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When Everyone Else Has Given Up on You

White Cross released In the Kingdom in 1991. One of the singles from this album is No Second Chances. The context of these lyrics refer to when you die, there isn’t a second chance to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10. However, the Bible does suggest that some Christians will just barely get into heaven, Hebrews 10:26-27. If this is true, what does the Bible say when everyone else on earth has given up on you?

You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 5:5.

In the city of Corinth, a member of the church who is either a teenager or young adult has taken his father’s wife for himself. This act of incest angered Paul and inspired the words above. Just as Jesus handed over Judas Iscariot over to Satan, Paul does the same for this man. Despite the tone of Paul’s letter, there is a sliver of hope that severe church discipline will somehow save this lost soul.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews points to a Christian struggling with addiction. While there is no description of this bad habit or habitual sin, there isn’t any sign of contrition or a willingness to change. Coaches, parents, or teachers encounter individuals like Hebrews 6:6 every year. Unfortunately, these prodigals haven’t reach rock bottom or come to their senses. My prayer to anyone who thinks they are too far gone, remember the words of Luke 15:18 because God never gives up on lost sheep.

by Jay Mankus

Iniquities That Drown Out My Prayers

“So when you spread out your hands [in prayer, pleading for My help], I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you offer many prayers,
I will not be listening. Your hands are full of blood! “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Get your evil deeds out of My sight. Stop doing evil, Isaiah 1:15-16.

How many times a day are you forced to listen to boring conversations? Co-workers may have to endure colleagues who love to talk and never shut up. Meanwhile, students have to sit through hour long lectures, often pretending to be entertained just to get a good grade. While some people crave intimate dialogue, others simply embrace the sound of silence.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save, Nor His ear so impaired that it cannot hear. But your wickedness has separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear, Isaiah 59:1-2.

From God’s perspective, billions of prayers are lifted up to heaven daily. Trying to sort through all of these requires an act of God as it is. Nonetheless, how many of these prayers are genuine, impure or selfish? Isaiah comments on disingenuous prayers. According to this Old Testament prophet, prayers aren’t designed as an escape plan or get well wish. Rather, God has specific expectations that requires a contrite heart.

“For the eyes of the Lord are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright), And His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer), But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil,” 1 Peter 3:12.

Thus, if your prayer life is like mine, you will experience days, weeks and months of prayers that go unanswered. According to the Bible, iniquities drown out your prayers. An iniquity is considered grossly unfair behavior, deemed criminal, foul or immoral. Essentially what God is trying to say to anyone before they pray, “get your act together, clean up your life up and stop doing evil things.” Unless acts of contrition supersede your prayers, the presence of iniquities will continue to drown out your prayers.

by Jay Mankus

Killing Conflict

Motivational speakers can make some outlandish claims.  Behind the enthusiasm lies a formula, method or outline which leads to success.  Books, seminars and self help videos has vaulted some to financial prosperity.  Yet, there is only one who can successfully kill conflict.

Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Seminaries introduce students to terms like contrition, forgiveness and grace.  Beyond these theological words is one simple act, to take personal responsibility for your actions.  In this day and age, “I’m sorry, its my fault or please forgive me,” are disappearing.  Yet, if you take the blame, this disarms the raw emotions within conflict.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up, James 4:10.

Unfortunately, human nature does just the opposite, following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve, searching for a scapegoat.  This response usually ignites conflict rather than extinguish it.  If only individuals would begin to emulate the teaching of James, humility could kill conflict.  Yet, for now the world is forced to dodge a minefield of pride which will require countless hours of prayer to diffuse.

by Jay Mankus

 

Draw Near

In the Old Testament, God’s presence is limited to a few select individuals.  After Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden at the end of Genesis 3, intimacy with God was severed.  Thus, God revealed himself to the forefathers of Israel, prophets and some leaders to guide and direct their paths.  However, due to continued disobedience throughout several centuries, God decides go silent for 400 years serving as a transition for the New Testament.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Before Jesus arrived on to the scene, priests were used as a mediator between God and mankind.  To atone for sin, priests performed animals sacrifices with the shedding of blood to cleanse individuals, families and cities from their transgressions.  Without practicing this biblical principle, forgiveness is not obtained.  Therefore, drawing near to God can not occur unless repentance and contrition has been completed.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:22.

The new covenant introduced to his disciples during the Last Supper, Jesus eliminated the need for the Old Testament practice mentioned above.  Described as the Lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice without blemish, Jesus laid down his own life so that in Him, we too might have life.  While worshiping God at a building, home or a temple is still a vital aspect of faith, you can draw near to God anywhere and anytime.  As you draw near, God’s grace is a free gift available to all approach the Lord with a sincere heart, eager to forgive sinners as far as the East is from the West.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Prayer Fails

When things begin to unravel or fail apart, I’m the kind of person that wants to know why.  Thus, as I experience long periods of unanswered prayers, I begin to meditate, ponder and reflect on possible explanations.  What I discovered are three main reasons why some of my past prayers have failed.

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! – Isaiah 1:15

1. Confession without Contrition

There are times when individuals are sorry for sinful acts, but haven’t done anything to stop this from reoccurring.  In the days of the prophet Isaiah, some Jews began to offer sacrifices to the Lord without a contrite heart.  Thus, when people lifted up concerns to God before dealing with addictions, bad habits or wayward behavior, the Lord refused to listen.

However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you, Deuteronomy 28:15.

2. Walking in Disobedience

The longer I live, the more I find myself in some sort of spiritual funk.  Time has a way of altering priorities which usually leaves God low on your list.  According to Moses, getting God’s attention is fairly simple.  Obey the Lord and carefully follow all of the commands. Unfortunately, most forget about the all, picking and choosing the passages in the Bible that they like and disregarding those that are cumbersome.  Subsequently, many wander away like a prodigal, bringing curses instead of blessings from heaven.

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:15.

3. An Unforgiving Heart

While faith is a crucial element to seeing prayers fulfilled, refusing to forgive is like the kiss of death.  The concept of Reaping and Sowing directly applies to your heart.  Therefore, if you can’t let go, get over and move on, the Lord will not forgive you.  So if days, weeks, months or years go by without seeing any fruits of prayer, perhaps one of these three areas is preventing God’s power from being unleashed.  Whether its acts of contrition, making a U-Turn back to Jesus or finding the grace to forgive, may you be on your way to unlocking the barriers keeping you from seeing heaven come down to earth in the form of answers to prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiven… Not Excused

One of my weakest areas as a high school teacher was consistently disciplining students by the same standards day in and day out.  When I was in a good mood, I tended to be more patient, forgiving or overlooking acts I normally confronted or punished.  Meanwhile, if I was frustrated or irritated by a previous class, the wrath of Mr. Mankus came down in full force, kicking students out of class or sending several willing participants to after school detention.  In a sense, my goal was to communicate the message, “you’re forgiven, yet not excused for your behavior.

 

As a parent, this struggle has become more complicated as my kids have grown up and become too comfortable to their laid back dad.  Whenever I try to corral them toward a desired behavior, I receive sarcasm, creating a chain of laughter at my dinner table.  Discipline is like an art form which requires discernment, firmness and a set of values to abide by.  Bribing my children doesn’t work as well as it once was, spanking only worked when they were younger and yelling is too exhausting.  Although I am imperfect, all I can do is strive to live out Proverbs 22:6, proclaiming, “you’re forgiven by not excused from your actions.”

John 8:1-11 contains a woman whose hand in caught in the cookie jar of sin.  Before the days of judges and juries, the religious leaders were old school, taking action right away.  Interrupting Jesus’ teaching, the Pharisees were eager to apply the law of Moses, seeking the death penalty for the adulterer.  Thinking of his journey to the cross, Jesus turned his attention to perfection, looking for the guiltless to pick up the first stone.  Writing down the sins of the people in the crowd in the sand, the accusers leave one by one, dropping their rocks on their way home.  Although the crowd fled, Jesus didn’t let the woman off easy.  John 8:11 implies once you ask God for forgiveness, an act of contrition is necessary.  Jesus loves you just the way you are, but cares enough to move you beyond sin.  Therefore, the next time you receive forgiveness, God expects genuine repentance, turning 180 degrees toward Him, leaving sinful ways in the rear view mirror.

by Jay Mankus

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