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Making the Best of a Bad Situation

When you walk into the middle of a conversation during a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering, there is a chance that you’ll miss the context. If you listen attentively, you may be able to figure out what’s happening. Yet, sometimes you’ll be lost, moving on the next room to see what else is going on. When pastors prepare their weekly message, sometimes they will skip over certain details in the Bible.

[The letter was sent] by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the captives whom I have caused to be carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Jeremiah 29:3-4.

This is what happens in the beginning of Jeremiah 29. Ninety percent of the speeches that quote the famous passage below fail to mention that Israel was living in exile at this moment in history. Beside being forced out of their homes, the prophet Jeremiah was given a message by God to share. To summarize the beginning of chapter 29, Jeremiah asks his people to make the best of a bad situation.

For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to this place. 11 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 29:10-11.

Rather than dwell on the past, God wanted Israel to build houses, settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce. The path to healing starts with changing your perspective. Then and only then can you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the context that brings Jeremiah to declare the plans that God has for Israel in the future. May you learn from this passage when you are forced to make the best of a bad situation.

by Jay Mankus

Constantly in Prayer

The word constantly refers to a continuous act, repetitive in a persistent manner, over and over again.  Meanwhile, prayer is a solemn attempt for help, requesting God’s assistance, hoping and wishing for a quick response.  When you put the two together, this cry of the heart often touches souls, inspiring others to join.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers, Acts 1:14.

Whenever you talk to someone for the last time, emotions are stirred, causing some to tear up.  Yet, others may be moved by this last conversation, motivated to act or do what you promised.  Thus, in the hours and days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the stage was set for a unified movement.  Known as a concert of prayer, those close to Jesus felt an urge to participate in a prolonged period of prayer.

Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray. Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise, James 5:13.

I must confess, prayer is something that doesn’t come naturally to me.  In fact, if I don’t write my prayers down into a journal, I find myself distracted, with my mind wandering in circles.  Nonetheless, in those rare occasions in which I have prayed continuously, the results have been amazing.  Prayers were answered, healing occurred and lives were transformed.  Therefore, don’t settle for an average life.  Rather, call out to an extraordinary God, constantly in prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit to arrive on the scene.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Life Stops Giving and Starts Taking Away

I recently overheard a conversation between an elderly couple.  Looking back at life, one made an interesting observation.  Coping with a string of funerals to attend, a trend developed.  “When you reach a certain age, life stops giving and starts taking away.”

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”- Job 1:21

According to the family tree recorded in the book of Genesis, the aging process was slowed down, allowing the first generation of descendants on earth to live for over 900 years.  This was made possible by some sort of canopy, shielding bodies from the sun’s rays.  Prior to original sin, God designed human being to live forever.  Yet, the wickedness of mankind led God to limit life expectancy to 120 years after the flood.

Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”- Genesis 6:3

Subsequently, as childhood leads to adolescence, years fly by before you know it.  Thus, like a turning point, births and weddings are replaced by funerals.  From a worldly perspective, death is an unpleasant reality, where life stops giving and starts taking away.  In view of this fact, its essential to make a reservation for eternity, 1 John 5:13.  May the promise of Romans 10:9-10 show you the way to heaven’s gates.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

 

Seven Days in Utopia

While its’ unclear actually who coined the phrase, “timing is everything,” this nugget of truth still applies today.  Whether you are engaging in a conversation, watching a movie or reading a book, if the timing isn’t right, your interest will quickly fade.  Such is the case of a film I recently enjoyed, 7 Days in Utopia.  As a channel surfer like most bored Americans, I stumbled across this film a few times in the past, catching it at the wrong moment.  However, last night, shortly after the opening scene, I was hooked til the conclusion.

Robert Duvall plays a Yoda like character, training Luke Chisholm, a talented but hot tempered young professional, played by Lucas Black.  Duvall takes a person who is a cross between Tin Cup and Happy Gilmore for 7 days to work on his beliefs, mind and perspective.  Trying to overcome the demons in life, Duvall reveals the scars from his past that cut short his own professional career.  With a different focus each day, Chisholm is caught off guard, realizing there is more to life than hitting a little white golf ball into a hole.  On Easter Sunday, this week comes to an end while another journey is about to begin.

Seven Days in Utopia is based upon David Lamar Cook’s novel Golf’s Sacred Journey, Seven Days at the Links of Utopia.  Although, the movie portrays Utopia as a place, its actually a state of mind.  As citizens of earth prepare for an eternal resting place, the power of the Holy Spirit can transform neighborhoods into pieces of heaven on earth.  Whether you play golf or not, I recommend this film to all who seek a higher calling, looking for more than just living 9-5.  May God lead you to a spiritual utopia.

by Jay Mankus

If These Walls Could Speak?

Building walls of protection is nothing new.  The Berlin Wall, Great Wall of China and Western Wall in Israel were established as defense mechanisms.  These structures served as a hiding place as well as a refuge, either to keep enemies out or prevent other civilians from corrupting the ideology shared by those who call this places home.

Beyond the vision of a human eye, another wall exists.  This one surrounds the heart, protecting individuals from becoming vulnerable, hurt or both.  The greater the pain from the past, the larger the barrier erected.  Like a facade, unveiling what lies behind this inclosure isn’t easy.  Layer by layer must be removed carefully or else souls will clam up, refusing to convey genuine concerns, emotions or thoughts.

According to a famous prophet, the heart is a mysterious organ, Jeremiah 17:9-10.  Regardless of how cautious someone is, when the heart speaks don’t be surprised by what you hear.  Deceitfulness has taken hearts captive, a condition that is beyond cure.  Therefore, if famous historic walls could speak, sin might be the topic of conversation.  In view of this grave condition, set your heart on things above, Colossians 3:1-3, so that hell will wear off as heaven takes center stage.

by Jay Mankus

God Wants Your Sex

What?  Am I in the right place?  Are you sure you’re not referring to the George Michael song?  During a private conversation between Moses and God, Exodus 31:18, this concept was first introduced to the Israelites.

To prevent the excuse, “well, no one ever told me,” the Lord lays out His position about sex in plain view for all to see, Leviticus 18.   The first sex education message may be graphic in nature, yet God’s boundaries are clearly defined.  Every possible scenario, no matter have perverted, establishes a line in the sand to discourage unlawful sexual acts.   If Adam couldn’t keep the only law in the garden, Genesis 2:17, what’s going to keep mankind from pushing the sexual envelope.

To combat this temptation, God introduces the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21.  It’s not a coincidence that sex is linked to the first and last desire.  Sexual immorality is like an open door that many walk through, attracted by temporary pleasures and illicit scenery.  When lust becomes full blown, individuals are persuaded to partake in orgies, losing control of their sexuality.

According to the apostle Paul, the church in Corinth struggled to control their bodies.  Subsequently, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is written to help those who have strayed off course.  Beyond these addictive habits, soul ties merge you with a sexual partner.  These bonds often confuse souls, destroying relationships and preventing true intimacy from forming.  In view of this, God wants your sex so that your temple, physical body, will be offered as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1-2.  Please share your feelings, opinions and thoughts on this controversial topic.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

When the Star Saved a Nerd

It was Friday afternoon as high school students began to filter out of the front entrance.  As Tim, the starting quarterback of the football team, began to think of his weekend plans, an unusual site got his attention.  Walking down the main sidewalk, a nerd was trying to carry all of his books home for the weekend, stacked 9 high.  Meanwhile, one by one, other students began to bully and tease this studious boy, causing him to drop his books.  Laughing initially, the second and third time this occurred, Tim became enraged.

Inspired to act, Tim moved out of his comfort zone, introducing himself to this boy with a ghostly face.  Before he finished talking, this nerd faintly responded, “I know who you are, everyone does!”  Feeling awkward, Tim began to make small talk, asking where he lived, how old he was and what he liked to do.  Realizing he lived a few blocks away, Tim suggested, “why don’t I walk you home, I live right around the corner so nobody else gives you a hard time?”  Afraid to reject this offer, they began to pass time in conversation.  As they approached the nerd’s home, Tim humbled himself, asking if his new friend could tutor him in Algebra.  Shocked by this request, this was the beginning of an unique, yet special friendship.

Two years later, this nerd went on to become valedictorian, nominated by Tim to give a speech at graduation.  Shy and afraid, this boy trembled at the podium, staring at his note cards for a moment.  Suddenly, the boy put his cards away, proclaiming, “I can’t do this!”  Sharing from his heart, this nerd dropped a bomb shell on those in attendance.  “Two years ago, I was on my way to commit suicide.  On a Friday afternoon, I brought all my books home so my mom wouldn’t have to clear out my locker.  On my way home, I started thinking about how I was going to do this until a stranger intervened.  Bullied for the last time, I wanted to make these cruel people feel bad.  Yet, Tim stepped in, befriended me and stopped me from carrying out my plan.”   With not a dry eye in the house, this was the day when the star quarterback saved a nerd.

by Jay Mankus

 

Access Denied

Whether you are at home, school or work, if you’re careless when you enter your password into a computer, access will be denied.  Perhaps, you accidentally hit the caps button.  Or maybe your finger touched two keys at the same time.  Regardless of your mistake, black dots prevent you from seeing where you went wrong.  Instead, you are rejected, having to repeat the same process without a flaw to gain the access you desire.

When it comes to talking to God, many share a similar frustration, desperately seeking answers to their prayers.  Nonetheless, countless individuals are given the silent treatment, left in the dark by a God unwilling to tell you why at least for the moment.  Whether your situation is sin related or not, Isaiah 1:15, being shut out of the conversation has caused some to abandon God.

Paul likely endured periods of doubt during his years of ministry as an apostle.  However, while in Rome, the Holy Spirit brought Paul a clear message in Romans 5:1-4.  If access is denied, faith carries you until God opens the next door for you to walk through.  When you do sin, grace is provided to allow you to enter God’s presence.  Therefore, if you are struggling to connect with God, remember the words of Hebrews 11:1-6 until your access is reinstated.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Different Kind of Free

Paradise didn’t last long until temptation entered the conversation.  Since Adam and Eve were caught red handed with forbidden fruit in their possession, freedom has gone down hill.  Sure, freewill still exists, yet a different kind of free is necessary to escape guilt, shame and regret.

In their 2003 hit song Different Kind of Free, Zoe Girl raises this question.  Despite the pain of historic blunders, the future does hold the key to obtain a spiritual freedom.  While the world is busy keeping score, 1 Corinthians 13:4, God hits the reset button every morning, Lamentations 3:22-23.  The focus shouldn’t be on whether or not the Lord will forgive you for your transgressions in life.  Rather, will you let go of failure to forgive yourself or are you going to continue to beat yourself over previous mistakes?

The New Testament expresses a kinder and gentler God, full of grace and love, Romans 5:8.  Instead of shedding blood to atone for every time you mess up, the Lord has sent a different kind of high priest, Hebrews 4:15-16.  To replace this Jewish tradition, a human was led to the slaughter to die once and for all, 1 Peter 4:1.  Although no one deserves a second chance, a different kind of free is now available through Jesus, John 3:3-17.  Don’t wait to taste this everlasting fruit, Psalm 34:8.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Slip Proof

Whether you’re driving a car in wintry weather, trying to walk on a slippery surface or seek to keep a conversation clean with children ease dropping, its impossible to guarantee a slip proof day.  You may have good intentions, yet how can you be so sure that you won’t misstep, stumble and fall?  Daily obstacles await individuals, like potholes that can lead to blunders, errors or gaffes if you’re not paying careful attention.

Despite these odds, there was a king who suggested another way.  Psalm 37:31 contains a plan that is slip proof, demonstrated by a man after God’s own heart.  The key is to hide the words of the Bible in your heart, meditating on God’s laws as an honor student hungers for straight A’s, Psalm 119:7-9.  Once the mind is transformed, Romans 12:2, a slip proof day isn’t out of the equation.  This is the goal set out for people to strive for, Matthew 5:48.

Slipping often occurs in 3 ways: physically, mentally and spiritually.  Physically slipping could be an accident or a byproduct of poor judgment.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s warning to believers in Corinth, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Compromise is conceived in minds, trying to convince souls to alter their values.  If an Eve like moment occurs, a mental weakness produces a spiritual slip known as sin.  Whenever you reach this point, go back to the drawing board, remember David’s words in Psalm 37:31 to regain a slip proof footing.

Do you have a stategy for avoiding “slips”? If so, please share.

 

by Jay Mankus

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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