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What’s in a Thought?

According to a 2011 article by Elizabeth Dougherty, the human brain is composed of nearly 100 billion nerve cells. These neurons are interconnected by trillions of synapses. Each connection transmits about one signal per second with specialized connections sending up to 1,000 signals per second. Based upon the research done by Charles Jennings, the director of neurotechnology at the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research, these signals produce thoughts.

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, 2 Corinthians 10:4.

In a letter written to the church of Corinth, the apostle Paul takes a spiritual approach to thoughts. Beside receiving insight on this topic from the Holy Spirit, Paul became close friends with a first century doctor. According to the book of Acts, a well known physician named Luke traveled with Paul on a number of his missionary journeys. While Luke served mainly as a historian, the passage below suggests discussions with his friend on how thoughts can control and influence human behavior.

[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Based upon the research uncovered by MIT, taking your thoughts captive is a lot more complicated than I previously understood. If a thought are signals in your mind and thinking is a way to obtain knowledge, divine intervention is essential to prevent evil from corrupting your mind. The mistake Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden was taking a second glance at the forbidden fruit hanging from the Tree of Knowledge. Since wandering minds are easily distracted, unless you set your mind on things above, Colossians 3:1-4, it won’t be long before lust overwhelms your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Angels of Deliverance

Deliverance is the action that results in being rescued or set free. Synonyms include emancipation, liberation, redemption and salvation. This term suggests that a group, individuals or a nation is undergoing a dire situation. These predicaments are often so severe that saving yourself isn’t impossible. Thus, there will be moments in life where everyone will need some sort of divine intervention. For those who turn to God when your back is against the wall so to speak, the Bible refers to angels of deliverance.

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip or to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield], Psalm 121:2-5.

Although the Psalmist does not mention angels by name, God’s nature is revealed in the passage above. This song of ascent reflects upon previous times where the Lord helped either directly or indirectly. As a shepherd, David credits God for overseeing his steps despite walking over hilly terrain, Psalm 18:36. Meanwhile, while you are sleeping, guardian angels are assigned to watch over you day and night, Psalm 91:11. Angel stories continue today as believers share how God shielded them from harm.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:10-11.

In the New Testament, Jesus reveals who you need deliverance from, an invisible thief who seeks to steal, kill and destroy souls. Using the analogy of a good shepherd fighting off attacks from wolves, Jesus uncovers God’s plan for deliverance. Predicting his death on a cross, Jesus’ sinless life and sacrifice was necessary to restore that which Adam lost, Luke 19:10. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to earth along with angels to ensure that deliverance continues today.

by Jay Mankus

Heaven Help Me

The Beatles released their fifth album Help on 6th August, 1965.  The featured song begins with the lyrics (Help!) I need somebody (Help!) Not just anybody (Help!) You know I need someone help!  More than fifty years later, these words can relate to anyone who is in trouble.  When circumstances appear to be spiritually related, individuals may choose to cry out to God in prayer, “heaven help me.”

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah’s reign. 698 years Before Christ, Isaiah was sawed in half, dying a martyr’s life after prophesizing for roughly sixty years. Despite the fate he would suffer, the Holy Spirit gave Isaiah several words of encouragement. In the passage above, Isaiah reminded Old Testament readers that God will help his children in their time of need.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life, Psalm 54:4.

The saying heaven help me is an idiom.  Typically, this expression is used to acknowledge that you are or could potentially be in trouble.  In 1988 artist Deon Estus released the song Heaven Help Me.  The lyrics refer to a man struggling to know what to say, asking God for wisdom so he doesn’t ruin the relationship of his dreams.  Country singer Gretchen Wilson takes a difference approach to heaven help me, asking God for divine intervention while wrestling with temptation.  Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, everyone will reach a point of desperation where only God can fix your situation.  In times of despair, don’t be afraid to ask for God’s help.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Reason To Celebrate

According to a recent AAA survey, 112 million American traveled 50 miles or more to celebrate Christmas in 2018.  Like most holidays, airports and highways will be packed as families travel back and forth from these destinations.  Yet, how many arrived safely without incident?  Furthermore, how many individuals gave thanks to God upon arriving?

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean,” William Bradford, 1620.

The quote above seems applicable for any trip that you take.  In an exhibit dedicated to Pilgrims at the Museum of the Bible,  Bradford’s recollection of the Pilgrim’s landfall upon Plymouth Rock reveals the faith of those who set sail across the Atlantic.  Apparently, the Mayflower experienced rough seas, squalls and unsettling weather.  Nonetheless, when this journey was complete, God received the credit for arriving safely.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

As someone who has driven nearly one million miles behind the wheel of a car, my appreciation for God is lacking.  Sure, when road conditions are treacherous I cry out to the Lord, but rarely do I thank God when I arrive.  As I travel back home in the morning, I need to apply the passage above.  Praise should be continual, daily and genuine.  Instead of taking credit for keeping my family safe, I need to thank angels, divine intervention and God’s mercy for watching over me and my family.  Perhaps, we can all learn from the Pilgrims, with a reason to celebrate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

The 4 Dreams of Christmas

Dream #1

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by [the power of] the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her [promised] husband, being a just and righteous man and not wanting to expose her publicly to shame, planned to send her away and divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation), for He will save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:18-21.

You have probably heard of the 12 days of Christmas, a catechism song published in the 1780’s by oppressed Catholics.  Yet, 4 dreams that made Christmas possible, the mass of Christ, are often overlooked.  The first dream prevented Jesus from growing up in a single parent household, void of an earthly father.  While dreams are a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep, the Lord sent an angel from heaven like a scene from a Christmas movie, to fulfill God’s plan for redemption on earth.

Dream #2

Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him.” 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Hosea]: “Out of Egypt I called My Son,” Matthew 2:13-15.

Whenever you have any dream, there are rationale explanations.  This could be due to simply day dreaming, mental aspirations, nightmares or stress.  However, from a spiritual perspective, there are times when God uses dreams as a form of divine intervention.  The second dream of Christmas provoked an immediate response by awakening the soul of Joseph.  Just as Old Testament families plotted the deaths of brothers who stood in their way of the throne, Herod attempted to slaughter the king of the Jews.  However, babies are hard to identify from one another at an early age.  Thus, King Herod devised a plan to kill all babies under the age of 2.  This dream enabled Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape this massacre in a nick of time.

Dream #3

But when Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up! Take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel, Matthew 2:19-21.

Most people use an alarm clock to get up each morning.  Others use their cell phone to make sure they are not late for work.  However, this third dream introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  After being on the run, living in a foreign land, another angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream.  It’s unclear if God sent the same angel each time, but this dream served as a spiritual alarm clock to get up and go.  This dream set the stage for the future king of the Jews to return home to Israel.  Although this is only an assumption, after news of Herod’s slaughter of countless baby boys reached Egypt, Joseph likely developed a keen awareness of his dreams.  Thus, each night as Joseph went to sleep, he was eager, hopeful and waiting for another encounter with God.

Dream #4

But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod [the Great], he was afraid to go there. Then being warned by God in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee, 23 and went and settled in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene,” Matthew 1:22-23.

The final dream of Christmas varies from the first three.  The Lord didn’t need to send an angel to get Joseph’s attention.  Rather, by this time in his life, Joseph was in tune with God, like a faithful servant eagerly awaiting his next command.  These dreams radically transformed the life of Jesus’ earthly father.  Instead of doubting, questioning or becoming a skeptic, Joseph had become a believer in God’s plan.  Mary and Joseph may not have understood the impact their son would make on earth, yet they began to walk by faith, not by sight.  As Christmas carols take over the airwaves this December, don’t forget to remind people of how God used dreams to protect and ensure this sacred holiday.  May these dreams open your mind to the possibility of God speaking to you and me in a similar manner today.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

That’s Impossible

It’s a Miracle debuted on Pax Television in 1998.  This sixty minute documentary examined true stories that on the surface appeared to be impossible.  However, as eyewitnesses recounted these events, it was clear that angels, divine intervention and the power of prayer gave birth to a miracle.  This program that ran for six seasons reminding me that with God, anything is possible.

Now as He approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her [in the funeral procession]. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt [great] compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep,” Luke 7:12-13.

When I first read the passage above years ago, I didn’t conceptualize the magnitude of what Jesus was able to do.  I’ve attended several funerals where the victim died unexpectedly, long before they should have.  As a bystander, Jesus is moved by the Holy Spirit, stopping what he was doing to approach the casket.  When the pallbearer’s stopped, Jesus touched the bier and spoke life into this dead man.  What Jesus did defies logic and medical science, a resurrection.

And He came up and touched the bier [on which the body rested], and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise [from death]!”15 The man who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother, Luke 7:14-15.

In 2015, Project Afterlife took a closer look at near death experiences.  This Destination America series explored cases of individuals presumed dead by doctors, but miraculously awoke, given a mulligan, a new lease on life.  According to reports from missionaries in Africa, resurrections aren’t limited to the Bible.  According to eyewitnesses, persistent prayers refused to believe that their loved ones have passed on.  Like the example from the film Faith Like Potatoes, the impossible is occurring as the pronounced dead are being raised back to life.

by Jay Mankus

Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?

While most people have moved on with their lives following Easter Sunday, there is something I want you to consider about this religious holiday.  One of Jesus’ last words before dying on a cross reflects the anguish within his heart and soul.  In order for God’s plan to redeem mankind to be completed, Jesus’ heavenly father watched from a distance as his son died.  This lack of action caused Jesus to cry out, “my God my God, why have you forsaken me?”

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Matthew 27:46

If God let Jesus suffer and die, then human beings face a similar fate.  Despite God’s love for His one and only son, sometimes it feels like God turns his back on us as well. When Christians are in trouble, most reach out to God in prayer, begging and pleading with the Lord for divine intervention.  When a period of time passes without a clear answer, miracles don’t happen or a friend dies, many people feel like God has abandoned them.  When God doesn’t act immediately, its not uncommon to believe or think that God has forsaken you.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20.

Behind the scenes, God is more like the father portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Unfortunately, while on earth Christians must live by faith, not by sight.  Human nature craves and longs for signs from God.  Yet, faith must remain firm when God is silent.  Like a roller coaster that goes up and down, there will be moments when God’s presence seems near.  However, faith needs to steer you during periods of darkness.  If you lose hope, you too may be tempted to exclaim, “eli, eli, lama sabachthani which translates my God my God, why has you forsaken me into English.  In the meantime stay strong or if you have to, lean on others to get you through trials in this life.

by Jay Mankus

What If Herod Got His Wish

The older I become, the more I find myself playing the What if Game.  What if this happened instead of that?  If this went my way or if I waited a little longer, would the outcome have changed?  While I was pondering several possibilities, a thought popped into my mind.  What if King Herod got his wish, finding the Messiah; then killing Jesus to remain in power?

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him,” Matthew 2:7-8.

While churches across the country and throughout the world will sing about a Silent Night, this great event could have been marred by tragedy.  The Magi could have sought to please King Herod, returning to his palace, directing him to the exact location of this child.  Yet, divine intervention persuaded these wise men to do what was right, taking an alternate route back home.  Meanwhile, the Lord spoke to Joseph in a vivid dream, prompting an immediate departure for Egypt, to escape Herod’s sword.  If not for these actions, the Messiah would be no more.

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.  When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,   where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” Matthew 2:13-15.

If Herod got his wish, the world would be doomed.  Sure, depending upon where you live, there are some safe places that exist.  Yet, without the completion of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, there would be no hope.  The last 2000 years would have been like The Game of Thrones with one person after another doing whatever it takes to reach the throne.  Thankfully, this what if scenario was stopped in it’s tracks by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If God has the power to intervene like this past historical event, imagine what the Lord can do today within hearts and souls eager to serve God.  I’m not sure what will happen next, but I’m excited about the possibilities.

by Jay Mankus

 

SWAG

Swag is one of those words that has evolved over time.  Initially short for swagger, swag is a personality trait which naturally flows out of confident individuals.  Professional athletes display this by playing to the crowd, swaying and strutting after successful impacts during a competition or game.  Journalists sometimes equate swag with gravitas, inner qualities that attract others to want to be around those who possess this special gift.

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.

Recently, I stumbled upon an acronym for swag, Spiritual Wonders Anointed by God.  Although my employer refers to swag as stuff we all get, I know from experience not everyone receives the same allotment in life.  Rather, some people are more blessed than others, attaining and obtaining much more than the average person.  While a portion of success can be linked to dedication, hard work and perseverance, God’s role in swag can not be denied.

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14.

Spiritual wonders anointed by God can be explained by guardian angels or ministering spirits.  Without divine intervention, there may be some of you who would not be alive today if it wasn’t for this insight and protection.  Meanwhile, swag can be developed from a permanent meaningful lasting relationship with God.  As one begins to pray, study the Bible and worship the Lord each week, the Holy Spirit living inside of you can produce swag.  As a new year approaches, may the Lord inspire you to draw near to God so that your faith will flourish in 2018.

by Jay Mankus

Undaunted

Earlier in the week, I watched a documentary on near death experiences.  Similar to an episode of Project Afterlife, Destination America examined the experiences of two individuals who flat lined, then came back to life.  During these interviews, the man and woman describe their moments hovering above their bodies and the heaven and hell like encounters that followed.  Rarely do people get second chances at life, but for those granted a special exception, perspectives on life radically change.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen, Hebrews 13:20-21.

While I don’t recall the exact title, this show tried to help others understand unsolved mysteries about life.  The man selected for this episode was a neuro surgeon, spending a large portion of his career saving the lives of others.  In this scenario, the roles were reversed as his life slipped slowly away after several seizures.  His recollections of the afterlife altered the path of his new life.  This surgeon recalls a place similar to the accounts of hell in the Bible.  Dark, alone and filled with a constant eerie noise, it didn’t take long for panic to set in.  Upon waking up days later, his wife and son could see the fear in his eyes.  Like the reality show Scared Straight, this man didn’t need to go to prison to quickly turn his life over to God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

Meanwhile, the woman who was in a car accident, went through a much more pleasant experience.  Like scenes from the I Saw Heaven, this individual is reunited with family members who had died and gone to heaven.  She details one conversation, the last before waking up in the hospital.  An aunt tells this woman that her work on earth is not finished.  The Lord is sending you back to complete the purpose and will God has for you.  “Live fearlessly,” undaunted by the barriers and obstacles that exist.  After hearing this message, I feel like this applies to all believers, hoping to please God.  May this testimony inspire you to go through life undaunted, trusting in angels, divine intervention and God’s power to cross the finish line on earth.

by Jay Mankus

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