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That’s What Prayer is For

My father immigrated to the United States from Lithuania as a child. While growing up, my father demonstrated a stoic personality that was typical from this region of Europe. Over the last 20 years, I’ve noticed the softening of my dad’s heart. This past weekend was a glimpse of this appreciation for life during a comment he made prior to saying grace. As my children and daughter in law spent July 4th weekend at his home, he was thankful for what my family has become.

Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. 24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it], Mark 11:23-24.

This wasn’t always the case as all families experience rough patches throughout the course of life. While listening to a sermon a decade ago, I was overwhelmed by a spirit of conviction. I went a year without a strong prayer life, aimlessly treating prayer like a shopping list. Following a Saturday afternoon Bible Study, I made a vow to consistently lift up my children and family in prayer. What my father observed was simply 10 years of answered prayers.

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop, Mark 11:25.

One of the apostle Paul’s missionary helpers recalls a conversation that Jesus had with his disciples. The context of this discussion was about the potential of prayer when attached with belief. Prayer is designed to remove the barriers, obstacles and mountains that stand in your way. However, there are times when prayer must be delayed until you take care of personal matters. Once reconciliation occurs or restoration is underway, prayer can continue as you exercise your faith.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Lose Your Edge to be Great

I was first introduced to the concept of losing your edge while watching the film Top Gun. The context of this expression occurs following an intense encounter with bogeys over the ocean. Cougar, the top pilot on the ship requests a private meeting with his Commanding Officer. Shaken up by this close call, Cougar lost his edge and then turns in his wings so he can return to be home with his newborn child. Cougar’s resignation opens the door for Maverick played by Tom Cruise to attend the Top Gun school with co-pilot Goose.

For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. 12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. 13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart, Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Sixteen years later, American rock band LCD Soundsystem released their single “Losing My Edge”. The lyrics of this song refer to younger kids, a new generation who are about to take your place. Whenever an individual loses their confidence, the swagger that individuals once possess quickly vanishes. However, if another person comes along out of nowhere to challenge your position, this should inspire you to greatness. If you lose your edge to be great, apathy and complacency will soon take its place.

And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will. 28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose, Romans 8:27-28.

In a first century letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul provides a message of hope for those of you filled with doubt. The difference between confidence and doubt is night and day. A confident golfer will put a tee in the ground, take a practice swing and drive a tee shot straight down the middle of a fairway. A golfer consumed with doubt will likely block a tee shot out of bound or snap hook it into a nearby hazard. When Christians start accepting, believing and claiming the promises in the Bible, an ordinary day is replaced by answered prayers and miracles. Therefore, whenever you lose your edge to be great, place your trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6, so that confidence can be regained.

by Jay Mankus

Prediction, Premonition or Prophecy?

Everyone knows at least one Debbie downer, an individual who conspires and dwells on negative things that will likely occur in the future. These predictions are often influenced by gossip, hearsay and perceptions based upon previous events. When this speculation actually happens, who or what should receive credit for making an accurate prediction. Is this merely a guilt feeling, an unexplained sense in the form of a premonition or merely a self-fulfilled prophecy?

But as [the season was well advanced, for] much time had been lost and navigation was already dangerous, for the time for the Fast [the Day of Atonement, about the beginning of October] had already gone by, Paul warned and advised them, Saying, Sirs, I perceive [after careful observation] that this voyage will be attended with disaster and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but of our lives also, Acts 27:9-10.

While traveling to Rome, Paul and Luke sail into the middle of a northeaster, similar to a strong typhon. Based upon his numerous missionary journeys, traveling by boat in the Mediterranean Sea, Paul became interested in weather forecasting. Based upon the waves, wind and typically weather patterns, Paul perceives this storm brewing in the distance. In the passage above, two factors contribute to Paul’s prediction, the time for fasting and after careful observation. Paul’s experience sailing and faith steered this man of God to make an accurate prediction.

And when neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small tempest kept raging about us, all hope of our being saved was finally abandoned. Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, Acts 27:20-23.

The further Luke details this real life drama, the clearer it becomes that Paul possessed a special connection with God. After Paul expresses an “I told you so” moment, a new revelation provides hope for those fearful of dying. This second predication isn’t a premonition or prophecy. Rather, Paul reveals the source of his news, an angel of God. In a normal setting, there would be skepticism. However, when your boat is about to sink and panic sets in, this angel is an answer to prayer. Whether you are talking about making a prediction, sharing a premonition or having a prophetic thought, the most important thing is giving God the glory.

by Jay Mankus

The Guardian

The term guardian has a rich history.  The Guardian is a former British daily newspaper which began in 1821 with its last publication in 1959.  Guardian is also a media group owned by the Scott Trust; created in 1936 to secure the financial and editorial independence of its paper.   While the definition refers to a defender, keeper or protector, the concept of a guardian has inspired several movies.  Most recent films include Guardians of the Galaxy 1, 2 and 3.  In 2018, Bryan Bailey wrote a film where Garret Jackson returns to his home town seven years after his parents’ death.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [of Jerusalem]—From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth, Psalm 121:1-2.

The Bible eludes to the true guardian.  The Psalmist refers to God as the keeper of Israel.  While invisible to the human eye, the presence of the Creator of the heavens and earth can be felt daily.  Answered prayers, blessings and miracles are subtle signs that stimulate faith of those paying attention.  Meanwhile, guardian angels are busy behind the scenes, protecting God’s saints from the fiery arrows from the evil One, Ephesians 6:16.  Although human nature may persuade some to take credit for that which God has done, God’s invisible attributes can not be ignored, Romans 1:20.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, Psalm 91:11.

One of the greatest examples of guardian angels is found in Psalm 91.  According to the author, God commands his angels to guard you in all your ways.  The question is, do only Christians get angels or do non-believers simply reject their guardian?  Those who adhere to John Calvin’s teaching would suggest that God does not waste any angel, making guardians angels limited.  However, Armenians believe that Jesus died for everyone.  Applying this theology to angels means that everyone, not just the elect have a guardian angel.  Regardless of your theological beliefs, the important thing to realize is the Guardian in heaven is waiting for souls to repent from their sins by turning to Jesus.  May the promise of Romans 5:2 encourage you to approach God’s throne of grace.

by Jay Mankus

To Those Who Believe in Prayer

Earlier in the week, I was reading an online article about the fires in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  The residents of this region within the Great Smokey Mountains were deeply concerned about the fires spreading along what is known as the Chimney Top.  One woman who was interviewed pleaded with Americans of faith, “if anyone who believes in prayer, we need your help.”

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you, John 15:7.

Within 24 hours of this request, the Lord sent a couple of inches of rain to provide water to this drought ravaged state.  Weather forecasters are calling for more rain in the next coming days to stop the spread of any further fires from breaking out.  Doubters and skeptics will likely ignore the obvious, giving chance, good fortune and luck the credit.  Yet, for me, I am putting two things together, desperate hearts plus seeking God leads to answered prayers.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours, Mark 11:24.

When I read the Bible, sometimes the words of Jesus seem too good to be true.  Perhaps, individuals are afraid of being disappointed and left down.  This fear has infected minds leading to a lack of faith that breeds unanswered prayers.  In view of this, its essential to begin to claim God’s promises in prayer.  As for the fire victims of Tennessee and those picking up the pieces from tornadoes in the south, these fellow Americans are in desperate need of prayers.  Therefore, if you believe in the power of prayer, begin now to see what miracle God will do next.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Don’t Let Time Shrink Your Faith

The other day I went shopping when I encountered a child throwing a temper tantrum.  As soon as this boy realized he wasn’t getting to get what he wanted, he lost it.  Although this event reminded me how thankful that I am for having grown children, one thought came to my mind.  When time ceases to provide any glimpses of hope, progress or results, faith can shrink.

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised, Hebrews 6:15.

The author of Hebrews dedicates an entire chapter known as the Hall of Faith.  One of the initial recipients is Abraham who waited decades until God gave a promised son through his wife Sarah.  Beneath the surface and under their breathe, I’m sure there were moments of doubt, especially for a woman reaching 100.  Yet, this example reveals a painful truth about life, God doesn’t always answer prayers according to your schedule.  Rather, the Lord uses time, trials and uncertainty to fireproof your faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see, Hebrews 11:1.

One of the most difficult stretches I’ve had to endure was in 2012 and 2013, struggling to find a permanent job after teaching high school for ten years.  There were days, weeks and months that I lost hope, not believing that God would change my hapless situation.  I wish I was stronger, but my faith shrunk as I lost my place in this world.  While I have ended up on my feet today, I am still searching for that perfect fit where my gifts match God’s will.  If Abraham had to wait decades, I guess I can hold on a little longer, praying that one day my dreams will come true.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Wall of Remembrance

The American rock band the Cars once sang, Let the Good Times Roll.  Debuting in 1978 as a single, Good Times Roll is synonymous with joyous occasions in life.  While these moments may not happen that often, those who experience a season of blessings don’t want it to end.  Unfortunately, when the tides change in the form of disappointment, hardships and trials, its important to create a wall of remembrance.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

In the 2015 film War Room, Miss Clara uses this concept to remind her of all the prayers the Lord has answered.  Whenever discouragement tried to steal her joy in life, Miss Clara found comfort and encouragement from God’s previous faithfulness.  These reflections from your past serve as a point of reference.  Therefore, whenever the good times disappear, dates, letters and pictures of transformed individuals can keep hope alive.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

During the first mission trips I ever served on, I was introduced to the concept of care cards.  Team members were encouraged to write notes to anyone who said something or did something that was noteworthy over the course of each day.  These cards were placed into individual mail boxes that were only accessible on your trip home.  When I became a youth pastor, I implemented this on two service projects that I oversaw.  When depression caused me to lose faith, I started my own wall of remembrance in my bedroom.  While 2016 is still in its infancy, perhaps its time to start your own wall to remind you of God’s goodness.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Earthquake

The Weather Channel has a history of programs which illustrate strange weather phenomena.  Shows like It Could Happen Tomorrow are based upon ideal conditions which come together to create the perfect storm.  If this has happened in the past, can the same components result in a spiritual earthquake?

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly, Acts 4:31.

One of the first accounts of such of an event is recorded by a first century doctor.  It’s not uncommon for individuals to embellish, exaggerate or stretch the truth.  However, this characteristic is unusual for a respected man of medicine.  Although bizarre, a similar encounter occurs in the city of Philippi.  Sure, this region is known for earthquakes, but is it possible for prayer to create a movement of God which imitates this geological event?

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose, Acts 16:25-26.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve witnessed my own series of answered prayers, healing and miracles.  Although I’ve never experienced anything like these 2 stories in the Bible, I have sensed God’s presence.  During intense periods of prayer and moving worship services in the past, my heart, soul and mind have been energized by an invisible presence.  If you draw close enough to God, perhaps you too will encounter a spiritual earthquake inspired by the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

About to Pass You By

Anyone who is fixated on their circumstances, may miss someone or something that God wants you to see.  Blind spots don’t just occur on car mirrors, individuals can get so entrenched in their own lives that time can pass you by.  If you’re not careful, you might wake up one morning and most of your life is gone.

He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, Mark 6:48.

Jesus tried to teach his disciples a similar lesson following the feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6.  Sending them ahead in a boat, Jesus stayed back to pray on a mountainside.  I’m not sure why he walked on the water, but it appears God wanted His son to do so, serving as an abstract lesson.  Although the sun had not risen yet, moonlight provided Jesus with light to see his way.  About to pass their boat by, the disciples finally recognized him, causing a stir of emotions.

But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Mark 6:49-50

If Jesus could feed a crowd of 5,000, walking on water shouldn’t have been a surprise to his disciples.  Nonetheless, people limit God’s power, surprised by answered prayers and miracles.  Perhaps so many walk around defeated, they don’t know what its like to experience victory in Christ.  Doubt, failure and misery can promote a sense of hopelessness that lingers. Therefore, if you feel like time is about to pass you by without tasting success, take courage, don’t be afraid and believe in the power of the resurrection to transform your situation.

by Jay Mankus

The Source of Wealth

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” – Deuteronomy 8:17

Upon their arrival and occupation of the promised land, Israel may have forgotten who provided for their needs.  Sensing a  spirit of pride among the ranks, Moses devotes an entire chapter to guard against forgetting the Lord.  After years of failure, the taste of success may have gone to some of their heads.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. – Deuteronomy 8:18

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Moses sets the record straight, giving God the credit for Israel’s newly gained wealth.  Remembering the promise made to Abraham, Moses confirms the origin of their recent success, God’s covenant.  Perhaps the suffering Moses experienced in Egypt produced a grateful heart, thankful for the answered prayers.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. – Malachi 3:10

In modern times, an Old Testament prophet suggests an untapped potential of wealth can be found in tithing.  As current believers begin to practice giving a minimum of ten percent of their gross income to the church and needy causes, God unleashes financial blessings.  Although a prosperity gospel preached in numerous churches perverts this biblical principle, the more you trust in the Lord to provide for your needs, you will begin to believe God is the ultimate source of wealth.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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