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Tag Archives: God’s will

Wrestling with God’s Will

Wrestling is an activity of grappling with an opponent; trying to throw or hold them down on the ground.  For any boy growing up with another sibling, wrestling is bound to occur.  Back in my childhood, parents and teachers would refer to this as rough housing.  Unleashing your energy and frustrations upon someone following an argument or disagreement until one or both parties give up.  The most famous wrestling account in the Bible is listed below.

So Jacob was left alone, and a Man [came and] wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the Man saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched his hip joint; and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him, Genesis 32:24-25.

Prior to his encounter with an angel disguised as a man, Jacob developed a reputation as a deceiver.  Jacob bribed his older brother Esau out of his birthright, tricked his father into blessing him and fled from his family history.  In order to become the person God wanted Jacob to be, a wrestling match was preordained.  This night long struggle pushed Jacob to his physical limits, holding on despite having his hip dislocated.  In the eyes of God, Jacob passed this test, primed for bigger and better things in life.  At the conclusion of this event, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament.

Then He said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” 27 So He asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed,” Genesis 32:27-28.

When my life doesn’t take the path that I expect, I try to figure out what went wrong.  From time to time, the cause and effect is obvious, a lack of obedience to God, prayer and worship.  However, there are moments when promises from the Bible, Psalm 37:4, collide with road blocks as dreams and goals are denied or rejected.  This frustration has led me to wonder if becoming a screen writer is part of God’s will.  Am I not delighting myself in the Lord enough or does God want me to pursue another career in the future?  While I am not participating in a physical wrestling match, I find myself wrestling with God’s will.  According to the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, the only way to know God’s will for sure is by offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  If implemented successfully, clarity will come and my own wrestling match to ascertain God’s will can end.

by Jay Mankus

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Is It Really That Simple?

In the past year, a couple of comedians from Hollywood have referred to individuals who pray to God as being mentally ill.  While children have a tendency to have make believe friends, adults who talk out loud to an invisible God seems strange.  Although non-believers may refer to this sight as a sign of mental illness, this spiritual practice is an act of faith.  One day Jesus’ disciples were floundering as novice prayers, asking the son of God for help, to teach them how to pray effectively.

“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you,” Luke 11:9.

In the beginning of Luke chapter 11, Jesus gives his disciples an outline for praying known as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father.  This is similar to modern day acronyms like ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication or PRAY: petition God, repent, adoration for God and your own needs.  After receiving this basic format, perhaps one of the disciples pondered, is it really that simple?  In the passage above and below Jesus responds with the attitude, desire and will necessary to develop a powerful prayer life.

For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened, Luke 11:10.

First, don’t be afraid to ask God.  Since the Lord is all knowing, just verbalize any desire on your heart and thought on your mind.  However, when you do pray, be diligent, eager to hear and see the power of prayer at work in your life.  If any prayer is denied, in limbo or unclear, demonstrate persistence like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.  Jesus doesn’t want passive prayers.  Rather, keep on knocking, wrestling with God in prayer as you seek answers to prayer in the context of God’s will.  For those who seek a deeper relationship with God, may you come to a point when you can honestly say, prayer really is this simple.

by Jay Mankus

Living by Design… Not by Default

I changed my major three times before my junior year of college.  Initially, I went into Business Administration, then Civil Engineering before deciding upon Recreation and Parks Administration.  This indecision forced me to take the five year plan, spending one semester doing an internship in Golf Course Design and Maintenance.  With most of my friends in Cleveland back at school, I volunteered at a local church 2 days a week as an informal youth ministry internship.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse, Romans 1:20.

After graduating in May of 1992, the default position was to accept an apprenticeship in Boston, Massachusetts.  The company performing the redesign in Cleveland wanted me to become familiar with running all of the high tech equipment before guaranteeing a salary.  Unsure of where I would live and how I would I survive without getting paid for six months, I declined this offer.  Instead, I trusted the Holy Spirit to live by God’s design.  This choice led to a position as the Work Camp Coordinator for Inner city Wilmington, Delaware.  While the pay was puny, the experience was life changing.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers, Romans 8:28-29.

Looking back over the past 25 years, I wish I could say that I have followed God’s will throughout my life.  Unfortunately, the older you become, life gets more complicated.  Living by design requires sacrifices that I have been unwilling to submit to and take.  Thus, I find myself today living by default, living pay check to pay check without much purpose or reason.  Although I can’t go back and change the decisions that I have made in the past, I can alter my current course.  Therefore, I urge anyone struggling to find meaning in life to starting living by God’s design, Romans 12:1-2.  Reflect, pray and ask God for vision so that you can begin to seize each day through a life devoted to living by God’s design.

by Jay Mankus

Prayer is the Bow that Sends Children to New Heights

In the context of archery, a bow is an elastic launching device able to shoot long-shafted projectiles.  In the days of the Old Testament, bow and arrows were used for hunting animals to catch your next meal as well as a military regiment, used to defend and protect countries.  When you apply this concept to prayer, praying is a valuable spiritual weapon.  Proactive prayers serve as a hedge of protection around your children and loved ones.  Meanwhile, bowing as you pray sets the tone for God to take your requests seriously, sending your children to new heights.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart [in God’s unlimited power], but believes that what he says is going to take place, it will be done for him [in accordance with God’s will], Mark 11:23.

Based upon the passage above, it appears that Jesus’ disciples did not understand the power of prayer.  Perhaps, many of these godly men got use to praying without experiencing or seeing immediate results.  The thought of praying for God’s unlimited power appears to be a foreign concept.  UN the passage above, Jesus adds an important element, prayers should be spoken in accordance with God’s will.  Thus, prayer shouldn’t be like a grocery list, asking God to gimme this or that.  Rather, prayer should be an outpouring of your heart, soul and mind, free from doubt.

For this reason I am telling you, whatever things you ask for in prayer [in accordance with God’s will], believe [with confident trust] that you have received them, and they will be given to you, Mark 11:24.

As a parent of two teenagers and one college student, I have reached a point that I no longer have the influence over my children as I once did.  Yet, prayer is always available, especially when you feel helpless, unable to alter, correct or guide the steps teenagers take.  The older I become, the more I cling to the power of prayer.  Inspired by the testimonies of parents whose prayers have transformed their prodigal children, use your daily prayer time as a bow to send your children on to new spiritual heights.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystery of Prayer

Seven years ago, my career path took an unexpected turn from a high school Bible teacher to the unemployment line.  Following previous setbacks, God always gave me feedback, insight or some sort of sign to know if I was on the right path.  Unfortunately, my soul has never fully healed from this crushing disappointment, not quite sure what I am suppose to do or where I need to invest my time in the future.  This perplexing situation has lead me to contemplate the mystery of prayer.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

My research has led me to narrow in on three conditions which influence whether or not prayers are answered.  According to Deuteronomy 28, blessings are directly related to diligently listening, obeying the voice of God and carefully following God’s commands in the Bible.  The second piece of criteria is provided by Moses’ predecessor Joshua 1:5-9.  The new leader of Israel introduces the concept of spiritual disciplines which begins with reading, reflecting upon and mediating upon God’s Word.  Finally, Jesus provides the final condition during a conversation with his disciples in Matthew 21:19-22.  If you place your trust and confidence in Jesus, free from doubt, ask whatever you desire in the context of God’s will and the mystery of prayer will be unlocked.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, the apostle Paul instructs first century believers on what to do now.  In a letter to the church of Rome, Paul writes about times when you are struggling to come up with words to say while praying.  According to Paul, this is when you need to lean on the Holy Spirit, trusting God to intervene as you pray.  When I evaluate my own life against these biblical standards, I can clearly see where I have come up short.  Thus, for now I need to get back to the basics: listening to God, studying the Bible, applying what I am learning and submit my life to prayer.  May the words in this blog help you better understand the mystery of prayer.

by Jay Mankus

If There Was Another Way

When individuals can’t live up to the required standards, human nature has a tendency to wonder, is there another way?  This temptation may cause some in leadership roles to make an exception, bend the rules a little bit or stretch the truth.  This mindset didn’t go so well for Adam and Eve, kicked out of the Garden of Eden for breaking God’s only rule.

After going a little farther, He fell to the ground [distressed by the weight of His spiritual burden] and began to pray that if it were possible [in the Father’s will], the hour [of suffering and death for the sins of mankind] might pass from Him, Mark 14:35.

When the thought of suffering and dying on a cross entered Jesus’ mind, raw emotions began to come out.  After sharing his concerns with his inner circle, Jesus turned to prayer to lift up his burdens to his heavenly father.  During this time of prayer, Jesus essentially asked God if there was another way, an alternative to dying.  However, the more Jesus prayed, he came to the conclusion that there is only one way to complete God’s will, suffer and die on a cross.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6.

Skeptics of Christianity are offended by the shear arrogance of Jesus, claiming to be the only way to heaven.  While other religions share similar elements with Christianity, Jesus is only one who is exclusive.  These comments inspired C.S. Lewis to write a chapter entitled Lord, Liar or Lunatic?  Lewis covers each aspect of these terms, examining the true nature of Jesus.  As a former atheist, this thorough analysis transformed his life from a person of science into a man of faith.  While mankind will continue to seek another way to heaven, Jesus remains only plausible path to eternal life.  Don’t take my words; read Mere Christianity for yourself in case you still think there is another way.

by Jay Mankus

The Greatest Temptation

Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter, Matthew 26:40.

When the Son of God spoke in the first century, eager followers flocked to hear his teaching.  Afterward the needy, poor and sick lined up, pushing their way to the front, hoping for a miracle.  To a certain extent, the twelve disciples became complacent, taking their access to the Messiah for granted.  During special occasions Jesus left nine disciples behind, confiding in his inner circle composed of James, John and Peter.  During his greatest temptation, surrendering to religious leaders to be beaten, crucified and left to die, Jesus urges his disciples to pray late into the night.  An hour later Jesus returns to find his trusted leaders sleeping.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Disappointed, Jesus addresses the unseen battle going on within the human body.  The Spirit is willing to yield spiritual fruit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Unfortunately, these traits often lose out to a weakened flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, by giving into temporary pleasures.  Way too often the events of Eden in Genesis 3 are re-enacted daily with forbidden fruits replaced by modern delicacies.  While current readers can take Jesus’ advice at face value, all but one disciple were about to abandon Jesus in his greatest time of need.  John, the one whom Jesus loved is the only disciple who doesn’t go into hiding.  Only one man put Jesus’ words into practice.

He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.

Jesus was a victim of a mob mentality, innocent of the charges made against him accept of course for being the son of God.  Overcome by emotion, Jesus pours out his heart to God the Father in prayer.  If this was any other person, justification would be made to not go through with this sacrifice.  However, without Jesus’ death, there would be no forgiveness, left to rely on Old Testament animal sacrifices.  Realizing this fact, Jesus submits to God’s will, surrendering early Friday morning.  While there will always be new temptations that arise and attack your soul, the greatest temptation is to reject God’s will for your life.  May you find your purpose on earth using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide.  From here its up to you to apply Matthew 26:41 so that you will keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

 

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