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Tag Archives: fasting and prayer

S.A.N.S. Episode 97: I Give Myself Away

I stumbled upon today’s featured song while searching for inspiration worship songs for a fast back in January. Prior to this search, I had never heard of William McDowell. William’s voice and spirit poured out in I Give Away myself reminds me some of Babbie Mason’s songs. McDowell does a wonderful job of combining music with a prayer in I Give Myself Away.

So by whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] strengthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive [a]incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the [Holy] Spirit [we share], and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy, Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention, Philippians 2:1-2.

The lyrics of I Give Myself Away blends scripture into this song. The apostle Paul writes in the passage above about developing the same attitude and mindset of Christ. Just as Jesus laid down his life for his friends, Romans 5:8, God calls Christians today to give our lives away by making Jesus the Lord of our life. May this song touch your heart and stir your soul as it has done for me and my friends.

by Jay Mankus

The First Fruits of a New Year

The concept of biblical first fruits is one of those things I always struggled to visualize. First fruits is introduced in Genesis 4 where two brothers are called by God to give an offering up to the Lord. Since Cain was a farmer and food takes time to grow, he was hesitant to give God the best crops that he just picked. Meanwhile, Abel was a shepherd and offered up his very best sheep to the Lord. Abel gave his first fruit of the year believing God would provide in the future, but Cain held back food, doubting God.

And [we obligate ourselves] to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the first of all the fruit of all trees year by year to the house of the Lord, 36 As well as the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as is written in the Law, and the firstlings of our herds and flocks, to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in [His] house. 37 And we shall bring the first and best of our coarse meal, our contributions, the fruit of all kinds of trees, of new wine, and of oil to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God. And we shall bring the tithes from our ground to the Levites, for they, the Levites, collect the tithes in all our rural towns, Nehemiah 10:35-37.

Nehemiah was living in exile, serving as bodyguard for the king of Persia. One day a messenger sent word to Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken and the gates were on fire. This devastating news stirred Nehemiah’s heart, inspiring an extended period of fasting and prayer. Following this time of mourning, God gave Nehemiah a vision and plan to repair and rebuild the wall. The passage above serves as a celebration to give first fruits to the Lord as the wall surrounding Jerusalem was completed.

And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself], James 1:18.

The earthly brother of James provides a modern interpretation of first fruits. Instead of offering up a sacrifice similar to that of the Old Testament, our lives should be a demonstration that we’re serve a living God. As you read and study the Bible today, you should be inspired to live out your faith like Jesus, Romans 10:17. Colossians 3:17 and 23 provide a call to action. “Whatever you do, whether in action or words, do this all in the name of Jesus” as a first fruits offering in this new year.

by Jay Mankus

When Satan Hinders and Impedes Your Spiritual Progress

Every day a new set of obstacles arise with the sun. Some of these challenges are recognizable, allowing individuals to easily side step these obstructions. Unfortunately, many of these impediments will come as complete surprises, catching the average citizen off guard and unprepared for what lies ahead for the future. Thus, when the sunsets to end your day, many are left scratching their head mumbling, “how did this happen and why?”

But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a little while in person, [of course] not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great longing to see you face to face,18 Because it was our will to come to you. [I mean that] I, Paul, again and again [wanted to come], but Satan hindered and impeded us, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18.

In the first century, the apostle Paul didn’t believe in bad luck. Rather, when strange things started to happen to hinder and impede his most recent missionary journey, Paul blamed Satan. When your spiritual opponent is able to masquerade as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14, faith must be elevated. If the enemy is the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, it time to start fighting back with spiritual weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:7-8.

One of Jesus’ disciples shares his own recollection of Satan’s attacks. As Peter was about to celebrate a victorious moment in his life, Matthew 16:16-18, a few moments later everything changed. Peter goes from a spiritual hero to being accused of being on Satan’s side, Matthew 16:22-23. When Satan hinders or impedes your spiritual progress, it’s essential that you take your thoughts captive. Just as Jesus used fasting and prayer to overcome temptation, Matthew 4:1-11, be vigilant so you can withstand the next spiritual attack that you’ll face. When you draw near to God, the Devil flees, James 4:7.

by Jay Mankus

Ripe in Understanding

To a trained eye, farmers can recognize the difference between a developing crop to the point of readiness for harvesting and eating. Whether you’re talking about a field of corn, soybeans or an orchard, there are certain signs that distinguish full grown fruits from those not yet mature. To become ripe in understanding takes experience, training and years of working out in various fields. This process isn’t as clear or as easy when it comes to acquiring spiritual knowledge.

So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God, 1 Corinthians 2:5.

The apostle Paul writes about how philosophers placed their faith in the wisdom of men. While elements of philosophy may be beneficial, trusting in logic, science and the wisdom of the world became a spiritual stumbling block in the first century. Instead of being ripe in understanding, these individuals were denied access to divine knowledge and wisdom. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues. Only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit, charity, hope and faith is limited to Christians who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.

Yet when we are among the full-grown (spiritually mature Christians who are ripe in understanding), we do impart a [higher] wisdom (the knowledge of the divine plan previously hidden); but it is indeed not a wisdom of this present age or of this world nor of the leaders and rulers of this age, who are being brought to nothing and are doomed to pass away, 1 Corinthians 2:6.

Nearly two thousand years later, finding someone ripe in spiritual understanding is rare. Instead, many people accept, believe and cling to the ideals of this progressive age. The byproduct of this reality has insured that Common Core, Global Warming and other secular views have been interwoven into public education. Anyone ripe in spiritual understanding who attacks, challenges or exposes the flaws of these worldviews is demonized. Instead of allowing a healthy public debate, deniers are quickly shut down. The only way to break through to others is by fasting and prayer. As for the meantime, the ripe in understanding should concentrate on sowing spiritual seeds as COVID-19 continues to impact communities.

by Jay Mankus

Carnivore or Vegetarian?

A carnivore are creatures that feed on the flesh of other animals. Any mammal that falls into this classification eats mainly meat. Meanwhile, vegetarians are at the other end of this spectrum, consuming mainly fruits and vegetables. This dietary lifestyle is often inspired by health, moral or religious convictions. According to a 2017 study, only 2% of Americans are vegetarians with 1/4 of these individuals claiming to be vegan.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8. But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please, test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink, Daniel 1:11-12.

Every year pastors of certain congregations participate in a Daniel Fast at the beginning of January. When Israelites were taken into captivity by Babylon, one man was unwilling to change his strict diet. The passage above details to very first Daniel Fast. Similar to Catholics who give up eating meat during the season of Lent, fasting enables believers to focus on God for a specific period of time. Since Old Testament law prohibited Jews from eating food from unclean animals, taking steps to become a vegetarian is a way to honor and please God.

For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]; Romans 8:5-6.

The New Testament reveals the spiritual symbolism between carnivores and vegetarians. In the passage above, the apostle Paul compares carnal desires to fleshly desires. In a letter to Galatia, this behavior is described as a sinful nature, contrary to what God desires. Instead of including vegetables within this analogy, the polar opposite of carnal desires is the Holy Spirit. Thus, eating healthy is one thing. However, obeying God has spiritual ramifications. The apostle Paul compares this to a battle between mind over matter. While deciding to be a carnivore or vegetarian is optional, God demands followers of Christ to steer clear of carnal desires.

by Jay Mankus

Is Hindsight 20/20?

Hindsight is defined as the understanding of a situation or event only after it has developed or happened.  For the past two years, a large cataract hindered my ability to see out of my right eye.  While I experienced periods of improvement, last summer my eye doctor suggested it’s time to deal with this situation.  As I struggled to read fine print, I came to the same conclusion, scheduling a surgery for late November.  A series of unforeseen events forced this operation to be postponed until last Thursday.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

Like any procedure, I was afraid, not knowing the ultimate outcome.  Before I was given drugs to numb the pain, I made my peace with God.  When the nurse at the front desk asked me for my will and testament prior to being admitted, worst case scenarios raced through my mind.  This request likely elevated my blood pressure so high that my first operation was cancelled.  As a person of faith, I wrestle with relying on medicine to resolve health problems.  However, when changes in diet, fasting and prayer does not improve your condition, my operation served as a last resort.  While the healing process takes roughly two weeks, only time will tell if my sight will be fully restored.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

I feel like the prophet Isaiah is speaking to me in the passage above.  I have no control over how well eye will recover.  Sure, I can listen to my doctor’s directions by taking my daily prescriptions, but the degree of healing is in God’s hand.  My dream of writing screen plays is dependent upon the final outcome of my cataract surgery.  Thus, all I can do is place my trust in the Lord,  believing that God will help improve my condition.  Although I am not considering this trial a pure joy as James 1:2-4 suggests, I am relying on hindsight, remembering how God has provided for me in the past.

by Jay Mankus

Lairs of Satan

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead, Revelation 3:1.

Regardless of the subject or topic, there will always be extremes on either side of the issue.  For example, denominations vary on the theological role the Devil, Lucifer and Satan play on this life.  Charismatic churches encourage prayer which serves as a hedge of protection against demonic activity.  Meanwhile, moderate mainline churches do not emphasize spiritual warfare, speaking of Satan in symbolic terms and theory.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,” Matthew 16:23.

During the first century, Jesus wasn’t afraid to address controversial topics.  While addressing his disciples in private, Jesus exposes mindsets of the Devil.  Similar to the speel dished out to Eve that convinced her to eat forbidden fruit, Satan attempts to take human minds off of God’s concerns.  This is done through the temptation of instant gratification.  Apparently, Peter fell prey to this trap sent from Satan’s lair to his mind by a demon.

I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you, Revelation 3:9.

In the book of Revelation, John writes sevens letters to churches chosen by the Holy Spirit.  John does not sugar coat the spiritual condition of these congregations.  One is described as being dead, another lukewarm and one with segments of Satan sitting inside the pews.  If every city has a safe and dangerous section of town, why is it so hard to imagine that the same concept exists in the spiritual realm.  As the moral fabric of America continues to crumble, perhaps there are lairs of Satan entrapping souls through an addiction to sin.  Unless these dominions of darkness are uncovered with fasting and prayer, demonic powers will continue to reign.  May the Holy Spirit open our eyes and inspire more people to put on the armor of God daily, Ephesians 6:10-20.

by Jay Mankus

My Daily Bread

The concept of daily bread was introduced to Israel following the exodus out of Egypt.  What was meant to be a short journey into the promised land, became a 40 year journey in the wilderness.  To survive the extreme conditions of the desert, God sent manna 6 days a week, daily bread for hungry souls.  When some began to grumble, the Lord sent quail to satisfy starving stomachs.  When people become helpless, God provides daily bread for life.

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food, Job 23:12.

During his preparation prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus withdrew into a desert.  Although, this region may have differed from the trek the Israelites took, fasting and prayer fueled Jesus.  Thus, as the devil approached with his twisting of the truth, Jesus was aimed with the right attitude.  Subsequently, when hunger pains began to surface, Jesus understood bread only takes you so far.  Rather, God’s Word is daily bread which makes you whole.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,’ Matthew 4:3-4.

One of the reasons this world appears to be upside down is that many are looking for love in all the wrong places.  Hunger is being satisfied by earthly pleasures.  Yet, this choice is similar to eating sugar instead of a healthy meal.  Subsequently, many lack the spiritual protein found in studying the Word of God.  If individuals would only turn to trusting in the Lord, feasting on daily bread could turn your life around.  Choose the true breakfast of champions, meditating of the Bible daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Moving Beyond Hunger Pains to Experience Worship

A decade ago I attended a Bible Study and Sunday School with a few individuals who introduced to me to the Daniel Fast.  When the Babylonians invaded Israel in the Old Testament, several young Jews were taken back to Babylon.  Held captive against their will, these teenagers were reprogrammed to a new culture by king Nebuchadnezzar.  Overwhelmed with conviction, Daniel proposed a 10 day eating challenge limited to fruits, vegetables and water to a chief official.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way, Daniel 1:8.

This proposal has evolved into what churches refer to as the Daniel Fast, a three week period to eat healthy.  Some where along the way, 10 days was extended to 21, usually occurring at the beginning of each year.  To avoid shocking my own body, I do a modified fast in 7 day segments.  By the end of the first week, I give up soda or tea to transition over to water.  Depending on how I feel after 2 weeks, I might do a strict fast the last 7 days.  However, the hardest part of any fast involves coping with hunger pains which can ruin the spirits of any participant.

“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink,” Daniel 1:12.

Although, I am still relatively a newbie when it comes to fasting, I discover something new each January.  During my first week of this year’s fast, the Holy Spirit placed a thought in my mind, “to move beyond hunger pains to experience worship.”  While I still have 2 more weeks to go, this mindset is helping me see the purpose of fasting, to draw closer to the Lord by worshiping God daily.  Thus, the next time you feel called to begin a fast, don’t forget to move beyond hunger pains to experience a heart set on worshiping God.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Slow Fast

I grew up in a competitive neighborhood, with several talented athletes.  Every summer we had races to see who was the fastest.  Although I did lose to a girl once, most of the time I was a step quicker than everyone else.  This environment led me to become long distance runner, finding my niche in cross country.  Perhaps this may explain why I have become an impatient adult, always in a hurry to get to no where.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; Joel 2:12.

In recent years, my paths have crossed with several individuals who fast at the beginning of each calendar year.  Since I enjoy eating, this spiritual discipline hasn’t come easy, more painful than beneficial.  Some friends have passed on helpful resources like books written by Jentzeen Franklin to help me get over the proverbial hump.  Yet, my heart hasn’t been ready to commit to this until now.

When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach, Psalm 69:10.

While my current weight, the heaviest ever is one motivating factor, another reason to begin a fast is to pave a clear path for my future.  After listening to a few sermons in December, I found the easiest fast if there is such a thing is a Daniel Fast, twenty one days of eating fruits, vegetables and forgoing soft drinks for water.  Based upon Daniel’s experience during his captivity in Babylon, at the end of this period Daniel and his friends appeared healthier than those who ate the king’s food.  Thus, as I ease my way into this fast, I wait in eager expectation of the insight and life lessons the Lord will teach me over this 21 day journey.  If the timing is right, you can start as similar fast any time throughout 2016.

by Jay Mankus

 

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