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Tag Archives: vision

Get Ready for Whatever May Happen

Basic combat training in the Army lasts for ten weeks.  This process is designed to turn civilians into soldiers.  This training involves marching, shooting and survival skills to prepare new recruits for life in the Army.  This military camp serves as a weeding out process to expose the out of shape, weak and unfit  Ultimately, a drill sergeants goal is to get soldiers ready for whatever may happen on the battle field.

The very night before Herod was to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries were in front of the door guarding the prison. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared [beside him] and a light shone in the cell. The angel struck Peter’s side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly!” And the chains fell off his hands, Acts 12:6-7.

The Bible can be used in a similar fashion as a training manual for Christians who want to become spiritually fit.  The book of Acts records the history of the first century church as well as sharing valuable life lessons.  During an encounter with an angel, Peter is not sure what to think.  Initially, Peter is sleeping when an angel being wakes him up in the middle of the night.  Like anyone who is a deep sleeper, this experience didn’t seem real, more like a vision.  However, the more this angel spoke, Peter realized he wasn’t dreaming.

The angel said to him, “Prepare yourself and strap on your sandals [to get ready for whatever may happen].” And he did so. Then the angel told him, “Put on your robe and follow me.” And Peter went out following the angel. He did not realize that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first guard and the second, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city. Of its own accord it swung open for them; and they went out and went along one street, and at once the angel left him, Acts 12:8-10.

Apparently, the words “get ready for whatever may happen” got Peter’s attention.  As if reliving a scene from a movie, Peter can’t believe what is happening.  Like a ghost, this angel and Peter sneak past all the guards in a high security prison.  Following each step made by this angel, before long Peter finds himself outside the jail on a city street.  If there is anything you can learn from this angel story, it is trusting God means becoming ready for whatever may happen in life.

by Jay Mankus

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Realigning Your Dreams with God’s Will

Over the course of an automobile’s lifespan, owners will experience a gradual decay.  The initial shine will fade, tires will grow bald and hoses will eventually start to leak.  For the financially strapped, unable to buy a new one or trade in their current vehicle, alignments need to be scheduled to prolong the life of any vehicle.  Bumps in the road, potholes and unseen dips will knock frames out of their proper alignment.  To maximize fuel efficiency, ensure a smoother ride and avoid expensive auto repairs in the future, realignments are a wise investment.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will].  Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

One of the minor prophets in the Old Testament makes a plea to Jews sometime between 425 and 432 Before Christ.  According to Malachi, when people drift apart from God’s laws, a lack of knowledge leads to self-destructing acts.  Apparently, the Bible serves as a means to stay in tune with God.  Those who stray from biblical teaching will repeat the sins of their past, resulting in separation from God.  If this trend of forgetting God continues, you will reap what you sow.  Human nature assures that at some point in everyone’s life you will need to realign your dreams with God’s will.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

A letter written to the church at Corinth suggests that everyone is given a specific gift or talent from God.  When utilized in the context of a church, spiritual gifts are designed to illuminate the presence of the Holy Spirit.  While human dreams are inevitable, the Bible encourages believers to realign all of your unique talents with God’s will.  As individuals let go of hidden agendas, fame and impure motives, God blesses those who use their gifts for the common good.  As I reflect upon my current situation, I have dreams of becoming a screen writer of dramaties and movies.  Yet, I understand my present calling is simply to express my faith through this blog.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I pray that each day I draw closer to God’s will.

by Jay Mankus

How Praying Can Direct Your Life

A first century doctor provides a case study on prayer in the book of Acts.  Luke also served as a historian, traveling along side of the apostle Paul to document each missionary journey.  In the chapter below, Luke interviews a man named Cornelius and Peter about a special God instance.  Before meeting one another, each man prayed to God within a 24 hour period.  What takes place in the passage below illustrates how praying can direct your life.

About the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had come to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius was frightened and stared intently at him and said, “What is it, lord (sir)?” And the angel said to him, “Your prayers and gifts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God [an offering made in remembrance of His past blessings], Acts 10:3-4.

A centurion from an Italian Regiment is described as God fearing.  This reverence for God resulted in a devout faith; becoming a family man.  Cornelius earned a reputation for being a charitable man, giving donations to Jews and known as a prayer warrior.  Apparently, praying in the afternoon was a daily habit, resulting in a vision involving an angel from God.  This encounter results in a series of directions which Cornelius acts upon and follows.

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; 11 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!” – Acts 10:9-13.

Meanwhile, 21 hours later God begins to move within Peter as he prays to the Lord.  During a conversation with Luke, Peter describes his experience to a trance.  The hunger within his stomach sets the stage for a teachable moment for Peter.  Initially, Peter rejects God’s message which is contrary to the law of Moses.  However, after God repeats himself a second time, Peter agrees to be open to this new teaching.  Thus, prayer gave a non-Jew in Cornelius hope while changing the heart of Peter to accept future Gentiles, non Jews.  If God can speak to two praying individuals, then image what God can do when communities pour their hearts out to God in prayer.

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

Half Ass, Half Hearted or All In?

I started working more than 30 years ago. From the very beginning, there was a sense of competition, striving to do your very best each and every day, hoping to receive recognition. Regardless of the backgrounds of my former co-workers, each possessed a conscientious spirit, a desire for promotion and integrity. To move up in a company, you had to step up your game, arriving early, staying late and putting your whole heart into work.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied., Proverbs 13:4.

More than 3 decades later, I have seen work ethic slowly decline. While teaching high school for 10 years, I began to notice apathy settle in. This lack of zeal for greatness began to influence discipline, focus and study habits. Apparently, this mindset has carried over into the workplace. If you had to separate the masses into three groups, most would fit into one of three categories: half-ass, half-hearted or all in.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth,” Revelation 3:15-16.

The Bible refers to individuals who are neither hot or cold as lukewarm. One of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of heaven, writing down what he heard and saw. Based upon the passage above, God despises people who are on again and off again. The Lord desires commitment, not dangling on both sides of a fence. Sure, the easy thing to do is take the easy route, pick and choose the quickest path which makes you look better than others. Yet, God only has one acceptable response, all in, Matthew 16:24-25.

by Jay Mankus

Discipline, Fasting and Nutrition

Staying active can help your metabolism from slowing down.  According to an article on Livestrong.com, thermogenesis, the food processing part of your metabolism actually remains fairly steady throughout your adult life.  This is where discipline comes into play, resisting the urge to satisfy the earthly desires of hunger.  In the context of Olympic athletes, the apostle Paul refers to the rigid training necessary to compete at this level.  Like a boxer preparing for a title bout, discipline is essential to get yourself in the best possible shape to reach your full potential.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Hunger is often dictated by the overall mood you are in.  Upon hearing bad news, appetite can be lost.  When a secret service agent, a body guard to the king receives news of Israel’s vulnerable state, Nehemiah is brought to tears.  This weeping inspired a fast, crying out to God in prayer for a plan to restore the walls surrounding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s fast lasted for a season, three to four months.  At the conclusion of this fast, detailed in chapter 2, God provides a clear vision, a plan of action to quickly restore this structure.  During any fast, abstaining from food for a period of time, tends to alter your perspective, seeing life or situations through God’s eyes.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its [fortified] gates have been burned (destroyed) by fire.”  Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

When Babylon takes Israel captive in the Old Testament, chief officials brought some young boys to Babylon.  The goal was to retrain these young men into the ways of Babylonian traditions.  When a commander forced these men to alter their Jewish diet, a few refused to adhere to this daily ration.  Rather, Daniel came up with a ten day test.  This combination of fruit, vegetables and water is known as the Daniel fast.  At the end of this ten day challenge, those who participated with Daniel appeared to be healthier than those who ate the king’s finest food.  Learning to balance exercise with nutrition not only makes you feel better, but improves your overall appearance.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8.

In the past decade, churches have challenged members of their congregation to participate in a fast each January.  Depending upon the pastor, fasts vary from a Daniel fast, media fast to a strict fluid only fast.  Over the last four years, I have done a nutrition based fast, giving up soda and other unhealthy foods I tend to eat.  I have had mixed results.  During the first fast, I was focused and dedicated, losing nearly twenty pounds in January.  Unfortunately, my latest fasts have been unproductive.  I guess I entered each of these without my heart truly into it.  Thus, the lack of results speaks for itself.  As a new year approaches, may the Holy Spirit prepare your hearts and mind now so that your next fast will be transformational.

by Jay Mankus

What a Waste of Time

During my time pursuing a master’s in theology, I came across an interesting concept.  The Triangle Theory is a Time Management exercise to help examine where your time on earth is spent.  If you draw an isosceles triangle on a blank page of paper, the bottom represents 24 hours in a day.  Depending upon your sleep schedule, 1/3 or 1/4 of your life is spent sleeping.  School or work will take over 8-10 hours per day, leaving a few precious hours to enjoy life, purse passions or relax.   If you want a true barometer of how your time is spent, keep track of 16-18 hours each weekend that most Americans have.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! 25 Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither], 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

Last year I took my family out to lunch, explaining the Triangle Theory as we waited for our food.  Without being too anal, I urged my children to begin to keep track of how they are currently investing their free time.  The purpose of this discussion was to encourage my daughter and youngest son to become vision oriented, focusing their attention and time on fulfilling dreams.  Not leaving myself exempt from this, I began to share the sacrifices that I need to make to write a 100 page movie script each winter, usually lasting until late spring.  Despite how diligent I try to be, I regularly waste an entire weekend to indulge my human nature rather than focus on becoming an accomplished screen writer.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

One troubling question remains, if I truly want to pursue a career in writing, why do I waste so much time?  Perhaps, my former hobby as a long distance runner may help answer my own question.  The thought of running miles never made sense to most of my friends.  Running is a battle of the body and mind, causing most to quit before the love of running is conceived.  The apostle Paul uses a similar analogy, stressing the strict discipline to persist until your ultimate goal is achieved.  While its not easy and you will have more failures than success, may the Triangle Theory serve as a tool to enable you to seize the free time that you have each day.  May you run in such a way, suffering now, as to receive crowns in heaven God has set aside for you.

by Jay Mankus

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