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Tag Archives: Prayer

My Grand Father’s Rocking Chair

Prior to the breakdown of traditional families in America, my parents generation were committed to maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Despite living four hours away, I visited grand parents on each side of my family 3-4 times per year.  I didn’t need ancestry.com to know who my relatives were.  Rather, I grew up sitting around a large kitchen table listening to stories for a minimum of 30 minutes per meal.  My earliest recollections of my mom’s father, a resident of Hershey, Pennsylvania was sitting on his lap eating chocolate kisses.  While this chair rocked, it is considered a glider, green leather upholstery with stained wooden arm rests.  As I grew up, Grandpa Kautz and I developed a special bond, the love for golf.  After retiring, my grandfather became a starter at Hershey Country Club, able to play golf for free after work.  Prior to his death, my wife Leanne and I were able to play 18 holes with him on this course.  Although none of us played well, I still cherish the memories of this day.  Following his death, my grandfather left me 2 possessions, his golf clubs and his rocking chair/glider.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Psalm 119:105.

Last spring, my wife and I traveled down to Tampa, Florida to clear out her father’s condo.  Jim Wagner was an avid golfer who visited this place a few times each winter to avoid harsh Chicago winters.  After 25 years of vacations, the condo was sold following Jim’s death in 2017.  It’s amazing how many possessions you can accumulate and fit into a two bedroom condo over a quarter of a century.  Sorting through each closet was emotional for my wife, a 3 day chore that resulted in several piles: donations, keep and trash.  One of the items that was headed for the dumpster was a tall lamp made out of driftwood.  At first glance, I agreed to throw this out.  However, this piece of furniture grew on me, especially with the brightness, illuminating one side of the master bedroom.  Thus, I couldn’t part with this light, driving it back to Delaware.  Prior to this trip, my grandfather’s chair was collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom.  Due to a lack of light, I wasn’t able to see so I kept finding another place to read.  As strange as it may be, it seems that this glider was waiting for my driftwood lamp to make an unusual partnership.  Now, a day doesn’t go by without turning on this lamp  before sitting down to read, write or watch television.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

Jesus made a practice of finding a secluded place to spend time with his heavenly father each day.  The passage above doesn’t provide a specific location like a desert, mountainside or the wilderness.  On another occasion, Jesus encourages an audience to go find an empty room, close the door behind you before praying.  Prayer, study and worship isn’t meant to be public act to bring attention to yourself.  Rather, God wants individuals to locate an intimate setting so that there is nothing to distract you.  As for me, my grandfather’s glider and driftwood lamp has become like an inner sanctuary.  As I open up the Bible, study these pages and pour my heart out to God in prayer, I connect with God.  To a certain extent, this chair has become my Cave of Abdullah, 1 Samuel 22.  This place in my house now serves as a refuge, where I can retreat from the troubles and worries of life.  While I could always do better, become more committed and focused on the Lord, I continue to withdraw each day as God waits in eager expectation for me to turn on my lamp and recline in this chair.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

This chair has become an

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Baby Jesus or the Man in a Red Suit?

According to Washington Irving, the concept of Santa Claus emerged in the United States beginning in 1773.  In Washington’s 1809 book the History of New York, Americans borrowed from Sinterklaas, a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Commercial stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, followed by separate sections for holiday advertisements in 1840.  In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model.  The tradition of blending a real life Santa Claus to attract Christmas shoppers began in 1918.

Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them, Luke 18:15.

For the unchurched, Santa Claus has slowly replaced Jesus as the reason for this season.  As atheists, liberals and progressives continue to be offended by nativity scenes set up in public squares, law suits, public pressure and political correctness is eliminating the traces of this sacred holiday.  As a generation of babies, toddlers and young children have sat upon the laps of adults dressed up as Santa Claus, the concept of a baby Jesus is fading away.  Meanwhile, when asked by men in a red suit, “what do you want for Christmas,” Santa Claus has been elevated by many unknowing children to a god like status.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

Apparently, fairly tales and wise old tales was not just a modern phenomena.  According to the apostle Paul, first century leaders who opposed Christianity began to develop plans to mislead followers of Christ.  These schemes appear to have been successful in deceiving some believers who did not possess a strong spiritual foundation.  The context of the passage above refers to becoming rooted in Christ, relying on the Bible and prayer to serve as a spiritual guide through life.  Anyone who does not practice similar spiritual disciplines are vulnerable to believing in lies, John 8:44.  This dilemma has led me to ponder, who will today’s children believe: baby Jesus or the man in a red suit?

by Jay Mankus

Heaven Help Me

The Beatles released their fifth album Help on 6th August, 1965.  The featured song begins with the lyrics (Help!) I need somebody (Help!) Not just anybody (Help!) You know I need someone help!  More than fifty years later, these words can relate to anyone who is in trouble.  When circumstances appear to be spiritually related, individuals may choose to cry out to God in prayer, “heaven help me.”

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah’s reign. 698 years Before Christ, Isaiah was sawed in half, dying a martyr’s life after prophesizing for roughly sixty years. Despite the fate he would suffer, the Holy Spirit gave Isaiah several words of encouragement. In the passage above, Isaiah reminded Old Testament readers that God will help his children in their time of need.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life, Psalm 54:4.

The saying heaven help me is an idiom.  Typically, this expression is used to acknowledge that you are or could potentially be in trouble.  In 1988 artist Deon Estus released the song Heaven Help Me.  The lyrics refer to a man struggling to know what to say, asking God for wisdom so he doesn’t ruin the relationship of his dreams.  Country singer Gretchen Wilson takes a difference approach to heaven help me, asking God for divine intervention while wrestling with temptation.  Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, everyone will reach a point of desperation where only God can fix your situation.  In times of despair, don’t be afraid to ask for God’s help.

by Jay Mankus

 

Realigning Your Life with Faith

To align refers to arranging or placing something in a straight line.  For example, every three to five thousand miles, cars experience basic decay known as wear and tear on its’ body.  Fender benders, pot holes and uneven payment will eventually knock a vehicle out of alignment.  When your tire alignment is off, your ability to drive safely is compromised.  Thus, anyone who owns an automobile should schedule regular check ups three to four times a year to ensure a long and prosperous life for this valuable possession.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God [with faith and humility] like a child will not enter it at all, Luke 18:17.

In the passage above, Jesus refers to a different kind of alignment.  According to a first century doctor, Jesus and his disciples weren’t always on the same page.  Perhaps, these twelve men began to develop their own beliefs, opinions and views about life.  Apparently, exasperating children, treating them like a second class citizens infuriated Jesus.  The disciple’s flawed mindset resulted in a public rebuke.  Whether you are young or old, every day, week and month, Christians need to realign their faith with the word of God, Bible.

For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom [a substitutionary sacrifice to atone] for all, the testimony given at the right and proper time, 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

Instead of visiting a dealership, local garage or your personal mechanic, the apostle Paul reveals where believers need to turn to for a spiritual realignment.  Since there is only one mediator between God and man, the most logical place to begin is with Jesus.  Crying out to God in prayer is the first course of action.  Once your confess your issue or problem at hand, keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, to lead you to the proper biblical advice.  Just as Jesus often realigned his disciples, studying the Bible at home and in a group setting will enable you to realign your own faith.  Use the first day of 2019 as a starting block for this new year.

by Jay Mankus

Within the Grasp of the Human Mind

Modern scientists tend to gravitate toward atheism, trusting only that which they can prove via science.  Others follow a similar path to C.S. Lewis, abandoning a childhood faith, encouraged by higher education professors who do not believe that God exists.  A more recent example is Lee Strobel, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald, eager to prove that Christianity is a fraud.  Strobel’s testimony can be found in the book and now movie The Case for Christ.  Regardless of what so called experts, the media and scholars proclaim, the answer to the meaning of life is within the grasp of the human mind.

“Those laws (of nature) are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts,” Johannes Kepler in 1599.

During a trip to the new Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, I found this to be true.  On the second floor, Level 2, this exhibit is entitled the Impact of the Bible.  Like a living history book, there are hundreds of quotes from Colonists, Pilgrims, founding fathers, former presidents and past leaders of the United States.  Yet, other displays extend beyond our borders, documenting famous individuals in their fields throughout the world.  Two of the most intriguing comments come from a former astronomer and mathematician listed above and below.  Without mentioning scripture, each man appears to be referencing the invisible qualities of God, Romans 1:20.

“If the sacred scribes had had any intention of teaching people certain arrangements and motions of the heavenly bodies… then in my opinion they would not have spoken of these matters so sparingly, Galileo Galilei in a 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess of Christiana.

During his own letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that no should claim, “I didn’t know?”  Rather, the creation of the world reveals God’s invisible attributes.  A sunrise, the sun setting over an ocean and a rainbow following a storm are clear signs of a mastermind.  C.S. Lewis devotes the first section of Mere Christianity eluding to the Law of Human Nature.  While Lewis does highlight objections to this law, his words support what Galileo and Kepler have written.  If only human beings slowed down this Christmas season and stopped what they are doing for a moment, Psalm 46:10, the answers to the meaning of life are within the grasp of the human mind.  This revelation is just a prayer away.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Cardiomegaly

In the 1966 Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the narrator blames the Grinch’s attitude on an abnormally small heart.  As the citizens of Who-ville began to sing carols in preparation of Christmas, the Grinch started to devise a plan to steal their joy.  From a spiritual perspective, the Grinch represents Satan, seeking to steal, kill and destroy any glimpse of the real meaning of Christmas.  Yet, as his plan was interrupted by Little Cindy Lou Who, God used this child to penetrate the Grinch’s soul.  In one instant, when the meaning of Christmas was revealed, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

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 overflows], John 10:10.

The medical term for an enlarged heart is cardiomegaly.   This isn’t a disease, but rather a sign of another condition.  For example, during pregnancy, some mothers develop an enlarged heart.  This condition is usually temporary because of stress on your body.  Cardiomegaly can also be brought on by the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease or heart valve problems.  After three visits to a local cardiologist, I have been diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  My doctor wasn’t concerned, rather he wants me to come back in a year to monitor this condition.  Nonetheless, I do have something in common with the Grinch, an enlarged heart.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Throughout the Bible, there is an emphasis on pursuing a new heart.  The context of this reference is usually within a prayer.  King David asked God for a new heart after committing adultery and murder.  The prophet Jeremiah reveals how hearts can become deceitful, longing for fleshly desires instead of obeying God’s commands.  King Solomon refers to the heart as the well spring to life.  As I complete my 2500th blog, my prayer is that the Lord will create in me a new heart, full of forgiveness, love and mercy.  When individuals begin to demonstrate enlarged hearts seasoned with God’s grace, this world will become a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus

 

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