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Why an Emergency Fund is Essential

Rainy day funds are usually used to apply to the funds maintained by most U.S. states to help deal with budget shortfalls in years where revenues do not match expenditures.  In the days of fiscal responsibility, state leaders annually balanced their budgets rather than borrowing from the future to pay for present unforeseen costs.  The state of Texas uses an Economic Stabilization Fund as their rainy day fund, tapping into this when deemed necessary.  Unfortunately, most modern leaders rely on the federal government as their piggy bank, taking more than putting back.  Thus, when disaster strikes unexpectedly, many are left begging the United States for federal assistance.

The younger of them [inappropriately] said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided the estate between them. 13 A few days later, the younger son gathered together everything [that he had] and traveled to a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and immoral living, Luke 15:12-13.

The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most referenced stories in the Bible.  Yet, few recognize the mention of an emergency.  Just as this immature son wasted his inheritance on wild living, a great famine swept across this region.  Luke uses the phrase “he began to do without and be in need.”  It sounds like this young man was forced to be become a pan handler, scrounging around the streets to survive.  Like Joseph during the famine in Egypt, you have to save during times of great abundance to endure lean periods.  The prodigal son was so consumed by indulging his sinful nature that he neglected to create an emergency fund.

Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to do without and be in need. 15 So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him, Luke 15:14-16.

While human beings make plans for the future, only God knows your ultimate fate.  Two weeks ago I felt fine, unaware of the internal state of my body.  Today, I have to watch everything I eat and drink so that my blood pressure returns to healthy levels.  I’m not homeless like the prodigal son, but I am forced to re-evaluate my diet, exercise and daily routine.  Foregoing my favorite meals is going to be difficult, but if I want to improve my overall healthy changes must be made immediately.  Emergency funds are a biblical concept to help you through transitional phases in life.  When medical conditions take you away from work or the ability to earn money, savings are there to fall back on.  May this blog inspire you to prepare like Joseph in the Old Testament, making the most of rich harvests by establishing an emergency fund.

by Jay Mankus

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The Connection between Confidence and Passion

Whenever an individual experiences a glimpse of their full potential, an infusion of confidence emerges.  If this stretch continues for an extended period of time, passion is conceived to ignite future possibilities.  A recent example is my son Daniel, who shot one under par through a five hole stretch early last golf season.  When his chip for birdie lipped out on the hardest hole, excitement, hope and promise entered Daniel’s mind.  A few days later, during a spring break trip, Daniel stayed up past midnight, talking about his endless potential in golf.

Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:2-4.

Unfortunately, golf is like life, it can be cruel at times, leaving you lost as if you have never played this game before.  After a few embarrassing weeks on the course, confidence and passion left Daniel as quickly as it arrived.  As I look at my own life, I am going through a similar stage.  As I approach my 50th birthday, I have put most of my time and energy into writing.  When I endure numerous rejections with few signs of progress, I question if it’s worth continuing to write.  As my mind participates in a tug of war like the song Should I Stay or Should I Go, my inner confidence and passion has deflated.

Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him, Colossians 3:17.

The apostle Paul provides advice to anyone who has lost confidence and passion for life.  In a letter to the church of Colosse, Paul urges individuals toward a new mindset.  Instead of allowing self pity to develop, set your heart and mind on things above.  Don’t live for yourself; rather place all your onus on serving God.  When your life is all about you, confidence and passion can be like riding a roller coaster.  Yet, the moment you place your focus on eternity, your purpose for living changes.  Therefore, if you are like me, sick and tired of the highs and lows in life, let the Holy Spirit raise you up, fueled by a mind set on heavenly things.

by Jay Mankus

Consider It a Pure Joy?

As someone born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, I guess you can say the Bible was forced upon me.  The congregation my family attended was old school, believing priests were the only ones who could accurately handle and interrupt the Bible.  Reading the Bible outside of church was not recommended.  However, as I began to search for the meaning of life in high school, the homilies I heard from the pulpit didn’t sit well with my soul.  As a teenager I wrestled with respecting authority figures when their message seemed to be contradictory.  When I began to study the Bible on my own, several passages were difficult to comprehend.

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials, James 1:2.

My spiritual mentor in high school, Ken Horne, encouraged me to read the book of James, written for first century Christians scattered throughout the Middle East.  I didn’t get very far before coming across a foreign concept, the second verse in this book.  Consider it a pure joy when you endure trials?  Huh?  Did I miss something?  Well, over time I realized that trials serve as opportunities to grow spiritually.  However, when you are sitting in the emergency room, receiving bad news from a phone call or going through a rough stretch in life, joy is the last thing on my mind.  Like an undefeated athlete or team, sometimes you have to lose to see what you need to address, improve or solidify going forward.

Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:3-4.

Perhaps, the author of this epistle, the earthly brother of Jesus is reflecting upon the mistakes of his past.  When Jesus is your older brother, every child who follows has impossible shoes to fill, a disappointment to mom and dad.  Yet, James learned the more his faith was tested, maturity and peace increased.  As I look back on my own life, celebrating my 35th anniversary of accepting Jesus into my heart today, Romans 10:9-10, I can relate to James.  If I didn’t go through a 20 year battle with iritis, arthritis of the eye, I wouldn’t have a special appreciation for the gift of sight.  Likewise, my recent health issues with high blood pressure and my heart has opened my eyes to the importance of nutrition.  I’m sure there will be other unforeseen events in my future, but as I face each challenge, I do so with a quiet joy, knowing that I am an unfinished product, pottery in the hands of an almighty Potter.

by Jay Mankus

The Guardian

The term guardian has a rich history.  The Guardian is a former British daily newspaper which began in 1821 with its last publication in 1959.  Guardian is also a media group owned by the Scott Trust; created in 1936 to secure the financial and editorial independence of its paper.   While the definition refers to a defender, keeper or protector, the concept of a guardian has inspired several movies.  Most recent films include Guardians of the Galaxy 1, 2 and 3.  In 2018, Bryan Bailey wrote a film where Garret Jackson returns to his home town seven years after his parents’ death.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [of Jerusalem]—From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth, Psalm 121:1-2.

The Bible eludes to the true guardian.  The Psalmist refers to God as the keeper of Israel.  While invisible to the human eye, the presence of the Creator of the heavens and earth can be felt daily.  Answered prayers, blessings and miracles are subtle signs that stimulate faith of those paying attention.  Meanwhile, guardian angels are busy behind the scenes, protecting God’s saints from the fiery arrows from the evil One, Ephesians 6:16.  Although human nature may persuade some to take credit for that which God has done, God’s invisible attributes can not be ignored, Romans 1:20.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, Psalm 91:11.

One of the greatest examples of guardian angels is found in Psalm 91.  According to the author, God commands his angels to guard you in all your ways.  The question is, do only Christians get angels or do non-believers simply reject their guardian?  Those who adhere to John Calvin’s teaching would suggest that God does not waste any angel, making guardians angels limited.  However, Armenians believe that Jesus died for everyone.  Applying this theology to angels means that everyone, not just the elect have a guardian angel.  Regardless of your theological beliefs, the important thing to realize is the Guardian in heaven is waiting for souls to repent from their sins by turning to Jesus.  May the promise of Romans 5:2 encourage you to approach God’s throne of grace.

by Jay Mankus

When You Put God First

Leadership refers to being in the position to guide a group of people.  Leadership roles vary from a boss, captain, head, principle or superior.  While some people are born with leadership skills, most individuals learn from a mentor.  This process often begins as a teenager, continuing throughout life as you take the baton before its your turn to handoff to someone else.  During the exodus out of Egypt, Joshua was waiting in the wings until replacing Moses as the leader of Israel.

He said, “No; rather I have come now as captain of the army of the Lord.” Then Joshua fell with his face toward the earth and bowed down, and said to him, “What does my lord have to say to his servant?” – Joshua 5:14

The goal at hand in these days was to enter God’s promised land.  The obstacle, facing a land of giants protected by a mighty wall surrounding Jericho.  As captain of the army of the Lord, Joshua doesn’t exhibit an earthly style of leadership.  Rather, Joshua is overwhelmed by the presence of God, falling prostrate to the ground, bowing on his knees.  Perhaps, Joshua is uncertain, not sure what to do.  Thus, Joshua seeks God’s counsel, eagerly waiting for direction.

The captain of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy (set apart to the Lord).” And Joshua did so, Joshua 5:15.

In the passage above, Joshua is merely modeling what Moses taught him.  Back in Exodus 3, an angel of the Lord first appeared to Moses in a burning bush.  Just Moses took off his sandals, obedient to the Word of the Lord, Joshua does the same, acknowledging this holy ground.  According to Jesus, when you put God first by seeking after righteousness, Matthew 6:33-34, all these things will be given unto you.  The testimony of Joshua is living proof as the walls of Jericho turned to rubble with the blast of seven trumpets in Joshua 6.  Whatever you do in life, don’t forget to put God first.

by Jay Mankus

When God Has a Change in Plans

Back in 2016, I had emergency eye surgery in my right eye to prevent glaucoma from escalating.  After this operation, my surgeon informed me of a cataract that would need to be addressed in the future.  The initial goal was to wait a year then have cataract surgery.  However, this got pushed back until yesterday or least that’s what I thought.  When my blood pressure went from 130 over 80 Tuesday morning to 177 over 130 Thursday morning, God had a change of plans.  This procedure that involved six months of planning was abruptly cancelled.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

The older I get, the more analytical I become, pondering the reason for this delay.  Could I have died during this operation?  Did God prevent an accident from occurring?  Can God heal my eye supernaturally foregoing the need for this procedure?  Or did God want me to become painfully aware of a more pressing health need in my life?  As I ask these questions to God, I am still awaiting a clear response.  Nonetheless, King Solomon prepared the nation of Israel by warning people of God’s ability to alter, change or redirect your path.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand, Proverbs 19:21.

Currently, I find myself perplexed, essentially placed on bed rest until my blood pressure returns to a more normal level.  A few weeks before my senior year of college began, I broke my foot playing sand volleyball.  Instead of enjoying the final weeks of summer, I laid in bed, elevating my foot to reduce the swelling.  Five years ago a sledding accident resulted in 2 broken ribs and a collapsed lung, forced to take a medical leave of absence from work for five weeks.  When God quickly changes your plans, it’s not fun.  Yet, as I lie around in bed for a few days, I have time to reflect.  As I do, this is God’s way of reintroducing me to his plans, not mine.  Thus, I sit here quietly, listening intently and writing down for others in a blog what I am learning as I go through this tryin time in life.

by Jay Mankus

Making Peace with God

Hollywood usually falls short when attempting to accurately illustrate a biblical principle.  Yet, in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the evolution of Gary Sinise’ character helps viewers understand what is means to make peace with God.  Lieutentant Dan is born into a long lineage of military officers.  In his mind, Lieutentant Dan believed he was destined to die on a battlefield in Vietnam along with his battalion.  However, Forrest Gump’s act of bravery forced Lieutentant Dan to live the rest of his life on earth without legs.  As Forrest ran off to pursue other aspirations in life, Lieutentant Dan was bound to a wheel chair.  Bitterness grew within Lieutentant Dan’s heart until Gump became a shrimp boat captain.  Volunteering as Gump’s second mate, Lieutentant Dan wrestles with his purpose on earth.  During a major hurricane, Lieutentant Dan verbalizes his frustrations, welcoming the wrath of nature head on as if to seek a duel with God.  After this storm passes, Lieutentant Dan makes peace with God.

One of the criminals who had been hanged [on a cross beside Him] kept hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us [from death]!” 40 But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?-Luke 23:39-40

A first century doctor, no stranger to death, shares a story about Jesus just before his death on a cross.  For some reason, this encounter is glanced over by the other 3 gospel authors, skipped to cover other healings, miracles and stories.  In the passage below, Luke reveals steps toward making peace with God.  The first involves acknowledging your imperfections or as the apostle Paul once said, “falling short of God’s glory,” Romans 3:23.  Once individuals confess their sins to God, step two is geared toward securing an eternal destiny.  The disciple whom Jesus loved once proclaimed, “you don’t have to hope for an answer; you can know for certain,” 1 John 5:13.  On their death bed, hanging from a cross, one criminal went to hell and other was promised to be with Jesus in paradise, heaven.  This is one of the best biblical examples of making peace with God.

We are suffering justly, because we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, [please] remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 Jesus said to him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” Luke 23:41-43.

Whenever I attend a funeral, enter an emergency room or take off in an airplane, making peace with God is brought to the forefront.  Instead of reading a book or watching a movie, the fragility of life flashes through my mind.  Sadly, most people don’t consider making peace with God until its too late.  As my blood pressure sky rocketed yesterday while sitting in preop, I was powerless, unable to control my breathing.  When my eye surgery was cancelled, too dangerous to perform due to my elevated blood pressure, my perspective on life changed like Lieutentant Dan in Forrest Gump.  Maybe I won’t be the person I hoped for or be able to achieve the dreams that I aspire, but at some point I have to make peace with God.  I guess it’s time to surrender my goals by yielding to God’s ultimate plan for my life on earth.  Although I still don’t know exactly what that is, my recent health scare has provided me the opportunity to make peace with God where I am.

by Jay Mankus

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