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Lord It’s Been So Long

If you’re not careful, life can be like a white water rafting trip. Once you’re on the river, there is danger lurking around every corner. Depending upon the classification and level of rapids, each one can come fast and furious. Unless there is some sort of break in between for your mind to relax, there will be no rest for the weary. Anyone who finds themselves on a wild ride may be so focused on survival that taking time to spend with God is like a blip on a radar screen.

Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, and said to them, Get up this way by the South (the Negeb) and go up into the hill country,18 And see what the land is and whether the people who dwell there are strong or weak, few or many,19 And whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. And be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes, Numbers 13:17-20.

In his 1993 song, Power and Promise, Brett Williams uses the phrase, “Lord It’s Been So Long.” The context of these lyrics date back to Moses waiting to enter God’s Promise Land. In the second stanza, Williams refers back to the anguish Mary felt while her brother Lazarus was dead for 3 days. When signs of God’s power or presence is absent, invisible to your eyes, staying optimistic in times of trouble is difficult. This is where faith comes into play.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him]. 11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep, John 11:9-11.

However, when basic spiritual routines like going to church, reading the Bible or praying stop occurring, God fades from your memory. While the Coronavirus may have been an excuse for some to use in 2020, it’s time to reconnect. The imagery of Luke 15:20 pictures the Lord as a concerned parent, patiently waiting on the front porch for prodigals to come home. Until lost souls come to their senses, this reconciliation is put on hold. Therefore, if you find yourself distant from God, today as good as any day to open up by saying, “Lord, it’s been so long.”

by Jay Mankus

Seeing Criticism for What it Is

The book definition for criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone or something based upon a perceived fault or mistake.  The key word here is perceived as modern criticism is usually based upon ideology.  Subsequently, if your beliefs, convictions or worldview varies from the socially acceptable norm, condemnation, denunciation and nitpicking will arrive fast and furious.  When the media chimes in, criticism often snowballs like an avalanche.

They preached the good news to that city and made many disciples, then they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening and establishing the hearts of the disciples; encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, saying, “It is through many tribulations and hardships that we must enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:21-22.

Shortly after being stoned by his spiritual opponents, on the verge of death, the apostle Paul gets back on his feet to share a lesson learned from this near death experience.  As he walked back to the same town where leaders wanted to kill him, Paul realized that anyone who wants to preach the good news about Jesus Christ must embrace hardship and tribulations.  Essentially, Paul is saying “don’t take religious criticism personally as they hated Jesus first,”

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus builds upon Paul’s words in Lystra.  Trials build character resulting in spiritual maturity.  While criticism can and will be deserved from time to time, Christians must see criticism for what it is, a refining process that leads to genuine faith.  The more faith is tested, endurance and inner peace will shine through.  No one likes to be criticized, but when you see it through the lens of the Bible, spiritual growth is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Take The Bait

Fisherman tend to be superstitious.  Whether its a specific time, spot or lure, past success feeds these rituals and traditions.  In the spiritual realm, Satan is the fisherman and human are the fish.  Each soul tends to be susceptible to certain things which varies from person to person.  These weaknesses are known by the Devil, tempting individuals to take the bait.

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away, James 1:14.

Since a handful of the disciples were fishermen, some of their words reflect this lifestyle.  In the passage above, James realized that certain types of bait catch a fishes eye.  Once enticed, fish are lured out of hiding into open waters.  If this curiosity continues, sooner or later fish will take the bait, becoming hooked.  In the same way, people who develop bad habits become vulnerable to addiction.  Once hooked, people often destroy themselves as Satan moves on, searching for the next gullible victim.

Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! – Proverbs 7:18

The older you get, the greater and more complex temptations become.  The context in the verse above Solomon urges young men to avoid desperate and lonely women.  While the eye candle may be difficult to resist, the quicker you say no the better off you will be.  However, as soon as you master one weak area, further temptations will come at you fast and furious.  Therefore, be on guard, take a stand or else may be the next to take the bait.

by Jay Mankus

Reactions Without Responsibility

Any parent who loses a child to a drunk driver, victim of a crime or family member of a relative fatally shot wants to see justice prevail.  In the heat of the moment, especially after receiving this bad news, emotions can cause harsh reactions.  Yet, in America people are suppose to be innocent until proven guilty.  Sure, it would be nice if the court systems could speed up this process.  However, until individuals have their day in court, its irresponsible to incite violence, rush to judgment or use social media to encourage others to seek revenge.

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? – Matthew 7:4

In the hours following the unfortunate shooting deaths of African Americans by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, reactions in the media were fast and furious.  Apparently, some people took black leaders, politicians and twitter posts literally.  Subsequently, now there are six dead police officers in 2 states, several more wounded and public servants have been betrayed by the citizens they are paid to protect.  The response by celebrities to the initial two deaths is a clear indication that reactions have consequences.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye, Matthew 7:5.

America has come to a cross roads, on the verge of a racial divide.  The leadership and message provided by Dr. Martin Luther King has either been forgotten or is absent from this current generation.  In view of this dire situation, its time for personal responsibility, realizing that everyone is imperfect.  During his sermon on the Mount Jesus encouraged followers to get their own lives in order before criticizing or judging other people.  The same truth applies to Americans today.  Therefore, the next time you have an urge to lash out, over react or post complaints on social media, remember these words of Jesus.  If put into practice, God’s Word can begin to transform lives one soul at a time.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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