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Grounded

During my years as a teenager, grounding was a common form of discipline. When a child became as tall as their parent or guardian, grounding replaced spanking for inappropriate, rebellious or wrong behavior. If you received bad grades on a report card, the punishment would range from grounded for a weekend, month or marking period depending upon how bad or the strictness of your parents.

For the Lord disciplines and corrects those whom He loves, And He punishes every son whom He receives and welcomes [to His heart].” You must submit to [correction for the purpose of] discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? – Hebrews 12:6-7

Grounded also refers to a pilot who is prohibited or prevented from flying. In the 2012 film Flight starring Denzel Washington, pilot Whip Whittaker is on a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta. When the plane suffers a
severe mechanical breakdown in midair, Whittaker played by Washington
does a miraculous job crash-landing this plane. Initially, Whip is treated like a hero until a toxicology test reveals traces of alcohol and cocaine in his blood stream. Thus, Whittaker is grounded until the investigation into this crash is complete.

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose], Hebrews 12:11.

When I was young, I remember my initial spankings. This isn’t because of any emotional scars. Rather, it’s the words my parents shared prior to being spanked, “this is going to hurt me more than you.” My sarcastic mind didn’t understand what they were trying to say until I read Hebrews 12. Discipline is a form a love, extreme intervention at times to alter the steps of a wayward child. While grounding didn’t seem like a good idea when I was a teenager, now as a parent grounding has a new meaning. Although the PC police frowns upon biblical discipline, may the Lord give you insight and wisdom to discipline you own or future children properly.

by Jay Mankus

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Iniquities That Drown Out My Prayers

“So when you spread out your hands [in prayer, pleading for My help], I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you offer many prayers,
I will not be listening. Your hands are full of blood! “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Get your evil deeds out of My sight. Stop doing evil, Isaiah 1:15-16.

How many times a day are you forced to listen to boring conversations? Co-workers may have to endure colleagues who love to talk and never shut up. Meanwhile, students have to sit through hour long lectures, often pretending to be entertained just to get a good grade. While some people crave intimate dialogue, others simply embrace the sound of silence.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save, Nor His ear so impaired that it cannot hear. But your wickedness has separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear, Isaiah 59:1-2.

From God’s perspective, billions of prayers are lifted up to heaven daily. Trying to sort through all of these requires an act of God as it is. Nonetheless, how many of these prayers are genuine, impure or selfish? Isaiah comments on disingenuous prayers. According to this Old Testament prophet, prayers aren’t designed as an escape plan or get well wish. Rather, God has specific expectations that requires a contrite heart.

“For the eyes of the Lord are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright), And His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer), But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil,” 1 Peter 3:12.

Thus, if your prayer life is like mine, you will experience days, weeks and months of prayers that go unanswered. According to the Bible, iniquities drown out your prayers. An iniquity is considered grossly unfair behavior, deemed criminal, foul or immoral. Essentially what God is trying to say to anyone before they pray, “get your act together, clean up your life up and stop doing evil things.” Unless acts of contrition supersede your prayers, the presence of iniquities will continue to drown out your prayers.

by Jay Mankus

Grace Holds Me Now

The byproduct of original sin, Adam and Eve’s decision to eat forbidden fruit, led to separation from God. When the only rule, do not eat of the tree of knowledge, in the Garden of Eden was broken, earth’s first family was banished, expelled from this tropical paradise. Subsequently, a works oriented system using a series of sacrifices was set up to atone for current and past sins. The Old Testament book of Leviticus introduces these offerings with detailed instructions on when and how this should be done.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” – Matthew 19:24-25

During the first century, a rich young ruler lived his life in according to the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-17. Despite his zealous application of these principles, something in this man’s heart didn’t seem right. Thus, this ruler seeks out godly counsel from Jesus, hoping to find comfort that he was on the right track. After a series of questions, Jesus asks this wealthy man to go and sell all of his possessions, then give the proceeds to the poor. While the rich young ruler lived a moral life, at some point he began to trust his own wealth instead of God. This request was just too hard to do, walking away from Jesus in tears.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Jesus hints at the concept of grace in the passage above. Grace refers to God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This unmerited favor of God toward man is made possible through Jesus’ life as the perfect lamb of God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made what was formerly impossible possible. Thus, individuals no longer need to live by the standards of the Old Testament. Rather, anyone who publicly believes in their heart and professes with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved, Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, you don’t have to walk away disappointed like the rich young ruler. Faith in Jesus provides assurance that grace holds you now.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Answers in a Loss

At the end of last year, my daughter and I joined a volleyball league. Every Friday night until April, I am able to compete for an hour. While the initial reason for participating was to allow my daughter to sharpen her skills during the offseason, I find myself outclassed by much younger and athletic individuals. The ultimate purpose of any sport is to determine who is the best. Thus, when you lose more than you win, human nature begins to search for answers to explain why your team lost.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.,” Matthew 5:4.

In her 2017 song Can’t Live Without, Hollyn sings about someone who doesn’t know what they are chasing after. Using the context of a person driving in rush hour, sometimes you are so busy that lose sight of where you are actually going. Near the end of the lyrics, there is a transition which struck a nerve, ” Some people gotta lose it all to find out what they really want.” Progress, success and victory doesn’t require any need for reflection as positive momentum breeds confidence. Yet, embarrassment, failure and losing leads souls to ponder why.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me., 2 Corinthians 12:9

As a former professional athlete, I hate to lose, even if it’s playing a board game with my family at home. However, my desire to win takes joy away from competing. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states if you get rid of competition, you eliminate pride. Thus, if you take your focus off of winning and turn it toward savoring the opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the final outcome or scoreboard reads. Thanks to Hollyn’s song, I am now able to see the big picture, a father who is able to spend quality time with his daughter. While our team’s record may be mediocre, I have found an answer in a loss.

by Jay Mankus

Inside Out

I’m usually not a big fan of animation movies. Yet, it seems like every Pixar film appeals to kids and adults. Whether you’re talking about Cars, Toy Story or Finding Nemo, there is something for everyone in the audience. When I first put Inside Out into my DVD player, my initial thought was “this is going to be lame.” The more I watched, I became glued to the screen.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

This 2015 animation illustrates how emotions affect the life of a newborn baby called Riley. Inside this little girl, characters compete to influence Riley’s life through a control panel. Joy, sadness, fear, disgust and anger take turns helping Riley understand these emotions. Until her family moves to San Francisco, Joy is the dominate emotion, maintaining a positive mindset despite what happens each day.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope, Romans 15:13.

As joy and sadness get sucked out of the control center during an accident, Riley’s life takes a drastic turn for the worse. This portion of the film pierced my heart, taking me back to my years in junior high when I was lost, lonely and searching for the meaning to life. Like Riley, I tried to find alternates, substitutes to fill the void in my heart. Nothing satisfied me until a friend introduced me to Jesus. The only way to truly change is to open your heart to Jesus who has the power to transform you from the inside out.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Be Afraid or Hesitant to Ask God

If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him, James 1:5.

Three pillars of faith advise readers of the Bible to essentially do the same thing. The earthly brother of Jesus suggests that if anyone lacks wisdom, ask God who has a long history of generosity. The disciple whom Jesus loved adds to the concept. The context to any prayer request should emphasize and align your wishes with God’s will. Meanwhile, during his Sermon on the Mount Jesus urges listeners to not be afraid or hesitant to ask God. Rather, continue to seek and knock on God’s door until answers are received.

This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. 15 And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him, 1 John 5:14-15.

In the passage above, John speaks from experience. These words aren’t some unrealistic dream that you hope for God to answer a prayer. Rather, John refers to his degree of confidence as he reflects upon all the prayers that the Lord has specifically answered. One of the reasons some people don’t offer up prayer requests to God is the fear of being disappointed. John urges readers of the Bible to move beyond doubt by trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:21-22.

One of Jesus’ biggest frustrations with human beings is their lack of dependence on God. Throughout the gospels Jesus highlights one essential point, “you don’t have because you haven’t asked.” According to the passage above, prayers are directly linked to your degree of belief. The greater your faith, the more you will begin to see answers to prayer. However, when doubt enters your mind, prayers become words without any divine power. Therefore, if you want to see modern miracles don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask God. When you do pray, place your personal trust and confidence in Jesus to do what he promises in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Two Elements of Transformation

Before a dramatic and thorough change occurs within the life of a human being, there is usually a series of events that serve as a catalyst. Some people have to hit rock bottom before coming to their senses. Others go through some sort of near death experience before their soul is awakened. As for me, I suffered a nervous breakdown in high school before God set the stage for my heart to finally be open to receiving the good news about Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ], Matthew 16:17-18.

After Jesus suffered, died on a cross, rose again and ascended into heaven, Jesus sent an invisible counselor to carry on the ministry he began on earth. The venue in which this movement continues in is the church. While not every congregation has a physical building, the church is the cornerstone for faith. After following the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-10, the church is the vehicle through which spiritual transformation occurs. Accountability, confession, fellowship, prayer and worship are methods through which each believer undergoes the sanctification process.

Now I say this, believers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit nor be part of the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (mortal) inherit the imperishable (immortal). 51 Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden, but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed], 1 Corinthians 15:50-51.

The final element of transformation is the cross. A common analogy refers to crossing out the I in self to become a member of God’s team. This commitment involves denying your own aspirations, dreams and goals on earth. According to Jesus, the only way to find life is by giving it up, losing it to follow the cross of Christ. This decision is often met with rejection from friends, family and neighbors. Nonetheless, if you truly want to fulfill God’s will by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, you heart will begin to cry out in prayer, “not mine, but your will be done.”

by Jay Mankus

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