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Tag Archives: Coronavirus

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

It’s Time to Tune Out the News

Whenever I pick up my phone or turn on my computer, current event stories appear. Some messages stream across my screen with a red headline, breaking news. Meanwhile, when I go to check my emails, I am bombarded by advertisements, headlines and news stories. While driving to work, every half hour, whether I like it on not, I’ll receive the latest on COVID-19 cases in Delaware on the radio. I don’t have to be a prophet to accurately speculate about what I will hear or see. The updated numbers of Coronavirus deaths in my state and the nation. This is followed by what President Trump did wrong today or some new offensive tweet.

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country, Proverbs 25:25.

I just returned from my first of two planned summer vacations with family. This time my wife and her sister rented a house in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While I am more of a beach person, there is something special about an unobstructed mountain view. Both floors of this RB&B Rental was designed to hang out, enjoy the view and play games. After taking a series of pictures, I barely picked up my phone. Despite having a new 4K television, the only thing watched were a couple of movies. Most of our time was spent eating, hanging out and playing cards. Whenever I go a few days without listening to or watching the news, I have a much more positive aspect on life.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord, Psalm 112:7.

Prior to cell phones and computers, a nightly news cast was necessary. However, with the advancements in technology, these days are coming to an end. As of today, there are more than 300 streaming services in the United States. The average American family subscribes to 3-4 streaming providers. If this trend continues, cable and it’s many news networks will become extinct. Sure, some news outlets will be forced to alter their approach or be limited to a headline news format. Nonetheless, if you tune out the news now, you’ll probably be a happier person. As news stories become more and more politically motivated, getting caught up in destruction, gossip and slander of people you probably don’t know personally is a waste of time. The choice is yours but as for me, I’m ready to tune out the news. When I do, my phone will give me the updates I need.

by Jay Mankus

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In 1982, the Clash released their album Combat Rock. While the song Should I Stay or Should I Go never cracked the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts at this time, a commercial a decade later struck a cord with music lovers. Following a Levi Jeans ad campaign featuring this song, Should I Stay or Should I Go was re-released in 1991. Subsequently, this song reached number one on the United Kingdom’s Singles Chart. This success led Rolling Stones Magazine to rate this Clash hit as one of the top 500 Greatest Songs of all time in 2004.

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were going from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to Bethel. But Elisha replied, As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. So they went down to Bethel. The prophets’ sons who were at Bethel came to Elisha and said, Do you know that the Lord will take your master away from you today? He said, Yes, I know it; hold your peace, 2 Kings 2:1-3.

In the Old Testament, one man was chosen to be the successor of Elijah. Prior to the mantle from being passed on, God tests Elisha to see if he is up to the challenge. Beginning in 2 Kings 2, Elijah visits four cities, asking Elisha to stay behind. Eager to spend ever last minute with Elijah, Elisha refuses to take no for an answer. Each time Elisha replies, “As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” One of the reasons for this resolve is that Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah was dependent of witnessing Elijah being taken up to heaven. Thus, Elisha is determined to go wherever God leads Elijah.

Elijah said to him, Tarry here, I pray you, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan. But he said, As the Lord lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. And the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood [to watch] afar off; and the two of them stood by the Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up and struck the waters, and they divided this way and that, so that the two of them went over on dry ground. And when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me, 2 Kings 2:6-9.

Upon being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to become one of his disciples, Mark 5:17-20. However, Jesus convinced this man to go home to his family and share how God has healed him. To those with broken, dysfunctional or unloving families, this call is difficult. The question you have to ask yourself, “should I stay where I am in a comfortable spot in life or leave my comfort zone to share my faith with others?” Although you still may be stuck at home due to the Coronavirus, when America reopens for good, God is looking for the next Elisha, eager to receive a double portion of the Holy Spirit by going where God leaves.

by Jay Mankus

What is Happening to this Country?

As the Coronavirus began to spread within prisons throughout the United States, government officials thought it would be a good idea to release non-violent criminals. Within hours of their release, New York City’s mayor was shocked by those who returned to a life of crime. Meanwhile, as business owners and entrepreneurs were forced to stay at home as month long quarantines were extended, life savings quickly disappeared. Filled with a sense of urgency, several local companies began to defy governor orders, opening their businesses to the public. About a month ago, some of these owners were arrested, fined or had their licenses revoked. After the unfortunate death of George Floyd, businesses struggling to survive have been broken into, damaged, looted and some burned down.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). 17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:16-17.

As protesters and rioters appear to be taking over control of major cities, I’m struggling to grasp what is happening to this country? The Bible does provide some clues in the passage above and below. After the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings are now born into a sinful nature full of a series of urges. The apostle Paul refers to this as craving and desires inside of you. Some might refer to this as your dark side. Star Wars developed force sensitive characters throughout their franchise with the heroes, Jedi, seeking to become one with the Force. In the first century, the apostle Paul was pleading with Christians to follow promptings of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned individuals about allowing darkness to reside within your soul, Matthew 6:23. When anyone allows darkness to linger, you become vulnerable like Anakin Skywalker who turns to the dark side to become Darth Vader.

But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach, Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared (cauterized), 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

In the passage above, Paul receives a prophetic message about what the end times will look like. Part of this image of the future includes deluding and seductive spirits designed to manipulate individuals. The end goal of these invisible forces of evil is to have the vulnerable believe and embrace twisted and warped doctrines. According to Paul, this will be accomplished by searing consciences through a series of lies. If you watch recent media reports from local, city and state officials, many don’t want to offend the protesters. Others aren’t willing to allow more cops to get hurt which appears to encourage looters to keep looting. Perhaps, the end times have arrived and the events of the past week has merely opened my eyes to this fact. As for now, all I can do is pray for America so that heart, minds and souls will come together to find common sense, healing and peace.

by Jay Mankus

When You Feel Like You Can’t Hold On Any Longer

Over the course of my life, music has gotten me through several difficult moments.  While in college, I developed an unhealthy pattern of drawing close to the Lord during the school year, then falling away over the summer.  On any given day, I listened to a few hours of music.  Whether I was running, studying or working out, the beat, lyrics and sound motivated me to press on.  One of the songs that touched my soul in college was Hold On by Wilson Phillips.  The following stanza helped me overcome the stress of college: “Don’t you know things can change. Things’ll go your way. If you hold on for one more day. Can you hold on for one more day. Things’ll go your way. Hold on for one more day.”

So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery], James 4:7-8.

When I became a high school Bible teacher I tried to incorporate music into my classes and lesson plans.  Unfortunately, most of my music was archaic, out of date and wasn’t appealing to my students.  After swallowing my pride, I began to search for modern artists that my students could relate to.  One of my former students Evan introduced me to the group Stellar Kart.  Although I didn’t have much disposable income back then, I searched the Sonshine House for discounted music.  After losing my teaching job, I spent a month struggling to find a new one.  The song that got me through this ordeal was Hold on to Jesus by Stellar Kart.  While walking through un-charted territories, the Lord used this song to help me persevere.

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. 22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.

Since the Coronavirus shut down professional sports in March, I have increased my time listening to music.  During the week, I spend 5 hours a day minimum, listening to Christian music.  Although I still struggle to find artists, groups and songs with a specific message and style, there is one song that gotten me through these months of social distancing.  While listening to You Tube one night, I came across a spontaneous worship montage.  Kari Jobe has a 19 minute video starting with Speak to Me before moving into the songs Defender and Closer.  This worship medley has become a daily prayer for me, another way of Holding on to Jesus as the world tries to makes sense of COVID-19.  May these songs touch you like they have inspired me to hold on when you feel like you can’t hold on any longer.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

To Those Who are Able

Able refers to having the means, power, skill or opportunity to do something. Synonyms include capable of, competent, fit, in position to or up to the challenge. Unfortunately, in this day and age of the Coronavirus, even those who are able to work are stuck at home under a quarantine until their state allows non-essential businesses to re-open. Thus, many are hoping, praying and urging states leaders to open as soon as possible.

Now to Him Who is able to strengthen you in the faith which is in accordance with my Gospel and the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ (the Messiah), according to the revelation (the unveiling) of the mystery of the plan of redemption which was kept in silence and secret for long ages, Romans 16:25.

While concluding a letter written to the church at Rome, Paul uses a call to action in the passage above. Apparently, in the middle of the first century the conditions were prime for a spiritual revival, but the workers were few. Depending upon where you live, churches in my state have been closed since the second weekend in March. Thus, as individuals cope with depression, financial concerns, isolation and unemployment, there is a similar need today. This is a golden opportunities for fellow Americans to step up spiritually, for those who are able to strengthen the faith of others.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you, Philippians 1:6.

Despite the potential for a financial collapse, the passage above serves as a glimmer of hope. Even during periods of darkness, God is silently at work behind the scenes to finish what God started in you. Although there may not be many things in life to be thankful for at this moment, faith is based upon trusting in an invisible God. Therefore, if you are able to act by strengthening anyone in your spheres of influence, don’t let being quarantined hinder your ability and desire to serve God.

by Jay Mankus

Coming in Abundant Blessings

As a child I remember singing the song “I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart, Where, Down in my Heart to Stay.” The chorus continues with “I’m so Happy, so very Happy, that I Have the Love of Jesus in my Heart.” This song was written by George William Cooke and copyrighted in 1925. Over the last century, this song has been introduced to children through camps, curriculum and song books to keep this message of joy alive.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope, Romans 15:13.

During the first century, the apostle Paul uses an expression that illustrates the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letter to the Galatian Church introduces the fruits of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. However, Paul’s letter to Roman Christians focuses on the benefits of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. According to the passage above, faith in action, inspired by the Spirit of God has the ability to abound and overflow soul’s with hope.

And I know that when I do come to you, I shall come in the abundant blessing of the Gospel of Christ, Romans 15:29.

Jesus spoke of the ideal in John 10:10, to live an abundant life despite the attempts of the Devil to steal your joy. Paul applied this concept to his preaching, expecting the Holy Spirit to change hearts and minds as he shared the good news about Jesus Christ. Writing about a potential visit to Rome, Paul expects abundant blessings to accompany his future trip. With the Coronavirus stealing most of today’s headlines with death and despair, may this blog bring a glimmer of hope to broken and crushed spirits.

by Jay Mankus

With United Hearts and One Voice

As the Coronavirus continues to ravage vulnerable individuals and spread across the United States, communities are being forced to come together. Instead of allowing politics, religion and worldviews to divide souls, the instinct to survive is slowly changing hearts and minds. Perhaps, in the face of tragedy as the death toll in the United States surpasses 30,000, this country will become united with one voice: find a cure for COVID-19.

Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, Romans 15:5.

I recently listened to a you tube clip of Amy Wolter from an old concert. The lead singer of Fighter shared her inspiration behind the song Radio Man. As a former disc jockey at a local rock station, listeners began to call in during request hours. Initial concerns were superficial like breaking up with a boy or girl friend. Over time, the need for healing intensified. These requested songs served as a form of healing as strangers poured out their concerns, troubles and unfortunate situations.

That together you may [unanimously] with united hearts and one voice, praise and glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), Romans 15:6.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul felt a need to unite the church at Rome. Perhaps, differences began to develop, causing friction within the body of Christ. Paul wanted mature adults to put aside childish ways by uniting under a common calling. As the Coronavirus transforms life as we know it due to its’ contagious nature, this is as good of a time as ever to come together as cities, states and one nation under God. The only thing missing are willing hearts ready to let go of control and let God in.

by Jay Mankus

Building From Scratch

If you have ever been forced to finish someone else’s project, what appears to be easy on the surface often contains several underlying issues. If this happens to be a physical building, there is always a risk that specific steps were missed or skipped along the way to save time. Meanwhile, the materials that you would have chosen can’t be added unless you want to start over from scratch. Another element is brought up by Jesus is Luke 14:28, before starting any project, you have to consider the costs, time and money. Don’t start something that you know you won’t be able to complete.

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation, Romans 15:20.

In the letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul reveals an interesting ministry strategy. Instead of building upon what others have taught, Paul felt compelled to go to areas and regions where the gospel had never been heard. After dealing with the Judaizers, a religious sect that added elements of Judaism to salvation, Paul realized that it was easier to start a church from scratch. Trying to undo bad habits, confusion and spiritual damage done by the Judaizers within the Galatian church reinforced Paul’s belief.

Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand,” Romans 15:21.

As most small businesses in America lay dormant, unable to open until social distancing policies have been eased, perhaps some will have to start over from scratch. If rent can’t be paid or expenses need to be cut, perhaps some will become more like Amazon, using the internet for sales. While this may not be possible, the creative have plenty of time now to develop, plan and strategize for the future. Although there will be many obstacles, visible and invisible, I pray for all the small business owners that God will give you a vision to implement once the Coronavirus pandemic subsides.

by Jay Mankus

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