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When Misery Leads to Desperation

After graduating from college, I spent my first six months in the real world serving as a social worker. I made $500 for the entire summer before getting a part time job as a youth director. I made $100 a month, lived in my sister’s basement and slept on a couch. After being accepted to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, I needed to raise $500. I volunteered at my home church, painting the entire basement, hoping to earn enough money. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I didn’t know how I was going to get to Minnesota, let alone pay for it. This moment of misery conceived a spirit of desperation to do whatever it took.

And He said, There was a certain man who had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the part of the property that falls [to me]. And he divided the estate between them. 13 And not many days after that, the younger son gathered up all that he had and journeyed into a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and loose [from restraint] living. 14 And when he had spent all he had, a mighty famine came upon that country, and he began to fall behind and be in want, Luke 15:11-14.

Jesus tells a story about a boy who was of a similar age. Based upon the passage above, this young man saw his surroundings as dollar bills. Instead of waiting his turn to receive his father’s inheritance, this selfish boy pressed the issue, convincing his father to divvy up a nice lump sum of money. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds me of Jason Stevens’ character in the film the Ultimate Gift. Spoiled by a billionaire uncle, Jason spent his families wealth in a lavish and reckless manner. This privileged lifestyle continued until Jason was left behind a series of gifts following his uncle’s death. After being cut off from his mother’s inheritance, poverty led to misery, being homeless led to desperation, sowing a seed to change.

So he went and forced (glued) himself upon one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed hogs. 16 And he would gladly have fed on and filled his belly with the carob pods that the hogs were eating, but [they could not satisfy his hunger and] nobody gave him anything [better]. 17 Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:15-19.

You don’t have to be rich or poor to experience misery. If your career, job or life isn’t fulfilling, emptiness will conceive a desire to alter your course, direction or path. The longer you continue toward this dead end, souls will hunger for change. As soon as the prodigal son began to crave the sloop fed to pigs, he finally came to his senses. The moment misery hovers over you, human beings get restless, eager to get out of their predicament. As conditions worsen, desperation drives the helpless to act. May this blog remind you that it’s never too change to change, no matter how grim your current situation may be.

by Jay Mankus

When a Grumpy Old Man Begins to Take Over

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau starred in the 1993 film Grumpy Old Men. The screenplay was written by Mark Steven Johnson who also wrote the sequel Grumpier Old Men which debuted in theaters two years later. After doing some research, apparently there is such a thing as the Grumpy Old Man Syndrome. According to one source, this condition is a due to a combination of psychological and physiological issues. When the best years of life have passed, men often feel the need to wall themselves off to protect themselves from sadness and despair. Thus, angry outbursts are the direct result of what is going on within a troubled soul.

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself—it tends only to evildoing. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait and hope and look for the Lord [in the end] shall inherit the earth, Psalm 37:8-9.

In the passage above, David writes about his various encounters with grumpy old men while serving as king of Israel. Age has a way of wearing on individuals, causing some to speak their mind without a filter. As anger, bitterness, and frustration build up deep inside of human hearts, evil is waiting for a trigger to be unleashed. Like a cease fire between two border nations, David calls believers to stop anger before you give the devil of foothold, Ephesians 4:26-27. Unfortunately, many ignore the early symptoms of anger until a co-worker, family member or neighbor experiences the wrath of your emotional outburst.

Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Philippians 2:14-15.

In recent weeks, I find another presence at work in my body, Romans 7:15-16. Perhaps, the apostle Paul sensed a grumpy old spirit taking over his life as well. Anyway, this grumpy and negative attitude has overflowed from within me. When a series of rejections put my future writing aspirations on hold, disappointment is oozing out in the form of chippy comments, glaring eyes, and silently grumbling to myself. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the apostle Paul provides an anecdote in the passage above. The moment a grumpy old man begins to take over, yield control over to Jesus. As you do, the darkness of angry spirits will be replaced by the light of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

When the Spirit of the Anti-Christ Comes

During the Passion Week, Jesus’ last week on earth prior to his crucifixion, a series of clues are left behind in Matthew 24. The context of this conversation begins on the steps of the temple. Jesus uses this structure to foretell future events beginning with the great earthquake immediately following his death on a cross. After taking a seat on the Mount of Olives, Jesus privately meets with his disciples, revealing the signs of End Times.

Not to allow your minds to be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed, whether it be by some [pretended] revelation of [the] Spirit or by word or by letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] arrived and is here. Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3.

The content of this information was so powerful that Matthew devotes an entire chapter of his gospel to these words. According to Jesus, a series of events will result in the love of many Christians growing cold, Matthew 24:12. If you place this passage in the context of 2020 with church services shut down during the Coronavirus pandemic in many states, the Spirit of the Anti-Christ is getting closer. The apostle Paul takes at closer look by examining what these days will resemble on earth.

Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. Do you not recollect that when I was still with you, I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining him [from being revealed at this time]; it is so that he may be manifested (revealed) in his own [appointed] time. For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until he who restrains is taken out of the way, 2 Thessalonians 2:4-7.

In his second letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul shares his own revelations about the second coming of Jesus. This includes an interesting statement that presupposes that the Holy Spirit keeps Satan on a leash until Christ returns. However, after the Rapture, Satan will turn the earth into a concentration camp, Revelation 13:17. Only those who receive the mark of the beast will be able to buy or sell. Thus, as Spirit of the Anti-Christ draws near, prepare your heart and mind now so that you won’t be deceived.

by Jay Mankus

Moving Forward Spiritually

The context of “taking sides” below occurs in the middle of a parable. Jesus tells a story of an individual who seeks to enter a strong man’s house. However, unless you first bind the spiritual entities that protect this house (body), you won’t be able to enter. In other words, if you’re not totally with Jesus, you’re against Him. Subsequently, those who are not moving forward spiritually begin to scatter, no longer imitating the love and life of Jesus.

He who is not with Me [definitely on My side] is against Me, and he who does not [definitely] gather with Me and for My side scatters, Matthew 12:30.

This same concept applies to churches as well. During a visit to the Church at Laodicea, John wasn’t impressed. Sure, there were some good things happening, blessed with wealth. Yet, at some point in time members began to trust in their financial riches instead of God. Just like Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit song, members of the Church at Laodicea had become comfortably numb. When you stop growing spiritually, idleness results in back sliding.

I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth! – Revelation 3:15-16

Forward motion is difficult to maintain when your faith is currently stalled. When individuals remove Bible Study, prayer or worship from their weekly spiritual diet, this situation only gets worse. When picking up the Bible, speaking to God or going to church becomes a chore, a spiritual spark is needed. Until revival ignites a dormant faith, most souls will remain in neutral. May this blog inspire you to jump start your faith with forward motion.

by Jay Mankus

Satan’s Pawn Shop

The reality television show Pawn Stars debuted on July 19th, 2009. Hosted by The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, a cast of characters and unique items have entertained Americans for more than a decade. Like a modern version of the Antique Roadshow, owner Rick Harrison discovers hidden treasures every episode. Yet, this popular show conceals the grim definition of pawn, “holding something hostage.”

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot, Romans 8:5-7.

When you adopt and apply the term pawn to the spiritual dimension, Satan’s Pawn Shop includes human bodies held captive by sin. The apostle Paul compares this to a mindset focused on your carnal desires or the Holy Spirit. Natural inclinations lean toward gratifying your own fleshly desires. In the previous chapter, Paul details his own failures to keep his body in check, often doing the opposite of what he wanted to do, Romans 7:17-20.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Despite this dire condition, Paul reveals who came to the rescue, paying the price for those held hostage by Satan. This ransom was purchased when Jesus laid down his own life on a cross, 1 Timothy 2:6. While some may try to intervene on God’s behalf, Jesus is the only one who can redeem lives seized by Satan. As the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, the enemy is watching, eager to pounce upon weak and vulnerable souls. This is a typical day inside of Satan’s Pawn Shop highlighted by 1 Peter 5:8-9.

by Jay Mankus

Five Stones and a Slingshot

According to Rick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Common Core standards have roots in President George W. Bush’ No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Like so many education reform initiatives that seem to arise out of nowhere, Common Core Curriculum is another example of invisible human beings endowed with inordinate power to impose their ideas on public education. If case you were wondering, you can thank the National Governors Association for Common Core Standards. This attempt to re-invent the wheel for public education has left states and students well behind. When you add new curriculum such as the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory, and White Privilege, America’s history is being erased before our very eyes.

David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight with him. 33 And Saul said to David, You are not able to go to fight against this Philistine. You are only an adolescent, and he has been a warrior from his youth. 34 And David said to Saul, Your servant kept his father’s sheep. And when there came a lion or again a bear and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and smote it and delivered the lamb out of its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard and smote it and killed it, 1 Samuel 18:32-35.

As people and societies evolve, moments arise often via technology to find a faster, more efficient and quicker way of doing things. Instead of focusing on the basics: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, those in charge want to place their own stamp on how things are done. Take for example the passage below as the king and military leader is trying to instruct a shepherd boy on how defeat a giant. Initially, David appeases King Saul, trying on a heavy suit of armor. After moving around, this equipment was too bulky, preventing David from using his agility and quickness. Although the conversation between these two is brief, it appears that David convinces King Saul to let him use what he’s good at. While the odds were against him, David trades in a suit of armor for five stones and a slingshot.

David said, The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go, and the Lord be with you! 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword over his armor. Then he tried to go, but could not, for he was not used to it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these, for I am not used to them. And David took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in his shepherd’s [lunch] bag [a whole kid’s skin slung from his shoulder], in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand, and he drew near the Philistine, 1 Samuel 17:37-40.

In 1993, the Christian artist Wes King released the Robe, one of his best albums. While other songs from this collection receive most of the attention, one struck a chord with my soul. The lyrics of Second String begins with an 8th grade football player whose girl friend is a cheerleader. The only problem is this individual rides the bench, praying to get into the game. The second stanza fast forwards to high school to an embarrassing moment on his first date. The third and final stanza refers back to David’s battle with Goliath. Like a tee ball player who is being over coached by every parent in the crowd, David stops listening to everyone else by turning an attentive ear to God. When push comes to shove, you have to trust in your God given gifts and talents. Although you may be tempted to try something outside your comfort zones, five stones and a slingshot led a shepherd boy into the king’s castle.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of a Lie

While spending 3 years of my life in full time youth ministry, I attended several conferences, seminars and workshops. One of the most beneficial aspects of these events was learning new Ice Breakers. Although not every idea worked, I found that playing telephone once a year forced my students to become better listeners. Also known as Chinese Whispers, one teenager starts by reading a written down message or sharing a short story. This information is shared via a whisper over and over again until the last person recounts what this initial message has morphed into.

Truthful lips shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is [credited] but for a moment. 20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who devise evil, but for the counselors of peace there is joy. Proverbs 12:19-20.

The first participants of telephone were Adam and Eve. Despite knowing the only rule established by God, Genesis 2:16-17, each were intrigued by what a crafty serpent had to say. As soon as the boundary lines were set in the Garden of Eden, both knew that the Tree of Knowledge was off limits. Nonetheless, Eve began to entertain the thought planted into her mind. Instead of telling this snake to scram, Adam began to second guess God. This is the power of a lie, convincing yourself through good intentions to justify wrong actions. Since this day of deception, human beings have become more and more gullible, falling for lie after lie.

No [actual] evil, misfortune, or calamity shall come upon the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil, misfortune, and calamity. 22 Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight, Proverbs 12:21-22.

Since the death of George Floyd, a few riots have been fueled by false reports posted on Twitter. By the time this lie was exposed, it was too late as city streets, local businesses and neighborhoods resembled a war zone. Instead of double checking sources to confirm the accuracy of a report, cable news and the print media have become sloppy, jumping the gun so to speak. While President Trump refers to these felonious accounts as “Fake News,” the Bible calls this lying. In the passage above, King Solomon doesn’t speak kindly to those who distort, exaggerate or fib a little. If a politician in cooperation with the media tells a lie over and over again, sooner or later the masses will believe this to be the truth. This is the power of a lie.

by Jay Mankus

A Shift in Focus

The difference between success and failure can be small. A fraction here or a fraction there often determines the final outcome. From a spiritual focus, those who dwell on their circumstances tend to become overwhelmed by fear. This is the situation in the passage below as Israeli soldiers focused on the size of Goliath, a physical giant compared to everyone else. Meanwhile, a skinny shepherd boy sent by his father to bring food to his older brothers noticed Goliath’s weakness. Not being circumcised meant that Goliath was beatable, not covered or protected by God.

And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the [men] told him, Thus shall it be done for the man who kills him. 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard what he said to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, Why did you come here? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and evilness of heart; for you came down that you might see the battle, 1 Samuel 17:26-28.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, the disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm. Unable to take shelter, the wind and waves battered their boat stuck on the Sea of Galilee. Despite just witnessing the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ disciples began to fear. Instead of focusing of the God of miracles, these men focused on the current storm surrounding their boat. After spending time in prayer, Jesus took a short cut to Capernaum by walking across this body of water. Disappointed by their lack of faith, Jesus used his supernatural powers to take this boat immediately to shore.

[However] when they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. And they were afraid (terrified). 20 But Jesus said to them, It is I; be not afraid! [I Am; stop being frightened!] 21 Then they were quite willing and glad for Him to come into the boat. And now the boat went at once to the land they had steered toward. [And immediately they reached the shore toward which they had been slowly making their way,] John 6:19-21.

In wake of the Coronavirus, perhaps we all need a refresher course on faith. Hebrews 11:1-6 refers to having the assurance and confidence in an invisible God. Without faith it is impossible to please and satisfy God’s expectations, Matthew 16:24-26. Unfortunately, the moment tides change from blessings to adversity, panic causes many to shift their focus. However, the passage above is a reminder that as soon as you shift your focus from your circumstances toward the God of miracles, help is on the way. May this blog inspire you to shift your focus back toward the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Unsung Heroes

A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities is considered a hero. During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, first responders, doctors, and nurses were labeled heroes. Willing to put their own lives in danger to save the lives of others earned these brave individuals this badge of honor. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi capitalized on this term by naming the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act of 2020 the Heroes Act. However, a common criticism of the HEROES Act by Republicans was that many of its items in the bill were not directly related to the Coronavirus.

We who are strong [in our convictions and of robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; [we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others] and not to please ourselves, Romans 15:1.

In today’s politically charged climate, when a news story doesn’t fit into the mainstream’s narrative, heroic acts go unrecognized. Such is the case for members of the National Guard in California. State officials called off their search for 200 campers trapped at Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest. The conditions were deemed too dangerous with zero visible due to huge plumes of smoke. Despite the odds, over 200 people were rescued by National Guard helicopters. A Blackhawk helicopter, emergency response team, fire and medical elements from the 144th Fighter Wing swooped into action, placing their lives at risk to rescue trapped campers.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually], Romans 15:2.

The word hero does not appear in the Bible. However, when you do a search for hero in OpenBible.info, positive actions are provided. According to the apostle Paul, biblical heroes bear with neighbors to uplift their souls. Other qualities including laying your life down for a friend, staying positive despite the circumstances, and choosing love over hate. While the self absorbed seek to draw attention to themselves, unsung heroes do what’s right when nobody is looking. Heroes don’t wait for others to comes to the rescue. Rather, heroes follow their conscience and convictions to help whoever is in need. While rewards may not come on earth, unsung heroes will be commended in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Driven to Your Knees

When tragedy strikes, most people need a shoulder to lean on, an attentive ear to listen or a hug to be consoled. During his several missionary journeys, the apostle Paul endured agitators, harassing crowds and mobs that wanted to silence his teaching about Jesus. On a couple of occasions, Paul was nearly beaten and stoned to death. Despite this persecution, Paul found time daily to kneel before the Great I Am.

For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named [that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name]. 16 May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality], Ephesians 3:14-16.

In a letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul reveals the secret to his prayer life. Upon his knees, prayer rejuvenated Paul, replacing his own needs with a desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Apparently, prayer strengthened and reinforced Paul, sensing God’s presence as he poured our heart in prayer. Paul exercised his faith in prayer by making a permanent place in his heart for Jesus.

17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! – Ephesians 3:17-19

Over time, Paul’s faith in Christ was deeply rooted, like the firm foundation of a skyscraper. The daily discipline of prayer conceived and established the love of Jesus within Paul’s soul. When people become devoted to prayer, selfish desires are replaced by the fullness of God. When you begin to experience the abundant life, John 10:10, a spiritual addiction is born. Instead of allowing the world to dictate your mood, praying in the Spirit is like a wave flooding your soul with God’s presence. This is why Paul was driven to his knees.

by Jay Mankus

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