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Tag Archives: Christmas

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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The Forgotten Man of Christmas

If you work for a large company, you will come across various characters, personalities and temperaments.  Meanwhile, if you are a regular visitor of social media sites, you can usually decipher those seeking attention from people who simply enjoy connecting with friends.  While there are numerous methods entrepreneurs can cash in on today, it’s okay to live a quiet life beyond the spot life.  Such is the case of one first century man.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by [the power of] the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her [promised] husband, being a just and righteous man and not wanting to expose her publicly to shame, planned to send her away and divorce her quietly, Matthew 1:18-19.

As a former junior high teacher, teenagers can be cruel.  Teens going through puberty can be down right nasty.  Imagine if your girl friend shows up to school pregnant and you didn’t have sex with her.  These were the thoughts racing through Joseph’s mind when his fiancée returns home from his aunt’s house several months pregnant.  Betrayed, confused and distraught, Joseph was on his way to break off his engagement quietly to avoid a messy divorce.  When an angel intervened, this forgotten man of Christmas had to wait until Jesus was born to consecrate his marriage.

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover Feast. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning [to Nazareth], after spending the required number of days [at the Feast], the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. Now His parents did not know this, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and traveled a day’s journey; and [then] they began searching [anxiously] for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for Him [everywhere], Luke 2:41-45.

Joseph is one of those characters who quickly fades from the forefront, written out of a drama, movie or show after completing his mission.  There is only one mention of Joseph in the Bible following the events of Christmas, Jesus’ bar mitzvah, the event to celebrate a Jewish boy becoming a man.  This symbolic act enabled Jesus to become a man in God’s house.  Joseph likely died of natural causes, assumed to be dead and long gone, out of the picture, by the four gospel authors.  Then again, Joseph could have completed God’s will for his life following Jesus’ bar mitzvah.  Either way, Joseph is the forgotten man of Christmas, taking a back seat to Emmanuel, God with us in the form of baby Jesus..

by Jay Mankus

The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Do You Have it All Together?

As a recovering perfectionist, hints of chaos is an unpleasant sight.  For some reason, I feel the need to give the impression that I have it all together.  Everything is fine, it is well with my soul.  I wish this was the case, but often I find myself on the verge on collapse.  Hanging by a thread, like the classic Mike and the Mechanics song.  Thus, if you want a simple answer, no I don’t have it all together.

Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. 40 But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part,” Luke 10:38-40.

While admission, confession is the first step on the road to recovery, the next logical question is if I don’t have it all together, what’s the problem?  To start with, perfectionists like me tend to suffer from the Martha complex.  A first century doctor refers to this condition as concentrating and fixating on the external.  Instead of entering into a deep and meaningful conversation with Jesus, Martha was focused on making her house spotless.  Consumed by trying to be a good host, Martha missed the point, life is about relationships not perfection.

But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:41-42.

Part of my perfectionist rehab involves abstaining from the need to be a workaholic by slowing down enough to entertain small talk.  While these daily conversations may not get very far or amount to anything, they set the stage for permanent meaningful conversations to begin.  If you spend most of your time on earth busy, running around like your head is cut off (old youthism), you’ll never know what you have in common with others.  Therefore, as Christmas approaches, make sure you follow in the steps of Mary by choosing conversation as a means to pass time with family.

by Jay Mankus

En Fuego

When Sports Center on ESPN was in its prime, at its height in popularity, the term en fuego was adopted to highlight a player who was on fire.  In other words, this individual had an unbelievable game, rarely missing if at all.  The noun fuego is a volcano in south central Guatemala.  When translated from Spanish into English fuego means fire or flame.  Someone on fire can not be hidden as their light magnifies and pierces through any nearby darkness.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness and delight; Come before His presence with joyful singing, Psalm 100:1-2.

In the passage above, the Psalmist describes someone who is spiritually on fire.  Heat is displayed by developing a heart for thanksgiving.  As servants of God begin to verbalize all that God has done, joy begins to overflow like a volcano ready to erupt.  When the Holy Spirit ignites souls with gladness, faith bubbles and oozes out of individuals naturally.  This delight moves Christians toward God’s presence; then enter the Lord’s courts with praise 7 days a week.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

During his sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate en fuego Christian life.  Faith is like a candle light, a flame used to expose the darkness around you.  As individuals add fuel to this fire, this light expands to reveal every imperfection in your life.  The closer you get to God, the more God uncovers your flaws.  This reality makes some fearful, overwhelmed by conviction and guilt.  Yet, if you want to be en fuego spiritually, blazing a trail for others to follow, place your trust in Jesus.  When you do, your faith will shine bright like a city on a hill.

by Jay Mankus

Christmas for Dummies

Every year pastors, preachers and teachers are expected to come up with a fresh and new perspective of Christmas for their congregations.  On some occasions this goal is achieved.  Yet, many sermons crash and burn, wasting weeks of preparation making the simple complex.  In reality, Christmas is the mass of Christ, a day of remembrance, thanksgiving and worship.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Luke 19:10. 

In a summary of a conversation with a tax collector, Jesus provides a Christmas for Dummies answer.  The context of the passage above refers to the fall of mankind, also known as original sin.  God gave Adam and Eve just one rule in the Garden of Eden, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die,” Genesis 3:2.  When lust entered into Eve’s heart, she influenced her husband Adam to ignore God’s law, taking and eating fruit.  This act of disobedience enabled sin to enter the world, resulted in expulsion from the garden, severed an intimate relationship with God and gave Satan authority and dominion over the earth.  Jesus’ birth came to seek and save what was lost back here.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” Genesis 3:15.

During an exchange with one of his fallen angels, God prophecies for the first time about the need to send his one and only son, John 3:16.  If you have seen the Passion of the Christ, this symbolism is played out while Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, stomping on the head of a serpent at the end of his prayer.  While Satan convinces first century religious leaders to execute Jesus’ crucifixion, the resurrection served as a check mate moment, foiling forever any demonic attempts to change the spiritual course of history.  However, this is one catch.

In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2.

God allows the Devil, aka Satan to retain his former angelic powers that he possessed while serving as the archangel Lucifer.  When you add this fact to a confession by one of Jesus’ disciples, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour-1 Peter 5:8, this threat is real.  This why evil continues to exist on earth.  Therefore, while Jesus has his own birthday on our calendar, the ongoing spiritual war does not stop.  The fight for the eternal destiny of souls is a fierce battle, taking many innocent individuals to their graves.  While singing Christmas carols today in church may inspire or move you, make sure you guard your heart and mind, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, so that the hope of Christmas will not be lost again.

by Jay Mankus

The Grouch That Spoiled Christmas

 

As a child, Christmas was my favorite time of the year.  As Christmas Eve drew closer, the more excited I became, wondering what gifts may be waiting for me under the tree.  Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, life got a lot more complicated.  Now that I am the one in charge of working to help pay for all the presents, this season has lost it’s luster.  After three consecutive weeks of working sixty hours at Amazon, I find myself turning into a new fictional character, the grouch that spoiled Christmas.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” – Matthew 10:38-40

Last night as I was leaving work, I had a flashback of the passage above.  Mary and Martha illustrate the clash of personalities that happen every day in life.  In this story, Martha is the older sister, the responsible one, running around to clean and cook for Jesus, trying to be a hospitable host.  Meanwhile, the baby sister cares more about talking than doing, entertaining Jesus by listening to his daily encounters with his disciples.  In an attempt to be a perfectionist, Martha becomes jealous, grouchy like me.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:41-42.

Looking back, I never realized how much my parents did to make Christmas special.  I’m sure there were private moments behind closed doors of complaints or frustration, but my mother possessed the characteristics of Mary.  Before I ever heard of Mary and Martha, my mom demonstrated the personality trait God encourages others to emulate.  In a sense, last night I was reenacting this scene from the Bible in real life.  I played the role Martha.  My co-workers illustrated the joy of Mary, savoring the time together.  However, Jesus wasn’t there to scold me.  Rather, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “watch out or you will become the grouch that spoiled Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

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