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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

When Everyone Else Has Given Up on You

White Cross released In the Kingdom in 1991. One of the singles from this album is No Second Chances. The context of these lyrics refer to when you die, there isn’t a second chance to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10. However, the Bible does suggest that some Christians will just barely get into heaven, Hebrews 10:26-27. If this is true, what does the Bible say when everyone else on earth has given up on you?

You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 5:5.

In the city of Corinth, a member of the church who is either a teenager or young adult has taken his father’s wife for himself. This act of incest angered Paul and inspired the words above. Just as Jesus handed over Judas Iscariot over to Satan, Paul does the same for this man. Despite the tone of Paul’s letter, there is a sliver of hope that severe church discipline will somehow save this lost soul.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews points to a Christian struggling with addiction. While there is no description of this bad habit or habitual sin, there isn’t any sign of contrition or a willingness to change. Coaches, parents, or teachers encounter individuals like Hebrews 6:6 every year. Unfortunately, these prodigals haven’t reach rock bottom or come to their senses. My prayer to anyone who thinks they are too far gone, remember the words of Luke 15:18 because God never gives up on lost sheep.

by Jay Mankus

Wrestling with Salvation

The origins of wrestling can be traced back to ancient cave drawings. Babylonian and Egyptian wrestlers displayed similar holds known in this present-day sport. This history suggests that wrestling represents one of the oldest forms of combat. Thus, it’s not surprising that one of Israel’s founding fathers wrestles with God throughout one long night. This draw (tie) served as a call for change from a swindler to a contender for God.

And Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 And when [the Man] saw that He did not prevail against [Jacob], He touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him. 26 Then He said, Let Me go, for day is breaking. But [Jacob] said, I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing upon me. 27 [The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]! 28 And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed, Genesis 32:24-28.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul refers to a spiritual wrestling match. Paul urges members of the Philippians Church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. In the passage below, the Amplified Version provides a clear explanation for what Paul is talking about. The goal for apostles was to fulfill the Great Commission, Acts 1:8. Rather than become complacent as a Christian, believers should cultivate and carry out God’s will for their lives.

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, [i]with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ), Philippians 2:12.

If you have lived long enough, you know that some days you have it and some days you don’t. When you don’t have your A game or the energy to succeed, wrestling with salvation is essential. When desire is lacking, use prayer as a crutch to keep on fighting. If your faith starts to slide, hang in there by clinging to the promises of the Bible. Whether you have to wrestle for hours, days, months or years, keep hope alive by working out your weaknesses.

by Jay Mankus

Crashing Waves that Erode Your Faith

According to the latest research, erosion washes away 25 feet of coastal beach annually. When a region experiences more than it’s typical amount of hurricanes, crashing waves can wash away up to 50 feet of coastline in a season. On a rare occasion, the aftermath of a great storm forms a new land mass. Such is the case of the great hurricane of 1933. Crashing waves and storm surge eroded the Ocean City inlet, resulting in the creation of Assateague Island.

[Roaring] deep calls to [roaring] deep at the thunder of Your waterspouts; all Your breakers and Your rolling waves have gone over me, Psalm 42:7.

There are 53 verses in the Bible that use the expression wave. However, only 16 refer to a wave on a lake or sea. In the passage above, a chief musician sings about the power of rushing water. Whether the author is writing about a specific river, waterfall or a raging flood flowing after a severe storm, water has a mind of itself. One downpour can take a country road and transform it into a river, sweeping away anything that comes close to it’s path.

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, James 1:6.

While the height of waves are limited on lakes and rivers, the larger the body of water, the higher that waves climb. Although tsunamis are rare to most coastlines, invisible tsunamis occur daily in the forms of hardship, trials, and tribulations. If your faith is weak or unprepared, doubt will come crashing through like a freight train. Instead of hesitating, believers must be alert, forming hedges of protection via prayer so that when days of danger arrive, your faith will stand tall.

by Jay Mankus

When Gusts of Doubt Uproot Your Faith

Every Easter pastors, priests, and teachers read passages in the Bible of disciples abandoning Jesus in His greatest time of need. When asked to pray late at night, they fell asleep. After being confronted about his relationship, Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. As the winds of doubt began to blow on that original Good Friday, the only disciple not uprooted by the pressure to conform was John who took care of Mary after Jesus ascended into heaven.

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.

According to first centurion historians, even Jesus’ earthly brother, James, did not believe until Resurrection Sunday. Perhaps, the passage above is a personal confession, disappointed by his own lack of faith. Instead using his God given ears to hear and eyes to see, gusts of doubt blinded James from Jesus’ true identity. Nearly 2000 years later, the gusts of doubt continue to blow. Some of these storms are hidden by gray clouds, appearing without a moments notice. When the sky clears, a trail of wounded souls and debris remain.

And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

The apostle Paul compares faith to a deeply rooted tree, Colossians 2:7, nourished and built up by Christ. Unfortunately, winds of doubt often separate believers from their source of light and life. After cursing an unproductive fig tree, the disciples were shocked by Jesus’ miraculous powers. Jesus uses this teachable moment to reveal how doubt impacts his followers. Therefore, the next time you feel the gusts of doubt begin to blow, clear your mind before prayer is exercised to secure a firm defense.

by Jay Mankus

The Exercise of God’s Power

Exercise is the act of bringing into play. While exercise is a vehicle to lose weight or stay in shape, this isn’t something that human beings attribute to God. Yet, when fasting sets the spiritual tone and prayers are lifted up to heaven, miracles are the realization of God’s power in action. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of bizarre events that defy science. Whether it’s the ten plagues unleashed upon Egypt, the sound of trumpets bringing down the walls of Jericho or the resurrection of Jesus, this is the exercise of God’s power.

Of this [Gospel] I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s free grace (undeserved favor) which was bestowed on me by the exercise (the working in all its effectiveness) of His power, Ephesians 3:7.

The context of the passage above begins with the ministerial gift available to apostles, preachers, and teachers. As spiritual leaders bestow the gift of God’s grace upon their followers, lives are slowly changed. While some individuals are transformed over night, most experience a gradual evolution into a new creation in Christ Jesus. Perhaps, the apostle Paul credits revived souls to the exercise of God’s power working behind the scenes. The catalyst of this spiritual change is fuel by the Holy Spirit, aka, the Holy Ghost.

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides], Ephesians 6:10.

Three chapters later, the apostle Paul reveals why spiritual exercise is necessary. As Paul unveils the spiritual dimension, you will find oppressive authority exerted by governments, master spirits who control world leaders, and spiritual forces of wickedness seeking to cause havoc in this supernatural realm. Without the exercise of God’s power, defeat and destruction is likely. However, as Christians begin to put on the armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18, with a layer of prayer, the exercise of God’s power will propel you to victory in the end.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Become Despondent Through Fear

Living out a Christian faith can be oppressive, tedious, and seemingly without end of obstacles. Furthermore, when things don’t go the way you expect or think, it’s not uncommon to suffer from depression. When confidence is lost or hope slips away, fear can suck the joy out of life. Like a golfer who is all over the place during their round, there are many days where you have to grind everything out.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you, Ephesians 3:12-13.

Whatever optimistic message you have received about a new life in Christ, every day has a new set of challenges. If you let your guard down, become over confident or don’t have enough prayer cover, extreme discouragement may not be too far behind. Unpleasant emotions are a byproduct of fear, caused by a belief that someone or something is a threat. This is where faith must rise to the occasion, opening the door for boldness and courage to shine through.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

Apparently, despondency was an issue in the first century as the apostle Paul writes a similar message to two different congregations. The context of the passage above refers to you reap what you sow. If your mind is constantly fixated on fear, you will become worn down by despondent thoughts. Therefore, if you want to rise above your circumstances, approach God with a humble heart, expecting blessings for those who belong to the household of faith.

by Jay Mankus

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