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Seeking out What is Right

Before the creation and evolution of the internet, students went to the library to find the right answer. After going through the card catalog, I usually went to a librarian to expedite my search for the book with the answer to my question. As I got older, I was introduced to Cliff. If time was running out before a due assignment, Cliff Notes was a reliable source until one of my teachers caught on to the short cut that many of us were taking to find out what we needed to know.

These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. 18 A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren, Proverbs 6:16-19.

From a Biblical Worldview, the Bible is the place to seek out what is right. According to one first century author, the Bible is living and active, able to penetrate souls, Hebrews 4:12. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul refers to God’s Word as the source for correcting, rebuking and teaching individuals what is right, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. A first century church developed a practice for testing new philosophies by examining them with the Old Testament, Acts 17:11-12.

Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight. 23 A prudent man is reluctant to display his knowledge, but the heart of [self-confident] fools proclaims their folly, Proverbs 12:22-23.

King Solomon is much more direct in the passages above. Before you fully understand what is good and right, you need to know what God detests. If any act falls under one of these 7 categories, the Lord wants any of his followers to flee from these behaviors. One of Jesus’ earthly brothers called first century believers to draw near to God while resisting temptation, James 4:7. In his final remarks in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides a blueprint in Matthew 7:7-8 for seeking out what is right.

by Jay Mankus

Walking in the Fear of the Lord

If you attend college or graduate school, you are bound to cross paths with intelligent professors.  Unfortunately, some of these teachers are so obsessed with their field, that understanding this courses is like taking a foreign language.  When I first opened the Bible in high school, I had similar concerns, overwhelmed by phrases, terms and words beyond my comprehension.  A priest once proclaimed in his homily, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, quoting the passage below.  When the context was added, a father teaching his son about the importance of listening to God, a light went on in my head.

To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection]. The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; But arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline, Proverbs 1:6-7.

Three decades later, a new term caught me off guard, “walking in the fear of the Lord.”  Perhaps, Luke is referring to the events of Acts 5:1-13.  A couple named Ananias and Sapphira attempted to emulate the generosity of Barnabas, the son of encouragement.  However, Ananias had impure motives, seeking attention and fame.  When confronted by Peter, both lied resulting in cardiac arrests, dying within hours of one another.  At the end of this story, Luke highlights the fact that great fear gripped the church and that non-believers were afraid to associate with the apostles.  Only genuine believers gathered at Solomon’s portico for worship.  The context of this story shines light on what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord.

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

When I was a teenager, death was the last thought on my mind until a boating accident placed me in the shipping channel of the Chesapeake Bay as a freighter headed for me and my neighbor Richie.  This near death experience set the stage for me to begin to draw near to God.  Like any prodigal, I didn’t always take the straightest path or quickest route.  Nonetheless, reverent fear of God put life on earth in perspective for me.  While sitting in my bed the summer before my senior year of college with a broken ankle, I was forced to consider God’s plan for my life.  This is where I truly decided to follow Jesus and haven’t turned back.  Sure, I have taken earthly pitstops, backsliding every now and then, but walking in the fear of the Lord has straightened me out over time.

by Jay Mankus

God Only Knows

Since the United States government shut down in late December 2018, there has been ongoing debates about border security.  Democratic leaders have suggested that building a wall to keep refuges out is immoral.  Meanwhile, Republican supporters claim that a nation without defined borders will not survive.  While this war of words goes back and forth, one voice has been ignored.  Every day, the broken, depressed and hopeless build invisible walls to hide the pain deep within their hearts.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

When individuals begin to see their dreams, goals and hope for success slip away, staying optimistic seems impossible.  Although some may muster up the strength to fake how you feel, most people withdraw from society.  If you don’t have anyone to lean on or share your anguish, walls begin to be erected.  Desperate souls may risk becoming vulnerable, pouring out their heart and soul, but if you reveal this information to the wrong person your situation may get worse.  Thus, where do you go when no one seems to care?

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:22.

In 1954, the Philadelphia doo wop group the Capris released the song God Only Knows.  Written by Ruben Wright, this single had a dramatic impact on Motown singer Marvin Gaye.  Perhaps, this original piece inspired the 2018 version from For King & Country.  God Only Knows can be found on the newly released Burn the Ships album.  The chorus of this song reflects upon daily struggles that human being endure.  “God only knows what you’ve been through; God only knows what they say about you.  God only knows that it’s killing you but there’s a kind of love that God only knows.”  May the lyrics of this attached song encourage you to draw near to God as you experience disappointment and heartache in life.

by Jay Mankus

A Living Sacrifice

In the context of the Bible, the offering up of a sacrifice is regarded as a divine institution.  The book of Leviticus serves as a handbook for sacrifices.  Essentially, God reveals to Moses the necessary steps to atone for any act of disobedience, error in judgment or mistake that is deemed a transgression against God.  These laws have been passed down from generation to generation so that Jewish believers are able to draw near to God.  When the promised Messiah, Jesus, arrives on the scene in the first century, the tradition of taking animals to the temple to be sacrificed was about to become extinct.  Following his life, death and resurrection, Jesus became the first living sacrifice compared to a perfect lamb of God.

“I say to you, whoever declares openly and confesses Me before men [speaking freely of Me as his Lord], the Son of Man also will declare openly and confess him [as one of His own] before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God, Luke 12:8-9.

The apostle Paul refers to this concept in a letter to the church at Rome.  Instead of dying on a cross, Paul urges first century followers of Christ to present their bodies as a living sacrifice.  The Amplified Version of the Bible provides some clues to what exactly this means.  In quotations, Paul uses the expression “all of yourself.”  This includes your heart, mind and soul.  If you want to do a brief self-evaluation, what actions, behavior and words are setting you apart from the world?  Do people see the love of Jesus within you or have you succumb to peer pressure by conforming to the world?  This is give an overview, a blueprint to start your life long journey as a servant of Christ.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

Before He was betrayed by Judas during Passover, Jesus identifies an important trait for those who want to become a living sacrifice.  According to Jesus, you must be proud of your relationship with God.  While you still have to walk the walk as a light for Christ, Jesus expects believers to openly declare their faith.  This may be difficult for the shy or timid, but there are ways to share your faith naturally.  Some may do this through diets, fasting and random acts of kindness.  Others will find creative means via social media to express what they believe.  The key to becoming a living sacrifice is making Jesus your Savior and Lord.  May this blog inspire you to emulate this biblical practice.

by Jay Mankus

The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction states: I attract to myself, whatever I give my focus, attention, or energy to; whether wanted or unwanted.  When this term is mentioned, there are two other alternative theories.  One refers to electrostatics dealing with the attraction and repulsion of electric charges.  Another is related to the law above, but credits self-fulfilled prophecies where individuals are influenced by anxiety, doubt or worry.  By dwelling on ungodly beliefs such as I’m going to get sick, fail or get into an accident, these thoughts become reality.  Thus, the law of attraction uses positive and negative thinking to shape what will come to be in the future.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed, Mark 1:32.

This same principle can be applied to the spiritual life.  Faith is dependent upon conviction, desire and hunger to draw near to God.  Those who possess this spiritual attraction will find the time to pray, study the Bible and worship the Lord.  When earthly distractions get in the way, attention is steered in other directions resulting in changed priorities.  The closer you get to God, the more the Holy Spirit exposes your imperfections like the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15, claiming to be the greatest sinner of all.  Meanwhile, the further you drift apart from God, the better you feel, relying on justification and rationalization to approve of your actions.

The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was, Mark 1:33-34.

Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine during a wedding reception in Cana often overshadow others that followed.  After Jesus cast out a demon within a Capernaum synagogue, the people were amazed.  According to John Mark, the entire town gathered outside of Simon Peter’s house.  The passage above illustrates the law of attraction, drawn to Jesus like groupies flocking to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity, professional athlete or rock star.  However, in this case Jesus takes the time to cure the sick, drive out demons and heal others with various ailments.  May this blog speak to your heart as your strive to become like the citizens of Capernaum, eager to wait upon the Lord to be healed.

by Jay Mankus

 

Draw Near

In the Old Testament, God’s presence is limited to a few select individuals.  After Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden at the end of Genesis 3, intimacy with God was severed.  Thus, God revealed himself to the forefathers of Israel, prophets and some leaders to guide and direct their paths.  However, due to continued disobedience throughout several centuries, God decides go silent for 400 years serving as a transition for the New Testament.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Before Jesus arrived on to the scene, priests were used as a mediator between God and mankind.  To atone for sin, priests performed animals sacrifices with the shedding of blood to cleanse individuals, families and cities from their transgressions.  Without practicing this biblical principle, forgiveness is not obtained.  Therefore, drawing near to God can not occur unless repentance and contrition has been completed.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:22.

The new covenant introduced to his disciples during the Last Supper, Jesus eliminated the need for the Old Testament practice mentioned above.  Described as the Lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice without blemish, Jesus laid down his own life so that in Him, we too might have life.  While worshiping God at a building, home or a temple is still a vital aspect of faith, you can draw near to God anywhere and anytime.  As you draw near, God’s grace is a free gift available to all approach the Lord with a sincere heart, eager to forgive sinners as far as the East is from the West.

by Jay Mankus

 

Images of God

My only attempts at having a pet as a child were failures.  Inspired by the movie Lassie, my parents bought a collie.  Unfortunately, I treated our dog like a horse, regularly jumping on her back and riding her like a pony.  It wasn’t long before my parents found Trickxie a new home.  Another endeavor involved fish, but their life expectancy did not last long in my tank.

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he, Deuteronomy 32:4.

When I got married, I gave pets another chance, taking care of cats and horses on a farm.  After moving to Delaware, my wife convinced me to purchase a cat and dog.  Although each pet has its own pros and cons, I’m beginning to see the value of sharing a house with animals.  Ultimately, the majority of pets what to be with you.

That they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth, Psalm 83:18.

Today, while doing yard work, my dog Autumn cried when I wasn’t in the backyard.  Although she can’t talk, her howls is a subtle way of saying, “I want to be with you.”  In the same way, Jesus is yearning for individuals to spend time with Him.  However, the Lord doesn’t force, prod or push us to set aside this time.  Nonetheless, one of the images of God that I learned today is for human beings to draw near to God through prayer, worship and Bible study.

by Jay Mankus

The Stand, the Sword and the Spirit

Between 1950 and 1956, author C.S. Lewis wrote seven children novels known as the Chronicles of Narnia.  The first and best known, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was made into a modern movie by Disney, released in theaters on December 9th of 2005.  Narnia is only accessible through a wardrobe, found by accident during a game of hide and go seek.  After no one believes the youngest, Lucy, Peter secretly follows her, having his own encounter with the White Witch, symbolic of Satan.  As I look at our current society, it appears that fantasy has become reality as many are now under the power of darkness, held prisoner by the Devil.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes, Ephesians 6:11.

Aware of this situation, Paul wrote a letter to the church at Ephesus.  Within a chapter known as the armor of God, the apostle reveals three essentials necessary to withstand this battle.  First, the only way to endure fierce spiritual attacks is to arm yourself with the full armor of God described in chapter 6.  A stand will not be successful without each piece in place.  Second, a soldier of the cross must carry the Bible to fight back like Jesus did during his fast and temptation in the desert, Matthew 4:1-11.  Finally, when you feel like you can’t hold on any longer, pray in the Spirit to lead and keep you from falling.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, Ephesians 6:17.

Every day opportunities await, to rise and fall.  To draw near to God or slip closer away toward the gates of hell.  While this realm is invisible and dismissed by academia, faith helps me to see glimpses of Narnia.  Yet, unless I fan into flame the gifts given to me, 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I too will fall.  Since no one is immune to temptation, don’t allow yourself to fall asleep, under the spell of the White Witch.  Rather, arm up by taking a stand with the Sword and Spirit today.  Then, you too might experience something similar to the Chronicles of Narnia.

by Jay Mankus

 

Paranormal Survivors

Paranormal Survivor is now in its second season on Destination America.  This show interviews eyewitnesses to strange encounters, often bringing in experts in the field to explain supernatural events.  In recent years, reality television has shined light on topics that in previous years was considered taboo or too bizarre to consider.  However, one of the first documented cases of paranormal survivors comes right out of the Bible.

One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”- Acts 19:15

Casting out demons in the middle of the first century became a common experience for apostles and disciples of Jesus.  This fascination led some outside the faith to begin to emulate the apostle Paul.  According to Luke, seven sons and a Jewish chief priest were in the middle of an exorcism when a demon manifested itself.  The individual who was possessed was filled with multiple spirits.  Since the sons of Sceva were powerless without a personal relationship with God or access to the Holy Spirit, they were attacked and fled.

Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding, Acts 19:16.

A generation ago, churches were afraid to bring up the topic of demons, dismissing it as an exaggeration or waste of time.  However, in this age of spirituality, people are opening doors for the Devil and demons to come into their lives.  Subsequently, manifestations of ghosts and spirits as detailed on the show Paranormal Survivor are not as uncommon as it use to be.  Therefore, depending upon where you move to, work or visit, don’t be surprised if you encounter the paranormal.  Until then, fast, pray and draw near to God.

by Jay Mankus

Make My Heart Like Yours

Music can be similar to relationships.  The more open minded you are, the likelihood of you accepting and embracing someone or something increases.  Unfortunately, stereotypes about an artist, genre or musician cause individuals to give up on a certain sound after a few seconds of listening.  Subsequently, the careers of millions fail, far short of where they hoped, rejected before having a real shot to succeed.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Such is the case of Linda Elias, wife of Rick whose own career far surpassed hers.  Rick spent a decade as a member of Rich Mullins Ragamuffin band and his music was featured in the 1996 Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do.  As for Linda, following in the Belinda Carlisle genre, I thought her 1991 album The Meaning of Life would jump start her career.  However, in Christian music industry, unless you’re Amy Grant, you’re not going to get the attention you deserve.  As a result, you can’t find any of Linda’s songs on Pandora or You Tube.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Nonetheless, during my recent fast I have started listening to one hour of inspirational music a day.  While soaking in the lyrics to Make My Heart Like Yours, I was moved, touched by God.  This song is more like a prayer, wishing that one day our hearts will become more like Christ.  In this song, Linda confesses her failures and shortcomings.  Leaning on God’s grace, she yearns to be transformed.  As I am daily reminded of my own sins, I am eager, waiting for God to make my heart like his son’s, Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Linda’s album the Meaning of Life is available at Amazon.com for those willing to give a promising artist a chance.

 

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