision involving an angel from God.  This encounter results in a series of directions which Cornelius acts upon and follows.

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; 11 and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” – Acts 10:9-13.

Meanwhile, 21 hours later God begins to move within Peter as he prays to the Lord.  During a conversation with Luke, Peter describes his experience to a trance.  The hunger within his stomach sets the stage for a teachable moment for Peter.  Initially, Peter rejects God’s message which is contrary to the law of Moses.  However, after God repeats himself a second time, Peter agrees to be open to this new teaching.  Thus, prayer gave a non-Jew in Cornelius hope while changing the heart of Peter to accept future Gentiles, non Jews.  If God can speak to two praying individuals, then image what God can do when communities pour their hearts out to God in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Do Spiritual Trances Still Exist?

Authors of the Bible received divine inspiration to convince and encourage them to write a specific book.  In the case of Acts, Luke was given direct access to the apostle Paul.  This enabled Luke to highlight amazing encounters with apostles and some of Jesus’ disciples.  In the passage below, Peter reflects upon an unusual experience while praying.  Luke compares this to a trance as if Peter is day dreaming in a half-conscious state.  Before this spiritual trance concluded, Peter found himself in a hypnotic state with an element of suspended animation.

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; Acts 10:9-10.

My initial response to this event pondered, “do spiritual trances still exist today?”  When God speaks to individuals through a still small voice, people are left to wonder where did that come from.  When awkward, bizarre or strange feelings fade away, there has to be a rationale explanation.  Since Peter was about to pray, Luke focuses on the spiritual element of this trance.  God is teaching Peter that Moses laws on ceremonial cleanness no longer applies in the New Testament.  This was the last stumbling block remaining that prevented Peter from sharing the good news about Jesus Christ to Gentiles, non Jews.  Thus, this trance sets the stage for the rest of the book of Acts as the apostle Paul travels beyond Judea and Samaria to share the gospel.

And he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Not at all, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and [ceremonially] unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).” 16 This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven, Acts 10:11-16.

The closest I have come to a spiritual trance is a vision I received in college.  At this time, I attended a weekly accountable group for high school and college students.  These people all experienced a Chrysalis weekend, a three day retreat which compares the Christian life to a caterpillar that undergoes a transformation into a butterfly.  During consecutive weeks of inaction, one of my friends continued to fail in his faith.  After encouraging Eric toward the most logical course of action, I had the same dream two nights in a row.  While walking through a Christian bookstore, I turned the corner seeing the title of this book.  This was the exact topic Eric needed to strengthen his faith.  One day later, this dream became reality as I found the book in my dream and brought it for my friend.  In my mind, this true story proves spiritual trances still exit.

by Jay Mankus

When Time is the Enemy?

Depending upon by your occupation, time is often a driving force, setting daily deadlines for the work that needs to get done.  As this specific hour approaches, stress builds as a team of individuals scramble to complete projects and tasks.  When deadlines are missed, blame is assigned to designate who or what department is at fault.  Thus, under these circumstances, time is the enemy.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom, Psalm 90:12.

Anyone who works a normal five day week, experiences another aspect of time.  When your responsibilities at work overwhelm your soul, time has a way of dragging on, slowing down to the point that one hour feels like 90 minutes.  Meanwhile, weekends fly by like a Nascar race.  As soon as you sit down to relax for a while, your weekend is gone and over.  If you don’t love your job, getting up Monday morning to repeat this vicious cycle will wear you down.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, 2 Peter 3:8.

In the song Somewhere Somehow, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith sing about moments in life when time is the enemy.  One of my favorite stanzas contain the words “Somewhere far beyond today I will find a way to find you And somehow through the lonely nights I will leave a light in the dark.  While the will to love someone on earth may make this a reality, only God will leave a light on in the dark.  Thus, when time becomes an enemy, it’s never too late come to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

A Heartbeat

I recently stumbled upon an interesting article from 2014.  A google search led me to NPR, National Public Radio’s website which posted a piece entitled Why Hospitals and Families Still Struggle to Define Death?  Maanvi Singh examined two cases of people on life support.  Three neurologists said that Jahi McMath died when her brain lost all function after complications from a tonsillectomy.  While a coroner has issued an official death certificate, Jahi’s family won an appeal to keep their daughter on a ventilator.  This is where science and faith collide.

For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb. 14   I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well, Psalm 139:13-14.

A fetus’s heart rate begins soon after fertilization and is visible during an ultrasound at the sixth week of pregnancy.  Meanwhile, when a human heart stops beating while in an emergency vehicle or at a hospital, this person is deemed to flatline.  If resuscitation does not trigger hearts to beat, this individual is pronounced dead as doctors move on to the next living patient who needs intervention.  King Solomon referred to the heart as the well spring of life, Proverbs 4:23.  When this spring dries up, life ceases to exist.  While cases of life support may convince some that when brain cells are beyond repair death has arrived, I believe a heartbeat is the deciding factor.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being formed in secret, and intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth.16  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were appointed for me, when as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape], Psalm 139:15-16.

As abortion debates continue today with a few states suggesting doctors and or mothers can choose to terminate life after a child is born, the names Amy Grossman and Brian Peterson come to mind.  When Grossman became pregnant while attending the University of Delaware, this couple got a hotel room off campus as Amy was about to give birth.  Instead of giving their child up for adoption, the baby was thrown into a dumpster and left to die in 1998.  If this event occurred today in the state of New York or Virginia, Amy and Brian would have never gone to jail.  So what has changed over the past 20 years?  Has America become blinded by political correctness that a heartbeat doesn’t matter anymore?  I’m not sure what to think, but I pray that common sense will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

 

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