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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

Lord It’s Been So Long

If you’re not careful, life can be like a white water rafting trip. Once you’re on the river, there is danger lurking around every corner. Depending upon the classification and level of rapids, each one can come fast and furious. Unless there is some sort of break in between for your mind to relax, there will be no rest for the weary. Anyone who finds themselves on a wild ride may be so focused on survival that taking time to spend with God is like a blip on a radar screen.

Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, and said to them, Get up this way by the South (the Negeb) and go up into the hill country,18 And see what the land is and whether the people who dwell there are strong or weak, few or many,19 And whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. And be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes, Numbers 13:17-20.

In his 1993 song, Power and Promise, Brett Williams uses the phrase, “Lord It’s Been So Long.” The context of these lyrics date back to Moses waiting to enter God’s Promise Land. In the second stanza, Williams refers back to the anguish Mary felt while her brother Lazarus was dead for 3 days. When signs of God’s power or presence is absent, invisible to your eyes, staying optimistic in times of trouble is difficult. This is where faith comes into play.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him]. 11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep, John 11:9-11.

However, when basic spiritual routines like going to church, reading the Bible or praying stop occurring, God fades from your memory. While the Coronavirus may have been an excuse for some to use in 2020, it’s time to reconnect. The imagery of Luke 15:20 pictures the Lord as a concerned parent, patiently waiting on the front porch for prodigals to come home. Until lost souls come to their senses, this reconciliation is put on hold. Therefore, if you find yourself distant from God, today as good as any day to open up by saying, “Lord, it’s been so long.”

by Jay Mankus

The Ministry of Reconciliation

The ministry of reconciliation dates back to Genesis 3:6-8. After committing original sin, Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, Genesis 2:15-17. Instead of obeying God’s only rule in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge pursued this couple to do what was right in their own eyes. The punishment for their disobedience was expulsion, Genesis 3:22-24.

But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him], 2 Corinthians 5:18.

In one of 4 letters written to the church at Corinth (only 2 are in the Bible), the apostle Paul introduces the ministry of reconciliation. Sin has a way of changing your priorities, focusing on earthly pleasures rather than eternal treasures. Subsequently, we all go astray, wandering off like a prodigal child until you begin to become home sick. Repentance serves as a U-Turn, fleeing sin by turning around to make peace with God.

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:16.

The earthly brother of Jesus highlights what modern reconciliation resembles. As humility leads troubled souls toward confession, a foundation for revival is laid out for others to follow. When souls are healed and restored, there is an inner desire to help others receive what you have experienced. While the 2020 election will cause many to harbor bitterness in their hearts, may the ministry of reconciliation turns lives around to unite as one.

by Jay Mankus

Falling into Silence Makes It Impossible to Survive

Depression has a way of isolating yourself from the people who care about you the most. Looking back on my own life, I began to withdraw from my friends when I entered Hanby Junior High School. Instead of allowing those who reached out to me in, I secluded myself even further. When I wanted to be miserable, I could suck the life out of an entire room, bringing everyone around me down.

When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long, Psalm 32:3.

After committing adultery with Bathsheba, King David took a vacation from God. Instead of telling the truth when Bathsheba missed her period, David sent for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to comeback from war to be reunited. When Uriah refused to sleep with his wife, David went to plan C, giving an order to abandon Uriah on the front line, resulting in his death. As each day passed, this silence made it impossible for David to survive spiritually.

For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! – Psalm 32:4

Guilt consumed David like high humidity on a hot summer day. The longer David put off confessing his sins, the lonelier his soul became. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 highlight the emotions built up inside David’s heart. As soon as David realized his silence from God needed to broken, the door for reconciliation was opened. The next time you feel like running away from confrontation, remember David’s prayer to end his distance and silence from God.

by Jay Mankus

Unresolved Conflicts

Conflicts arise during an argument or serious disagreement, typically lasting for an extended period of time. What may start off as a trivial dispute can escalate into a full blown squabble resulting in bad blood, friction and strife. This is where America finds itself today, stuck in the middle of a political conflict, the impeachment of the president of the United States.

If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses, Matthew 18:15-16.

As viewers watch 100 senators serve as jurors, the House of Representatives Impeachment Managers and President Trump’s legal team are presenting their case. Last week, attorneys and lawyers for the House quoted the Constitution on numerous occasions to prove their points. As the President Trump’s legal team takes their turn this week, I’m assuming this trend will continue. As this impeachment process lingers on, I’m wondering and waiting for someone to quote the Bible.

If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven, Matthew 18:17-18.

While individuals may be tempted to back stab, gossip or slander those who they are in disagreement with, Jesus provides a biblical manner to resolve a conflict. First, go to the person who has hurt or wronged you to explain how you feel and why. If confession or reconciliation doesn’t ensue, take two or three witnesses to further address this situation. In the worse case scenario, the church may need to get involved. However, after each rebuke process, an opportunity is provided for forgiveness to be embraced. While I’m not as optimistic about impeachment, may this blog serve as a teachable moment to help you resolve future conflicts.

by Jay Mankus

The Story Behind A Just Cause

To be just refers to being fair and impartial.  The Bible details God’s hatred of those who have been mistreated and oppressed.  The term civil refers to behaving according to what is morally right within a just and democratic society.  The story behind this concept begins as God uses guilt as a just cause to convict sin despite being invisible (before the actual act) to the human eye.

But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion), James 1:14.

While individuals may be able to deceive other human beings for an extended period of time, the truth will come out over eventually.  Whether it’s an addiction, a crime or shocking act, the Bible reveals what happens inside the soul before the act of sin emerges.  Seeds are planted within minds, temptation waters these thoughts until desire, lust and worldly passion drags the next unlikely candidate down a dark path.

Then when the illicit desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin has run its course, it gives birth to death, James 1:15.

Sadly, headlines from the internet, newspaper or tabloids is the end result of the sinful nature getting the best of a weakened and vulnerable person.  After any fall, just as God sends guilt, humbled hearts open the door for forgiveness.  To those who comes to their senses, seeking reconciliation, the Holy Spirit moves toward the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit.  While this is often not seen in this light, God demonstrates a just cause by extending grace and mercy to the contrite.  May these words help you get over failure by embracing God’s forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

 

Estranged

When love is absent, conditions can deteriorate.  If this negative climate persists, relationships can be torn apart.  By products of this atmosphere result in arguments, fights and misery.  Without reconciliation, family, friends and relatives can become estranged.  This tension creates a dysfunctional mood at an family gathering or reunion.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.

The Bible refers to estranged in context of a relationship with God.  Any type of sin separates individuals from God.  In the Old Testament, Israel was given the Torah as a set of standards for life.  Breaking, cutting corners or slightly deviating from these laws is described as a willful act of disobedience.  Deuteronomy 28 contains a list of blessings for those who obey God, ending with a much longer list of consequences called curses.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near, Hebrews 10:24-25.

A first century Jewish convert to Christianity wrote the book of Hebrews.  In the passage above, advice is provided to restore estranged relationships.  Accountability serves as a tool to sharpen one another spiritually.  While this takes place in the form as a Bible Study, prayer or sharing group, these fellowships promote healing and forgiveness.  If you find yourself in a relationship drifting away or falling apart, take steps now so that these precious bonds are not severed permanently.

by Jay Mankus

Recovering from a Wounded Soul

When the average person begins to feel sick, showing signs of an impending illness, airborne, cold medicine or pain killers are taken to be proactive.  If this action fails to improve your condition, a doctor’s appointment or some sort of check up ensues.  In the worst case scenario, you may even need to be hospitalized.  Yet, when individuals begin to suffer from a broken heart, depression or wounded souls, few react with a sense of urgency.  Thus, society is filled with a spiritual epidemic, unable to recover from a crushed and wounded soul.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18.

After Levi decided to leave his career as a tax collector to follow Jesus, joining the other 11 disciples, he threw a party at his home, Matthew 9:9-13.  This guest list included former co-workers, Pharisees and sinners.  When this worldly crowd tried to engage spiritual leaders, a clash of classes developed.  This prompted the Pharisees in attendance to question Jesus’ choice of friends and associates.  Using these concerns for a teachable moment, Jesus deciphered the healthy from the sick.  The disciplined and mature are able to self medicate, managing their own spiritual temperature.  However, the addicted, lost and lonely are in need of a spiritual physician.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3.

According to Jesus, healing occurs as individuals begin to recognize their sins and actively seek forgiveness.  Thus, the key to recovering from a wounded soul involves reconciliation with friends, enemies and God.  Matthew 11:25-30 details a call to action for anyone overwhelmed by the worries of this world.  Jesus promises to give rest to the weary if you are willing to lay your burdens at the feet of the cross.  Whenever someone comes to their senses like the prodigal son, consumed by a sense of urgency, wounded souls are refreshed with salvation, Romans 10:9-10.  May this blog serve as a blue print for healing in the future.

by Jay Mankus

You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask

December is the season for watching Christmas classics.  Every year networks have some sort of X number of days, re-airing animations, children and hallmark Christmas shows.  Recently, I sat down while my wife and son were watching Home Alone.  I can’t remember the last time I saw this film, but one scene got my attention.  Attending a Christmas Eve service, Macaulay Culkin is talking to his neighbor in the back of the church.  This discussion reveals a broken relationship between a father and son without any communication for years.  After this man gives Macaulay advice, Macaulay turns the tables, “you’ll never know unless you ask your son?”

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive, Colossians 3:13.

Throughout this country, previous disagreements create tension over holidays spent together.  When maturity is present, differences can be overcome.  Unfortunately, when arrogance, bitterness or pride enters the equation, relations turn cold.  As a former teacher and youth pastor, I have listened to a number of heart breaking stories of families falling apart.  Emotions tend to make individuals say things that they often regret.  A few careless words in the heat of the moment can divide the closest of friends.  After cooling off, if you want to make amends, you’ll never know until you ask.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses, Mark 11:25.

One of the hardest parts of uniting two people who are convinced that the other is at fault lies in the principle of forgiveness.  According to Jesus, prayer should incorporate reflection, thinking about anyone that you are holding a grudge against.  The purpose of this practice is to reconcile, making right previous wrongs done by you or approaching others whom you haven’t forgiven for a past transgression.  The apostle Paul builds upon Jesus’ words, adding the concept of bearing with each other.  In the final scene of Scrooged, Bill Murray proclaims it’s never too late to find forgiveness.  Therefore, if you are alone and afraid this Christmas, wondering if reconciliation is possible, you’ll never know unless you ask.

by Jay Mankus

The Fellowship of Suffering

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.  Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed, Luke 22:59-60.

While individuals may not want to admit it, there is a lot of Peter within most human beings.  When questioned by someone like Jesus, its easy to become defensive proclaiming, “I’d never do that.”  Yet, when push comes to shove human nature longs for acceptance.  Thus, few people ever join the fellowship of suffering.

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,” John 21:18.

When Jesus witnessed Peter’s final denial, this event likely cut to his heart.  Usually a big talker, Peter’s fear of persecution revealed a major flaw within his character.  Based upon the words within the gospel of John, it appears that this betrayal of Jesus haunted Peter for years.  Nonetheless, Jesus shows the way toward the fellowship of suffering, letting go and allowing God to lead you where you don’t want to go.

For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, 1 Peter 3:17.

Following a moment of reconciliation with Jesus, Peter begins to enter a special group.  Unless you are willing to endure hardships for doing what is right, the fellowship of suffering is unattainable.  Jesus’ brother James refers to embracing trials by considering each attack on your faith a joy.  Whether it was maturity or a spiritual transformation, Peter gave up his life to spread the good news about Jesus Christ.  Prior to his death, Peter demanded to be crucified upside down claiming he was unworthy to die in the same manner of his Savior.  May this blog inspire you to follow in Peter’s footsteps by joining the Fellowship of Suffering.

by Jay Mankus

 

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