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Losing Sight of God’s Glory

Attention, concentration and emphasis are words associated with focus.  These synonyms highlight the priority for those individuals who hone in on what’s important in life.  Depending upon your age, hobbies and interests, time will be allocated and invested in specific areas.  However, discipline, resolve and zeal are necessary traits to make your goals a reality.  Nonetheless, human nature has a subtle way of distracting good intentions.  The end result often leads to losing sight of God’s glory.

And David was dancing before the Lord with great enthusiasm, and David was wearing a linen ephod [a priest’s upper garment], 2 Samuel 6:14.

Prior to achieving fame by defeating the giant Philistine Goliath in battle, David was a skilled musician and shepherd.  The Old Testament does not reveal whether or not David combined these two abilities.  However, to stay sharp, I can see David practicing his harp at night, using a camp fire as a source for light.  As a former saxophone player, there is an adrenaline rush from playing moving songs.  Perhaps, this might explain the inspiration behind dancing, moving your body to the beat of music.  Beside performing for King Saul, David was also known to dance with enthusiasm, at one point dancing naked before the ark of the covenant.  Yet, five chapters later, seeing a beautiful woman bathing caused David to lose sight of God’s glory.

Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the LordPraise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) – Psalm 150:6

Romans 3:9-12 addresses mankind’s inability to avoid sin.  At some point, everyone screws up, falling prey to temporary pleasures.  As great as David’s act of adultery and murder detailed in 2 Samuel 11 may be, there is a way to regain your focus back toward glorifying God.  If you pray for a new heart, seeking to become a man or woman after God’s own heart, your spiritual vision will be renewed.  I have wasted years on earth trying to do what I want, to make a name for myself.  This selfish venture has blinded me from my real purpose for existing, Psalm 150:6.  Instead of waking up with the attitude what will God do for me today, there is a better alternative.  Start each day with a verse, a song and prayer to praise the Lord.  This is why you and I were born.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down before practicing praise and worship of the great I Am.

by Jay Mankus

 

I Never Knew You

There are various classifications of friendship which exist.  Work related individuals whom you share a relationship with based upon your occupation is one category.  You may have social friends who you share a common interest in or with like dancing, karaoke or sports.  However, most people usually only have a small handful of individuals who actually know you.  Yet, even within this closely knitted network, there is a hesitancy to withhold information.  This fear keeps scars from the past unspoken, secrets locked deep within your soul.  This lack of trust keeps many friendships at a distance, never knowing the true you.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 7:21.

This same concept applies to relationships with God.  Whether you were introduced to church as an infant, youth or adult, it takes time to grasp and understand the nature of God.  Those who attempt to make up for lost time often become overwhelmed by all the mysteries in life that go unanswered.  During a high school youth group, I was introduced to the trust illustration.  You stand up on a chair or stage, then fall back hoping your peers will catch you before you hit the ground.  This exercise helped me realize that I wasn’t trusting God completely.  Rather, I was doing everything in my power to maintain control, yielding to God only when I wasn’t strong enough.  If I continued on this path, I would end up like the people Jesus refers to in Matthew 7.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ – Matthew 7:22

Despite from wanting to exempt myself from the scenario above, I can’t say for sure that I don’t fit into this category.  I have back tracked, slipped and fallen from my spiritual high as a high school Bible teacher for a decade.  Yet, somehow I have lost my way, unable to find the support system that I need to regain that faith I once possessed.  I guess the passage above serves as a warning, not to be complacent, thinking you have arrived spiritually.  Rather, Jesus’ words humbled me, a reminder to get back to discovering and following God’s will in my living years.  If not, we all might hear the chilling voice of Jesus say, “away from me, for I never knew you.”

by Jay Mankus

 

Runnin’ with the Devil

In 2009, VH1 rated Van Halen’s song the 9th greatest hard rock song of all time.  Runnin’ with the Devil debuted in 1978.  Like most songs in its day, you had to buy a vinyl record, a 45 with Eruption playing on the B-side.  Maybe I was naive back then, but running with the Devil is now literally occurring rather than a figure of speech.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

The apostle Paul warns people about the perfect storm which causes individuals to become deceived by the Devil.  The ruler of the air, also known as Satan, uses fallen angels turned demons to cast a spell upon human minds.  This process is subtle, slowly poisoning pure hearts and minds with a virus.  When sin spreads, judgment is skewed, eventually leading some to run with the Devil.

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever, Revelation 20:10.

In an imperfect world, everyone will have their stints, moments of irrational thoughts.  Periods when you will do or say the wrong thing.  Yet, despite the path you are currently on, there’s still one card anyone can play.  This trump card reveals the Devil’s future in hell.  Therefore, whether you are dancing, flirting or running with the Devil, turn back now while there is still time.

by Jay Mankus

Do I Hold On to the Past or Trust God for the Future?

In the 1984 film Footloose, John Lithgow plays reverend Shaw Moore.  After Moore’s son dies in a car accident coming home from a night of dancing, reverend Shaw responds by banning all music in his small rural Utah town.  Kevin Bacon, plays Ren, a high school senior who goes to a town hall meeting in an attempt to reverse this ban for a Senior Prom.  Following a rejection, Ren’s boss comes up with an alternative which is presented to Shaw Moore.  During his next Sunday message, the reverend is confronted with a dilemma.  Do I hold on to the past of trust God with the future?

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ, Philippians 3:7.

Thirty years later, this question still applies.  Within each individual life, there are defining moments, trials which force people to mature.  How these events are handled, shape the outcome of lives.  Whether its death, illness or injury, bad things will occur sooner or later.  As Rich Mullins once sang prior to a car accident that ended his own life, there is bound to come some trouble to our lives.  When tragedy strikes, will you hold on to the past or trust God for the future?

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.

When life takes an unexpected turn, its hard to get over it or fully recovery.  Almost four years after I lost my teaching position, I’m close to picking up all the pieces, but not where I would like to be.  Scars from the past are still present, resulting in soul spirit hurts that are not fully healed.  However, as the apostle Paul once said in a letter to the church at Philippi, you must learn to leave your past by keeping your eyes on the overall goal, heaven.  Therefore, the next time you reach a crossroad in life, let go of the past by trusting God with your future.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Emotions of Praise

Depending upon what church, temple or mosque you attend, an increasing number of people are reserved, afraid of letting others know what’s inside of them.  Meanwhile, Pharisees still exist in most places of worship, putting on a show for others to see, Matthew 6:5.  Therefore, when you enter a house of praise where emotions are on display as a genuine act of worship, outsiders struggle to accept or embrace this movement.

Music causes unique styles of expression like individuals moved to toe tap, gradually turning their bodies into human tambourines.  Others begin to snap their fingers and clap their hands.  Those with rhythm may follow the beat, dancing and swaying side to side.  When touched by the lyrics, one might lift their hands high, closing their eyes to heighten their focus on God.  Tears often fall as you reach this stage of worship, moving some to fall to their knees or bow at the altar.

While numerous churches are spiritually dead today, void of these emotions of praise, a remnant remains alive and well.  The sons of Korah highlight acts of praise in Psalm 47 including clapping hands, shouts of praise and cries of joy.  The moment the human soul approaches the throne of grace, Hebrews 4:16, with a humble heart, the emotions of praise break out.  This act of worship is what you offer up to God on the Sabbath.  You may bring a tithe or appreciate the biblical message, yet the emotions of praise is where you meet and experience the presence of God.

Have you ever been moved by the Holy Spirit to let your guard down?  Please share a story of your own emotions of praise.

by Jay Mankus

Hyperreality

Candy bars that can dance, roller coasters that make you feel like you can fly and water rides that defy the laws of gravity.  Just another day of living in America’s hyperreality.  A term used by post-modern philosophy, hyperreality hinders one’s ability from distinguishing reality from that which is manufactured.  Behind the surface of fame, glory and riches, lies empty hearts, void of true fulfillment and purpose in life.

Hyperreality has turned Martin Luther King Junior’s I Have a Dream message upside down.  Instead of focusing on the character of someone’s heart, society has turned their attention toward dress, fashion and image.  The Material Girl can say whatever she wants as long as her physical appearance keeps up with the Joneses.  Reality television adds to this delusion as film edits, political motives and the great puppet master pulls the strings to falsify what you see.  Once again, behind the scenes, people aren’t who they appear to be on the big screen.

Peter began to see hyperreality in his day based upon comments made in 1 Peter 2:11-12.  His solution recognizes the obvious, you can’t control the world, but you can control how you respond.  Thus, the more one is able to follow the words of Joshua 1:8 and Colossians 3:1-3, the greater one’s ability is to detect truth from fiction.  Don’t be deceived by hyperreality.  Rather, be transformed by the Word of God, Romans 12:2.

by Jay Mankus

Designated Driver

During my second year of college, my father got transferred to Cleveland, Ohio.  To help ease this difficult transition, my mom joined a group called, New Clevelanders.  Meeting once a month in a socially setting, I was introduced to a handful of students in the same situation.  Eventually, a handful of us formed a tight circle, getting together for Karaoke, hanging at a Sports Bars or dancing at Night Clubs once a week.  From time to time, I served as the designated driver, meeting at a friend’s home and driving everyone to and from the Flats, a series of nightclubs along the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland.

One of the initial benefits of being a designated driver was free refills of soda while these friends drank pitures of beer.  Once they were tipsy, their fears of dancing in front of peers wore off.  Attending a high school with great dances, I gradually learned to become a decent dancer, not needing a beverage to do so.  However, I did not enjoy dancing with strangers, so one night I indulged, speeding up the process to get my friends to the dance floor.  One of my girl “friends” saw my pace and began to switch roles, becoming a substitute designate driver on the fly.

When you have multiple drinks, its no wonder that Liquor Stores contain billboards and signs with Wine and Spirits on them.  Once you partake in alcohol, something overcomes your body, causing you to say things you usually think, but don’t verbalize.  Neal McCoy illustrates this point in his song Beer Googles.  Unless someone is trying to use alcohol as a means to forget their misery, a normal person can only handle being  drunk so many times.  After working the next morning, feeling the side effects for nearly 24 hours, drinking lost its allure.  A few years later, alcohol poisoning nearly ended my life at a friend’s wedding, hugging a toilet for several hours in the middle of the night.

My body hasn’t consumed alcohol in nearly 20 years.  I can’t even bear any kind of food cooked in alcohol, often spitting it out right away or getting a headache from the slightest smell.  Though I tried to fit in, I have found my true identity as a designated driver.  I don’t need alcohol to have fun, laugh or enjoy an evening.  Therefore, when I do entertain friends who drink, I don’t mind offering my services.  While there was a time I fled from this atmosphere, I have learned that you have to meet others on their terms, in their comfort zone before you can make an impact like Jesus, Matthew 9:11-13.  Wherever you are, be the light and salt of the earth, adding flavor to the lives of those who do not know Jesus, Matthew 5:13-16.

by Jay Mankus

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