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I Don’t Believe What You Believe

After writing for a couple of hours, I began channel surfing to pass some time. Thirty seconds later, I stumbled upon the early stages of Footloose. As a former teacher, the idea of a senior boy standing up for his beliefs appeals to me. One of my favorite scenes from this film occurs later on when a rebellious preacher’s daughter has a heart to heart talk with her father. Lori Singer plays Ariel who opens up about a belief system which differs her dad, Reverend Shaw played by John Lithgow.

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.

When Singer shares that “I don’t believe what you believe,” I am reminded of a former student. Jennifer was an atheist forced to attend a Christian school by her parents. What made this situation worse, her parents turned out to be hypocrites, following the motto ” do as I say, not as I do.” Initially, there was tension between Jennifer and I, often leading to heated debates. However, as time passed, I accepted Jennifer for where she was spiritually, sharing the love of Jesus whenever I could.

Jesus said to him, Because you have seen Me, Thomas, do you now believe (trust, have faith)? Blessed and happy and to be envied are those who have never seen Me and yet have believed and adhered to and trusted and relied on Me, John 20:29.

In this day and age, politics and religion are two of the most divisive topics in America. If you don’t hold or share a similar view of the media in these areas, expect criticism. Anyone who dares to think differently, get’s out of line or speaks out will be labeled as controversial, dangerous and unsafe. It’s too bad that most adults can’t come to their senses by being willing to accept what others believe. Perhaps, the words of Jesus above may permeate hearts so that love will lead to accepting what others believe until faith is conceived.

by Jay Mankus

Exercising Your Personal Convictions

As most gyms across the country have been closed due to the Coronavirus, anyone who wants to exercise needs to be creative. Perhaps, you might go old school, doing sets of push ups and sit ups at home. Others might have the luxury of an exercise bike. rowing machine or stair master sitting around the house. Whatever you decide, exercising your personal convictions require a little more discipline.

Your personal convictions [on such matters]—exercise [them] as in God’s presence, keeping them to yourself [striving only to know the truth and obey His will]. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves [who does not convict himself by what he chooses to do], Romans 14:22.

During the first century, Jews who converted to Christianity often faced internal struggles. When you are taught specific guidelines on what to eat and what not to at an early age, spiritual freedom can be dangerous. Does a conscientious individual disregard everything that they have been taught or be open to eating that which was once considered unclean.? This issue appears to be important to the apostle Paul, spending nearly two chapters in his letter to the church of Rome on exercising convictions.

But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy conscience) about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful], Romans 14:23.

The passage above likely struck a nerve. When convictions do not originate and proceed from God, Paul considers this a sinful act. Doubts have a way of infiltrating your personal convictions. If you are not firm or easily persuaded by others, you become vulnerable. The key is holding fast to your beliefs is taking God with you while making a decision. If you exclude God from your thought life, obeying God’s will be compromised. Thus, the more you exercise your convictions, the easier it becomes to walk in faith.

by Jay Mankus

A Critical Hour to Love

Whenever you do a quick review of your life, there were times when you needed encouragement, hope or a friend to lift you out of depression. If you didn’t receive a call, have someone come over to your house or pray for you, you may not have recovered. Last week I heard a sad story of a first responder to the Coronavirus who committed suicide. Apparently, she took her own life, afraid she might infect someone she loved. This tragic event reminds me an expression used by the apostle Paul. In a letter to the church of Rome, Paul suggested that this is a critical time to love.

Besides this you know what [a critical] hour this is, how it is high time now for you to wake up out of your sleep (rouse to reality). For salvation (final deliverance) is nearer to us now than when we first believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ, the Messiah), Romans 13:11.

Human nature has a way of lulling individuals into a false sense of security. If you are not disciplined, focused or in tune with the Holy Spirit, you may first yourself falling into a deep spiritually sleep. Daily updates about new cases of and deaths from COVID-19 can make normally optimistic people comfortably numb. Whenever you stop moving forward, neutral can quickly turn into reverse. If the current Coronavirus pandemic isn’t calling you to act now, what are you waiting for? As Jesus said in the first century, “the harvest is ready, but the workers are few.”

The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light, Romans 13:12.

Instead of leaving readers in the dark, the apostle Paul offers directions. The first step is to stop enabling your flesh to indulge sinful desires. Once you put to death your old self, Colossians 3:1-4, you can begin to put on the armor of God, Ephesians 6:12-18. Those who make a successful transition from darkness to light are in prime position to shine during times of crisis. If you stop for a moment to take a look at all of the needs around, a sense of urgency will conceive a desire to love. Franklin Graham’s ministry Samaritan’s Purse has led the way with their field hospital in Central Park to show the love of Jesus to Coronavirus patients fighting for their lives.

by Jay Mankus

Mad at God?

During a recent press conference, President Trump gave companies a chance to share what their businesses are doing to help provide much needed medical supplies for COVID-19 patients. One such individual was Mark Lindell, the CEO and founder of the My Pillow Company. After explaining how his company is now making surgical masks with a production goal of 20,000 per day, Lindell went off script briefly. Mark suggested that families should take their extended time at home to read the Bible and draw closer to God.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you, 1 Peter 4:12-14.

These comments infuriated and offended most cable news networks. In the hours that followed, Lindell replaced Trump as public enemy #1. By talking about God, prayer and revival, liberal members of the media erupted. The rest of the evening was spent trashing this devoted man of God. Instead of being roasted and skewered on social media, people began to stand up for Lindell, coming to his aid and support. From what I witnessed, apparently several members of the media are mad at God. Perhaps, some people are blaming God for the Coronavirus. Yet, attacking a man for sharing his beliefs suggests an underlining spiritual issue.

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name, 1 Peter 4:15-16.

One of Jesus’ disciples foresaw in the first century that future Christians would suffer for sharing their faith in public. Although modern Christians are often surprised by spiritual attacks, Peter says followers of Jesus should anticipate and expect criticism. I’m not sure what sets off highly trained professionals to verbally assault Christians during a monologue, but you shouldn’t take these type of attacks personally. In John 15:18, Jesus reminds readers of the Bible that the world hated him first. Therefore, if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by spiritual persecution, remember Peter’s words above and consider similar attacks a badge of honor.

by Jay Mankus

When You Don’t Have It

Depending upon the day, energy level, focus, inspiration and motivation, results will vary, often drastically. Some days you wake up feeling great, get into a groove early on and finish with a great sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, these productive days can come and go, disappearing quickly. Then, there are weeks where you just don’t have it. For one reason or another, your normal degree of success drops, far from your normal self.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Psalm 119:105.

If you have ever competed in a competition or sporting event, you understand the concept of days when you don’t have it. A series of factors can cause a skilled individual to look like a beginner from time to time. While I’ve spent most of my life playing golf at a high level, I am currently in one of my worst funks in over a decade. Although I have only played four times this year, three of the four rounds have been dreadful. Despite concentrating and focusing, I feel lost, forgetting to apply the core principles which led me to play professionally more than 2 decades ago.

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.

This same mental struggle can affect Christians as well. Depending upon your daily Bible Study, prayer life and worship, it doesn’t take much to start slip sliding away from God. If your life is void of accountability or a mentor, this spiritual slippage may continue for months, a year or longer. According to the apostle Paul, hope can be regained by reading the Bible. I’ve had enough spiritual slides over the last 40 years that I know once your spiritual momentum is broken, it takes twice as long to regain. Yet, the good news is that Jesus came to seek to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

by Jay Mankus

If You Can Not Stand the Heat…Get Out of the Kitchen

Harry S. Truman coined the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” in 1942. The context of this expression refers to heat as those things in life that bother you. The kitchen is symbolic of the entire situation, the source of the heat, prone to boiling over. Over the years, stand has been replace with handle, yet the overall meaning hasn’t changed.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

Perhaps, Jesus relayed a similar message to first century believers. The passage above was written by Jesus’ earthly brother, likely quoting something said or taught. Life isn’t designed to remain in a cool, air conditioned unit. Rather, God uses the heat provided by hardships to stretch your comfort zone. These difficult encounters provide opportunities for growth, exposing your flawed, vulnerable and weak areas in life.

[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

One of Jesus’ disciples compares life to a furnace, serving as a purifying process, like a kiln to a potter. If you aren’t tested by out of control circumstances, you won’t know what you were capable of or can handle. Thus, as unpleasant as these events may be, trials and tribulations play a big part in life, serving as mechanisms to build character, endurance and a steadfast spirit. Therefore, the next time God turns up the heat on you, embrace the moment until your assignment is complete.

by Jay Mankus

Did You See That?

In her 1990 song From a Distance, Bette Midler suggests that God is watching us from a distance. This song from the Some People’s Lives album spoke to my heart. Reaching number one on the Adult Contemporary chart, the lyrics of From a Distance connected with average people, stirring and touching souls. Based upon the passage below, Bette was right.

And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites [the smallest of coins], which together make half of a cent. 43 And He called His disciples [to Him] and said to them, Truly and surely I tell you, this widow, [she who is] poverty-stricken, has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury, Mark 12:42-43.

John Mark references a mundane event, watching people place their offering to God. According to Mark, Jesus sat directly opposite of where individuals placed their tithe for the temple treasury. While the disciples were paying careful attention to what the rich gave, Jesus had his eyes on the poor. Although the expression was not used by Jesus at the time, modern translations support a comment like, “did you see that?”

For they all threw in out of their abundance; but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had—[even] all she had on which to live, Mark 12:44.

While in college, I attended several retreats, especially my last two years. Usually, there was some sort of love offering for the guest speaker Sunday morning. On a few occasions, I emptied my wallet of $5 or $10, forgoing a meal or two before arriving back at campus. However, this widow had nothing to fall back on, trusting God to supernaturally provide her next meal. Whenever faith like this is demonstrated, it’s worth mentioning.

by Jay Mankus

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