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Going Off to an Invisible War

When individuals turn 18 in the United States, you can register to vote and enlist into the military if that is the path you want to choose. Prior to January 27th 1973, young men were forced to serve this country via a draft. Today, nearly 60 countries around the world still have some form of service conscription. As for modern day Christians, instead of heading off to boot camp for training, all you need to find is a quiet before going off to an invisible war.

But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open, Matthew 6:6.

This concept was first introduced by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The context of this passage was to ensure that prayer was done in a private setting, not as a way to show off in public as some Pharisees were doing. Jesus didn’t just preach to the masses, He lived out biblical disciplines. One of the apostle Paul’s ministry helpers recalls the time Jesus went missing in the middle of the night. As the disciples began to panic, Jesus was merely going off to an invisible war.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

Jesus went for a walk before sunset, finding a quiet place to begin his day with prayer. While Mark does not provide the length of time spent out in the wilderness, Jesus likely prayed for more than an hour, possibly two. As Jesus arose from this spiritual battle on his knees, He was armed with exactly where to go and what to do. As King Solomon once wrote about, “many are the plan’s in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevail,” Proverbs 19:21. This is what it means to go off to an invisible war.

by Jay Mankus

Concentrate Your Prayers

When individuals participate in a long conversation, you may reach a point where you lose focus. While some topics are so fascinating that discussions will last for hours, others get old fast as you try to slip away to avoid wasting any more time. The talks that I remember the most in life are the ones that I was captivated by someone or something. Your degree of concentration tends to make the difference between a boring and interesting conversation.

Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19.

Conversation is the action or power of focusing one’s attention by using a concerted mental effort. When Christians enter into a conversation with God via prayer, there are many distractions that may abruptly end this spiritual connection. The apostle Paul wrote two letters to the Church at Thessalonica. In each letter Paul makes a point to encourage believers to concentrate their prayers.

Furthermore, brethren, do pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on (spread rapidly and run its course) and be glorified (extolled) and triumph, even as [it has done] with you, 2 Thessalonians 3:1.

The first mention refers to developing a prayerful mindset. When prayer become unceasing, a hedge of protection is formed so that you will be prepared for whatever circumstance comes your way. Meanwhile, if you begin to pray for the Great Commission to be fulfilled, Matthew 28:19-20, the Word of the Lord will continue to spread. Despite the rise and fall of emotions in this life, concentrate your prayers so that God will be glorified.

by Jay Mankus

The Hidden Principle of Rebellion

Rebellion refers to an open resistance to an established government or ruler. In the earliest days on earth, God kept in simple by giving Adam and Eve freedom from every area of the Garden of Eden accept for one. The only boundary to steer clear from was to abstain from eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Genesis 2:16-17. Moses doesn’t mention any craving, desire or enticement until a crafty serpent began to open Eve’s mind to rebellion.

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity, Genesis 3:1-5.

At the beginning of this encounter, Eve does the right thing by repeating God’s warning to avoid fruit from this tree. As Satan continued his subtle persuasion, Eve’s mind was open to bending this rule. According to Moses, Adam was right there with her, listening to Satan’s justification and rationalization to rebel against God. Instead of interrupting this conversation and tell Satan to get lost, Adam’s idleness opened the door for rebellion to enter the earth.

For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until [c]he who restrains is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8.

The apostle Paul unveils Satan’s plan of introducing the hidden principle of rebellion to mankind. While this lawlessness has been restrained for now by the power of the Holy Spirit, there will come a day when this is unleashed. Immediately following the second coming of Jesus, the anti-Christ will reign the earth for 7 years until the battle of Armageddon. Yet, for now human beings must use prayer as a hedge of protection so that rebellion doesn’t poison your soul and ruin your life.

by Jay Mankus

When Will You Find Peace?

On June 7, 1972, the North Vietnamese Army the South Vietnamese town of Trang Bang. One of the tactics used by the North Vietnamese Army was to hide among the villagers because it helped avoid airstrikes and artillery. While there were videos of the beginning of the Vietnam War, one picture shocked the U.S. public about the terror of the Vietnam war. This photo was of a 9 year old girl who soon became known as the “Napalm Girl”.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

This one gut-wrenching photograph illustrated the complete opposite of peace. Nearly a half century later, war has taken on new forms. Following protests and rioting in 2020 across the United States, some neighborhoods have become a war zone with violence breaking out nearly every weekend. As concerned citizens come to grips this wave of unrest, many troubled souls are wondering, “when will I find peace?”

Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways [under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes]. The Lord [be] with you all, 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

The apostle Paul provides advice for anyone searching for peace in the passages above. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by anxiety and worry, Paul suggests that prayer should be used as a hedge of protection. Whatever you are facing or about to go through, lift up these concerns to God. Meanwhile, give thanks for all circumstances, good, bad or indifferent so that peace of God will begin to provide tranquility and assurance to your soul. As you practice Paul’s advice, may you find the peace of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

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

Double Minded Double Lives

The earthly brother of Jesus is similar to the main character in a modern film. James finds himself struggling to come to grips with his past. Despite watching his older brother grow up to become the greatest spiritual of the first century, James began to listen to Jewish religious leaders. Based upon the confessions within his epistle, James’ mind was poisoned by the elders from local synagogues. This led to a double mind and a subsequent double life.

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides], James 1:6-8.

When you are young, it’s easy to be persuaded by classmates and peers with strong personalities. Depending upon who you end up talking with, hanging around and joining at a lunch room table, you may find yourself in a moral dilemma, Psalm 1:1-2. Do you go with the flow of the crowd or do you stand up for what you believe? James compares this to the wind and waves which intensity from a storm, often coming out of no where. When the weather changes quickly, will you waver or stay true to who you are and what you believe?

Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery], James 4:8.

If you find yourself in a free fall, living a double life, James provides valuable advice in the passage above. In my final 2 years of college, I was a strong Christian when a new semester began, only to fall away from the Lord each summer. The temporary treasures of the world had become so attractive that my double mind led to a double life. This all came to a crossroad when I broke my ankle playing sand volleyball just before my senior year of college. Stuck in bed for my final weeks of my last summer as a student, I began to use James 5:16 as an outline for prayer. My double mind didn’t go away immediately, but over time a contrite heart helped me withstand this spiritual storm.

by Jay Mankus

Engaged and Energized

While engagement is often associated with the process leading up to marriage, to be engaged refers to an active, engrossed and involved state. I’ve never thought of prayer in the context of being engaged. However, when the apostle Paul found an isolated spot to pray, Mark 1:35, his concentration was fixated on God. Paul wasn’t just hoping and wishing for an answer to prayer, he expected God to perform a miracle.

We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

One verse later, Paul refers to being energized by faith. As Christians begin to pray with an unceasing desire, this is often accompanied with a sudden boost of energy. When you add and incorporate promises in the Bible to prayer, faith is strengthened. Prayer is an act of putting the needs of others before yourself as you pour out your heart to God. When prayer becomes a daily habit, a spirit of service is conceived.

Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

In the first century, there was a belief that Jesus would return in their own lifetime. For those individuals who witnessed Jesus rise from the dead, there was a sense of urgency to seize each day on earth, Galatians 6:9-10. This is the motivation that the apostle Paul refers to in the passage above. If you want to make the most of your life on earth, engage yourself in prayer so that your faith is energized to keep on serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A New Generation of Bereans

The apostle Paul wrote two letters to a teenage pastor in the first century. Serving as a spiritual mentor to Timothy, Paul provides a glimpse of what you should expect in the future. Paul warned of a time when individuals will begin to believe what their itching ears want to hear, 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Like a group of teenage girls chatting at a lunch room table, it won’t be long before urges to gossip using exaggeration spreads from one table throughout a school.

Now these [Jews] were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

During two separate trips to nearby cities, Paul experiences two distinct mindsets. Paul’s initial encounter in Thessalonica is like most large cities in the United States today, Acts 17:5-6. Like a scene from 2020, a mob mentality developed in the streets of Thessalonica. Unbelieving Jews served as agitators, doing whatever it took to prevent Paul’s ministry from winning over hearts and minds to Jesus.

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. 22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.

One day later, Paul was impressed by the character of the Bereans. Unlike the Thessalonians who believed whatever they heard, the people of Berea developed a system for testing concepts and theories with God’s Word. After listening to a recent sermon on TBN, America needs a new generation of Bereans to rise up today. Rather than caving to the Cancel Culture, this nation needs noble individuals guided and inspired by biblical convictions. This is my prayer for future generations.

by Jay Mankus

A Deep and Clear Knowledge of God’s Will

The only thing on earth comparable to uncovering a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is preparing your body for a triathlon. As a former runner and swimmer, I spent two winters in high school pushing my body to it’s limits. Since my practice schedule rotated with the girl’s team, every other day I would run before swimming. As it got colder, my hair would freeze when I ran after my two hour swim practice. Meanwhile, each summer I would take my boys on long bike trip, somewhere between 10-15 miles. Trying to walk after getting off your bike is hard enough, but finishing a triathlon with a long run takes everything you have just to finish.

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.

In a letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that discovering God’s will for your life is attainable. However, you must develop the right mindset to make this a reality. Whenever I get lost in the world, filled with countless temporary pleasures, God’s will is put on hold. As a prodigal returns back home to the Lord, rededicating your life back to the Lord isn’t easy, especially when temptations begin to bombard you. Paul compares this with rigid daily disciplines as individuals offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Yet, this is just the initially step before God’s will becomes clear and visible.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—Colossians 1:9.

While writing to the members of the Church at Colosse, Paul shares a brief outline of his prayers. Paul doesn’t want this church to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years like Israel waiting to enter God’s Promised Land. Rather, Paul wants these leaders to begin to ascertain their spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, so that these talents can be put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6. As these God given abilities are brought to light, a glimpse of God’s will for your life comes into focus. Yet, this process often takes years, decades and a lifetime to uncover. If you want to adopt Paul’s prayer for your own life, start this journey today so that a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is unveiled to you soon.

by Jay Mankus

The Possession of a Priceless Privilege

Launched in 1997, Mastercard’s Priceless Advertisement Campaign has been one of the most iconic branding initiatives in recent history. The point of these commercials was to highlight that while some material items can be purchased, other moments in life are priceless. I’m not sure what inspired the apostle Paul to use a similar expression in a first century letter, but his relationship with God was invaluable.

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), Philippians 3:8.

Value is often reflected by the time you put into a specific art, craft, hobby, or skill. The workaholic tends to be so consumed by their work that everything else is put on hold. Meanwhile, relational individuals follow the path of Mary in the Bible, savoring every moment that she had with Jesus, Luke 10:41-42. Perhaps, this account triggered Paul to write about the possession of the priceless privilege of being a follower of Christ.

And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith, Philippians 3:9.

This privilege is made possible by faith. In his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul writes about faith coming from hearing the message, the good news about Jesus Christ, Romans 10:17. For those of us who did not hear the Sermon on the Mount in person, the Bible is a valuable resource to remind Christians of this priceless privilege. Before this day ends, make sure you take a few minutes, whether in Word or prayer, to thank the Lord for being a child of God.

by Jay Mankus

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