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How Did I Get This Way?

When puberty begins in junior high, teenagers undergo a series of changes.  Depending upon the choices made and friendships established, this will shape the path individuals take in high school.  For those who are able to continue their education in college, majors, professors and relationships will further dictate who you become.  Despite this journey, many adults awake to an epiphany “how get I get this way?”

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

Skarlett Riot sings about this in the song Voices.  The opening stanza refers to whispers which restrict what you hear.  The next stanza refers to being paralyzed, unable to control your mind.  Finally, this British rock band uses imagery of Cain’s conversation with God in Genesis 4:6-7 to suggest demons can get into your head.  The moment individuals begin to listen to these demonic influences, souls can relate to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-20, doing the opposite of you want.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The Psalmist has a much easier explanation for how did I get this way.  The author lists three basic distractions in life: following the crowd, hanging around those who bend the rules and joining this behavior by lowering your standards.  The best way to avoid giving into temptation is by embracing the Bible.  Those who make a habit of following biblical teaching will be to endure spiritual droughts that cause faith to waver.  Thus, if you are shocked by the person that you have become, follow the Psalmist advice to flee any voices in your head.

by Jay Mankus

The Defaming of Faith

Defame refers to cast asperations on, malign or slander the reputation of someone. In this age of social media, it only takes one post, tweet or video to ruin years of faith, respect and trust. As individuals battle for control, power and supremacy, distortions, embellishment and lies will be made to elevate one’s status while tearing down others.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you, 1 Peter 4:12.

From a spiritual perspective, there is a rise in naturalistic scholars, revisionist historians and secularism within America. When history does not enhance a particular worldview, events, facts and founding fathers are being defamed to delegitimize past accomplishments. Meanwhile, K-12 education is omitting significant influences such as the Magna Carta, the Pilgrim’s religion and role the ten commandments has played in establishing our justice system.

But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, keep on rejoicing, so that when His glory [filled with His radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may rejoice with great joy. 14 If you are insulted and reviled for [bearing] the name of Christ, you are blessed [happy, with life-joy and comfort in God’s salvation regardless of your circumstances], because the Spirit of glory and of God is resting on you [and indwelling you—He whom they curse, you glorify], 1 Peter 4:13-14.

Whether you want to call this watering down or defaming, America has a rich Christian Heritage. Yet, due to political correctness traces of Christianity has vanished from public education. Meanwhile, other believers are afraid that if they speak up at work, their jobs or potential advancements will be terminated. However, Peter states that you shouldn’t be surprised by the defaming of faith. First century Christians embraced this as a badge of honor, a sign that their faith was alive and well. While nobody wants to endure hardship, trials in life are meant to strengthen and refine your faith.

by Jay Mankus

Starting to Believe

If you listen, follow or watch cable news on a regular basis, you might begin to believe that the world is falling apart.  A majority of these networks blame Donald Trump for the world’s demise.  Yet, when you spend time outside in the real world, current accusations don’t appear to be as bad as initially reported.  If the media outlet you depend upon isn’t telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, who and what should you believe?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

In the passage above, a man approaches Jesus like a disgruntled shopper, complaining about the service he received from a couple of the disciples.  Evidently, the disciples were unable to heal this man’s son possessed by an evil spirit.  This boy was often thrown into epileptic seizures, foaming at the mouth and unable to control his own body.  Jesus attributes this failed miracle to a lack of faith.  Desperate to see his son freed from this helpless state, the man pleads with Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

In the 1992 film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup who is called to testify in court about one of the marines under his command who was killed.  During a cross examination by Tom Cruise who plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee a Navy defense lawyer, a heated argument ensues.  Known as”You Can’t Handle the Truth,” this scene depicts the effort and struggle to unravel truth from fiction.  When forming a belief system, this process is just as difficult, sorting through what your church, education and parents have taught you.  Meanwhile, friends, mentors and professors may be pressuring your to confirm to post-modernism or secularism humanism beliefs.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

When you come to a spiritual crossroads, the best advice is to follow in the footsteps of Berea.  This first century church urged their members to test everything they heard before reaching a conclusion.  Fact checking practices entailed combing through the Bible to determine if ideas, new teaching or theories were consistent with what the apostles taught.  Sometimes information is easy to decipher while other pieces take weeks. months or possibly years to grasp.  During a letter to Thessalonica, Paul reminds the people he visited to abstain from evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Although you will never know all the answers to life’s questions, at some point you have to start believing.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Do You Believe Me Now?

The idiom “seeing is believing” was first recorded in 1639.  This saying is based upon the words of Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Based upon the passage below, Thomas doubted that Jesus could rise from the dead following his crucifixion.  Thomas developed a mindset that only physical or concrete evidence could convince him otherwise.  Unfortunately, this same thinking is prevalent today, keeping many in the dark, void of the faith necessary to believe in modern day miracles.

But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe,” John 20:24-25.

Thomas wasn’t the only disciple to experience a crisis of faith.  Apparently, several disciples did not believe the initial news that Jesus has risen from the dead.  Yet, these same men witnessed Jesus walk on water, turn water into wine and raise his friend Lazarus from the grave, cancelling a funeral in progress.  In addition, Peter, James and John watched Jesus transform into a heavenly figure, communicate with Elijah and Moses and cast demons out of formerly crazed individuals.  When seeing is believing becomes your motto for life, faith is powerless, preventing believers from ever experiencing the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10.

Now Jesus, having risen [from death] early on the first day of the week, appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported it to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them as they were walking along the way to the country. 13 They returned [to Jerusalem] and told the others, but they did not believe them either, Mark 16:9-13.

Only three out of a thousand Americans make close to a million dollars per year.  Those who don’t have the education, experience or knowledge to earn this annual salary may enter contests, gamble or pursue gameshows to attempt to strike it rich.  For a few, this pursuit may become reality.  Yet, many will remain in their current situation, struggling to pay all of their bills while trying to put enough food on the table.  When Jesus was hungry, prayer and a few resources fed thousands of people.  With these previous miracles in mind, perhaps its time to believe in God’s power now so that tomorrow will bring daily bread, manna from heaven and a storehouse of blessings.

by Jay Mankus

When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

In any social setting, there are preconceived thoughts based upon appearance, attire, background, education, intellect and wealth.  If character is excluded from this set of standards, people can be misled, confusing right from wrong and vice versa.  Like Samuel waiting to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel, the heart is often overlooked.  While David’s brothers fit the physical features of a leader, David’s heart set him apart from his siblings.  Thus, Samuel told Jesse to call his youngest son from the fields, led by the Holy Spirit to anoint David.

Now there was a woman in the city who was [known as] a sinner; and when she found out that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume, Luke 7:37-38.

Several hundred years later, another famous anointing took place.  Unfortunately, the disciples were fooled by the tarnished reputation of an unwelcomed guest.  To make matters worse, this woman broke and wasted a valuable vial of perfume.  The actual worth of this bottle was equivalent to nearly a years pay for a first century laborer.  This display blinded religious leaders from the true intentions of this woman.  Staring at the spilled perfume as if it was a load of cash blowing in the wind, the man who invited Jesus over to his house is offended by Jesus’ interaction with this prostitute.  Subsequently, in Simon’s eyes right is wrong and wrong is right.

Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin],” Luke 7:39

Over reactions like Simon are carried out within homes every night in the 21st century.  Instead of seeing things for what they are, preconceived notions blind decent human beings from the truth.  Thus, knee jerk reactions lead to conflict, division and tension within Christian homes.  Perhaps, everyone needs to become more like Jesus, expecting the best in others regardless of past or present reputations.  May this passage of the Bible speak to your soul, opening your heart to forgive, forget and extend God’s grace and mercy to others.  If you don’t, you too may confuse right from wrong and wrong with right.

by Jay Mankus

I Get It or Do I?

Each year television offers a plethora of programing that debates who is the best.  Categories include athletes, politicians and specific occupations.  One of the measuring sticks often applied is education.  Anyone who attends an ivy league school is automatically given high marks.  Well, unless of course your name is George W. Bush or Donald J. Trump.  This method of judging subtract points for possessing the wrong political affiliation or unpopular worldviews.  In other words, if you are conservative, you must not be that intelligent.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began, 1 Corinthians 2:6-7.

As I recount the words of the apostle Paul within 1 Corinthians 2, I understand the mindset behind this earthly logic.  There is an elitism that exists among the ruling party and upper class.  Thus, standards are developed by leaders of each age, encouraged, promoted and supported by journalists and members of the media.  Whenever anyone strays from these bench mark ideas, educators attempt shame people into adherence.  This plan is being executed daily at colleges and universities throughout the country.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.  The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15.

If you don’t believe me, you might want to check up on the assignments your children are being asked to do for homework as well as the topical papers that play a big part in the overall grades for this class.  Whether it’s embracing progressive ideas, global warming or white privilege, anyone who rejects these teachings are automatically labeled as bigots, racists and sexists.  I’m not sure the exact issues the apostle Paul was fervently debating in the first century, but I get what the Bible says about being foolishness in the eyes of the world.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit does someone see life clearly.  Those who rely too much on human logic end up becoming blind to truth.  I think I get or do I?  What do you think?

by Jay Mankus

The Ages of Faith

With the dawn of each new age, changes are made to adjust so that the world can understand what has happened in the past.  In the context of the Bible, 3 distinct stages exist: oratory, letters and publication.  The words of the Old Testament were passed on orally from one generation to the next.  Hebrew families raised their children by regularly recounting stories of faith to guide their steps into adulthood.  The celebration of Bar Mitzvahs for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls culminates in years of biblical training by memorizing the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, Romans 10:17.

During the first century, only the wealthy could afford education.  Thus, illiteracy among the middle and lower class was high.  As the Holy Spirit began to inspire authors to pen individual books of the New Testament, not many could read.  Therefore, apostles, disciples and pastors read these letters during gatherings for prayer.  This explains why the apostle Paul selects the phrase faith comes from hearing the word of Christ.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

The next age of faith began in 1450 following Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.  This made the publication of Bibles accessible to common people.  However, segments of the church do not embrace this initially.  Major denominations like the Roman Catholic Church believed only priests could interpret the Bible correctly.  The average Christian could not be trusted to handle the Word of God.  This mindset and resistance led to the dark ages tainted by spiritual corruption.

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success, Joshua 1:8.

Today, we live in an age of over saturation.  Multiple translations are available with a click of a mouse, downloading an app or read on a cell phone.  This access in great for those who desire to grow their faith.  Yet, there is a temptation to change translations until you make the Bible say what you want.  Who knows what the next age may bring.  Nonetheless, if you want to growth your faith, the best way remains by daily reading, studying and memorizing the Bible.  This spiritual discipline often leads to putting faith into action.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Minds over Matters

 

In 1972 the United Negro College Fund adopted the slogan “the mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  Since this decision other organizations have used this saying to stress the importance of education, knowledge and learning.  However, is there ever a time when minds interfere with matters in life?

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ, Colossians 2:17.

C.S. Lewis introduces the term diabolical pride within a chapter in Mere Christianity.  While attitude, arrogance and egos are a sign of confidence, success can go to one’s head.  Subsequently, individuals can become narcissitic, blinded by pride.  This character flaw essentially prevents people from considering the advice, opinions and wisdom from others.

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind, Colossians 2:18.

Perhaps this topic inspired the words of the apostle Paul within a letter to Christians in Corinth.  Similar to religious leaders steeped in tradition, minds can become puffed up by idle notions.  In the end, relative matters are ignored due to ignorant minds influenced by worldly philosophies.  Instead of recognizing the obvious, minds have a habit of getting in the way, preventing the masses from seeing what truly matters in life.  Wake up today before your mind forgets what is truly important.

by Jay Mankus

 

Ignorance

Blindness, unawareness and vagueness are what I call kind synonyms for ignorance.  Harsher terms involve crudeness, disregard and incapacity.  Scholars often blame a lack of education, innocence or not being enlightened by social etiquette.  Whenever you go or whatever you do, you are destined to encounter some form of ignorance.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart, Ephesians 4:18.

Before the decline of a biblical family in America, social skills were taught at home.  Character, discipline and hard work were displayed by parents, not just empty words.  If children ever got in trouble in school, parents handled behavior problems at home.  Unfortunately, a spirit of ignorance has enabled a younger generation to find an excuse for their actions or shift the blame, sometimes playing the race card.

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance, Hebrews 9:7.

From a theological perspective, the ignorant can be classified as amoral.  The immoral are those who have been exposed to right and wrong, but chose not to follow what they were taught.  The moral obey the boundaries laid down by their belief system.  Meanwhile, the amoral are those individuals who have never been introduced to specific absolutes.  Thus, ignorance continues to exist today until conviction, usually from reading the Bible, opens our eyes to see the error of our ways.

by Jay Mankus

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