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That’s What Prayer is For

My father immigrated to the United States from Lithuania as a child. While growing up, my father demonstrated a stoic personality that was typical from this region of Europe. Over the last 20 years, I’ve noticed the softening of my dad’s heart. This past weekend was a glimpse of this appreciation for life during a comment he made prior to saying grace. As my children and daughter in law spent July 4th weekend at his home, he was thankful for what my family has become.

Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. 24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it], Mark 11:23-24.

This wasn’t always the case as all families experience rough patches throughout the course of life. While listening to a sermon a decade ago, I was overwhelmed by a spirit of conviction. I went a year without a strong prayer life, aimlessly treating prayer like a shopping list. Following a Saturday afternoon Bible Study, I made a vow to consistently lift up my children and family in prayer. What my father observed was simply 10 years of answered prayers.

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop, Mark 11:25.

One of the apostle Paul’s missionary helpers recalls a conversation that Jesus had with his disciples. The context of this discussion was about the potential of prayer when attached with belief. Prayer is designed to remove the barriers, obstacles and mountains that stand in your way. However, there are times when prayer must be delayed until you take care of personal matters. Once reconciliation occurs or restoration is underway, prayer can continue as you exercise your faith.

by Jay Mankus

Kindred Spirits

Amy Bruni and Adam Berry visit people who believe their homes are haunted as part of a Travel Channel reality show. This team attempts to contact spirits and obtain evidence of a paranormal presence. The encounters form the series Kindred Spirits which will start it’s fifth season in 2021. While Kindred Spirits focuses on the supernatural, the Bible refers to a different kind of kindred spirit.

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own life. Saul took David that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own life, 1 Samuel 18:1-3.

Kindred refers to allied, connected, parallel, and related. The context of kindred often refers to a family or friend who share a close or intimate relationship. In the passage above, the prophet Samuel writes about the common bond between David and Jonathon. Like twins separated from birth, these two men appear to have been in one accord, developing strong ties.

For I have no one like him [no one of so kindred a spirit] who will be so genuinely interested in your welfare and devoted to your interests, Philippians 2:20.

In the passage above, kindred spirit is used by the apostle Paul to describe a valuable missionary partner. This individual named Timothy is a teenage pastor who demonstrated numerous godly qualities. Based upon his previous service, Timothy was a spiritual rock who was genuinely interested in the welfare of others. As co-workers, family, and neighbors watch you from afar, may the fruits of the Holy Spirit be present in you so that kindred spirits will impact the lives of others today.

by Jay Mankus

Run for Your Life

The running of the bulls is an annual event that dates back to the 14th century.  This tradition originated from the need to transport bulls from the offsite livestock enclosures to the bull fighting ring within Spanish cities.  The Running of the Bulls was made famous outside of Spain in 1926 when Ernest Hemingway released The Sun Also Rises.  This novel details this July 7th summer festival where six to ten calves are released behind individuals running for their lives through enclosed streets.

They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had taken security (bail) from Jason and the others, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they entered the Jewish synagogue, Acts 17:8-10.

As a first century missionary, the apostle Paul made a habit of running for his life.  Each trip began at a local synagogue, going through the Old Testament to reveal Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Most of these discussions were civil until some of his listeners converted to Christianity.  These spiritual decisions ignited spirits of anger, envy and jealousy, stirring up anti-Christian mobs.  In the passage above, Paul and Silas fled Thessalonica in darkness.  Meanwhile, in the passage below, Paul was escorted to a ship, sailing away as far as possible from harm.

But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] had also been preached by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. 14 So at that time the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go as far as the sea; but Silas and Timothy remained there [at Berea]. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens; and [after] receiving instructions [from Paul] for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible, they left, Acts 17:13-15.

Unfortunately, the process of running for your life sometimes involves turning your back on God.  Jonah refused God’s calling to Nineveh, sailing away in the complete opposite direction until a storm forced his return into a whale which escorted this runner back on track.  When I lost my teaching job of ten years, I ran around in circles for nearly two years before landing at Amazon.  Now that I am comfortable after seven years, perhaps it’s time to run for my life, escaping this comfort zone for a new adventure or challenge.  As I listen for God’s still voice, I must be open to run with perseverance just as Hebrews 12:1 suggests.

by Jay Mankus

 

Allowing Relationships to go Their Own Separate Ways

Separate Ways debuted in 1983, two years after Music Television was launched on August 1st, 1981.  This Journey song was recorded on the Frontier’s album, peaking at #8 on the Billboard’s Top 100 chart.  While Separate Ways did reach #1 for four weeks on the Top Tracks Chart, there is more to this song Behind the Music.  The lyrics of Separate Ways was inspired by the painful break ups and divorces Journey band members experienced.

After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers and sisters (believers) in every city where we preached the message of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take [his cousin] John, who was called Mark, along with them, Acts 15:36-37.

I experienced divorce for the first time when my neighbor’s mom got divorced twice in a three year period.  Spending every other week or once a month with your father must be confusing and difficult for any teenager.  Meanwhile, when the stability of a family collapses, fear of broken and severed relationships leave soul spirit hurts behind.  When I researched Separate Ways, Worlds Apart is italicized like a sub-title that becomes a reality when relationships go their own separate ways.

But Paul kept insisting that they should not take along with them the one who had quit and deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 And it became such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took [John] Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, Acts 15:38-39.

The Bible refers to a different type of separate ways in the passage above.  Luke highlights a disagreement between Barnabas and Paul over missionary partners.  Barnabas allowed family ties to blind him from his cousin’s desertion during their first missionary journey.  While Paul does forgive John Mark in future epistles, he was unwilling to take the risk of relying on someone who recently abandoned the mission field.  Subsequently, Paul and Barnabas go their own separate ways, serving the Lord in their own unique manner.  While I am sure there were hurt feelings by both parties, sometimes it’s better to go your own separate ways.

by Jay Mankus

Too Far Gone?

Every night concerned friends, parents and teachers are wondering if the person in their thoughts and prayers is too far gone.  In same cases, broken relationships only make this situation worse.  Typically, the parent-child interaction is tense and brief with flare ups possible at any time.  If this climate persists, doubt persuades parents to believe that they have lost their child, too far gone to salvage.

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, 2 Timothy 4:10.

In a letter to a first century pastor, the apostle Paul shares his concern about a fellow believer who abandoned his faith.  While the details of Demas’ demise is unclear, it appears that this missionary regressed, craving certain aspects of life.  Perhaps, Demas was merely going through a phase, something that he needed to do prior to committing fulltime to the ministry.  The hardest part for any coach, friend, parent or teacher is letting go, giving this individual the room they need to come to their senses.

But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 We are suffering justly, because we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, [please] remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” – Luke 23:40-42

One of the characters in the Bible who could be considered too far gone is a criminal hanging on a cross next to Jesus.  On the verge of death, there was no hope for his future.  Nonetheless, this dire state inspired this man to seek security for the afterlife.  If Jesus can welcome a criminal sentenced to death, then no one should be considered too far gone.  For those currently enduring broken hearts, hang on to hope through prayer, asking God for common sense to break the stubborn hearts of a prodigal spirit.  Until reconciliation arrives, trust God to get you through.

by Jay Mankus

Remember Where You Came From

Whether your life has turned out to be a success, disappointment or some where in between, its always important to remember where you came from.  Depending upon how you were raised, you’ve likely developed stereotypes about certain occupations, places or people.  Over time these views will either be reinforced or shattered.  Whatever happens make sure you remain humble so you don’t miss out on meeting special people.

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; Galatians 1:13.

Paul was a religious zealot who initially persecuted and gave the order to kill the apostle Stephen.  Thus, after his conversion to Christ many were hesitant to believe his faith was real.  This backlash inspired Galatians 1, a summary of his testimony.  It wasn’t until Paul began his missionary journeys when fellow Christians began to accept and embrace him as a genuine believer.

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, Galatians 1:15.

While my past isn’t as radical as Paul, I still have issues to overcome.  Years of stuttering stunted my communication skills and ability to draw close to others.  Periods of depression still cause me to withdraw at times, wandering away from the people I love.  Yet, because of God’s grace, I have hope for the future.  Despite my own imperfections, God sent His one and only Son to die for my sins.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down without accepting God’s free gift of eternal life.  When you remember where you came from, you will likely find a sinner saved by God’s grace.

by Jay Mankus

A Sinner’s Life

Since paradise was lost in the Garden of Eden, no one can escape the temptation to sin.  While some make better choices than others, a sinner’s life is like attending the school of hard knocks.  Living and learning from past mistakes has a learning curve with many struggling to avoid Satan’s snares.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one, Romans 3:12.

If you have the opportunity to travel the country or across the world, you begin to get a sense for what’s out there.  Along the way, you will rub shoulders with various groups of people, witnessing the good, the bad and the ugly.  During his missionary journey’s throughout the Middle East, the apostle Paul makes an interesting observation.  Similar to economic classes, Paul writes about the classification of sinners, separating typical offenders from those addicted.

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them, 1 Timothy 5:24.

If actions speak louder than words, sins communicate the heart and the soul of individuals.  Although some may dabble in sin from time to time, others follow in the footsteps of the prodigal, continuing until they reach rock bottom.  When the sensations of temporary pleasures fade, sinners face an important decision, do I come to my senses or not?  How a sinner’s life ends is in your hands.  Therefore, may you heed the words of 1 John 1:6 so that darkness does not prematurely end your life and the reason why you were created.

by Jay Mankus

 

Tarry With Me

In a vulnerable state, Jesus asks 3 close friends to stay with him and pray, Matthew 26:36-38.  Going a little further into the garden of Gethsemane to be alone, Jesus begins pouring out his heart to his Heavenly Father.  Returning an hour later, Jesus finds Peter, James and John sleeping instead of praying.  Disappointed by their response to his time in need, Jesus asks this question in Matthew 26:40, “could you not tarry with me for one hour?”

Jesus reveals the purpose for prayer in Matthew 26:41:

1. Prayer keeps you spiritually alert.

2. Prayer protects your mind from temptations.

3. Prayers helps you tap into the willingness of the Holy Spirit.

While the context of this passage limits the scope of prayer, God has placed an unique burden upon my heart.  During the month of March, God is leading me to prayer for an hour a day.  Now I ask you, “will you tarry with me?”

I met a young missionary before graduating from college whose testimony included not using an alarm clock to get up.  God woke up this individual at the same time every morning, 6am to begin his day in prayer, praising God.  Inspired by his account, I tried to apply this to my own life during my final semester of college.  To my surprise, God used sunlight shining directly on my pillow to arise and awaken me exactly at 6am.  Although I tend to be a night owl, God answered my prayer every day for 3 months, keeping my prayer life active, my mind sober and excited for each new day.

When it comes to prayer, I am certainty not an expert.  I tend to lean on the Psalms of David, who had a heart for God according to 1 Samuel 16:7.  Whenever I start to lose focus, I’ll rely on Jesus’ outline in Matthew 6:5-15, the words of Jesus’ brother in James 5:13-20 and of course David in Psalm 32:1-11.  You don’t have to be eloquent when you pray; all you need is a pure heart who seeks to know God.  See what God can do when you if you devote one hour per day to prayer in March.  May God perform miracles in your life!

by Jay Mankus

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