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So That Hope Survives

Ambition, aspiration, cravings, dreams, longings and yearnings are all associated with hope. When theses desires begin to slip away, individuals have to fight with determination so that hope survives. Whenever your confidence is shaken by defeat, failure or a loss, hope is like a dim light surrounded by darkness, ready to be snuffed out by unforeseen events.

But we belong to the day; therefore, let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation, 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

In a letter to a community with a troubled pass, Paul reminds this church that Christians are children of the light. Thus, as the Devil continues to bring and drag up skeletons from your past, don’t let doubt creep into your mind. The longer negative thoughts continue to linger, the closer the enemy comes to achieving his goal, John 10:10.

For God has not appointed us to [incur His] wrath [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 5:9.

The apostle Paul flips the script in the passage above. Instead of always being on defense, Paul takes up the Sword of the Spirit to go on offense, reminding believers of the ultimate prize. God’s end game is salvation, the opportunity to be reunited with Jesus in heaven. Hope is like an exit sign in the distance, the only way to God, John 14:6. When darkness blocks your path from this doorway, hope is what keep souls alive, surviving to live another day.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Sight of God

While special horses are trained to become thoroughbreds, horses can’t see everything in it’s peripheral vision. To avoid horses from becoming distracted or scared, blinders are used to keep the horse focused on what is in front of it. Controlling a horse at 40 miles per hour requires a rare combination of strength and lightness for a jockey. Those jockeys who do the best at keeping their horse focused on the finish line, tend to accumulate more victories.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Unfortunately, I share similar traits with horses, often veering off course. I tend to become so consumed and fixated on what I am doing that I lose track of time. The clearer you are about your vision in life, the greater the impact you will have in the world. Vision is the ability to think about or plan your future with imagination, insight and wisdom. Whenever I stray from my dreams and goals, my vision grows dim.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

An Old Testament prophet blames a lack of knowledge for those who fail to reach their full potential. At the time that Hosea pens this letter, Israel began to do what was right in their own eyes. Instead of following the ten commandments, many were blinded by worldly beliefs and principles. A similar trend is taking place today as progressive ideas have been embraced by many churches. Thus, losing sight of God becomes an unpleasant reality. If you’re ready to regain focus on God, do so with perseverance, fixated on the cross of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Everything Goes According to Plan

Every so often, I question God’s timing. When my life seems to stand still, moving in slow motion, I get impatient. While this may not happen every month, several times a year I get frustrated by a lack of progress. The Bible suggests human minds struggle to comprehend, fathom or understand God’s grand design. Thus, for now I feel like Job, pondering the purpose of trials in life like the Coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the world.

Then Joseph could not restrain himself [any longer] before all those who stood by him, and he called out, Cause every man to go out from me! So no one stood there with Joseph while he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept and sobbed aloud, and the Egyptians [who had just left him] heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it. And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? And his brothers could not reply, for they were distressingly disturbed and dismayed at [the startling realization that they were in] his presence, Genesis 45:1-3.

Joseph of the Old Testament likely experienced similar mood swings. After sharing vivid dreams with his family, he quickly became despised by his brothers. Sold into slavery as a teenager, Joseph worked his way up to a caretaker for Potiphar’s estate. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s flirtatious wife falsely accused Joseph of rape leading straight to prison. Unlike me, Joseph kept a position attitude until the Lord finally completed his ultimate goal.

But now, do not be distressed and disheartened or vexed and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors, Genesis 45:5-7.

What human beings see as defeat, failure and losses, God uses these moments to prune the dead branches in your life, John 15:1-5. The hard part is remaining in the vine, sticking with Jesus as darkness surrounds you. To those that stay near the Lord, abundant fruits flow in the form of blessings in life. Yet, bitterness, pride and selfish ambition cause many to wander away, trying it on your own. If I could just learn to be more Joseph in Genesis, maybe I’ll begin to see God’s hand as everything goes according to His plan.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Help or Satan’s Hurt

During a trip to Gibeon, King Solomon experienced a special dream one night. According to 1 Kings 3, the Lord appeared to Solomon in this dream, asking him to make a decision between wealth or wisdom. After thoroughly examining his options, Solomon requested a discerning heart and understanding mind. This decision pleased the Lord resulting in a life of blessings, riches and wealth like no other ruler in the Bible.

Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish). Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who cannot be counted for multitude. So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people? – 1 King 3:7-9

In the first century, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor named Timothy. Apparently, Timothy was uncertain and unsure of what position to take on wealth. The passage above provides biblical insight and perspective. While blessings are a sign of God’s favor, Satan uses riches as a vessel for temptation. Thus, when money becomes your god, God’s initial help can quickly turn into Satan’s hurts.

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

You don’t have to look any further than the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 to understand this concept. A younger son became consumed by his share of an inheritance. Before receiving this money, his mind became filled with earthly pleasures. Like an addict who can’t control himself, the prodigal son quickly became Exhibit A for Satan’s hurt. Broke, desperate and homeless, the only way to overcome Satan’s hurt is coming to your senses. May this story of redemption inspire you to embrace God’s help so Satan’s hurt becomes a thing of the past.

by Jay Mankus

Wasting Away

The average hard working American man or woman doesn’t get up on their weekend with plans to waste away a day. Rather, energy level, focus and motivation will dictate one’s degree of productivity. Depending upon how well or poorly your week went, some people will need a mental break, catching up on lost sleep, reading a book or binge watching a favorite show. In a letter to church leaders, Paul suggests that you have to take care of yourself before you can effectively help others.

Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others, Philippians 2:4.

Despite attempts to maximize my own three day weekends, I find myself caught in a web of unproduction, getting less and less done each day off. The Bible refers to this as idleness, a state of laxity often influenced by boredom. The most famous example of idleness occurs in the passage below. Instead of leading the Israel army into battle, King David decides to take an extended Spring Break. This decision began to waste away at David’s soul, participating in adultery, a cover up and murder of Uriah.

In the spring, when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab with his servants and all Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites [country] and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, when from there he saw a woman bathing; and she was very lovely to behold, 2 Samuel 11:1-2.

In their 2010 album, Consider This, Tonight Alive sings about Wasting Away. The lyrics of this song by the same title talks about how dreams are often put on hold by a busy schedule. The excuse to abandon a dream uses the lie, an ungodly belief that “it’s too hard.” Unfortunately, many people blame the fear of failure for not taking risks to follow their dreams. When you come to a point in life where you play it safe day after day, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wasting away.

by Jay Mankus

Searching for a Place to Call Home

The sitcom Cheers coincided with my years in high school and college.  Cheers debuted in 1982 as I entered my final year of junior high school.  The final episode of Cheers aired the week before I graduated college in 1992.  While the content of this show did not glorify God, the theme song of Cheers struck a cord with my soul.  The thought of finding a place where everyone knows your name inspired me to search for my own place, a church to call home.

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua 24:15.

Oddly enough, Match.com was founded in 1993, one year after Cheers went off the air.  Apparently, trying to meet a significant other in a bar setting isn’t an ideal environment.  Over the past 25 years, single individuals have turned to dating apps to meet the person of their dreams.  While relationships do emerge from more traditional means, 40 million Americans annually use online dating services to find a soul mate.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches, Proverbs 24:3-4.

Perhaps, it’s time for a Christian entrepreneur to develop an app that searches for a church to call home.  Like a bad blind date, visiting the wrong church can fill souls with disappointment, frustration and loneliness.  Christians want to find a place like the theme song from Cheers, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.”  This song written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo illustrates an ideal place where you can relate to other people, sharing the burdens and troubles on your heart.  I’m not sure what the future holds, but maybe God will put a person with a Computer Science background into my life to form an app that searches for a church to call home.

by Jay Mankus

Dreams are Like the Stars of Your Destiny

Nightly dreams mainly occur during a stage of sleep known as REM.  This acronym stands for rapid eye movement where brain activity is high, a similar level to being awake.  REM sleep results in the continuous movements of your eyes while you sleep.  Meanwhile, neurologists like Freud and Jung have developed their own theory.  The Dream Theory states that dreams merely come from within the human psyche, exposing what is in your unconscious mind.

For in a multitude of dreams and in a flood of words there is worthlessness. Rather [reverently] fear God [and worship Him with awe-filled respect, knowing who He is], Ecclesiastes 5:7.

When I searched the Bible for another point of view, a Jewish king frowned upon dreaming.  Referred to as one of the wisest men to walk the face of the earth, King Solomon focuses on who to listen to, God or your dreams in the passage above.  Despite this warning, Solomon does have something good to say about dreams in Proverbs 3:24.  Anyone who practices discretion and sound wisdom will be blessed by a deep and sweet sleep.  Later on in this book, Solomon writes about moments in life where dreams, prophecies, revelations and visions are absent, Proverbs 29:18.  When this occurs, rely on God’s laws in the Bible to guide your steps.

And having been warned [by God] in a dream not to go back to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. 13 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,” Matthew 2:12-13.

One aspect of dreaming is described in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul uses the phrase keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:25 as a way to follow God.  In the second chapter of the New Testament, Matthew gives two examples of how God uses dreams.  The first is similar to a nightmare, a warning to not go back to Herod.  Moments later, an angel of the Lord appears in Joseph’s dream.  These clear instructions ushered Joseph into action immediately.  God spoke to Joseph through dreams on numerous occasions, each time to direct and guide his steps on earth.

Now Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to [the details of] this dream which I have dreamed; we [brothers] were binding sheaves [of grain stalks] in the field, and lo, my sheaf [suddenly] got up and stood upright and remained standing; and behold, your sheaves stood all around my sheaf and bowed down [in respect].” His brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Are you really going to rule and govern us as your subjects?” So they hated him even more for [telling them about] his dreams and for his [arrogant] words. But Joseph dreamed still another dream, and told it to his brothers [as well]. He said, “See here, I have again dreamed a dream, and lo, [this time I saw] eleven stars and the sun and the moon bowed down [in respect] to me!” – Genesis 37:5-9

In the case of Joseph, his dreams were the stars of his destiny.  Based upon the accounts in Genesis, Joseph possessed a special connection with God.  Some may refer to him as a prophet with others focusing on his gift of dream interpretation.  Whatever the source, the favor of God never left Joseph despite a series of hardships.  While many Christians would have become bitter and given up on hope, Joseph never wavered.  From a practical perspective, if you believe in a dream, destiny or goal, a resolve and will is conceived.  When darkness settles in, faith serves as a compass to keep dreams alive.  May the saying “dreams are like the stars of your destiny” be more than just a slip inside of a fortune cookie.  My the Holy Spirit awaken your soul to reach for the stars as you seek to follow God’s will daily.

by Jay Mankus

Day Dreaming, a Trance or a Spiritual Message?

The most common form of altered consciousness is known as day dreaming.  Consciousness is our level of awareness of what’s going on around us and in us at all times. Levels of consciousness are often changing throughout the day, as individuals struggle to concerntrate as brains wander.  As a child, I day dreamed about being a professional athlete.  When my golfing career ended at Qualifying School in 1995, my goals changed toward becoming a good and faithful husband.  Twenty five years later, my dreams have shifted toward becoming a professional screen writer while I enjoy retirement. 

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance, Acts 10:9-10.

The term “trance” is associated with meditation, magic, energetic flow and prayer.  Trance like states are used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals,  Meanwhile, hypnotherapists, psychiatrists and sports psychologists are among modern therapists who use trances today.  As a former long distance runner, I often blacked out for a period of time while training.  For a quarter mile or more, I slipped into a trance as I listened to music.  The sound of a car horn, the beginning of a favorite song or a new thought snapped me out of this state.  In the passage above, Peter fell into a trance while praying.  The smell of a freshly cooked meal altered his mind, preparing Peter for God’s vision and message.

I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the tower; and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and what answer I will give [as His spokesman] when I am reproved. Then the Lord answered me and said,“Write the vision and engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets so that the one who reads it will run, Habakkuk 2:1-2. 

While speaking to his disciples or addressing a large crowd, Jesus chose an interesting expression, “let him who has ears, hear.”  Apparently, human beings have a habit of tuning out when someone else is speaking.  Some may day dream, others fall into trances while many are distracted by their own schedule.  Thus, Jesus is urging his followers to not just listen, but act upon the message God has for your life.  Day dreaming or trance like states distract individuals from becoming doers of God’s Word.  While God uses a plethora of methods (angels, the Bible, dreams, music, prophets and prayer) for communicating to and with those who believe, Jesus yearns for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  May the Lord help you overcome the distractions in life to be attentive to God’s next spiritual message.

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

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

 

 

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