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Category Archives: Truth

Storing Up Great Blessings

On October 3, 1789, George Washington made a proclamation as president to create the first Thanksgiving Day. Washington proclaimed, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will.” This designation set the stage for the United States of America to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday every November.

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear, revere, and worship You, goodness which You have wrought for those who trust and take refuge in You before the sons of men! – Psalm 31:19

Over the last 225 years, Thanksgiving has evolved, losing it’s original intent along the way. Instead of concentrating on giving thanks to the Almighty God, this celebration how turned into what are you thankful for. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, subtle changes to past traditions de-emphasize God’s role and call to obey the Lord’s will.

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The Bible is filled with reminders to give thanks. The Psalmist encourages readers to store up great blessings as you set your heart and mind on things above. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul urges first century Christians to give thanks to God in all circumstances. Just like a wedding vow, praise and thanks should exist for better or for worse. Thus, as Thanksgiving Day finally arrives, may you strive to store up great blessings by serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A Foreigner’s Recognition of Thanks

Anyone who has been pampered, spoiled or blessed with a great education are prone to taking the little things in life forgranted. Meanwhle, the less fortunate are often surprised and take pleasure in being in the presence of blessed individuals. Take for example, the account of ten lepers, nine from Israel and one Samaritan. When each contracted this contagious disease, these social outcasts became friends, able to relate to one another and share their disappontments, frustrations and sorrows. Although considered merely a half Jew, outside of God’s chosen people, these lepers embraced this outsider as their own.

11 While Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing [along the border] between Samaria and Galilee. 12 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. 15 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 [c]Samaritan, Luke 17:11-16.

After Jesus took pity on these 10 lepers, the Israelites went immediately to the priest. These Jews had grown accustom to presenting themselves to priests in order to become ceremonially clean. This is how these young men wee raised. Lacking this tradition, the Samaritan who was healed was blown away, overwhelmed by the mercy bestowed upon him. This emotional response compelled this Samaritan to return to Jesus to offer up praise and thanksgiving to God. Apparently, the other nine lepers who were healed went on with the rest of their lives without stopping to give thanks.

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?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Get up and go [on your way]. Your faith [your personal trust in Me and your confidence in God’s power] has restored you to health,” Luke 17:17-19,

This season of thanks is as good of a time as any to reflect upon this biblical passage. As children transform into teenagers and then into young adults, joy for life can be lost. This pattern often repeats itself as parents tend to lose sight of what’s really important in this life. Before long, religious traditions replace an intimate relationship with God. Instead of being filled with a spirit of appreciation, human souls forget to stop and give thanks to God. If 2019 finds you stuck in an endless cycle void of thanksgiving, may this foreigner’s recognition of thanks inspire you to be more thankful in 2020 and beyond.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

24

To the casual observer, this title suggests I am referring to the television series starring Kiefer Sutherland. While this counter-terrorist drama brought Jack Bauer to life, I mention this because 24 is the only television show that I have followed live since getting married in 1995. In the early years of my marriage, cable wasn’t a priority, just watching the four major networks and whatever else our antenna could pick up. While visiting my father in law in Chicago, 24 watch parties were a common occurrence, fixated for the entire hour once a week.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord, Proverbs 18:22.

However, the real meaning of today’s title is the number of years that I now have been married. For today, November 25th is my 24th wedding anniversary. While eating brunch with my groomsmen, I watched Ohio State, where I did part of my college internship, lose to Michigan in college football. As the 3 pm wedding time drew near, Chicago was seasonably warm, in the fifties. While Leanne did most of the planning, my input was the music, having two friends sing in our wedding and DJ from Indiana where I served as a youth pastor. My favorite part of this day was personally greeting each row, meeting and talking with family and friends. Yet, it’s hard to believe that 24 years have passed in a blinking of an eye.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, Proverbs 19:14.

Looking forward, next year will mark a quarter of a century and the following year will mean that I have spent half of my life on earth with Leanne. What Moses says in Genesis about marriage is true, two people become one. While selfish desires still exist, part of marriage is coming together as a team to follow God’s will. Three children and one wedding later, there are still many events that await in the future. Yet, I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to meet Leanne Marie Wagner at a youth workers convention 26 years ago. I pray that as our home becomes an empty nest in three years that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the years ahead. As for today, I wish my bride Leanne a happy anniversary.

by Jay Mankus

Positions of Authority

Near the end of Luke’s account of the first century church, the apostle Paul finds himself in the middle of a long drawn out trial.  After overseeing this case for two years, Governor Felix was succeeded in office by Porcius Festus.  Prior to leaving his position, Felix caved to public pressure, leaving Paul as a prisoner in chains to curry favor with powerful Jewish leaders.  Held captive by a political justice system, Paul recognized that his fate was in the hands of positions of authority.

So, said he, let those who are in a position of authority and are influential among you go down with me, and if there is anything amiss or criminal about the man, let them so charge him, Acts 25:5.

While the United States Judicial System is not perfect, it’s based upon the concept that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.  This idea is foreign to many countries where some are held against their will in encampments, jails or re-programing sites for weeks, months or years.  Unfortunately, positions of authority are often influenced by political figures who seek absolute power, control and expanding their jurisdiction.  Despite their innocence, some people are still waiting in jail for an influential leader to come to their rescue.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God, Romans 13:1.

In the passage above, perhaps the apostle Paul is referring to his own situation, waiting for justice.  Whatever the inspiration for this statement, Paul recognizes that God places leaders into the positions that they now hold.  Although some may not deserve it, God has a purpose or reason for the outcomes that have already taken place.  Unfortunately, the answers many hope, pray for and seek often don’t arrive until the afterlife.  Thus, for now the only reasonable action obedient citizens can take is to be subject to governing authorities, praying for wisdom to guide your state or country.

by Jay Mankus

Pillars of Prayer

When I visit a tourist destination, rarely do I say, “look at that pillar!” This tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building often goes unnoticed. Yet, without these crucial supports, buildings will collapse, not able to stand the test of time. In ancient Greece, pillars were center pieces of famous landmarks that still stand today.

And as He saw one single leafy fig tree above the roadside, He went to it but He found nothing but leaves on it [seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. And He said to it, Never again shall fruit grow on you! And the fig tree withered up at once, Matthew 21:19.

During an early morning walk, Jesus introduced his disciples to pillars of prayer. When an unproductive fig tree did not offer any fruit for their hungry stomachs, Jesus cursed it, immediately withering in front of them. This miracle inspired disciples to ascertain about the power of prayer. The first pillar is faith. This must be accompanied by an unwavering reliance on God. The second pillar is belief. This is accomplished by removing any doubt from your mind, trusting in the God who created the mountains.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:20-22.

From personal experience, my mind tends to get in the way of prayers from being answered. It’s one thing to believe in the power of prayer, but Christians shouldn’t treat God like Santa Claus using prayer as a wish list. Instead, faith and belief must go hand and hand, yielding to God’s will. Yet, this shouldn’t hold you back, knocking on God’s door over and over again like the persistent widow. Prayer can be complicated, especially when prayers go unanswered. Nonetheless, when individuals don’t limit what heaven can do, you’ll be surprised just like the disciples above.

by Jay Mankus

When Evil Overshadows Goodness

Evil is defined as profoundly immoral and wicked. Synonyms include bad, corrupt, depraved, foul, sinful, ungodly and wrong. When America was founded, Christians left Great Britain to start a new country with an emphasis on freedom of religion. Pilgrims and Puritans got on ships to set sail to this new land. To ensure that not just the elite and wealthy received education, schools were founded by churches to teach common people the Bible. Up until the early 1960’s, public schools used intercoms to read the Bible verse of the day into homerooms. This practice was designed to promote goodness over evil.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

If you study history, civilizations go through cycles that often repeat itself when mistakes of the past aren’t corrected or learned from. According to one Old Testament prophet, Israel had turned away from God. During this period of darkness, some Jews began to confuse evil with good. Unfortunately, this pattern is nothing new. If you use nightly news as an example, how does each broadcast begin? Usually with breaking news of an accident, crash, disaster, tragedy or violence. At some point, this ambulance chasing mentality has placed ratings as a higher priority than truth, justice and the American way. Subsequently, evil overshadows stories of goodness on a nightly basis.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light. But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

Jesus addresses this topic during his sermon on the mount. According to the passage above, eyes are the lamp of human bodies. If your eyes use sound judgement, your entire body will be full of light and goodness. However, if anyone falls prey to lust, 1 John 2:15-17, individuals open the door for evil to enter your life. When enticement results in unsound practices, Jesus points out that consciences are darkened. This is how evil overshadows goodness. When evil is allowed to reside within human hearts, justification and rationalization follow. May this blog serve as a warning to regain control of wandering eyes. The sooner confession elicits a contrite heart, goodness can prevail as long as evil is disposed of and purged from your life.

by Jay Mankus

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