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When the House of Your Dreams Fades Away

If you are not careful, you can allow life to get away from you. Distractions, the gruel of work and unguided years have caused me to lose track of time. It seems like only a few years ago that my three kids all attended the same school where I taught. At this moment in time, everything seemed so clear as I was on the way to building the house of my dreams.

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear, Ecclesiastes 5:7.

Nearly a decade later, our house is nearly empty, two years away from having all of my children in college. After hearing Casting Crowns’ song House of Their Dreams the other night, conviction filled my soul. The words of these lyrics ring true as I find my family trapped in our own worlds despite living under the same roof. Recognizing this is one thing, but coming all together as a Christ devoted family requires an act of God.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28.”

Sure, prayer and fasting will help, but I can’t expect my family to change until God changes me first. Instead of asking, correcting and urging others to take action, I need to closely evaluate and examine my own life first. During the youth ministry trade school that I attended following college, I learned that the enthusiasm of a leader never exceeds that of its audience. Therefore, if I want to restore the house of my dreams, I need to pray “Lord change me first!”

by Jay Mankus

Who Really Deserves the Credit

A few days leading up to my son James’ wedding, my wife and I received praise and thanks.  Emma’s father Pete mentioned twice, once at the rehearsal dinner and during his wedding toast of the blessing that James been to Emma and their family.  While the hand of God is ultimately responsible for my son’s maturity, there are others who deserve credit as well.

The one who is taught the word [of God] is to share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his spiritual and material support], Galatians 6:6.

In 1988, a man named Ray Boltz was asked to write a song for Pastor Appreciation Sunday.  Upon completion, the lyrics of Thank You serve as a reflection, looking back at all the people in life who has directed, guided and helped individuals draw closer to Jesus.  When I think about James, I can’t forget all the Christian teachers at Red Lion who taught, nurtured and inspired James from kindergarten to eighth grade.  From his first, Mrs. DeMaio to his last, Mrs. Beattie, I thank God for everyone in between who has shaped and touched James’ life.

Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. 10 So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers), Galatians 6:9-10.

I don’t know how this story will end, James’ new life with Emma.  Yet, as a parent, I am committed to pray for, fast if necessary and build up this young couple.  Sometimes parents expect children to behave, mature and become a finished product in their time, not God’s.  Thus, all I can do is seize the opportunities that become available.  Despite how I feel or what I see from my own perspective, the apostle Paul commands believers to persist in doing good.  While I’m waiting, I want to thank all of you who have poured your own life into my son James.

by Jay Mankus

When the Enemy Perverts Silence

In the Christmas Classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, who scrambles to locate $8000 which his cousin Billy misplaced at the bank.  Retracing his uncles steps, George runs into Mr. Potter played by Lionel Barrymore at the bank.  Instead of handing George the money that he found wrapped in a newspaper, Potter accuses George of various crimes.  This dilemma leads George to pray for a miracle.  When he receives is a right hook to the face at his local hangout, George turns to suicide as a logical solution to his problems.  When prayers lifted up to God go unanswered, Satan replaces this silence with perverted whispers in the minds of human beings.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14.

During one of his visits to what is now modern day Greece, the apostle Paul seems to have uncovered some type of demonic activity going on in or around Corinth.  Just like Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, Satan has a history that does not include the dark side.  Anakin Skywalker followed the force, on pace to become the next Jedi.  Likewise Satan, known as Lucifer was an arch angel, one of God’s most magnificent creations.  At some point, this fact went to his head, wanting to glorify himself.  Despite being kicked out of heaven, this ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, didn’t lose his angelic powers.  Thus, Satan is able to disguise himself as a vessel of light.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

If there is a word that best describes the Devil today its relentless.  This demonic entity is always scheming, using lust and temptation as open doors to come into and ruin lives.  Murders aren’t on the rise just because of crime, drugs and hatred.  Rather, when broken, desperate and lost souls continue to experience silence after cries for help, the enemy perverts silence.  According to Isaiah 1:15, God is silent when individuals fail to repent.  Any type of addiction furthers distance between you and God.  If you want to end this silence, follow the blueprint within Isaiah 1:16-17.  As genuine confession and acts of penance follow, God promises grace, forgiveness and healing.  Don’t let the Devil’s deception to continue to ruin lives of loved ones.  Rather, fast, pray and worship the Lord so that evil will be exposed and brought to the light.

by Jay Mankus

 

Paranormal Survivors

Paranormal Survivor is now in its second season on Destination America.  This show interviews eyewitnesses to strange encounters, often bringing in experts in the field to explain supernatural events.  In recent years, reality television has shined light on topics that in previous years was considered taboo or too bizarre to consider.  However, one of the first documented cases of paranormal survivors comes right out of the Bible.

One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”- Acts 19:15

Casting out demons in the middle of the first century became a common experience for apostles and disciples of Jesus.  This fascination led some outside the faith to begin to emulate the apostle Paul.  According to Luke, seven sons and a Jewish chief priest were in the middle of an exorcism when a demon manifested itself.  The individual who was possessed was filled with multiple spirits.  Since the sons of Sceva were powerless without a personal relationship with God or access to the Holy Spirit, they were attacked and fled.

Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding, Acts 19:16.

A generation ago, churches were afraid to bring up the topic of demons, dismissing it as an exaggeration or waste of time.  However, in this age of spirituality, people are opening doors for the Devil and demons to come into their lives.  Subsequently, manifestations of ghosts and spirits as detailed on the show Paranormal Survivor are not as uncommon as it use to be.  Therefore, depending upon where you move to, work or visit, don’t be surprised if you encounter the paranormal.  Until then, fast, pray and draw near to God.

by Jay Mankus

When You Hate The Person You Have Become

Starting over or beginning from a new point of reference can be scary.  Yet, every New Year’s Day individuals try to become a little better, happier and healthier.  However, if you have ever followed in the footsteps of Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way,” truth is relative.  Since the lyrics of My Way pretty much sums up how I lived in 2015, I became blinded from the person that I had become.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done, Romans 1:28.

Unfortunately, when your life is obviously dysfunctional, there’s a temptation to compare yourself to those whom you deem lesser or worse.  In the first century, the apostle Paul sensed this within the hearts and minds of those who attended the church at Rome.  Calling it like he saw it, Paul confronts those who have the mindset, “well at least I’m not like that addict, criminal or prostitute over there.”  The other night at work, I caught myself as I gossiped about a co-worker.  At this very moment, a spirit of conviction consumed me.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things, Romans 2:1.

During the first week of my current fast, the Holy Spirit has been opening my eyes to a painful reality.  While I currently hate the person I’ve become, confession is the first step to recovery.  Finding the narrow road that leads to life eternal may take more time than I want, but I know the journey back is worth it.  Like Moses in Hebrews 11:24-27, you have to know when to break free from your past, walking by faith until the person you despise becomes the child God desires.  As a youth pastor once told me, “it’s never too late to change!”

by Jay Mankus

Deliver Us From Evil

The fast pace of life can cause individuals to overlook the obvious.  In a rush to keep up with the bills, stress has blinded me from an important biblical truth.  According to Jesus, one of the things you should pray for on a daily basis is protection from evil, Matthew 6:13.  The outline what Christians refer to as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father suggests evil is a by product of giving into temptation.  Perhaps this might explain the apostle Paul’s warning in Ephesians 4:26-27.

Whether you tend to follow directions, live on the fence or like to play the role of a rebel, evil is on the other side of the door called temptation.  Good intentions don’t mean a thing unless you walk with the king, 1 John 2:7.  Words are meaningless without action as many, me included, need a heart transplant to our feet from evil, Psalm 51:10-11.  If anyone thinks you can walk in the dark and just turn on the light whenever you want is fooling yourself.  Compromise will derail souls, convincing minds to believe in lies, 2 Corinthians 614.

If there as anything communities, families or schools can do to create a hedge of protection is to ask God to deliver us from evil.  However, this must be combined with the James 5:16 principle as confession lays a foundation for spiritual change.  God doesn’t honor lukewarm prayers.  Rather, by putting your heart, soul and mind into prayer, cry out to the Lord, believing your prayers will be answered, Matthew 21:21-22.  May the Holy Spirit fill you with perseverance to stay motivated to fight this unseen battle, Galatians 5:16-18.

by Jay Mankus

 

House of Horrors

As I went to bed last night, everyone was talking about the horrific discovery within a house in Cleveland, Ohio.  With Breaking News alerts regularly appearing on the bottom of my television screen, the title House of Horrors became the obsession of cable news networks.  Like the Weather Channel drooling over yet another named winter storm, Fox News made it seem that nothing else in the world mattered.  Surrounding the house like vultures, scanning the area for another neighbor or friend of Ariel, Onil and Pedro Castro to interview live, this event became the latest media feeding frenzy.

While the full story is yet to be told, any case of child abduction, rape, sexual abuse and torture is one too many.  These 3 woman have been stripped of their innocence, violated beyond what anyone should ever endure and had their mind filled with nightmare images of this decade long ordeal.  Though the media is still looking for answers into the moral depravity of these 3 brothers, Hollywood has left a trail of bread crumbs to follow.

Copy cat crimes are nothing new, a pattern law enforcement have tackled for over a century.  At first glance, this appears to be similar to the case in Germany, exposed 2 years ago.  However, when you consider Americans have become like Romans 1:21-27, exercising freewill to chase after sexual fantasy’s, the actions of the Castro brothers don’t appear as irrational as first thought.  When you add increased sexual content within movies, immoral television shows and pornographic videos to this equation, 3 sexual predators are born.  In addition, George Michael pleaded for your sex in his lyrics of a song, Madonna crawled along a set like a pussy cat hoping to arouse you and modern day hip hop / rap stars continue to degrade women in their music videos.

For now, what’s done is done.  Nothing can take back the years stolen from these 3 women.  Yet, there are proactive steps one can take to help heal these wounded souls in Cleveland.  First, pray for Amanda, Michelle and Gina by name, asking God to cleanse their minds from the living hell they endured.  Second, you can fast for a day, going without food to either donate the funds you would have spent to these girls or seek the Holy Spirit for further areas of prayer each so desperately need.  Finally, keep your eyes open locally, so that something similar never happens again.  Follow the words of Colossians 4:2-6, staying alert so that future plots like this House of Horrors will be foiled before they ever begin.  Just do it!

by Jay Mankus

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