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Ready or Not Here I Come

Despite being over 50, I still have fond memories of my childhood. After my father was transferred from New Jersey to Wilmington, I’ve spent most of my life living in the state of Delaware. As a child, Jeanette’s house became the meeting place for neighborhood kids. Summers were spent playing board and video games during the day. At dusk, it was time for Hide and Go Seek, lasting until our curfews. If you were it, you would count to 100 before yelling, “ready or not, here I come.”

But what does it matter, so long as either way, whether in pretense [for personal ends] or in all honesty [for the furtherance of the Truth], Christ is being proclaimed? And in that I [now] rejoice, yes, and I shall rejoice [hereafter] also. 19 For I am well assured and indeed know that through your prayers and a bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) this will turn out for my preservation (for the spiritual health and welfare of my own soul) and avail toward the saving work of the Gospel, Philippians 1:18-19.

The apostle Paul uses a similar expression in his letter to the Church at Philippi. Instead of referring to a childhood game, Paul talks about one’s willingness to face death. Upon receiving tragic news, one man has a vision of what will happen after he dies, Job 1:20-21. This harsh reality comes as Job mourns following the death of his children. If Job wasn’t ready for death prior to this tragedy, he came to accept his future fate.

This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death. 21 For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity], Philippians 1:20-21.

The apostle Paul puts his own spin on Job’s realization. While writing to one of the churches that he helped plant, Paul introduces believers to upward thinking. Instead of fearing death, Christians should embrace it by placing their trust solely in Jesus. As fear of death begins to fade, committed followers can truly say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Since life is like a blimp on a radar screen, James 4:14-15, ready or not, here I come.

by Jay Mankus

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction.  In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea.  One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene.  Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus.  Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced.  Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus.  Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen.  This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him.  It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants.  Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit.  Any type of change is difficult.  However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible.  Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted.  As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains.  For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Where Did My Joy Go?

At the beginning of any relationship, there is an anticipation that consumes your body.  Similar to adrenaline, there is a rush each time you hold hands, embrace or hear the sound of this significant other’s voice on the phone.  As you experience this initial stage of courtship, your mind can’t keep thinking about the person you love.  Joy abounds every moment you spend together.  Then, little by little over time, joy disappears.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones, Proverbs 17:22.

This pattern also affects individuals who enter into a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10.  Introductions to faith occur in various places, from Bible studies, one on one conversations, spiritual retreats and revivals.  When you begin to connect with God through prayer, study and worship, a peace that surpasses all understanding begins to emerge.  As you interact with other believers, this spiritual bond deepens, filling souls with the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, hardship, temptations and worries in life suffocate the joy most people have for the Lord.

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full, John 16:24.

Within a letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul urges individuals who are single to avoid marriage unless called to do so.  The context of these words refer to the struggle to keep Christ first when married.  No matter how disciplined, focused and strong you are, the weight of the world can easily erode joy for life.  Thus, while you may not have the feelings you once possessed, faith is designed to carry you through the rough stretches in life.  If faith without deeds is dead, the same concept applies to joy.  This explains why my joy for life has vanished.  In view of this, make sure you rely on the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, so that joy will return and live again.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Taking a Closer Look at the Meaning of Life

An apostle of Jesus once made a distinction between the Bible and all other books.  According to Hebrews 4:12, the Bible is living and acting.  This passage suggests that each time you open up any of the 66 books inside, the Holy Spirit will teach you something different or new depending upon what you are going through or have recently experienced.  Unfortunately, many readers succumb to pride with thoughts such as “been there done that, heard that before or how many times do I have to hear the same old story?”

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it, Mark 8:35.

As I was minding my own business this weekend, God awakened me, providing discernment to take a closer look at the meaning of life.  The verse above struck a nerve as if to say to me, “you’re going down the wrong track, trying to hold on to your life.”  Immediately, I was confronted with my current situation, trusting in my own abilities and talents to provide for my family rather than solely rely on Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides.  I know this may sound crazy to some or many of my readers, yet listen to the case study below.

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? – Mark 8:36

From 2002-2012, I spent a decade losing my life as a high school Bible teacher, placing everything into God’s hands.  Subsequently, despite making much less than public school teachers, the Lord supernaturally provided daily bread.  Checks came in the mail at the perfect timing, secret donors paid for my children’s tuition and relative strangers handed me cash to stay out of debt.  Whereas the past 3 years since leaving youth ministry, trying to save my life has resulted in mounting debt.  It shouldn’t make sense, yet in biblical terms it does.

Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Mark 8:37

Nobody wakes up one day and says, “I’m going to forfeit my soul.”  Rather, this is a gradual process of choosing to save your own life instead of laying it down into your heavenly Father’s hands.  Sure, it feels good to be in the driver’s seat, maintaining control.  However, in the long run, lives are wasted in exchange for the temporary pleasures in life.  Though my testimony may be unbelievable, I pray that the next time you open the Bible, your heart, mind and soul will possess a teachable spirit so that the Holy Spirit will help you to embrace this living and active book.

by Jay Mankus

Healing or Forgiveness?

Whenever a trend setter comes along in a generation, there is always resistance to change.  People are creatures of habit so when someone breaks from the norm, audiences don’t always join in initially.  However, if a genuine individual arrives on the scene with an entirely new mindset with actions that back up one’s beliefs, hearts will begin to embrace their message.

Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? – Mark 2:9

In the season premiere of Lost, Season 2 begins with an episode entitled Man of Science, Man of Faith.  Matthew Fox plays a doctor named Jack, the main character who has two encounters with a stranger.  The doctor in Jack struggles to accept the concept of miracles, impossible to comprehend through his scientific mind.  However, when these two are reunited lost on an island, they switch roles as the seed of faith is implanted within Jack.

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” – Mark 2:10-11

Nearly two thousand years ago, doctor’s didn’t appreciate the message Jesus brought to the sick and sinners.  This new teaching suggested physical healing could be dependent upon forgiveness not science, Matthew 6:14-15.  Using logic, Jesus confronts their skepticism.  Although most denominations reject Jesus’ words today, the sick, sinners and needy are left to wonder, “does permanent healing come from science or forgiveness?”  While the gift of healing is an abused and dying spiritual gift, the Lord’s prayer does suggest that a lack of forgiveness can prevent healing.  As this debate continues today, perhaps the only thing keeping you from experiencing complete healing is unconfessed sin? – James 5:16

by Jay Mankus

A Hostage of Peace

Words like captive, pawn and victim are often associated with a hostage.  Despite this negative connotation, hostages can find a state of mind where peace is achieved.  Such is the case for a pastor arrested in communist China, sentenced to a prison camp for proselytizing where a cess pool became his home.  Days led to weeks, weeks to months and months to years, forced to dwell in a place which most gagged on the stench.  Yet, in this living hell, this man of God imagined the words of the Bible he read throughout his years of ministry.  Overtime, a transformation conceived a hostage of peace.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you, Isaiah 26:3.

In August of 2012, Tenth Avenue North released The Struggle, an album that featured several songs with powerful lyrics.  One of my favorites is Hostage of Peace, commences with the idea earthly battles begin in the heart.

Feel the silence
There’s a war beneath our skin
Let it begin
It’s hard to fight
It’s hard to lead resistance
It’s our hearts we’re up against

Although the world around human beings may fall apart, Ten Avenue North encourages individuals to cling to the promises in the Bible.  When danger approaches, the author of this song suggests to cry out to in prayer to find the loving arms of our heavenly Father.  This is where an individual can become a hostage of peace.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14.

Decades following this pastor’s travails, would modern Christians be able to survive if stripped away from their spiritual foundation?  With temptations lurking around every corner, waiting to pounce on unprepared souls, could a strong faith endure without access to the Bible?  God willing, American believers won’t have to experience the trials of nations in spiritual bondage.  However, if the culture continues to embrace and lean toward leftist beliefs, church leaders will need to prepare their congregations to obtain a hostage of peace.

by Jay Mankus

Banned from the Bible?

The origin of the term history derives from the Greek word ἱστορία.  Translated into English, ἱστορία refers to an inquiry where an individual acquires knowledge through an investigation.  According to the writers of the History Channel’s latest project, Banned from the Bible, content was excluded from the original 66 books known as the Holy Bible.  However, when I read their argument online, I realized this network is trying to reinvent history rather than genuinely research it.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 2 Timothy 3:16.

At the end of the first century AD, Anno Domini, Latin for in the year of our Lord, a controversial mentality began.  A predecessor to humanism, Gnosticism sought to pursue a hidden or secret knowledge which spread to church leaders.  From the third to the fifth century, Gnostic thinking influenced works such as The Life of Adam and Eve, The Book of Enoch, The Book of Jubilees, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary and The Apocalypse of Peter.  In response to this threat, rabbinic Jewish leaders meet at the Council of Jamnia in 93 followed by bishops and Roman Empire Constantine at the Council of Nicea in 325 to form a consensus on the God inspired books of the Bible.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law, Deuteronomy 29:29.

Like any professional editing process, high standards must be kept and maintained to prevent any heresy from becoming published.  Thus, liberals will cry foul whenever pieces that discredit Jesus aren’t accepted or embraced.  In their minds, if Jesus isn’t God, they can act, do or say whatever they want.  Banned from the Bible?  Yes, not for the reasons mentioned in progressive publications.  Rather, history confirms from the Easter letter of Athanasius in 367 that only 66 books made the final cut, 39 from Old Testament and 27 New Testament books.  These are the facts, not opinion, why the Gnostic letters mentioned above have been omitted from the inherent Word of God.

by Jay Mankus

 

An Illness Called Isolation

No father ever starts out their quest to provide for their family with visions of fulfilling the words of Cats in the Cradle by Cat Stevens.  Yet, the pressure to survive, make rent, pay off a mortgage or actually save money takes individuals into a land of mirages.  Unable to distinguish between bare necessities from the luxuries in life, some men contract an illness called isolation.

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.- 1 Timothy 5:8

Like an aggressive form of cancer, isolation blinds people from what’s important in life: faith, family and friends.  Subsequently, many press on unaware they are on the verge of forfeiting their soul.  Searching for something bigger and better, Americans leave their roots for the almighty dollar.  Unfortunately, one day victims will awaken from their coma only to realize that their family is grown, relationships have faded away and isolation is their only true friend.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35

The cure to this crippling disease is found when patients start to embrace the community around them.  Only when you exit the rat race and slow down enough to invest in the lives of your neighbors do the symptoms of isolation begin to vanish.  The life of Coach Jim White, inspiration for the film McFarland USA reminds me its not too late for change.  Therefore, the next time you receive an invitation for a job too good to be true, look around before you say yes to ensure isolation doesn’t seduce you, carrying you away from the community God designed you to embrace.

by Jay Mankus

 

My Two Cents on Lent

Beginning on Ash Wednesday and continuing until Easter Sunday, Lent is a season of preparation for Christians.  This forty day period commences with a service remembering God’s words to Adam, ” from dust you were created out of, from dust you will return.”  Like anything in life, it takes time to prepare one’s heart to transition from the natural to the supernatural.  Thus, Lent serves as an annual journey to embrace the memory of a resurrected Messiah.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:19

Unfortunately, this tradition is often limited to six weeks instead of maintaining faith throughout the year.  Sometime after Easter egg hunts end, when chocolates candies disappear and the emotion of this spiritual holiday ceases, people go back to their former ways of life.  Like hibernating animals, faith goes into hiding, sleeping until the winter is replaced by Spring.

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” – Job 1:20-21

Now at the half way point of Lent, its not too late to awake from a spiritual slumber.  Though shocked upon receiving the tragic news that his children perished, the Lord gave Job a heavenly perspective.  Instead of blaming God or becoming bitter, Job remembered the gift of life.  Therefore, as the season of Lent continues may the Holy Spirit transform you to become grateful for the hidden miracles in life.

by Jay Mankus

Delight or Affliction?

Tired of negativity and pessimism within society?  Ready for the tide to turn in your direction this year?  Well, the answer can be found in the center of the Bible.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. – Psalm 119:92

The various distractions you encounter can easily shift one’s attention away from the positive aspects in life.  Thus, the saying misery loves company becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy.  If minds continue to dwell on afflictions, the desire to live will fade, resulting in a state of pity heading toward the road to destruction, Matthew 7:13.

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. – Psalm 37:4

However, if you begin to cling to the promises of the Bible, drawing near to the Lord, affliction will be replaced with peace, Job 22:21.  While you can’t control the hand you are dealt in life, you are responsible for your attitude.  Therefore, you can choose to embrace God’s laws or endure affliction.  May your feet find the path that leads to delight.

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. – Psalm 119:35

by Jay Mankus

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