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Tag Archives: faith

The Guardian

The term guardian has a rich history.  The Guardian is a former British daily newspaper which began in 1821 with its last publication in 1959.  Guardian is also a media group owned by the Scott Trust; created in 1936 to secure the financial and editorial independence of its paper.   While the definition refers to a defender, keeper or protector, the concept of a guardian has inspired several movies.  Most recent films include Guardians of the Galaxy 1, 2 and 3.  In 2018, Bryan Bailey wrote a film where Garret Jackson returns to his home town seven years after his parents’ death.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [of Jerusalem]—From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth, Psalm 121:1-2.

The Bible eludes to the true guardian.  The Psalmist refers to God as the keeper of Israel.  While invisible to the human eye, the presence of the Creator of the heavens and earth can be felt daily.  Answered prayers, blessings and miracles are subtle signs that stimulate faith of those paying attention.  Meanwhile, guardian angels are busy behind the scenes, protecting God’s saints from the fiery arrows from the evil One, Ephesians 6:16.  Although human nature may persuade some to take credit for that which God has done, God’s invisible attributes can not be ignored, Romans 1:20.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, Psalm 91:11.

One of the greatest examples of guardian angels is found in Psalm 91.  According to the author, God commands his angels to guard you in all your ways.  The question is, do only Christians get angels or do non-believers simply reject their guardian?  Those who adhere to John Calvin’s teaching would suggest that God does not waste any angel, making guardians angels limited.  However, Armenians believe that Jesus died for everyone.  Applying this theology to angels means that everyone, not just the elect have a guardian angel.  Regardless of your theological beliefs, the important thing to realize is the Guardian in heaven is waiting for souls to repent from their sins by turning to Jesus.  May the promise of Romans 5:2 encourage you to approach God’s throne of grace.

by Jay Mankus

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When God Allows Your Life to be Turned Upside Down

After two weeks of tests, everything was set for my cataract surgery this morning.   While a routine physical revealed high blood pressure, two days ago my latest reading was 130 over 80.  Perhaps, I became a little complacent, throwing a pizza party for my department Wednesday night.  When I reached preop, the nurse was unsettled by my blood pressure, most likely due to the sodium in the 4 slices of pizza I eat the night before.  Additional tests didn’t improve, only escalating my stress level.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

I spent the next 30 minutes waiting as physicians came in and out of my room.  For a few moments, I felt like I was part of a drama on television, the patient who passes away.  I should have seen this coming as the woman at the front desk asked, “do you have a living will and testament with you?”  To make matters worse one nurse began to lecture me, interrupting me each time I tried to respond.  “You need to eat better, take this serious, see a cardiologist.”  This exchange only worsened my condition.  Thus, my surgery was cancelled, recommending that I go directly to the emergency room.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

Working on 8 hours of sleep over the past 4 days, 72 hours, I opted to go home and sleep.  Meanwhile, my wife stayed home from work in case I needed to be rushed to the hospital.  As for now, I have been put back on high blood pressure medication until further notice.  The surgery has been postponed until January, requiring visits to my primary doctor and cardiologist before my surgeon will give the thumbs up.  As for now, carbs, soda and unhealthy foods are out.  I’m not sure how my body is going to adjust, but if I want to see my children grow up changes must be made now.  I’m not sure why I have to endure this trial now, bot God allows lives to be turned upside down to prepare individuals for the future.

by Jay Mankus

Tasteless

Shortly after I got married, I began to play disc golf regularly.  During a round at Brandywine Creek State Park, my friend Dave and I threw a couple of discs into high grass.  Prior to the rise in Lyme Disease cases, checking for ticks never entered my mind.  Oddly enough, each of us contracted this debilitating condition.  While on vacation in Montana, my skin revealed the classic bullet, an obvious sign of Lyme Disease.  Unfortunately, Dave’s condition went undiagnosed for months.  Although Dave eventually recovered, he permanently lost his sense of taste.

“Therefore, salt is good; but if salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? – Luke 14:34

A first century doctor refers to a spiritual condition in the passage above.  Jesus uses the analogy of expired salt to illustrate this point.  Tasteless salt is similar to a Christian who does not practice the principles of the Bible.  According to Jesus, disciples should add spiritual flavor to the lives of outsiders, those unfamiliar with the concept of Christianity.  When believers blend into the world like chameleons, Jesus refers to these individuals as tasteless.

It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words,” Luke 14:35.

Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when you are called out by a co-worker, friend or mentor.  In this case, unsalted Christians are useless, like trash needing to be thrown away.  When joking around with my sons, my video game skills are often described as trash.  Since I know this to be true, rarely practicing, I can laugh along with my children.  However, when Jesus calls lukewarm believers tasteless and trash, this is no laughing matter.  If this blog finds you struggling and unproductive in your faith, may the Holy Spirit inspire you to refuel by studying the Bible daily, praying and seeking to worship God seven days a week.

by Jay Mankus

What It Means to be One Nation Under God

Since October media reports has followed caravans of people from Latin America, hoping for a better life.  Depending upon your choice of cable news networks, reporters covering this story have attempted to define who these people really are.  As the masses have reached the border seeking asylum, politics have divided Americans.  Those who don’t want borders have invoked religion, accusing opponents of being anti-Christian, failing to love these individuals like Jesus.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world, James 1:27.

Anyone who picks and choses what they want to believe from the Bible while disregarding other parts is known as syncretism.  This practice blends cultures, religions and schools of thought to appease, relate to and unite a large diverse audience.  Unfortunately, when politicians use syncretism it’s often masked with Saul Alinsky tactics from Rules for Radicals.  Instead of using the Bible in its proper context, political talking points often seize opportunities like the caravan to condemn and criticize anyone who dares to disagree.  If you watch any nightly news, politics is a vessel of division.  What America needs is to go back to its roots.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17

The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States was composed by Captain George Thatcher Balch. Balch was a Union Army Officer during the Civil War and later became a teacher of patriotism in New York City schools.  The most recent alteration of its wording came on Flag Day in 1954, when the words “under God” were added.  When my father’s family fled Lithuania during the Soviet Union’s invasion of the Baltic States, he came to America to start over living with a host family.  While a large number of Lithuanians migrated to Binghamton, New York, these immigrants eventually became citizens.  The goal wasn’t to make America Lithuanian.  Rather, it was to become one nation, united by a common faith in God, to carry on their former nation’s heritage united under one flag.  This is what it means to live as one nation under God.

by Jay Mankus

Baby Steps

Baby steps are subtle advances in progress.  In the early months following birth, babies don’t possess the agility and strength to stand on their own.  However, as soon as infants begin to figure out how to crawl, many become like run away trains, difficult to catch.  From a spiritual point of view, the first baby step requires gaining access to God.  This occurs when individuals place their faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power], Romans 5:1-2.

According to the apostle Paul, the next step you should take is listening to and reading the Bible, Romans 10:17.  Paul felt so strongly about this baby step that he wrote a letter to one of his young pupils, a teenager named Timothy.  Like a stern teacher, Paul stresses the importance of studying to prove yourself as a workman for God.  Although the Bible is no longer a class or subject in public education, you must become a diligent student of the Word to handle it correctly.

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.

At some point along the way, everyone needs a mentor to guide you throughout life.  In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis warns individuals against getting ahead of yourself.  As you set out to accomplish a goal, success is not defined by reaching the summit.  Rather, success is the process of arriving, one step at a time.  Therefore, if you fall away from God for a period of time, don’t try make amends all it once.  Rather, like an adult forced to learn how to walk all over again, take life one step at a time.

by Jay Mankus

Two Masters One Choice

The Masters of the Universe franchise debuted in 1982.  This creation by Mattel includes toys, animation, film, comics, books, videogames and spin-offs.  The most popular character in this series was He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe.  Like Samson of the Bible, there was no hero who could match the superhuman strength of He-Man.  Yet, in real life, there is someone who will come along that is bigger, faster or stronger than their predecessor.  No matter how gifted you are, at some point you will have to call upon and rely on a higher power.

 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so if your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive], your whole body will be full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. 23 But if your eye is bad [spiritually blind], your whole body will be full of darkness [devoid of God’s precepts]. So if the [very] light inside you [your inner self, your heart, your conscience] is darkness, how great and terrible is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

There is another Master who is not a person, but many individuals benefit from the services it provides.  The concept of a master credit card was conceived when several California banks joined together to form Interbank Master Charge.  From 1966 to 1979, Mastercard was branded as the credit card to want and use.  Today, Mastercard is merely a name from the past, bought out by Visa which has carried on its legacy in the credit industry.  When I was a child, the only credit card my parents held was work related, for business expenses only.  In modern times, adults have multiple credit cards, charging away until shocking bills arrive in the mail or online.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord], Matthew 6:24.

Typically, when I hear a sermon about money, pastors quote 1 Timothy 6:10, the love of money is the root of all evil.  However, the words of Jesus above refer to a heart issue.  Do you trust God to provide daily bread for your needs in life?  Or are your self reliant, putting all the onus on yourself to make enough money to live a decent life?  While there are different levels of commitment on both sides, Jesus wants to know who are you going to serve.  The Master of the Universe, (the giver of life) or the Mastercard that provides access to the finer things in life.  Although the second choice is tempting, faith, prayer and the Word of God will lead you in the right direction.  Two masters, but freewill enables you to make up your mind.  Choose wisely.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Gospel and Politics

Certain topics can create division, friction and tension if not communicated in a civil manner.  Yet, when words are accompanied by a loving spirit, the gospel and politics can be persuasive.  One of my friends ran for the House of Representatives in the state of Delaware.  Up against a heavily democratic district, Bryan needed to introduce himself to complete strangers, express his political views and convince several hundred voters to switch parties.  This task required a dedicated team of volunteers.  Initially, I told my wife that I would commit to being part of the ground team, going house to house to drop off pamphlets to potential voters each weekend.  Just as Christians experience lukewarm stages, at some point my heart wasn’t into surrendering my weekends.  I guess you can say, I wasn’t dedicated to due do what was necessary for victory.  While Bryan received one of the largest percentages of votes for a Republican, his campaign to represent the 5th district ended in defeat.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many, Mark 10:45.

During the first century, an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, a shady town overrun by crime began a three year campaign.  While lacking the finances to make a big political splash, Jesus turned to mainly blue collar individuals, fishermen from the Sea of Galilee.  After John the Baptist’s death, Jesus began to travel from town to town, visiting local synagogues.  Before long, crowds of people started following this motley crew as rumors of faith, healings and miracles spread.  Oddly, anyone who experienced these supernatural events were told to keep quiet, unheard of in any type of political campaign.  As followers increased, curious spectators began to see that Jesus was the real deal, a person who practiced what he preached.  This fact only endeared the masses to this uneducated man.  When Jesus began to be embraced like a rock star, jealousy spread among political and spiritual leaders.  This threat resulted in false accusations, gossip and slander to squash Jesus’ popularity.  Yet, after three years of serving, teaching and visiting strangers, Jesus became a man of the people, king of the Jews.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace, 1 Peter 4:10.

The only way for the gospel and politics can work together is if genuine faith unites with statesmanship.  Modern debates has turned to identity politics, putting one class, occupation or race against the other.  If there is a disagreement, the non-conformist is immediately labeled as a bigot, homophobe or racist.  If an opponent can convince potential voters that a candidate is extreme, embellishments, half truths and lies will continue to bombard citizens every election season.  Some where along the way, good news has been watered down by endless smear ads.  The word gospel comes from and old English phrase godspel, meaning good news or tidings.  It’s hard to be positive in a negative environment, especially when shrewd politicians use raw emotions to stir up their base.  Yet, why does the negative make national headlines daily while good stories are avoided, disregarded or go unnoticed?  Perhaps, its time for modern politicians to follow the Jesus model.  Serve one another, help the poor, feed the needy and extend a loving hand to the unwelcomed.  If future leaders begin here, you won’t need a campaign advertisement to get you elected.  Rather, the people who see the love of Jesus displayed by you will form loyal supporters to stand by your side through thick and thin.  This is the possibility of the gospel and politics.

by Jay Mankus

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