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When You Are Powerless to Act… Try a Different Kind of Fast (the Esther Fast)

Every January fitness centers across the country are filled with individuals trying to recover from poor diets, a lack of exercise or extra weight that seems impossible to shed. By the end of winter, many who fail to see any change, progress or signs of transformation give up on their New Year Resolutions. Meanwhile, Christians who develop bad spiritual habits fight a similar battle. When reading the Bible becomes rare, praying feels more like a chore or getting up for worship doesn’t happen, you can reach a state where you feel powerless to act.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:13-14

There are several examples in the Bible where broken hearted individuals, who felt powerless to act, began to fast and pray for God to intervene. Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself so out of shape spiritually that I don’t have the commitment, focus and strength to follow in the footsteps of Daniel, Nehemiah and Moses. Yet, there is another option. The Book of Esther provides a different kind of fast. Instead of fasting and praying quietly on your own, Esther urges every Jew to fast for three days for her. The goal of this fast was to provide Esther with the words needed to persuade King Ahasuerus to overturn Haman’s decree to kill all the Jews.

Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went away and did all that Esther had commanded him, Esther 4:15-17.

This was a life or death matter. From Esther’s perspective, she wasn’t able to fast, not wanting to insult the king by not eating the food prepared for her each day. Thus, Esther was forced to rely on God’s people to intervene, praying for a miracle, the right words to say or justice to prevail. Imagine if local churches, communities and followers of Christ began Esther Fasts each week, focusing on a needy cause, person or soul? When you are powerless to act, don’t be afraid to reach out for help by requesting others to fast and pray for you. I pray that the concept of a Esther Fast will take root in 2020, awakening souls, renewing faith and energizing the body of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

A Key Ingredient for Success

During my interactions with family over Thanksgiving, the best tasting dishes elicited desires to ascertain the recipe. Some were provided from memory while others were derived from cookbooks and homemade recipes past down for a generation. This topic of conversation made me ponder, what is a key ingredient for success beyond cooking?

Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass, Psalm 37:5.

As I Stopped to listen to an interview while channel surfing, I heard a guest speaker talk about the important of desire. When experience and talent is limited, desire is the one thing that will propel individuals forward, striving to overcome failure after failure. Desire provides inspiration when hope and progress begin to diminish. Yet, if desire persists and breeds perseverance, desire becomes a key ingredient for success.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall will be filled, Matthew 5:6,”.

Whether you are referring to chasing dreams. fulfilling goals or losing weight, desire is one of the few aspects in life that you can control. Desire can ignite conviction, instill discipline and inspire change when progress doesn’t occur right away. Thus, if you want to start your 2020 New Year’s resolutions early or make good on vows from 2019 or earlier, desire is a key ingredient for future success.

by Jay Mankus

Pressured to Make a Change

As my oldest son James completes his final semester at Liberty University, I have become one of his guinea pigs. Part of his current Exercise Science class involves serving as a personal trainer for his parents, Leanne and I. After filling out a questionnaire, doing a stress test over the course of one week and checking my blood pressure, heart rate and pulse daily, James has designed a workout schedule based upon our physical states.

If you point out these instructions to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished [through study] on the words of the faith and of the good [Christian] doctrine which you have closely followed, 1 Timothy 4:6.

Unfortunately, my last few measurements of blood pressure were off the charts. Before I could exercise week one, I needed to be placed back on high blood pressure medication. Once my blood pressure readings return to normal, I can begin to get back into shape. However, this harsh reality is God’s way of opening my eyes to how badly I have taken care of my body. After initially watching my diet early in 2019, I having given into junk food.

But have nothing to do with irreverent folklore and silly myths. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything and in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:7-8.

As I reflect upon my current condition, a lack of balance in my life is to blame. In a letter to a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul writes about a good minister’s discipline. Without using the term balance, Paul urges Timothy to make time for physical and spiritual exercise. While Paul places more emphasis on spiritual growth, physical training does play a valuable role. Thus, as I struggle to regain my health, I guess you can say that this experience has pressured me into making a change for the better.

by Jay Mankus

If I Don’t Do What God Calls Me to Do…What Does That Make Me?

In today’s softer, gentler climate, you don’t see many “in your face” personality types anymore.  These characters are often reserved for the military, personal trainers or professional sports.  Yet, during the first century, there was one man who didn’t care how you felt.  Rather, the apostle Paul was blunt, honest and serious in his letters to Christian congregations.  When you don’t do what God calls you to do, this lack of action causes you to be separated from God.

For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, beguiled and completely deceived me, and using it as a weapon killed me [separating me from God], Romans 7:11.

Sin is like catching a spiritual cold.  If you don’t take medicine such as studying the Bible, praying and worshipping God, your condition will worsen.  This virus attacks individuals on two fronts, your body and mind.  Human bodies require boundaries, exercise and routines.  If you fail to make time for God daily, out of sight, out of mind will cause souls to place God and your faith on a shelf to collect dust.  Meanwhile, demons and evil spirits influence minds by planting seeds of doubt.  These thoughts if unchecked can kill your joy for life.

 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. 16 Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). 17 So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me, Romans 7:15-17.

In the passage above, Paul hints at what it is like to be addicted to a specific sin.  Whether this is cheating, cursing, eating unhealthy, indulging your flesh in unwholesome ways or lying, breaking any bad habit is difficult.  Making a drastic change requires will power that many people lack.  Thus, all too often sinners throw in the towel, quit and wave the white flag, surrendering to Satan.  If this blog finds you in a similar state, ask God for the resolve necessary to fight through your ordeal.  Lean on the promise of Romans 7:24-25 so that failure does not define your life.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Atrophy

Atrophy refers to the process in which body tissue or organs slowly waste away often due to the degeneration of cells.  Symptoms of atrophy include decay, deterioration, shrinking or withering away until human bodies no longer function as God designed them.  When this condition is diagnosed, aggressive physical therapy is necessary to prevent further complications.  Human beings are not the only things vulnerable to atrophy.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Belief, faith and spiritual disciplines can be attacked.  Satan uses compromise, deceit, half-truths and lust to lull Christians into bad habits.  If these patterns persists, it doesn’t take long for a fervent faith to be persuaded into following in the footsteps of the prodigal son.  The apostle Paul uses the term bewitched in a letter to the church at Galatia.  Like atrophy within the human body, initial signs are subtle.  Yet, when minds begin to justify and rationalize wrong actions, spiritual atrophy can become aggressive.

Now before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, [perpetually] imprisoned [in preparation] for the faith that was destined to be revealed, 24 with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under [the control and authority of] a tutor and disciplinarian, Galatians 3:23-25.

A group known as the Judaizers had infiltrated this congregation.  Clinging to religious traditions of Judaism, these zealots began to add conditions to salvation, confusing many of the new converts to faith in Christ.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul explained the original purpose of the law.  However, Jesus came to abolish the law, opening the door for freewill.  Instead of forcing people to believe, God uses freewill to introduce grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who fully repent, turning away from sin and toward God.  This is the cure to spiritual atrophy, taking time each day to pray, thank God and yield your life to Christ alone.  Pursuing godliness is like therapy to overcome the affects of spiritual atrophy.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Maybe It’s Make Believe?

According to systematic research within the field of child psychology, there are benefits for children engaging in pretend games.  Based upon an article in Psychology Today, Jerome and Dorothy Singer suggest this type of behavior is acceptable up to age seven.  Recent studies have found cognitive benefits to pretending as participants increase their language usage while role playing adults.  Meanwhile, the concept “theory of the mind” is developed and enhanced by children who exercise their imaginations by pretending.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1.

If you had to summarize 2017 in American History, some might suggest this is the year of “fake news.”  After a series of anonymous sources, articles and media reports were proven to be false, president Donald Trump took a phrase previously used and made fake news his trademark term.  As a former journalist, I know that there is a degree of truth in every statement.  However, when a bias exists within the mainstream media, exaggerations, opinions and theories are often shaped in such a way to be conceived as fact or the truth.  Perhaps, some individuals have never grown up, still pretending as if a six or seven year old.  This behavior has tainted current journalists and reporters, causing the average American to wonder, “maybe this story is make believe?”

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world, 1 John 4:1.

As you grow older, you will meet adults who want to hear themselves speak.  Maybe, these individuals were ignored as children growing up.  On some occasions I have met co-workers who pretend to living an amazing life.  Upon further review, digging deeper through a series of questions, I discovered these adults were simply living a lie.  According to the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, the first century was full of people who twisted the truth.  Thus, unless you test what you hear against the Bible, history and reality, you become vulnerable to believing a distortion of the truth.  May the lessons of 2017 make you wiser in 2018, practicing the advice of the Bible by dong your homework before believing that which is reported.

by Jay Mankus

 

Therapy

When I was six years old I broke my leg after jumping off an above ground pool.  In a split second, an entire year was lost to injury with six months stuck in an old plaster cast.  Once the doctors removed the cast, my muscles and skin took another six months to fully recover.  Modern techniques in physical therapy have sped up the healing process enabling bodies to return faster than ever to a routine life prior to any accident that you may have suffered.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:18.

According to a recent Newsweek article, nearly one in five Americans will suffer from some sort of mental illness over the course of their life.  If the mind is a terrible thing to waste, then perhaps it’s time to seek advice, counseling or therapy to improve one’s mental state.  In a letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encourages individuals to get your own life right before trying to minister to others, Philippians 2:1-3.  Despite your desire to help others, sometimes it’s better to wait until your own mind becomes reinvigorated.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:26

The motto of the YMCA focuses and the body, mind and soul.  Exercise keeps the body in good shape.  Meanwhile, memorizing verses from the Bible and applying biblical principles keeps the human mind strong.  However, the soul is often neglected despite serving as people’s inmost being.  Thus, therapy for the soul begins with purpose and meaning in life.  As a tax collector once said, “what good is it to amass worldly riches only to forfeit your soul.”  Therefore, do let another day go by without asking the Holy Spirit for help.  Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and God’s door will be opened to receive the therapy that you need.

by Jay Mankus

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