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You Only Get One Life

As the 2018 National Basketball Association kicked off their season in Boston this week, I am reminded of a tragedy from the past.  Len Bias was the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, selected by the Boston Celtics.  This former all American who played at the University of Maryland was primed for greatness.  Yet, during a post draft party, Len decided to try Cocaine, apparently for the first time.  This fateful decision induced cardiac arrhythmia resulting in Bias’ death two days later.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

I was about to start my senior year of high school when I first heard of Len Bias’ death.  Growing up ninety minutes from College Park, Maryland, this news was devastating.  To make matters worse, I lost one of my best friends to cancer during my sophomore year of college.  When my grand father passed away, it was tough to deal with, but at least he lived a full life.  However, when a young person, who hasn’t entered the prime of their life is taken away by death, this reality is hard to accept.  Unfortunately, human beings don’t have nine lives like cats who seem to escape death on numerous occasions.

But if your heart turns away and you will not hear and obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you will certainly perish. You will not live long in the land which you cross the Jordan to enter and possess, Deuteronomy 30:17-18.

During his farewell address as leader of Israel, Moses pours out his heart to his followers.  In the middle of his speech, Moses urges the crowd to be careful to make wise decisions.  According to the passage above, each choice you make on earth leads to one of two destinations: life or death.  Since you only get one life to live, choose life.  This isn’t a video game where you get to hit a reset button to receive a new life.  Rather, actions have consequences, especially when poor choices are made.  Therefore, may the words of Moses speak to your heart as you seek to make the most of the life God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Devoid of Light

A recent eye examine revealed that I am practically blind in my right eye.  The culprit is a large cataract in my eye that is blurring my vision daily.  Subsequently, for the second time in three years I will be having surgery to hopefully improve and repair this condition.  For someone who writes daily and desperately wants to pursue a career as a Hollywood screen writer, the odds are stacked against.  When you find yourself devoid of light, unable to see what you’re reading or about to type, my future seems bleak.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar nor under a basket [hiding the light], but [instead it is put] on the lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive, focused on God], your whole body also is full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. But when it is bad [spiritually blind], your body also is full of darkness [devoid of God’s word], Luke 11:33-34.

In the passage above, Jesus compares eyes to the lamp of the human body.  The goal is to place yourself into ideal positions, able to see every angle of what’s happening around you.  Just as fashion designers put lighting to highlight certain aspects of a new home, eyes were created by God to provide spiritual discernment and perception.  The more you focus on God, the clearer things become in life, resulting in good choices.  However, the moment you allow spiritual blindness to enter your life and persist, lives can spin out of control.  Thus, decision making is like being in a fog, devoid of light to lead you out of this darkness.

Be careful, therefore, that the light that is in you is not darkness. 36 So if your whole body is illuminated, with no dark part, it will be entirely bright [with light], as when the lamp gives you light with its bright rays,” Luke 11:35-36.

Beginning in the Old Testament, authors referred to the Bible or Word of God as a source of light.  Amy Grant and Michael Card once sang about this truth in the song Thy Word.  The chorus is straight out of scripture, Psalm 119:105.  God’s Word is like an old oil lamp shinning light into the darkness of night.  Although you may not know where to go initially, wise teachings serve as a light to direct and guide your feet.  While I am anxious about my upcoming eye surgery the last week in November, I do have the promises within the Bible to keep me hopeful.  As I struggle with the possibility of being devoid of human light, seeing, I know my heavenly father has a plan for me to get me through this period of darkness.

by Jay Mankus

Troubled Waters

Bridge Over Trouble Water spent six weeks as the number one song in America, sweeping the Grammy Awards in 1971.  The inspiration behind this Simon and Garfunkel classic are connected to Elvis Presley.  A member of the Swam Silvertones, Reverend Jeter became good friends with Paul Simon providing biblical imagery.  Meanwhile, a song from the Everly Brothers album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” influenced the lyrics which formed Bridge Over Trouble Water.

When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and they got into a boat and started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It was already dark, and Jesus had still not come [back] to them. 18 The sea was getting rough and rising high because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed three or four miles [and were near the center of the sea], they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat; and they were [terribly] frightened, John 6:16-19.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have a physical bridge to cross when storms stir up troubled waters.  Some people get caught by an unexpected squall, holding on for dear life until this weather system dissipates.  Meanwhile, those on shore try to survive hurricane force winds that create a tidal surge, causing the ocean to overtake land.  Those residents who endured Hurricane Florence and Michael now understand the concept of troubled waters.

Peter replied to Him, “Lord, if it is [really] You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:28-30

On two different occasions, Jesus was with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee.  During a gale which engulfed their boat, Jesus was asleep, likely testing these men to see how they would respond.  After waking up Jesus, these men acted like little boys who expected to die at sea.  The other encounter reveals Jesus walking on water, approaching the disciples boat at night.  Initially, fog made Jesus look like a ghost until Peter volunteered to join Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work], Hebrews 12:1-2.

From a spiritual point of view, Jesus serves as an invisible bridge.  The only way to access this structure is by faith.  As soon as Peter got out of his boat, he actually walked on water.  Yet, the moment Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink.  When individuals focus their attention on the storms surrounding them, most sink like Peter.  However, when you fix your eyes on Jesus, faith offers you a bridge to walk over troubled waters.

by Jay Mankus

A Nightmare or Scary Reality

Several years ago I attended a Bible Study led by a pastor who opened my eyes to the spiritual realm.  When the timing was right, I probed deeper, wanting to understand more about angels and demons.  One night an opportunity arose for this pastor to share a few stories about powers of darkness that he and other members of his church have encountered on earth.  Before revealing these details, pastor Bruce gave a warning to everyone in the room.  Whenever confronting any type of spiritual entity, you must have a group of prayer warriors covering you to serve as a hedge of protection against demonic attacks or push back from these powers of darkness.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places, Ephesians 6:12.

Curious, I asked a simple question, why is a team of prayer warriors necessary?  Pastor Bruce went on to talk about a former leader of his church who attempted to confront the powers of darkness of a well known vacation destination by himself.  Unaware of the stronghold that existed in this area, this man ended up in a mental hospital, troubled by the demonic entities unleashed upon his life.  This encounter caused this man to leave church for several years, haunted by scenes often reserved for Hollywood horror movies.  All I needed was one real life example to realize I needed to begin to become proactive in my prayer life to protect myself from similar attacks as a Bible teacher at the time.

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone], 1 Peter 5:8-9.

This leads me to the other night.  I have been taught to be careful when addressing certain topics.  Last week I felt compelled to share a blog about Witchcraft in the context of people wanting to place a hex on Brett Kavanaugh.  Anyway, I should have expected some sort of push back, but I got careless, unprepared spiritually.  Subsequently, I was minding my own business, drifting off in a deep sleep when it happened.  I’m not sure if this was a nightmare or a scary reality, but I saw a voodoo doll in someone’s hand.  As soon as I got a little closer, the doll resembled me as a pin was placed into this doll.  I felt immediate pain, waking up moments later with a severe headache, struggling to grasp what just happened.  Inspired by a whisper from the Holy Spirit, I started praying.  About 15 minutes later I began to feel normal again.  Yet this ordeal, whatever the explanation, serves as an instant reminder to watch and pray so that future attacks aren’t successful.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Clash of Two Cultures

The National Education Association was founded in 1857.  This group is the largest labor union and professional interest group in the United States.  This status also makes the NEA the most powerful and influential special interest group, swaying politicians to continue to fund education programs in their annual budget.  Prior to the 1970’s, education was left up to each state, giving local PTA members, parent teacher association, the ability to impact school curriculum.  However, in the last fifty years, education is being now controlled at the national level through objectives like Common Core.  With liberals and progressives now editing, replacing and writing new curriculum, the stage is set for a clash of two cultures.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

If you have children, you will be taking visits to colleges and universities that your daughter or son have interests in attending.  These tours may reveal an institutions true intentions or they might be hidden to avoid choosing an alternative school.  From my experience, these schools of higher education roll out the red carpet, trying to impress and persuade as many as potential students as possible.  As a former high school teacher, graduates often visited me relaying the good, bad and ugly sides of college.  Although many colleges on the east coast of the United States were founded by Christians for Christians, few traces of faith remain.  Just as public education removed Bible verses and prayer from its curriculum in the 1960’s, colleges have used revisionist history to scrub significant events like the Magna Carta from textbooks.  If generations grow up without a biblical worldview, college professors can introduce new ideologies that clashes with what parents and grandparents were taught.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses, 1 Timothy 6:12.

These factors set the scene for current events like Antifa members taking over downtown Portland, Oregon, protestors harassing conservatives in public and marches on Washington.  From where I sit, observing day to day events, its like the Jerry Springer show on steroids, stirring the pot until emotions bubble over into a shoving match.  Perhaps, everyone needs to go into their corner, take a timeout out to relax and begin to act like a grown up in front of children who are watching.  America is on the verge of a new Civil War.  However, instead of re-enacting the events of 1861-1865 on a battlefield, this clash will between cultures.  One clinging to the Judeo Christian values of America’s founding fathers.  The other eager to usher in a progressive era replacing the Bible with a different set of moral and political standards.  I hope I am wrong about this clash, but if you watch cable news it appears this clash has already begun.

by Jay Mankus

Evicted

After retiring from his Lutheran church, a pastor and his wife felt called to begin a ministry for seniors, for people their own age.  The most logical place to start was a local retirement home.  Ken and Liv Hauge reside at the Evergreens, a senior living community in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  A suburb of Washington D.C., this area has strict regulations, something the Hauge’s found out when they wanted to start a Bible Study.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion, Proverbs 28:1.

According to the civic association, the Hauge’s were required to call their meeting a book club.  Initially, they agreed even though this event was in fact a Bible Study.  To avoid this rigid restriction, this couple decided to move the group to their own apartment.  When word got out that the Hauge’s were hosting a Bible Study, they received a letter from their residential complex stating “stop holding Bible studies or face eviction.”  Why you may ask?  The apartment complex defines a Bible Study as a business which is illegal in a private residential unit.

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance, Acts 28:31.

The Hauge’s have turned to a lawyer to fight this legal battle.  I haven’t heard an update on this battle for religious freedom, but this case is an eye opening for the kind of persecution active Christians may face in the future.  The apostles endured similar threats during the first century.  Paul was arrested, beaten and nearly killed a couple times during his ministry trips throughout the Mediterranean.  Despite these trying times, Luke implores believers in Jesus to boldly proclaim the kingdom of God whatever the cost, even if it means eviction.

by Jay Mankus

Witchcraft: Fact or Fiction

According to a report that broke late last week, a coven of witches in New York plans to hold an event this week.  The purpose of this public gathering is to perform a ritual to place a hex on recent Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  I watched a segment on cable news over the weekend as a liberal guest speculated on what the sponsors of this ceremony hope to accomplish.  While neither claimed to be an authority on hexing, this news story makes me wonder if witchcraft is fact or fiction?

Then Saul said to his servants, “Find for me a woman who is a medium [between the living and the dead], so that I may go to her and ask her advice.” His servants said to him, “There is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” So Saul disguised himself by wearing different clothes, and he left with two men, and they came to the woman at night. He said to her, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up [from the dead] for me [the spirit] whom I shall name to you.” But the woman said to him, “See here, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off (eliminated) those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. So why are you laying a trap for my life, to cause my death?” 10 Then Saul swore [an oath] to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this.” 11 So the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed with a loud voice; and she said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but [tell me] what do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a divine [superhuman] being coming up from the earth,” 1 Samuel 28:7-13.

One of the most detailed passages in the Bible in relation to witches occurs in the Old Testament.  In the passage above, the witch of Endor is compared to a medium.  The best modern comparison to this woman would be the show Crossing Over.  John Edward is a psychic who claims to be able to communicate with the spirits of dead members of his audience.  At the height of this shows popularity, I asked my senior pastor what he thought about Edward’s gift.  Based upon the encounter above, able to communicate with Samuel, he believed certain individuals do have a special ability.  While certain parts of Crossing Over may be faked or over dramatized, some experiences are genuine.

O you foolish and thoughtless and superficial Galatians, who has bewitched you [that you would act like this], to whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified [in the gospel message]? This is all I want to ask of you: did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying [the requirements of] the Law, or was it the result of hearing [the message of salvation and] with faith [believing it]? Are you so foolish and senseless? Having begun [your new life by faith] with the Spirit, are you now being perfected and reaching spiritual maturity by the flesh [that is, by your own works and efforts to keep the Law]? Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing—if indeed it was all for nothing? So then, does He who supplies you with His [marvelous Holy] Spirit and works miracles among you, do it as a result of the works of the Law [which you perform], or because you [believe confidently in the message which you] heard with faith? – Galatians 3:1-5

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses witchcraft in a different context.  A group of zealous religious leaders were unable to let go of the traditions of Judaism.  Thus, this sect known as the Judaizers began to add conditions to salvation.  When the apostle Paul visited the church in Galatia, these individuals had tricked members through excessive legalism, slowly forgetting about the grace of God and freedom in Christ.  This compelled Paul to ask, “who bewitched you?”  Paul uses the analogy of a witch casting a spell over these church members, forgetting everything that Paul had taught during a previous visit.

 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places, Ephesians 6:10-12.

After searching through the scriptures, there are only 2 questions left to address: what is a hex and are witches real?  According to the dictionary, a hex refers to casting a spell over someone or something.  The purpose of this act is to jinx a person by calling upon demonic powers.  When you search placing a hex on someone, most of my searches tied nexing to voodoo, taking a pin and placing it in a voodoo doll.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul reveals three different realms of darkness.  Physical opponents in the form of rulers, worldly forces that tempt individuals to be lured into darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  While modern day witches may not resemble characters from Bewitched, Charmed or other Hollywood shows, witches do exist and can harm the body of Christ by placing curses of those they deem to be the enemy.  Thus, its essential to use prayer as a hedge of protection to prevent you and your family from current or future curses.

by Jay Mankus

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