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Placed in Right Standing with God

Joe Mantegna is best known for his role as David Rossi in Criminal Minds. While not part of the current cast, Mantegna first came to the forefront as detective Will Girardi in the series Joan of Arcadia. In the opening scene, Girardi is the new chief of police, taking over in Arcadia, a city full of corruption. As Mantegna confronts law breakers each episode, political pushback eventually results in losing his position. Despite being cast as a former altar boy in the Catholic Church, Mantegna’s character is an atheist who believes God is punishing him as he and his family face a series of ongoing trials.

But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ [to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ], we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin? Banish the thought! [Of course not!] 18 For if I [or any others who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential to] build up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor, Galatians 2:17-18.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul references his previous life as a Pharisee, eager to adhere to a rigid and strict adherence to the Law of Moses. As the Church in Galatia is infiltrated by a religious sect known as the Judaizers, Paul warns these new Christians not to force Gentile converts to conform to Jewish traditions. Paul clarifies how to placed in right standing with God. This isn’t accomplished through following a set of rules in the Old Testament. Rather, the only way to be set free from being convicted as a sinner on Judgement Day is by placing your faith and sole trust in Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:19-22.

The best example of being placed in right standing with God is a first century story shared by Jesus. This parable involves two sons, the younger who was tired of living at home. Bored and eager to get out on his own, this immature teenager wore down his father, giving into his demands. Like a freshman college student during their first semester, Luke’s word describe someone who wanted to be the life of the party. However, not long afterward this individual flunked out and became homeless, desperation sets in. Morally and spiritually bankrupt, this prodigal came to his senses. The prayer above is an outline for being placed in right standing with God.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming a Nervous Breakdown

The definition of a nervous breakdown is a period of mental illness resulting from severe depression, stress, or anxiety. This condition manifests itself primarily as severe stress-induced depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functioning individual. If these symptoms continue without any sort of intervention, the afflicted are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until this disorder is cured.  During a long cross country practice in high school, I had my own breakdown while running up a hill.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow. Then he was afraid and arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba of Judah [over eighty miles, and out of Jezebel’s realm] and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a lone broom or juniper tree and asked that he might die. He said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers, 1 Kings 19:1-4.

A mental breakdown is defined by its temporary nature, often closely tied to psychological burnout, severe overwork, sleep deprivation and similar stressors. In the passage above, an Old Testament prophet wasn’t prepared for the revenge sought by Queen Jezebel. After defeating the prophets of Asherah and Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah may have become over confident, 1 Kings 18:38-40. If I successfully called fire to come down from heaven following a prayer like Elijah, I would feel invincible.

As he lay asleep under the broom or juniper tree, behold, an angel touched him and said to him, Arise and eat. He looked, and behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came the second time and touched him and said, Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you. So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God, 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Unfortunately, only God knows the future. Thus, when your suffer a surprising defeat, shocking failure or a humiliating lose, it takes time to recover. If a life is lost or a job terminated, the recovery time is often extended to months and years to feel normal again. This is when you need to retreat like Elijah to quiet place, to be still before God, 1 Kings 19:11-13. While the healing process will vary, this is the first step toward overcoming a nervous breakdown.

by Jay Mankus

Worn Out Before the Worship Begins

The Coronavirus has taken a toll on families, lives and souls in 2020. According to a recent report, over 100,000 small businesses have closed this year. Meanwhile, if further lock downs or restrictions are enacted in the weeks and months to come, more the 85% of restaurants could be forced to go out of business for good. Although the thought of Christmas may serve as a healthy distraction for some, many Americans are worn out before Christmas worship services begin, me included.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! – Psalm 95:6

The book definition of worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. While talking to a Samaritan woman in the middle of a hot summer day, Jesus refers to a physical thirst for living water. True worship is valuing the treasures of God, not temporary pleasures that quickly fade away. The inner essence of worship is designed to pour out your heart to the Lord. This occurs by responding to acquired knowledge of the Bible within your mind, as longings within your heart begin to ooze out. However, if you are emotionally spent, how do you regain a vigor for worship this Christmas?

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth,” John 4:24.

One thing Jesus doesn’t want is a counterfeit, a phony Christian faking worship. When anxieties, burdens, and concerns overwhelm your soul, Jesus serves as a weighing station, Matthew 11:28-30. Prayer is a way you can unload all of your spiritual trash, sucking any joy remaining in your life. Once this removal is compete, true worship can begin. Therefore, if you are still trying to pick up the pieces shattered by Covid-19, meet with Jesus now so that you’ll be ready to worship God on Christmas Day.

by Jay Mankus

A Fast for Freedom

The biblical definition of a fast is abstinence from food, drink, or a specific aspect in life. This spiritual discipline is usually done in private or part of a public religious devotion in affiliation with a local church. Fasting is not found as a command in the Torah; nor is any type of fast mentioned until the days of Judges in the Old Testament. Nonetheless, in times of death, exile, grave danger and illness, dire situations have awakened souls in the past and present to fast until an answer to prayer is received.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:13-14

A typically fast is kept silent, a commitment or vow made between you and God. However, in the case of Esther, she is in a position of power, wife of the king, in prime position to take action as one of the members of her husband’s cabinet wanted to exterminate the Jewish race. Overwhelmed by the moment, queen Esther called upon God’s people to fast and pray for three days. The purpose of this fast was to receive insight, wisdom, and the exact words to persuade the king. While often called the Esther Fast, this portion of the Bible provides the blueprint to a fast for freedom.

Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai,16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went away and did all that Esther had commanded him, Esther 4:15-17.

As the final days of 2020 countdown this December, the Coronavirus has broken cities, families and neighborhoods. Declarations, edicts, and state emergency proclamations have placed extreme restrictions on businesses, citizens, and public education. Meanwhile, if you are an entrepreneur, own a business or work in a non-essential field, you understand the pain of Covid-19. Human beings can only take so much, moved to a breaking point due to this worldwide pandemic. If you feel like there is no where else to turn, join me in a Fast for Freedom so that truth, justice and the America way can be restored by triumphing over Communism and Socialism.

by Jay Mankus

A Request for Protection to Save Us from Ourselves

Temptation and trials tend to co-exist, going hand and hand throughout life. Depending upon your own faith journey, most people usually wait until temptation arrives before prayers begin to flow. To the spiritually inexperienced and young, the Lord’s Prayer provides a guide for protection. This simple outline serves as a point of reference when Satan turns up the heat, Job 1:10-12 or when you begin to lose control of your earthly desires.

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 reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:13-15.

The earthly brother of Jesus clears up any confusion over who is to blame for temptation. According to James, God allows temptation to occur, but is not the source of it. When a trial enters your life, Satan attacks your sinful nature using evil to force some sort of compromise. When your body becomes weak and vulnerable, this is where prayer requests for protection are essential. Job prepared for his own trials by using prayer to establish a hedge of protection to avoid self-destruction from sinful desires.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

According to James, enticement, lust and passions dictate what your spiritual pulses will is. While wondering thoughts are the root of this spiritual problem, acting upon these is when sin is conceived. Thus, before you self destruct by allowing an addiction or bad habit rule your life, lean on prayer to turn back evil. The moment you develop this spiritual discipline, prayer can save you from yourself when temptation begins.

by Jay Mankus

The Master of Disinformation

Piercing the Darkness, a Frank Peretti novel, was first published in 1988. Building upon the first book in this spiritual warfare series, This Present Darkness, Peretti seeks to peal back the spiritual dimension to reveal what is happening behind the scenes. One of the lesser known demons has gained dominion over Bentmore College in Peretti’s book. The name given to this entity is the Master of Disinformation.

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief [of the celestial] princes, came to help me, for I remained there with the kings of Persia, Daniel 10:13.

Peretti’s fictional character is consistent with a biblical account in the Old Testament. Apparently, Daniel was granted access to the spiritual realm, made aware of a demonic presence that possessed a foothold in Persia. While it’s unclear how the demonic prince of Persia fought Daniel, the Master of Disinformation seeks to deceive, distract and de-emphasize the real threat with other information to change the narrative.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:12.

The apostle Paul appears to have had a similar experience during a visit to Ephesus. Instead of pointing out one particular spirit, Paul places these dark forces into 4 categories. When you take this information and consider the possibilities, it’s not too far fetched to believe in a modern demon of Dis-information. When social media sites collude to ban, censor or hide certain facts from the general public, the Master of Dis-information is alive and well today. This is where prayer provides spiritual googles to reveal what the darkness is trying to hide. Fast and pray so that truth prevails.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Evil Find a Home

While the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain numerous references to Jesus casting out a demon or demons, there are only 7 accounts of exorcisms in the Bible. One author seems to be intrigued by this spiritual phenomena. As a first century doctor, Luke becomes introspective, unsure of where evil begins and ends. These thoughts likely inspired the passage below.

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it roams through waterless places in search [of a place] of rest (release, refreshment, ease); and finding none it says, I will go back to my house from which I came. 25 And when it arrives, it finds [the place] swept and put in order and furnished and decorated, Luke 11:24-25.

Trying to walk the line between the physical and spiritual, Luke details what happens in the moments, hours and days following an individual’s independence from an evil spirit. As if giving a prescription to a current patient, Luke summarizes the emotions, feelings and possible symptoms one might experience. Highlighting a worse case scenario, Luke seeks to scare people straight by urging the freed and healed to not let evil find a home within your heart, soul or mind.

And it goes and brings other spirits, seven [of them], more evil than itself, and they enter in, settle down, and dwell there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first, Luke 11:26.

Before allowing his patient (the reader) to leave, Luke lays out what will happen if you don’t listen to his advice. This is where using prayer to form a hedge of protection is essential. If this crucial step is skipped, the door is left ajar, giving evil just enough room to creep into your life. If Luke could come back from the dead, he would likely plead with anyone who would listen, “don’t let evil find a home.”

by Jay Mankus

Fighting Back When Lucifer Arrives on the Scene

You can learn a lot about future when you study the past. The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter, 1 Corinthians 10, to remind and warn Jews of past failures. If you don’t learn from the past, there is a good chance that you will repeat the same mistakes of your forefathers. Thus, when Lucifer arrives on the scene, you have to be ready to fight back spiritually.

Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them.And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it, Job 1:6-7.

According to Job, the fallen angel known as Lucifer interrupted a meeting between angels and God. This spiritual adversary came to accuse God of not being fair, protecting certain believers like Job. Thus, Lucifer uses logic and reasoning to receive permission from God to attack Job. After some consideration, Lucifer is able to inflict Job’s body and family with trials.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. 13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place], Ephesians 6:12-13.

The apostle Paul doesn’t mess around when it comes to fighting against Lucifer, aka, the Devil. Christians are called to put on the full armor of God; to fight fire with spiritual fire. If any piece of this spiritual covering is missing, you become vulnerable. This isn’t a science fiction film, spiritual warfare is real, a hidden reality that must be addressed. Take up your helmet and shield, Ephesians 6:17-18, using prayer to fight back when Lucifer and demons arrive on the scene.

by Jay Mankus

Praying Through as Time Runs Out

The earthly brother of Jesus refers to life as a mist, a vapor that appears momentarily before vanishing, James 4:14. To anyone who has been in an accident, diagnosed with a rare disease or given a slim chance to survive, time becomes the enemy. After a wave of emotions rush through your mind, many turn to prayer as a last ditch effort to beat the odds.

And going a little farther, He threw Himself upon the ground on His face and prayed saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will [not what I desire], but as You will and desire. 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, What! Are you so utterly unable to stay awake and keep watch with Me for one hour? – Matthew 26:39-40

While prayer was designed by God as a proactive force to form hedges of protection, many Christians procrastinate. Waiting for a sense urgency to be conceived, Jesus’ own disciples are led late at night to pray for the future. However, tired bodies prevail, lulled into a false sense of security. After Jesus is arrested, Judas commits suicide and their fearless leader is sentenced to death, urgency arrives. While Peter denies knowing Jesus, I’m assuming some disciples were praying for a miracle before time ran out.

So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, using the same words. 45 Then He returned to the disciples and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of especially wicked sinners [whose way or nature it is to act in opposition to God]. 46 Get up, let us be going! See, My betrayer is at hand! – Matthew 26:44-46

Keith Green’s 1978 song Asleep in the Night was controversial at this time of it’s release. Just like the apathy demonstrated by Jesus’ disciples in the first century, many Christians continue to live their daily lives playing defense, reacting to hardships, trials and tribulations. Instead of praying through until runs out in a proactive manner, crying out to God often becomes more like wishful thinking. This bad habit must be broken by praying in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18, so that Christians can begin to regain footholds lost to the enemy, Ephesians 4:27.

by Jay Mankus

The Spiritual Dimension

There are 30 passages in the Bible that refer to a spiritual dimension. The most famous occurs in Ephesians 6:12 where the apostle Paul unveils what is out of sight to human eyes. This dimension is transcendence toward something more than what is apparent in the experiences of other dimensions. According to Paul, what lies beneath the surface is an ongoing spiritual battle between powers, rulers and spiritual forces.

Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it. And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who [reverently] fears God and abstains from and shuns evil [because it is wrong]? Then Satan answered the Lord, Does Job [reverently] fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face, Job 1:6-11.

Although it’s not the first, Job was the first completed book in the Bible. Since chapter 1 references living in the land of dinosaurs, Job likely lived prior to the biblical flood mentioned in Genesis 7. Following a brief introduction, Job is made aware of what lurks out of sight. Whether through prayer or a one on one conversation with God, Job’s spiritual enemy is brought to life. Lucifer is described as a diligent traveler of the earth, seeking to steal, kill and destroy human souls, John 10:10.

But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]! – James 2:18-19

In the middle of the first century, Jesus’ earthly brother writes about demons. Based upon Christian historians, James did not come to faith until after Jesus rose from the dead. While there is no mention of a private conversation with his big brother before ascending into heaven in Acts 1, James was aware of demons. Despite their tricks, demons know the fate that await them, Jude 1:6. While you’re current struggle may not be obvious to you, don’t be surprised if there is a spiritual element to what’s going on in the world today.

by Jay Mankus

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