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Concentrate Your Prayers

When individuals participate in a long conversation, you may reach a point where you lose focus. While some topics are so fascinating that discussions will last for hours, others get old fast as you try to slip away to avoid wasting any more time. The talks that I remember the most in life are the ones that I was captivated by someone or something. Your degree of concentration tends to make the difference between a boring and interesting conversation.

Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19.

Conversation is the action or power of focusing one’s attention by using a concerted mental effort. When Christians enter into a conversation with God via prayer, there are many distractions that may abruptly end this spiritual connection. The apostle Paul wrote two letters to the Church at Thessalonica. In each letter Paul makes a point to encourage believers to concentrate their prayers.

Furthermore, brethren, do pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on (spread rapidly and run its course) and be glorified (extolled) and triumph, even as [it has done] with you, 2 Thessalonians 3:1.

The first mention refers to developing a prayerful mindset. When prayer become unceasing, a hedge of protection is formed so that you will be prepared for whatever circumstance comes your way. Meanwhile, if you begin to pray for the Great Commission to be fulfilled, Matthew 28:19-20, the Word of the Lord will continue to spread. Despite the rise and fall of emotions in this life, concentrate your prayers so that God will be glorified.

by Jay Mankus

The Real Global Warning Threat

The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s may have conceived a generation of scientists who adhere to and subscribe to the belief that global warming as the greatest threat to the future of the earth. This one event served as a painful lesson for farmers who over tilled their land, contributing to American’s Great Depression, spawning a decade from 1929 to 1939. To modern followers of global warming, there is no time to waste, whatever the cost may be to save this planet.

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it, Ephesians 4:29.

While preserving the earth is a noble cause, another global warning was recorded in the first century. Instead of highlighting the dangers of fossil fuel, the apostle Paul refers to a spiritual pandemic that began to spin out of control. This verbal pollution has taken a toll on souls for the past 2000 years. Gossip, slander, and trash talking have been embraced by social media, using entertainment as an excuse to keep sinning with a smile.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). 31 Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind), Ephesians 4:30-31.

Apparently, the use of evil comments, hate filled speech, and unwholesome talk grieves the Holy Spirit. Human beings were designed to encourage and lift one another up. Yet, as global warming steals most of the news headlines, politicians seek to destroy anyone who does not hold or support their secular world view. Subsequently, dissenters are shamed on social media, often using false stereotypes to force a public apology. The decay of biblical values in America is the real global warning threat that must be addressed before faith in God becomes banned worldwide.

by Jay Mankus

Open My Eyes Through Faith

Paul Baloche was sitting in a pew, listening to his pastor pray for the congregation. Upon hearing the expression “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see you,” Baloche was inspired to write a song. Baloche’s soul was touched by the wisdom of this prayer request. As Paul Harvey once said on his radio broadcast, “and now you know The Rest of the Story.”

When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept, Genesis 21:15-16.

After Sarah convinced Abraham to cast out one of his maid servants, Hagar and Ishmael were forced into the wilderness to find a new place to live. When Hagar ran out of water, she lost hope, laying down her child in the shade under a shrub. Unsure of what to do next, Hagar found an appropriate place to weep and cry out to the Lord. Sensing death was near, the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar. Despite being consumed by despair, the Lord opened Hagar’s eyes to a miracle, an empty bottle now filled with water.

And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is. Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink, Genesis 21:17-19.

The Coronavirus has forced the world to view life through a new lens and perspective. The idea of sitting down with friends inside a restaurant seems like a foreign concept today. Yet, sometime in the near future, the fears of COVID-19 will pass, replaced by a new concern, fear or worry. However, as long as desperate hearts cry out to the Lord in prayer, your eyes will be opened to see all the good things God provides, James 1:17. This is my prayer for 2021 that eyes will be opened through faith in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

The Secret to Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones first sang about the inability to find satisfaction in their 1965 hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. When one’s expectations, needs, or wishes go unfulfilled, an uneasy feeling begins to consume souls. As individuals begin to compare their lives with successful people, focuses shift from what you have to what you don’t. Thus, the invisible and unseen blessings that could lead to satisfaction are often ignored, resulting in a troubled heart.

I was made very happy in the Lord that now you have revived your interest in my welfare after so long a time; you were indeed thinking of me, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am, Philippians 4:10-11.

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul finds himself in chains, behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit. Instead of allowing bitterness to overwhelm his heart, writing a letter to the Church at Philippi appears to have brought a sense peace to Paul, Philippians 4:7. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to encourage these first century saints to focus on the positive aspects in life, Philippians 4:8. In the passages that follow, Paul reveals the secret to finding satisfaction.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. 13 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:12-13.

This secret includes 3 key principles. The first is remembering God’s purpose for your life, Jeremiah 29:11. The second piece of advice is relying on God’s Spirit within you to make a change for the better, Philippians 4:13. Finally, if you want to find satisfaction, redeem God’s promises for your future, Philippians 1:9-10. Whatever formula that may be out there, nothing is guaranteed in this life. Thus, until you begin to put Jesus’ words into action, Matthew 7:24, satisfaction is just another word.

by Jay Mankus

When a Joy Ride is Interrupted by Stress

The term joy is found over 150 times in the Bible. When you add similar expressions such as “joyful” and “joyous”, joy is mentioned over 200 times. While the phrase joyride refers to a ride taken for pleasure, usually in an automobile, a New York City judge derived this term in the context of stealing cars or reckless driving. Nonetheless, when a joyous occasion rejuvenates your soul, lives glide through days with a positive mindset.

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice! Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. Philippians 4:4-6.

Unfortunately, moments of joy are often rudely interrupted by stress and worry. There are 40 different passages in the Bible that address the topic of stress and hard times. Meanwhile, worry is used 38 times in the Bible. One of the greatest examples of a joy ride being interrupted by stress is found in Matthew 16. Peter goes from being praised by Jesus in verses 17 and 18 to being rebuked moments later in Matthew 16:22, “get behind me Satan.”

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them], Philippians 4:7-8.

During a letter written to Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul felt the need to encourage those overwhelmed by stress and worry. Instead of allowing the enemy to ruin your days of joy, Paul provide advice to stay positive. When you can’t find anything in your life to be thankful for, rejoice in the Lord. Pray for a forbearing spirit so that anxiety, uncontrollable circumstances and stress will roll off your back. The next time your joy is interrupted, let the peace of Christ settle you down.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Be Caught Sleepwalking Through Life

Somnambulism is a behavior disorder that originates during a deep sleep. This results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while still mostly asleep. My first experience sleepwalking occurred during a sleepover as a child. I feel asleep in an upstairs bedroom and ended up on a couch downstairs. Like any perplexed individual, I was shocked and uncertain how I ended up there.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

The apostle Paul uses fallen asleep in a different context, referring to Christians who have passed away. Jesus tells a first century story about falling asleep. In the parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the awake and asleep. Jesus associates the awake with wisdom and the asleep with foolish behavior. The point of this analogy is to encourage individuals to remain alert, sharp and wise.

For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage at all over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

Sleepwalking suggests that you are going through the motions, without any direction, meaning or purpose. To avoid falling asleep spiritually, Jesus calls followers to develop a thirst for life, John 10:10. Yet, there is a spiritual force that tries to lull you to sleep, seeking to steal any joy that you have for life. However, if you follow in the footsteps of the Great Shepherd, laying down your needs and wants for others, this will snap you out of any spells that make you sleepy.

by Jay Mankus

Get Your Mind Right with Belief

Doubt is a natural instinct which serves as a protective predisposition within human minds. Excessive inclinations to always doubt is a byproduct of success being rare and failure a normal occurrence. This hindrance to one’s life prevents individuals from reaching the level and potential God desires for you. If you find yourself reading today stifled by doubt, it’s time get your mind right with belief.

For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit’s] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free, 2 Timothy 4:6.

The context of the passage above is Paul’s final letter before his death. While in prison awaiting his death sentence, Paul writes to encourage a teenage pastor. When an expected outcome ends up falling apart in front of your eyes, maintaining a positive outlook on life is difficult. Thus, Paul reminds readers today that achieving life’s goals requires perseverance. Whenever you suffer your next defeat, carry on with a new found belief.

I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

Like an athlete who leaves everything out on the field, Christians are called to fight to the very end. Instead of trying to sprint a marathon before burning yourself out, you must pace yourself in this race called life. As a former cross country runner, I always wondered why some of my opponents would sprint ahead of me before slowing down to walk. This doesn’t make any sense. In the same manner, if you want to get your mind right, do so with your heart and soul fixed on Jesus, Colossians 3:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

The Fight to Survive

The song I Will Survive was written and composed by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. The first recording of this song was done by Gloria Gaynor in 1978. As a top-selling song, I Will Survive became a popular disco anthem. The lyrics just prior to the opening chorus reads “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?” This line leads into “Oh, no, not I, I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive, I will survive, hey, hey.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

Over the past 9 months, the fight to survive has taken on a new meaning. Between the Coronavirus, the lock down designed to flatten the curve, wearing masks in public and the stress to keep up with your bills has worn down countless souls. Meanwhile, as individuals have been stuck inside their homes, addiction, abuse, depression and suicide has skyrocketed. All it takes is just one more setback to push people over the edge, losing the will to live and survive. While I’ve probably been more fortunate than most in 2020, I too have known individuals who have lost their battle with COVID-19.

In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—Ephesians 2:2

While some have blamed God for this worldwide plague, the Bible points to a spiritual enemy. Jesus calls this character a thief, seeking to kill your dreams, steal your joy and eliminate the concept of hope. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul eludes to the spiritual dimension where Lucifer reigns, commanding demons to attack at a moments notice. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 provides advice, directions and insight to deal with these dark powers. The only way to fight back is by using spiritual weapons. May this blog encourage you to not lose hope so that you will survive your next trial.

by Jay Mankus

The Pursuit of Love

The popular board game Trivial Pursuit was created on December 15 1979, by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. The concept for this game was conceived while Abbott and Haney were playing Scrabble one night. Perhaps, the beer these Canadian newspaper editors were drinking allowed their minds to consider the possibilities. For the past forty years, this game has inspired competitive individuals toward a pursuit of knowledge.

But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love], 1 Corinthians 12:31.

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul wrote about another pursuit. Framed between “the love chapter in the Bible,” Paul encourages Christians to pursue love in the context of spiritual gifts. Instead of creating a divide within the body of Christ by claiming, “my gift is better than yours,” Paul reminds believers to make love your inspiration. When love becomes your motivation to act, God gets the glory, not you.

Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts), especially that you may prophesy (interpret the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching), 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Based upon the passage above, love is a mindset that you should seek to acquire and pursue. This pursuit is so important to Paul that it has become his aim. earnest desire, and great quest to obtain love. Genuine love is selfless, seeing how your own spiritual gift can be used to fulfill God’s will. This pursuit doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, as Christians ascertain, discover and cultivate spiritual gifts, the pursuit of love is possible with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Civil Disobedience?

In the past few years, criminal justice reform has changed how law makers view crime. New legislation introduced by California no longer prosecutes individuals who shop lift items under one thousand dollars. This decision has created a loop hole that appears to encourage civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the active refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government.

So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, 28 Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us, Acts 5:27-28.

During the first century, followers of Jesus needed to comply with Roman and religious regulations. The Sanhedrin served as the supreme Jewish legislative and judicial court. The context of the passage above finds that disciples were preaching and teaching Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. This was in conflict with the council’s beliefs. Thus, the disciples were warned to stop publicly teaching the gospel message.

Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, Whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree (cross). 31 God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him, Acts 5:29-32.

Instead of backing down to comply with religious leaders, the apostles take a stand. When man made rules go around the teachings of the Bible, Peter explains why civil disobedience is necessary on this occasion. Instead of abandoning their convictions, the apostles stayed true to their beliefs. When you fast forward to later in the first century, many of Jesus’ disciples were willing to die rather than deny their faith. This is the moral dilemma that exists when you decide to exercise civil disobedience like the New Jersey owners of Atilis Gym.

by Jay Mankus

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