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Fleeing an Alka-Seltzer Faith

Alka-Seltzer is an antacid and pain reliever first marketed by the Dr. Miles Medicine Company of Elkhart, Indiana. An Alka Seltzer tablet contains aspirin, sodium bicarbonate, and anhydrous citric acid. When added to hot water, tablets dissolve in 20-30 seconds depending upon the water temperature. Since 1966, this cold medicine has been used to fight colds and flu like symptoms. Just like the disciple Peter denied knowing Jesus in public, the faith of many modern Christians tend to fizzle out after being baptized, disappearing quickly under duress and peer pressure.

So the Jews surrounded Him and began asking Him, How long are You going to keep us in doubt and suspense? If You are really the Christ (the Messiah), tell us so plainly and openly. 25 Jesus answered them, I have told you so, yet you do not believe Me [you do not trust Me and rely on Me]. The very works that I do by the power of My Father and in My Father’s name bear witness concerning Me [they are My credentials and evidence in support of Me], John 10:24-25.

During a first century conversation with Jews, Jesus finds himself surrounded by individuals eager to know if He is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Instead of giving the people what they wanted, Jesus refers back to a parable introduced earlier in chapter 10. Eluding to himself as a shepherd, Jesus points to the fact that sheep know and recognize the voice of their shepherd. Genuine sheep hear, listen and obey the voice of God. Any actions contrary to this is a sign of unbelief.

But you do not believe and trust and rely on Me because you do not belong to My fold [you are no sheep of Mine]. 27 The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand, John 10:26-28.

To explain this in modern terms, free will give individuals daily options to obey or disobey God’s commands in the Bible. While everyone goes through cycles of high and lows, those who struggle with temptation are likely missing a key ingredient. I accepted Jesus as my Savior in high school, not as Lord. Thus, I was still in control, not willing to yield total control over to God. After living in sin following my first semester of college, the Holy Spirit prompted me to make Jesus the Lord of my life. If your faith appears to be fizzling out, perhaps it’s time you make a similar decision, Romans 10:9-10, to flee an Alka-Seltzer faith.

by Jay Mankus

Known or Unknown

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was built following the first World War. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of Arlington National Cemetery. On September 1921, four more American bodies were exhumed from unmarked battlefield graves in France and placed in the new Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington. This memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1921, but additional work needed to be completed before being opened to the public on April 9, 1932. The first military guards were troopers from the 3rd Cavalry, “Brave Rifles”, posted at Fort Myer. Since April 6, 1948,  the regiment was reactivated and has been guarded by soldiers from 3rd Infantry which you see today when visiting.

So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul stumbled upon a monument dedicated to an unknown god. Unlike other idols erected to the various gods of Greece, this altar suggested the presence of a higher power. This subtle memorial provides an open door for the apostle Paul to introduce philosophers to the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul’s speech on Mars Hill got mixed reviews. Like any debate, preconceived notions, stereotypes and uncertainty prevented skeptics from accepting or embracing this unknown god. Based upon the end of Acts 17, the resurrection of the dead was a stumbling block, too unbelievable for minds to grasp. Nonetheless, Paul was welcomed back to speak, winning over Dionysius, a judge of the Areopagus.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], Romans 1:20.

I spent the first portion of my life in a religious setting, forced to attend Mass every weekend, even on vacation. Unfortunately, I spent more time looking at my watch than paying attention to the priest giving the Homily. If you haven’t already noticed, I was raised Catholic, trained to pursue the Sacraments such as Communion and Confirmation. The dangerous aspect about being religious is that you know just enough to get by. Instead of practicing faith by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, I treated God like a check list. I went to church, completed confirmation and confessed my sins to a priest. Despite attending church for 15 years, I didn’t know God. If it wasn’t for the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Bible Study at my high school, God still might be a mystery to me. However, if you want the unknown to become known, look for the signs in creation so that an invisible God becomes visible through faith.

by Jay Mankus

What is Happening to this Country?

As the Coronavirus began to spread within prisons throughout the United States, government officials thought it would be a good idea to release non-violent criminals. Within hours of their release, New York City’s mayor was shocked by those who returned to a life of crime. Meanwhile, as business owners and entrepreneurs were forced to stay at home as month long quarantines were extended, life savings quickly disappeared. Filled with a sense of urgency, several local companies began to defy governor orders, opening their businesses to the public. About a month ago, some of these owners were arrested, fined or had their licenses revoked. After the unfortunate death of George Floyd, businesses struggling to survive have been broken into, damaged, looted and some burned down.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). 17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:16-17.

As protesters and rioters appear to be taking over control of major cities, I’m struggling to grasp what is happening to this country? The Bible does provide some clues in the passage above and below. After the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings are now born into a sinful nature full of a series of urges. The apostle Paul refers to this as craving and desires inside of you. Some might refer to this as your dark side. Star Wars developed force sensitive characters throughout their franchise with the heroes, Jedi, seeking to become one with the Force. In the first century, the apostle Paul was pleading with Christians to follow promptings of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned individuals about allowing darkness to reside within your soul, Matthew 6:23. When anyone allows darkness to linger, you become vulnerable like Anakin Skywalker who turns to the dark side to become Darth Vader.

But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

In the passage above, Paul receives a prophetic message about what the end times will look like. Part of this image of the future includes deluding and seductive spirits designed to manipulate individuals. The end goal of these invisible forces of evil is to have the vulnerable believe and embrace twisted and warped doctrines. According to Paul, this will be accomplished by searing consciences through a series of lies. If you watch recent media reports from local, city and state officials, many don’t want to offend the protesters. Others aren’t willing to allow more cops to get hurt which appears to encourage looters to keep looting. Perhaps, the end times have arrived and the events of the past week has merely opened my eyes to this fact. As for now, all I can do is pray for America so that heart, minds and souls will come together to find common sense, healing and peace.

by Jay Mankus

What Kind of Sign are You Holding Up?

A newly married couple once came across a dense fog. As other vehicles slowed to a crawl, the husband attempted to make a pass on a two lane highway. While passing the final car, creating this traffic jam, their car is clipped by a truck heading in the opposite direction. The newlyweds flip end over end, traveling several hundred feet before coming to rest in the parking lot of a local business. Since the fog was so thick, other vehicles continue to pass by, unable to see their totaled vehicle.

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, Matthew 5:13-14.

After being knocked out for a few minutes, the man comes to, seeing his wife lying in a pool of bed. Compelled to act quickly before the woman he loves bleeds to death, this man frees himself from the wreck searching for help. To his surprise, this couple landed in a doctor’s parking lot, kicking on the door with his foot fervently with his still wife’s body in his hands. As an elderly man opens the door, the doctor replies, “I’m sorry I stopped practicing years ago.”

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 5:15-16.

If you are observant, every day you will cross paths with someone in need of help. A co-worker going through a series of trials, a neighbor coping with a death of a relative or friend looking for a source of hope. According to a recent study, 240 million Americans claim to Christians. However, many of these believers have stopped practicing what they believe. Instead, few portray signs of spiritual life like the salt of the earth or light of the world. When the wounded come to your door steps, what kind of sign are you holding up? May this story that I recently heard motivate you to put your faith into action.

by Jay Mankus

What the World Needs

One of the favorite weeks of the year as a teacher was attending the annual youth leadership conference. As a member of the Spiritual Life Committee, serving as chaperone for this event gave me the opportunity to recognize and encourage student leaders to follow God’s calling. These events introduced me to cutting edge curriculum designed by Summit Ministries. During one decade, I was blessed to participate in work shops led by Dr. Jeff Meyers and John Stonestreet. During my final year of attending, I was challenged to stop judging the world by engaging our culture with the living Word of God.

Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there, Acts 17:16-17.

Stonestreet’s best lesson focused on the apostle’s initial visit to Athens. Despite being discouraged and grieved by a city full of idols, Paul tried to find something positive. Based upon the passage below, Paul identified a point of reference, an altar dedicated to an unknown god. Following a similar method of apologetics used by C.S. Lewis in the second portion of Mere Christianity, Paul establishes a common ground. Instead of preaching a message of condemnation, Paul compliments the citizens of Athens, referring to them as religious. Paul also quotes a poet who refers to being an offspring of God. This is what the world needs to hear.

So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of a white police officer, buildings, local businesses and vehicles have been set ablaze in Minnesota. As riots continue to spread to other major metropolitan cities, anger over Floyd’s death has fueled this outage. As African Americans, minorities and protesters seek justice for this hate crime, time will tell what the future holds. As for now, cooler heads must prevail. If this country wants to continue it’s reputation as the great American melting pot, we must come together to discover what we have in common. When common beliefs and ideals are embraced, Americans can unite over the freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights.

by Jay Mankus

Bringing to Light the Secret Things

Biblical context helps prevent wrong interpretations of Scripture. When you make assumptions about a specific verse in the Bible, you have to view each individual passage like one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Context allows you to place similar pieces together. The more pieces you have connected, the clearer your understanding becomes of the Bible. The term theology refers to the science of God. The more you read and study the Bible, the full meaning of a passage comes into focus.

So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God, 1 Corinthians 4:5.

In the passage above, Paul is writing to members of Corinth who had a tendency to jump to conclusions. A spiritual leader named Apollos became a fan favorite, like the church whose attendance drops whenever the senior pastor isn’t preaching. Thus, Paul encourages first century Christians to avoid making premature decisions. Give outsiders a chance, an opportunity to demonstrate and sow spiritual fruit. While not everyone will be eloquent, Christ living within hearts make leaders great.

When we were living in the flesh (mere physical lives), the sinful passions that were awakened and aroused up by [what] the Law [makes sin] were constantly operating in our natural powers (in our bodily organs, in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh), so that we bore fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life], Romans 7:5-6.

One chapter unveils the issue raging within human souls. The apostle Paul pours out his heart in Romans 7, explaining the invisible tug of war that exists within each person. Bringing to light the secret things, Paul exposes sinful passions that arouse sensitive appetites. When you connect the passage above to Galatians 5:16-17, this internal spiritual war comes to life. Like feeding a beast, the more you give into selfish desires, the less room there is for the Holy Spirit to operate. Therefore, if you want to follow the prompting of God’s spirit, hearts and minds must be fixed on things above, Colossians 3:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Periods of Darkness While Living in the Wilderness

Following the Exodus out of Egypt, Israel spent 40 years living in the wilderness. This time served as a transitional period before entering God’s promised land. While the Bible refers to a wilderness, in reality the Jews spent their days in the hot desert sun and nights surrounded by snakes and scorpions. Spending a week or weekend in the wilderness camping or hiking can be rejuvenating. However, living off the gird for an extended period of time requires a complete trust in God to provide daily bread.

And I will confirm with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land, and [My people] shall dwell safely in the wilderness, desert, or pastureland and sleep [confidently] in the woods, Ezekiel 34:25.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic inflicted America in 2020, state mandated quarantines have separated family members, friends and neighbors. While some states have eased these restrictions during the month of May, I still haven’t been able to visit my parents. Due to speculation of a second wave of COVID-19 striking communities who don’t practice social distancing, these past 3 months have created a new type of wilderness, living inside your home most of the time. At some point faith has to trump fear, trusting God that life will soon return to a new but safe normal.

And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing, and I will cause the showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing [of good insured by God’s favor], Ezekiel 34:26.

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the prophet Ezekiel refers to a covenant of peace. For those of you struggling during this period of darkness and uncertainty, the verses above serve as a glimmer of hope. Ezekiel promises to keep those living in the wilderness safe from evil beasts. Meanwhile, Ezekiel refers to a hill of blessing, showering God’s people with grace and favor. While you may not sense peace at the moment, I pray that this biblical promise encourages you. When the wilderness is replaced by normalcy, perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation for the little things in life that we have all taken for granted.

by Jay Mankus

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