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The Joseph Parallel

The logical individual thinks life should be a series of straight lines from point A to point B and so on.  While everyone may experience progress and natural progressions at times, life is full of detours, road blocks and phases of construction.  Therefore, the next time you find yourself in a period of transition, remember the Joseph parallel.

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors that was on him; and they took him, and cast him into the pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it, Genesis 37:23-24.

Joseph son of Jacob, had high expectations, receiving dreams and visions of the life God intended.  However, envy, jealousy and pride led Joseph down a path of disappointment.  Despite a series of heartbreaks, Joseph remained optimistic, leading to favor from God and man.  Apparently, Joseph didn’t care how long it took to fulfill God’s will.  Rather, Joseph kept plugging away at life until God opened doors that he was ready to walk through.

And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.  But Jehovah was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison, Genesis 39:20-21.

As I look at my own life, its not that different from Joseph.  However, when I experience trials I spent too much questioning God instead of making the best of each situation.  Subsequently, I have wasted countless days, weeks and years complaining instead of currying God’s favor.  In view of Joseph’s parallel, I need to be transformed, embracing hardships like James 1:2-4.  Although the Lord is waiting to bless his children, too many are having pity parties instead of taking God’s hand in faith.  May the Joseph parallel broaden your perspective and inspire you to keep serving the Lord until you reach your final destination.

by Jay Mankus

When Our Problems Meet God’s Possibilities

As life takes an unexpected twist or turn, certain things don’t make sense.  A typical response to unfortunate events is to question God wondering, “why is this happening to me?”  When confronted with problems, struggles and worries, perhaps its time to consider these situations as an opportunity for God to meet us in the storms of life.

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you, Genesis 45:5.

While his arrogance may have created the environment for hardship, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into prison and forgotten after helping a member of the king’s service.  Despite one disappointment after another, Joseph didn’t dwell in the past or throw a pity party, “woe is me.”  Rather, Joseph saw his problems as a chance for the power of God to rescue him.

But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance, Genesis 45:7.

Amid these setbacks, God gave Joseph the strength to press on.  Raising him up on wings like eagles, Joseph persevered until he found his true purpose in life.  Sure, the path the Lord took him on was a long and winding road, but Joseph’s problem met God’s possibilities.  If you find yourself spinning your wheels in 2016 or going around in circles, don’t lose hope.  Rather claim the promise of Luke 1:37, with God all things are possible!

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Earnest Prayers

Grave, serious and solemn describe the emotions connected to the term earnest.  Tragic events like the San Bernardino terrorist attack on a company Christmas party sent shock waves across the United States last week.  Like the nation of France following their own recent encounter, the news of death tends to bring people to their knees.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him, Acts 12:5.

Although less and less people annually consider themselves to be born again Christians, crying out to God is like a natural response in the face of desperation.  Unfortunately, earnest prayers usually arrive after disaster occurs.  Thus, for God to answer most prayers miracles are necessary or else people will go home disappointed and disenfranchised.  This wasn’t always the case, especially during the first century.

When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”  “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel,” Acts 12:14-15.

Persecution was a way of life for early Christian as many leaders were martyred for their faith.  Hopeful that Peter didn’t face the same fate of James of Zebedee in Acts 12:2, a spirit of earnest prayer spread.  This sober mood spawned an angel into action.  The ultimate goal of any prayer to receive the answer that you’re hoping for.  However, sometimes God answers quicker than you expect.  Thus, before the morning sunrise, Peter was set free, arriving at their front door.  Initially shocked like a dream too good to be true, this earnest prayer was blessed immediately.  In view of this account, be proactive to form a hedge of protection as you participate in a modern example of earnest prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Struggling to Find Momentum

Scientifically, momentum measures the mass and velocity of a moving body.  Meanwhile, in sports this term is like a changing of the tides, an invisible wave that can alter the outcome of a game.  When “Old Mo” is on your side, everything seems easy, falling into place with ease.  Yet, as momentum slips through your fingers, a sense of hopelessness sets in.  If you don’t believe me, just ask the Houston Oilers, who squandered a 32 point lead in the second half, losing to the Buffalo Bills in overtime on January 3rd, 1993.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, Matthew 7:26.

Those who don’t follow or play sports likely have a different understanding of momentum.  Perhaps you’ve tried to diet, exercise or workout on a regular basis.  This first couple of days or week may run smoothly.  Then, busyness, distractions and exhaustion weaken your initial commitment.  Before you develop a solid routine, any roll that you may have experienced is broken and gone, causing you to start all over again.

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

As I struggle to find my own spiritually momentum, I have reflected on past victories as well as what lead me to find this rhythm.  These days seem so long ago as I’ve forgotten the taste of success.  Thus, its back to the drawing board, trying to sort out where I’ve gone wrong so the future can be bright once again.  In these days of disappointment, life lessons can provide a foundation to build upon, starting with prayer, Bible Study and worship.  Yet, a splash and go pit stop just won’t cut it.  Therefore, if you’re struggling to find your momentum, set first the kingdom of God and He will make your paths straight.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

It’s Not a Matter of If… But When!

Back in 1991, Michael W. Smith sang about finding his Place in the World.  Sure, its a noble effort, yet the pessimistic didn’t want to get their hopes up only to be disappointed once again.  As for me, this concept was like a dream that didn’t seem achievable until I began to open up the Bible.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. – Psalm 143:10

According to King David, discerning God’s will isn’t a matter of if, but when.  Prepared by countless hours in the fields as a shepherd, trusting the Lord was a daily occurrence providing grass for the herd, protection from wild animals and daily bread to survive.  Like a spiritual antenna, David learned to follow the Spirit of the living God, leading him to solid ground.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Although I don’t have the faith of David, I am making progress, trusting that the work God began in me will be carried on to completion, Philippians 1:6.  Sure, I’ve had my doubts along the way and periods of darkness, unaware of my next step in life.  Even still, my soul finds comfort in writing as I try to find my place in this world.  I’m not there yet, but it’s not a matter of if, but when.

by Jay Mankus

Learning to Praise the Lord for the Little Things in Life

Anyone can handle blessings, like getting a hole in one on the first day of the New Year.  However, the moment you endure hardship, failure or loss, true character is revealed.  While relishing my hole in one stayed with me a couple of days, sudden disappointments put my faith to the test in the week that followed.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds – James 1:2.

As someone who use to riding an emotional roller coaster, celebrating the good before depression brings me back to earth, God is teaching me to remain even keel.  Thus, on New Year’s Day I took strides in the right direction, savoring the time with my children rather than feeding my own ego.  Whether I have a great or miserable day, praising the Lord for the little things like family, shelter and time spent together is crucial to prevent oneself from becoming burned out.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

The easy thing to do when trials strike is to cast blame, usually throwing God under the bus like Adam in the Garden.  Yet, with maturity comes perspective, seeing life’s events through the Lord’s eyes.   Upon hearing the news that his children died in an accident, Job replied, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21.  Although I’m no where near the model Job set, I’m in the infant stages of learning to praise God for the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Will See How Great is God

Life is like riding a new roller coaster for the first time, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns with unexpected corkscrews around blind corners.  Subsequently, individuals change, evolve or are transformed by the ebb and flow of trials.  Nonetheless, unless a caterpillar enters the chrysalis, it will never be able to fly.

When hard times arrive. (and they will find you) there is a tendency to cry out to God, complain and wrestle with reality, Psalm 77:1-4.  Whether its coping with death, illness or unemployment, there is no easy way out.  However, on the day of when storms arise, Asaph provides a blueprint in Psalm 77:5-13 to help struggling souls see how great God is.

The moment you begin to remember recent miracles, times when God carried you or meditate on the works of the Lord, perspectives change.  Yet, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of pain, find rest in God’s chrysalis until your transformation is complete.  After the hurricanes of life, keep your head up so that you will begin to see how great is our God.

by Jay Mankus

A Mere Phantom

When you look into a mirror, what do you see? Does pain from your past come into focus? Is the stress from life visible on your face? Or does a lack of faith leave you slumping over, doubtful that you’ll achieve anything significant in the future? From my vantage point, I feel like a mere phantom, unable to capture the person I want to be.

Apparently, King David struggled with a similar dilemma in Psalm 39:6.  As he reflected on his days on earth, what he saw was disappointing.  Essentially, David described his life as a phantom, roaming to and fro, like a ghostly spirit unable to find rest for their soul.  His son Solomon echoed David’s sentiment, recognizing that laboring and toiling on this planet is meaningless, Ecclesiastes 1:1-11.

If this is true, what can one do to reclaim joy?  Perhaps, you need to have a private meeting with Jesus, John 3:1-2, to see what’s holding you back.  From here, individuals need a daily dose of the Holy Spirit, like 5 Hour Energy Drinks to move beyond this material world, John 4:13-14.  Yet, to escape the phantom inside of you, stepping out in faith is necessary to begin utilizing the gifts created inside of you, Romans 12:3-8.  Don’t let a low self-esteem paralyze your progress. Rather, begin to see your reflection through the eyes of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Please feel free to share any words of encouragement to those who don’t like the person they see in the mirror.

by Jay Mankus

         

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Delaying God’s Promises

As I turned on the television this morning, I felt like God was talking directly to me.  Dr. Tony Evans was reminding his congregation that neutrality does not exist in the spiritual realm.  You’re either drawing closer to God, gathering up treasures for heaven or you’re falling away, disappointed by the lack of promises you’ve received if any.  Instead of blaming God for unfulfilled promises, disobedience, rebellion or unbelief essentially delays one from experiencing these blessings on earth.

According to Matthew 12:30, Jesus can’t be any clearer about his expectations for his followers.  “If you’re not with me, gathering people toward the kingdom of God, you’re against me!”  Though it sounds good today, you can’t pick and choose which commandments you follow and which you ignore and or neglect.  During my month long ordeal with my lung, liver and ribs, I began to slip away from God, frustrated by the hand I have been dealt the last few years.  However, my response has delayed God’s timing, waiting for obedience from me before I was accompanied by blessings, Deuteronomy 28:2.

I guess the easy thing to do is blame God for your lack of progress, success or wealth in life.  Nonetheless, David says it best in Psalm 37:3; “trusting in the Lord and striving for holiness comes first.”  Until this occurs, peace and safe pastures are on hold.  Therefore, don’t delay God’s promises any further by idleness.  Rather, delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, Psalm 37:4.

by Jay Mankus

Empty Hands

When disaster, tragedy or the unexplainable strikes an innocent soul, God often get’s the blame.  Accusations, complaining and questioning follow as people search for answers beneath the rumble left behind.  In the background, overhearing these conservations, the Lord is disappointed, by empty hands, always taking yet never giving.

Lost in history are the words at the end of Exodus 23:15, “no one is to appear before me empty handed.”  During the good times in life, God is like a friend we lose touch with, too busy to carve out any time in our daily schedule.  Pride puffs up our minds, thinking we are the reason for success.  Solomon was right in Proverbs 16:18 as pride foreshadows our fall, as individuals come crashing back to earth.

One could make the assumption that part of Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 relates to bringing God our best, not just the leftovers.  Exodus 23:19 illustrates what full hands resemble, offering up your first fruits to God.  Modern examples could be giving Jesus your first moments awake each morning, listening God’s Word first thing or giving your first paycheck of the month to the local church.

The next time you are tempted to grumble against the Lord, ask yourself this question.  Did I give God my full, partial or little attention today?  Depending upon your reply, maybe you need to fill your hands before you lift them up to the Lord in prayer.  When you learn to give, God will pay it forward in His time, Ecclesiastes 3:11.  As for now, gather before a poor witness causes countless to scatter from the faith, Matthew 12:30.

by Jay Mankus

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