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A Celebration of Faith

In between sports seasons, I take my youngest two, Daniel and Lydia, to play frisbee golf on Saturdays.  Usually, lunch is involved, either before or after to encourage participation.  Once we reach our favorite course at Canby Park, some discs go way off course, often requiring a search and rescue crew.  These undesirable terrains include winding creeks, sticker bushes and wild vegetation.  It’s not uncommon to get cut and bleed profusely without recognizing it right away.

And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household, Acts 16:32-33.

A similar phenomena happened to the apostle Paul and Silas in the passage above.  Twenty four hours earlier, these men were beaten with rods.  According to Luke, each were struck several times, Acts 16:23.  After being thrown into a dungeon and feet fastened to stocks in an agonizing position, their initial pain was redirected in another direction.  Despite this momentary setback, a time of prayer and worship served as a distraction.  Caught up in the excitement of a jailor and his family coming to faith in Christ, Paul and Silas forgot about their bloody wounds.

Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ], Acts 16:34.

When human hearts and minds are set on things above, temporary pains fade away, Colossians 3:1-3.  Jesus taught his disciples to become fishers of men, winning souls to believe in God.  Whenever individuals witness a spiritual transformation, it’s a cause for a celebration.  Following the baptism of a jailor and his entire family, a party is thrown like a modern day church reception.  As the lost come to their senses, a celebration of faith is in order.  According to Luke, angels celebrate in heaven each time a sinner repents, Luke 15:10.

by Jay Mankus

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When Stress Drags You To Your Knees

When it comes to stress, I am usually immune to worry.  After being broke a few times in life, God has always provided in my time of need.  Food, shelter and work have come to me in a variety of ways.  However, 2019 has been one of the more trying years of my life occupationally speaking.  Budget cuts, changing roles and the unknown has consumed me with stress, dragging me to my knees.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad, Proverbs 12:25.

King Solomon writes a letter to impart wisdom to his children.  As a man who married 700 woman and fathered children with an addition 300 concubines, Solomon understood the stress that parents face.  The more you focus on your numerous responsibilities, anxiety can weigh on your heart.  One of the ways Solomon urges people to overcome stress is by focusing on the positive, savoring encouraging words.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved, Psalm 55:22.

When this advice doesn’t work, the Psalmist provides a more practical resolution.  This reflective poem written by David urges stress filled individuals to cast burdens upon the Lord.  During his earthly ministry, Jesus turned to a crowd, calling the stressed out to come to me and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28-30.  Therefore, whenever you can’t control,  endure or handle the stress of a current situation, fall to your knees and lighten your burdens through prayer.

by Jay Mankus

A Spirit of Divination

The definition of divination is the practice of seeking knowledge of the future.  This is accomplished by supernatural, unknown or unexplained means.  An online resource references the Celtic art of divination.  Based upon my research, the Celtic god of eloquence and literacy, Ogma or Ogmos inspired staves carved with the Ogham alphabet.  This alphabet has become a popular method of divination for Celtics and pagans.  Meanwhile, Ching is a Chinese book of wisdom that relies on 2500 years of ancient diviners and sages.  These are some of the sources so called fortune tellers rely on today.

It happened that as we were on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination [that is, a demonic spirit claiming to foretell the future and discover hidden knowledge], and she brought her owners a good profit by fortune-telling, Acts 16:16.

During the apostle Paul’s first visit to Europe, a slave girl with the gift of divination began to follow his missionary team around the city of Philippi.  According to Luke, this happened for several days annoying Paul daily.  Apparently, this girl’s constant distraction caused Paul to lose his patience.  After becoming worn out, Paul rebuked this girl, casting out a demonic spirit that was inside of her.  Luke refers to this spirit being the source of her fortune telling ability.  Unfortunately, when the owners of this girl realized their ability to make money was gone, these men convinced the chief magistrates to throw Paul and Silas into jail.

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable (repulsive) practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire [as a sacrifice], one who uses divination and fortune-telling, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a charm or spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or a necromancer [who seeks the dead]. 12 For everyone who does these things is utterly repulsive to the Lord; and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you, Deuteronomy 18:9-12.

If you are like me, wondering what is wrong with divination, Moses explains why in the passage above.  Divination was a common practice among pagan and secular nations.  The thought of imitating detestable practices repulsed the Lord.  Thus, Moses compares divination to witchcraft, a form of sorcery which the prophet Samuel banned Israel from participating, 1 Samuel 28:6-20..  Based upon God’s reason, partaking in divination is a form of rebellion, trusting in something else rather than relying on the Lord.  Hopefully, this blog helps you understand the biblical perspective against seeking a spirit of divination,

by Jay Mankus

Growing Old and Apart

As one of the newest  members of the AARP club, this is a sign of getting old.  Yet, as I reflect upon my current state of relationships, time has caused me to forget and ignore special friendships from my past.  Part of this is due to my desire to be a good father, spending as much time with my children as possible.  Unfortunately, without a healthy balance at the moment, I am growing old and apart.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,” Genesis 2:18.

After creating the heavens and the earth, God recognized that a pet could not replace a human soul mate.  Subsequently, the Lord created the first woman out of Adam’s rib.  This miracle set the stage for the institution of marriage, Genesis 1:23-24.  When two people become one, a special bond is formed.  Yet, this doesn’t mean you should forget the people that you have crossed paths with over the course of your life.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:12.

Following king David’s affair with Bathsheba, a spirit of conviction consumed his soul.  After hearing the prophet Nathan’s analogy of a little ewe lamb, David became painfully aware of his transgression.  Psalm 51 serves as a prayer of confession, asking the Lord to pardon him from sin.  In my case, before my home becomes an empty nest in 3 years, I need to reconnect with old friends.  While I may not be welcomed back with opened arms, I need to follow the prayer of David above so that I grow old and reunite with old friends.

by Jay Mankus

Demonic Influences on Mental Health

Whenever people hear accounts of curses, demons and evil spirits, there is a hesitancy to believe these stories.  Perhaps, unrealistic movie scenes or television re-enactments have placed doubts into human minds.  Unless you are an eyewitness to one of these supernatural events, demonic influences on mental health isn’t even considered.  However, if curses, demons and evil spirits are real, their impact on mental health would explain many unsolved questions.

They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and the man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with chains. For he had often been bound with shackles [for the feet] and with chains, and he tore apart the chains and broke the shackles into pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue and tame him. Night and day he was constantly screaming and shrieking among the tombs and on the mountains, and cutting himself with [sharp] stones, Mark 5:1-5.

An estimated 2 million Americans practice some form of self-injury.  During my final year of teaching high school, I became aware of the practice of Self-Mutilation.  According to an article on the Daily Dot, Emo music and it’s impact on teenagers has been overlooked in America’s growing mental health crisis.  Apparently, this new age disco like music is playing a role in tempting depressed and lonely souls to continue cutting their bodies.  If you take the passage above as a case study, it’s possible that demons are the force behind modern self-mutilation.

And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you so angry? And why do you look annoyed? If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it.” Cain talked with Abel his brother [about what God had said]. And when they were [alone, working] in the field, Cain attacked Abel his brother and killed him, Genesis 4:6-8.

The passage above sheds light on what happens inside the human brain as individuals contemplate what they are going to do.  In this case, God has a private conversation with Cain as he wrestles with jealousy within his heart.  Cain is frustrated that his occupation as a farmer is much harder than Abel’s position as a shepherd.  Subsequently, a spirit of hatred seizes this opportunity to consume Cain’s vulnerable heart.  In the end, this evil spirit persuades Cain to do the unthinkable, murder his younger brother.  While those who commit crimes today are usually imprisoned, demons and evil spirits flee the scene without blame or getting caught.

For such men are counterfeit apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 So it is no great surprise if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness, but their end will correspond with their deeds, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

The apostle Paul throws another curveball into the discussion of demonic influences on mental health.  As a fallen angel, Satan knows how to appear as an angel of light.  Thus, you must know that this masquerade continues today, deceiving many Christians and non-believers.  This is why Paul wrote a letter to the church at Thessalonica warning people the test everything that you hear with the word of God, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Abstinance from every form of evil must be practiced.  If not, demonic influences will impact your mental health.

by Jay Mankus

 

Blessed to Be Alive

The half-century mark is five decades on this special planet called earth.  As the clock strikes twelve midnight, ending August 13th to commence August 14th will mean that I have reached fifty years of age in 2019.  According to numerology, the number fifty symbolizes the total man.  This favorable number marks grace, kindness and regeneration. Karl von Eckartshausen, an author, German Catholic and philosopher, who lived to see the founding of the United States of America referred to reaching fifty as the number of illumination.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.

I was born the day Hurricane Camille formed as a tropical depression.  A few days later this massive storm struck the Gulf Coast, the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to hit the United States.  Perhaps, this was a foreshadowing of the life that I would live.  I have survived earthquakes, floods, a microburst and a tornado.  I escaped a head on collision, a freak boating and tubing accident to make it to what I call Hawaii 50.  Nonetheless, I have a lot to be thankful for, truly blessed to be alive.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them, Psalm 139:13-16.

My spiritual birth occurred on December 4th, 1984, during my sophomore year of high school.  My spiritual father was my high school swim coach and Science teacher.  As the leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Concord High, Mr. Horne coached, directed and guided new believers toward seeking God’s will for our lives.  While I didn’t always take a straight line or path, the Holy Spirit empowered me to become a Bible teacher, youth director an aspiring writer.  I’m truly blessed to be married to Leanne who gave birth to our 3 wonderful children.  I’m not sure what the Lord has planned for me in the years to come, but I pray that I keep in step with God’s Spirit so that I don’t miss my next calling.

by Jay Mankus

Sin’s Impact on Mental Health

According to a 2019 article, the mental health of teenagers is at risk.  Based upon a recent study, 15% of teenagers seriously consider taking their own life.  Another 12% actually make a plan to commit suicide.  Nearly 8% of teens make at least one attempt to implement their plan.  Meanwhile, 2% of these botched attempts of suicide result in medical intervention.  This healthyplace.com piece has motivated me to contemplate sin’s impact on mental health.

For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]; the mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot, and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God, Romans 8:5-8.

According to the apostle Paul, sin’s initial impact influences minds.  Human minds serve as a bodies compass.  When minds fixate on fleshly desires. decisions gravitate toward pleasing your own body.  Meanwhile, individuals whose minds are directed by biblical principles are more likely to listen and obey God’s still small voice via the Holy Spirit.  Inside of human beings there is a spiritual gravitational pull, tugging at hearts and minds.  The hardest part of this decision making process is that sinful pursuits gradually results in minds actively hostile toward to God.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and it is extremely sick; Who can understand it fully and know its secret motives? 10  “I, the Lord, search and examine the mind, I test the heart, to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds, Jeremiah 17:9-10.

An Old Testament prophet adds to sin’s impact on mental health in the passage above.  Known as the weeping prophet after proclaiming bad news given directly to him from God, Jeremiah reveals another troubling problem.  Human hearts are deceitful and extremely sick.  Jesus expands upon this diagnosis in Luke 6:43-45.  Mouths speak out of the overflow of your heart.  Depending upon what your heart stores up inside will reflect your vocabulary, the content of your words.  Thus, anyone who holds on to roots of bitterness will negatively influence and impact your mental health.

However, you are not [living] in the flesh [controlled by the sinful nature] but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God lives in you [directing and guiding you]. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him [and is not a child of God]. 10 If Christ lives in you, though your [natural] body is dead because of sin, your spirit is alive because of righteousness [which He provides]. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:9-11.

Based upon the passage above, the apostle Paul points to daily spiritual decisions, who or what are you going to live for?  You don’t have to live in bondage to a flesh that craves humanism, whatever feels good must be good.  However, those who possess any empty heart, void of any meaning have an option to choose life by becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus.  Yet, words mean nothing until you act upon your faith.  Therefore, if you are tired of feeling spiritually dead, may the power of the Holy Spirit free you from sin’s impact on mental health.

by Jay Mankus

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