RSS Feed

Tag Archives: praying

A Faith That Stands the Test of Time

I visited a church last Sunday to meet up with a couple I hadn’t seen for a while.  Upon entering the foyer, I recognized the greeters from Red Lion where I taught for a decade.  As the music began to play at the traditional service, I felt like I was transported back to the 1970’s.  I hadn’t heard or sung several of these hymns since I was young.  Despite this odd encounter, I witnessed a faith within members of the congregation that has stood the test of time.

In the morning, as they were passing by, the disciples saw that the fig tree had withered away from the roots up. 21 And remembering, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi (Master), look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered!” – Mark 11:20-21

This faith was conceived during the first century from a motley crew of men who followed an impressive Jewish Rabbi.  One of these disciples connected the dots quickly, amazed at the power Jesus possessed.  One day Jesus cursed an unproductive fig tree and the next day it withered.  As more and more miracles were seen daily, Peter was transformed from someone who denied Jesus publicly into a martyr willing to die for his faith.

Jesus replied, “Have faith in God [constantly]. 23 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart [in God’s unlimited power], but believes that what he says is going to take place, it will be done for him [in accordance with God’s will], Mark 11:22-23.

Faith in Christ is like the merging of belief and confidence.  When these two forces join, the words mentioned above become reality as souls tap into God’s unlimited power.  This process is hard to explain. but when you see individuals praying, singing and worshipping with such joy, faith shines through.  While older Christians may cling to traditional hymns, inspired hearts often result in a faith that stands the test of time.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Are Unable to Make the Best of a Difficult Situation

Whenever people pray for patience, God tends to have a sense of humor placing individuals into extreme circumstances.  These scenarios put patience to the test, seeing whether you will pass or fail.  Well, a few weeks ago I wrote a blog about making the best of difficult situations at work.  Apparently, the Lord has given my faith a pop quiz to see if I am practicing what I have preached about recently.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

The apostle Paul points to endurance as a key element to get you through troubling times in life.  Endurance includes acceptance, bearing with, fortitude, persistence and tenacity to withstand curve balls that interrupt your life.  According to the passage above, Christians undergoing trials should seek guidance from the Bible.  As you receive encouragement from God’s promises, it is possible to make the best of a difficult situation.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

However, there is an invisible force that you must be cautious of to avoid acting out impulsively without any regard for God and his precepts.  When push comes to shove, childish ways inside of me are about to erupt, wanting to throw a tantrum like the days of my youth.  Unless you habitually keep in step with the Holy Spirit, ungodly words will come out of your mouth.  Thus, until I get this area of my life under control, I won’t be able to make the best of a difficult situation.

by Jay Mankus

The Role of Resolve in Prayer

According to Luke, one of the sons of Zebedee becomes the first of Jesus’ disciples to die a martyr’s death.  Apparently, the spread of Christianity threatened Agrippa I, the new king of the Jews.  It’s unclear why James was targeted, but he was executed in public to send a message.  When this act received praise from Jewish leaders, Agrippa I made plans to do the same thing with Peter.  As news of Peter’s arrest and rumors of another execution reached the church, fear drew believers to fall to their knees to pray.

Now at that time Herod [Agrippa I] the king [of the Jews] arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to harm them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword; Acts 12:1-2.

Based upon the passage below, the prayers lifted up to God were fervent and persistent.  Following the Passover, Peter was scheduled to be executed in a similar manner as James.  As this day drew near, prayers of the saints intensified.  Individuals were begging and pleading with God to deal with, fix and resolve this emergency immediately.  Based upon Acts 12:8-10, the Lord sent an angel to save Peter’s life, answering their prayers instantaneously.

When he had seized Peter, he put him in prison, turning him over to four squads of soldiers of four each to guard him [in rotation throughout the night], planning after the Passover to bring him out before the people [for execution]. So Peter was kept in prison, but fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church, Acts 12:4-5.

During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the role of resolve in prayer is mentioned, Matthew 7:7-12.  Step one is obvious, ask God for any requests on your heart or that come to mind.  Step two begins when prayers aren’t answered, seek God to find out why.  Finally, be fervent and persistent by keep knocking on God’s door.  Don’t give up on prayer; resolved to keep praying until the Lord opens a door to reveal answers for your prayers.  This is the role of resolve in prayer.  May your prayer life begin to resemble first century Christians.

by Jay Mankus

Day Dreaming, a Trance or a Spiritual Message?

The most common form of altered consciousness is known as day dreaming.  Consciousness is our level of awareness of what’s going on around us and in us at all times. Levels of consciousness are often changing throughout the day, as individuals struggle to concerntrate as brains wander.  As a child, I day dreamed about being a professional athlete.  When my golfing career ended at Qualifying School in 1995, my goals changed toward becoming a good and faithful husband.  Twenty five years later, my dreams have shifted toward becoming a professional screen writer while I enjoy retirement. 

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance, Acts 10:9-10.

The term “trance” is associated with meditation, magic, energetic flow and prayer.  Trance like states are used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals,  Meanwhile, hypnotherapists, psychiatrists and sports psychologists are among modern therapists who use trances today.  As a former long distance runner, I often blacked out for a period of time while training.  For a quarter mile or more, I slipped into a trance as I listened to music.  The sound of a car horn, the beginning of a favorite song or a new thought snapped me out of this state.  In the passage above, Peter fell into a trance while praying.  The smell of a freshly cooked meal altered his mind, preparing Peter for God’s vision and message.

I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the tower; and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and what answer I will give [as His spokesman] when I am reproved. Then the Lord answered me and said,“Write the vision and engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets so that the one who reads it will run, Habakkuk 2:1-2. 

While speaking to his disciples or addressing a large crowd, Jesus chose an interesting expression, “let him who has ears, hear.”  Apparently, human beings have a habit of tuning out when someone else is speaking.  Some may day dream, others fall into trances while many are distracted by their own schedule.  Thus, Jesus is urging his followers to not just listen, but act upon the message God has for your life.  Day dreaming or trance like states distract individuals from becoming doers of God’s Word.  While God uses a plethora of methods (angels, the Bible, dreams, music, prophets and prayer) for communicating to and with those who believe, Jesus yearns for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  May the Lord help you overcome the distractions in life to be attentive to God’s next spiritual message.

by Jay Mankus

 

Escaping Loneliness

Abandonment, isolation and rejection are just a few words that reflect the feelings within a lonely heart.  Loneliness can be self inflicted when alienated, busy or distracted by your own self interests.  Yet, most lonely people are haunted by broken relationships, a loss of confidence or low self esteem which often leads to withdrawing from family and friends.  For anyone who finds themselves in this predicament, the quicker you can escape loneliness, the better.

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The author of Hebrews suggests that not even Jesus was immune to loneliness.  Referred to as the great high priest, Jesus is able to sympathize and understand human weaknesses and temptations.  No verse in the Bible highlights this fact than the passage below.  On the verge of fulfilling God’s will, Jesus felt forsaken, abandoned by his heavenly father.  Despite the raw emotions expiressed, Jesus prepared himself for this moment by praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before..

Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice,Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Matthew 27:45-46

As a highly motivated individual, pursuing my own dreams and goals can result in isolation.  Unless I slow down to invite others into my life, invisible walls are built to shield myself from those who care about me.  Thus, before I find myself heading toward a lone ranger syndrome, I need to take a step back before speeding ahead.  The best way I have found to escape loneliness is by spending time meditating upon God’s Word.  When I do, the Holy Spirit puts everything into perspective by prompting me to  restore relationships that need to be healed.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Do Spiritual Trances Still Exist?

Authors of the Bible received divine inspiration to convince and encourage them to write a specific book.  In the case of Acts, Luke was given direct access to the apostle Paul.  This enabled Luke to highlight amazing encounters with apostles and some of Jesus’ disciples.  In the passage below, Peter reflects upon an unusual experience while praying.  Luke compares this to a trance as if Peter is day dreaming in a half-conscious state.  Before this spiritual trance concluded, Peter found himself in a hypnotic state with an element of suspended animation.

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; Acts 10:9-10.

My initial response to this event pondered, “do spiritual trances still exist today?”  When God speaks to individuals through a still small voice, people are left to wonder where did that come from.  When awkward, bizarre or strange feelings fade away, there has to be a rationale explanation.  Since Peter was about to pray, Luke focuses on the spiritual element of this trance.  God is teaching Peter that Moses laws on ceremonial cleanness no longer applies in the New Testament.  This was the last stumbling block remaining that prevented Peter from sharing the good news about Jesus Christ to Gentiles, non Jews.  Thus, this trance sets the stage for the rest of the book of Acts as the apostle Paul travels beyond Judea and Samaria to share the gospel.

And he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Not at all, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and [ceremonially] unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).” 16 This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven, Acts 10:11-16.

The closest I have come to a spiritual trance is a vision I received in college.  At this time, I attended a weekly accountable group for high school and college students.  These people all experienced a Chrysalis weekend, a three day retreat which compares the Christian life to a caterpillar that undergoes a transformation into a butterfly.  During consecutive weeks of inaction, one of my friends continued to fail in his faith.  After encouraging Eric toward the most logical course of action, I had the same dream two nights in a row.  While walking through a Christian bookstore, I turned the corner seeing the title of this book.  This was the exact topic Eric needed to strengthen his faith.  One day later, this dream became reality as I found the book in my dream and brought it for my friend.  In my mind, this true story proves spiritual trances still exit.

by Jay Mankus

The 7 Point Creed

For college basketball fans, March Madness is like Christmas. Over the next three weeks, 68 universities will compete for a national championship. Teams will be whittled down to 16 and 4 during the first 2 weeks of play before a champion is crowned at the conclusion of this event. When it comes to college basketball coaches, one of the greatest of all time is John Robert Wooden. During a 12 year period, Wooden led UCLA to 10 national championships. Behind this great man, there was a 7 point creed which served as his foundation for life.

Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses], Hebrews 11:1.

A creed is system of belief based upon conviction, faith and personal devotion. The creed listed below was found in an old journal. These life principles allow fans, followers and readers to understand the mindset which made Wooden a legendary coach. Three contain biblical principles: praying, serving others and studying God’s Word. Two are based upon relationships, using your spheres of influence to help others and develop permanent meaningful relationships. One is focused on making sure success doesn’t change who you are as a person. Meanwhile, another is based upon the premise to seize each day God gives you.

1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

May the 7 point creed above inspire you to reach your full potential as a human being. While you may exchange, improvise or replace some of these with your own language, putting your faith into action will enable you to ascend to new heights. You may not win a national championship, but with God anything is possible.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: