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Open Up to Know the Living God

In the opening scene of American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball introduces Lester Burnham.  Played by Kevin Spacey, Lester shares that he has been dead inside for sometime.  Lester’s not sure how or when this happened, but something in his soul can’t stand the person that he has become.  This confession sets the stage for Lester to wake up from this spiritual slumber so that he can truly live once again.

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [b]Himself.He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being, John 1:1-3.

Ten years ago, I was living a dream, teaching the Bible to high school teenagers and coaching golf.  While it took me nearly 40 years to discover God’s will for my life, I was blessed by God for a decade as spiritual fruits began to blossom.  Unfortunately, when Red Lion Christian Academy was sold and the church was disbanded, a part of me died.  After pouring my heart and soul into this institution, I was fired and left leaving like a failure.

In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it], John 1:4-5.

Like Lester’s character in American Beauty, joy returned to me in the midst of sorrow. While attending a memorial service for two members of the Hanson family over the weekend, spending time with my extended family brought a new appreciation for life. You never know when your time will be up; when your life will permanently expire. Therefore, it’s time to live by start taking chances and try to become all that God wants you to be. As I start to wake up from my spiritual slumber, join me by opening up to know the living God.

by Jay Mankus

Where You Once Walked

The longest book in the Bible begins it’s first chapter by comparing life to talking a walk. Depending upon the choices that you make, you will follow one of two paths, Matthew 7:13-14. The broad road is a popular destination, the easiest and most convenient choice with the vast majority of the crowd going in this direction. Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken coincides with the narrow path, regularly passed over in this life.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night, Psalm 1:1-2.

As a Christian, your walk is an outline for your testimony. The apostle Paul provides a blueprint to follow in Galatians 1:10-24. Spiritual walks are comprised of 3 phases in your life: how you lived prior to being introduced to Jesus, how you entered into a personal relationship with Jesus and how your life has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Where you once walked gives others hope that they too have time to change for the better.

It is on account of these [very sins] that the [holy] anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience (those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will), Among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to [such practices]. But now put away and rid yourselves [completely] of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips! Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices, Colossians 3:6-9.

The passage above serves as a warning to those individuals considering the idea of reverting back to their old ways. While no one is perfect, Romans 3:9-12, Christians are called to a higher standard, Matthew 5:46-48. Where you once walked is a reflection of your old self, Colossians 3:1-4. Instead of dabbling in the past, Galatians 5:25, Paul exhorts Christians to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. May this blog inspire you to walk with God despite the temptation to go back where you once walked..

by Jay Mankus

Things Seen and Unseen

The expression “doubting Thomas” comes from an encounter between Jesus and one of his disciples following his resurrection. Despite having a conversation with Jesus, Thomas wanted more proof, John 20:27. Thomas wanted to see and feel the scars, the holes in Jesus’ hand where He was hung from a cross. In John 20:29, Jesus refers to future Christians who believe without seeing. These individuals will be blessed as each walk by faith, not by sight.

For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure. 26 So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance, Romans 8:24-26.

The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Rome. Instead of talking about doubt, Paul uses hope as an object of faith. Rather than have the opportunity to see and touch Jesus, future believers must rely on hope to trust first century eyewitnesses who heard the gospel message in person. Faith in what is unseen is made possible via the Holy Spirit which serves as a spiritual counselor, John 16:13.

For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him, Colossians 1:16.

In a letter to the Church at Colosse, Paul reinforces this concept. Reflecting upon the Trinity, Paul highlights Jesus’ role in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Although a secular society continues to attack the Bible’s infallibility, this is where your faith is put to the test. During a message about the End Times, Jesus suggests that many people will abandon their faith, Matthew 24:10-13. The next time doubt creeps into your mind, remember that faith is the assurance of what is unseen, Hebrews 11:1.

by Jay Mankus

Real Estate

The term Real Estate is first mentioned in the 1660’s. Derived from Old English, “real” meaning “existing, true”. The English took this concept from the Latin word Realis. The brainchild of modern real estate in the United States dates back to 1906 when young entrepreneurs Coldbert Coldwell and Benjamin Banker established The Coldwell Banker Company. These pioneers paved the way for the 869,595 real estate companies that exist today national wide

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.

After my two older sisters graduated from high school, my mother became an agent for Century 21. This was the perfect time to enter this business, the golden age of real estate. I spent a decade working my own schedule around all the Open Houses my mom either listed or showed. While taxes and specific fees always knock down the total amount you actually make, my family was blessed by the extra income my mother earned by selling homes.

In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you. And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also, John 14:2-3.

In the final week of his earthly ministry, Jesus introduced his disciples to the biblical version of real estate. According to the passage above, Jesus speaks of a place with many dwelling homes. Jesus already went to God’s open house, excited by the possibilities. The goal is to secure a place, making a deposit for the future. The disciple whom Jesus loved goes one step further, 1 John 5:13, claiming that you can know for sure. The only real estate worth investing in on earth is guaranteeing your place in heaven. While you can’t see it, belief and faith will take you there.

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

When a Resident is Not Present

When government officials began their regional lock downs in late March of 2020, the state of Delaware deemed my position as essential. Thus, as many were forced to stay at home, I ventured out on to barren streets to get to work on time. As several of my co-workers decided to opt out, afraid of catching Covid-19, I spent most of my shifts working solo, creating a large back log. While I was blessed with countless opportunities to work overtime, I became a resident who was not present in my community. To avoid getting sick, I stayed in bed as long as possible to prepare myself mentally for another night of work.

Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is, Ephesians 5:16-17.

While visiting the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul noticed a group of Christians who attended church regularly, but the presence of a living faith was absent. Based upon his numerous missionary journeys, fruits of the Holy Spirit easily visible in other churches was missing from Ephesian Christians. Based upon the passage above, there was an apathy, complacency and lack of urgency within the hearts and minds of believers. The solution to this void was to become filled with the Holy Spirit. This leads Paul to make an interesting analogy. Instead of getting drunk during celebrations, this fullness should occur daily.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit. 19 Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:18-19.

This spiritual infusion begins by reading the Word of God, Romans 10:17. As Christians dust off the covers of their Bible, encouragement, hope, and inspiration is found in these living pages. Yet, becoming filled up with the Holy Spirit starts when individuals enter into a personal relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10. From here, local churches come into play through fellowship with other believers, Acts 2:42-47. If you try to skip one of these steps like I did in 2020, you’ll become a resident who is not present, void of any signs of spiritual life. If you want to make a difference in 2021, make sure you take the time to become filled with God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Remaining Positive in a World Full of Bad News

I find myself turning the channel quicker and quicker each time I stop by to get a quick news update. My ears have developed a sharp antenna, recognizing intros to the latest hit piece slandering President Trump. As cable news anchors eagerly await comments from their guest panelists, I’m already channel searching, trying to something apolitical to watch. Unfortunately, even sporting events are becoming a haven for politics.

And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord. 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me, Lamentations 3:18-20.

In the passage above, Lamentations reveals Judah’s pathetic condition following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. This collection of poetic laments flowed out of broken hearts following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 Before Christ. In the midst of this devastating news, many wore their emotions on their sleeves. Perhaps, the Coronavirus in 2020 serves as a painful reminder of how blessed and good life was prior to this pandemic.

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him, Lamentations 3:21-24.

While many might want to go back in time to experience handshakes and hugs, public displays of affection will have to wait for now. Yet, within this misery and isolation, God has not changed. Although our circumstances are different, the Lord still offers grace, mercy and loving kindness. Thus, despite living in a world full of bad news, God is my hope and strength. May the biblical promise above give you the faith to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

Surviving These Days of Uncertainty

Everyone has a tipping point. This occurs when an evolving situation leads to a critical point, resulting in a new and irreversible development. Human beings can only handle so much until feelings boil over and erupt. For the African American community, the death of George Floyd ignited raw emotions that no longer could be kept within. One month later, tensions continue to be volatile as some peaceful protests have turned cities across the United States into riot zones.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you], John 16:33.

When I look to the Bible to find answers for my concerns, Jesus has a way of providing comfort. While talking to his disciples about the future, Jesus refers to the fate of his followers. Instead of painting a rosy picture of a blessed and happy ending, life is filled with distress, frustrations and trials. If you want to survive these days of uncertainty, Jesus encourages individuals to be courageous and undaunted. Before completing his comments, Jesus reminds his disciples that He has overcome the world.

[Some] women received again their dead by a resurrection. Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life. 36 Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith]; they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; [while they were alive] they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated—Hebrews 11:35-37.

The author of Hebrews takes Jesus’ words to the next level. The context of the passage above is at the end of a chapter known as the Hall of Faith. Instead of naming every worthy member of this spiritual family, the author highlights the cost of faith. Rather than bow down to the world in an attempt to be accepted and fit in, these saints were willing to die for their beliefs and convictions. When the Marxist’s mob run out of statues to topple, recent reports suggest that historic churches may be next on their list. If your house of worship is targeted, what are you going to do? May God help us all to get through these days of uncertainty with wisdom.

by Jay Mankus

Choose Your Attitude… Change Your Life

Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life is a popular name for a self help book. Similar to the popular title, You are What You Think, which I read as a college student. Author Robert Jeffries took his 1992 book and turned this into a 2020 sermon series for his First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Since most states have banned churches from meeting together for worship, Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life is now available to watch. The Pathway to Victory airs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network on Sunday morning 10:00 EST.

Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], Philippians 2:14.

The book definition of attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior. Attitudes often serve as a frame of mind, school of thought and vantage point about how you see life. Depending upon which individuals you surround yourself with, perspectives will form and shape various beliefs. If the Bible is excluded from your point of reference, attitudes can turn sour quickly, void of God’s promises.

That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Philippians 2:15.

The church of Philippi is sometimes referred to Paul’s favorite church, blessed and grateful for their spiritual growth and progress. Yet, Paul still saw flaws and weaknesses within these individuals. Based upon the passages above, attitude, complaining and grumbling appears to have been a common problem. This forces Paul to remind his readers of the ideal, standing out like shining stars, full of the light of Christ. While there is a temptation to blend into your surroundings, God calls Christians to a higher standard. If you change your attitude to that of Christ, a changed life is possible to achieve via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Instruction Manual for Spiritual Gifts

As a former high school Bible teacher, one of my classes introduced the concept of spiritual gifts. After a short lesson, students took a spiritual gifts test to uncover hidden talents. Unfortunately, the humble and meek scored lower overall than the rest of my classes. Meanwhile, the confident often gave themselves higher marks during this self evaluation and spiritual inventory. Depending upon your mood, your score will fluctuate. This fundamental flaw with these types of tests doesn’t always highlight or reveal your strengths and spiritual weaknesses.

[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another. 11 Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:9-11.

The passage above is similar to words written to the Church at Corinth. Instead of using an instruction manual style format, Paul completes his list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. In the following chapter, a disclaimer is added to prevent the blessed and more gifted from boasting. Paul doesn’t hold back suggesting that spiritual gifts and talents are worthless unless accompanied by love, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. To make sure all believers are on the same page, Paul defines biblical love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Paul’s letter to Roman Christians uses a different approach, blending and weaving love with spiritual gifts.

Contribute to the needs of God’s people [sharing in the necessities of the saints]; pursue the practice of hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits, Romans 12:13-16.

Perhaps, while visiting Rome, Paul witnessed some disturbing behavior, far from the example Jesus set during his three year ministry on earth. Thus, Paul felt compelled to use Romans 12 as the Instruction Manual for Spiritual Gifts. Directions include sincerity, loathing anything to do with ungodliness, loving each member of the church like family and maintaining a passion to serve the Lord. In the passage above, it’s almost as if Paul is referencing or quoting parts of the Sermon on the Mount to reinforce the need to love and pray for your enemies. If you follow Paul’s advice in this chapter, you will stand out like a city on a hill and the salt of the earth. May this blog inspire you to identity and fan into flame your spiritual gift(s).

by Jay Mankus

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