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A Reason To Celebrate

According to a recent AAA survey, 112 million American traveled 50 miles or more to celebrate Christmas in 2018.  Like most holidays, airports and highways will be packed as families travel back and forth from these destinations.  Yet, how many arrived safely without incident?  Furthermore, how many individuals gave thanks to God upon arriving?

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean,” William Bradford, 1620.

The quote above seems applicable for any trip that you take.  In an exhibit dedicated to Pilgrims at the Museum of the Bible,  Bradford’s recollection of the Pilgrim’s landfall upon Plymouth Rock reveals the faith of those who set sail across the Atlantic.  Apparently, the Mayflower experienced rough seas, squalls and unsettling weather.  Nonetheless, when this journey was complete, God received the credit for arriving safely.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

As someone who has driven nearly one million miles behind the wheel of a car, my appreciation for God is lacking.  Sure, when road conditions are treacherous I cry out to the Lord, but rarely do I thank God when I arrive.  As I travel back home in the morning, I need to apply the passage above.  Praise should be continual, daily and genuine.  Instead of taking credit for keeping my family safe, I need to thank angels, divine intervention and God’s mercy for watching over me and my family.  Perhaps, we can all learn from the Pilgrims, with a reason to celebrate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Replacing Your Filters

Depending upon the quality of your air conditioner and furnace unit, air filters need to be replaced as soon as thirty days or as long as six months.  The U.S. Department of Energy claims that replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 10 percent.  Meanwhile, furnace filters should be changed every two to three months depending upon the size of your filter.  Whether you live in an apartment, condo or home, basic upkeep is essential to prolonging your appliances.

We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.

The Bible refers to a different kind of filter.  According to the apostle Paul, the human mind is a spiritual filter.  Whenever a thought enters your head, God has given individuals the ability to stop evil from corrupting your body.  Before I became a Christian, I was oblivious to the concept of angels, demons and the powers of darkness.  Yet, the more that I read the Bible, the more I understand the importance of replacing your filter by making every thought obedient to Christ.  This is accomplished by memorizing and meditating upon verses of the Bible to prevent evil from persuading souls to give into temptation.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places, Ephesians 6:12.

While the media attempts to convince the world that certain individuals are the enemy, the apostle Paul corrects the record in the passage above.  Sure, there will always be people that rub you the wrong way by getting under your skin.  Yet, the Devil uses physical opponents to suppress any joy that you may have in your heart.  This is why replacing your spiritual filter daily with biblical principles, God’s promises and truth is essential.  The next time strange thoughts catch you off guard, replace the filter in your mind with the Word of God.  May this practice renew and transform your mind, Romans 12:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

Celebration and Suffering

News of an expecting birth is worthy of a celebration in the form of baby shower.  After labor ushers into this world a new human being, joy consumes families of this infant.  In the years that follow, there are a series of memorable moments, first steps, first words and first day of school.  As new parents work together to raise children, celebrating is often replaced by suffering.  From childhood to adolescence, life only gets more complicated, especially for first time parents.  At some point, celebration fades away as suffering intensifies.  I don’t mean to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but this is a reality of life.

Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise), Luke 16:22-23.

After sharing the parable of the unjust manager, Jesus transitions into another parable.  Entitled the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights a reason to celebrate and another to fear.  Using a story about a rich and poor man, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to detail what heaven and hell is like.  When Lazarus dies, God rewards this poor man with what Jesus calls paradise.  Meanwhile, a self-centered rich man who cared only about himself was sent to hell.  According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal suffering, able to see those celebrating above, but unable to do anything to help their agony and pain.  This fact should convict and inspire the living to avoid a similar eternal destiny.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame,’ Luke 16:24.

In the previous chapter, Luke, a well known first century doctor recalls three parables that illustrate God’s grace, love and mercy.  Whether a possession is lost like a coin or pet, heaven celebrates each time a sinner repents.  Angels are programmed to embrace hearts that confess the error of their way.  Meanwhile, even if you are a prodigal son or daughter who has left your family, God will never abandon you.  These stories have been written to urge souls to surrender your life to follow Jesus.  Although this road is narrow as detailed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, any worldly suffering that you might endure is worth this decision.  Therefore, do not ignore the passage listed above so that your eternal destination will be celebrated at your funeral rather than suffer, not knowing whether you are in heaven or hell.

by Jay Mankus

Addiction and Dieting

The Bible blames addiction on a hidden force within human bodies.  The apostle Paul refers to this as fleshly desires, a nature that leads individuals to give into sin.  Prior to the introduction of a spiritual law, this sinful nature went unnoticed, accepted as a part of life.  However, when you apply biblical principles to addiction and dieting, a first century Christian makes a shocking revelation.

We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity], Romans 7:14-15.

No matter how hard you try to do the right thing, carnal, unspiritual and worldly influences often lead people to do the exact opposite.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses baffled and bewildered to explain his addictive actions.  Like someone in need of rehab, Paul couldn’t control himself, doing the very thing that he hates.  While I have never been to a detox center, I hope that these words of the apostle Paul are applied to modern clinics to help people see that addiction and dieting have a spiritual connection.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. 17 For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. 18 But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law, Galatians 5:16-18.

Since the end of November, I have been forced to drastically change my diet due to major health concerns.  As I have tried to eat right the last two weeks, I have found that my body is addicted to unhealthy food.  Like an alcoholic longing for a drink, my body daily craves junk food, sugar and sweets.  In the passage above, the cure to overcoming any addiction is provided.  Within any decision that you make, there are two forces waging war to control your soul.  The sinful nature and the Holy Spirit are like an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, whispering into each ear.  Until individuals learn to habitually walk in the Holy Spirit, to keep in step with God’s Word, Galatians 5:25, success will be limited.  However, the more you apply these principles to addictions, bad habits and dieting, God can and will transform your life.

by Jay Mankus

Digesting Prophecy

The dictionary refers to prophecy as a “miracle of knowledge, a declaration, description or representation of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, discern, or conjecture.”  In ancient days, Jewish leaders relied on prophets, people with the gift of discernment, able to see or sense future events.  Men and women of God relied on a special anointing to help advise and guide kings starting with Saul, then continuing this practice throughout the Old Testament.

Then the angel whom I had seen standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand [to swear an oath] to heaven, and swore [an oath] by [the name of] Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but when it is time for the trumpet call of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God [that is, His hidden purpose and plan] is finished, as He announced the gospel to His servants the prophets, Revelation 10:5-7.

Unfortunately, modern times have revealed false prophets, schemers and teachers.  These individuals have deceived vulnerable souls, in some cases extorting money from desperate and poor people hoping for a miracle.  These factors have made believing in the concept of a genuine prophet today difficult.  When I read passages from John the revelator, it takes time to digest what is written, especially in the passage above and below.  Any curious person would want to know the mystery of God.  Pursuing this hidden information might unveil God’s purpose and will for your life, but this quest will not happen over night.  Rather, digesting prophecy is a lengthy process, causing one famous pastor to wait 20 years before preaching on Revelation.

Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking to me, and saying, “Go, take the book (scroll) which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey,” Revelation 10:8-9.

In verse 9, Christians are encouraged to read the Bible, chew and meditate upon the messages within this book.  According to the revelation above, some of the teachings of the Bible won’t sit well, like a bitter taste in your mouth.  Other topics will taste as sweet as honey.  Thus, as you begin to digest prophecy, its not an easy process.  Certain aspects will remain confusing and hidden, leaving your understanding about parts of the Bible in the dark.  As a former Bible teacher, this is frustrating, especially when you have to address the unknown in class.  Nonetheless, I press on, honesty confessing that there are books and issues that I am still digesting.  May this blog motivate you to diligently study the Word of God so that the unclear becomes clear as people digest prophecy.

by Jay Mankus

The Seventh Hand

The oldest preserved measuring rod is a copper-alloy bar discovered by the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger during an excavation of the ancient city of Nippur.  This device is believed to have been used 2650 years before Christ.  According to the Bible, a cubit is the earliest form of measurement.  A cubit is the forearm length from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  Thus, the hand was an essential body part necessary to complete the most basic measurement.

And these are the measurements of the altar [of burnt offering] in cubits (the cubit being a [long] cubit [the length of a forearm] and a hand width): the base shall be a cubit [long] and a cubit wide, with its border on its edge all around it of a span [in width]. And this shall be the height of the base of the altar, Ezekiel 43:13.

Within the Old Testament, some of the authors introduce the concept of guardian angels.  The Psalmist describes this spiritual being as one who encamps around those who fear God, Psalm 34:7.  In addition, God commands angels to guard you in all of your ways, Psalm 91:11.  This invisible being is like the hand of God watching over your life.  Yet, the Psalmist does include a requirement, fearing God.  The context of this fear is similar to a holy reverence, respecting the Creator of life on earth.  The degree to which you fear the Lord serves as a measuring stick of your faith.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future], John 16:13.

Prior to his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus refers to a Holy Ghost that will be sent after his departure.  New Testament authors refer to this being as a counselor, sent to guide and direct followers of Christ to a complete understanding of truth.  Like another hand to hold, nudge or tap, God uses angels and the Holy Spirit to seek and to save those who are spiritually lost.  Depending upon your current state of mind, may the presence of guardian angels and God’s Spirit encourage you to hold onto the seventh hand, messengers of God, until the storms in life subside.

by Jay Mankus

 

That’s Impossible

It’s a Miracle debuted on Pax Television in 1998.  This sixty minute documentary examined true stories that on the surface appeared to be impossible.  However, as eyewitnesses recounted these events, it was clear that angels, divine intervention and the power of prayer gave birth to a miracle.  This program that ran for six seasons reminding me that with God, anything is possible.

Now as He approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her [in the funeral procession]. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt [great] compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep,” Luke 7:12-13.

When I first read the passage above years ago, I didn’t conceptualize the magnitude of what Jesus was able to do.  I’ve attended several funerals where the victim died unexpectedly, long before they should have.  As a bystander, Jesus is moved by the Holy Spirit, stopping what he was doing to approach the casket.  When the pallbearer’s stopped, Jesus touched the bier and spoke life into this dead man.  What Jesus did defies logic and medical science, a resurrection.

And He came up and touched the bier [on which the body rested], and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise [from death]!”15 The man who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother, Luke 7:14-15.

In 2015, Project Afterlife took a closer look at near death experiences.  This Destination America series explored cases of individuals presumed dead by doctors, but miraculously awoke, given a mulligan, a new lease on life.  According to reports from missionaries in Africa, resurrections aren’t limited to the Bible.  According to eyewitnesses, persistent prayers refused to believe that their loved ones have passed on.  Like the example from the film Faith Like Potatoes, the impossible is occurring as the pronounced dead are being raised back to life.

by Jay Mankus

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