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From Community to Chaos and Back

The final event of Jesus’ earthly ministry is the Last Supper. This meal celebrating the Jewish Passover was the last event with all 12 of his disciples present. What began as the very first communion service, ended in speculation as Jesus revealed that one of his disciples would soon betray Jesus. This pivotal gathering started with a spirit of community, but ended in chaos.

And as My Father has appointed a kingdom and conferred it on Me, so do I confer on you [the privilege and decree], 30 That you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan has asked excessively that [all of] you be given up to him [out of the power and keeping of God], that he might sift [all of] you like grain, 32 But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren, Luke 22:29-32.

The first person to crack was Judas Iscariot, the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry. Poisoned by betrayal and greed, Judas agreed to hand Jesus over to Jewish religious leaders. While this was going on, Peter was confronted by 3 different individuals about his connection with Jesus. Each time, Peter vehemently denied his association with Jesus. As the cock cried three times, a spirit of conviction and remorse sent Judas into the desert to take his own life.

And He said to them, When I sent you out with no purse or [provision] bag or sandals, did you lack anything? They answered, Nothing! 36 Then He said to them, But now let him who has a purse take it, and also [his provision] bag; and let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy a sword. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must yet be fulfilled in Me: And He was counted and classed among the wicked (the outlaws, the criminals); for what is written about Me has its fulfillment [has reached its end and is finally settled], Luke 22:35-37.

Chaos is a state of confusion, disarray, havoc, mayhem, tumult, and upheaval. As Jesus was arrested, beaten and crucified on a cross, the Savior of the world was lost. Or was he as the day turned to night, a great earthquake tore the temple curtain into two, and the dead began to walk through the streets of Jerusalem like a scene from the Walking Dead. Out of this chaos, God raised Jesus from the dead three days later. This is the reason why Christians celebrate Easter Sunday as God restored order by uniting a community of believers through faith.

by Jay Mankus

Afraid to Tell Her of Your Love

An inciting incident in a screen play is a story that upsets the status quo and begins the story’s movement forward. According to author and story guru John Truby, narrative drive is the forward propulsion of a story. When communicated in the right manner, this serves as a page turner, captivating audiences as viewers want to find out what will happen next. The inciting incident in my own life was the death of a good friend from high school. Since I was afraid to tell her of God’s love while she was battling cancer, her passing created a spirit of conviction within my heart for this to never happen again.

You have heard of my earlier career and former manner of life in the Jewish religion (Judaism), how I persecuted and abused the church of God furiously and extensively, and [with fanatical zeal did my best] to make havoc of it and destroy it. 14 And [you have heard how] I outstripped many of the men of my own generation among the people of my race in [my advancement in study and observance of the laws of] Judaism, so extremely enthusiastic and zealous I was for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when He, Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), saw fit and was pleased, Galatians 1:13-15.

In a letter to the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul writes about his previous life before entering a relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11. The first chapter of Galatians serves as a blue print for telling your own personal story about how you came to faith. This outline begins by sharing how you acted, behaved and lived your life prior to making your spiritual decision. The second part is simply when and how you were introduced to God. The final step of a testimony is explaining how your life has been changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. For some of you, this process may still be in it’s infancy. Yet, as time passes, light will expose traces of darkness that still exists within you.

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. Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God, 2 Peter 1:7-8.

To ensure that I was not afraid anymore, I sought out accountability groups, Bible Studies and Christian groups on campus to deepen my faith. I set up a duel internship at a Bible Fellowship Church in Ohio to spark my passion for youth ministry. I spent a decade serving as a Bible Teacher at a Christian High School and the last nine years sharing my journey with God by writing daily devotionals at Express Yourself 4 Him. I’d be lying if I haven’t fallen short in the area of fear. Yet, faith is a process of rising and falling, talking steps back and marching forward. My end goal is to no longer be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus so that when an opportunity to share my faith arises. When fear disappears, you will be prepared to give an answer for the faith that you now have, 1 Peter 3:15-16, this Easter Season.

by Jay Mankus

When You Become the Prodigal

During my final year of college, I joined an accountability group.  The official title of this weekly gathering was a Reunion Group with men whom I met during a Walk to Emmaus Retreat.  This sharing group involved giving a brief summary of your week which included your moment closest to Christ and furthest away from God.  Since we started meeting on Monday nights in the fall, most of this group stuck around to watch Monday Night Football afterwards.  Unfortunately, when I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio over break and the summer, I blended into the world like a chameleon.  Instead of developing into a light for Christ, I regularly walked in darkness like the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

“Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, and to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd to prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:4-7.

You don’t have to squander your wealth in wild living such as Luke 15:13-15 to become a prodigal.  Rather, idleness, too much free time and a lack of vision can lead a man after God’s own heart into sinful addictions.  Instead of going to work, David took the Spring off, wandering around the roof of his palace until a naked woman got his attention.  Like any curious man, David inquired into the status of this woman, hoping that she was single.  When the answer was no, the power of being king went to David’s head, allowing compromise to imagine the possibilities of just one night with this beautiful woman.  A follower of Jesus describes this state as lust and enticement dragging individuals away from common sense until sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. 11  Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.

After David realized that he was the person in Nathan’s analogy, Psalm 51 becomes a prayer for forgiveness.  Prior to this confession, sin had entangled David within a pit of despair.  Psalm 55:4-5 describes a spirit of conviction and guilt that overwhelms souls when you are revealed as the prodigal.  This narcissistic mindset blinds individuals from seeing the truth, the wayward of selfish decisions.  While David does provide a blueprint for reconciliation, the reality that I have become the prodigal is a tough pill to swallow.  It only took one week of skipping church, sleeping in on Sunday to lead me on the slippery slope that I resid.  Doing the right thing sounds so easy, but the apostle Paul reminds readers of Romans 7 that sin influences you to do what you hate.  Thus, the next time you find yourself like me, shocked to be the prodigal, take these biblical passages to heart so that forgiveness arrives in the morning, Lamentations 3:19-23.

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

Developing a Heart for Kingdom Things

When you consider common talk radio debates such as who is the greatest, opinions vary.  Some look strictly at physical features.  Others point to sheer strength and overall talent.  Meanwhile, intelligence, personality and wit is not overlooked.  On some occasions, appearance, gravitas and stature can be so impressive that even a prophet of God is fooled.  Such was the case in Samuel’s quest, seeking to find and anoint the next king of Israel.  In a rush to complete this task, Samuel neglected a vital trait, someone with a heart for kingdom things.

So it happened, when they had come, he looked at Eliab [the eldest son] and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:6-7.

As Samuel approached a handsome young man, the oldest son of Jesse, the Holy Spirit spoke.  It’s not clear if a spirit of conviction fell upon Samuel or God appeared in the form of a whisper.  Regardless of the communication style chosen by God, the message was crystal clear, this man is not the one, lacking a heart focused on kingdom things.  Since the heart is hidden from plain view, people can masquerade, pretend and trick others from discovering what’s in their heart.  While Samuel looked to the oldest son of Jesse to find Saul’s replacement, God’s candidate was in the fields, serving as a lowly shepherd.  Also a musician, David relied on God to provide for his daily needs.

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].  “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].  “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.  “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied, Matthew 5:3-6.

During his sermon on a mountain side, Jesus lists a series of qualities, beatitudes that serve as a to do list to develop a heart for kingdom things.  Like a spiritual blueprint, Jesus rolls out a vision to identify qualities Christian should spend their time on earth chasing after.  These characteristics are based upon sacrifice, servanthood and trusting God.  According to Jesus, individuals who pursue kingdom things will be completely satisfied.  While the world will continue to tempt souls to indulge their human nature, the Lord is searching for future leaders to elevate their faith.  May this blog inspire you to develop a heart for kingdom things.

by Jay Mankus

What Have I Been Doing?

The older that I get, each year seems to be a carbon copy of the last one.  I start off strong, eating healthy, exercising and spending regular time with God in January.  When spring arrives, I usually let some things slide, struggling with my diet and working out.  By the start of summer, my life resembles a house that hasn’t been cleaned for months.  As I was singing a worship song on Sunday, a spirit of conviction overwhelmed my soul.  Like a still small voice, the Holy Spirit asked, “what have you been doing the past few years?”

I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death], Romans 7:9.

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays Phil, a news reporter from Pittsburgh on assignment.  During his trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Murray get’s stuck in a blizzard, forced to stay another day.  Unfortunately, Murray is caught in a time gap, reliving Groundhog Day over and over again.  To a certain extent, I feel like Bill Murray’s character, trapped by time.  However, while Phil slowly learned to make the most of each day, I keep making the same mistakes year after year.  Like the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, I find myself stuck in a pattern of sin, unable to break free.

So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully delight in the law of God in my inner self [with my new nature], 23 but I see a different law and rule of action in the members of my body [in its appetites and desires], waging war against the law of my mind and subduing me and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is within my members, Romans 7:21-23.

Since I began working nights four years ago, attending church has been a difficult task due to my sleep schedule.  When I did miss a Sunday, I started watching a few pastors on TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  At some point, I thought I was strong enough to go without a congregation, attending church about once a month.  Yet, now I know I was misled by a rationalizing mind.  God designed human beings to be social creatures who thrive in a fellowship of believers.  Unfortunately, I was blinded, believing that I could exist apart from Christ’s body.  Boy… was I wrong!

Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? 25 Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin, Romans 7:24-25.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know the necessary course of action, reconnect and join a church.  As a former youth pastor, its hard to overlook all the flaws that I see when I visit a new church.  Nonetheless, I have to make a decision before the summer ends.  As I cope with my wretched state, at least deliverance is available to those who trust in Jesus Christ.  May this blog serve as a warning so that you don’t make the same mistake of trying to serve God without a church to call home.  If you don’t, you might find yourself pondering, “what have I been doing?”

by Jay Mankus

Reflecting God’s Glory

In the final scene of Cast Away, Tom Hanks comes to a four way intersection, unsure of which way to go.  The lone survivor of a plane crash, everyone assumed Hanks character Chuck Noland was dead, moving on with their lives despite never finding his body.  Stuck on a remote island for a couple of years, Hanks had ample time to reflect upon his years on earth.  Like many individuals consumed by advancement, promotions and work, Hanks never took the time to appreciate life.  After listening to a sermon last Sunday morning, a spirit of conviction overwhelmed my soul.  Somewhere along the way, I have forgotten to reflect God’s glory.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

On a sunny day, you can see your reflection from a still body of water.  However, when windy conditions arise, this reflection disappears, broken by choppy waves.  Looking back on my last seven years, I haven’t experienced many calm days.  Yet, I have allowed busyness to distract me from what’s really important in life.  Instead of living for a higher purpose, I have regressed, defaulting back to survivor mode.  Rather than concentrating on glorying God, the only thing people see are my selfish desires, void of a servant’s heart.  This sad reality has awoken my soul from years of a spiritual slumber.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 5:14-16.

No one likes to be ridiculed, teased or persecuted.  Yet, Jesus told his followers to embrace these attacks.  Unfortunately, this harsh climate is causing some believers to deflect, hide from or minimize their relationship with God.  Jesus addressed this fear in the first century, providing instructions to be bold, shining God’s light wherever you go.  One of Jesus’ disciples takes a similar stance, 1 Peter 3:17-18, encouraging followers to not worry about suffering for doing good.  This suffering should be viewed as a badge of honor.  If you can reach this point of spiritual maturity, then the world will begin to see glimpses of God’s glory, a reflection of the love of Jesus inside your heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Purging of the Second Glance

The concept of the second glance was first introduced by Jesus during his first century teaching simply known as the Sermon on the Mount.  Speaking to common citizens with many in attendance the poor and middle class, Jesus gave a brief history of the Ten Commandments.  Instead putting his listeners to sleep, Jesus make a shocking revelation.  Lusting at someone in your heart as a second glance is equivalent to committing adultery.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Matthew 5:27-28.

Gasps, murmurs and whispers likely echoed throughout this crowd.  Meanwhile, a spirit of conviction struck the pure in heart, exposing the guilt of unwholesome stares of their past.  Hidden from view, hearts began to acknowledge the truth from Jesus’ statement.  Instantaneously, minds connected the dots from appreciating one’s beauty to lustful stares which give birth to fascination and impure thoughts.  Although everyone heard the message, it’s likely that only some believed the act of a second glance broke the  seventh commandment.

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell,” Matthew 5:29-30.

Jesus provides the cure to the second glance in the verse above.  Quoting from the Old Testament, Jesus urges his audience to purge that which influences you to sin.  Indirectly, Jesus is referring to masturbation, pornography and voyeurism.  While this advice seems rather harsh, Jesus wants individuals to remove the atmosphere, bad habits, conditions and images that promote sin.  For me this spiritual house cleaning took years to completely scourge from my life.  If you truly want to purge yourself from the second glance, I highly recommend reading Restoring the Foundations: An Integrated Approach to Healing.  This book will help you connect the dots, setting in motion the path to healing.  Remain steadfast on your journey toward freedom.

by Jay Mankus

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Last weekend was the first Bay Hill Invitational without its tournament host Arnold Palmer who passed away last fall.  Beside his banner career as a former major champion on the PGA tour, Arnold Palmer was a sports icon whose fans established an army of followers.  Palmer’s passion and vision gave birth to a 24 hour channel devoted to golf, the Golf Channel.  This network aired a week of programming to honor this special man by remembering the thousands of people he touched.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

One of the specials entitled Arnie and Me recounts stories and testimonials from letters Arnold Palmer wrote by hand himself.  Despite the temptation to change with the times by sending emails or texts, Arnold Palmer felt letters were much more personal.  Thus, in victory and defeat, Arnie spent half a century encouraging the heartbroken and praising the successful.  You didn’t have to be famous to receive a letter from Arnie.  Nor did you have to be a golfer.  Rather, if you touched his heart or was moved to compassion, a letter was sent.

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it,” Habakkuk 2:2.

After watching this show last weekend, a spirit of conviction fell upon me.  During my years in college, I wrote up to 100 people during one semester.  Yet, the cost of stamps, time and a lost interest caused me to end this hobby decades ago.  While I probably won’t restart writing letters, this experience has led me to journal my daily thoughts in this blog.  I’m not sure how long this will last or what direction I may go in.  Nonetheless, I believe the lost art of letter writing is something you may want to consider if you feel God is calling you to encourage, inspire or touch souls like the countless letters of Arnold Palmer.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Hate The Person You Have Become

Starting over or beginning from a new point of reference can be scary.  Yet, every New Year’s Day individuals try to become a little better, happier and healthier.  However, if you have ever followed in the footsteps of Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way,” truth is relative.  Since the lyrics of My Way pretty much sums up how I lived in 2015, I became blinded from the person that I had become.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done, Romans 1:28.

Unfortunately, when your life is obviously dysfunctional, there’s a temptation to compare yourself to those whom you deem lesser or worse.  In the first century, the apostle Paul sensed this within the hearts and minds of those who attended the church at Rome.  Calling it like he saw it, Paul confronts those who have the mindset, “well at least I’m not like that addict, criminal or prostitute over there.”  The other night at work, I caught myself as I gossiped about a co-worker.  At this very moment, a spirit of conviction consumed me.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things, Romans 2:1.

During the first week of my current fast, the Holy Spirit has been opening my eyes to a painful reality.  While I currently hate the person I’ve become, confession is the first step to recovery.  Finding the narrow road that leads to life eternal may take more time than I want, but I know the journey back is worth it.  Like Moses in Hebrews 11:24-27, you have to know when to break free from your past, walking by faith until the person you despise becomes the child God desires.  As a youth pastor once told me, “it’s never too late to change!”

by Jay Mankus

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