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Get Behind Me

The term band-wagon first appeared in 1849. This initial meaning referred to a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession. Theodore Roosevelt used bandwagon in his writings in the context of politics, “attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed.” Modern day sports talk hosts have adopted bandwagon as a label to highlight fair weather fans. When a local team over achieves, the bandwagon becomes full. However, when a successful team gets off to a slow start, many quickly jump off the bandwagon.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. 25 For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting], Matthew 16:24-25.

A Jewish disciple explores what it means to truly get behind Jesus. This chapter provides examples of what to do and what not to do. One individual becomes a hero and a goat in a matter of seconds. However, this is what happens when you are not slow to speak, blurting out whatever enters your mind. The context of the passage begins with an open ended question as Jesus asks, “who do people say that I am?” After receiving a few replies, Jesus changes the question to “what do you think?” After Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah, he then proceeds to attempt to stop Jesus from fulfilling God’s will.

Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:22-23.

When God or life doesn’t make sense, this is when human beings tend to improvise. Since Peter thought Jesus would become an earthly king, he refused to believe that his mentor was born to become a living sacrifice. When justice doesn’t prevail and evil triumphs, your allegiance is tested. Just to qualify to become one of Jesus’ disciples involves taking extreme measures. While everyone will wobble from time to time due to uncertainty, your actions will determine who’s side you are on. May the Holy Spirit bring clarity to any confusion so you get behind the right side.

by Jay Mankus

Blurred Reflections of God

The first book of the Bible begins with the story of Creation. According to Moses, the inspiration behind the creation of human beings was a joint venture. The Trinity comprised of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost agreed that mankind should be created in the image of God, Genesis 1:26. This human likeness was designed to reflect the glory of God, Unfortunately, as time has passed, this image of God has become blurred.

But even if our Gospel (the glad tidings) also be hidden (obscured and covered up with a veil that hinders the knowledge of God), it is hidden [only] to those who are perishing and obscured [only] to those who are spiritually dying and veiled [only] to those who are lost, 2 Corinthians 4:3.

According to the apostle Paul, this blurred reflection has ties to the spiritual realm. In a letter to the church of Ephesus, Paul explains that our battle to see clearly is not between flesh and blood. Rather, there exists a series of invisible forces at work behind the scenes that blames, controls and deceives using evil schemes, Ephesians 6:12. Unless you’re armed with spiritual armor, you won’t be able to clearly identify reflections of God.

For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds [that they should not discern the truth], preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (the Messiah), Who is the Image and Likeness of God, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Corinth. Apparently, powers of darkness, spiritual forces of evil and worldly leaders have blinded the minds of unbelievers. Instead of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, the sinful nature has blurred individuals from seeing clearly. The only way to restore your vision is by putting to death your old nature, Colossians 3:4-5, purging any reminders from your life. Until this act of faith occurs, blurred reflections of God will continue.

by Jay Mankus

More Than a Neighbor

During a first century conversation, Jesus’ disciples begin to wonder who is the best?  Unlike modern day sports radio debates on the GOAT, the greatest of all time, these men wanted to know who was the most spiritual?  While bringing up criteria to distinguish the best, Jesus points curious minds in the right direction.  If you want to become the greatest Christian in the eyes of the world, you must be willing to become the greatest servant of all.

Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free], Matthew 20:28.

A few chapters later, a Jewish religious leader asks Jesus a question, trying to ascertain the greatest commandment in the Torah.  Realizing the motives of a couple of elders who attempted to persuade Jesus to de-emphasize one of the ten commandments, Jesus breaks these into two categories (loving God and loving your neighbor).  The first four commandments are focused on loving God with all your heart soul and mind.  The final six are based upon civil law, treating your earthly neighbors as you want to be treated.

Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). 38 This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Matthew 22:26-39.

As I have studied the New Testament this year, a spirit of conviction has filled my soul.  As I have provided for my family and invested time writing screen plays to chase after a dream, I haven’t been a good neighbor.  Instead of looking outward, fear of catching the Coronavirus and selfish ambitions have caused me to neglect God’s call to love my neighbor.  With less than 6 months remaining in 2020, I pray that this blog will inspire others to become better neighbors by living out Jesus’ words in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

These are the Times that Try Men’s Soul

In order to make sense of the chaos and vast trials dealt by 2020, you have to go back in time. If you don’t learn from hints left behind by historians, you’ll fall prey to future lies, schemes and uprisings. Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, theorist, and revolutionary. Paine authored two of most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. Paine’s work inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, Deuteronomy 6:5.

Two of my favorite quotes from Thomas Paine are listed below. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph”. “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Common Sense challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy. The plain language that Paine uses spoke to the common people of America to openly ask for independence from Great Britain. These words were like the spark that ignited states to commence the American Revolution.

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die, Ezekiel 18:4.

Fast forward nearly 250 years, the death of George Floyd has spawned a new movement. Whether out of compassion, fear or guilt, many Americans have donated to, joined or participated in Black Lives Matters protests. Citizens across the country in all 50 states have come out to support this cause. Yet, actions speak louder than words. Will Planned Parenthood representatives begin to convince African American woman not to have an abortion? Is defunding the police really the answer? Yes, Thomas Paine was right, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” I pray to the Lord that God will save and restore America before this country is torn apart.

by Jay Mankus

Filling in the Void of Summer

Prior to the Coronavirus, states across the country would use advertisements and commercials to persuade families to travel to their cities, towns, and vacation destinations. Extending from the June solstice to the September equinox, normal summers would see vacancies fill up quickly, leaving the unorganized with a few places left to choose. However, 2020 has been all about quarantines, banning travel from certain COVID-19 hot spots. Thus, states like Hawaii are all but shut down to tourists as if you have be be quarantined for 2 weeks upon arriving, what’s the point of going there on vacation.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves], Philippians 2:3.

While on my final vacation of the summer, going anywhere requires masks and social distancing. Going out for ice cream isn’t what it use to be, slowly moving from line to line, stuck outside until your party is finally waved in to order. If mini golf is more your style, masks are optional once you get to the first hole. Perhaps, the summer of 2020 is more about being aware of and responding to your surroundings. A mask is simply a way to prevent others from catching any cold or virus that you may have inside of you. From a biblical perspective, being socially responsive is merely another way to be a good neighbor, treating others as you want to be treated.

Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others, Philippians 2:4.

Yet, if families are left with fewer options to choose for vacation, how will you fill in this void left by the Coronavirus. As for me, I did a lot of soul searching, reflecting upon how I have been investing my time. Although some days are more productive than others, my productivity tends to fall off each weekend. Whether this is laziness, poor time management or a lack of vision, if I want to make my dreams a reality, things will need to change. You only have so much time on earth and when time becomes the enemy, discipline, focus and resolve serve as a rudder to keep you on track. I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a successful screen writer, but like Andy Dufresne says in Shawshank Redemption, “you have to get busy living or get busy dying.”

by Jay Mankus

Evil Functions Best When No One Believes in It

According to the Bible, a crafty serpent brought evil to the earth, Genesis 3:1-7. The oldest recorded book describes a fallen angel who roams throughout the earth, Job 1:6-9. An Old Testament prophet writes about the day Lucifer was kicked out of heaven, Isaiah 14:12-15. Another prophet highlights the beauty of this anointed cherub prior to his fall from grace, Ezekiel 28:13-15. As time goes by, more and more residents of earth refer to Lucifer or Satan as a fairy tale, a fictional character or part of mythology.

You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]! – James 2:19

As long as the source of evil in the Bible remains merely a figment of your imagination, this is the way the Devil likes it and wants it to be. When good things happen in life, most people credit accomplishments, blessings and rewards as a sign of hard work. However, when bad things develop in the form of defeat, hardships and trials, questions are raised upward toward God. The more people blame God for their problems on earth, evil functions best, disguised by ungodly beliefs.

But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it). So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you, James 4:6-7.

Since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, all human being are born into a sinful nature. The earthly brother of Jesus refers to this inner desire as an evil tendency. The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to this internal tug of war, Romans 7:15-18. Unless you become open to the power of the Holy Spirit via a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, evil will continue to ravage souls. Part of any spiritual awakening involves recognizing the bad, evil and sinful habits within you. Until evil is associated with the Devil, powers of darkness will continue to fly under the radar.

by Jay Mankus

A Touch of Class

History is filled with stories of individuals doing whatever it takes to reach the throne. This struggle to gain and maintain control of a kingdom has inspired many dramas with the most recent the Game of Thrones. When the nation of Israel transitioned from Judges as rulers to a monarchy, King Saul began to feel threatened by David. This jealousy influenced Saul to eliminate his future competition, giving orders to hunt down and kill David.

And David said, Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake? And of the house of Saul there was a servant whose name was Ziba. When they had called him to David, he said to him, Are you Ziba? He said, I, your servant, am he. The king said, Is there not still someone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the [unfailing, unsought, unlimited] mercy and kindness of God? Ziba replied, Jonathan has yet a son who is lame in his feet, 2 Samuel 9:1-3.

When news of King Saul’s death reached David, the transition of power from Saul’s family to David’s began. Fearful of retribution, the only living male, Jonathon’s only son was hidden in a far desolate location. Instead of repaying evil with evil, David’s friendship with Jonathon softened his heart. During a cabinet meeting, David offers a touch of class, wondering if he could show kindness to a member Saul’s house.

And Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and did obeisance. David said, Mephibosheth! And he answered, Behold your servant! David said to him, Fear not, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your father [grandfather], and you shall eat at my table always. And [the cripple] bowed himself and said, What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I am? Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, I have given your master’s son [grandson] all that belonged to Saul and to all his house, 2 Samuel 9:6-9.

While Mephibosheth was a young child, 5 years old, one of his caretakers accidently dropped him. The freak nature of this fall permanently damaged Mephibosheth’s feet, similar to a Lisfranc fracture. Subsequently, Mephibosheth was unable to walk for the rest of his life. I guess you can say King David was way ahead of his time, caring for and loving Mephibosheth regardless of his condition. In the end, David was following the golden rule before it was introduced, “loving your neighbor as yourself.”

by Jay Mankus

Risking Failure or Keeping It a Dream?

The etymology of the word dream has ties to an Anglo-Saxon word. Draugmas are illusions, deceptions in the mind linked to joy, merriment or music. Some dreams appear to be so realistic that when you wake up, you’re unsure if this actual happened or not. Action oriented individuals prefer living life the hard way, through a series of trials and errors. Others choose to live their life in a bubble, free from taking risks. Dreamers come alive when they go to sleep, reveling in a world of imagination.

For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words. When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him). Pay what you vow, Ecclesiastes 5:3-4.

According to King Solomon, dreams occur following a busy day. Depending upon your thoughts, dreams can be inspirational, urging you to act. Thus, Solomon suggests that a dream may prompt you to make a commitment. However, instead of getting sentimental, make a decision quickly. Either pledge to do something or not. Consider the costs of living to a higher standard and act quickly. Unfortunately, dreamers often play if safe, waiting for further confirmation or another dream to respond.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels] and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams, Acts 2:17.

A disciple of Jesus eludes to a different kind of dream, Acts 2:17. Either Jesus had a private conversation with Peter or the Holy Spirit gave him a glimpse of the future. Just as the Day of Pentecost brought an outpouring of God’s Spirit, a similar movement will occur prior to Jesus’ second coming. In the last days, dreams will serve as a warning to future events. Unless you’re willing to share what God has revealed to you, you’re not helping anyone. Although you may face ridicule or skepticism, dreams are meant to be shared. However, it’s up to you if you risk failure or keep it to yourself.

by Jay Mankus

Falling into Silence Makes It Impossible to Survive

Depression has a way of isolating yourself from the people who care about you the most. Looking back on my own life, I began to withdraw from my friends when I entered Hanby Junior High School. Instead of allowing those who reached out to me in, I secluded myself even further. When I wanted to be miserable, I could suck the life out of an entire room, bringing everyone around me down.

When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long, Psalm 32:3.

After committing adultery with Bathsheba, King David took a vacation from God. Instead of telling the truth when Bathsheba missed her period, David sent for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to comeback from war to be reunited. When Uriah refused to sleep with his wife, David went to plan C, giving an order to abandon Uriah on the front line, resulting in his death. As each day passed, this silence made it impossible for David to survive spiritually.

For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! – Psalm 32:4

Guilt consumed David like high humidity on a hot summer day. The longer David put off confessing his sins, the lonelier his soul became. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 highlight the emotions built up inside David’s heart. As soon as David realized his silence from God needed to broken, the door for reconciliation was opened. The next time you feel like running away from confrontation, remember David’s prayer to end his distance and silence from God.

by Jay Mankus

When the Zoo Invades Your Neighborhood

Chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, the Philadelphia Zoo became the United States’ first zoo. Construction was delayed by the American Civil War, pushing back the opening until July 1, 1874. Something about visiting a zoo is intriguing to children. My first exposure to animals began at the Edison Park petting zoo in New Jersey. From there, my parents took me to the Philadelphia Zoo as well as the safari at Six Flags Great Adventure. When you drive through in a car without any gates to contain the animals, close calls will big animals can be frightening.

Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment, Romans 13:1.

Since the unnecessary death of George Floyd on May 25th, protests have taken place in all 50 states. In the wake of Floyd’s death, police killings of black Americans spawned organized protests that turned violent as police departments were targeted. When stand down orders were given by city, state, and local officials, riots and looting began. Instead of remaining within urban areas, Black Lives Matter moved to the suburbs, to white affluent neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, California. Famous stores in Santa Monica, California were broken into and looted, sending the message that no town is safe.

Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them], Romans 13:2.

As a teenager, James Clay lived in a trailer park in Missouri that everyone called Franklin Park. James recounts. “I felt like I loved the people there, but that love just didn’t seem to matter to them at all.” The inspiration behind his song Franklin Park, Clay realized that bringing them to the Lord was all he could do. Everything else was beyond his control. This song relates to modern day events as progressive ideas are encouraging individuals to challenge authority. When boundaries are challenged and crossed, it’s like having a zoo invade your neighborhood. After one of the most violent fourth of July weekends in recent history, it’s time to unite, not fight. May James Clay’s song urge communities to love and pray for their neighbors.

by Jay Mankus

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