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Author Archives: expressyourself4him

Running Like the Devil is Chasing You

Depending upon the time of day, I like to listen to the radio while I write.  During today’s news update, there were two murder suicide’s featured in the area.  After watching an episode of Lost Season 1 last night, one scene came to my mind, a conversation between Locke (Terry O’Quinn) and Jack (Matthew Fox).  Locke suggested that some people look like the Devil is chasing them.  In the case of these four victims, they didn’t run fast enough to avoid death.

After [Judas had taken] the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly [without delay],” John 13:27.

In the passage above, Jesus makes the statement Satan entered Judas Iscariot during the last supper.  Bible commentaries suggest this possession accelerated Judas’ desire to betray Jesus.  Knowing what was about to come, Jesus exhorts Judas to finish his plan without delay.  Unfortunately, the moment individuals think things through in their mind, the act of sin quickly follows.  By this time, it’s often too late to turn back.  Using the analogy above, the Devil has caught you from behind and won’t let go.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” [for temptation does not originate from God, but from our own flaws]; for God cannot be tempted by [what is] evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion). 15 Then when the illicit desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin has run its course, it gives birth to death, James 1:13-15.

Temptation is like a classic car chase scene from a movie.  Initially, the good character is in the clear, far from harm.  However, as this pursuit continues chaos, distractions and traffic place the bad guy within striking distance.  Unless you flee from evil, minds will eventually embrace earthly desires.  Thus, the more you stare at temptation, it’s only a matter of time before the Devil grabs ahold of your life.  Therefore, be alert, on guard and keep watch so you stay well out of the Devil’s reach.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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Baby Jesus or the Man in a Red Suit?

According to Washington Irving, the concept of Santa Claus emerged in the United States beginning in 1773.  In Washington’s 1809 book the History of New York, Americans borrowed from Sinterklaas, a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat.  Commercial stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, followed by separate sections for holiday advertisements in 1840.  In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model.  The tradition of blending a real life Santa Claus to attract Christmas shoppers began in 1918.

Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them, Luke 18:15.

For the unchurched, Santa Claus has slowly replaced Jesus as the reason for this season.  As atheists, liberals and progressives continue to be offended by nativity scenes set up in public squares, law suits, public pressure and political correctness is eliminating the traces of this sacred holiday.  As a generation of babies, toddlers and young children have sat upon the laps of adults dressed up as Santa Claus, the concept of a baby Jesus is fading away.  Meanwhile, when asked by men in a red suit, “what do you want for Christmas,” Santa Claus has been elevated by many unknowing children to a god like status.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

Apparently, fairly tales and wise old tales was not just a modern phenomena.  According to the apostle Paul, first century leaders who opposed Christianity began to develop plans to mislead followers of Christ.  These schemes appear to have been successful in deceiving some believers who did not possess a strong spiritual foundation.  The context of the passage above refers to becoming rooted in Christ, relying on the Bible and prayer to serve as a spiritual guide through life.  Anyone who does not practice similar spiritual disciplines are vulnerable to believing in lies, John 8:44.  This dilemma has led me to ponder, who will today’s children believe: baby Jesus or the man in a red suit?

by Jay Mankus

I Can’t Help Myself

My father was born in Lithuania.  As immigrants from certain Europeans countries began to migrate to the United States, stereotypes began to develop.  Whether it was the era, how my dad was raised or specific mannerisms, my father tended to be stoic unless he was angry.  Meanwhile, my mom who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania wasn’t afraid to wear her emotions on her sleeve.  Like any child, I exhibit a combination of qualities from each of my parents.  Nonetheless, whenever my heart is moved or touched by something special, I can’t help myself, easily brought to tears.

As He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance; 13 and they raised their voices and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were [miraculously] healed and made clean, Luke 17:12-14.

During the first century, Jews and Samaritans were enemies as hatred and resentment spilled over from the past.  This tension began when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judea in the south.  The north whose second capital was relocated upon a hillside in Samaria often did what was right in their own eyes.  The southern kingdom remained more true to God as some kings reminded citizens of their spiritual heritage.  The main issues between Jews and Samaritans began during 722 B.C. when Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity.  The byproduct of this siege led to intermarriages between Gentiles and Israelites.  Thus, Samaritans earned the reputation of being only half Jewish, labeled and ridiculed for centuries.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; 16 and he lay face downward at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. He was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten [of you] cleansed? Where are the [other] nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to give thanks and praise to God, except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:15-18

Recognizing this portion in history, Jesus is shocked by how little appreciation is shown to God by 9 Jewish lepers.  On the other hand, the Samaritan leper is overwhelmed after being healed.  According to a first century doctor, this man couldn’t help himself, praising God over and over again.  Sometimes in life, stereotypes influence how people act, behave and interact with others.  Yet, when you slow down and look around to see the numerous minor miracles in your life, you too can model the thanksgiving demonstrated by this Samaritan leper.  May the example of this first century man inspire you to develop a new outlook on life in 2019.

by Jay Mankus

Surviving Your Next Guilt Trip

Guilt is like an invisible lie detector test.  When human beings deny, exaggerate or lie, souls are awakened by pulses inside their body.  This reaction is triggered by consciences, an inner feeling or voice of truth.  The apostle Paul refers to this concept as the invisible qualities of God so that no one is without excuse, Romans 1:18-20.  The dilemma is not if your next guilt trip will arrive, but how will your respond when conviction starts gnawing upon your heart.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

One of the objectives of the modern progressive movement is to de-emphasize absolutes by elevating personal opinions.  As lies are portrayed as truth by members of the media, gray areas expand resulting in a combination of confusion and rationalization.  If the Bible becomes discredited from endless attacks by atheist groups, future generations will look to other sources for moral guidance.  Perhaps, leaders want to return to the days of Old Testament Judges, where people began to do what was right in their own eyes.

If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose], 1 John 1:8-9.

The spiritual dynamic of guilt seeks to bring about humility.  Depression is a natural emotion created by God to make it painfully obvious that individuals can not follow the ten commandments on their own.  Thus, when guilt trips persuade hearts and minds to admit the error of their way, confession opens the door for hope, Romans 5:2-4.  Responding correctly to guilt, unlike Cain who killed his brother, enables contrite spirits to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy.  May the words of 1 John give you a blueprint for surviving your next guilt trip.

by Jay Mankus

High to Low

If you enjoy watching sporting events, it doesn’t take much for emotions to fluctuate between highs and lows.  Certain games are considered instant classics, known as back and forth affairs with momentum constantly changing.  Last Sunday’s National Football League playoff game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles is a perfect example, leaving most fans on the edge of their seats until the final play.  In the final minute, both teams seemed destined to advance to the next round.  A 43 yard field goal was the difference, at least until a late whistle nullified the game winning kick.  Minutes later the kick that counted was partially blocked, hit the left upright, then the cross bar before bouncing backward in the field of play.  In one of the strangest finishes ever, this game was the epitome of high to low.

Then it happened when Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to the hill [Gibeah], behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came on him mightily, and he prophesied [under divine guidance] among them, 1 Samuel 10:9-10.

Prior to the creation of the earth, an archangel known as Lucifer was one of the highest ranking spiritual entities in heaven.  An Old Testament prophet highlights the beauty of this angel of song in Ezekiel 28.  The best way to encapsulate Lucifer’s appearance is imagine the most magnificent pipe organ in the world, able to hit any note with perfection.  Combine this talent with the most gorgeous gems in the universe, majestic wings and beauty beyond belief.  These qualities formed this amazing angelic being.  Yet, as God the Father revealed his plan for creation, mankind would be elevated to a higher status than angels.  This didn’t sit too well with Lucifer, mulling the details over with other angels.  The seeds of rebellion were sown during these discussions.  Thus, when the Lord asked for Lucifer’s support, Satan refused, kicked out of heaven in an instant, sent from the high as an archangel to a lowly demon on earth.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” James 4:6.

As a parent, the birth of our three children were some of the greatest days of my life.  In the days that followed, there were many firsts: crawling, talking and walking.  While raising children can be exhausting, the rewards and satisfaction was worth all the hard work, sweat and tears.  Yet, as children grow up, life can become a long emotional roller coaster going from high to low, low to high and back down again.  If you live for the moment, these waves of emotion will wear you out.  Perhaps, this may explain why Jesus wants his followers to live by faith, not by sight.  Sure, even strong believers wrestle with doubt, especially when the lows outnumber the highs.  Nonetheless, failures bring individuals closer to God via humility.  Meanwhile, the cocky are brought down to earth as God opposes the proud.  Thus, as you wait for the next ride, lean on God’s grace when you fall so you can appreciate the journey back up.

by Jay Mankus

A Passport to Heaven

Credentials are defined as evidence of authority, status, and rights. Anyone who possesses the proper credentials in life are given access to or are entitled to special privileges that exist depending upon your position, rank or title. At some point in his life, Jesus was recognized as a magician, rabbi and teacher despite not having an earthly degree in any of these areas. This reputation enabled Jesus to converse, discuss and meet with a wide range of individuals. During the first century, a rich young ruler approached Jesus searching for a passport to heaven.

A certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially and morally] good except God alone, Luke 18:18-19.

A first century doctor recounts the dialogue between these two men in the passage above and below.  Based upon what was written, it appears that this ruler believed that heaven was something that could be earned.  Jesus nips this mindset in the butt, informing any who could hear that only God is good.  Jesus transitions into a different direction, taking a spiritual inventory of this young man’s past.  This discussion led to knowing and practicing the ten commandments.  Like a counselor listening to their patient, Jesus noticed one thing lacking within this ruler.  Financial success led this man to rely on money rather than fully trust the Lord to provide.  At the end of their conversation, this rich young ruler walks away disappointed, unable to meet the credentials necessary for a passport to heaven.

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk],” Luke 18:22-23.

In a previous conversation with his own disciples, Jesus provides further insight into the credentials necessary to receive a passport to heaven.  Jesus gives those who seek to become a modern day disciple three ultimatums.  First, deny yourself by setting aside selfish ambitions.  Second, take up your cross through a willingness to endure whatever may come in the form of persecution.  Third, follow Jesus, by believing, conforming and emulating the life of Christ.  If you have to summarize these requirements to receive a passport to heaven, you must be willing to lose your life, surrendering it completely, to find eternal life.

by Jay Mankus

Heaven Help Me

The Beatles released their fifth album Help on 6th August, 1965.  The featured song begins with the lyrics (Help!) I need somebody (Help!) Not just anybody (Help!) You know I need someone help!  More than fifty years later, these words can relate to anyone who is in trouble.  When circumstances appear to be spiritually related, individuals may choose to cry out to God in prayer, “heaven help me.”

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah’s reign. 698 years Before Christ, Isaiah was sawed in half, dying a martyr’s life after prophesizing for roughly sixty years. Despite the fate he would suffer, the Holy Spirit gave Isaiah several words of encouragement. In the passage above, Isaiah reminded Old Testament readers that God will help his children in their time of need.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life, Psalm 54:4.

The saying heaven help me is an idiom.  Typically, this expression is used to acknowledge that you are or could potentially be in trouble.  In 1988 artist Deon Estus released the song Heaven Help Me.  The lyrics refer to a man struggling to know what to say, asking God for wisdom so he doesn’t ruin the relationship of his dreams.  Country singer Gretchen Wilson takes a difference approach to heaven help me, asking God for divine intervention while wrestling with temptation.  Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, everyone will reach a point of desperation where only God can fix your situation.  In times of despair, don’t be afraid to ask for God’s help.

by Jay Mankus

 

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