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Musical Chairs

I was first introduced to musical chairs in grade school. This group activity was used as an ice breaker, a fun exercise to get to know other students. However, when I entered high school, I was introduced to full contact musical chairs. What started out as a routine game, ended in a scrum for the final empty chair. While playing on an elevated stage in a gym, I bounced off one of my fellow competitors. Before I could regain my balance, I flew off the stage, going into a defensive tuck and roll.

Now therefore, [reverently] fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the [Euphrates] River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord, Joshua 24:14.

Last weekend, I heard an interesting sermon that used three different chairs. As Jentezen Franklin defined chairs labeled conflict, compromise, and commitment, human beings play their own game of musical chairs daily. Depending upon how you exercise free will, you will find yourself in one of these three chairs. Subsequently, the actions, choices, and decisions that you make become part of musical chairs of faith. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they are actually playing this game.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, Joshua 24:15.

Those who select the chair of commitment tend to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. Whenever poor choices are made, convictions influence consciences to get up when the wrong chair is chosen. Meanwhile, the seat called compromise is like playing a game of hot potatoes. Depending upon your emotions, feelings or mood, decisions vary. Thus, carnal and fleshly desires tend to over rule spiritual hunger. The final chair is the least desirable, but takes little effort to sit down. The longer you stay here, the more comfortable you become. As you wake up today, choose commitment by following in the footsteps of Joshua.

by Jay Mankus

A Menace to Society

The Phantom Menace was released in 1999; also known as Star Wars: Episode 1. Written and directed by George Lucas, this film is set 32 years before the original Star Wars, going back in time after the first three movies, Episodes 4-6. The phantom is revealed when the evil Trade Federation plots to take over the peaceful planet of Naboo. This act forces Jedi warrior Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi into action.

You were running [the race] well; who has interfered and prevented you from obeying the truth? This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ], Galatians 5:7-8.

America was introduced to the term menace through the Comic Strip turned sitcom Dennis the Menace in 1959. This series preceded The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings on CBS from October 1959 to July 1963. Dennis’ character is an energetic, well meaning, but trouble prone boy who has a tendency to become a mischievous child. Like an accident waiting to happen, a real menace leaves behind a trail of danger, hazards and peril.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the [g]sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

Whenever individuals are tempted by their sinful nature, people are at risk at becoming a menace to society. Sure, initial signs of compromise are subtle, but as flirting with fleshly desires becomes a habit, actions, behavior and words will quickly change. Like something out of the movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, even family and friends won’t recognize you as evil spreads from the inside out. I pray that this blog serves as a warning so that the Holy Spirit awakens those currently ensnared by their sinful nature.

by Jay Mankus

When You Become the Prodigal

During my final year of college, I joined an accountability group.  The official title of this weekly gathering was a Reunion Group with men whom I met during a Walk to Emmaus Retreat.  This sharing group involved giving a brief summary of your week which included your moment closest to Christ and furthest away from God.  Since we started meeting on Monday nights in the fall, most of this group stuck around to watch Monday Night Football afterwards.  Unfortunately, when I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio over break and the summer, I blended into the world like a chameleon.  Instead of developing into a light for Christ, I regularly walked in darkness like the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

“Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, and to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd to prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:4-7.

You don’t have to squander your wealth in wild living such as Luke 15:13-15 to become a prodigal.  Rather, idleness, too much free time and a lack of vision can lead a man after God’s own heart into sinful addictions.  Instead of going to work, David took the Spring off, wandering around the roof of his palace until a naked woman got his attention.  Like any curious man, David inquired into the status of this woman, hoping that she was single.  When the answer was no, the power of being king went to David’s head, allowing compromise to imagine the possibilities of just one night with this beautiful woman.  A follower of Jesus describes this state as lust and enticement dragging individuals away from common sense until sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. 11  Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.

After David realized that he was the person in Nathan’s analogy, Psalm 51 becomes a prayer for forgiveness.  Prior to this confession, sin had entangled David within a pit of despair.  Psalm 55:4-5 describes a spirit of conviction and guilt that overwhelms souls when you are revealed as the prodigal.  This narcissistic mindset blinds individuals from seeing the truth, the wayward of selfish decisions.  While David does provide a blueprint for reconciliation, the reality that I have become the prodigal is a tough pill to swallow.  It only took one week of skipping church, sleeping in on Sunday to lead me on the slippery slope that I resid.  Doing the right thing sounds so easy, but the apostle Paul reminds readers of Romans 7 that sin influences you to do what you hate.  Thus, the next time you find yourself like me, shocked to be the prodigal, take these biblical passages to heart so that forgiveness arrives in the morning, Lamentations 3:19-23.

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

For Those Who Fall for the Same Trick Time After Time

No one likes to be described as being weak. This condition or state of lacking strength is an insult that doesn’t sit well. Nonetheless, if you are honest with yourself, everyone has a weakness, a chink in their armor. During a battle, enemies will examine and study their opponent, trying to ascertain their most vulnerable position.

Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1

Compromise, doubt and rationalization are elements that an invisible adversary narrows in on. Human minds are attacked day after day with some falling for the same trick time after time. Evil thoughts are planted within minds in the form of a subtle whisper, “did God really say?” As time has evolved, children have altered this question, “did my parents really say that?” “My coach, counselor, teacher or relative won’t mind if I do this?”

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

As a former victim, Peter compares the Devil to a powerful predator. As ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, Satan scans the globe daily stalking his next potential prey. Despite this warning, countless souls fail to take this threat seriously. Subsequently, articles, breaking news and headlines detail the most recent Christian who has fallen, caught in another shocking sin. Perhaps, this blog will awaken souls to this spiritual emergency so that future individuals do not fall for this same old trick anymore.

by Jay Mankus

Betting on the Future

On May 14th, 2018 the United States Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law on commercialized sports betting.  Prior to this ruling, Las Vegas was one of the few places in this country to legally place a bet on March Madness or the Super Bowl.  This decision has opened the door for other states to grab a piece of the pie.  Based upon initial reports, one hundred and fifty billion dollars in illegal wages are made every year.  Thus, for states like Delaware and New Jersey who have recently passed legislation to allow gambling on sports, local government officials are betting on the future.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it, Proverbs 13:11.

If gambling on sports was illegal until now, one has to wonder why would past legislators initially outlaw this practice?  King Solomon referred to the love of money as vanity, Ecclesiastes 5:10.  A first century doctor warns believers against falling prey to covetousness, Luke 12:15.  An associate of the apostle Paul urges Christians to avoid earthly practices that begins with compromise and ends by forfeiting your soul, Mark 8:36.  While playing the lottery, fantasy sports and making bets with friends seems innocent, if victorious these practices can accumulate ill-gotten gain.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

The phrase follow the money first appeared in William Goldman’s screenplay All the President’s Men.  Since this film, other movie’s has illustrated the corruption and demise that comes along with a hunger and thirst for money.  While the optimism for sports betting is currently high, the spiritual consequences for those who indulge in gambling can have lasting affects.  After a visit to Atlantic City several years ago, I came face to face with individuals who came to town with money but left broke or homeless in a worst case scenario.  Only time will tell if betting on the future was worth the risk.  Yet, for now keep your life free the love of money, content with the life that God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

 

Beware of Satan’s Natural Language

The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming around on the earth and from walking around on it,” Job 1:7.

Lucifer was once an arch angel, an anointed Cherub according to Ezekiel 28:14.  An angel of song and one of the most beautiful creatures in all of heaven, Satan exercised free will.  This decision resulted in his expulsion from heaven, cast down to earth.  Despite this demotion, Satan is recognized as the ruler of the air by the apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:2, maintaining his angelic powers.  This supernatural ability enables Satan to scan the earth quickly, preying upon weak and vulnerable souls, 1 Peter 5:8.

Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! Yes, a man will give all he has for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh [and severely afflict him]; and he will curse You to Your face,” Job 2:4-5.

Satan’s first victim is a curious woman, attracted to a beautiful tree with luscious fruit.  Entering into a serpent, this crafty being planted doubt within the minds of human beings.  Questioning the only rule given to Adam as caretaker of the Garden of Eden, Satan challenged God’s authority, using logic and justification to promote sin.  After successfully lying to Adam and Eve, Satan set his sights on taking down Job.  Asking God for permission, illness is introduced to earth, striking Job’s body.  The goal of this affliction is to force Job, a man of integrity to curse God.  While Satan’s second attack was unsuccessful, imagine the array of tricks Satan uses today to encourage individuals to deny God.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies, John 8:44.

During a discourse about what it means to be a true disciple, Jesus unmasks Satan’s natural language.  The founder of half truths, Satan hides behind lies, convincing the uninformed that compromise, lust and temporary pleasures is okay to do every once in a while.  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd, where your heart is, there your treasure will be also, Matthew 6:19-21.  Giving into any sort of subtle deviation from the truth plays into the hand of the Devil.  To ensure that future believers don’t fall into this trap, the apostle Paul urges people to test everything that you hear, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Any type of careless response to unproven information sets you up for failure, deceived by the father of lies.  Therefore, be alert, on guard and prepared for smooth talkers seeking to persuade you into believing a lie.

by Jay Mankus

Understanding Evil

As someone who has grown to love history, you can likely predict what will happen in the future based upon previous events.  Although past civilizations may have possessed good intentions, the temptation for control, fame and power has a way to side track the most disciplined individuals.  Subsequently, enticement opens the door for evil to corrupt formerly innocent souls.  This shocking reality is where understanding evil begins.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time, Genesis 6:5.

In the years leading up to the biblical flood, a spirit of wickedness spread throughout the earth.  While specific acts aren’t mentioned, murder, violence and war are assumed based upon the accounts within Genesis 4.  As human beings gave into every kind of inclinations, cravings, desires and feelings, hearts became set on evil.  Without any voice of truth holding people accountable, humanism was conceived by doing what’s right in your own eyes.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

Today, a similar culture exists where absolutes are considered old-fashioned, stale and not worth the hassle to follow.  When rules become lax in any society, integrity, morality and values tend to decline.  If this trend continues for years or decades, you can easily recognize this in day to day interactions.  This environment allows evil to enter souls through compromise.  When confronted by an authority figure, evil is often discarded by justifying and rationalizing behavior.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs, 1 Timothy 6:10.

When it comes to explaining the New York City terrorist attack with a dump truck, some are inspired by extreme religious beliefs.  Mass shootings like in Las Vegas and the small church outside of San Antonio, Texas typically reveal some sort of troubled past.  Like a fuse waiting to go off, evil takes over at some point, paralyzing the human conscience.  This sets the stage for disaster.  Until conviction, truth and revival return, evil will continue to reign throughout segments of society.  Only when souls ask God to return can evil be defeated.  May the presence of evil today inspire individuals to open their hearts to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Leave No Child Behind

In 2001 president George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law.  The premise of this bill was to insure no child was forgotten, lost or left behind in the educational system.  When this policy failed to meet it’s expectations, the stage was set for Common Core to come to the rescue.  Nearly two decades later, Common Core is now being rejected by some states as ideology is replacing reading, writing and arithmetic.  In the end, the only one who can insure no child is left behind is the Creator of heaven and earth.  Yet, as activist judges, liberal movements and progressive politicians ban God from public education, the real question should be does God want to stick around in America to help or bless another land who is open to biblical teaching?

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6

The flaw with president Bush’s slogan Leave No Child Behind is that he excluded the family.  Education begins and ends in American homes.  God ordained parents to educate, instruct and train children in the way that they should go in life.  When parents begin to prepare boys and girls for the various stages in life, success is not guaranteed but increases the probability for a positive outcome.  Unfortunately, at some point in time parents were convinced by government officials that it takes a village to raise children.  When this compromise was embraced, adults shifted their attention to other things while schools became the sole source of learning.  This mindset opened the door for children to be left behind, forced to figure things out on their own.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3.

When I was young, my father’s commute to work was a 90 minute ride both ways.  Thus, the only time I really saw my father was on the weekends.  To make up for this, my dad took off most of August, going away to Maine for a couple of weeks each summer for vacation.  At some point, I made a decision that when I was a father, I would put my children first.  While I was still selfish until my oldest son was 12, conviction led me to give up playing men’s softball to take a more active role in my children’s life.  Although I am far from perfect, sacrificing my own interests for my children has been worth it.  For the last 4 years, I’ve switched my work schedule around to attend, coach and support my kids’ hobbies.  If you truly want to see that no child left behind, start with your own family and you will see the fruits of putting the needs of others above yourself.

by Jay Mankus

How I Feel Verse What I Should Do?

There are some mornings when my alarm goes off that I feel like staying in bed.  Whatever plans I made in my mind the night before are cast aside as I hit snooze numerous times.  When my life is void of dreams, goals or vision, feelings dictate what I actually do.  At the end of the week as this cycle resets, I often discover little accomplishments on my to do list.  Thus, how I feel is currently winning this endless tug of war against what God wants me to do.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out, Romans 7:18.

During a trip to Rome, the apostle Paul appears to have developed some bad habits.  The text above doesn’t specify the issue except for implying Paul wasn’t able to follow through with God’s plan while visiting Rome.  Earthly desires were either distracting or preventing Paul from making the progress he hoped and prayed for.  You don’t have to be a missionary or pastor to experience these feelings.  In fact, the average Christian understands failure more than success.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing, Romans 7:19.

When other people that you know live according to another set of rules, it’s hard not to lower your own standards through subtle compromises.  Unfortunately, by doing so you allow feelings to trump faith.  The earthly brother of Jesus once wrote “faith without deeds is dead.”  Thus, every time I slip, giving into the sinful nature, my faith drifts closer to death’s door.  To avoid the inevitable, I need a spiritual heart transplant, injected with new life by the Holy Spirit so that how I feel will yield to what God wants me to do.

by Jay Mankus

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