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When You Are Powerless to Act… Try a Different Kind of Fast (the Esther Fast)

Every January fitness centers across the country are filled with individuals trying to recover from poor diets, a lack of exercise or extra weight that seems impossible to shed. By the end of winter, many who fail to see any change, progress or signs of transformation give up on their New Year Resolutions. Meanwhile, Christians who develop bad spiritual habits fight a similar battle. When reading the Bible becomes rare, praying feels more like a chore or getting up for worship doesn’t happen, you can reach a state where you feel powerless to act.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:13-14

There are several examples in the Bible where broken hearted individuals, who felt powerless to act, began to fast and pray for God to intervene. Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself so out of shape spiritually that I don’t have the commitment, focus and strength to follow in the footsteps of Daniel, Nehemiah and Moses. Yet, there is another option. The Book of Esther provides a different kind of fast. Instead of fasting and praying quietly on your own, Esther urges every Jew to fast for three days for her. The goal of this fast was to provide Esther with the words needed to persuade King Ahasuerus to overturn Haman’s decree to kill all the Jews.

Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went away and did all that Esther had commanded him, Esther 4:15-17.

This was a life or death matter. From Esther’s perspective, she wasn’t able to fast, not wanting to insult the king by not eating the food prepared for her each day. Thus, Esther was forced to rely on God’s people to intervene, praying for a miracle, the right words to say or justice to prevail. Imagine if local churches, communities and followers of Christ began Esther Fasts each week, focusing on a needy cause, person or soul? When you are powerless to act, don’t be afraid to reach out for help by requesting others to fast and pray for you. I pray that the concept of a Esther Fast will take root in 2020, awakening souls, renewing faith and energizing the body of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Dangers of Sexual Fantasies

During the rise of the Roman Empire, the Romans took the Greek gods and changed their names to create their own. This adoption promoted the worship of many gods and goddesses. Juno, the goddess of women and fertility and Venus, goddess of love and beauty inspired first century Romans to indulge their sexual fantasies. One of the local temples even encouraged prostitution in the name of religion, an enticing way to attract new followers. This was the spiritual condition that the apostle Paul was forced to confront in a portion of his letter listed below.

And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their [own] hearts to sexual impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], Because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen (so be it). For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their women exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one, Romans 1:23-26.

According to Luke, a first century historian and well known doctor, the apostle Paul was greatly disturbed by the idols in plain sight in Athens, Greece, Acts 17:16. Rome took these same gods and goddess and simply changed their names. If statues promoting fornication and pornography were in full view in Greece, it can be assumed that similar idols were erected in Rome. Apparently, some Christians thought worshipping these man made gods was okay. This mindset inspired the harsh and graphic words above. Paul boldly explains how sexual worship can lead to a homosexual lifestyle.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

While it’s unclear of the context above, Jesus’ earthly brother lays out how lust can ruin your life. First and foremost, you can’t blame God for your own sexual fantasies. Whenever anyone places themselves in a compromising position, you open the door for enticement and lust. The longer you remain in this tempting state, the closer you come to sin conceiving. Thus, unless you follow the blueprint for escaping temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13, sexual fantasies will lead down the same wayward path as David with Bathsheba and Samson with Delilah.

by Jay Mankus

The Proximity of Your Relationship

Proximity is nearness in space and time. In the context of a relationship, proximity can include accessibility, closeness, presence or vicinity. Depending upon an individual’s personal desire and feelings, proximity will draw near or withdraw and fade away. As love is conceived within human hearts, couples will marry to ensure that proximity is never an issue again.

And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still. You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place, until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises comes into being) in your hearts. [Yet] first [you must] understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of any personal or private or special interpretation (loosening, solving), 2 Peter 1:19-20.

Moses makes an intriguing correlation about proximity in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 28 suggests that your proximity to God will influence how blessed or cursed your life will be on earth. Those who closely listen to God’s voice by carefully obeying God’s commandments will be rewarded with blessings. These blessings are dependent upon one’s ability to heed God’s calling via the Holy Spirit. This fact should make all believers eager to reside in close proximity with God.

For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to do so—it never came by human impulse], but men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled) by the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21.

Unfortunately, earthly distractions, human impulses and temporary pleasures cause me to weekly leave God’s presence and wander away from the Lord. The further I drift, replacing my time with God for self fulfilling practices, blessings disappear. Instead, trials in the form of curses often block and prevent me from drawing near to God again. Although no one wants to accept that they are living under a curse, disobedience to the biblical commands, decrees and principles will result in unfortunate events. May this blog inspire you to improve your proximity with God by drawing near the Lord to praise and worship the Great I Am daily.

by Jay Mankus

Why Telling the Truth is the Best Option

According to a 2013 Survey, lawyers are the most hated profession in the United States.  Cable and Television networks have embraced lawyers, filling prime time slots with court room dramas for the past quarter century.  The most prominent lawyers have become experts in covering their tracks.  This idiom refers to individuals who destroy, hide or suppress damaging evidence about their client or clients from being revealed.  However, when lies are used to cover your tracks, it’s better to tell the truth rather than live in fear of being exposed as a liar.

But this I confess to you, however, that in accordance with the Way [of the Lord], which they call a [heretical, division-producing] sect, I worship (serve) the God of our fathers, still persuaded of the truth of and believing in and placing full confidence in everything laid down in the Law [of Moses] or written in the prophets; Acts 24:14.

In his opening remarks to Governor Felix, accused by Jewish leaders of being an agitator, pest and heretic, the apostle Paul is honest about his faith.  Instead of hiding this information, Paul confesses his devotion to the Way, modern day Christianity.  Paul’s defense states that his service for God is being confused with a divisive sect.  Moreover, when the truth comes out, Paul is confident that his actions will be in line with the law of Moses.

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.

While writing a letter to first century believers in the Way of Christ, the earthly brother of Jesus compares confession with healing.  The first step toward healing is publicly confessing your sins.  James suggests that confession is a heart felt act.  This acknowledgement helps restore a spiritual tone of mind, awakened and snapped out of spiritual slumbers induced by the sinful nature.  When earnest prayers are added to a contrite heart, a tremendous power is unleashed via the Holy Spirit.  If you are tired from trying to cover your tracks, make telling the truth the best option.

by Jay Mankus

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

 

The Day Christians Didn’t Want Church to End

From the age of 6 to 16, my parents started to vacation in the state of Maine.  After renting a small cottage on Thompson Lake for a few years, a retired couple invited my family to stay in their A-Frame and Lodge.  Subsequently, Maine became like a second home, spending several weeks there each August.  While my birthday parties were small, I went fishing, golfing or running every day.  Eventually, my parents found a church in Oxford, about a fifteen minute drive.  To my pleasant surprise, this church ran like a clock, ending in 39 minutes every Sunday.  As a teenager eager to fish or play golf, this priest kept my attention, always short and sweet.

When the congregation of the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, talking to them were urging them to continue in the grace of God, Acts 13:43.

During one of their missionary journeys, Paul and Barnabas experienced the exact opposite reaction.  While preaching to a crowded synagogue in the region of Antioch in Pisidia, the audience in attendance did not work this service to end.  After being dismissed, several Jews and converts to Judaism begged Paul and Barnabas to keep teaching.  These souls were spiritually hungry, eager to learn more about the grace of God.  This desire reminds me of a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals two key priorities.

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also, Matthew 6:33.

Spiritual hunger isn’t natural, but when individuals take time to pray, read the Bible or worship God, the Holy Spirit alters human priorities toward spiritual desires.  Although I can’t recall ever wanting a church service to keep going, there are other moments in time that I didn’t want to end.  Spiritual retreats, certain vacations and my Tentmaker Leadership Training were so life altering that I wanted to stay.  Anytime you have to go back to reality is hard, especially if you are not happy with where you are in life.  Nonetheless, when you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you may find yourself like the service in Acts 13:43, not wanting church to end.

by Jay Mankus

The Company of Believers

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers, Acts 2:42.

The basic definition for a company is a number of individuals gathered together for a particular purpose. The name of each company is designed to send a message to the general public to explain their purpose for existing. During the first century, a doctor sums up a new religious movement in Acts 2:42-47. The passage serves as a blue print, a mission statement of their core principles. Luke narrows in on the apostles teaching, daily fellowship and prayer.

Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was [exclusively] his own, but everything was common property and for the use of all. 33 And with great ability and power the apostles were continuously testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace [God’s remarkable lovingkindness and favor and goodwill] rested richly upon them all, Acts 4:32-33.

Two chapters later this company of believers became a well oiled machine. Peter and John inspired by the Holy Spirit urged new converts to become part of this body, of one heart and soul. Instead of focusing on what religion can do for you, first century Christians treated each member of their congregation like family. This mentality eliminated poverty as wealthy members sold land or property to take care of whatever financial emergencies that came up or occurred daily.

At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders (attesting miracles) were continually taking place among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in [the covered porch called] Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest [of the people, the non-believers] dared to associate with them; however, the people were holding them in high esteem and were speaking highly of them, Acts 5:12-13.

In the beginning of chapter 5, a married couple devised a plan to infiltrate this company of believers. Apparently, this act of kindness was motived by a desire to be recognized, seeking personal praise rather than humbly give. The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to expose Ananias’ plot, verbally rebuking this imposter. When Ananias laid money at the apostles’ feet from a piece of property sold, this couple agreed to withhold some money. However, they told everyone this was all the money from their sale. After Ananias and Sapphira both died of heart attacks, blamed on lying to God, fear gripped this entire community. This unfortunate event scared away other imposters, half-hearted people as only the true company of believers gathered at Solomon’s Colonnade to worship the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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