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When Knee Jerk Decisions Prolong the Length of Your Storm

Movies are filled with bad decisions which form the plot of a screenplay. Anger, curiosity, knee jerk reactions or pride often make a difficult situation even worse. In the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Skandar Kaynes plays Edmund Pevensie, the third youngest child who suffers from an inferiority complex. When Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are deported from London to the house of an eccentric professor during World War 2, Lucy discovers the magical land of Narnia. However, when Peter follows his younger sister into the Wardrobe (the portal to Narnia) the following day, an encounter with the White Witch places his entire family in danger.

As we were being dangerously tossed about by the violence of the storm, the next day they began to throw the freight overboard; 19 And the third day they threw out with their own hands the ship’s equipment (the tackle and the furniture). 20 And when neither sun nor stars were visible for many days and no small tempest kept raging about us, all hope of our being saved was finally abandoned, Acts 27:18-20.

Sailing on an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy, a northeaster disrupts Paul’s trip to Rome. The winds did not let up for several days, slowing the progress of this journey. Warning the crew about a vision he received from God, Acts 27:10, the centurion did not listen, convincing by the captain and owner of this vessel to press on. According to the passage above, conditions continued to worsen as the sun, moon and stars were not visible as the storm blocked out any signs of light. Unfortunately, many Christians go unheard as experts follow science rather than follow the voice of God.

Then as they had eaten nothing for a long time, Paul came forward into their midst and said, Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have put to sea from Crete and brought on this disaster and harm and misery and loss. 22 But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. 23 For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship, 24 And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you. 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me; Acts 27:21-25.

Pastor’s during the Coronavirus face a similar situation today. As local and state officials are placing bans or limits on the number of individuals who can attend church, spiritual leaders are in a difficult spot. Do elders make knee jerk reactions by disregarding state mandates or carefully follow social distancing standards? Human nature tends to lead people to push the limits. Meanwhile, common sense leads human beings to be responsible by putting the needs of others in place of yourself. Whatever circumstance or trial that you face in 2021, make sure that knee jerk reactions don’t prolong the length of your current storm.

by Jay Mankus

Starting Over in 2021

ξεκινώντας από την αρχή is the Greek word for starting over. Meanwhile, the Latin expression for starting over is iterum incipi. When translated literally into English this refers to again, a second time. As 2020 is thankfully ushered out for good, it’s time to hit the reset button. While no one knows for sure how long the Coronavirus will stick around, starting over with a blank canvas gives me hope of a brighter future.

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 29:11.

Despite earning a nickname as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah 9:1 and Jeremiah 13:17, there is a glimpse of positive news. In the passage above, the Lord finally gives Jeremiah a message of hope. These future plans includes blessings, dreams and a final outcome worth waiting for. Therefore, if you still haven’t gotten over the worst pandemic in the last century, the Bible provides some encouraging news.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired, Isaiah 40:30-31.

Another Old Testament prophet provides an analogy that most adults can relate to. Between the spread of Covid-19, forced closures of businesses and the stress of trying to stay alive, 2020 has worn out countless souls. Thus, as many have lost their energy and joy for life, it’s time to place your faith in God’s hands again. Just as eaglets trusted their parents renew their strength, it’s time to place your faith in God to start over in 2021.

by Jay Mankus

Mixing Birthdays with Christmas

Depending upon when you were born in a calendar year, your birthday is either overshadowed by Christmas, spread out throughout the year or occurs in the summer when most of your friends are on vacation. I fall into the latter category, often struggling to a find a few friends who are home in August. Yet, most of the women in my family are forced to mix their birthday with Christmas. My mother and wife were born one day a part in the middle of this month while my sister Cindy and Leanne’s mom were born on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, these days are mere appetizers that lead up to the birth of Christ.

[My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been orally instructed, Luke 1:4.

In the wake of the Coronavirus, a once in a century event, some of you wish that you were born during a different month or period in history. During a late night conversation with a Pharisee named Nicodemus, Jesus refers the spiritual process of being “born again.” At the time of their discussion, this theological term wasn’t known causing Nicodemus to become sarcastic. “Do you really expect our mother’s to open up their legs to be forced back in their womb again?” The wry smile on Nicodemus face vanished quickly. According to John, this religious leader stops talking, intrigued by the thought of being spiritually reborn.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

As neighbors decorate the interior and exterior of their homes for this celebration, don’t be caught off guard by silly Nick. Rather, prepare your hearts for the true meaning of this holiday season. The passage above highlights what some Christmas Carols declare, “Joy to the World as Immanuel has come to earth to save this fallen world from sin. This gift wasn’t without a sacrifice as God offered up his one and only son to become the perfect Lamb of God. Perhaps, this Christmas as people gather together at a church, in a home or view an online service, the only birth that matters is the decision to become born again, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

When You Lose the Desire to Sing

Over the course of my life, there were several years that I never wanted to end as I was having the time of my life. Other years can be best described by “blah, ho hum or nothing special.” However, as December begins and a New Year approaches, most Americans are ready now to turn the page on 2020. Between the Coronavirus, countless deaths, a troubled economy and whatever else you have endured, finding something to sing about is tough.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we [captives] sat down, yes, we wept when we [earnestly] remembered Zion [the city of our God imprinted on our hearts]. On the willow trees in the midst of [Babylon] we hung our harps, Psalm 137:1-2.

The Psalmist writes about a similar period in his own life. The forced detention of Jews to Babylonia following the conquest of the kingdom of Judah began in 598. This exile would last a total of 12 years, removing the wind beneath the wings of this harp player. After being removed from their beloved land, musicians lost their desire to play an instrument. Subsequently, harps were abandoned, hung in nearby willow trees in Babylon.

For there they who led us captive required of us a song with words, and our tormentors and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill [with the harp]. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember you not, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy! – Psalm 137:3-6.

People listen to music for a variety of reasons. Some listen as a form of entertainment, others to pass the time or seek inspiration from a particular song or genre of music. While music can sooth human souls as in the case of King Saul in 1 Samuel 16, depressing music can plant troubling thoughts. Whenever I am depressed, I rely on certain songs to uplift my mood. Yet, when you lose the desire to sing, come to Jesus to lighten your load, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

A Last Ditch Effort to Save a Nation

The origin of concerts of prayer dates back to revivalists in Scotland, in October, 1744. According to Joseph Tracy, a historian of the First Great Awakening,  the desire to convert the world to Christ prompted evangelists to devote two years toward prayer oriented events. Churches set aside time for prayer Saturday nights, Sunday mornings and the first Tuesday of each quarter. As a spirit of prayer spread throughout the region, souls were primed to confess their sins and receive Jesus as Lord.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life, John 3:16.

A similar movement began 36 years ago in South Korea. The International Prayer Assembly included 2,000 prayer-mobilizers from 70 nations who issued an International Call to Prayer. This concert of prayer was based upon five main objectives: call out to God for a worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to apply the work of the Cross to men and women, to awaken the church, to break the power of Satan over people’s lives and to unify and empower the church for world evangelism. The impact of these prayers likely explains the revival that spread throughout South Korea.

For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:17.

When you fast forward to today, the 2020 Presidential Election and Coronavirus have teamed up to create havoc. As Trump battles elections results in 6 battleground states, a growing number of COVID-19 cases have empowered government officials to flex their political power. While Biden is expected to become the 46th president, America is close to having spiritual holidays cancelled. Meanwhile, recent allegations that states using software provided by Dominion and Smartmatic may have rigged the election in Biden’s favor, omitted from the media. In view of this chaos, starting a new generation of concert of prayers may be the only hope to save the constitution and spiritual heritage of this once great nation.

by Jay Mankus

Progressively Acquainted with Christ

The Progressive Corporation was founded in 1937 and has grown to one of the largest providers of car insurance in the United States. Whether it’s all the commercials using Flo as its’ spokesperson or the new sign guy, television advertisements have increased business national wide. The term progressive refers to developing gradually, proceeding step by step. Progressivism in the United States is a political philosophy and reform movement designed to alter the Constitution to keep up with the times.

Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything—in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us—[see to it that you come to the front now and] abound and excel in this gracious work [of almsgiving] also. I give this not as an order [to dictate to you], but to prove, by [pointing out] the zeal of others, the sincerity of your [own] love also, 2 Corinthians 8:7-8.

In a letter to the Corinthian Church, the apostle Paul uses progressive in the context of a personal relationship with God. As individuals begin to open the Bible, learn how to pray and open their hearts to worship, this acquaintance grows. As concepts like grace begin to be introduced, a bond is formed with an invisible being, As crazy as this might seem to the un-churched, Christians seek a progressive acquaintance with God.

For you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing), [in] that though He was [so very] rich, yet for your sakes He became [so very] poor, in order that by His poverty you might become enriched (abundantly supplied), 2 Corinthians 8:9.

If you follow the example of Jesus detailed in Mark 1:35, the Lord should be your first priority. Proceeding step by step in faith, a progressive acquaintance is formed. Instead of a casual, on today off tomorrow relationship, a permanent meaningful tie develops. As prayers are answered and miracles seen, a fire ignites within souls to want more and more. Thus, don’t let the Coronavirus sever your connection with God. Instead find time in your schedule daily so that you are progressively acquainted with Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Sound of Worship

Worship is the expression of reverence and adoration for God. This celebration is usually held inside a building. However, in this age of the Coronavirus, places of worship have been forced to be creative. In those states where lock downs still exist, worship services have been moved outside. Although most properties don’t have the luxury of a natural amphitheater, some worship teams have taken to the streets.

Not only that, but can anyone understand the spreadings of the clouds or the thunderings of His pavilion? – Job 36:29

In the passage above, Job compares the sound of worship to a storm growing in the distance. As clouds darken, filled with thunder and lightning, spectators watch from a distance, amazed by this brewing sight of nature. While rain in the New Testament is symbolic of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament uses rain as a way to achieve truth. As voices cry out in public today, the sound of worship touches hearts.

Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the heavens of His power! Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to the abundance of His greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and [single or group] dance; praise Him with stringed and wind instruments or flutes! Praise Him with resounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) – Psalm 150:1-6

The last Psalm in the Bible highlights the sound of worship. As a worship leader sets the tone, praise can spread like a wildfire, from one soul to another. Meanwhile, as the Spirit of God moves, enthusiasm to raise the volume intensifies. When you add instruments to this equation, souls awaken to clap, dance and shake their bodies to exalt the Great I Am. This is what can happen as souls hear the sound of worship.

by Jay Mankus

The Fight to Survive

The song I Will Survive was written and composed by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. The first recording of this song was done by Gloria Gaynor in 1978. As a top-selling song, I Will Survive became a popular disco anthem. The lyrics just prior to the opening chorus reads “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?” This line leads into “Oh, no, not I, I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive, I will survive, hey, hey.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

Over the past 9 months, the fight to survive has taken on a new meaning. Between the Coronavirus, the lock down designed to flatten the curve, wearing masks in public and the stress to keep up with your bills has worn down countless souls. Meanwhile, as individuals have been stuck inside their homes, addiction, abuse, depression and suicide has skyrocketed. All it takes is just one more setback to push people over the edge, losing the will to live and survive. While I’ve probably been more fortunate than most in 2020, I too have known individuals who have lost their battle with COVID-19.

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

While some have blamed God for this worldwide plague, the Bible points to a spiritual enemy. Jesus calls this character a thief, seeking to kill your dreams, steal your joy and eliminate the concept of hope. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul eludes to the spiritual dimension where Lucifer reigns, commanding demons to attack at a moments notice. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 provides advice, directions and insight to deal with these dark powers. The only way to fight back is by using spiritual weapons. May this blog encourage you to not lose hope so that you will survive your next trial.

by Jay Mankus

A Shift in Focus

The difference between success and failure can be small. A fraction here or a fraction there often determines the final outcome. From a spiritual focus, those who dwell on their circumstances tend to become overwhelmed by fear. This is the situation in the passage below as Israeli soldiers focused on the size of Goliath, a physical giant compared to everyone else. Meanwhile, a skinny shepherd boy sent by his father to bring food to his older brothers noticed Goliath’s weakness. Not being circumcised meant that Goliath was beatable, not covered or protected by God.

And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the [men] told him, Thus shall it be done for the man who kills him. 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard what he said to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, Why did you come here? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and evilness of heart; for you came down that you might see the battle, 1 Samuel 17:26-28.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, the disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm. Unable to take shelter, the wind and waves battered their boat stuck on the Sea of Galilee. Despite just witnessing the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ disciples began to fear. Instead of focusing of the God of miracles, these men focused on the current storm surrounding their boat. After spending time in prayer, Jesus took a short cut to Capernaum by walking across this body of water. Disappointed by their lack of faith, Jesus used his supernatural powers to take this boat immediately to shore.

[However] when they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. And they were afraid (terrified). 20 But Jesus said to them, It is I; be not afraid! [I Am; stop being frightened!] 21 Then they were quite willing and glad for Him to come into the boat. And now the boat went at once to the land they had steered toward. [And immediately they reached the shore toward which they had been slowly making their way,] John 6:19-21.

In wake of the Coronavirus, perhaps we all need a refresher course on faith. Hebrews 11:1-6 refers to having the assurance and confidence in an invisible God. Without faith it is impossible to please and satisfy God’s expectations, Matthew 16:24-26. Unfortunately, the moment tides change from blessings to adversity, panic causes many to shift their focus. However, the passage above is a reminder that as soon as you shift your focus from your circumstances toward the God of miracles, help is on the way. May this blog inspire you to shift your focus back toward the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

When I Get Around To It

Prior to the second week in March, busyness could be used as an excuse for not getting around to doing something that you deem important. Depending upon your normal work schedule, certain unexpected things can alter your list of priorities. When businesses, cities and states began to issue work at home orders if possible, priorities changed overnight. Instead of using time as a lame excuse, free time at home is what many households had until their states began to re-open.

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides, Matthew 6:33.

In the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes some time to focus on motives and priorities. Unfortunately, the invisible forces of worry tend to distract individuals from what’s important in life. Instead of trusting God to provide daily bread, minds and thoughts often race out of control. By the time you find yourself in bed, what you didn’t get around to do is held off until tomorrow. Thus, for people like me, another opportunity to meet with God is missed.

And in the morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed, Mark 1:35.

Tired of rarely keeping my New Year resolutions, I have taken extreme measures to avoid skipping my daily time with God. Although I am not a morning person, I do have an advantage to practicing Jesus’ morning ritual. Since I work nights, I arrive home early 4 days a week. While I haven’t carried out my plan every day this year, I usually read a section of the Bible and pray before going to sleep. Instead of waiting until I get around to it, my first few moments at home in the morning are spent with God. Don’t fall prey to the when I get around to it trap. Meet with God right now!

by Jay Mankus

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