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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

The Instruction Manual for Spiritual Gifts

As a former high school Bible teacher, one of my classes introduced the concept of spiritual gifts. After a short lesson, students took a spiritual gifts test to uncover hidden talents. Unfortunately, the humble and meek scored lower overall than the rest of my classes. Meanwhile, the confident often gave themselves higher marks during this self evaluation and spiritual inventory. Depending upon your mood, your score will fluctuate. This fundamental flaw with these types of tests doesn’t always highlight or reveal your strengths and spiritual weaknesses.

[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another. 11 Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:9-11.

The passage above is similar to words written to the Church at Corinth. Instead of using an instruction manual style format, Paul completes his list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. In the following chapter, a disclaimer is added to prevent the blessed and more gifted from boasting. Paul doesn’t hold back suggesting that spiritual gifts and talents are worthless unless accompanied by love, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. To make sure all believers are on the same page, Paul defines biblical love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Paul’s letter to Roman Christians uses a different approach, blending and weaving love with spiritual gifts.

Contribute to the needs of God’s people [sharing in the necessities of the saints]; pursue the practice of hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits, Romans 12:13-16.

Perhaps, while visiting Rome, Paul witnessed some disturbing behavior, far from the example Jesus set during his three year ministry on earth. Thus, Paul felt compelled to use Romans 12 as the Instruction Manual for Spiritual Gifts. Directions include sincerity, loathing anything to do with ungodliness, loving each member of the church like family and maintaining a passion to serve the Lord. In the passage above, it’s almost as if Paul is referencing or quoting parts of the Sermon on the Mount to reinforce the need to love and pray for your enemies. If you follow Paul’s advice in this chapter, you will stand out like a city on a hill and the salt of the earth. May this blog inspire you to identity and fan into flame your spiritual gift(s).

by Jay Mankus

When Your World Has Been Shaken

Some reporters have compared the Coronavirus to the millennials 9/11. Since my youngest two children were born after September 11th, 2001, I understand this comparison. For me, I remember exactly where I was when I first received news of two airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers. At this time in history, I was an independent contractor and regional staff writer for Travel Golf Media. Both of my positions were impacted as air travel ceased until new safety standards were implemented. Yet, as the Coronavirus continues to reap havoc throughout America, life as we know it has been disturbed and shaken.

There he came to a cave and lodged in it; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? 10 He replied, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away, 1 Kings 19:9-10.

The Old Testament details a story about a prophet whose own world had been shaken. According to the passage above, the Israelites had turned their back on God, turning a deaf ear to Elijah. Beside feeling useless, altars dedicated to the Lord were discarded from mountain tops. In addition, Elijah’s friends were all killed at the hands of Jezebel. Without any signs of improvement, this former spiritual leader had lost the will to live, giving up hope that God could alter his situation. As a way to get Elijah’s attention, a series of natural disasters struck the land. Taking notice, Elijah did not see the Lord as the source behind the tornado, earthquake and fire. Yet, after these storms, Elijah was ready to hear God’s still small voice.

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.

Well, if you live in a state like Delaware, you are now under a stay at home order. Normal outdoor sports are now out of the equation, on hold until the Coronavirus fades or dies out. Sure, you can go to the grocery store, get gas and take a walk around the block, but that’s it. So… what is one to do with their life when your world has been shaken? Well, after you binge watch your favorite show or series, dusting off the Bible would be a step in the right direction. The great aspect of free will is that God doesn’t force you to anything. The choices that you make throughout life will shape who you become. May this forced time at home due to the Coronavirus draw you near to God as the world around us continues to be shaken.

by Jay Mankus

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