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Praying in the Spirit

In the first century, churches planted following missionary journey visits by the apostle Paul met in homes or outside, often the banks of local rivers. In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul provides some useful tips for those members who participate in home churches. This guideline is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26. While singing hymns, teaching, and utterances are the heart of these gatherings, praying in the Spirit sets the tone.

For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive [it bears no fruit and helps nobody], 1 Corinthians 14:14.

Unfortunately, the spirit is willing, but human bodies are weak, Matthew 26:41. This reality motivated Paul to learn to pray in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18. Since there is a battle for human souls, Galatians 5:16-18 and Ephesians 6:12, keeping in step with God is essential, Ephesians 5:25. Whenever you allow the flesh to control your behavior, Romans 7:15, it’s only a matter of time before disobedience, failure or sin arrives.

Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also, 1 Corinthians 14:15.

Therefore, praying in the Spirit by inviting the Holy Ghost to direct and guide your thoughts is key. You can’t base your faith upon how you feel. During a letter to the church at Colosse, Paul suggests that you should let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, Colossians 3:15-16. The more you meditate upon God’s Word and allow Jesus’ teaching to dwell within you, a spiritual foundation is laid to turn a simple prayer into an encounter with God by praying in the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Get Behind Me

The term band-wagon first appeared in 1849. This initial meaning referred to a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession. Theodore Roosevelt used bandwagon in his writings in the context of politics, “attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed.” Modern day sports talk hosts have adopted bandwagon as a label to highlight fair weather fans. When a local team over achieves, the bandwagon becomes full. However, when a successful team gets off to a slow start, many quickly jump off the bandwagon.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. 25 For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting], Matthew 16:24-25.

A Jewish disciple explores what it means to truly get behind Jesus. This chapter provides examples of what to do and what not to do. One individual becomes a hero and a goat in a matter of seconds. However, this is what happens when you are not slow to speak, blurting out whatever enters your mind. The context of the passage begins with an open ended question as Jesus asks, “who do people say that I am?” After receiving a few replies, Jesus changes the question to “what do you think?” After Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah, he then proceeds to attempt to stop Jesus from fulfilling God’s will.

Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:22-23.

When God or life doesn’t make sense, this is when human beings tend to improvise. Since Peter thought Jesus would become an earthly king, he refused to believe that his mentor was born to become a living sacrifice. When justice doesn’t prevail and evil triumphs, your allegiance is tested. Just to qualify to become one of Jesus’ disciples involves taking extreme measures. While everyone will wobble from time to time due to uncertainty, your actions will determine who’s side you are on. May the Holy Spirit bring clarity to any confusion so you get behind the right side.

by Jay Mankus

Bringing to Light the Secret Things

Biblical context helps prevent wrong interpretations of Scripture. When you make assumptions about a specific verse in the Bible, you have to view each individual passage like one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Context allows you to place similar pieces together. The more pieces you have connected, the clearer your understanding becomes of the Bible. The term theology refers to the science of God. The more you read and study the Bible, the full meaning of a passage comes into focus.

So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God, 1 Corinthians 4:5.

In the passage above, Paul is writing to members of Corinth who had a tendency to jump to conclusions. A spiritual leader named Apollos became a fan favorite, like the church whose attendance drops whenever the senior pastor isn’t preaching. Thus, Paul encourages first century Christians to avoid making premature decisions. Give outsiders a chance, an opportunity to demonstrate and sow spiritual fruit. While not everyone will be eloquent, Christ living within hearts make leaders great.

When we were living in the flesh (mere physical lives), the sinful passions that were awakened and aroused up by [what] the Law [makes sin] were constantly operating in our natural powers (in our bodily organs, in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh), so that we bore fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life], Romans 7:5-6.

One chapter unveils the issue raging within human souls. The apostle Paul pours out his heart in Romans 7, explaining the invisible tug of war that exists within each person. Bringing to light the secret things, Paul exposes sinful passions that arouse sensitive appetites. When you connect the passage above to Galatians 5:16-17, this internal spiritual war comes to life. Like feeding a beast, the more you give into selfish desires, the less room there is for the Holy Spirit to operate. Therefore, if you want to follow the prompting of God’s spirit, hearts and minds must be fixed on things above, Colossians 3:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

When You Need to be Propped Up

A farmer developed an unusual way of ending his prayer at church. Whenever called upon to close Sunday’s service in prayer, this farmer opted to skip the typically Amen. Instead, this man of God would close using the phrase, “God prop us up on our leaning side.” Curious, the senior pastor wanted to understand the meaning of this expression. This was conceived after noticing an old barn on his property began to lean to one side. To avoid losing this barn, the farmer braced it on one to secure it’s future.

[Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality, Jude 1:23.

In the 17th chapter of Exodus, Moses recalls a memorable battle. Instead of fighting, Moses delegates this task to his successor Joshua. According to Exodus 17:9-10, Moses played the role of cheerleader, holding up the rod of God. As long as Moses arms were held high, Israel was winning. However, as soon as Moses’ arms grew weak, Amalek prevailed. To ensure a victory, the Lord sent Aaron and Hur to prop up Moses’ arms. This is another form of being propped up.

Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]—Jude 1:24.

Due to our fallen nature, Romans 3:11, every human being has a tendency to lean toward the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21. Instead of continuing leaning until you stumble and fall, Jude provides an alternative. Just as the apostle Paul urges believers to set your heart and mind and things above, Jude wants us to prop others up before they fall over. The more you focus your attention on helping other, the less likely you’ll find yourself indulging your sinful nature. The next time you see someone leaning, ask God to prop them up on their leaning side.

by Jay Mankus

Far from Oppression

The term fear is mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous. When fear is left to linger without confronting, this invisible force can ravage hearts and minds. When ideal conditions are present, oppression is conceived. Oppression is the prolonged cruel and unjust treatment that often debilitate souls.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you,] John 16:33.

While speaking to his disciples, Jesus revealed a plan to be far from oppression. After telling these 12 men that he would be killed, a spirit of fear likely hovered over their minds. Sensing this attack, Jesus comforts these individuals with a promise, sending a counselor following his departure. Encouraging these individuals, Jesus calls for acts of courage, to be undaunted in the face of fear.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.

Apparently, this message got through to at least one of the disciples. The passage above suggests that you too can be far from oppression if you do not fear. The key is seeing Jesus’ role in conquering fear. Perfect love drives out fear, expelling any traces of terror. As you mature spiritually, fears that once held you down, slide quickly to your side. The ultimate goal is to reach full maturity of love so you steer clear of oppression.

by Jay Mankus

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

When You're Unwilling to Change

Julia Roberts starred in the 1991 film Sleeping with the Enemy. However, nearly two thousand years before Nancy Price published her novel, a Jewish carpenter allowed himself to be infiltrated by a spiritual enemy. Jesus saw the potential in Judas Iscariot as a disciple, giving him an opportunity to change. Yet, in the end, this was part of God’s plan as Judas was unwilling to change despite witnessing countless miracles.

Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (the message) of eternal life. 69 And we have learned to believe and trust, and [more] we have come to know [surely] that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And [yet] one of you is a devil (of the evil one and a false accuser), John 6:68-70.

On December 12th, 2019, scientists discovered an unknown virus in Wuhan, China. As news of this spread across the country and throughout the world, the name Coronavirus was given. As the number of confirmed cases in the United States has surpassed 54,000, citizens are forced to make one of two choices. Practice social distancing by changing how you live your daily life or continue ignoring the new CDC guidelines? The first doesn’t guarantee staying healthy, but the latter risks spreading the Coronavirus to those whom you love.

When it was evening, He was reclining at table with the twelve disciples. 21 And as they were eating, He said, Solemnly I say to you, one of you will betray Me! 22 They were exceedingly pained and distressed and deeply hurt and sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, Surely it cannot be I, Lord, can it? 23 He replied, He who has [just] dipped his hand in the same dish with Me will betray Me! – Matthew 26:20-23

As Jesus’ betrayal grew near, one event sped up this process. When a prostitute wasted an expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus’ body, this decision pushed Judas over the edge. In his role as treasurer, Judas saw this act as a waste of money, not an act of worship. When a seed of betrayal was sown in Judas’ heart and mind, the Last Supper sets the stage for Jesus’ final call out. When individuals aren’t unwilling to change, the consequences can be eternal. May the current Coronavirus pandemic persuade stubborn hearts to alter their lives now before it’s too late.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Help or Satan’s Hurt

During a trip to Gibeon, King Solomon experienced a special dream one night. According to 1 Kings 3, the Lord appeared to Solomon in this dream, asking him to make a decision between wealth or wisdom. After thoroughly examining his options, Solomon requested a discerning heart and understanding mind. This decision pleased the Lord resulting in a life of blessings, riches and wealth like no other ruler in the Bible.

Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish). Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who cannot be counted for multitude. So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people? – 1 King 3:7-9

In the first century, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor named Timothy. Apparently, Timothy was uncertain and unsure of what position to take on wealth. The passage above provides biblical insight and perspective. While blessings are a sign of God’s favor, Satan uses riches as a vessel for temptation. Thus, when money becomes your god, God’s initial help can quickly turn into Satan’s hurts.

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

You don’t have to look any further than the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 to understand this concept. A younger son became consumed by his share of an inheritance. Before receiving this money, his mind became filled with earthly pleasures. Like an addict who can’t control himself, the prodigal son quickly became Exhibit A for Satan’s hurt. Broke, desperate and homeless, the only way to overcome Satan’s hurt is coming to your senses. May this story of redemption inspire you to embrace God’s help so Satan’s hurt becomes a thing of the past.

by Jay Mankus

The Machaira

The Greek word used by the apostle Paul to describe the sword of the spirit is machaira. The actual word is μάχαιρα, an 18 inch dagger used as a weapon of war during hand to hand combat. This piece of the armor of God represents the Word of God which serves two purposes. First and foremost, as a defensive weapon to correct and expose the lies of the Devil. Then, transition onto offensive by attacking secular worldviews through wielding the promises within the Bible to shine light upon an ever darkening world.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:12.

One of the problems with war is identifying the enemy. As chaos on the battlefield ensues, some hide, retreat or pretend to be on your side. Perhaps, this explains the apostle Paul’s words in the passage above. Within any war, there are powers, rulers and spiritual forces working behind the scenes. Instead of giving into anger, frustration or rage, the person you are mad at could simply be a vessel of the Devil, distracting you from the real battle.

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God, Ephesians 6:17.

Just prior to introducing the Sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation is mentioned first. When armor isn’t put on in the correct order, soldiers become vulnerable, not completely covered. This helmet protects your mind from becoming concussed. During the battle called life, there will be individuals who won’t feel saved as doubts from the Devil are implanted within your minds. Life can be tiring, especially if you live pay check to pay check. Yet, without protecting yourself with the armor of God, you’re destined to fail. Therefore, may the machaira empower you to rely on the Bible to defend and enhance the kingdom of God.

by Jay Mankus

The Night I Met Satan in a Bowling Alley

By the beginning of my junior year in college, I felt called to pursue a career in youth ministry. To follow this calling, I began to volunteer in as many ways as possible to prepare myself for the future. I served as an assistant youth director for junior high students at my home church in Wilmington. Meanwhile, I sacrificed several weekends to help out with service projects, retreats and weekly youth related events.

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate, Proverbs 8:13.

When one of my mentors from high school asked me to help out at a lock in, an overnight action packed activity, I jumped at this opportunity. High school students were dropped off at a local bowling alley before being driven back to the church in vans afterward. Serving as an adult, I wanted to sit back and listen, observing this group of teenagers. It didn’t take long to recognize the boy that everyone referred to as Satan. Beside being obnoxious, this boy kept running up behind bowlers, hitting and pushing them just before releasing their ball. This behavior continued for an hour.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” Romans 12:19.

Instead of being confrontational and preachy, I sat down with this boy, trying to find out what made him tick. I guess you can say understanding Satan became my project for this night. As the evening wore on, I stuck to this boy like glue, hoping to limit his emotional outbursts. When my patience wore off, I began to confront and rebuke Satan, “why are you trying to live up to this nickname?” Feeling compelled to go deeper, the Holy Spirit filled me with probing questions to get to the heart of this boy’s issue.

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.

Normally, I don’t like to press people. Yet, after midnight, I spent an hour peeling away Satan’s onion, one layer at a time. My conversation revealed a broken home, a strict father and having no concept of love. Following a time of prayer in the chapel, the spiritual influences of Satan on this boy’s life was finally broken. This experience as a volunteer inspired me to devote 15 years of my life to youth ministry. As I found out as a college student, nothing is impossible with God as the boy that was called Satan gave his life to Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, before this lock in concluded.

by Jay Mankus

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