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Conditions to God’s Covenant

The concept of faith isn’t a feeling that comes from a conversation between God and Abram. God doesn’t want how you feel when you wake up each morning to dictate whether or not you’re going to spend time with God. Moses came to the same conclusion when he addresses Israel prior to entering the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 28: The only condition that God places on His covenant with Abraham is the expectation that Abe will habitually walk with God as stated in Psalm 1:1-3.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am the Almighty God; walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete), Genesis 17:1.

Jesus brings up one condition in His Sermon on the Mount. While addressing proper and improper motives, Jesus turns to the Golden Rule, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” At the conclusion of a prayer called the Our Father by Catholics or simply the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus places a condition on God’s forgiveness. If you want God to forgive you, you must first be willing to show others the same grace by overlooking the those who have trespassed against you.

And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 14 For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:13-15.

When you consider each condition, one found in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament, what does this all mean? Well, God’s conversation with Abraham is similar to the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:5-8. God’s expectation for Christian is to habitually walk with God by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, Jesus’ condition on forgiveness ties into Paul’s analogy of becoming a new creation in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17. According to one of Jesus’ disciples, to love is to walk with Jesus, 1 John 1:7. While conditions to God’s covenant do exist, obedience to God and faith align with God’s call to die to self and clothe yourself with Christ, Colossians 3:1-9.

by Jay Mankus


Not the Answer You Wanted to Hear

As someone who grew up in a military family, discipline was always part of my childhood. Whenever I was unruly to my mother, I became fearful as soon as I heard, “wait until your father gets home.” Despite attending a public high school and state-run university, discipline played an important role. My senior year of high school I got an afterschool detention for taking during the morning announcements. As King Solomon wrote the Book of Proverbs, rules are designed for your own spiritual protection.

But [a]the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness on the road to Shur. And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from, and where are you intending to go? And she said, I am running away from my mistress Sarai, Genesis 16:7-8.

Running away from home is one of those things that I thought about, but never did. Sometimes adults run away, sometimes in the form of divorce to try to start over from scratch. Following Hagar’s decision to run away from her jealous owner Sarai, Hagar believed that running away for good was the best decision she could make. However, the wilderness is not a safe place to live, let alone have a child all by yourself. Subsequently, this angel gives Hagar an answer that she didn’t want to hear.

The Angel of the Lord said to her, Go back to your mistress and [humbly] submit to her control. 10 Also the Angel of the Lord said to her, I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be numbered for multitude, Genesis 16:9-10.

This same concept also applies to prayer. Some prayers result in clear answers in the form of blessings. Other times in life you will receive a clear no, often in the form of a closed door, denying you the career, job or position that you really wanted. The final way that God answers prayers is by subtle, “not now or not yet.” This response could be a way to test your patience or a way to prepare you for what God has in store for you in the future. If you’re presently like me, disappointed by the answers God has for you, read Luke 18:1-8 so you can discern and learn from a persistent widow who wrestled with God in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

When Common Sense and Prayer Unite

Scanning cable news channels on any given night can be entertaining, head scratching, and frightening all at the same time. Left is right, up is down, right is wrong, and science is gender neutral. One of the things I appreciate about attending a public high school and university is that I’ve experienced several cultures, faiths, and people over my 53 years of life on earth. Despite the numerous differences that do exist, I’ve seen common sense and prayer unite a congregation.

Then [Abraham] said to Him, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak [again]. Suppose [only] thirty shall be found there. And He answered, I will not do it if I find thirty there. 31 And [Abraham] said, Behold now, I have taken upon myself to speak [again] to the Lord. Suppose [only] twenty shall be found there. And [the Lord] replied, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again only this once. Suppose ten [righteous people] shall be found there. And [the Lord] said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake, Genesis 18:30-32.

I recall a special Red Lion elder meeting hosted by the Gilberts. The entire Church Board was gathered in Larry’s office in a circle when Pastor’s Jamie’s words resonated with my good friend Mark. As the board was revisiting our mission statement and vision for Red Lion Evangelical Free Church, Mark was touched by the Holy Spirit, brought to uncontrollable tears. The Board didn’t care if visitors stayed or became members of our church, all we wanted as a group of believers is for our community is to know Jesus by entering into a personal relationship.

Yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me [b]intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or [c]at the last she come and rail on me or [d]assault me or [e]strangle me. Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He [f]defer them and [g]delay help on their behalf? I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [[h]persistence in] faith on the earth? – Luke 18:5-8

When God reveals that Sodom, where his nephew Lot now resides, is going to be destroy, Abraham blends common sense into his prayer. Abraham begins his prayer hopeful that the presence of godly individuals will convince God to alter his judgement. Jesus points to a persistent widow who uses a similar strategy as she prays for the justice and ruling she believes is just and right. While God doesn’t grant every request that you long for in prayer, mixing common sense with prayer won’t hurt and can lead to uniting an entire church body.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing the Future Purposes of God’s Design

A few days before I began Express Yourself 4Him, I attended a two-day Discernment Seminar at a church known by locals as the Barn. Since I was recently unemployed at this time, I had nothing to lose. Pastor Bruce served as a facilitator Friday night which helped everyone in attendance to get to know one another. During a series of exercises, I realized that I possessed as special gift, the ability to write in the Spirit. This one insight laid the foundation for God’s future purpose, writing out my faith.

And the Angel of the Lord continued, See now, you are with child and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael [God hears], because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your affliction. 12 And he [Ishmael] will be as a [b]wild ass among men; his hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he will live to the east and on the borders of all his kinsmen. 13 So she called the name of the Lord Who spoke to her, You are a God of seeing, for she said, Have I [not] even here [in the wilderness] looked upon Him Who sees me [and lived]? Or have I here also seen [the future purposes or designs of] Him Who sees me? – Genesis 16:11-13

Sarah’s maidservant has a similar experience in the above passage. After running away from Abraham’s camp due to overbearing harassment and mistreatment from Sarah, Hagar has a comforting encounter with an angel of the Lord. Alone in the wilderness with an expecting child on the way, this angel casts a vision of future purposes of God’s design. Despite this amazing news, the angel tells Hagar that she must return to Sarah and submit to her. This decision is what’s best for her soon to be child, Ishmael.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

There isn’t a formula for seeing future purposes of God’s design. However, the apostle does provide thorough details of how to mature spirituality. This begins by dedicating your life and body to the Lord, Colossians 3:17. As Christians draw close to Jesus via prayer and worship, this isn’t enough to discernment God’s will for your life. Discerning God’s future designs occurs gradually as Christians meditate upon and study God’s Word. If faith comes from hearing the message, Romans 10:17, seeing the future purposes of God’s design for your life is a process of prayer, fasting, Bible Study and worship. God willing you will see your purpose in the near future.

by Jay Mankus

A Joyful Bliss

Whenever an individual reaches a state of bliss, their life is experiencing perfect happiness where great joy naturally flows out of their soul. Unfortunately, many human beings never get a sniff of bliss. Others may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain they are currently enduring. At some point during a night out on the time bliss is achieved, but when morning arrives a hangover or memory loss forgets the sensational feeling of joyful bliss.

Melchizedek king of Salem [later called Jerusalem] brought out bread and wine [for their nourishment]; he was the priest of God Most High, 19 And he blessed him and said, Blessed (favored with blessings, made blissful, joyful) be Abram by God Most High, Possessor and Maker of heaven and earth, Genesis 14:18-19.

According to Moses, great victories in life can contribute to and directly lead to a joyful bliss. When a priest of the God Most High approached Abram with bread and wine upon his return home from battle, Abram appears to have gotten emotional. As champions reflect upon the journey and work that went into training for a success outcome, certain details stick out. Perhaps, Abram remembered how the Lord led Pharaoh to graciously give Abram servants who became the core of his army.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:9-11.

While speaking with his disciples, Jesus uses another term in place of joyful bliss. According to John, Jesus spoke about living an abundant life by seizing the moment, maximizing each opportunity the Lord gives you every day. As Christians chase after this White Rabbit, joyful bliss, the Devil is looking to steal your joy by killing the spiritual momentum you’ve built up in 2023. This invisible enemy is your main stumbling block, 1 Peter 5:8, keeping you from tasting joy. This is where prayer is used to build a hedge of protection around those whom you love to make a joyful bliss possible with a slice of heaven on earth.

by Jay Mankus

When Desperation and Prayer Unite

Non-religious individuals tend to turn to prayer during a life altering event. This could be just before a car accident, on a plane enduring extreme turbulence or some other unexpected dire medical diagnosis where even atheists cry out to God. As a child with a severe speech impediment, all I ever wanted was to verbally express what was on my heart and the words on my mind. Yet, my prayer life is usually only effective when desperation and prayer unite on my knees.

And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, Protect and defend and give me justice against my adversary. And for a time he would not; but later he said to himself, Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man, Yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me [b]intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or [c]at the last she come and rail on me or [d]assault me or [e]strangle me. Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He [f]defer them and [g]delay help on their behalf? – Luke 18:3-7

I was introduced to the Parable of the Persistent Widow in college. While Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:19-22 are often quoted by pastors during sermons on prayer, the persistent widow applies Jesus’ advice. Although desperation may lead you to pray for a miracle, doubt will stop any prayer from being answered. This widow was so persistent in her desperation, she kept on knocking like Jesus’ analogy in his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:7-8.

When Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she dropped down at His feet, saying to Him, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 33 When Jesus saw her sobbing, and the Jews who came with her [also] sobbing, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. [He chafed in spirit and sighed and was disturbed.] 34 And He said, Where have you laid him? They said to Him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 The Jews said, See how [tenderly] He loved him! 37 But some of them said, Could not He Who opened a blind man’s eyes have prevented this man from dying? 38 Now Jesus, again sighing repeatedly and deeply disquieted, approached the tomb. It was a cave (a hole in the rock), and a boulder lay against [the entrance to close] it, John 11:32-38.

The shortest verse in the Bible,” Jesus wept,” is written by the disciple whom Jesus loved. Yet, the context of Jesus’ tears occurs following the death of Lazarus. When Mary blames Jesus’ absence for her brother’s death, desperation and prayer unite. This combination moves Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead. Of all the miracles Jesus performs, this one should inspire anyone wanting to see a miracle come to a point in your life where desperation and prayer unite.

by Jay Mankus

Whatever You Imagine is Possible?

The United Negro College Fund used the expression “the mind is a terrible thing to waste” as their education slogan. While I agree with this statement, an active and vivid imagination is just as important for children and adults who are about to give up on life. Imagination inspired John Lennon to write a song. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. imagined a country where people would no longer be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Whatever you imagine is possible to a certain extent.

And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people and they have [a]all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them, Genesis 11:6.

Moses writes about a mighty hunter named Nimrod who imagined the first suburbs. in between the cities of Babel and Calneh. While the architect of the City of Babel and its mighty tower is not named, this idea came from the imagination of Nimrod who wasn’t afraid to dream big. Based upon the passage above, God believed that mankind could accomplish anything that they imagined if there was only one language on earth.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. 25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly puzzled (astonished, bewildered), saying, Who then can be saved [[g]from eternal death]? 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God, Matthew 19:24-26.

Fast forward to the New Testament as Jesus shares an analogy about the struggles rich people will have in regard to eternity. Based upon the emotional reaction of Jesus’ disciples, they were deflated. Jesus’ expression of a camel going through the eye of a needle, where they are tied up outside the city gates, seems impossible on the surface. However, with God anything is possible. Therefore, if you’re not afraid of imagining great things for your future, you have a chance if this dream aligns with God’s will. Only time will tell upon bended knees in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Putting the New into a Brand-New Day

Celebrating New Year’s Eve as an adult isn’t as exciting as it was when I was younger. I’m not sure if it’s my new work schedule which forces me to go to sleep between eight and nine on weekdays or I’ve lost enthusiasm and luster of the newness of a brand-new day. While reading words from the prophet Jeremiah, I was reminded how quickly sadness can be replaced with joy. In the passage below, Jeremiah transitions from bad news to a message of hope.

My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: Lamentations 3:20-21.

Depending upon how bad of a day, month or year you are having, God’s promise of grace and forgiveness is encouraging to any sinner. Despite his numerous missionary trips, the apostle Paul still considered himself one of the greatest sinners of all, 1 Timothy 1:15. The closer that some believers get to God, the more their sins are laid in plain sight. While the perfectionist in me still causes me to beat myself up from time to time, meditating on God’s love and nature gives me hope for tomorrow.

It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him, Lamentations 3:22-24.

Perhaps, the ideal manner to start a brand-new day is simply emulating Jesus’ early morning practice in Mark 1:35. Although you may not be a morning person but taking a walk before you pray is a great way to clear your mind from the worries of life. Back in college, I ran three to five miles a few times a week to refresh my mind before returning to complete my homework. As 2023 continues to unfold, may the Holy Spirit guide you to develop a special time with God daily so that you’ll be eager and excited to put the new into a brand-new day.

by Jay Mankus

The Shepherd’s Quake

The new year is as good as any time to develop a healthy appreciation and amazement of God. Unfortunately, it often takes some sort of accident that can scare the hell out of you. Something about surviving a near death experience causes your body to shake like the shepherd’s quake in the passage below. As you replay this event in your mind, goosebumps may appear all over your arms with your hair sticking straight up.

And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened, Luke 2:8-9.

This shepherd’s quake recorded by Luke appears to be more out of fear as encounters with angels in the Old Testament were a sign of your pending death. As this angel recognized their astonishment and shock, there was an immediate call to calm down and relax. Although Luke doesn’t mention facial expressions, upon hearing the great news of a Savior being born, this shepherd’s quake transitioned from fear to jubilee.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. 11 For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord! – Luke 2:10-11

The author of one New Testament book uses fear on two occasions to invoke a sense of spiritual urgency in Hebrews 6:1-6 and Hebrews 10:26-27. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul call an entire congregation to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12. Just as God taught Moses about walking on holy ground in Exodus, modern day Christians need to enter God’s presence with reverence. While it will take time to break bad habits from your past, emulating the shepherd’s quake as your worship the Lord will help transform your mind about how to approach God in prayer to get His attention.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 332: Jireh

The meaning of Jehovah Jireh in Hebrew refers to “the existing one. The one true God, Jireh, also means “see, to inspect, the perceive, to provide, to consider.” The most famous passage where Jehovah Jireh is found comes from Abraham. While on his way to sacrifice his promised son Isaac, the Lord provided a ram in the thicket. At the sight of this good fortune, Abraham thanked God for providing a replacement sacrifice rather than offering up his son Isaac.

Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering and an ascending sacrifice instead of his son! 14 So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide. And it is said to this day, On the mount of the Lord it will be provided, Genesis 22:13-14.

Since this day thousands of years ago, the Lord continues to provide today. Perhaps, this is the inspiration behind Elevation Worship and Maverick City’s song Jireh. Although not every prayer is answered, the persistent widow continued to wrestle with God until justice was received, Luke 18:1-8. As Jesus taught Christians while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, keep God’s will in mind as you pray to Jehovah Jireh, Matthew 26:41.

by Jay Mankus

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