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Get Behind Me

The term band-wagon first appeared in 1849. This initial meaning referred to a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession. Theodore Roosevelt used bandwagon in his writings in the context of politics, “attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed.” Modern day sports talk hosts have adopted bandwagon as a label to highlight fair weather fans. When a local team over achieves, the bandwagon becomes full. However, when a successful team gets off to a slow start, many quickly jump off the bandwagon.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. 25 For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting], Matthew 16:24-25.

A Jewish disciple explores what it means to truly get behind Jesus. This chapter provides examples of what to do and what not to do. One individual becomes a hero and a goat in a matter of seconds. However, this is what happens when you are not slow to speak, blurting out whatever enters your mind. The context of the passage begins with an open ended question as Jesus asks, “who do people say that I am?” After receiving a few replies, Jesus changes the question to “what do you think?” After Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah, he then proceeds to attempt to stop Jesus from fulfilling God’s will.

Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:22-23.

When God or life doesn’t make sense, this is when human beings tend to improvise. Since Peter thought Jesus would become an earthly king, he refused to believe that his mentor was born to become a living sacrifice. When justice doesn’t prevail and evil triumphs, your allegiance is tested. Just to qualify to become one of Jesus’ disciples involves taking extreme measures. While everyone will wobble from time to time due to uncertainty, your actions will determine who’s side you are on. May the Holy Spirit bring clarity to any confusion so you get behind the right side.

by Jay Mankus

The Blessing of a Busted Nest

A nest represents home to newly hatched baby birds. Within this enclosed area, mothers and fathers display  love, commitment, and effort to raise their young. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points to how his heavenly Father provides for the birds of the air, Matthew 6:26. However, from time to time, gusts of wind will cause an egg to fall to the ground or relocate a nest from it’s original branch. These unforeseen events force adult birds to adjust, regroup, and start over.

Then I said, I shall die in or beside my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand. 19 My root is spread out and open to the waters, and the dew lies all night upon my branch, Job 29:18-19.

Job’s nest was busted up early in his book of the Bible. According to the first 2 chapters, Job’s life is plagued by a series of trials. Like a tsunami wave that continues to rise higher and higher, Job lost his possessions, children and his health. The passage above suggests that Job became complacent, ready to retire and play it safe the rest of his earthly life. God had different plans by busting up Job’s nest. The more you lose in life, the hopeless are drawn back to God, leaning on the Lord until the storms of life subside.

He found him in a desert land, in the howling void of the wilderness; He kept circling around him, He scanned him [penetratingly], He kept him as the pupil of His eye. 11 As an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, He spread abroad His wings and He took them, He bore them on His pinions. 12 So the Lord alone led him; there was no foreign god with Him, Deuteronomy 32:10-12.

During the initial stages of the Coronavirus, I was fortunate to have my position considered to be an essential job. With many of my co-workers afraid of contracting COVID-19, voluntary over time has been offered every week since March. These circumstances have led to ideal conditions for earning money. Just as I began to accumulate wealth, the Lord allowed a storm to bust up the front of my home, causing more than $3000 of damage. While paying for the repairs has been a hassle, this unexpected storm has put life into perspective. My faith and trust needs to be in Christ alone.

by Jay Mankus

You’re Fired

In view of the increasing violence across the country and throughout the world, this old punch line by Donald Trump at the end of each Apprentice episode is no longer something to laugh at.  While hard working men and women have likely experienced the pain of losing a job, life is too fragile to be ended by a bullet,  Yet, as music videos, television dramas and violent video games desensitize life through countless depictions of murder, the value of human life is eroding.

But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up,” Daniel 3:12.

One of the byproducts of today’s warped mentality on life involves a lack of conviction and principles to life by.  While most civilizations experience cycles where morals rise and fall, few people demonstrate the commitment to put their faith on the line.  During the Jewish captivity by the Babylonians in the Old Testament, three men refused to worship a foreign god.  Drawing a line in  the sand, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to die rather than break one of the ten commandments.  The penalty for such an offense was fire.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up,” Daniel 3:17-18.

These three men weren’t fired by the king.  They were all on fire for God, willing to put their faith on the line, risking death over compromise.  Not many people would do the same today.  Recently, armed men with machine guns stormed a church in a country where Christianity is illegal.  Raising his voice, the leader demanded all the true believers to walk up to the altar.  Only a few rose to their feet,  “Is that it, anyone else?”  No one else stood.  “Okay everyone else can leave,” as the timid ran out of this place of worship.  Moments later instead of gun shots, the leader proclaimed, “now that all the true believers are here, let’s worship the Lord!”  May this experience inspire others to become fired up for Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Uncommitted

Depending upon who you are and where you live, expect to come in contact with various individuals.  Some will appear confident, others lost and a few wander aimlessly throughout life wondering what to do next.  As you watch people, there will be visible signs of a lack of commitment.  For reasons unknown, passion is missing influencing souls to drift, float and abandon dreams before experiencing the fruit of their labor.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established, Proverbs 16:3.

As a former cross country runner, the first day of practice revealed who put in the hard work over the summer and who didn’t.  When you have to run between 6 and 10 miles each day during this initial week, you can’t fake it.  You’re either in shape or struggling to survive.  Until your body gets conditioned to twice the amount of a typical race, 3.1 miles, even great athletes will have a battle a mind telling you to slow down, stop or quit.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act, Psalm 37:5.

If you take the running illustration above and apply this to life, how you invest your time reveals your degree of commitment.  On the other hand, those areas you avoid, forget or neglect, speak volumes of their importance within your life.  Unfortunately, I currently find myself living a lie, stuck in a rut void of production.  Thus, I need to re-evaluate my steps by turning my attention to the Lord above.  When my commitment fueled by trusting in God takes hold, I expect the chains of uncommitment to be broken.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Heartbeat of Heaven

Inside the human body, the sinoatrial node serves as the heart’s pacemaker.  Within the right atrium, electrical activity in the form of impulses initializes a small bundle of specialized cells.  As currents spread throughout the walls of the atria, contractions begin to alternate and relax, allowing blood to naturally flow through the heart.  These intricacies point to a Creator, designing the miracle called life.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 26:36.

The Bible is filled with analogies and imagery relating to the heart.  King Solomon calls the heart the well spring of life.  Yet, the prophet Jeremiah reveals a secret and dark side, like a poison which can contaminate your soul.  However, Jesus leaves no question about the role of the heart on earth.  The Lord gave human beings a heart for one purpose, to love one another.  This is the heart beat of heaven.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, John 15:12-13.

Near the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus shares some final instructions to his disciples, preparing them for his death and life after his ascension into heaven.  Trying to keep things simply, Jesus suggests love is a barometer of your faith.  Depending upon your level of commitment, lives will either be grazed, touched or impacted by your degree of love.  Regardless of where you are spiritually, its never too late to ask for a heart of love so that the heart beat of heaven can be felt on earth.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Where Did My Fervor Go?

As a child, there was nothing like the anticipation of opening presents under a Christmas tree.  I must confess that sometimes I snuck down stairs in the middle of the night just to see what was in my stocking.  On a couple of occasions I dozed off under our tree, before going back up to my bed so I wouldn’t be seen.  Unfortunately, somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, I lost my fervor for life.

Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John, Acts 18:25.

One of the more interesting characters of the Bible is a man named Apollos who first met Paul during a trip to Ephesus.  Although this man from Alexandria was an outsider, his passion for God made up for his limited knowledge.  To a certain extent, I see a lot of Apollos in me during my early years in youth ministry.  I didn’t possess the theological background that most youth pastors acquire, yet my determination and fervor was strong.  Yet, when I left the ministry for good 5 years ago, my fire has dimmed.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, Colossians 3:23.

Previous mentors would suggest that I haven’t re-fueled, not spending enough time in Bible study, prayer or worship.  Other friends might lean to a lack of commitment, fellowship and service to a local church.  While this advice may be true, the most logical reason for losing my fervor is a lack of joy.  When you’re a perfectionist, its hard to enjoy the little things in life.  Thus, as I continue to search for answers, I cling to a life verse from high school.  Whatever I do in the future, I must devote my heart to serving the Lord.  If you find yourself in a similar state this year, may the Lord show you the way to rekindle your fervor for life.

by Jay Mankus

On Again Off Again

The origin of getting cold feet has three different links to history.  The first derives from an Italian play written in 1605 entitled Volpone.  The context of Ben Johnson’s words, “to have cold on one’s feet,” refers to having no money.  Two centuries later, a German novel uses a similar expression when speaking of gamblers who have cold feet as their money runs out.  Finally, Stephen Crane’s piece, Maggie: A Child on the Streets from 1894 has a modern understanding as cold feet is in reference to making tough decisions.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.- Hebrews 11:1

Today, On Again Off Again could be the title of the latest Reality TV Show as people change their minds on whether or not to get married.  However, this phrase is used by sports fans who jump on and off their favorite team’s bandwagon.  Whenever expectations of a relationship or viewing interest let you down, faith to continue your vested interest wanes.  Thus, the words On Again Off Again become a self-fulfilled prophecy.

That your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:5

Unfortunately, these words often describe a Christian’s volatile relationship with God.  As long as things go well, their commitment remains true.  Meanwhile, the littlest sign of turmoil leads many to get cold feet wondering, “is this Christian thing really worth it?”  Anyone who has ever felt periods of distance from God might consider taking a break, putting the Lord on hold until you need Him again.  Regardless of where you may be, sincere faith requires trust.  Therefore, don’t live life like a roller coaster full of emotions.  Rather, remain steadfast on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

 

To Fast or Not to Fast?

In recent years, January 1st signifies the beginning of 21 day fasts for a growing number of churches across America.  Depending upon the congregation, this could mean a …

1) Daniel Fast: Eating vegetables and water based upon the events of Daniel 1:11-14.

2) Media Fast: Replacing listening and viewing habits for 3 weeks with Bible Study, prayer and soaking in worship music.

3) Traditional Fast: Limiting your diet to liquids, with stricter fasts allowing only water.

Before you jump into any commitment, you might want to consider the advice of Solomon.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. – Ecclesiastes 5:4

My advice is to take a more realistic approach.  If fasting is new to you or something you haven’t done in years, ease yourself into 21 days of fasting.  I recommend skipping 1 meal per day, the first week.  If your body is up for the challenge, limit your eating to one meal per day the second week.  However, if you find yourself gorging each meal, you might want to focus on skipping one meal per day the entire 21 days.  Make a vow you can keep, then honor it.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. – Nehemiah 1:4

As for what to expect, the lack of food can make individuals grumpy.  Those with medical conditions may need to opt for a Media Fast to avoid health concerns.  Beyond the pain, the insight one receives from fasting can be life altering.  While fasting during my days of teaching, several messages of discernment came to me through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In addition, your perspective of food will change as fasting will heighten your sense of taste.  In the end, the choice is up to you: to fast or not to fast?

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

The Origin of Blessings

The concept of blessings is a central focus of God’s covenant relationship beginning in the book of Genesis.  This term is mentioned over 600 times in the Old Testament.  Following the fall of human beings in the Garden of Eden, God countered the curse of Genesis 3:14-17 with a promise of blessings to Abraham and his descendents, Genesis 12:3.  However, this promise comes with a condition of obedience and if individuals stray from these commands this pattern can be reversed in the form of curses, Deuteronomy 27-28.

The Psalmist provides more concrete examples of blessings as well as how one arrives at becoming blessed.  The foundation of blessings derives from a blameless state, Psalm 119:1.  This process is achieved over time keeping the Bible’s statutes, seeking God with all your heart and walking in the ways of the Lord, Psalm 119:2.  To arrive at this desired goal, though perfection is unattainable, careful attention must be paid to decrees, avoiding short cuts and eliminating wrong from the equation, Psalm 119:3-4.  Passing the torch from one forefather, Moses, to another, advice has been passed on to maintain blessings, Joshua 1:8.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Joshua 1:8

Today, there are various beliefs, opinions and views on why someone is successful or not.  Yet, history contains examples of people, families and nations that were blessed over time as well as countless who experienced one disappointment after another.  Although the thought of being blessed by God is exciting, the work that goes along with this commitment can be exhausting.  Human nature causes even the strong to get side tracked and wander away from the truth.  Therefore, if you want to find God’s favor in 2015, follow the steps mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Matthew 6:33-34 and Galatians 5:25.  Go with God and the Lord will walk by your side.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33

by Jay Mankus

 

A Hap-Hazard Faith

Aimless, chaotic and dis-organized are terms associated with haphazard.  Although there is nothing wrong about being casual, some things require your full attention.  Unfortunately, as standards across the board continue to decline, a new mindset has developed, “why should I follow all the rules if no one else does?”

This seed of doubt has inspired a generation with a faith that can be best described as haphazard.  On Sunday’s, most people put on their happy faces.  By Monday, the memory of church often fades, depleted by stress and worry.  If traces of faith are neglected by believers, the love for God and others can disappear, replaced with selfishness.

Subsequently, many walk away disappointed, like the rich young ruler who tried to impress Jesus in Matthew 19:16-25.  The moral of this story is that no one is ever good enough to earn their way to heaven, Romans 3:9-12.  Regardless of your level of commitment, redemption can only be obtained through Christ, Romans 5:6-8.  While a haphazard faith may be a current reality, pray that the Word of the Lord, Romans 10:17, will resurrect dead or dying souls.

by Jay Mankus

 

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