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Tag Archives: Worship

Speak to Me Outside of Church

Prior to the Coronavirus cancelling worship services across the country, only 20% of Americans regularly attended church. Before being quarantined, this steady decline in attendance suggests that many Christians haven’t made church a priority, finding other things to do on Saturday and Sunday. According to a 2018 Outreach Magazine article, only the state of Hawaii saw a recent increase in worship attendance. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps this time away from church will conceive a hunger to join and become an active member in a local church.

My son, if you will receive my words and treasure up my commandments within you, Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it]; Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures, Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God, Proverbs 2:1-5.

As for now, believers are going to have to find an alternative, an avenue for God to speak to you outside of church. Reading the Bible daily is a logical step in this direction. In the passage above, Solomon is pleading with his children. Instead of trying to find joy and pleasure in the world, dust off this book and begin listening to the living Word of God. Open your heart and mind to these truths, embracing and treasuring these spiritual nuggets. The next transition is putting these words into practice by applying biblical principles through your actions, behavior and speech.

If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you, John 15:7.

This process will require prayer; lots of it. Since there isn’t a band, chorus and musician to lead you in worship, you can rely on your favorite internet site to enhance your prayer. Several years ago I was introduced to the concept of Soaking in the Spirit. This occurs by laying down in a room, closing your eyes and clearing your mind from stress of life while listening to worship music. The goal is to empty your mind of all the garbage that you have collected over time and ask God to remove and replace it with songs of praise. The attached song, a spontaneous worship montage by Kari Jobe is what I use when I want God to speak to me outside of church.

by Jay Mankus

Leaving Behind an Echo of Love This Easter

For members of the faith community, this Easter will be unlike any other. There will be no large Passover celebration, no trip to Mecca or sunrise Service with fellow believers. Rather, in this age of social distancing, staying at a minimum of six feet away from those whom you love, what is a person to do? How can you celebrate a risen Savior without spreading the Coronavirus? Perhaps, leaving behind an echo of love is the solution.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men, Matthew 28:2-4.

Huh? Maybe the self isolation process has taken a toll on me, but hear me out. The book definition of echo is a sound or series of sounds caused by the reflection of sound waves from a surface back to the listener. When words are replaced by random acts of kindness, an echo of love is sown. This may be doing something without being asked, cleaning the house or serving others by putting your families needs above yourself.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples, Matthew 28:5-8.

Thus, as you are forced to take a rain check on partaking in communion, passing the peace and worshiping the Lord at church, 2020 may open the door for a new tradition. Whether this is having a bonfire in your backyard, a marathon game night or some other creative idea, don’t forget to leave an echo of love in your home. Although you may not have much to be thankful for in 2020, the resurrection provides hope for the afterlife.

by Jay Mankus

When You're Unwilling to Change

Julia Roberts starred in the 1991 film Sleeping with the Enemy. However, nearly two thousand years before Nancy Price published her novel, a Jewish carpenter allowed himself to be infiltrated by a spiritual enemy. Jesus saw the potential in Judas Iscariot as a disciple, giving him an opportunity to change. Yet, in the end, this was part of God’s plan as Judas was unwilling to change despite witnessing countless miracles.

Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (the message) of eternal life. 69 And we have learned to believe and trust, and [more] we have come to know [surely] that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And [yet] one of you is a devil (of the evil one and a false accuser), John 6:68-70.

On December 12th, 2019, scientists discovered an unknown virus in Wuhan, China. As news of this spread across the country and throughout the world, the name Coronavirus was given. As the number of confirmed cases in the United States has surpassed 54,000, citizens are forced to make one of two choices. Practice social distancing by changing how you live your daily life or continue ignoring the new CDC guidelines? The first doesn’t guarantee staying healthy, but the latter risks spreading the Coronavirus to those whom you love.

When it was evening, He was reclining at table with the twelve disciples. 21 And as they were eating, He said, Solemnly I say to you, one of you will betray Me! 22 They were exceedingly pained and distressed and deeply hurt and sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, Surely it cannot be I, Lord, can it? 23 He replied, He who has [just] dipped his hand in the same dish with Me will betray Me! – Matthew 26:20-23

As Jesus’ betrayal grew near, one event sped up this process. When a prostitute wasted an expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus’ body, this decision pushed Judas over the edge. In his role as treasurer, Judas saw this act as a waste of money, not an act of worship. When a seed of betrayal was sown in Judas’ heart and mind, the Last Supper sets the stage for Jesus’ final call out. When individuals aren’t unwilling to change, the consequences can be eternal. May the current Coronavirus pandemic persuade stubborn hearts to alter their lives now before it’s too late.

by Jay Mankus

How Serious are You?

Serious is defined as demanding careful consideration or application. While a perfectionist will attempt to do everything seriously, most individuals will show various degrees of concern. Those things near and dear to your heart will likely draw more attention. Meanwhile, lesser priorities will tend to receive a more carefree approach. As the Coronavirus continues to spread, this pandemic is forcing individuals to rethink the way that people live their daily lives.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night, Psalm 1:1-2.

Depending upon the circumstance, fear can either be healthy or unhealthy. From a biblical perspective, fear of the Lord separates a novice from a fully devoted Christ follower. While fear is often used in a negative context, fearing God refers to a holy reverence. Thus, developing this mindset is like showing a daily allegiance to Jesus through your actions. Holy fear steers those serious about their faith away from compromising and tempting situations toward obedience. In today’s context, practicing social distancing until COVID-19 fades or dies out completely.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who fears, reveres, and worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments, Psalm 128:1.

According to the Psalmist, fear and worship go hand and hand. While being a serious Christian doesn’t guarantee success, the more you walk in the Lord’s ways, the less likely you will stumble and fall. Anyone who demonstrates a healthy fear of the Lord will tend to purge addiction, bad habits and influences of sin from their life. At the present time, only God knows how long the Coronavirus will last. Yet, those who take this threat seriously, will likely live to see another day and God willing, a prosperous future.

by Jay Mankus

Aglow and Burning with Passion

The Sermon on the Mount serves as a collection of ideas for followers of Jesus. At the end of the first chapter of this famous speech, Jesus suggests that all Christians should strive for perfection, Matthew 5:48. The passage below inspired the childhood song “This Little Light of Mine.” In other words, God expects believers to stand out, aglow and burning with passion.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:13-16.

The apostle Paul adds a new dimension to this concept in his letter to the Church at Rome. Paul implies that spiritual gifts should be offered to others with a spirit of love. Building upon Romans 12:1, part of offering your bodies as a spiritual act of worship involves a passion and zeal for service. When aglow and burning in the Spirit, any desire to hide your faith departs.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11.

Upon reading the passage above last week, Harry Dixon Loes’ song has a new meaning for me as an adult. While I don’t always feel like sharing my faith, staying aglow is essential. If you allow your spiritual fire for God to grow dim, darkness will surround you. Therefore, before the Holy Spirit fades, pass on the love of Jesus with the gifts, personality or talents bestowed upon you. Like the old camp fire song declares, Pass It On!

by Jay Mankus

Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole

The expression fitting a square peg into a round hole comes from the Apollo 13 Space Mission. The entire crew would have died from carbon dioxide poisoning if Mission Control didn’t come up with a way to fit the square lithium hydroxide canisters into the round openings of the environmental exhaust system. The movie highlights this race against time when a warning light reveals dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. A brainstorming session begins at Mission Control in Houston using plastic bags, cardboard, tape, and all materials on board of Apollo 13 to solve this dilemma.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.

From my own personal experience, the older I get the less I see individuals open to thinking outside the box. Instead I hear the same old excuses, “this is the way we have always done it, we must follow the standard operational procedures or that’s just cutting corners.” Until an emergency arises, most people aren’t willing to deviate from the norm. However, there was a first century man who turned the Jewish culture upside down. Instead of focusing on a rigid set of rules, Jesus introduced a new way to live, expressing freedom like no one ever before or since.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6.

Sometime in the late 20’s AD, worshiping God in the temple at Jerusalem increased in importance. This would be like modern day Muslims traveling to Mecca for Ramadan. Just when this trend reached a buckle list status, Jesus spoke of a day when the temple would be torn in two. This teaching infuriated religious leaders, eventually resulting in Jesus’ death on a cross. Yet, Jesus placed a square peg into a round hole by revealing you don’t need to be in a building to worship God. Jesus took this concept one step further, explaining that human bodies are temples on loan from God, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. May this blog open your mind to see the vast miracles of the past and present as God continues to place square pegs into round holes daily.

by Jay Mankus

Shekinah

From time to time, I will open up the Bible and read something that I have never seen before. Yesterday, I came across the theological term Shekinah. The translation of the Bible that I have relied upon most of my life, the NIV (New International Version), translates this word into English. This skipping over of Shekinah makes me feels cheated, unaware of the glory of the divine presence until this week.

For they are Israelites, and to them belong God’s adoption [as a nation] and the glorious Presence (Shekinah). With them were the special covenants made, to them was the Law given. To them [the temple] worship was revealed and [God’s own] promises announced, Romans 9:4.

The original Hebrew term šekīnah was Romanized to become Shekinah. The English transliteration of this term denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. According to the apostle Paul, this was revealed to Roman Christians in the temple as believers were worshipping the Lord. My awareness of this expression from rabbinic literature has inspired me to seek Shekinah as I worship the Lord going forward.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship, Romans 12:1.

Three chapters later, the apostle Paul provides instructions on how to achieve Shekinah. Worship shouldn’t be limited to a building on Sunday. Rather, worship should be a constant state of mind, seeking to become a living sacrifice devoted to God. While this is an objective goal to pursue, the book of Psalm is filled with acts of worship. Whatever advice from the Bible that you follow, make sure this includes bowing down and kneeling before the Lord, Psalm 95:6, waiting for Shekinah to arrive.

by Jay Mankus

Focus on Worship not Worry

Whenever an accident, illness or unforeseen trial strikes, trying to focus on your normal routine is difficult. Despite the prayers that you have lifted up to God for help, human minds are drawn to worry. Instead of letting go of all of your burdens, some may feel like they have to fight this battle alone. This is where the urge to worry needs to be replaced by a spirit of worship.

Tomorrow go down to them. Behold, they will come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the ravine before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You shall not need to fight in this battle; take your positions, stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord [Who is] with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Fear not nor be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you, 2 Chronicles 20:16-17.

When King Jehoshaphat saw a vast army approaching, he immediately sought the Lord for discernment. During this time of inquiring, Jehoshaphat felt led to declare a fast for all of Judah. During this fast, the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel bringing a word of encouragement. “Don’t fear this vast army as this battle is the Lord’s, not yours!”

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe and remain steadfast to His prophets and you shall prosper. 21 When he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers to sing to the Lord and praise Him in their holy [priestly] garments as they went out before the army, saying, Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! – 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

This message inspired King Jehoshaphat to develop an unique form of combat. Instead of placing a squadron of soldiers into position, the king appointed a choir to sing to the Lord. These singers went out before the army, praising and worshiping the Lord. Like any spirit filled time of worship, any lingering thoughts of worry were replaced with praise. If this technique worked for the Israeli army, why not focus on worship daily.

by Jay Mankus

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

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