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Uniting Communion with Prayer

The word unite refers to coming or bringing together for a common purpose or action. In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul explains the meaning and purpose of communion. Whenever you partake in communion, the passage below is either read or summarized. Yet, if you exclude prayer from communion, there is a key element being overlooked.

For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord’s death until He comes [again], 1 Corinthians 11:26.

Perhaps, first century churches began taking communion services for granted, going through the motions without any personal reflection. The passage below serves as a warning, a reminder to take this sacrament seriously. To avoid this careless mistake, Paul urges readers to thoroughly examine yourself prior to eating the bread and drinking your cup.

So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy [of Him] will be guilty of [profaning and sinning against] the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup, 1 Corinthians 11:27-28.

While in college, one of my mentors served as a pastor in a rural area. Many of his members took this passage to the extreme, not showing up at all on Sunday for church, feeling unworthy and unprepared to take communion. After a couple of months, pastor Jack stopped announcing when communion would be served, changing the weeks every month. The next time you partake in communion, prepare yourself with prayer so that contrite hearts will begin to purge sin from your life.

by Jay Mankus

Missing Christ

Until high school, I was a struggling student, caring more about fitting in than getting good grades. This immaturity caused me to surround myself with individuals with questionable character. By the time I reached junior high school, I was somewhere between amoral and naïve, going through the motions. This spiritual condition led me to miss Christ’s role in Christmas as presents distracted me from the true meaning of Christmas.

Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us, Romans 5:7-8.

Perhaps, I was hindered by Catholicism, going from point A to point B. After celebrating my first communion, my parents enrolled me in CCD, the Catholic version of Sunday School. Unfortunately, adult Sunday School classes were fun, CCD was more like going to school, but more boring. Instead of simplifying this process, the pursuits of sacraments, theology and traditions staggered my faith.

For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [[g]endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness], 2 Corinthians 5:21.

The most important aspect of CCD is preparing 8th graders for Confirmation. While I still didn’t grasp Jesus’ role in the mass of Christ, I was exposed to God’s free gift of salvation, Romans 6:23. Looking back, going through the Confirmation process laid a foundation for my current faith. As you unwrap your gifts this Christmas, don’t miss the spiritual truth of a Savior born to save mankind from sinful desires that wage war against human souls.

by Jay Mankus

Communion, Connection and Conviction

Depending upon your upbringing, communion may mean the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings.  To Catholics and Christians, communion is a Holy Sacrament, also known as the Eucharist.  In the context of the passage below, Jesus withdraws from a crowded house to spend time with God, likely listening, meditating and praying to his heavenly father.  This daily spiritual practice energized Jesus’ soul, providing vision and direction for his earthly ministry.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

Before the concept of home churches began, Jesus connected every day with his disciples.  This time together was spent teaching, answering questions and reclining at a table while eating.  Like a first century Bible Study, Jesus was the living word, John 1:1-5, living his life as an open book for the whole world to see.  The disciples maintained this gathering after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Acts 2:42-47.  The more individuals connect with fellow believers, the sharper you become spiritually, Proverbs 27:17.

Simon [Peter] and his companions searched [everywhere, looking anxiously] for Him, 37 and they found Him and said, “Everybody is looking for You!” 38 He replied, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so I may preach there also; that is why I came [from the Father].” 39 So He went throughout Galilee, preaching [the gospel] in their synagogues and casting out demons, Mark 1:36-39.

When communion is immediately followed by connection with like minded Christians, the Holy Spirit fills individuals with a strong conviction to act upon their faith.  Communion and connection propelled Jesus to preach the good news of salvation from town to town.  If you have ever had the chance to attend a conference, retreat or revival, God fills people with confidence, desire and energy to serve Jesus like never before.  This fusion of excitement is like a raging river bursting out of its banks.  May this blog inspire you to commune with God, interact with brothers and sisters and share your faith with others without hesitation or regret.

by Jay Mankus

Last Rites

No one except God knows what will be your last day, meal or words.  In the case of Jesus, I guess you can say He was born to die, causing a wide range of emotions.  As the Passion Week approached, interactions with family, friends and disciples would be his last, causing the praises of Hosanna on Palm Sunday to be replaced with “Crucify Him.”

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. – Luke 19:10

Today, when doctor’s sense the end is near, Catholics call a priest to perform last rites.  Otherwise known as the sacraments of anointing the sick, if death is expected, Penance and Communion is also offered to prepare one’s soul for the afterlife.  Once complete, family members gather around to savor the remaining moments of life together.  The closest thing that I’ve ever experienced was the day my grandfather died, holding his hand one last time before his last breath.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” John 11:25.

While hanging from a cross on Good Friday, there were only two more things left on God’s agenda.  First, Jesus gave hope to one of two criminals hanging from an adjacent cross, offering Him the promise of paradise for his repentant words.  Second, as the oldest son, Jesus wanted to make sure Mary was in good hands, commanding John of Zebedee to watch after his mother.  Though no last rites where necessary for Jesus, a perfect man, Hebrews 4:14-16, Jesus gave up His spirit with one final comment, “it is finished!”

by Jay Mankus

When Silence Kills

As human beings enter life on earth, God places certain instincts within babies, crying to get their mother’s attention.  Once talking commences, whining is replaced by mine, ooh and wanna.  Born inside of every child since Adam and Eve, the sinful nature is at war with silence.  If gratifications aren’t instantly met, silence can kill inclinations to be self-absorbed, training infants in the way they should go. Proverbs 22:6.

On the other hand, silence also separates individuals from God, Romans 3:23, as sin establishes a barrier deeper than the grand canyon, Romans 6:23.  Created to be in communion with the Lord and mankind, silence often steal, kills and destroys faith.  If this wall isn’t broken or lifted, souls will die void of any hope, joy or love.  Perhaps, someone or something is blocking this line, muffling God’s still small voice, 1 Kings 19:12-13.

No one is immune to silence, especially when prayers lifted up to heaven go unanswered.  Waiting is one thing I detest, rather pointless to a person in desperate need of answers.  Yet, despite my feelings, there are clues left behind by in the Bible which shouldn’t surprise me.  According to a servant of God who was sawed in two for his faith, silence is a way of life, Isaiah 40:27-31.  As Israel complained to this prophet, God reveals a message of hope to those still waiting in the dark for a response.    Therefore, if you are like me, scratching your head, trying to make sense life’s trials, may silence kill any hint of impatience within you, replaced by spiritual strength from the only One who can breathe life into a tired and weary soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Place That Will Change Your Life Forever

On earth, travel agencies will try to convince clients of a sweet deal, hidden gem or destination that will change your life.  As spring approaches, television commercials will display eye popping images as states hope your summer plans include a family vacation to one their resorts.  While memories can be forever etched into your mind, the thought of work quickly snaps individuals back to reality, ending any memorable getaway.

From a spiritual perspective, people may recall the place they got baptized, the church they were married in or a retreat center where they met God for the first time.  Inside a sanctuary, family’s tend to gravitate toward their favorite pew, stare at magnificent stain glass windows or recall taking their first communion.  According to Exodus 29:37, the altar made for the Tent of Meeting possessed supernatural powers, making those priests who touched it holy.  While not the Tent of Meeting, the altar at a church in Friendship, Maryland changed my life forever.

During my senior year of college, I was asked to serve on a Lay Witness Mission team for a church seeking to revive its congregation.  My role was to be a small group leader for the youth group and its college students, sharing how God had made a difference in my life.  Usually, one of the leaders was asked to share part of their faith journey, a snapshot of their life.  On Saturday night, our leader Ken told me that I would be speaking to the entire congregation Sunday morning.  Caught off guard, my initial instinct was fear, pondering, “how can someone who stutters speak for 15 minutes?”

Subsequently, I was led to pray, asking the Holy Spirit and my roommate to clue me in on what God wanted me to say to several hundred strangers.  Tossing and turning, I was reminded of a song that I brought, called The Altar.  Studying the lyrics in my mind, a vision for my first sermon was conceived, drifting me off into a peaceful sleep.  As I made my closing remarks, I gave an altar call, inviting anyone who was touched by the Holy Spirit to come to the altar while I played Ray Boltz’s song.

To my amazement, one college student literally ran to the altar as soon as the song began.  Others quickly, followed, filling up the semi-circle shaped altar in front of the pulpit.  When the music ended, people were standing in line, waiting to kneel at the altar.  Elders and leaders of the church began to lay hands on those crying, quietly whispering words up to heaven on their behalf.  As I joined the congregation following my message, the senior pastor shared a few words, summarizing these amazing events of this 3 day event, encouraging people to continue lay their burdens up to Jesus at the altar, Matthew 11:28.  On earth, there are countless wonders of the world, but for me, I will never forget this day when lives were changed forever at the altar.

by Jay Mankus

Where it All Began

Initially, the Bible was a gift I received after partaking in my first Holy Communion as a 2nd grader.  This white leather covered book was filled with pictures, perfect for someone that age.  As I grew older, busyness, distractions and other interests caused me to leave these pages on my shelf, collecting dust for years.  By the time junior high rolled around, the Roman Catholic Church informed me that it was time for confirmation, usually a year long process filled with a detailed checklist.  Despite receiving an adult black leather King James Bible for my hard work, I treated this book like a hotel visit, inside my nightstand.

 

As I entered high school, the priests at my parent’s church claimed that only they could properly interpret the Bible.  Sarcasm inside of me thought; “why did you give me 2 Bible’s if you knew I wouldn’t understand it?”  Turned off by men of the cloth, God placed me into an unique setting.  Although superficial at first, I began running cross country to get my name in the news paper, like our paperboy who always finished in the top 3 of each race.  The Lord used this artificial motivation to bring me into something special, like a small family of strangers who seemingly hit it off from the beginning.  Cross Country was no longer just running, it was eating meals together, spending time dreaming about life and sharing burdens to help each other to get through the day.

 

The Bible became more than just a book before each cross country race.  It all began during chapels, pre-race huddles when a senior would share an inspirational story, our coach would read a verse from the Bible about running and a captain usually closed in a short prayer.  Hearing passages like Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Galatians 5:7 transformed my perspective of the Bible.  Prior to high school cross country, the Bible was a book, too holy for me to comprehend.  Yet, when my own peers began to recount the words of the apostle Paul, an avid sports enthusiast, there was an instant connection, Romans 10:17.  By the end of my sophomore running season, I was ready to take the plunge, Romans 10:9-10, a leap of faith.  For me, this is where it all began.

by Jay Mankus

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