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The Way Maker

The 1920’s has been described as the Jazz Age or roaring twenties. This decade of prosperity was marred by the Great Depression which began in August of 1929. Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus brought an era of spiritual enlightenment. This was accomplished by turning people’s attention away from following a set of rules, the Torah, to entering into a personal relationship with God. However, even his twelve disciples were often left in the dark, unclear of what Jesus meant by following the way.

And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way, John 14:3-4.

The disciple whom Jesus loved reflects upon these words after Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. John had plenty of time for reflection while living in exile on the Island of Patmos. Jesus spent the last three years of his life on earth pouring his heart and soul into twelve men. Little by little, Jesus showed this motley crew how to live, pray and serve mankind. Despite witnessing numerous miracles daily, a couple of disciples still doubted Jesus and couldn’t fully comprehend the way.

Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him. Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father [cause us to see the Father—that is all we ask]; then we shall be satisfied, John 14:5-8.

Thomas and Philip are identified in the passage above, living by sight, not by faith. During a Sermon of the Mount of Olives, Jesus compares the way to two roads, a super highway and a narrow path. Prior to his arrest, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of religious leaders, referring to an inner temple, not the place of worship in Jerusalem. The Bible, especially the four gospels, provides clues for modern believers who seek a similar path, the Way. May this blog conceive a burning desire for you to follow the Way Maker, also a song by Mandisa.

by Jay Mankus

Angels of Deliverance

Deliverance is the action that results in being rescued or set free. Synonyms include emancipation, liberation, redemption and salvation. This term suggests that a group, individuals or a nation is undergoing a dire situation. These predicaments are often so severe that saving yourself isn’t impossible. Thus, there will be moments in life where everyone will need some sort of divine intervention. For those who turn to God when your back is against the wall so to speak, the Bible refers to angels of deliverance.

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip or to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield], Psalm 121:2-5.

Although the Psalmist does not mention angels by name, God’s nature is revealed in the passage above. This song of ascent reflects upon previous times where the Lord helped either directly or indirectly. As a shepherd, David credits God for overseeing his steps despite walking over hilly terrain, Psalm 18:36. Meanwhile, while you are sleeping, guardian angels are assigned to watch over you day and night, Psalm 91:11. Angel stories continue today as believers share how God shielded them from harm.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:10-11.

In the New Testament, Jesus reveals who you need deliverance from, an invisible thief who seeks to steal, kill and destroy souls. Using the analogy of a good shepherd fighting off attacks from wolves, Jesus uncovers God’s plan for deliverance. Predicting his death on a cross, Jesus’ sinless life and sacrifice was necessary to restore that which Adam lost, Luke 19:10. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to earth along with angels to ensure that deliverance continues today.

by Jay Mankus

No Strings Attached

The expression “no strings attached” is directly tied to 18th century fabric merchants. Whenever a defect was discovered during a project, merchants would mark flaws in woven cloth by tying small strings to the bottom of the bolts at the locations where flaws were present. Instead of deceiving someone before a purchase was completed, buyers were made aware of any imperfections by these strings attached.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life, John 3:16.

Over the past 300 years, this symbolic act of honesty has disappeared. Instead, modern advertisements, commercials and infomercials contain a long list of fine print at the conclusion of their sales pitch. This content is included to cover and protect entrepreneurs from lawsuits and liability. Thus, strings attached have been replaced by label warnings in modern times. Making a decision to determine the genuine merchants from scammers gets harder and more difficult each year.

For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:17.

If you have ever been burned by a purchase, exposed to carcinogens or deceived by unread fine print, hearts have become skeptical. Past experiences have caused many to wonder, “okay, what’s the catch? What am I not seeing? Where are the strings attached?” This is where the Bible provides a breakthrough, a promise that sounds too good to be true. After embracing the gospel 35 years ago, the only thing that ruins this message are pastors who communicate an inaccurate description of what it takes to live in this world, but not of it. May this blog resonate with your soul.

by Jay Mankus

I Could Use a Little Help Down Here

Newscaster Evan Baxter played by comedian Steve Carell leaves Buffalo, New York behind when he wins a seat in Congress. Yet, as Evan moves to Washington D.C. with his family, no one could imagine God’s request, played by Morgan Freeman, for this rising star. This is the background for the 2007 film Evan Almighty where a series of God instances leaves this amateur to commit political suicide, confessing God’s calling to build an ark. My favorite scene occurs when Baxter initially struggles to get his new project going, crying out to God, ” I could use a little help down here.”

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple, Luke 14:25-27.

I usually don’t agree with Hollywood’s portrayal of a biblical truths, especially after their epic flop of Noah in 2014. However, the Almighty films beginning with Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey in 2003 and the most recent Evan Almighty, provide a more accurate view of God’s character. After God purchases additional lots and provides all of the supplies to build an ark, Evan agrees to complete this task, unaware of why or when this boat will be needed. This is where many Americans find themselves, unsure if what they are currently doing is worth completing. “Should I move on or keep my word by finishing what I started?”

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples, Luke 14:28-33.

The gospel of Luke refers to 72 other disciples, servants of God, but not part of Jesus’ inner circle. At some point, Jesus challenged those who were eager to become followers. Combining common sense, tough love and wisdom from heaven, Jesus doesn’t want people to regret making a decision. Luke 9:57-62 highlights three different conversations that Jesus had with individuals who weren’t fully committed. Thus, each turned back, going on with the rest of their life. As 2020 quickly heads toward February, maybe it’s time for you take a moment to reflect. Are you doing God’s will? Are you uncertain about your career, college or future plans? Before you feel overwhelmed by life, don’t forget to ask God daily like Evan, ” I could use a little help down here.”

by Jay Mankus

Learning to View Life Through God's Eyes

Feeling empty is a common occurrence as disappointment by how a day, month or year turns out can lead to depression. Whenever expectations aren’t met, individuals tend to wonder, “what went wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” Meanwhile, if a friend, family member or neighbor seems to be blessed over and over again, envy and jealousy enter the equation. If this sums up your first few weeks of this new year, perhaps its time to learn how to view life through God’s eyes.

When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is, Genesis 21:15-17.

In the passage of above, Hagar was abandoned, asked to leave by Sarah, left alone in the wilderness with her newborn son, Ishmael. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Hagar ran out of water, placing her son in the shade before dropping to her knees to pray. Hagar reached a point in life where she ran out of options, with no one else to turn to but God. This state of devastation opened the door for God to intervene, sending an angel to comfort this young woman and her baby.

And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you that you should strike me these three times? 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, Because you have ridiculed and provoked me! I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you! 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, Am not I your donkey, upon which you have ridden all your life long until this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you? And he said, No. 31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His sword drawn in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell on his face, Numbers 22:28-31.

While angelic encounters make for great drama, the presence of God is often overlooked in day to day events. The passage above illustrates how God can use animals and pets to save someone’s life. The old show “It’s a Miracle” on Pax Television contained several episodes showing how God used a cat or dog to rescue those in grave danger. If God can enable a donkey to speak, then the Lord has unlimited power to alter your current state of depression, sadness and unhappiness.

When the servant of the man of God rose early and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was around the city. Elisha’s servant said to him, Alas, my master! What shall we do? 16 [Elisha] answered, Fear not; for those with us are more than those with them. 17 Then Elisha prayed, Lord, I pray You, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, 2 Kings 6:15-17.

The prophet Elijah introduces his understudy Elisha to the spiritual realm. While you may find your self in a situation where you are outnumbered physically, you need to open your eyes to what you currently can’t see. As God’s people pray, angels are ushered into action to serve as personal guardians on earth. Although you may never see one, they exist as the passage above illustrates. While you may not be satisfied by your current state of affairs, fast and pray so that you will learn to view life through God’s eyes.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Στόχο: Finding a New Target in 2020

Στόχο is the Greek word for target. When translated into English, this term could apply to aim, destination, goal or landing place. As individuals celebrate New Year’s Eve, minds and thoughts will begin to turn their attention toward a new year. Once all of the celebrations have ended, determined souls will search for a new target in 2020.

And they said to me, The remnant there in the province who escaped exile are in great trouble and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its [fortified] gates are destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept and mourned for days and fasted and prayed [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

Unfortunately, sometimes your future may be blurred, clouded or uncertain due to unforeseen events. Accidents, failing health or trials can prove to be too much for one person to bear. Whenever you experience a devastating, horrific or troubling circumstance, follow in the footsteps of Nehemiah. After receiving news of Jerusalem vulnerability, this man fell to his knees, fasting and praying for a plan to rebuild this wall.

Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to listen to the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You day and night for the Israelites, Your servants, confessing the sins of the Israelites which we have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, statutes, and ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses, Nehemiah 1:6-7.

Before focusing on a solution, Nehemiah acknowledges the sins of Israel which brought this fate upon Jerusalem. Before any new target can be discovered in 2020, everyone needs to get right with God. As prayers are lifted up, hearts unload their pain and minds begin to think clear again, conditions will improve for a new vision to be seen. May the beginning of this year inspire you to pave the way for a new target to be located.

by Jay Mankus

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