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Tag Archives: Bethlehem

What If Herod Got His Wish

The older I become, the more I find myself playing the What if Game.  What if this happened instead of that?  If this went my way or if I waited a little longer, would the outcome have changed?  While I was pondering several possibilities, a thought popped into my mind.  What if King Herod got his wish, finding the Messiah; then killing Jesus to remain in power?

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him,” Matthew 2:7-8.

While churches across the country and throughout the world will sing about a Silent Night, this great event could have been marred by tragedy.  The Magi could have sought to please King Herod, returning to his palace, directing him to the exact location of this child.  Yet, divine intervention persuaded these wise men to do what was right, taking an alternate route back home.  Meanwhile, the Lord spoke to Joseph in a vivid dream, prompting an immediate departure for Egypt, to escape Herod’s sword.  If not for these actions, the Messiah would be no more.

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.  When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,   where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” Matthew 2:13-15.

If Herod got his wish, the world would be doomed.  Sure, depending upon where you live, there are some safe places that exist.  Yet, without the completion of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, there would be no hope.  The last 2000 years would have been like The Game of Thrones with one person after another doing whatever it takes to reach the throne.  Thankfully, this what if scenario was stopped in it’s tracks by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If God has the power to intervene like this past historical event, imagine what the Lord can do today within hearts and souls eager to serve God.  I’m not sure what will happen next, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Who’s the New Guy?

Despite efforts to create equality in all avenues of life, not much has changed.  While there will always be exceptions to the rule, breaking into new circles, finding a job or getting a promotion is still based upon who you know, not what you know.  Trying to advance to new heights takes an incredible talent, luck or supernatural intervention.  However, every so often someone new arrives on the scene causing the masses to ask, “who’s the new guy?”

The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law, Mark 1:22.

Early in the first century, Jesus had the odds stacked against him.  His birthplace of Bethlehem and residence in Nazareth was a negative, inspiring doubts from even potential disciples, “what good can come from Nazareth?”  Nonetheless, Jesus continued to follow God’s will, gathering a team of twelve disciples before introducing himself to the world.  This wait ended in Mark 1:21-28.  Without an Ivy League Degree or Seminary training, Jesus taught with an authority never seen before or since.  Following a Sabbath in Capernaum, the legend of Jesus was born.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him,” Mark 1:27.

The religious leaders of the day were baffled by the insight Jesus possessed.  The words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 highlight the fact that God’s wisdom is a mystery, hidden from the intelligent in this world.  Subsequently, the only training requirement necessary to tap into this spiritual realm is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.  Regardless of your age, background and knowledge, the Spirit will provide the answers you need in life.  Yet, an invisible force, the sinful nature stands in your way of accessing fruits of the Spirit.  Since with God all things are possible, perhaps people will become attractive to your own relationship with God by wondering, “who’s the new guy or girl?”

by Jay Mankus

An Extreme Spiritual Make-over

 And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7

If I had to give an honest assessment, I too would have responded like the Inn Keepers in Bethlehem.  Similar to a vacation destination during Spring Break Week, the Roman Census quickly filled up all available accommodations.  Thus, the poor, unprepared and those stuck in traffic scrambled around like a male shopping for presents on Christmas Eve.  Only 1 person, a good Samaritan type, made room for Mary and Joseph.

In this day and age, distractions abound, pulling individuals in all sorts of directions.  Subsequently, scheduling time for God is usually the first to get cut or limited to a brief glance of a verse or two and a lame prayer.  Despite the lulls that may occur in a car, at home or during work, exhaustion keeps many from developing and or maintaining a healthy relationship with Jesus.  As I evaluate my 2014 calendar, I’m afraid I fit into Jesus’ harsh criticism of those follow the Lord with their lips, but not with their actions.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! – Matthew 7:21-23

If you too find yourself in this predicament, perhaps its time for an extreme spiritual make-over.  Philippians 2:12 suggests to begin working out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Solomon agrees, as fearing God in the beginning of knowledge, Proverbs 1:7.  When you allow the Holy Spirit to “Pump You Up,” missed opportunities of the past can lead to pivot points along your faith journey, Colossians 4:5.  In the end, make room for Jesus, whatever the cost, Matthew 16:24-27 so that one day you will hear from the King himself, “well done my good and faithful servant!”- Matthew 25:23

by Jay Mankus

 

A Family Christmas

The origin of Christmas is based upon the words found in the gospel of Luke 2:1-7.  In a sense, the census issued by Caesar Augustus forced a family reunion of sorts.  However, in this case, “everyone went to his own town to register,” Luke 2:3, back to your home town where relatives were born and raised.  Thus, Mary and Joseph rode on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem nicknamed the City of David creating the first Christmas traffic jam.

Like finding a cheap hotel in Dover, Delaware during Race Weekend, Joseph didn’t have a prayer.  With the odds stacked against him, Joseph begged, pleaded and sought out a hole in the wall motel.  This dive was filled with manure, cold drafts and the constant noise of animals.  Yet, in this desolate place, the world welcomed a Savior, who came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.  When the shepherds arrived, the first Christmas concert was performed by angels, praising God for the miracle of life.

Today, Christmas has become a day where families reunite, if only for a day, meal or weekend.  Putting the past behind, its a time of reflection, thanksgiving and worship.  Despite the distractions of parades, sporting events and more shopping, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without family.  Maybe this is why death, divorce and orphans struggle to find peace on this sacred day.  Regardless of where this holiday may lead you in 2013, let me be the first to say, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

by Jay Mankus

Realigning the Stars

On the last night of the 3 Magi’s journey from the East, the star they had been following became stationary, hovering over the birth site of Jesus, Matthew 2:9-10.  One final night of glory, this unique star completed its purpose, gradually fizzling out like those created before it.  According to the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, they are 7 main types of stars based upon their color and luminosity.  The star which appeared in the sky above Bethlehem on that glorious night falls under the O or B classification, the rarest and brightest of all the stars in the universe.  Once a star depletes its hydrogen supply, they are downgraded and this declassification is a signal that their end is near.  In entertainment, Hollywood or professional sports, as one stars falls, another is in the background, ready to quickly steal their spotlight.

On March 14th, 1981, one such star destined for greatness was snuffed out.  Skip Dillard was a free throw away from becoming a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, as his #1 ranked Depaul Blue Demons were on their way into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, referred to as March Madness today.  In the days of endless One and One’s, St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia kept fouling Depaul players late in the second half, who then began missing the front end, their first shot, allowing the Hawks to rebound the ball after only one free throw attempt.  As Depaul’s big lead shrunk to one in the closing seconds, all Skip had to do was make one shot at the line to secure a tie, prior to the existence of 3 pointers and two free throws to close out the game.  Called “Money in the Bank” by his teammates, Skip’s shot fell short, St. Joe’s rebounded the miss, got the ball quickly up court and made a shot at the buzzer to stun Depaul.  This nightmare became reality for Skip who responded to this setback by becoming addicted to cocaine and committed 15 armed robberies to support his habit, resulting in an 11 year prison sentence according to the Chicago Tribune.  College players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird stole Skip’s fame as the media realigned the stars for these 2 NBA Hall of Famers.

When you are young, thinking you are invincible is a common mindset.  As I watch college sports on television or listen to my youth baseball players chat before and after a game, many think too highly of themselves.  Instead of being a voice of reason, parents often add to their child’s delusion, believing their daughter or son is the best player on the team.  Maybe the thought that their child’s athletic career is a lottery ticket for life instills in many parents a glimmer of hope.  However, these same parents often baby and or spoil their children, not providing an atmosphere of discipline, mental toughness and work ethic necessary to make good athletes great and elite players, stars at the college level.  If you analyze any NFL draft, its clear that talent doesn’t always translate onto the professional  level.  Thus, the degree to which someone shines lies in the choices you make and in God’s grace, Deuteronomy 28:2.

Currently. my own stardom has faded with time as my attractiveness as a youth pastor left when I reached 30.  Meanwhile, a decade of teaching has aged me another 20 years, especially during my 5 year stint teaching middle school.  Despite the fact that employers may overlook me for positions due to being too old or in some cases over qualified, I cling to the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12-16.  Though I can’t control external forces, I do have authority over my personal world according to Dutch Sheets in his book Authority in Prayer.  Thus, I am aiming to shine like a star in the universe, providing spiritual light during these dark days in American History.  I am responsible for aligning my life toward God’s will, yet only God can realign the stars in the universe!

by Jay Mankus

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