Advertisements
RSS Feed

Tag Archives: The Bible

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

Advertisements

Overcoming the Burnout Syndrome

This week the World Health Organization has officially added Burnout Syndrome to its’ list of recognized disorders.  Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.  Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress.  Those most affected by this disorder are individuals forced to work a second job, those seeking to reinvent themselves in a new career after being laid off and workaholics.  Whenever human beings do not possess some sort of balance in the form of active hobbies, people are at risk of becoming burned out.

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, Romans 12:1.

According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, only one third of Americans enjoy and feel engaged by their current occupation.  If this study is accurate, nearly 70% of adults go to work each week disappointed, frustrated and unsatisfied with their job.   Trying to find what you were born to do or the job or your dreams can be extremely difficult.  This search can take months, years and even decades to complete until you find yourself eager to get up daily to do what you love.  For those of you in a holding pattern, doing whatever position you have to until another door opens, staying optimistic is hard.  Yet, as individuals wrestle with symptoms of the burnout syndrome, there is a cure for this disorder in the Bible.

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 12:2.

The apostle Paul writes a letter to the church at Rome to help people feeling lost, not sure about what direction to take in life.  Overcoming the burnout syndrome begins with viewing your life as a gift from God.  Just as Rush Limbaugh has coined the phrase “talent on loan from God, ” each day on earth should be devoted to becoming a living sacrifice for God.  When a decision is made to dedicate your life to God, holiness and worship become a daily priority.  According to Paul, as believers begin to read, study and meditate upon the Word of God, the Bible, hearts and mind become aligned with God.  Therefore, if you want to overcome the burnout syndrome, begin the quest to ascertain God’s will for your life so that your job will become a mission from above.

by Jay Mankus

A Nation of False Witnesses

I was first introduced to the ten commandments through CCD, the Catholic version of Sunday School.  These ten standards were drilled into my mind as God’s expectations for human beings to follow.  As a young boy, I didn’t understand love or know how these principles would shape my life.  Yet, this portion of the Bible serves as the cornerstone for being civilized.  Anyone who adheres to the final six commandments follows the golden rule, treating others as you want to be treated.

12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not commit murder (unjustified, deliberate homicide).

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal [secretly, openly, fraudulently, or through carelessness].

16 “You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person), Exodus 20:12-16.

After attending seminary for two years, my understanding of the ten commandments grew.  Jesus’ response to a first century religious leader below highlights two distinct sections.  The first four commandments are focused on loving God.  The final six commandments emphasize loving your neighbor.  Within his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis refers to Cardinal and Theological virtues.  Anyone can follow the final six commandments if you are determined to do so.  However, loving God requires the Holy Spirit which is only available to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ 40 The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments,” Matthew 22:36-40.

As I listen to cable news, talk shows and people throughout the course of my day, there is a growing crisis.  Either Americans don’t know the ten commandments, don’t care about these Old Testament commands or the searing of consciences has reached epidemic levels?  There are various mantras, narratives and talking points that are spewed daily.  If you change the channel or turn the page of a newspaper, these messages bombard human minds day after day.  When a different opinion or point of view is offered, attacks are made in the form of lies.  Maybe I am alone, but it appears that the United States is becoming a nation of false witnesses as both sides can’t be right  Perhaps, the ten commandments is the only thing that may reverse this trend by convicting souls to love God and love others.

by Jay Mankus

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction.  In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea.  One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene.  Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus.  Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced.  Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus.  Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen.  This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him.  It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants.  Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit.  Any type of change is difficult.  However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible.  Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted.  As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains.  For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

If You Take the Time to Listen

My evenings at Amazon vary as I try to fix any problems before product gets shipped out to customers.  Typically, free time is rare as I am usually exploring and examining some sort of defect.  However, the other night I was selected to be part of a survey, asked a series of questions by a human resource staff member from Seattle.  Due to an initial technical glitch, I was able to talk to a co-worker.  This five minute conversation opened my mind to the importance of listening.

Then a woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink”— For His disciples had gone off into the city to buy food— The Samaritan woman asked Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life),” John 4:7-10.

My co-worker was in her first week in a new position.  When my initial phone calls failed to go through, she had to email her manager to figure out what to do.  As we both waited, I discovered that this young woman had lyme disease for ten years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.  Since she never had what is called a bullseye, a tell tale sign of lyme disease, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her for a decade.  I shared of my own struggles twenty years ago from this same disease.  As I talked, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering, “this is what happens when you take the time to listen.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not get thirsty nor [have to continually] come all the way here to draw.” 16 At this, Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I do not have a husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. You have said this truthfully,” John 4:15-18.

When I read the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was a masterful communicator, never wasting an opportunity to interact with a stranger.  Despite the political tension between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus goes out of his way to talk to a woman who has a history of bouncing from one relationship to the next.  After five failed marriages, this woman was trying to love without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  During an intense back and forth, Jesus plants a spiritual seed within this woman for faith to grow.  When you take the time to listen to another person, God can use you to offer a message of encouragement, healing and hope.

by Jay Mankus

Retaining the Knowledge of God

Retention is the ability to recall, remember and retain information.  Unfortunately, busyness, distractions and hectic schedules tend to weaken one’s ability to pay attention.  Subsequently, whenever I meet someone new, names are often forgotten immediately causing me to ponder, “what’s your name again?”  If I can’t remember the name of someone I just met in person, how is it possible to retain the knowledge about an invisible God?

For [God does not overlook sin and] the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in their wickedness suppress and stifle the truth, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them [in their inner consciousness], for God made it evident to them, Romans 1:18-19.

The apostle Paul makes two interesting observations in a letter to the church at Rome.  First, the earth, the moon and stars are signs of a higher power, a grand design.  When you add other things such as rainbows, sunsets and tides, no one can say I didn’t know or see God.  Witnessing wonders should gravitate individuals toward the Bible, a history book of life on earth.  Yet, unless you open God’s Word up for yourself, retaining knowledge of God will fade away.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God for an image [worthless idols] in the shape of mortal man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles.  24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], 25 because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen, Romans 1:22-25.

Second, Paul reveals the consequence of failing to retain the knowledge of God.  The further you fall away from God, the closer you become to exchanging the glory of God for worldly idols.  Those who ignore, neglect or reject God’s advice about life often abandon faith due to the degrading power of sin.  When sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15, truth is exchanged for a lie.  May these words from Paul instill a sense of urgency to retain the knowledge of God before you are too far gone.

by Jay Mankus

When Sanity is Restored

The Bible’s authors have a unique way of expressing individuals who make poor decisions.  A common way to explain this behavior is being out of your mind.  Missteps usually begin with momentary lapses in judgement.  When a pattern forms, unsettled minds take souls further away from God than they ever expected or intended.  Anyone who goes off the deep end is often labeled insane.

Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:33.

One of the gospel authors blames insanity on demons, Mark 5:1-20.  One man’s condition had gotten so bad that he withdrew to catacombs, living in an underground cemetery.  Jesus refers to his condition as being under the influence of an unclean spirit.  A legion of demons possessed this man, making sanity impossible under his current state.  Yet, Jesus diagnosed this man’s spiritual condition by relying on the Holy Spirit.  After confronting one dominant being, this man was set free.

Now at the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor were returned to me, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was re-established in my kingdom, and still more greatness [than before] was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and faithful and His ways are just, and He is able to humiliate and humble those who walk in [self-centered, self-righteous] pridem,” Daniel 4:36-37.

Another disciple refers to a similar account or perhaps the same event.  This time the man once possessed is described as being in his right mind.  This is where sanity is restored as individuals can once again follow and obey their conscience.  The apostle Paul stresses the need to take thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Make sure this spiritual discipline is exercised so that if you are on the verge of giving into temptation, sanity will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: