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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

I Hope So

When it comes to music, timing is everything. Some songs aren’t recognized or uncovered until a band is well past their prime. Each day countless songs are available to listen to or buy on itunes, Pandora or You Tube. Unfortunately, many within this graveyard of songs from the past merely collect dust, forgotten and ignored until the right moment arises.

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.

Last week I stumbled upon the song God I Hope So. I didn’t think much of this 2012 song from Remedy Drive until I reached the chorus. “Maybe this is just the way it had to be, maybe there’s a beauty in this tragedy I don’t know but I hope so.” These lyrics seem to apply to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite being released eight years too early, this song challenges people to reflect upon the frailty of life.

Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:14.

In the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman refers to hope as being dangerous during a lunch time conversation with good friend Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins. For a prisoner serving a life sentence, hope is the only thing you have to get you through each day. Likewise, as the world fights the invisible disease known as COVID-19, hoping for a cure is leading individuals to pray. Although no one knows the day and time this cure will arrive, I hope it comes quickly so that joy will return to America.

by Jay Mankus

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