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Are You Still Sleeping?

From time to time, my soul is filled with an overwhelming sense of conviction.  This guilt comes from spiritual naps, periods of my life where I fell asleep to what God wanted me to do, say or stand up for.  The Bible refers to this state as lukewarm.  Past generations used words such as wishy washy to explain how lame my faith can be at times.  To be bluntly honest,  I am fighting a losing battle, wrestling to stay above rising flood waters pulling me under.

And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Were you unable to keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep [actively] watching and praying so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” Mark 14:37-38.

No one is immune to sleeping as the human body is hard to control.  This requires an intent focus, like a disciplined athlete training for their next competition.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for someone to slip into merely going through the motions.  Whether you are talking about prayer, reading the Bible or worship, these practices can become a mundane event, void of spiritual fire or zeal.  I guess you can say this is where I am, still sleeping, unable to awaken from this spiritual funk.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

According to the apostle Paul, those who find themselves in this spiritual state need to cry out to the Holy Spirit for help.  Instead of babbling the same old powerless prayer, ask God to intercede through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I’m tied of doing the same lame thing, hoping for a better outcome.  Therefore, join me in an awakening of the soul to once again put into practice the word of God.  If you’re still sleeping like me, its time to get up, Luke 21:36.

by Jay Mankus

Pray Now or Pay Later

The words pray now or pay later popped into my head nearly five years ago.  Looking back, I don’t remember if a Bible verse, lyrics of a song or a sermon conceived this concept.  Nonetheless, this phrase inspired me to write a book which turned into a screen play.  In a sense pray now or pay later is a mission statement to avoid subtle compromises that eventually leads individuals to give into temptation.  This process doesn’t happen over night.  Rather, carelessness, poor choices and self trust often results in painful consequences in the future.

After going a little farther, He fell to the ground [distressed by the weight of His spiritual burden] and began to pray that if it were possible [in the Father’s will], the hour [of suffering and death for the sins of mankind] might pass from Him. 36 He was saying, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You; take this cup [of judgment] away from Me; but not what I will, but what You will,” Mark 14:35-36.

The night before his final day on earth in human form, Jesus felt compelled to pray.  While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to confide in his inner circle, James, John and Peter.  Overwhelmed by the weight of a heavy soul, Jesus wrestled with God in prayer, wondering if there was another way.  Yet, knowing his purpose for being born, Jesus yielded with the words, “not what I will but your will be done.”  Jesus understood that praying now would give him the strength to submit to and fulfill God’s will, dying on a cross as the perfect Lamb of God.

And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Were you unable to keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep [actively] watching and praying so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 39 He went away again and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came back and found them sleeping, because their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know how to answer Him. 41 He came back a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough [of that]! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is near!” – Mark 14:37-42

When the disciples were unable to stay awake the first time he asked them to pray, Jesus reveals the key to pray now or pay later.  To avoid temptation, you must keep actively watching over your life in prayer.  This reason for this necessity is that God’s Spirit within you is willing, but your body is weak, vulnerable to giving into temptation.  Proactive prayer such as asking God to place a hedge of protection around you and your loved ones is a great place to start.  However, when a sense of urgency to pray disappears, you might find yourself like the disciples falling away or betraying Jesus at the first sight of adversity.  May this passage above and the words pray now or pay later awaken your soul to commit your life to a concert of prayer.

by Jay Mankus

 

Who is Offending Who?

Last week I read an article online about why atheists are offended by Christianity and religious symbols.  Some point to excessive evangelism by leaders who don’t always emulate or live out the love of Christ.  Others are turned off by the exclusive nature of Jesus’ teaching, that there is only one way to heaven, John 14:6.  Meanwhile, public displays of Judea Christian values in the form of monuments, statues and religious symbols cause atheists to be offended by many of America’s founding fathers due to their unadulterated faith.

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also,” Luke 11:45.

Around 30 AD, Jesus received several invitations to meet with curious religious leaders.  One day a Pharisee invited Jesus and his disciples over to his house for lunch.  While reclining at a table the disciples and Jesus did not follow ceremonial laws, failing to wash their hands before eating.  While this lack of action offended the Pharisees, Jesus was insulted by their lack of concern for the heart and soul.  This dialogue in Luke 11:37-54 makes me wonder who’s offending who?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth., Romans 1:18.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech.  While American citizens are able to exercise this freedom daily, this doesn’t mean you won’t be offended.  Depending upon your worldview, elementary principles, progressive ideology or philosophy may threaten your current belief system.  However, if you aren’t open to seeking the truth, God may be offended by your lack of conviction.  Therefore, don’t worry about offending others as long as you strive to follow God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiveness Opens the Door for Love

One of the barriers standing between forgiveness is stubborn hearts as certain individuals are unable to forgive or forget a previous transgression.  This unwillingness to let go of the pain inflicted shuts the door on the potential for love.  This reluctance sets the stage for bitterness, like an invisible poison that slowly kills relationships.  Unless there is a willingness to let God in to mend and repair fences, reconciliation is merely a dream.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I rebuke and discipline [showing them their faults and instructing them]; so be enthusiastic and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will], Revelation 3:19.

In the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, John gives an honest assessment of seven churches.  While a few receive compliments, several are exposed for previous actions, beliefs and deeds.  Despite this list of flaws, John uses an analogy of a door to illustrate free will.  God is willing to offer forgiveness, yet souls must demonstrate an enthusiastic spirit of repentance.  Every day God is like an eager visitor, knocking on the door of your heart, but the Lord waits for your invitation.  There is no forced entry.

Behold, I stand at the door [of the church] and continually knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him (restore him), and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant to him [the privilege] to sit beside Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down beside My Father on His throne, Revelation 3:20-21.

At the end of this passage, God reveals another obstacle in the way of forgiveness.  Overcoming the world involves mindsets, philosophies and traditions that have become embraced by most of society.  This makes following God’s commandments, decrees and precepts that much more difficult.  Peer pressure only complicates any desires to seek God’s ways.  Free will is a daily exercise full of choices with the hope that you stay near enough so that you can hear God’s voice.  For those who fulfill this call, motivation comes as God forgives you.  Thus, as believers pay it forward, forgiveness opens the door for love to flow out of your heart, passed on to others.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

In any social setting, there are preconceived thoughts based upon appearance, attire, background, education, intellect and wealth.  If character is excluded from this set of standards, people can be misled, confusing right from wrong and vice versa.  Like Samuel waiting to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel, the heart is often overlooked.  While David’s brothers fit the physical features of a leader, David’s heart set him apart from his siblings.  Thus, Samuel told Jesse to call his youngest son from the fields, led by the Holy Spirit to anoint David.

Now there was a woman in the city who was [known as] a sinner; and when she found out that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume, Luke 7:37-38.

Several hundred years later, another famous anointing took place.  Unfortunately, the disciples were fooled by the tarnished reputation of an unwelcomed guest.  To make matters worse, this woman broke and wasted a valuable vial of perfume.  The actual worth of this bottle was equivalent to nearly a years pay for a first century laborer.  This display blinded religious leaders from the true intentions of this woman.  Staring at the spilled perfume as if it was a load of cash blowing in the wind, the man who invited Jesus over to his house is offended by Jesus’ interaction with this prostitute.  Subsequently, in Simon’s eyes right is wrong and wrong is right.

Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin],” Luke 7:39

Over reactions like Simon are carried out within homes every night in the 21st century.  Instead of seeing things for what they are, preconceived notions blind decent human beings from the truth.  Thus, knee jerk reactions lead to conflict, division and tension within Christian homes.  Perhaps, everyone needs to become more like Jesus, expecting the best in others regardless of past or present reputations.  May this passage of the Bible speak to your soul, opening your heart to forgive, forget and extend God’s grace and mercy to others.  If you don’t, you too may confuse right from wrong and wrong with right.

by Jay Mankus

Grace Comes First

After sin entered the world following the fall of Adam and Eve, grace was merely a promise.  To restore that which was lost, God revealed the law to Moses, a series of standards, regulations and rules to abide by.  Animal sacrifices served as a temporary means to obtain forgiveness.  This grueling pattern continued until Jesus arrived early in the first century.  One of the many lessons Jesus taught audiences during his three year ministry is that grace comes first.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace, Romans 6:14.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul hints about his own internal battle with sin.  Paul chooses the term dominion, referring to the struggle that exists prior to accepting, believing and trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Those who attempt to be good without a personal relationship with God continue to live under the Old Testament law today.  Thus, the concept that grace comes first is still foreign to those without faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, Ephesians 2:8-9.

As the apostle Paul matured spiritually, he began to educate new believers on the power of grace.  As a former religious zealot, Paul’s former attempts to be perfect fell well short of God’s glory.  Thus, Paul became an advocate of grace, encouraging others to avoid basing your salvation on works alone.  Grace is a gift from God, aided by faith in Jesus.  May you come to the same conclusion today that grace comes first.

by Jay Mankus

Whispers of Hope

If your voice tends to dominate or over power conversations, your ears will have a hard time hearing the whispers of others.  Breaths, murmurs and subtle tones will be drown out, oblivious to talkative souls.  Meanwhile, the down trodden, hurting and hopeless can become skeptical to any sort of good news.  Jaded hearts turn to sarcasm, laughing at any glimpses of hope.  Regardless of where you may be on this spectrum, a growing number of individuals ignore daily whispers of hope.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you, Psalm 39:7.

Like any distressed soul, its not uncommon to want to find someone who will listen to your frustrations.  Whether this is a co-worker, friend or neighbor, venting has a way of releasing any built up tension within you.  After sessions of complaining, ranting and unloading the stress weighing you down, periods of relief can be temporarily found.  In the Old Testament, David discovered a way to embrace whispers of hope.  Although living as a shepherd can be lonely, with few interaction with people, God is only a prayer away.  Thus, pouring our his heart to the Lord became a daily practice, waiting for his life to change for the better.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

The apostle Paul takes David’s concept to a new level in the passage above.  While praying enables individuals to cry out to God, reading the God allows the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart through whispers of hope.  Whenever Paul was depressed, discouraged or frustrated, reading the Old Testament provided encouragement and the inspiration to endure.  Since modern readers have the luxury of a completed Bible, the Old and New Testaments, studying the Bible is the best way to hear whispers of hope.  May this blog inspire you to live out Romans 10:17 as faith comes from listening and reading God’s Word.

by Jay Mankus