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Tag Archives: Pray

As Times Change… Don’t Get Left Behind

My first stereo was a record player with an eight track built in below.  I typed my high school research paper on a type writer.  The most advanced computer classes available for me in college was CAD and Word Perfect 2.1.  I didn’t join social media until 2012 and my children mock me each time I pull out my ancient cell phone.  As times have changed, I’m afraid that I have been left behind, now struggling to catch up.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom, Psalm 90:12.

In the Old Testament, the average life expectancy was much lower than today.  While royalty and the wealthy possessed the resources to extend life, dying in your twenties and thirties wasn’t uncommon.  Thus, the Psalmist urged individuals to seize the day, making the most of the years God provides.  Subsequently, the Bible details genealogies that include teenage marriages and pregnancies.  Young women gave birth to most of their children before the age of thirty.  As times changed, ancient believers sought a heart of wisdom to prevent being left behind.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

As I approach my 49th birthday next week, I have spent the last week reflecting on what I have done, where I have been and what I would like to do in the future.  Yet, as I hold on to the things I have treasured from my past, time has passed me by.  Resistant to change, I haven’t made the effort to keep up with technological advances.  This oversight on my part has caused me to be left behind.  As I open my mind to this painful reality, I pray that God gives me the energy and perseverance to make up for lost time.  May the Lord direct your steps so that you obtain a heart of wisdom in the future.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Slipping Away

Normaly, the phrase slipping away is used in a negative context.  Competitors may experience a sure victory slip away as momentum leads their opponent to a shocking comeback victory.  Meanwhile, pastors use this term when Christians begin to develop unhealthy habits, slowly slipping further and further away from God.

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me, John 15:4.

Yet, Jesus refers to slipping away as a means to get away from the distractions in this life.  As crowds following Jesus’ earthly ministry got out of control, having a quiet time alone with God became increasingly difficult.  Thus, Jesus made a habit of sliping away, withdrawing to an isolacted location to listen to and pray to his heavenly father.

I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned, John 15:5-6.

If you aren’t careful, its easy to begin to make excuses for not spending quality time with God.  Busy schedules, important meetings and working hard to pay the bills are valid reasons to maintain a full schedule.  Nonetheless, if you want to be all you can be spiritually, you must remain connected to Jesus.  If you don’t, you may find yourself slip sliding away like a prodigal heading in the wrong direction.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Atrophy

Atrophy refers to the process in which body tissue or organs slowly waste away often due to the degeneration of cells.  Symptoms of atrophy include decay, deterioration, shrinking or withering away until human bodies no longer function as God designed them.  When this condition is diagnosed, aggressive physical therapy is necessary to prevent further complications.  Human beings are not the only things vulnerable to atrophy.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Belief, faith and spiritual disciplines can be attacked.  Satan uses compromise, deceit, half-truths and lust to lull Christians into bad habits.  If these patterns persists, it doesn’t take long for a fervent faith to be persuaded into following in the footsteps of the prodigal son.  The apostle Paul uses the term bewitched in a letter to the church at Galatia.  Like atrophy within the human body, initial signs are subtle.  Yet, when minds begin to justify and rationalize wrong actions, spiritual atrophy can become aggressive.

Now before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, [perpetually] imprisoned [in preparation] for the faith that was destined to be revealed, 24 with the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under [the control and authority of] a tutor and disciplinarian, Galatians 3:23-25.

A group known as the Judaizers had infiltrated this congregation.  Clinging to religious traditions of Judaism, these zealots began to add conditions to salvation, confusing many of the new converts to faith in Christ.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul explained the original purpose of the law.  However, Jesus came to abolish the law, opening the door for freewill.  Instead of forcing people to believe, God uses freewill to introduce grace, mercy and forgiveness to those who fully repent, turning away from sin and toward God.  This is the cure to spiritual atrophy, taking time each day to pray, thank God and yield your life to Christ alone.  Pursuing godliness is like therapy to overcome the affects of spiritual atrophy.

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

Pray Now or Pay Later

The words pray now or pay later popped into my head nearly five years ago.  Looking back, I don’t remember if a Bible verse, lyrics of a song or a sermon conceived this concept.  Nonetheless, this phrase inspired me to write a book which turned into a screen play.  In a sense pray now or pay later is a mission statement to avoid subtle compromises that eventually leads individuals to give into temptation.  This process doesn’t happen over night.  Rather, carelessness, poor choices and self trust often results in painful consequences in the future.

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. 36 He was saying, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You; take this cup [of judgment] away from Me; but not what I will, but what You will,” Mark 14:35-36.

The night before his final day on earth in human form, Jesus felt compelled to pray.  While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to confide in his inner circle, James, John and Peter.  Overwhelmed by the weight of a heavy soul, Jesus wrestled with God in prayer, wondering if there was another way.  Yet, knowing his purpose for being born, Jesus yielded with the words, “not what I will but your will be done.”  Jesus understood that praying now would give him the strength to submit to and fulfill God’s will, dying on a cross as the perfect Lamb of God.

And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Were you unable to keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep [actively] watching and praying so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 39 He went away again and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came back and found them sleeping, because their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know how to answer Him. 41 He came back a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough [of that]! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is near!” – Mark 14:37-42

When the disciples were unable to stay awake the first time he asked them to pray, Jesus reveals the key to pray now or pay later.  To avoid temptation, you must keep actively watching over your life in prayer.  This reason for this necessity is that God’s Spirit within you is willing, but your body is weak, vulnerable to giving into temptation.  Proactive prayer such as asking God to place a hedge of protection around you and your loved ones is a great place to start.  However, when a sense of urgency to pray disappears, you might find yourself like the disciples falling away or betraying Jesus at the first sight of adversity.  May this passage above and the words pray now or pay later awaken your soul to commit your life to a concert of prayer.

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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