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Category Archives: Truth

The Circle of Life

Twenty two years ago, my wife Leanne received confirmation that she was pregnant with our first child.  While I was able to share this good news in person with my mom, my father was away on a business trip.  This good news was replaced by sorrow as my grandmother passed away on this same day.  Following the funeral of my dad’s mother, new parenting classes attempted to prepare us for raising a child.  Twenty one years ago over Memorial Day Weekend, Leanne endured 29 hours of labor to give birth to James.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone [just one grain, never more]. But if it dies, it produces much grain and yields a harvest, John 12:24.

Fast forwarding 19 years, another tragedy illustrates the circle of life.  Leanne’s father was in a bad car accident, battling to stay a live for a couple of weeks.  Away at college, James wasn’t able to be there as his grandfather passed away.  However, James did call the hospital, breaking the news over the phone of a new girl friend.  Jim’s funeral introduced Emma to our family, fitting in naturally.  One year later, James shared he proposed to Emma, setting the date of his own wedding this Memorial Day Weekend.  As death takes one soul away, the birth of a new relationship sets the stage for the circle of life to be completed.

The one who loves his life [eventually] loses it [through death], but the one who hates his life in this world [and is concerned with pleasing God] will keep it for life eternal, John 12:25.

As I experience hosting my first rehearsal dinner tonight, I am passing the torch to my oldest son.  After tonight, James is on his own, starting a new journey with his soul mate Emma.  I’m not sure exactly what to say, but all I know is to pass on words of wisdom from the Bible.  As I think of the perfect thing to say, I am reminded of Jesus’ comments in the passage above.  In the context of marriage, two will become one.  Just as individuals must die to self so that Christ might live, couples must yield to God to take the wheel, direction in life.  As my wife and I complete one task, raising James, we look forward to becoming supportive parents in Emma and James’ future endeavors.

by Jay Mankus

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Provoked by Bitterness and Bound by Sin

If you blessed to be around a newborn baby or infant eager to start crawling, you will witness periodical tantrums.  Some will signal moms that it’s time to breast feed or change a dirty diaper.  Prior to being able to speak, crying, fussing and screaming are signs of displeasure and unhappiness.  When you examine these fits of rage from a biblical perspective, knee jerk reactions from any human being are often provoked by bitterness.

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this authority and power too, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit,” Acts 8:18-19.

There is where parenting will influence and shape the character of a child.  If parents allow children to get everything they want as soon as he or she cries, the more spoiled this individual will become over time.  This display of bitterness is a sign that the human flesh, known as the sinful nature is alive and well.  Anyone not trained or taught to resist this urge, will be provoked by bitterness and bound to sin.

But Peter said to him, “May your money be destroyed along with you, because you thought you could buy the [free] gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart (motive, purpose) is not right before God. 22 So repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, this thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are provoked by bitterness and bound by sin,” Acts 8:20-23.

During a trip to Samaria, Luke records an interesting conversation between Peter and a magician called Simon.  Based upon the passage above, Simon appears to have been spoiled in his younger years, normally getting whatever he wants.  Subsequently, Simon offers Peter a bribe, attempting to receive the Holy Spirit through a cash exchange.  However, this isn’t how God works.  When motives are impure, prayer is necessary to get yourself right before God.  Yet, unless you deal with bitterness and sin in a biblical manner, healing won’t occur.  Fasting, prayer and seeking godly counsel are steps on the road to recovery.  The best therapy to overcome the root of bitterness is meditating on the Word of God.  Exercising spiritual disciplines will release you from the bondage of sin.

by Jay Mankus

Awakenings

The summer of 1969 is filled with a rich resource of history.  Beside the Bryan Adams song which debuted in June of 1985, one of the most famous musical festivals of all time took place in upstate New York.  Woodstock began August 15th, 1969 and concluded four days later in Bethel, New York near White Lake.  While legendary artists, famous bands and iconic performers took turns on stage, a major medical breakthrough in the Bronx, New York was overshadowed.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation], Matthew 11:28.

Based on a true story, neurologist Oliver Sacks attempts to recount a series of awakenings within a mental hospital that took place during the summer of 1969.  The 1990 film Awakenings starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams highlights the doctor patient relationship of the first to awaken from over two decades in a catatonic state.  After convincing a Bronx administer to use an expensive experimental drug therapy on one patient with family consent, a little boy breaks 18 years of silence, coming to life as an adult.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:29-30.

The older I become, the more I observe individuals who enter a trance life state, hiding disappointment, frustrations and pain within their heart.  The past can hold a series of burdens which can suck the joy out of any life.  Even those who possess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are at risk.  The only way for a true awakening to occur begins by placing your burdens at the foot of the cross.  As you pray for healing, hope and peace, may the Holy Spirit awaken your soul like those revived in the summer of 69.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction.  In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea.  One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene.  Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus.  Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced.  Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus.  Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen.  This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him.  It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants.  Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit.  Any type of change is difficult.  However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible.  Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted.  As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains.  For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Unshakable

In the first century, sometime after 30 AD a Jewish zealot was fearful that the Jesus movement would ruin his religion.  Thus, Saul used the Synagogue of the Freedmen as a pawn to attack the character of a newly appointed apostle.  While Jesus choose to remain silent when brought him before the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), Stephen defended his faith.  Just as religious leaders accused Jesus of de-emphasizing some of the ten commandments, Stephen was of charged with committing blasphemy against Moses and God.  Luke records Stephen’s entire defense in Acts 7.

Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him, Acts 7:54.

Without any notes, Stephen gives an unshakable defense of his faith.  As if reading the Bible which wasn’t available for another 300 years, Stephen summarizes the Bible from the patriarchs to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The passage above is the response of the Sanhedrin.  These men were convicted and enraged at the same time.  Luke’s choice of words give the appearance of a pack of wolves ready to pounce upon their prey.  Despite this reaction, Stephen didn’t apologize, backdown or retract his previous comments.  Rather, Stephen was prepared to become the first Christian martyr post Jesus.

 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy], Acts 7:55-57.

On the verge of death, the Holt Spirit fixed Stephen’s mind on his future destiny in heaven.  Just as this council was about to pick up stones to form a firing line, Stephen gazed into heaven.  This vision is verbalized causing Sanhedrin members to take off their outer robe so that each could throw their stone as hard as possible.  Unfazed by this commotion, the Holy Spirit enabled Stephen to drown out the noise.  Instead of focusing on the gory details of death, Luke simply states that Stephen fell asleep, unshakable until the very end of his life.

by Jay Mankus

More Than a Citizen

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American mystery drama film by Orson Welles.  This tale is based upon an influential and wealthy newspaper tycoon inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst.  There is another citizen who flew under the radar during his life.  John Wanamaker established one of the first department stores in the United States within his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  However, Wanamaker was more than an American merchant.  His life was devoted to civics, politics and religious virtues.

But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves, Luke 22:26.

If you visit downtown Philadelphia, you will find a statue of John Wanamaker outside of city hall. Wanamaker was a descendant of the Lenape Indians, the native tribe of this region.  Despite serving as U.S. Postmaster General, there is only one word engraved on John Wanamaker’s statue: citizen.  While Wanamaker could have been remembered for his business, generosity and political service, his legacy was that of a citizen. Perhaps, serving as secretary of the Philadelphia YMCA from 1857 to 1861 laid a foundation of faith that fueled Wanamaker throughout his life on earth.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20.

America has radically changed since Wanamaker’s death in December of 1922.  Amazon has replaced his vision for local department stores.  Technology has transformed the way individuals communicate via the internet, phones and social medial.  Despite all of these changes, it’s never too late to become a citizen.  This is more than simply being an inhabitant of a particular town or city.  Rather, the Bible calls individuals to serve others.  Paul takes this one step further possessing dual citizenship, seeking God’s will on earth while eagerly awaiting the afterlife.  While everyone has big dreams and goals in life, devoting yourself to Jesus will inspire you to become a better citizen in your neighborhood.

by Jay Mankus

If You Take the Time to Listen

My evenings at Amazon vary as I try to fix any problems before product gets shipped out to customers.  Typically, free time is rare as I am usually exploring and examining some sort of defect.  However, the other night I was selected to be part of a survey, asked a series of questions by a human resource staff member from Seattle.  Due to an initial technical glitch, I was able to talk to a co-worker.  This five minute conversation opened my mind to the importance of listening.

Then a woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink”— For His disciples had gone off into the city to buy food— The Samaritan woman asked Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life),” John 4:7-10.

My co-worker was in her first week in a new position.  When my initial phone calls failed to go through, she had to email her manager to figure out what to do.  As we both waited, I discovered that this young woman had lyme disease for ten years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.  Since she never had what is called a bullseye, a tell tale sign of lyme disease, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her for a decade.  I shared of my own struggles twenty years ago from this same disease.  As I talked, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering, “this is what happens when you take the time to listen.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not get thirsty nor [have to continually] come all the way here to draw.” 16 At this, Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I do not have a husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. You have said this truthfully,” John 4:15-18.

When I read the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was a masterful communicator, never wasting an opportunity to interact with a stranger.  Despite the political tension between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus goes out of his way to talk to a woman who has a history of bouncing from one relationship to the next.  After five failed marriages, this woman was trying to love without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  During an intense back and forth, Jesus plants a spiritual seed within this woman for faith to grow.  When you take the time to listen to another person, God can use you to offer a message of encouragement, healing and hope.

by Jay Mankus

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