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Tag Archives: listening

Communion, Connection and Conviction

Depending upon your upbringing, communion may mean the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings.  To Catholics and Christians, communion is a Holy Sacrament, also known as the Eucharist.  In the context of the passage below, Jesus withdraws from a crowded house to spend time with God, likely listening, meditating and praying to his heavenly father.  This daily spiritual practice energized Jesus’ soul, providing vision and direction for his earthly ministry.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

Before the concept of home churches began, Jesus connected every day with his disciples.  This time together was spent teaching, answering questions and reclining at a table while eating.  Like a first century Bible Study, Jesus was the living word, John 1:1-5, living his life as an open book for the whole world to see.  The disciples maintained this gathering after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Acts 2:42-47.  The more individuals connect with fellow believers, the sharper you become spiritually, Proverbs 27:17.

Simon [Peter] and his companions searched [everywhere, looking anxiously] for Him, 37 and they found Him and said, “Everybody is looking for You!” 38 He replied, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so I may preach there also; that is why I came [from the Father].” 39 So He went throughout Galilee, preaching [the gospel] in their synagogues and casting out demons, Mark 1:36-39.

When communion is immediately followed by connection with like minded Christians, the Holy Spirit fills individuals with a strong conviction to act upon their faith.  Communion and connection propelled Jesus to preach the good news of salvation from town to town.  If you have ever had the chance to attend a conference, retreat or revival, God fills people with confidence, desire and energy to serve Jesus like never before.  This fusion of excitement is like a raging river bursting out of its banks.  May this blog inspire you to commune with God, interact with brothers and sisters and share your faith with others without hesitation or regret.

by Jay Mankus

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Be Careful How You Listen

Every September, from 2002 to 2012, I met the parents of my students during an open house at Red Lion.  After sharing the same spiel for several years, God gave me a vision about what it means to listen from a biblical perspective.  This idea turned into a visual presentation, pouring water from a bottle three times onto a hard table top, then adding a paper towel and finally into sponge.  After each pour I asked these adults what they witnessed and what each scenario represents.

So be careful how you listen; for whoever has [a teachable heart], to him more [understanding] will be given; and whoever does not have [a longing for truth], even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him,” Luke 8:18.

Water poured onto a table top represents a hardened heart.  When students don’t like a class, subject or teacher, their hearts become calloused.  Thus, whenever a lesson is presented, their minds and thoughts are elsewhere.  Adding a paper towel to the table is symbolic of being half-hearted.  Since a paper towel can only absorb so much water, it only does half the job.  This type of student only listens when they feel like it.  When topics are boring, confusing or over their head, they tune out.  The ideal form of listening is acting like a sponge, absorbing everything that you hear.  The Bible refers to this student as being whole hearted, all in and ready to hear.

“But be on guard, so that your hearts are not weighed down and depressed with the giddiness of debauchery and the nausea of self-indulgence and the worldly worries of life, and then that day [when the Messiah returns] will not come on you suddenly like a trap,” Luke 21:34.

Jesus regularly used the expression,”he who has ears, let him hear.”  Based upon the two passages above, those who possess a teachable heart want to learn, listening intently.  However, those who do not have a longing for truth will lose any desire for character, integrity and morality in the future.  Meanwhile, later on Jesus urges those willing to listen to guard their hearts.  When hearts become vulnerable to spiritual attacks, individuals can be dragged down by the heartache and pain in life.  Therefore, be careful how you listen so you will begin to apply biblical principles that result in a teachable heart.

by Jay Mankus

Properly Utilizing God’s Power

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  Over the next forty days, the Devil began scheming of ways on how to trick Jesus into improperly using God’s power.  The longer Jesus went without food, fasting and praying to spiritually prepare his mind, the more vulnerable his body became.  Thus, in the passage below the Devil tempted Jesus to use God’s power for selfish reasons.  In a game of Truth or Dare, the Devil dared Jesus to show off, calling upon angels to keep him from falling.  Responding with Scripture, Jesus corrects the Devil’s abuse of God’s power.

Then he led Jesus to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple, and said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written and forever remains written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard and protect You,’ and, they will lift You up on their hands, So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied to him, “It is said [in Scripture], you shall not tempt the Lord your God [to prove Himself to you],’” Luke 4:9-12.

Before gathering a ministry team of disciples, Jesus experienced the best and worst from his fellow Jews.  Upon entering a town, Jesus went to the local synagogue, debating, listening and teaching God fearing Jews.  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, speaking with authority without any education or extensive training.  On one day, Jesus spoke about God’s grace extending to Gentiles, non Jewish believers.  This comment turned the crowd in Nazareth against Jesus, committing heresy in their eyes.  This uprising forced Jesus outside of town to a nearby cliff, as residents attempted to push Jesus off the edge to his death.  On this occasion with his life in danger, Jesus properly utilized God’s power, like a ghost, Jesus passed by the crowds escaping to Capernaum.

As they heard these things [about God’s grace to these two Gentiles], the people in the synagogue were filled with a great rage; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to hurl Him down the cliff. 30 But passing [miraculously] through the crowd, He went on His way, Luke 4:28-30.

Today, the debate of properly utilizing God’s power continues.  Should you treat God like a supernatural Santa Claus, praying to the Lord with a long Christmas wish list?  Or should you only ask for things in accordance with God’s will?  Do you take Jesus literally, “ask and you will receive?”  What is a good middle ground, a place to start?  If you use Matthew 7:12 as an outline for prayer, this may clear up any confusion that you currently are struggling to grasp.  Prayer is a three step process, asking, seeking insight to explain unanswered prayers and continue to persist, wrestling with the Lord in prayer.  May this passage guide you to understand how to properly utilize God’s power.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Better to Have a Mary Christmas

The Bible introduces the world to an average family coping with a typical sibling rivalry.  However, in this case, both sisters are adults, revealing two distinct personality traits.  While its unclear who is the oldest, it appears Martha plays the role as the responsible one, working diligently to clean the house, cook and prepare for holiday guests.  Like any individual, this work can be exhausting, creating tension with those who don’t help or share in this burden.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said, Luke 10:38-39.

Meanwhile, Mary is drawn in a different direction, like a social butterfly longing to interact with visitors.  Jealous of her sisters conversation with Jesus, resentment brews within Martha’s heart.  Sensing this bitterness, Jesus serves as a moderator to address this family crisis.  According to a doctor who either knew the family or felt this story was worth passing on, Jesus reveals what is better, seizing the time you have with close friends and family.

40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:40-42.

Unfortunately, a similar scene is played out in American homes every Christmas.  The perfectionists work diligently to make the decorations, meals and the tree just right.  On the surface everything is peaceful until someone doesn’t pull their own weight.  When this moment arrives at your home, its better to emulate the character of Mary so that you will experience a very Merry Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

Do You Not Recognize This Voice?

To detect, notice, observe and spot are all words associated with discern.  Yet, when you don’t have your A game, get distracted or are tired, its easy to miss the obvious.  If you neglect your mind, you just might fail to recognize the advice and direction your conscience want you to take.

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? – Proverbs 8:1

King Solomon writes many of his proverbs to sons struggling to make sound decisions.  When you are young, discernment hasn’t been fully developed.  This sense takes time to acquire, often learned through the school of hard knocks.  Therefore, sometimes you need a Eli to come along your side to point you in the right direction.

A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.  So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place, 1 Samuel 3:8-9.

In modern days, Jesus left the Holy Spirit as a voice of reason.  According to the apostle Paul, as soon as you begin to keep in step with God’s Spirit, you can avoid the urge to indulge the sinful nature, Galatians 5:25.  By developing a keen awareness, souls can keep their feet on the straight and narrow.  If you reach a moment of indecision or come across an unrecognizable voice, test it with the 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 principle.  May you find your wisdom along the way in this journey called life.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Bold Request

The recent commercials sponsored by Credit Karma suggest that getting a free credit score empowers individuals with boldness.  Thus, whether you are buying a car or house, you should always ask for more.  Perhaps the meek have a bargaining chip, yet reality is a far cry from Hollywood.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you, ” Matthew 7:7.

Boldness can be manifested within Type A personalities, conceived through desperation or develop overtime through confidence.  In the case of a criminal, hanging on a cross next to Jesus, it didn’t take long to realize He was different.  Whether it was listening to nearby conversations or something inside his heart, a sense of urgency grew.  When the time presented itself, this unworthy soul asked for forgiveness and a place in paradise.

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened, Matthew 7:8.

One of the areas where I am not bold enough is when I pray.  During a discussion with followers prior to his death, Jesus unveiled a secret about prayer.  “You don’t have because you haven’t asked!”  This dilemma applies to many who are currently experiencing a life without much joy.  Therefore, if you want to make a bold request, approach God’s throne of grace with an expecting heart, believing that you too will experience paradise.

by Jay Mankus

 

To Fast or Not to Fast?

In recent years, January 1st signifies the beginning of 21 day fasts for a growing number of churches across America.  Depending upon the congregation, this could mean a …

1) Daniel Fast: Eating vegetables and water based upon the events of Daniel 1:11-14.

2) Media Fast: Replacing listening and viewing habits for 3 weeks with Bible Study, prayer and soaking in worship music.

3) Traditional Fast: Limiting your diet to liquids, with stricter fasts allowing only water.

Before you jump into any commitment, you might want to consider the advice of Solomon.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. – Ecclesiastes 5:4

My advice is to take a more realistic approach.  If fasting is new to you or something you haven’t done in years, ease yourself into 21 days of fasting.  I recommend skipping 1 meal per day, the first week.  If your body is up for the challenge, limit your eating to one meal per day the second week.  However, if you find yourself gorging each meal, you might want to focus on skipping one meal per day the entire 21 days.  Make a vow you can keep, then honor it.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. – Nehemiah 1:4

As for what to expect, the lack of food can make individuals grumpy.  Those with medical conditions may need to opt for a Media Fast to avoid health concerns.  Beyond the pain, the insight one receives from fasting can be life altering.  While fasting during my days of teaching, several messages of discernment came to me through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In addition, your perspective of food will change as fasting will heighten your sense of taste.  In the end, the choice is up to you: to fast or not to fast?

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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