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Run for Your Life

The running of the bulls is an annual event that dates back to the 14th century.  This tradition originated from the need to transport bulls from the offsite livestock enclosures to the bull fighting ring within Spanish cities.  The Running of the Bulls was made famous outside of Spain in 1926 when Ernest Hemingway released The Sun Also Rises.  This novel details this July 7th summer festival where six to ten calves are released behind individuals running for their lives through enclosed streets.

They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had taken security (bail) from Jason and the others, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they entered the Jewish synagogue, Acts 17:8-10.

As a first century missionary, the apostle Paul made a habit of running for his life.  Each trip began at a local synagogue, going through the Old Testament to reveal Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Most of these discussions were civil until some of his listeners converted to Christianity.  These spiritual decisions ignited spirits of anger, envy and jealousy, stirring up anti-Christian mobs.  In the passage above, Paul and Silas fled Thessalonica in darkness.  Meanwhile, in the passage below, Paul was escorted to a ship, sailing away as far as possible from harm.

But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] had also been preached by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. 14 So at that time the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go as far as the sea; but Silas and Timothy remained there [at Berea]. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens; and [after] receiving instructions [from Paul] for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible, they left, Acts 17:13-15.

Unfortunately, the process of running for your life sometimes involves turning your back on God.  Jonah refused God’s calling to Nineveh, sailing away in the complete opposite direction until a storm forced his return into a whale which escorted this runner back on track.  When I lost my teaching job of ten years, I ran around in circles for nearly two years before landing at Amazon.  Now that I am comfortable after seven years, perhaps it’s time to run for my life, escaping this comfort zone for a new adventure or challenge.  As I listen for God’s still voice, I must be open to run with perseverance just as Hebrews 12:1 suggests.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Religion and Politics Mix

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to be designated as a sanctuary city.  This 1979 decision was designed to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees.  Today, there are 36 other United State cities that have adopted this policy.  In recent years, churches in border states have been recruited to hide and protect illegal immigrants.  From time to time, I see cable news exclusives of local pastors defending their position.  This is where religion and politics mix.

But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district, Acts 13:50.

During the first century, Jewish leaders were fearful of the Jesus movement.  As more Jews converted to Christianity, influence and political power was being lost.  Thus, high priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots sought whatever means necessary to stop any other Jews from turning their back on their Jewish heritage.  According to Luke, Jewish leaders used prominent, powerful and wealthy individuals to drive Christian leaders from their district.  This is where religious obsessions cloud minds and judgment.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.

An earthly brother of Jesus makes an interesting observation in the passage above.  Religion and politics can and will mix from time to time, but if your tongue leads you astray, religion is worthless.  Jesus uses an analogy of a city on a hill in his Sermon on the Mount.  Christians are suppose to stand out, like a city with bright lights in the dark.  Actions, behavior and words reflect what is inside of your heart.  Unfortunately, the pressure of religion and politics may result in compromise, temptation or unexpected words.  When religion and politics and a fall from grace ensues, may conviction bring you back to the place where God desires.

by Jay Mankus

The Disappearance of Praise

In this progressive age, claiming there is only one God is unacceptable. Anyone who celebrates, embraces or promotes Christianity is often stigmatized. Those who hold Judeo Christian values are often labeled bigots, homophobes or racists by members of the media who subscribe to post-modernism. Perhaps, this may be a major factor to the disappearance of praise.

Then he seized the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankles became strong and steady, and with a leap he stood up and began to walk; and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God; Acts 3:7-9.

During the first century, encountering beggars was not uncommon. Just as busy street corners today attract individuals searching for some spare change, the crippled, lame and poor were waiting for a handout. Sitting outside the temple gates, one man wanted money but received something far greater, the ability to walk. When observers realized this man had been healed, everyone began to praise the Lord.

And they recognized him as the very man who usually sat begging for coins at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and amazement and were mystified at what had happened to him, Acts 3:10.

Despite giving God the credit for healing this crippled man, negativity has gradually drown out praise. Instead of focusing on the positive by thanking God for the little things, human beings have been stirred into a tizzy by social media. Others remain mystified, confused by how God can heal one person while bad things continue to happen to good people. This painful reality likely hushes the degree and volume of praise. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I pray that public praise for God will make a revival again.

by Jay Mankus

Women and the Bible

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there will always be biases that exist in life.  These opinions cause a certain segment of society to feel or show inclination of prejudice for or against someone or something.  Unfortunately, these stereotypes often develop into beliefs resulting in inequality.  While growing up, Hollywood portrayed a skewed version of women and the Bible, emphasizing the submissive role of a wife in marriage, Ephesians 5.  Thus, many females rejected the Bible, Christianity and the desire to take faith seriously.

The Lord gives the command [to take Canaan]; The women who proclaim the good news are a great host (army); Psalm 68:11.

Like any conversation that you over hear or interrupt, if you walk into it at the wrong moment, you will miss a portion of the context.  Such is the case of the Old Testament passage above.  On the surface, this verse appears to suggest that God honors women who gossip, passing on what they were told.  When you dig deeper into Bible commentaries, you will find these women possessed two key qualities.  First, they believed victory was possible despite the impenetrable wall surrounding Jericho.  Second, these women encouraged others to believe by dancing and singing songs expecting victory to occur, void of any doubt.

“From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for rights just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh,” Rosa Parks 1994.

During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, one woman made a huge impact.  While entering a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to sit in the colored section of this bus.  Park’s decision inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  While Dr. Martin Luther King has received a majority of the credit for Civil Rights in America, Congress has referred to Rosa Parks as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.  Based upon the quote above, Parks shares a common worldview with the women mentioned in Psalm 68.  These women applied the biblical principles they were taught as a children by taking a stand for that which was good, right and true.

by Jay Mankus

Who is Offending Who?

Last week I read an article online about why atheists are offended by Christianity and religious symbols.  Some point to excessive evangelism by leaders who don’t always emulate or live out the love of Christ.  Others are turned off by the exclusive nature of Jesus’ teaching, that there is only one way to heaven, John 14:6.  Meanwhile, public displays of Judea Christian values in the form of monuments, statues and religious symbols cause atheists to be offended by many of America’s founding fathers due to their unadulterated faith.

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also,” Luke 11:45.

Around 30 AD, Jesus received several invitations to meet with curious religious leaders.  One day a Pharisee invited Jesus and his disciples over to his house for lunch.  While reclining at a table the disciples and Jesus did not follow ceremonial laws, failing to wash their hands before eating.  While this lack of action offended the Pharisees, Jesus was insulted by their lack of concern for the heart and soul.  This dialogue in Luke 11:37-54 makes me wonder who’s offending who?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth., Romans 1:18.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech.  While American citizens are able to exercise this freedom daily, this doesn’t mean you won’t be offended.  Depending upon your worldview, elementary principles, progressive ideology or philosophy may threaten your current belief system.  However, if you aren’t open to seeking the truth, God may be offended by your lack of conviction.  Therefore, don’t worry about offending others as long as you strive to follow God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Higher Education?

Lake Ingle was a typical teenager, hoping to pursue higher education after graduating from high school.  Initially wanting to play sports in college, Ingle choose Indiana University of Pennsylvania to pursue this dream.  However, after Lake realized his athletic abilities weren’t good enough to compete at this level of competition, Ingle decided to turn his attention toward academics.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh, Genesis 2:24.

Now a senior, this religious studies major made national news for being kicked out of class recently.  During a Christianity 481: Self, Sin and Salvation lecture, Ingle became offended by something professor Alison Downie taught.  After a 20 minute video on mansplaining, sexism from men and male privilege, professor Downie asked students for their thoughts. When none of the women spoke up, Lake stood up for his beliefs which are supported by the Bible, claiming there are only 2 genders.  For acting upon his conviction, Lake Ingle has been barred from this class, citing the class disruption policy at IUP.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22.

A little over 20 years ago, I moved from the mid-west to seek a masters in theological studies on the east coast.  During a visit to one of my potential seminaries, I meet with the dean of academics of a school in Pennsylvania.  During this conversation, I interrupted this woman briefly to reply to  a shocking comment.  Instead of studying the Bible in its proper historical context, this school believed in allowing each student to come up with different conclusions on their own.  In the other words, there is no absolute truth.  Whenever I hear reports from institutions of higher learning like at IUP, this crisis of faith is a by product of the elimination of absolute truths.  Unless this trend is reversed, the term higher education will merely be a word, not reality.

by Jay Mankus

Monday Morning Atheist

An atheist is defined as anyone who lacks belief or denies the existence of a God or gods.  Unfortunately, as another weekend flies by the anguish of starting a new week of work weighs heavy on restless souls.  Thus, when the average American awakes on Monday morning, not many people feel close to or seek God to find the strength to carry on.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ, Romans 10:17.

In his book entitled Monday Morning Atheist, Doug Spada encourages readers to switch God on as Monday morning arrives.  When Christianity becomes a religion, the emphasis is placed on Saturday or Sunday as the day of worship.  Thus, God can be limited to your churches doors if you embrace this mindset.  Faith is designed to be a relationship that lasts 7 days, not something that you pick up whenever you feel like it.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed, Mark 1:35.

Jesus sets the example for those who tend to be distracted by others or stressed by the upcoming schedule you have to meet.  While his disciples are swayed by human demands, Jesus took the first moments of each day to spend with his heavenly father.  Therefore, don’t allow worry to lead you to become a Monday morning atheist.  Rather, slow down, be still before the Lord and let the Holy Spirit influence the steps you take 7 days a week.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Standing in the Way of Progress

Cantankerous, inflexible and pertinacious are words associated with stubborn.  Depending upon which study you reference, individuals become set in their ways between age 16 to 25.  Whether students choose to pursue college or stop their education following high school, worldviews are often set by the early twenties.  Subsequently, when a new way of thinking is introduced, many are caught standing in the way of progress.

So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way? – Acts 11:17

Unfortunately, I grew up during the infant phase of computers, forced to take typing classes in high school.  Thus, as technology changes electronics annually, its hard for me to keep up, lagging behind as I adjust to updated programs.  Part of me wants to keep the status quo, doing tasks the way I am accustom to.  Yet, if I don’t face reality I may find myself standing in the way of progress.

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life,” Acts 11:18.

During the first century, Peter struggled to adapt to the societal advances.  Raised as a Jew, Peter was taught to avoid associating with Gentiles.  However, as the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his family, Peter was faced with a dilemma.  Hold on to past stereotypes or embrace the movement of God?  In the end, Peter realized that if he did not accept Gentile converts to Christianity he would be standing in the way of progress.  In the same manner today, as the world drastically changes, ask the Lord to give you the heart of Christ to avoid standing in the way of spiritual progress.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Fan or Follower?

As a person who enjoys watching sports, I’ve met several fare weather fans in life.  When the local team is winning, there isn’t enough room on the bandwagon.  However, as the years pass without a Superbowl win, Stanley Cup, NBA championship or World Series title, a mass exodus occurs.  This trend causes individuals to adopt other teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Heat or New York Yankees to raise their self esteem.  Time will distinguish the casual fan from the avid follower, living and dying with their team despite the anguish or pain.

Jesus used another method to disclose fans from genuine followers.  One day, a first century doctor, watched in awe as Jesus began to ask a few people some questions, Luke 9:57-63.  Like a coach pushing his players to see who will rise to the top or quit, Jesus’ words pierce the hearts of these lukewarm fans.  Despite their good intentions, one by one, each fell by the wayside, unable to meet the conditions Jesus was searching for in a follower.

Whether I’m shaking my head at another Phillies loss, Eagles meltdown, Flyers defensive breakdown or 76er’s losing streak, being a fan in the greater Philadelphia area isn’t easy.  On the other hand, being a followers of Jesus is even harder, Matthew 10:32-39.  Sometimes I find myself in the shoes of the ruler in Matthew 19:16-25, wondering if I have the moxie to endure life’s trials.  Unfortunately, my actions don’t always express what I believe.  In the end, I’m at the mercy of God, relying on Him to make the impossible a possibility, Matthew 19:26.

Where do you find yourself on the spectrum of fan or follower?

by Jay Mankus

         

Are You Ready for Some… Persecution?

Hank Williams Jr . (HankJr.com) MONTGOMERY Alabama – Many men have gone to extremes to escape the...

 

For twenty years, Hank Williams Jr. and Monday Night Football went hand and hand.  This country music icon began singing his famous pregame song in 1991 for ABC and ESPN.  However, when asked his honest opinion about President Obama on Fox News in October of 2011, his gig came to an abrupt halt.  Instead of singing are you ready for some football, Hank has changed his tune to, “Are you ready for some persecution?”

On December 15th, 1791, the first amendment was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights.  This amendment was designed to protect American citizens against government intrusion.  This portion of the United States Constitution is suppose to protect a person’s faith, speech, religion and right to assemble.  However, in recent years if your opinion is not politically correct or you don’t possess the right party affiliation, persecution follows.

The Martyr

Similar conditions greeted the apostle Paul during the middle of the first century AD.  Based upon Luke’s account in Acts 17:22-24, Paul and Silas were stripped, publicly flogged and thrown in jail for freeing a slave from her greedy owners, Acts 17:16-19.  Despite being Roman citizens, they were accused without a trial, found guilty by the court of public opinion like Hank Williams Jr.

If the Bible is truly a glimpse of the future, every Christian should be prepared for persecution.  Jesus recounts details of the final days on earth in Matthew 24:4-25.  According to this account, the days of entertainment, fun and watching NFL football games will be over.  Like the Left Behind series, the world will be at war with Christianity.  Followers will be forced to join the new world order or flee for their lives.  I hate to be negative, but this is what will be coming in the end days.  Ready or not, persecution may already be here!

by Jay Mankus

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