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A Not So Happy Thanksgiving

For most of my days, I’ve lived a sheltered life.  However, my first job after graduating from college brought me to inner city Wilmington, Delaware as a social worker.  My eyes were opened to the homeless, poor and unfortunate.  This experience led me to serve the needy during my first Thanksgiving in Chicago, going to a homeless shelter near Cabrini Green, one of the roughest projects in Chicago.  I didn’t see any television cameras or professional football players handing out free turkeys, what I observed was a not so Happy Thanksgiving.

Everyone should get of their comfort zones once in a while to see what its like on the other side.  I’m not talking about Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places.  Rather, I think its healthy to see how little other people have so that you may begin to appreciate all the things you have accumulated in life.  Fashion, shopping and temporary pleasures blind most individuals to what’s really important: family, faith and fellowship.  Without this type of perspective, a spoiled generation will continue to whine, “what’s in it for me,” while the less fortunate have another not so Happy Thanksgiving.

Clothes, food and a place to call home is foreign to some individuals.  Though many may receive a Turkey to cook, how long will the leftovers last?  Will some have to wait til Christmas before the next act of generosity finds these helpless souls?  Therefore, as you watch the parades, gather for a feast and watch some football for dessert, don’t limit your giving to a couple of times per year.  Rather, take a look around and see who you can help so that a not so Happy Thanksgiving can turn into a very Merry Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

Insider Trading

Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis used satire to give a comical portrayal of insider trading in the 1983 film Trading Places.  Four years later, Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Daryl Hannah starred in Wall Street, an Oliver Stone drama depicting the greed of a corporate executive, Gordon Gekko, seeking to gain wealth through insider trading.  Today, rumors of insider trading continue to swell as individuals put aside integrity for the temptation of striking it rich.

Such is the case of a first century man whose position and social status opened the door for compromise.  For Judas Iscariot, his career was promising, chosen to be one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, Matthew 10:4.  While not given the honor of being part of Jesus’ inner circle like Peter, James and John, Mark 9:2-9, Judas did receive special authority to preach and drive out demons, Mark 3:14-15.  John 12:4-6 reveals that Judas was also given the special responsibility of treasurer, overseeing the money given to Jesus’ ministry.  As the keeper of the money bag, Judas’ role likely included taking care of meals, traveling and any other expenses accrued during Jesus’ 3 year ministry on earth.

When you read Mark 14:10-11, there is much more beneath the surface to explain Judas’ betrayal, insider trading and subsequent suicide.  This is where you enter into uncharted territory, as the Bible is silent on this matter.  Thus, the only hope to reach a conclusion is to try to uncover the vast clues left behind by scripture.

Theories about Judas Iscariot’s Betrayal:

1) Jesus was hard on his disciples, verbalizing his disappointment due to their lack of faith, Mark 8:21.

2) Maybe Judas was sensitive, eventually becoming a disgruntled servant after the incident in John 12:4-6, thinking he wasn’t appreciated or paid enough to continue following Jesus.

3) It’s possible that Jesus tirade in Mark 12:17 was the last straw, likely embarrassing people Judas knew.

4) Jesus messages on being rich offended Judas, Matthew 6:19-24, especially Jesus’ words to the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-25.

5) Judas thought Jesus would be an earthly king, raising to power as a ruler over Jerusalem, likely the same reason Peter turns from a fighter in Matthew 26:51 into a wimp moments later, Matthew 26:75.

Although, one of these may not be the exact reason for Judas’ betrayal, there is one thing Judas lacked.  Instead of entering into a personal relationship with Jesus like Nicodemus does at the end of his life, John 20:39-40, Judas remained an outsider spiritually.  In the process of accumulating wealth, Judas forfeited his soul, Matthew 16:26.  As Easter Sunday 2013 quickly approaches, make room in your heart for Jesus, by letting God into your life, Revelation 3:19-20.

by Jay Mankus

Barriers to Living a Normal Life

Whether someone wants to admit it or not, every individual has 3 distinct aspects to their life.  According to Dr. Ed Murphy, not the comedian, each person has strengths, limitations and flaws.  These strengths can include gifts, intelligence, personality and special talents.  However, when you allow these positive attributes to go to your head, pride can negate or derail any hopes of living a normal life.  As soon as a spirit of haughtiness enters your soul, your mind can balloon to disproportionate heights, creating a wall of separation between you and most of your true friends.

Meanwhile, limitations are created within you by God to prompt you to learn how to work as a team with other people, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.  If you have ever seen an episode of the reality television show Survivor, a few leader type personalities usually clash, attempting to gain control over the entire tribe.  While the followers in the group get behind the person who least offends them, communication barriers are built within a day or 2 of their arrival.  This friction often gnaws away any glimmers of faith or trust within the tribe, creating a dysfunctional living atmosphere from the outset.

Finally, each male and female born onto this earth has a unique collection of flaws.  These weak areas of the flesh are where individuals are most vulnerable to the temptations of the Devil.  One may be easily seduced by sex, another is prone to drink themselves into oblivion, some may allow curiosity to lead them to experiment with drugs and still others let envy influence them to steal.  Whenever you feed these sinful desires, isolation impedes any progress you have made to quench these urges.  Like a monster inside of you, these flaws cripple your ability to have stable meaningful relationships in life.

Despite the power these barriers have on hindering your ability to have a normal life, there is hope and answers to break through to the other side.  First, you need to come to grips with who you are and why you were created?  According to the Old Testament, God created each person to praise Him, Psalm 150:6.  In addition, 2 Corinthians 5:21 contains a clue to our identity in Christ.  Once this connection is made and embraced, people can begin to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  As you begin to take steps of faith, the Bible provides light for our feet, to guide the way toward good decision making, Psalm 119:105.  When darkness sets in along the narrow path of life, Matthew 7:14, become an active participant so that those going in the wrong direction can be stopped before its too late.  The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few, Matthew 9:36-38, so get involved in 2013!

by Jay Mankus

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