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Rejoice in God’s Blessings

The biblical term Deuteronomy refers to the Second Law. This book serves as a summary of all the lessons God tried to teach the nation of Israel. From the days of Adam and Eve to Noah and the flood, Moses was called by God to remind believers to rejoice in God’s blessings. This isn’t some sort of ancient fairy tale or make-believe game; this is a living God who blesses those who trust in the Lord.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God, Deuteronomy 28:1-2.

The context of today’s passage occurs just prior to Moses’ farewell address prior to passing the torch to Joshua. Instead of telling Israel, “I’ve got good news and bad news; what do you want to hear first?” Moses paints a vivid picture of what life on earth could be like by simply obeying God. This is the Could Be/Should Be portion of Moses’ message in Deuteronomy 28:1-14.

Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, Deuteronomy 28:3-4.

Unfortunately, the final 54 verses of Deuteronomy 28 serve as a grim remember of a life without God. As someone who almost became a math teacher, this is the basic addition portion of the Bible. Following God’s commands plus daily obedience equals blessings in life. Rather than dwell on the negative, today’s featured passage should inspire you to rejoice in God’s blessings.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 188: Do I Stand Alone?

Mike Stand is one of the original members of the Punk rock group the Altar Boys. Mike served as the lead singer of this iconic Christian band. Back in the late 1980’s, Mike left the Altar Boys to pursue a solo career releasing a few albums on his own. While there are a number of songs I could have featured today, Do I Stand Alone applies well to current events.

And I sought a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none, Ezekiel 22:30.

History is full of cycles, times where people were obedient to God and periods of compromise that led cultures to do what’s right in their own eyes. The book of Judges illustrates this point as good leadership results in blessings while poor leaders brought curses upon Israel, Judges 21:25. The prophet lived in a day when Israelites were afraid to take a stand for God. Like Mike sings, are you willing to stand today?

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 157: PLF

While the popularity of Mercy Me has long surpassed that of the lesser-known Christian group Mercy, there is a reason to celebrate PLF. Short for Peace. Love, and Faith, Mercy features Laura Misuik as the lead singer. I was first introduced to Laura as the lead singer of Acoustic Shack, one of my favorite groups in college. Laura’s husband Michael is the man behind the music serving as the led guitarist of Mercy.

And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

While the passage above doesn’t mention peace directly, this is a byproduct of faith. According to C.S. Lewis, faith, hope, and love are theological virtues, only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. The King James Version of the Bible doesn’t contain love, opting for charity. Yet, whenever Christians actively pursue these virtues, peace is one of the blessings that you will receive. Enjoy PLF.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 146: Speak to Me

It’s not often that a song changes your life, but Kari Jobe’s Speak to Me worship montage transformed my perspective. When I stumbled upon this version on You Tube, I was going through a trying period at work. Due to a series of transitions, my cushy job was being turned upside down. In my despair, the words of Speak to Me became a daily prayer, asking God for comfort and peace.

Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me, John 14:6.

Over the course of a month, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the positive aspects of my life. Like the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8-9, my anxieties and stress were slowly replaced by the excellent and praise worthy things that God has blessed me with over the years. If the timing of this blog finds you going through a similar struggle, may the words of Speak to Me draw you closer to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 134: Standing on the Edge of Night

Today’s song comes from Element 101, not a compound on the Periodic Table but a Christian band. Element 101 is made up of vocalist Crissie Verhagen, guitarists Chris Mizzone and Danny Papa, bassist Sal Ciaravino, and drummer Nick Acocella. Standing on the Edge of Night by Element 101 is one of those finger snapping tunes that is great for keeping you awake at night.

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, Psalm 1:1.

Standing in the Bible is symbolic for getting behind someone or something. Whether you’re walking, standing or sitting, temptation has a way of convincing you to stand on the edge of night. Rather than join in with sinners, set a spiritual tone daily by seeking God’s counsel daily. If you keep in step with the Holy Spirit, blessings and good fortunes will follow.

by Jay Mankus

Keeping Your Soul Well

To an ordinary person, the soul is an immaterial part of a human being. Yet, once an individual becomes spiritually enlightened, souls become the essence of who you are, and the person God wants you to be. At the beginning of a first century letter, John prays for the prosperity of bodies and the wellness of souls. Building upon the words of Proverbs 4:23, John is concerned with protecting the wellspring of life.

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers, 3 John 1:2.

The prosperity movement in the church has left countless souls feeling disappointed and empty. The idea that if you give x amount of money to this cause, you will receive a bounty full of blessings is not accurate. This concept taken from Malachi 3:8-10 is based upon tithing. When Christians reach a point in their faith of complete trust in God to provide, there is a promise to open the storehouses of heaven. To avoid a long-drawn-out biblical debate, these blessings come in many shapes and forms.

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord [the only Lord]. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might, Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

Jesus quotes Moses words in the passage above in Matthew 22:37-40. One way to keep your soul well is by making God your top priority in life, Matthew 6:33-34. As Christians mature and reach an understanding of God’s daily bread from Israel’s days of wandering in the wilderness, human effort is taken out of this equation. Somehow and someway as Christians seek God’s righteousness first, mysterious and unexplainable things begin to happen. Some may never reach this degree of faith, but if you do, you’ll be eager to protect and guard your heart so that your soul remains well.

by Jay Mankus

Who Deserves the Credit?

Depending upon who your reliable source may be in life, credit and praise is assigned to various individuals and or forces. The superstitious tend to lean to luck for someone’s good fortune. Scientists may point others to random selection to explain earthly blessings. As an aspiring screen writer, Hollywood refers to the Universe falling right into place to account for unexpected gifts. Yet, the earthly brother of Jesus points first century Christians toward who really deserves the credit.

Every good gift and every perfect ([d]free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse]m James 1:17.

When I was in high school, one of my close golfing friend Chris always seemed to get good breaks while on the golf course. Whether it was skipping his golf ball over the water, going through a tree or receiving a friendly bounce off the cart path, his string of luck never seemed to end. One of our teammates, Steve, attributed this to the luck of the Irish. Since Chris’ family was Irish Catholic, it made sense to me at the time. This belief continued until I began to read the Bible in college.

And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself], James 1:18.

One New Testament author refers to daily encounters with angels that go unnoticed, Hebrews 13:2. A Psalmist points to guardian angels who guide and protect human beings every day, Psalm 91:11. The apostle Paul writes about an invisible force that you can actually keep in step with, Galatians 5:25. Meanwhile, Moses speaks of blessings and curses that will come upon you based upon your degree of obedience, Deuteronomy 28. When you put this all together with the passages above, God deserves the credit for being the giver of all good things in life.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Become Despondent Through Fear

Living out a Christian faith can be oppressive, tedious, and seemingly without end of obstacles. Furthermore, when things don’t go the way you expect or think, it’s not uncommon to suffer from depression. When confidence is lost or hope slips away, fear can suck the joy out of life. Like a golfer who is all over the place during their round, there are many days where you have to grind everything out.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you, Ephesians 3:12-13.

Whatever optimistic message you have received about a new life in Christ, every day has a new set of challenges. If you let your guard down, become over confident or don’t have enough prayer cover, extreme discouragement may not be too far behind. Unpleasant emotions are a byproduct of fear, caused by a belief that someone or something is a threat. This is where faith must rise to the occasion, opening the door for boldness and courage to shine through.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

Apparently, despondency was an issue in the first century as the apostle Paul writes a similar message to two different congregations. The context of the passage above refers to you reap what you sow. If your mind is constantly fixated on fear, you will become worn down by despondent thoughts. Therefore, if you want to rise above your circumstances, approach God with a humble heart, expecting blessings for those who belong to the household of faith.

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

Starting Over in 2021

ξεκινώντας από την αρχή is the Greek word for starting over. Meanwhile, the Latin expression for starting over is iterum incipi. When translated literally into English this refers to again, a second time. As 2020 is thankfully ushered out for good, it’s time to hit the reset button. While no one knows for sure how long the Coronavirus will stick around, starting over with a blank canvas gives me hope of a brighter future.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

Despite earning a nickname as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah 9:1 and Jeremiah 13:17, there is a glimpse of positive news. In the passage above, the Lord finally gives Jeremiah a message of hope. These future plans includes blessings, dreams and a final outcome worth waiting for. Therefore, if you still haven’t gotten over the worst pandemic in the last century, the Bible provides some encouraging news.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired, Isaiah 40:30-31.

Another Old Testament prophet provides an analogy that most adults can relate to. Between the spread of Covid-19, forced closures of businesses and the stress of trying to stay alive, 2020 has worn out countless souls. Thus, as many have lost their energy and joy for life, it’s time to place your faith in God’s hands again. Just as eaglets trusted their parents renew their strength, it’s time to place your faith in God to start over in 2021.

by Jay Mankus

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