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Speak to Me Outside of Church

Prior to the Coronavirus cancelling worship services across the country, only 20% of Americans regularly attended church. Before being quarantined, this steady decline in attendance suggests that many Christians haven’t made church a priority, finding other things to do on Saturday and Sunday. According to a 2018 Outreach Magazine article, only the state of Hawaii saw a recent increase in worship attendance. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps this time away from church will conceive a hunger to join and become an active member in a local church.

My son, if you will receive my words and treasure up my commandments within you, Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it]; Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures, Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God, Proverbs 2:1-5.

As for now, believers are going to have to find an alternative, an avenue for God to speak to you outside of church. Reading the Bible daily is a logical step in this direction. In the passage above, Solomon is pleading with his children. Instead of trying to find joy and pleasure in the world, dust off this book and begin listening to the living Word of God. Open your heart and mind to these truths, embracing and treasuring these spiritual nuggets. The next transition is putting these words into practice by applying biblical principles through your actions, behavior and speech.

If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you, John 15:7.

This process will require prayer; lots of it. Since there isn’t a band, chorus and musician to lead you in worship, you can rely on your favorite internet site to enhance your prayer. Several years ago I was introduced to the concept of Soaking in the Spirit. This occurs by laying down in a room, closing your eyes and clearing your mind from stress of life while listening to worship music. The goal is to empty your mind of all the garbage that you have collected over time and ask God to remove and replace it with songs of praise. The attached song, a spontaneous worship montage by Kari Jobe is what I use when I want God to speak to me outside of church.

by Jay Mankus

Day Dreaming, a Trance or a Spiritual Message?

The most common form of altered consciousness is known as day dreaming.  Consciousness is our level of awareness of what’s going on around us and in us at all times. Levels of consciousness are often changing throughout the day, as individuals struggle to concerntrate as brains wander.  As a child, I day dreamed about being a professional athlete.  When my golfing career ended at Qualifying School in 1995, my goals changed toward becoming a good and faithful husband.  Twenty five years later, my dreams have shifted toward becoming a professional screen writer while I enjoy retirement. 

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance, Acts 10:9-10.

The term “trance” is associated with meditation, magic, energetic flow and prayer.  Trance like states are used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals,  Meanwhile, hypnotherapists, psychiatrists and sports psychologists are among modern therapists who use trances today.  As a former long distance runner, I often blacked out for a period of time while training.  For a quarter mile or more, I slipped into a trance as I listened to music.  The sound of a car horn, the beginning of a favorite song or a new thought snapped me out of this state.  In the passage above, Peter fell into a trance while praying.  The smell of a freshly cooked meal altered his mind, preparing Peter for God’s vision and message.

I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the tower; and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and what answer I will give [as His spokesman] when I am reproved. Then the Lord answered me and said,“Write the vision and engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets so that the one who reads it will run, Habakkuk 2:1-2. 

While speaking to his disciples or addressing a large crowd, Jesus chose an interesting expression, “let him who has ears, hear.”  Apparently, human beings have a habit of tuning out when someone else is speaking.  Some may day dream, others fall into trances while many are distracted by their own schedule.  Thus, Jesus is urging his followers to not just listen, but act upon the message God has for your life.  Day dreaming or trance like states distract individuals from becoming doers of God’s Word.  While God uses a plethora of methods (angels, the Bible, dreams, music, prophets and prayer) for communicating to and with those who believe, Jesus yearns for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  May the Lord help you overcome the distractions in life to be attentive to God’s next spiritual message.

by Jay Mankus

 

Holding Everything Together Until the Glue Dries

Early on in my marriage, Leanne and I went to antique shops, searching for a piece of furniture that could be refinished.  Wooden chairs were a common purchase, trying to breathe new life into classic designs.  Scraping and sanding away old paint often revealed imperfections.  In some cases, spindles needed to be reattached with glue.  Without a wide arrange of clamps available to apply to a curved angle, brute force was necessary to hold everything together until the glue dried.  This process often involved placing your arms and legs into a death grip to avoid spindles from popping out of place.  If pressure wasn’t maintained until the bonding process was complete, we had to start all over again from the beginning.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together, Colossians 1:17.

As my body approaches the half century mark in age, I’m beginning to feel like an antique.  Instead of having a spindle or two out of place, I feel broken, trying to pick up all the pieces.  Yet, I have learned that I can’t do this on my own.  According to Jesus, the spiritual healthy should be able to self medicate their lives.  However, if you attempt to do this without spiritual brothers and sisters within a church fellowship, holding everything together can be overwhelming.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12, in “your own weaknesses, lean on Jesus to make you strong.”

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but [only] those who are sick, Matthew 9:12.

While I am not a counselor by trade, I often find myself scouring the Bible to find answers to my struggles in life.  This daily process involves reflection, meditation and searching for nuggets of truth to heal and mend my soul.  Unfortunately, I spend many weeks out of the year depressed, unable to hold things together.  Again and again, I fight through the pain in my heart to stay optimistic.  The one trait I have on my side is a faith empowered by the promises in the Bible.  Against all odds, the Holy Spirit propels me to press on despite how I feel day to day.  This invisible force is the glue that holds everything together until the bonding process of sanctification is complete.

by Jay Mankus

Living on Life Support

Several years ago my Aunt Tonya was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ALS.  Three months later, she was hanging on by a thread, living on life support.  Whenever you experience the frailty of life up close, a helpless feeling consumes one’s soul.  Less than four months after her first doctor’s visit, Tonya passed away.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me, John 15:4.

From a spiritual perspective, meditation, prayer, reading the Bible and worship are four food groups for the human soul.  Unfortunately, like trying to eat healthy, it doesn’t take much to stray off course.  Before you know it, each poor decision can sap bodies of their energy.  Thus, if human beings do not receive a daily dose of spiritual soul food, it won’t be long until these individuals will be clinging to a different kind of life support.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full, John 10:10.

Anyone who is tuned in to current events, may make an additional connection.  As the Middle East battles for control, refuges are crossing the borders into Europe to escape death, persecution and turmoil.  While segments of society are doing okay, the rest of the world is falling apart.  People are searching for hope, peace and love without much success.  Therefore, if you want to possess the ability to breathe on your own again, ask the Holy Spirit to fill your empty cup with the abundant life.

by Jay Mankus

Above the Treeline

Towering above Delaware’s farmlands and tidal marshes, Mount Ebright stands 442 feet above sea level, a trailer park north of Concord High School.  Void of any real mountains, natives of this state must venture north, south or west to find a place above the tree lines.  Traveling along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday, I found myself in God’s country, imaging what it must have been like for Moses to come face to face with the Lord.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, Ephesians 6:12.

While watching a new program on the Travel Channel, Mysteries in National Parks, I was reminded of the invisible realm that exists above the treeline.  According to the apostle Paul, a legion of angels and demons do battle daily, attempting to acquire strongholds.  Beyond the visible trials on earth, territorial wars are waged, seeking to alter the hearts, minds and souls of human beings.  Above the treeline, the devil prowls around like a lion snatching seeds of truth from new converts.

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path, Matthew 13:19.

The only line of defense involves meditation, prayer and worship.  Thus, as the powers of darkness try to infringe upon church communities, families and institutions, Christians must be armed with the proper weapons to fight back, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  While the world will give credit for these phenomena to aliens, legends or mythical forces, don’t underestimate the influences of the devil.  Rather, put on the armor of God so that when activity above the treeline intensifies you won’t be caught off guard.  Draw strength from your knees, empowering angels above to take back any ground that has been lost.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Modern Idols of Nations

Footbaal, Basketbaal and Basebaal?  Idolatry involves cultism, devotion and zeal for a pastime.  When any hobby get’s out of hand, obsessions can lead to a veneration, turning into a form of worship.  Priorities and time allocation often reveal where a human heart lies.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them! – Psalm 135:15-18

This allegiance is nothing new.  Developing a well-rounded personality is beneficial, yet idols influence individuals as nations rise and fall.  Whether religion is a fad, trend or life long pursuit, the powers of darkness will persuade some to delay, postpone or quit their journey called faith.   Thus, peer pressure sways the weak toward to idols of nations.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. – Colossians 3:5

According to Jesus, there is a direct correlation between one’s heart and idols.  “Those things you treasure will permeate into your heart, Matthew 6:21.”  Its no wonder that King Solomon urged the Jews to guard their hearts, Proverbs 4:23.  Therefore, to avoid the same fate of fallen saints throughout history, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, follow the words of Deuteronomy 28:1-3.  When quiet times with God become a habit, escaping the idols of nations can be achieved.  May your life be filled with prayer, meditation and worship.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Soul Food

The origin of soul food can be traced back to enslaved African Americans.  While their masters received the choice cuts of each prepared meal, servants relied on leftovers or undesirable pieces to eat.  Making the best with any ingredient they could scrounge together, soul food describes this ethnic cuisine cooked with southern hospitality.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37

Spiritually speaking, the soul is the essence of an individual.  Thus, when you do something with everything inside of you, a portion of the soul is displayed.  However, just like human beings, the soul needs food to enrich the lives of people.  Without nurturing the soul, a void will continue to persist.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Matthew 16:26

The Bible is the only source that revitalizes souls, Hebrews 4:12.  While maintaining a healthy diet is important, prayer can rejuvenate a weak or dying soul, 3 John 1:2.  Therefore, the next time you enjoy an all you can eat buffet, don’t forget to stop by the dessert table with Bible reading, meditation and prayer so after you’re finish you can say it is well with my soul.

by Jay Mankus

The Soothing Sound of Music

Record players, eight tracks and cassette tapes were just the beginning to the revolution called music.  Today, MP3 players, iTunes and computers able to download thousands of song, enable the soothing sound of music to be just one click away.  Life without cell phones, electronic devices and voice activated technology is now unthinkable as silence has been replaced by your favorite play list.

Yoga and meditation rely on music as an alternative to healing and relaxation.  Serving as a substitute for God, retreat centers, seminars and private classes are exploding in popularity, ushering in a New Age.  The angel of song, Lucifer, uses all kinds of music to entice individuals like Eve in the garden, replacing an apple with a catchy beat, void of any true meaning.  Meanwhile, whispers penetrate your soul, “I don’t listen to the lyrics,” planting seeds for compromise to commence.

To battle this movement, churches are introducing Soaking in the Spirit, turning prayer rooms into a comfortable place to relax while listening to worship music.  Based upon the principles within Romans 12:1-2, minds are being transformed by words inspired by the Bible, Romans 10:17.  Considered a skilled musician, 1 Samuel 16:14-23, David understood the gladness, joy and peace one experiences while listening to music, Psalm 45:8.

For me, the choice of my music often dictates my mood and or behavior.  Whether you prefer hip hop, rap or classic rock and roll, pieces of the songs you listen to stay with you for hours, days or weeks.  If you’re skeptical, take the Music Challenge.

Spend one day listening to secular music, journal at the end of the day how this music influenced you.  Then, take a day listening to Christian/Gospel/Worship music, using Pandora if you don’t have a large selection.  Compare your language, thoughts and overall mindset.  If you don’t see a definite difference, consider a longer time span, like the challenge found in Daniel 1:8-16.

Feel free to share any findings you discover or interesting insights on the soothing sound of music.

by Jay Mankus

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