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The Shepherd’s Quake

The new year is as good as any time to develop a healthy appreciation and amazement of God. Unfortunately, it often takes some sort of accident that can scare the hell out of you. Something about surviving a near death experience causes your body to shake like the shepherd’s quake in the passage below. As you replay this event in your mind, goosebumps may appear all over your arms with your hair sticking straight up.

And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened, Luke 2:8-9.

This shepherd’s quake recorded by Luke appears to be more out of fear as encounters with angels in the Old Testament were a sign of your pending death. As this angel recognized their astonishment and shock, there was an immediate call to calm down and relax. Although Luke doesn’t mention facial expressions, upon hearing the great news of a Savior being born, this shepherd’s quake transitioned from fear to jubilee.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. 11 For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord! – Luke 2:10-11

The author of one New Testament book uses fear on two occasions to invoke a sense of spiritual urgency in Hebrews 6:1-6 and Hebrews 10:26-27. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul call an entire congregation to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12. Just as God taught Moses about walking on holy ground in Exodus, modern day Christians need to enter God’s presence with reverence. While it will take time to break bad habits from your past, emulating the shepherd’s quake as your worship the Lord will help transform your mind about how to approach God in prayer to get His attention.

by Jay Mankus

Does God Know that You Fear the Lord?

As September ends today, October transitions from fall to a month of horror movies. One of my former co-workers tries to watch a scary movie once a day for the entire month. These types of movies are designed to inflict fear, crafted in such a way to scare the hell out of you. While this may be a good way to pass the time, does God know that you fear the Lord?

And Isaac said to Abraham, My father! And he said, Here I am, my son. [Isaac] said, See, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice? Abraham said, My son, [b]God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering. So the two went on together, Genesis 22:7-8.

While children are introduced to Abraham as the guy in that funny song “Father Abraham,” this man of God had his own internal struggles. When placed into an awkward situation, Abraham had a tendency to exaggerate, stretching the truth. In other words, when push came to shove, Abraham lied like a politician on the campaign trail. This sinful pattern went on out for years until God forced Abe to make a change.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there; then he laid the wood in order and [c]bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar on the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took hold of the knife to slay his son. 11 But the [d]Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham! He answered, Here I am. 12 And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear and revere God, since you have not held back from Me or begrudged giving Me your son, your only son. 13 Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering and an ascending sacrifice instead of his son! – Genesis 22:9-13

Sometimes God will place you into a situation where you are forced to choose your allegiance. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his one and only son Isaac. Rather than look for a way out, Abraham got up earlier in the morning before the sun rose. Abraham had three days to make a decision if he wanted to go through with this. In the end, Abraham chose to fear the Lord. May this blog challenge you to prove to God that you truly fear Him in October.

by Jay Mankus

Snatching Souls Out of the Fire

A snatch and grab is a new phrase associated with the recent crime wave due to the elimination of cash bail. As more and more district attorneys stop prosecuting shop lifters, criminals are no longer afraid of getting caught. Yet, in the passage below, Jude calls Christians to snatch souls destined for eternal damnation in hell. When you care for and love sinners, there is hope for real change to occur.

[Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality. 24 Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]—Jude 1:23-24

Whenever I attend a funeral, most of the clergy approach the podium with confidence that the person who has just passed away is now in heaven. In the passage above, Jude refers to individuals who are teetering on the edge. Any soul on the verge of being destined for hell can be snatched out of these eternal flames. However, action must be quick and swift before it’s too late, Hebrews 10:26-27.

My] brethren, if anyone among you strays from the Truth and falls into error and another [person] brings him back [to God], 20 Let the [latter] one be sure that whoever turns a sinner from his evil course will save [that one’s] soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins [[a]procure the pardon of the many sins committed by the convert], James 5:19-20.

Meanwhile, Jesus’ earthly brother writes about the spiritual rewards for those individuals who steer anyone from the error of their ways. In the parable of the Lost Son (prodigal), Jesus highlights God’s love who waits patiently on their front porch for the wayward children to come back home. Therefore, as you wait for Jesus’ second coming, look for ways daily to help Christians make u-turns away from sin and turn back to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Imposters of Faith

An imposter is a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others. Imposters may not start off with impure motives. Fear of what others may think initially often results in a chameleon effect, blending into environments so you’re not rejected by your peers. When an individual successfully deceives and tricks someone for the first time, an imposter is conceived. Imposters of faith come into play by preying on gullible Christian churches, going on a power trip when challenged or questioned.

For many imposters (seducers, deceivers, and false leaders) have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge (confess, admit) the coming of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) in bodily form. Such a one is the imposter (the seducer, the deceiver, the false leader, the antagonist of Christ) and the antichrist, 2 John 1:7.

One of my favorite books is the Handbook for Spiritual Warfare by Dr. Ed Murphy. The most powerful aspect of this book is a series of case studies, testimonies of how people ended up addicted, beaten or ravaged by poor choices they made in life. If I recall correctly, one of these is from an elder of a megachurch who tried to inform the leadership of a specific sin. After following the Matthew 18 principle, no one believed him as an imposter of faith had won the power struggle within this church.

Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand]. 13 But wicked men and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and leading astray others and being deceived and led astray themselves, 2 Timothy 3:12-13.

During the Summer of 2020, the BLM movement attached itself to inner circle churches across the country. While Paul calls Christians to be color blind in Colossians 3:11, the Old Testament warned Israel about adding and subtracting from the Bible, Deuteronomy 4:2. Due to political pressure, some churches across the country have drifted from the Bible to embrace progressive policies. If money is involved, imposters of faith blend faith into our culture and society to avoid scrutiny. If you find yourself struggling with this syncretism, study Jesus words in Matthew 24 so that your love for God won’t grow cold.

by Jay Mankus

Who is There to Hurt You?

While anxiety is less intense than fear, stress tends to be a more sustained emotional response than phobias. Although human beings may be threatened by overreaching and power-hungry individuals, inner demons are often your own worst enemy. Anyone who has ever experienced an anxiety attack, know the overwhelming feeling you endure and how it can interfere with your daily life.

Now who is there to hurt you if you are [d]zealous followers of that which is good? – 1 Peter 3:13

Since my days at Hanby Junior High School in Wilmington, Delaware, I’ve turned to music to find comfort and hope. Whenever I was sad, I’d listen to Air Supply or Chicago which made me even more depressed. Perhaps this empty feeling eventually drew me to only listen to Christian music. While in college, a friend introduced me to punk rock and a group called the Altar Boys. The emptiness I once experienced was replaced by a quiet confidence thanks to the song “When I’m with God.”

But even in case you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, [you are] blessed (happy, to be envied). Do not dread or be afraid of their threats, nor be disturbed [by their opposition], 1 Peter 3:14.

No matter how big, tall or old you may be, there is always someone faster, stronger and smarter. Despite all of the new threats that you may experience, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has eased many of my anxieties in life. Like the words of one of Jesus’ disciples in the passage above, who is there to hurt you if you are passionately following the Lord? No one likes hardships, persecution or trials, but when I’m with God my fears tend to fade away. Place your hope in Jesus today, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Supreme Expression

Pixar’s 2015 Inside Out follows a girl named Riley from her birth. Rather than express Riley’s life in a typical manner, emotions inside of her like joy, sadness, anger and fear steer the way. This creative twist of events provides a unique perspective of what goes inside the mind of a child. If only a spiritual element was added to this film, supreme expression could be realized.

You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works, James 1:22.

Expression is the process of making known one’s thoughts or feelings. Whether this is communicated through an articulation, declaration or proclamation, words begin to express what’s going on deep inside of you. According to Jesus’ earthly brother, when faith, good works and words are implemented properly, you reach what the Bible refers to as supreme expression.

You see that a man is justified (pronounced righteous before God) through what he does and not alone through faith [through works of obedience as well as by what he believes], James 1:24.

Yet, what if you are extremely shy? Or like me, born with a severe speech impediment. What do you do to experience supreme expression? This is the dilemma faced by a man from Decapolis. According to Mark 7:32-35, Jesus said, “Ephphatha” which is a prayer to open and loosen your tongue. When you add belief to this prayer, Matthew 21:21-22, supreme expression is possible to achieve through Christ who gives us strength, Philippians 4:13.

by Jay Mankus

These are the Times that Try Men’s Soul

In order to make sense of the chaos and vast trials dealt by 2020, you have to go back in time. If you don’t learn from hints left behind by historians, you’ll fall prey to future lies, schemes and uprisings. Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, theorist, and revolutionary. Paine authored two of most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. Paine’s work inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, Deuteronomy 6:5.

Two of my favorite quotes from Thomas Paine are listed below. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph”. “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Common Sense challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy. The plain language that Paine uses spoke to the common people of America to openly ask for independence from Great Britain. These words were like the spark that ignited states to commence the American Revolution.

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die, Ezekiel 18:4.

Fast forward nearly 250 years, the death of George Floyd has spawned a new movement. Whether out of compassion, fear or guilt, many Americans have donated to, joined or participated in Black Lives Matters protests. Citizens across the country in all 50 states have come out to support this cause. Yet, actions speak louder than words. Will Planned Parenthood representatives begin to convince African American woman not to have an abortion? Is defunding the police really the answer? Yes, Thomas Paine was right, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” I pray to the Lord that God will save and restore America before this country is torn apart.

by Jay Mankus

How Serious are You?

Serious is defined as demanding careful consideration or application. While a perfectionist will attempt to do everything seriously, most individuals will show various degrees of concern. Those things near and dear to your heart will likely draw more attention. Meanwhile, lesser priorities will tend to receive a more carefree approach. As the Coronavirus continues to spread, this pandemic is forcing individuals to rethink the way that people live their daily lives.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night, Psalm 1:1-2.

Depending upon the circumstance, fear can either be healthy or unhealthy. From a biblical perspective, fear of the Lord separates a novice from a fully devoted Christ follower. While fear is often used in a negative context, fearing God refers to a holy reverence. Thus, developing this mindset is like showing a daily allegiance to Jesus through your actions. Holy fear steers those serious about their faith away from compromising and tempting situations toward obedience. In today’s context, practicing social distancing until COVID-19 fades or dies out completely.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who fears, reveres, and worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments, Psalm 128:1.

According to the Psalmist, fear and worship go hand and hand. While being a serious Christian doesn’t guarantee success, the more you walk in the Lord’s ways, the less likely you will stumble and fall. Anyone who demonstrates a healthy fear of the Lord will tend to purge addiction, bad habits and influences of sin from their life. At the present time, only God knows how long the Coronavirus will last. Yet, those who take this threat seriously, will likely live to see another day and God willing, a prosperous future.

by Jay Mankus

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

Storing Up Great Blessings

On October 3, 1789, George Washington made a proclamation as president to create the first Thanksgiving Day. Washington proclaimed, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will.” This designation set the stage for the United States of America to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday every November.

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear, revere, and worship You, goodness which You have wrought for those who trust and take refuge in You before the sons of men! – Psalm 31:19

Over the last 225 years, Thanksgiving has evolved, losing it’s original intent along the way. Instead of concentrating on giving thanks to the Almighty God, this celebration how turned into what are you thankful for. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, subtle changes to past traditions de-emphasize God’s role and call to obey the Lord’s will.

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The Bible is filled with reminders to give thanks. The Psalmist encourages readers to store up great blessings as you set your heart and mind on things above. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul urges first century Christians to give thanks to God in all circumstances. Just like a wedding vow, praise and thanks should exist for better or for worse. Thus, as Thanksgiving Day finally arrives, may you strive to store up great blessings by serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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