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When You Lose the Desire to Sing

Over the course of my life, there were several years that I never wanted to end as I was having the time of my life. Other years can be best described by “blah, ho hum or nothing special.” However, as December begins and a New Year approaches, most Americans are ready now to turn the page on 2020. Between the Coronavirus, countless deaths, a troubled economy and whatever else you have endured, finding something to sing about is tough.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we [captives] sat down, yes, we wept when we [earnestly] remembered Zion [the city of our God imprinted on our hearts]. On the willow trees in the midst of [Babylon] we hung our harps, Psalm 137:1-2.

The Psalmist writes about a similar period in his own life. The forced detention of Jews to Babylonia following the conquest of the kingdom of Judah began in 598. This exile would last a total of 12 years, removing the wind beneath the wings of this harp player. After being removed from their beloved land, musicians lost their desire to play an instrument. Subsequently, harps were abandoned, hung in nearby willow trees in Babylon.

For there they who led us captive required of us a song with words, and our tormentors and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill [with the harp]. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember you not, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy! – Psalm 137:3-6.

People listen to music for a variety of reasons. Some listen as a form of entertainment, others to pass the time or seek inspiration from a particular song or genre of music. While music can sooth human souls as in the case of King Saul in 1 Samuel 16, depressing music can plant troubling thoughts. Whenever I am depressed, I rely on certain songs to uplift my mood. Yet, when you lose the desire to sing, come to Jesus to lighten your load, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

The Center of Controversy

The term controversy refers to a prolonged disagreement often resulting in heated public debates.  These discussions are marked by emotional expressions of opposing views.  Altercations take place daily on cable news, college campuses and social media as world views clash.  This war of words involves an exchange between two or more parties, wrangling to expose the flaws of their opponent.  When someone becomes offended by another belief, comment or post, these words quickly become the center of controversy.

But avoid foolish and ill-informed and stupid controversies and genealogies and dissensions and quarrels about the Law, for they are unprofitable and useless, Titus 3:9.

Based upon my observations over the past decade, it appears that three main groups determine, define and dictate what is considered controversy and what is not.  Academia, entertainment and the media combine forces to police speech in America.  A growing number of universities once focused on higher education, now seek to create safe spaces for their student body.  Meanwhile, Hollywood stars are using their platform to become social activists, speaking out against points of view they deem controversial.  To avoid being hypocritical, disclaimers are presented before any movie or show, pre-warning audiences about their content.  Finally, the media controls news stories to denounce, excite or outrage audiences, hoping to persuade viewers to embrace their side of an argument.

After a first and second warning reject a divisive man [who promotes heresy and causes dissension—ban him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him], 11 well aware that such a person is twisted and is sinning; he is convicted and self-condemned [and is gratified by causing confusion among believers], Titus 3:10-11.

During one of his many messages, the reverend Billy Graham once said, “the Bible will always be the center of controversy.”  Whoever opens up this book will be challenged to alter their life style.  Thus, when an outsider hears commands, decrees and precepts from the Bible, many will be offended.  Often responding back with words like “I can’t believe you said that.”  The shrewd will reply, “I didn’t, I just quoted God.”  Meanwhile, other religions continue to object to Jesus’ own words, “there is only one way to heaven,” John 14:6.  Perhaps its time to follow in the footsteps of Hollywood by placing a disclaimer inside each cover of the Bible.  Warning this book will radically transform your life if you have ears to hear and eyes to see.  No matter what Christians do, atheists, liberals and progressives will continue to refer to the Bible as controversial.  Nonetheless, as long as modern believers strive to be salt and light to the world, quiet godly character will be more persuasive than getting caught up in a long winded controversial dispute.

by Jay Mankus

Expecting God to Come Through One More Time

As a former high school teacher, I understand how and why students struggle to remember important information.  Depending upon the day or time, I could tell who was paying attention from those zoned out.  Entertainment, social media and video games has influenced this generation, resulting in a shortened attention span.  Unless students find a topic interesting, hearts, minds and souls drift off into space.  If attending school becomes a drag, getting teenagers interested in spiritual matters can be just as challenging.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor (respect) except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household,” Mark 6:4.

To a certain extent, the people living in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth became spoiled.  After his first miracle at a wedding in Cana, there was a growing sentiment that if Jesus just performed one more miracle, then people would believe.  This show me mentality is the opposite of genuine faith.  Perhaps, some individuals were jealous, not present for Jesus turning water into wine.  Thus, expecting God to come through one more time doesn’t seem unreasonable.

And He could not do a miracle there at all [because of their unbelief] except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. He wondered at their unbelief.  And He was going around in the villages teaching, Mark 6:5-6.

Nonetheless, a spiritual haze fell upon the citizens of Nazareth.  When you add this to the reputation of this town, even one of Jesus’ own disciples questioned if anything good could come out of this place, John 1:46-47.  Crime and poverty demoralized many who lived there, setting the stage for a show me, don’t tell me mindset.  Thus, Nazareth became like kryptonite to Jesus, unable to perform miracles when returning home.  John Mark states that Jesus was surprised by this inexplicable unbelief.  This spiritual state prevented individuals from expecting God to come through one more time.  Maybe this same condition is influencing Americans today?

by Jay Mankus

The National Anthem, 9/11 and Professional Sports

When I was in high school, the National Anthem had become passe.  Sure, the sporting events that I attended played an old version on a lame sound system, but it was tradition.  Unfortunately, this continued without much meaning, unless of course you were contending for a championship or title.  Like standing for the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of the school day, playing the National Anthem before a sporting event is what you did.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 7:12.

On September 11th, 2001, I was just about to head into work when I received a delivery from UPS.  Without any introduction, this man proclaimed, “the twin towers are on fire.!”  Surprised, I replied, “what?”  As soon as he left,  I turned on the television, watching in awe.  Every week I traveled up to East Rutherford, New Jersey for work, greeted by these towers in the skyline each time I arrived.  A couple of weeks earlier I made a special delivery to the John Hancock building.  After these two buildings fell to the ground, the tradition of the National Anthem became more than just a song.  This one minute and thirty second song became a way to honor, remember and respect those who have died serving America.

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor, 1 Peter 2:17.

One of the perks of my father’s job when I grew up in Delaware was that his company bought season tickets for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies.  When there weren’t any clients in town to entertain, the family was able to attend games a few times a month.  In 1987, my dad scored tickets to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.  To inspire the crowd, Lauren Hart sang God Bless America, the song Kate Smith made famous singing at sporting events.  Although the Flyers lost this game and the series 4 games to 3, I still get chills when I think about the Spectrum rocking at the end of this anthem.  When you put the National Anthem, 9/11 and professional sporting events together, you get a recipe for honor, patriotism and time to pay respect to the veterans of the USA.

by Jay Mankus

 

Amusing Myself to Death

The definition of entertainment refers to providing and or receiving amusement or enjoyment.  Early cultures built theaters, often used to host plays to provide comic relief from the troubles in life.  In recent years, sports allows individuals to release their stress for a couple of hours each weekend.  However, if you get too comfortable or close to the finer things in life, you may be in danger of amusing yourself to death.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.

After a long week of work, I tend to find myself on a recliner soaking in something on television.  While I do spent time outside playing golf, at my current age, I prefer to be entertained.  Perhaps this explains why I have a hard time turning the channel when movies like A Few Good Men, Bourne Identity or Shawshank Redemption come on.  Its strange how reruns can attract someone’s attention, wasting valuable time that could be spent fulfilling your dreams.

So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there, Acts 17:17.

One of the best resources for escaping the grips of amusement is Summit Ministries.  During my decade of teaching, Dr. Jeff Myers and John Stonestreet were at the forefront of preparing students for college.  One of their common messages is that life imitates art.   The best way to address this is by engaging today’s culture through apologetics.  Just as the apostle Paul persuaded the people of Athens, this world needs a leader to snap people out of their spiritual slumber.  May the Lord awaken couch potatoes with the saving grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Culture Wars: The Sifting of the Human Mind

According to government experts, every child should graduate from high school.  Once complete, pursuing higher education in the form of college, graduate school or a doctorate is the next logical step toward achieving the American Dream.  Despite this notion, entrepreneurs are like a piece of a puzzle that doesn’t fit, opting to create a business, develop an app or find their way by working up the corporate ladder.  Whatever path you choose, you will find a culture at war, battling to win the hearts and minds of the next generation.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. – Daniel 1:8

In recent years as displayed in the film God is Not Dead, more and more institutions are sifting through minds to indoctrinate students to embrace a secular worldview.  This process commences by isolating individuals from their home, attempting to strip each of the values in which they were raised.  Staking their claim, often on the first day of class, Atheists, Marxists and Socialist professors make bold pronouncements, challenging pupils to defend their faith.  This re-education process threatens those who deviate, lowering grades if necessary to prove a point.  Finally, entertainment is used as a distraction to help young minds feel good about what they are learning.

“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” – Daniel 1:12-13

The Old Testament book of Daniel provides a blue print for students who are enduring a similar fate.  When forced to submit to new standards, Daniel refused to go beyond outside the boundaries set by God.  This act of faith led to the Lord’s favor, making a positive impression on the chief official, opening the door for a middle ground.  Keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, Daniel devises a plan, a ten day test.  By taking a stand, demonstrating their faith, Daniel and his 3 Jewish friends pass with flying colors, Daniel 1:15-16.  May the example of these young men serve as a standard for modern believers to follow as they enter the Lion’s Den known as college.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Substitute for Reality

As a student, whenever a substitute was standing up front or sitting in a chair, it was like a holiday.  Although plans were passed on, most periods turned into a study hall, a break from the normal routine.  Whether this lasts for a day, week or longer, this individual serves as a substitute for reality.

Stressed out by the events of a week, human beings often turn to their televisions to escape.  Whether its a favorite channel, show or sporting event, this time mends the broken and heals wounded souls temporary.  However, if this habit becomes a life style, entertainment can become a substitute for reality.

Perhaps  the breakdown of the American family started with different viewing interests.  Once on, there isn’t a need for communication as the big screen turns into an alternate reality.  If this pattern continues, minds zone out, numb to deadening relationships inside their home.  As soon as the number of televisions increase to multiple rooms, the stage is set for a divided house.  May those on the verge of falling into this trap, awaken before this idol becomes a permanent substitute for reality.

by Jay Mankus

Empty Again

The saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” first appeared in 1602, published within Francis Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody.  This expression applies to several aspects in life.  Thus, while working nights since July, I began to miss some of the television shows I use to watch with my family.  Until Saturday, a marathon to check up on a few of my favorites, I forgot how empty entertainment can leave a soul, void of any significant meaning.

Although spending an entire day as a couch potato sounds appealing, boredom is a likely destination despite how many channels your cable or dish company provides.  According to Philippians 2:4, every human does need to be refreshed, before they can be of any benefit to others.  Yet, indulging in comedies, movies and sitcoms provide temporary pleasure before fading fast.  If you choose this path, emptiness is unavoidable.

Subsequently, individuals need to look in a different direction to experience a complete restoration.  Emptiness can be replaced by practicing Romans 12:1-2, leading to a transformed mind.  Depending upon your own desire, devotion and discipline, the timing on this change varies.  Whether you’re listening to or reading the Bible, Romans 10:17, faith will not disappoint, making the empty feel whole once again.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

There is No But

Since I spend over an hour in my car commuting back and forth from work, I rely on a variety of sources of entertainment.  When I grow tired of my CD collection, I cross over to talk radio to pass the time in traffic.  Whether its politics or sports, I scan the dial searching for a fresh approach.  My experience today has to be one of the best in recent memory.

While listening to WIP, a Philly Sports Station, an African American caller was trying to accuse Eagles head coach Chip Kelly of botching the Desean Jackson release, a wide receiver who signed with the Washington Redskins.  Former DT Hollis Thomas, stopped this man in his tracks with the expression, “there is no but!”  Excuse after excuse was swatted away by Hollis like Manute Bol toying with a kid trying to make a lay up.  Hollis’ co-host had to throw in the towel before this caller lost his dignity.

The next try you try to pass the blame by making up a lame excuse, remember there is not but in the Bible.   Unfortunately, most people are on spiritual life support, Romans 3:9-12, unable to escape the grasp of sin.  If Adam and Eve weren’t able to convince God of their reason for eating the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:7-19, then don’t waste your time today.  In view of this reality, pour out your heart to God, confessing your sins so that despite your failures in life, the Lord will extend his grace to you through forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

Pawns of the Devil

According to Webster, a pawn is someone used by others for their own purpose.  Pawns vary from a dupe to a puppet and in extreme conditions, a hostage.  When you consider Jesus’ insight in John 10:10, there are 3 stages to pawns of the Devil.  Initially, time is used to steal children away from God.  To further this separation, ambitions, dreams and goals are plucked, one by one, killing any hopes of emotional, physical and spiritual prosperity.  Finally, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, lives are destroyed figuratively and literally.

Pawn #1 is subtle, using amusement, entertainment and obsessions to lure committed followers off the narrow road.  Throw in a little compromise, enjoyment and worldly pleasures and before long, priorities began to change.  One of the signs of Satan’s success is a lukewarm spirit, causing souls to lose focus of what’s truly important in life.  Add an onslaught of trials and those pure in heart wander into uncharted waters, opening their eyes to a whole new world like Eve.  If you look across the fence long enough, you might find yourself on the other side.

Pawn #2 is merely a byproduct of time.  Once temptation begins to dig its claws deep into hearts and minds, the outcome shouldn’t be surprising.  Spiritual neglect is replaced by bad habits, careless behavior and loose lips.  The presence of a disciplined life is a distantly memory, kicked to the curb by fleshly desires.  Hooked, lined and sinking fast, the light of Christ fades into addictions of darkness.  At some point, individuals become puppets of the Devil, accomplishing his will through a hypocritical and tainted testimony.

Unless intervention occurs, Pawn #3 resembles a tsunami.  The first wave starts by destroying marriages and or relationships near and dear to your heart.  Isolated, the second wave brings financial ramifications as consumption, gambling and waste make their way to your shores.  Just when you think the storm has subsided, the surge is relentless building in size and wrath.  If you survive, a pitiful soul remains, a shell of the person you were before the pawns of the Devil entered your life.  For those still standing, remember the words of Peter, a failure himself, resist the devil by keeping the faith, 1 Peter 5:8-9.  May this revelation encourage hearts to draw near to the One true God, 1 Timothy 2:4.

by Jay Mankus

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