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Blessed to Be Alive

The half-century mark is five decades on this special planet called earth.  As the clock strikes twelve midnight, ending August 13th to commence August 14th will mean that I have reached fifty years of age in 2019.  According to numerology, the number fifty symbolizes the total man.  This favorable number marks grace, kindness and regeneration. Karl von Eckartshausen, an author, German Catholic and philosopher, who lived to see the founding of the United States of America referred to reaching fifty as the number of illumination.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.

I was born the day Hurricane Camille formed as a tropical depression.  A few days later this massive storm struck the Gulf Coast, the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to hit the United States.  Perhaps, this was a foreshadowing of the life that I would live.  I have survived earthquakes, floods, a microburst and a tornado.  I escaped a head on collision, a freak boating and tubing accident to make it to what I call Hawaii 50.  Nonetheless, I have a lot to be thankful for, truly blessed to be alive.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them, Psalm 139:13-16.

My spiritual birth occurred on December 4th, 1984, during my sophomore year of high school.  My spiritual father was my high school swim coach and Science teacher.  As the leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Concord High, Mr. Horne coached, directed and guided new believers toward seeking God’s will for our lives.  While I didn’t always take a straight line or path, the Holy Spirit empowered me to become a Bible teacher, youth director an aspiring writer.  I’m truly blessed to be married to Leanne who gave birth to our 3 wonderful children.  I’m not sure what the Lord has planned for me in the years to come, but I pray that I keep in step with God’s Spirit so that I don’t miss my next calling.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Quake

Beginning in John 14, Jesus reveals specific details about the Spirit of God. Seven words are selected to describe this spiritual entity in verse 16.  Helper, comforter, advocate, intercessor, counselor, strengthener and standby reveal what this promised spiritual guide will be able to do for those who believe. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit takes on the presence of a violent wind and quake.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other [btongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately], Acts 2:1-4.

A first century doctor chooses some interesting words to describe this foreign object. Like an unidentified flying object, the Holy Spirit appears as tongues of fire falling from heaven. Oddly enough, there was no fear or running away of these flames. Rather, apostles, disciples and godly individuals were immediately transformed. In the process, Hooked on Phonics was not necessary as God’s Spirit enabled these believers to communicate to strangers in different languages.

And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage, Acts 4:31.

After everything calmed down, Peter stood up to explain what had just happened. Acts 2:38 explains how eyewitnesses of this event can receive this same Spirit.  According to Peter, repenting and baptism must occur before access to the Holy Spirit is granted. Two chapters later Peter and John refuse to stop talking about Jesus. This spiritual stand triggers a spiritual earthquake.  According to Luke, this shaking was merely a sign of God’s presence.  If your life is currently void of any spiritual fruit, perhaps its time to follow in the footsteps of the apostles so that the Holy Spirit will quake to awaken your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Death Knows Where to Find You

The older you get, the presence of death becomes more of a reality.  In the past year, I have lost a cousin, aunt and father in law.  At the last funeral I attended, I received news that my wife’s aunt Rose was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Last week, Rose went home to be with the Lord.  A homecoming in heaven, but a painful reminder of our temporary status on earth.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

According to Solomon, our bodies are on loan from God.  The Hebrew word for Adam is Adamah, symbolic of God forming Adam’s body out of the earth.  The moment death strikes human beings, souls return back to God.  While your body is left to decay beneath the ground, your spirit awaits judgment before spending eternity in heaven or hell.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

The apostle Paul referred to human bodies as a temple.  When the Holy of holies was torn in two during the earthquake immediately following Jesus’ death on a cross, this event set the stage God’s presence to no longer be limited to a physical building.  Rather, Jesus’ resurrection and the Day of Pentecost opened the door for the Holy Spirit to enter your life.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

In the last chapter of the Bible, John has a vision of Jesus in heaven.  Seeing the toll death takes on friends, family and relatives, Jesus promises to provide an eternally environment where they will be no more tears.  Heaven is the final destination where God will make you whole.  Since death knows where to find you, make sure your plans are secured before your time is up, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Earthquake

The Weather Channel has a history of programs which illustrate strange weather phenomena.  Shows like It Could Happen Tomorrow are based upon ideal conditions which come together to create the perfect storm.  If this has happened in the past, can the same components result in a spiritual earthquake?

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly, Acts 4:31.

One of the first accounts of such of an event is recorded by a first century doctor.  It’s not uncommon for individuals to embellish, exaggerate or stretch the truth.  However, this characteristic is unusual for a respected man of medicine.  Although bizarre, a similar encounter occurs in the city of Philippi.  Sure, this region is known for earthquakes, but is it possible for prayer to create a movement of God which imitates this geological event?

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose, Acts 16:25-26.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve witnessed my own series of answered prayers, healing and miracles.  Although I’ve never experienced anything like these 2 stories in the Bible, I have sensed God’s presence.  During intense periods of prayer and moving worship services in the past, my heart, soul and mind have been energized by an invisible presence.  If you draw close enough to God, perhaps you too will encounter a spiritual earthquake inspired by the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The End of Days

Whether you pick up a news paper to read, watch headline news or listen to daily conversations, life is full of opinions.  Each voice filters current events through their own worldview, trying to sway others to embrace their beliefs.  However, some arguments deviate from the truth, based upon emotions rather than the facts.  The only conclusion I have come to recently is we are living in the end of days.p

Jesus first gave initial warning signs in Matthew 24:6-15.  The end of days is compared to a pregnant woman enduring labor pains.  Contractions will begin with false Messiahs, followed by wars and rumors of war.  In addition, earthquakes and famines will bring death, suffering and trials to the ends of the earth.  As these pains intensify, persecution, hatred and wickedness will spread.  One of Jesus’ final statements rings true today, “the love of most will grow cold.”

I’m no prophet nor will I make any predictions.  Yet, as I look to the Bible to try to understand what’s going on in the world, the apostle Paul builds upon Jesus’ words, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9.  In the last days before Jesus returns, Satan will influence human being to believe lies.  As soon as minds become deceived, lawlessness will reign.  Once a baby is ready to come out, you can’t stop this natural process.  However, if these signs are a precursor to the end of days, prepare your life now or you may be left behind.

by Jay Mankus

 

Inside This Hurricane

In August of 1991, Hurricane Bob slammed the East Coast for 3 days bringing more than a foot of rainfall to several seaboard cities.  Inland at the time of landfall, I was hiking along the Appalachian Trail with a close friend and mentor.  While the mountains served as some protection, Ken and I were side swiped, cutting our trip short by a day.  Upon returning to Delaware, we became like storm chasers following the aftermath.  When we approached the city of Wilmington, low lying areas were indistinguishable, unaware of where the Christiana Marsh began or ended, filled with floating vehicles and trains.

Like the James Taylor classic, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain,” nothing could prepare me for the devastation I witnessed.  Bridges swept away, pavement sunk into creeks and debris scattered in and along every waterway.  Though I had endured an earthquake and waterspout earlier in my life, I had a front row seat, inside the ropes of this hurricane.  While the 2013 Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th, spiritual hurricanes can form at a moment’s notice.

In the early stages of storms, people are often uprooted from their comfort zones, blown into awkward situations.  With a rising storm surge and no end in sight, panic can set in.  When the eye passes overhead, false hope causes people to let their guards down.  As this facade fades into the heart of the storm, the bottom right quadrant unloads its fiery on innocent bystanders.  This final punch can knock someone out, surprised by power of a mere trial.

When my own hurricane subsides, I will be much wiser, able to see the signs of approaching storms in the future.  Yet, for now I am holding on for dear life, waiting for the winds of change to die down.  Like Job in the Old Testament, I am at a loss for words, experiencing a battle of the will.  As soon as I see a rainbow, there will rejoicing.  However, inside this hurricane, I have been blown to my knees, looking up and clinging to God’s promise in Psalm 4:1.

by Jay Mankus

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