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Times of Refreshment

While refreshments are often a light snack or drink purchased at a convenience store, times of refreshment are good for the mind. These brief moments in time tend to invigorate souls, serving as a form of revitalization. Whether this is accomplished by taking a day off of work or during an extended vacation, restoring mental and physical strength is good for your body.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness], 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.

The spiritual term for times of refreshment is revival. When lost souls stumble upon truths in the Bible, some promises seem too good to be true. Take the passage above as Paul provides an illustration in regards to sin. Because Jesus became the perfect lamb, living, dying and rising from the dead, when God sees you, your sin is replaced by the righteousness of Christ. This is the great news of the gospel, John 3:16-17, a time to celebrate.

I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven [pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name], 1 John 2:12.

One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this spiritual refreshment. Just as the president of the United States has the authority to pardon people convicted of past crimes, becoming a Christian gives you a spiritual pardon via God’s grace. However, like a traveler on a busy interstate, you have to get off on the Repentance Exit, Romans 5:8. Forgiveness is the process of making a u-turn away from sin, back toward God. May this blog serve as a time of refreshment and praise as you contemplate the fact that Jesus has pardoned all of your sins.

by Jay Mankus

The Devil or Bad Decisions?

Behind the scenes, ungodly beliefs and self fulfilled prophecies lurk within human minds. Whispers of “you’re not good enough, you’ll never amount to anything or everybody else is doing it,” play like a commercial in your thought life. Depending upon how you deal with these distractions, you might blame the Devil for your current ordeal. However, whenever individuals lose confidence, circumstances are prime for bad decisions to be conceived. When common sense is ignored, consequences of poor choices come to the forefront.

And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:6-7.

Take the first child born on earth. Cain followed in his father’s footsteps as a farmer. However, as the curse in Genesis 3:17 commenced, the earth’s soil turned from fertile ground into an arid desert. Subsequently, as his younger brother Abel prospered as a shepherd, envy and jealousy began to consume Cain’s soul. This dire situation caused God to intervene, warning Cain of the sin crouching at the door of his heart. Unfortunately, the Lord was too late as Cain already made up him mind. It was only a matter of time before Cain’s thoughts were acted upon.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

The earthly brother of Jesus makes sure God is not one to blame for temptation. Rather, those who give into temptation slowly ponder their options before finally taking steps toward the dark side. Whether it’s a second glance, a season of idleness or lustful passions that you can’t hold back any further, when sin is conceived it fills your minds until you finally give into a variety of fantasies. In the end, the only way to escape temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13, is by purging all reminders of your past sins so that you find the way out that God provides.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming a Nervous Breakdown

The definition of a nervous breakdown is a period of mental illness resulting from severe depression, stress, or anxiety. This condition manifests itself primarily as severe stress-induced depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functioning individual. If these symptoms continue without any sort of intervention, the afflicted are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until this disorder is cured.  During a long cross country practice in high school, I had my own breakdown while running up a hill.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow. Then he was afraid and arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba of Judah [over eighty miles, and out of Jezebel’s realm] and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a lone broom or juniper tree and asked that he might die. He said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers, 1 Kings 19:1-4.

A mental breakdown is defined by its temporary nature, often closely tied to psychological burnout, severe overwork, sleep deprivation and similar stressors. In the passage above, an Old Testament prophet wasn’t prepared for the revenge sought by Queen Jezebel. After defeating the prophets of Asherah and Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah may have become over confident, 1 Kings 18:38-40. If I successfully called fire to come down from heaven following a prayer like Elijah, I would feel invincible.

As he lay asleep under the broom or juniper tree, behold, an angel touched him and said to him, Arise and eat. He looked, and behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came the second time and touched him and said, Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you. So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God, 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Unfortunately, only God knows the future. Thus, when your suffer a surprising defeat, shocking failure or a humiliating lose, it takes time to recover. If a life is lost or a job terminated, the recovery time is often extended to months and years to feel normal again. This is when you need to retreat like Elijah to quiet place, to be still before God, 1 Kings 19:11-13. While the healing process will vary, this is the first step toward overcoming a nervous breakdown.

by Jay Mankus

Getting Your House in Order in 2021

The Bible uses the term house when referring to the first century church. However, other verses suggest the mind of church leaders. Ideally, this is where the things of God’s will and understanding of faith forms a spiritual house. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul applies temple, usually associated with a place of worship, in connection with a human’s body. When you combine these two expressions, getting your house in order refers to cleansing and purging your body of your past to make room for God to abide and dwell within.

But when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any, Matthew 12:43.

In the passage above, Jesus is speaking to some religious leaders who are searching for a sign from God. Using an evil and adulterous generation as a transition, Jesus points to the spiritual realm that negatively influences broken, tired and weary souls. While freedom from addiction and bad habits is possible, the stronger the unclean spirits attached to individuals are, the harder it is to break free. Recovering addicts are never truly in the clear as when unclean spirits return, houses not in order will be easy prey as temptations intensify.

Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation, Matthew 12:44-45.

Most recovering addicts tend to have some form of accountability. Whether this involves a group that meets weekly, a mentor you stay in contact with monthly or a good friend who isn’t afraid to demonstrate tough love, accountability helps the weak begin their recovery. Nonetheless, only when reminders of addiction is purged and removed will the healing process progress. Therefore, if you want 2021 to be a year where freedom reigns, get your spiritual house in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

Divine Visitations

According to a 2020 survey, 77 percent of Americans believe in the concept of a guardian angel. Meanwhile, a number of celebrities have recently opened up about their own divine visitation. Jurassic Park star Chris Pratt told Esquire Magazine about a man from Hawaii who brought him a message from God while he was homeless. Denzel Washington saw an angel as child and met a woman a few days later who shared a prophecy about his future fame. Samantha Fey goes into further details about these accounts in an article entitled True Stories of Heavenly Encounters with Angels.

And behold, that very day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, [which is] about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things that had occurred. 15 And while they were conversing and discussing together, Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them. 16 But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him, Luke 24:13-16.

When a first century doctor writes about another divine visitation, it’s worth examining his story. According to Luke, 2 of Jesus’ disciples had planned a trip to the village of Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday. This 7 mile walk gave those traveling ample time to talk. Apparently, the resurrected Jesus blended into the crowd, asking a series of questions. Based upon the words of Luke, Jesus is curious about what these men remembered. The other members of this group can’t believe these are being asked. Nonetheless, Jesus’ personality goes unrecognized for the entire day until they broke bread together. As soon of their eyes were opened, Jesus vanished, likely into the setting sun.

Then they drew near the village to which they were going, and He acted as if He would go further. 29 But they urged and insisted, saying to Him, Remain with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. So He went in to stay with them. 30 And it occurred that as He reclined at table with them, He took [a loaf of] bread and praised [God] and gave thanks and asked a blessing, and then broke it and was giving it to them 31 When their eyes were [instantly] opened and they [clearly] recognized Him, and He vanished (departed invisibly), Luke 24:28-31.

Whether you’re talking about biblical events or modern day encounters, why does this happen? Why is it necessary for God to send a messenger to human beings? Perhaps a busy schedule has distracted individuals from what they were meant to do? Maybe Christians have lost their way, lost their confidence or broken dreams have caused people like me to stop and pick up the pieces? These brief visits serve as a spark to reignite your joy for life. While some may provide promises that never come to fruition, divine visitations are necessary to help the lost get found, the broken healed and the wayward back on track. May this blog give you the boost that you need to carry on with the rest of your life in 2021.

by Jay Mankus

Open My Eyes Through Faith

Paul Baloche was sitting in a pew, listening to his pastor pray for the congregation. Upon hearing the expression “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see you,” Baloche was inspired to write a song. Baloche’s soul was touched by the wisdom of this prayer request. As Paul Harvey once said on his radio broadcast, “and now you know The Rest of the Story.”

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, Genesis 21:15-16.

After Sarah convinced Abraham to cast out one of his maid servants, Hagar and Ishmael were forced into the wilderness to find a new place to live. When Hagar ran out of water, she lost hope, laying down her child in the shade under a shrub. Unsure of what to do next, Hagar found an appropriate place to weep and cry out to the Lord. Sensing death was near, the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar. Despite being consumed by despair, the Lord opened Hagar’s eyes to a miracle, an empty bottle now filled with water.

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. Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink, Genesis 21:17-19.

The Coronavirus has forced the world to view life through a new lens and perspective. The idea of sitting down with friends inside a restaurant seems like a foreign concept today. Yet, sometime in the near future, the fears of COVID-19 will pass, replaced by a new concern, fear or worry. However, as long as desperate hearts cry out to the Lord in prayer, your eyes will be opened to see all the good things God provides, James 1:17. This is my prayer for 2021 that eyes will be opened through faith in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving the Holy Spirit

William McDowell – Spirit Break Out (Lyrics) – YouTube

Every generation contains individuals who attempt to reinvent that which has already occurred. Whether as some sort of superiority complex or stubbornness, these confident people refuse to back down regardless of what others believe, proclaim or think. Participating in a debate to expose a specific flawed mindset seems to be a productive use of time. However, when the crowd you are trying to convince doesn’t budge, even persuasive words can’t turn a hardened heart.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] – Galatians 3:1-2

In the middle of the first Century, a group of new Christians formed a sect to appease Jews who didn’t want to let go of following the Torah. According to the apostle Paul, a group known as the Judaizers infiltrated the Church at Galatia. Unwilling to let go of Jewish traditions, these religious leaders began to convince members of the church to add circumcision to salvation. Ingrained within many followers from birth, this new teaching spread quickly throughout the Galatian Church. Subsequently, Jewish Christians began to look down upon and separate from Gentile converts to Christianity. Thus, Paul rebukes leaders in the passage above.

Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? – Galatians 3:4-5

In recent years, new debates often related to theology have caused divisions within the 21st century church. One common dispute involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Some denominations claim that this is only accomplished immediately following a believer’s baptisms. Other doctrines refer to a Day of Pentecost moment where individuals experience a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When these two ideologies clash, I’ve witnessed nasty confrontations on both sides. Yet, according to the Bible, Romans 8:1-8 and Romans 10:9-11 highlight how people of faith can receive the Holy Spirit today. May this occur without any hesitation so that lives are transformed by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Blessed More than Ever Before

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. These attitudes to strive for while on earth each begin with the word blessed. Jesus suggests that those who demonstrate or possess these qualities will be filled with peace and prosperity. These 9 traits are realistic goals depending upon your DNA and personality type. However, you won’t have every spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Nonetheless, once these hidden talents are revealed to you, blessings come as these gifts are put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6.

Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal. 20 But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Matthew 6:19-21.

In the second chapter of his sermon, Jesus turns his attention toward motives. While probing human hearts, Jesus calls his followers to look inward to examine where you stand. Using treasures in the context of priorities, Jesus wants to know if your focus is on the eternal or temporary? Jesus suggests if your heart is in the right spot, the Lord will provide everything you need for life, Matthew 6:33. However, if you are distracted by fame, fortune or temporary pleasures, blessings will be replaced with a spirit of emptiness.

Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings. You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it, Malachi 3:8-10.

An Old Testament prophet adds a new dimension to the source of blessings. According to Malachi, blessings are directly linked to the tithe individuals give to their local church. Those who withhold their income by giving less than ten percent of their salary will experience limited blessings. Malachi refers to this lack of trust as a way people defraud God. However, if you come to a point in your life when you acknowledge that everything you have is a gift from God, hearts are drawn toward tithing. Therefore, if you want to see the storehouses in heaven open up before your very eyes, make 2021 the year you began giving back to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Aokigahara Forest

Suicide Forest in Japan (Full Documentary) – YouTube

Aokigahara Forest was featured in the 2019 season debut of The Unexplained hosted by William Shatner. The first episode entitled Evil Places visited a couple of geographic locations with a troubled past. While Aokigahara translates into English as “Land of Blue Trees”, this place is known as the Japanese suicide forest. Located northwest of Mount Fuji on the Japanese island of Honshu, visitors find these 35 square meters area to be eerily silent. Remains of about a hundred suicides are removed from the Aokigahara forest every year. Despite warning signs throughout this parking lot, those who enter this forest appear to lose their minds due to the presence of demonic and evil spirits.

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness of [mind and] heart [in gratitude] for the abundance of all [with which He had blessed you], 48 Therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord shall send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and in want of all things; and He will put a yoke of iron upon your neck until He has destroyed you, Deuteronomy 28:47-48.

To those individuals who return to their cars, ropes and strings are located throughout the woods, personal belongings of the dead are scattered on the ground and rumors of ghosts haunting this domain continue today. Nearby residents of Aokigahara Forest have warned their children to stay away from this park for the past sixty years. Unfortunately, curious bystanders can’t resist the urge to explore the anomaly that people who enter this forest go crazy and commit suicide. If you think the Aokigahara Forest is merely an urban legend, local authorities no longer provide official data on suicide rates to journalists.

Moreover, He will bring upon you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. 61 Also every sickness and every affliction which is not written in this Book of the Law the Lord will bring upon you until you are destroyed, Deuteronomy 28:60-61.

In the Old Testament, Moses devotes to an entire chapter to blessings and curses. Moses spends the first 14 verses to explain how and why blessings occur. Meanwhile, the final 54 verses are designed to highlight how someone, something or a place can be cursed. As more paranormal investigations occur at Aokigahara Forest, perhaps researchers will unlock the secret of these mysterious suicides. However, for now the presence of evil spirits here is invisible to the human eye. Yet, if demons and evil spirits continue to prematurely end the lives to troubles souls, dead bodies are more than enough proof that Aokigahara Forest remains an evil place on earth.

by Jay Mankus

When Knee Jerk Decisions Prolong the Length of Your Storm

Movies are filled with bad decisions which form the plot of a screenplay. Anger, curiosity, knee jerk reactions or pride often make a difficult situation even worse. In the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Skandar Kaynes plays Edmund Pevensie, the third youngest child who suffers from an inferiority complex. When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are deported from London to the house of an eccentric professor during World War 2, Lucy discovers the magical land of Narnia. However, when Peter follows his younger sister into the Wardrobe (the portal to Narnia) the following day, an encounter with the White Witch places his entire family in danger.

As we were being dangerously tossed about by the violence of the storm, the next day they began to throw the freight overboard; 19 And the third day they threw out with their own hands the ship’s equipment (the tackle and the furniture). 20 And when neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small tempest kept raging about us, all hope of our being saved was finally abandoned, Acts 27:18-20.

Sailing on an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy, a northeaster disrupts Paul’s trip to Rome. The winds did not let up for several days, slowing the progress of this journey. Warning the crew about a vision he received from God, Acts 27:10, the centurion did not listen, convincing by the captain and owner of this vessel to press on. According to the passage above, conditions continued to worsen as the sun, moon and stars were not visible as the storm blocked out any signs of light. Unfortunately, many Christians go unheard as experts follow science rather than follow the voice of God.

Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. 22 But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. 23 For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, 24 And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you. 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me; Acts 27:21-25.

Pastor’s during the Coronavirus face a similar situation today. As local and state officials are placing bans or limits on the number of individuals who can attend church, spiritual leaders are in a difficult spot. Do elders make knee jerk reactions by disregarding state mandates or carefully follow social distancing standards? Human nature tends to lead people to push the limits. Meanwhile, common sense leads human beings to be responsible by putting the needs of others in place of yourself. Whatever circumstance or trial that you face in 2021, make sure that knee jerk reactions don’t prolong the length of your current storm.

by Jay Mankus

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