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Tag Archives: prayer and worship

A Celebration of Faith

In between sports seasons, I take my youngest two, Daniel and Lydia, to play frisbee golf on Saturdays.  Usually, lunch is involved, either before or after to encourage participation.  Once we reach our favorite course at Canby Park, some discs go way off course, often requiring a search and rescue crew.  These undesirable terrains include winding creeks, sticker bushes and wild vegetation.  It’s not uncommon to get cut and bleed profusely without recognizing it right away.

And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household, Acts 16:32-33.

A similar phenomena happened to the apostle Paul and Silas in the passage above.  Twenty four hours earlier, these men were beaten with rods.  According to Luke, each were struck several times, Acts 16:23.  After being thrown into a dungeon and feet fastened to stocks in an agonizing position, their initial pain was redirected in another direction.  Despite this momentary setback, a time of prayer and worship served as a distraction.  Caught up in the excitement of a jailor and his family coming to faith in Christ, Paul and Silas forgot about their bloody wounds.

Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ], Acts 16:34.

When human hearts and minds are set on things above, temporary pains fade away, Colossians 3:1-3.  Jesus taught his disciples to become fishers of men, winning souls to believe in God.  Whenever individuals witness a spiritual transformation, it’s a cause for a celebration.  Following the baptism of a jailor and his entire family, a party is thrown like a modern day church reception.  As the lost come to their senses, a celebration of faith is in order.  According to Luke, angels celebrate in heaven each time a sinner repents, Luke 15:10.

by Jay Mankus

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Two Elements of Transformation

Before a dramatic and thorough change occurs within the life of a human being, there is usually a series of events that serve as a catalyst. Some people have to hit rock bottom before coming to their senses. Others go through some sort of near death experience before their soul is awakened. As for me, I suffered a nervous breakdown in high school before God set the stage for my heart to finally be open to receiving the good news about Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ], Matthew 16:17-18.

After Jesus suffered, died on a cross, rose again and ascended into heaven, Jesus sent an invisible counselor to carry on the ministry he began on earth. The venue in which this movement continues in is the church. While not every congregation has a physical building, the church is the cornerstone for faith. After following the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-10, the church is the vehicle through which spiritual transformation occurs. Accountability, confession, fellowship, prayer and worship are methods through which each believer undergoes the sanctification process.

Now I say this, believers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit nor be part of the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (mortal) inherit the imperishable (immortal). 51 Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden, but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed], 1 Corinthians 15:50-51.

The final element of transformation is the cross. A common analogy refers to crossing out the I in self to become a member of God’s team. This commitment involves denying your own aspirations, dreams and goals on earth. According to Jesus, the only way to find life is by giving it up, losing it to follow the cross of Christ. This decision is often met with rejection from friends, family and neighbors. Nonetheless, if you truly want to fulfill God’s will by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, you heart will begin to cry out in prayer, “not mine, but your will be done.”

by Jay Mankus

Wrestling with God’s Will

Wrestling is an activity of grappling with an opponent; trying to throw or hold them down on the ground.  For any boy growing up with another sibling, wrestling is bound to occur.  Back in my childhood, parents and teachers would refer to this as rough housing.  Unleashing your energy and frustrations upon someone following an argument or disagreement until one or both parties give up.  The most famous wrestling account in the Bible is listed below.

So Jacob was left alone, and a Man [came and] wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the Man saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched his hip joint; and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him, Genesis 32:24-25.

Prior to his encounter with an angel disguised as a man, Jacob developed a reputation as a deceiver.  Jacob bribed his older brother Esau out of his birthright, tricked his father into blessing him and fled from his family history.  In order to become the person God wanted Jacob to be, a wrestling match was preordained.  This night long struggle pushed Jacob to his physical limits, holding on despite having his hip dislocated.  In the eyes of God, Jacob passed this test, primed for bigger and better things in life.  At the conclusion of this event, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament.

Then He said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” 27 So He asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed,” Genesis 32:27-28.

When my life doesn’t take the path that I expect, I try to figure out what went wrong.  From time to time, the cause and effect is obvious, a lack of obedience to God, prayer and worship.  However, there are moments when promises from the Bible, Psalm 37:4, collide with road blocks as dreams and goals are denied or rejected.  This frustration has led me to wonder if becoming a screen writer is part of God’s will.  Am I not delighting myself in the Lord enough or does God want me to pursue another career in the future?  While I am not participating in a physical wrestling match, I find myself wrestling with God’s will.  According to the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, the only way to know God’s will for sure is by offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  If implemented successfully, clarity will come and my own wrestling match to ascertain God’s will can end.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Association

Television is filled with shows based upon the concept guilt by association.  Whether you prefer dramas like Bones, Castle, CSI or NCIS, each follow a similar format.  A death, murder or victim is found in the opening scene.  Crime scene investigators collect evidence, put together a list of suspects and use modern technology to solve each case.  Initially, the obvious culprits are interviewed leading the audience in one direction before a twist or turn take authorities to a previously unknown person of interest.  Although some episodes are based upon true stories, viewers of these programs should be weary of their own friends with troubled pasts.

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

The first chapter of the longest book in the Bible addresses guilt by association.  The passage above provides a short list of what to do and what not to do.  The author uses walking to illustrate how you can begin hanging out the wrong people.  Though walking is an innocent act, its like an open door into another world.  The further you walk with someone, the more you begin to accept, embrace and stand for ungodly beliefs.  However, the moment you sit down with this crowd, joining and participating in similar acts commences.  This passage serves as a warning, encouraging souls to avoid guilt by association through seeking God’s blessings.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.  And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The passage above provides a blueprint for those who desire to please God.  Meditating on God’s Word, the Bible helps prevent individuals from walking, standing and joining inappropriate acts, behavior and deeds.  Meanwhile, spiritual disciplines like Bible Study, prayer and worship rejuvenate souls daily as if drinking from the living water mentioned in John 4:14.  If you clearly want to avoid guilt by association in the future, live out the apostle Paul’s advice in Colossians 2:6-7 to become deeply rooted in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Church That is Right When the World is Wrong

Fulton J. Sheen was born in 1895.  Before his death in 1979, Sheen became an outspoken bishop in the Catholic Church.  Sheen’s popularity began as a preacher on radio and television programs.  One of his famous quotes would have offended many if announced today.  Yet, Sheen’s goal was to establish a church that is right when the world around it is wrong.  While logical on the surface, a changing world is often offended by those who cling to absolute truths.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

Fulton was merely practicing the teaching of the apostle Paul.  During the height of the Roman Empire, emperors used their influence to ban, persecute and on some occasions put Christians to death.  Like a bully trying to control those around them, the apostle Paul urged first century believers to win the battle of the mind.  Unless you protect your mind through a daily dose of Bible Study, prayer and worship, conformity to the world will occur at some point.  When this happens to church leaders, the power of the Bible is lost as doctrines become watered down.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

The Bible uses several analogies to explain the ongoing schemes of Satan.  Jesus refers to this fallen angel as the father of all lies.  One of Satan’s objectives is to convince Christians to bend, overlook or stretch the truth.  When weak minded leaders take over a church, worldly beliefs are slowly blended into biblical teaching.  The theological term for this process is known as syncretism.  Unfortunately, when this dangerous practice begins to spread, there isn’t much difference between the church and the rest of society.  When the light of Christ fades and the saltiness of faith disappears Fulton’s goal becomes impossible.  May the Fulton’s quote many years ago inspire believers today to develop a church that is right when the world is wrong.

by Jay Mankus

The Invasion of the Mind

The Invasion of the Body Snatches debuted in 1956.  This science fiction film introduced the thought that normal human beings could be replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.  In the original movie, a doctor discovers that the population of his small town is secretly being replaced.  Twenty two years later, a remake features a scene change as San Francisco is under attack by clones who are swapping out bodies.  While this classic horror flick put fear into the audience, Satan has his own ongoing scheme known as the invasion of the mind.

Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘You shall not eat from it nor touch it, otherwise you will die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened [that is, you will have greater awareness], and you will be like God, knowing [the difference between] good and evil,” Genesis 3:1-5.

Based upon the passage above, the invasion of the mind begins by planting seeds of doubt.  If your belief system begins to crumble, develop holes or fall apart, the boundaries that once kept you safe and out of trouble can disappear.  When prodigal spirits are conceived within human minds, individuals will push the limits, exploring areas once forbidden by God.  Every day there are reports of strange news stories, mostly embarrassing, a sign of souls looking for love in the all the wrong places.  Despite this decline of morality, Satan is convincing modern people to rely on justification as a means to rationalize what the Bible calls sin.

For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

Evidently, the apostle Paul saw disconcerting signs from a first century city.  While its unclear how many people were infected, the invasion of the mind was under way within Corinth.  New Christians trying to break free from previous addictions, habits and unhealthy patterns were failing, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  To address this concern, Paul introduces a plan to fight back against this invisible attack.  Like the modern phrase “fight fire with fire,” the only way to defeat Satan is by using spiritual weapons.  Fasting, prayer and worship are key to reclaiming minds poisoned by the world.  Yet, the greatest asset is the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible which can be used for defense and offense.  Like a spiritual fast break, good defensive praying can lead to regaining lost ground.  May the reality of this invasion of the mind keep you spiritual sharp, putting of the armor of God daily to ward off evil spirits.

by Jay Mankus

 

What am I Doing and Where am I Going?

I was introduced to the concept of evaluation early on as a youth director.  Through conferences, seminars and a youth ministry trade school, I learned the importance of gaining feedback from participants.  During my decade of teaching high school, I incorporated this into my curriculum, encouraging students to be critical, honest and fair.  After years of fine tuning, the last day of each class I asked five questions.  What did you like?  What did you dislike?  What topic(s) did I not spent enough time addressing?  What topic(s) did I spent too much time covering?  What changes would you make to improve this class?  After giving students five minutes in silence to write down their opinions, I gave individuals an open forum to express their feelings verbally if so inclined.  While some discussion were brief, others carried on for several minutes.  These papers were collected, stored in notes books and became the foundation for improving my curriculum each summer.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

Unfortunately, outside of the classroom it’s easy to become so consumed with life that you forget what you’re really doing and where your going?  Thus, I must confess that as I write blog after blog, I often forget the purpose for Express Yourself 4Him.  Initially, I wanted to create a modern day diary using the Confessions of Augustine as my inspiration.  The autobiography of this 4th century theologian from Hippo details Augustine’s conversion to Christ and the evolution of his understanding of the Bible.  As Augustine reflected on life while sitting on his back porch, the Holy Spirit began to unveil pieces to the puzzle called life.  Over the weekend, God convicted me of my haphazard nature, sensing a need to become more focused.  Thus, in the coming days, weeks and year, I plan on focusing on two main areas.  First, continue to use the Bible to help explain and understand current events.  Second, become more interactive by using the comments I receive as a source for future blogs.  If I don’t help my readers address their concerns, issues and problems of others, I’m missing an opportunity to use my God given gift.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you, Psalm 32:8.

If you have ever played a team sport team, sometimes the play called by a coach is flawed.  If you are quick or shrewd enough, you might be able to freelance enough to turn a loss into a gain.  This same concept applies to life.  There will be circumstances, days and scenarios where what normally works is ineffective.  Therefore, you have to improvise, change while on the fly.  This is where individuals must learn to place their sole trust in the Lord.  Yes, like anything else, this can be scary, requiring blind faith.  Like the Psalmist suggests above, this leap of faith involves counsel, instruction and teaching.  If you really want to make sure you are on the right track, Bible Study, prayer and worship is available to most everyone.  As I start my sixth as a blogger in February, I pray that the Lord enables me to keep in step with the Holy Spirit so I can minister to those in need.

by Jay Mankus

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