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Civil Disobedience?

In the past few years, criminal justice reform has changed how law makers view crime. New legislation introduced by California no longer prosecutes individuals who shop lift items under one thousand dollars. This decision has created a loop hole that appears to encourage civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the active refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government.

So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, 28 Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us, Acts 5:27-28.

During the first century, followers of Jesus needed to comply with Roman and religious regulations. The Sanhedrin served as the supreme Jewish legislative and judicial court. The context of the passage above finds that disciples were preaching and teaching Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. This was in conflict with the council’s beliefs. Thus, the disciples were warned to stop publicly teaching the gospel message.

Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, Whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree (cross). 31 God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him, Acts 5:29-32.

Instead of backing down to comply with religious leaders, the apostles take a stand. When man made rules go around the teachings of the Bible, Peter explains why civil disobedience is necessary on this occasion. Instead of abandoning their convictions, the apostles stayed true to their beliefs. When you fast forward to later in the first century, many of Jesus’ disciples were willing to die rather than deny their faith. This is the moral dilemma that exists when you decide to exercise civil disobedience like the New Jersey owners of Atilis Gym.

by Jay Mankus

How to Overcome a Common Flaw

The origin of the phrase ‘Ignorance is bliss’ can be traced back to an English poet. Thomas Gray’s Ode was composed in 1742, reminiscing about his schooldays at Eton College. While knowledge is power, students who graduate from college often develop a superiority complex. When adults who think they know everything re-enter society as so called experts, there is a danger that these individuals will forget the common flaw that all human beings share.

Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives, Romans 3:23.

The apostle Paul addresses this flaw in a letter to the church at Rome. Back in Romans 3:10, Paul quotes the Old Testament. This passage clearly states that there is no one righteous, not even one in a trillion. This flaw prevents the driven, disciplined and focused from honoring and glorifying God daily. This sinful nature is within our DNA. Subsequently, as embryos are conceived, no one can escape this imperfection.

[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, 25 Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment, Romans 3:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul explains how faith can help overcome this flaw. While God’s grace is unmerited, redemption is possible by placing your faith in Jesus Christ. This acknowledgement is based upon the fact that Jesus was the perfect lamb, free from sin, who was crucified on a cross, died, buried and rose from the dead. Just as God passed over the homes of Jews during the first Passover in Egypt who marked their doors with blood, God will forgive sinners who trust in Jesus. Romans 10:9-11 provides a prayer to help anyone overcome their sinful nature.

by Jay Mankus

Pray Like You Mean It

Sike was a common expression used while I was in high school. “Sike” is a slang used to exclaim that are messing with someone. On numerous occasions either a friend or myself would get serious for a moment. A couple of my friends were even able to fake a tear only to cancel what was just said by saying, “sike.” Following a slight hesitation of silence, laughter often followed. Looking back, I wonder if this is how God feels when you pray fervently for a miracle, only to fall back into old sinful habits.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me, Psalm 51:1-3.

According to an Old Testament prophet, a shepherd boy named David possessed a special quality, 1 Samuel 16:7. This trait was hidden until David began to pray. Samuel eludes to this gift as a heart after God. To have a heart after the heart of God implies if one admits their sin by repenting, their heart will be cleaned and purified like the heart of God. The words of the passage above were inspired when David’s affair with Bathsheba was exposed by Nathan. Overwhelmed by guilt, David is not messing around.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

Unfortunately, many first century Christians treated prayer like a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” from Monopoly. Instead of turning away from sin, those on the verge of giving into temptation used pray as a source of forgiveness. This mindset was perverted, rationalizing that the more you sinned, the more God’s grace was poured out upon you. The author of Hebrews corrects this ungodly belief in the passage above. Continuing in a downward free fall without repenting of sin is like ending a prayer with sike instead of Amen. In view of this, start praying like you mean it.

by Jay Mankus

The Tears of Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The metal framework of this landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel. This gift from France was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Three years later, Eiffel completed his own masterpiece in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the first symbol of the Statue of Liberty has been forgotten. Initially, the purpose of this erection of Lady Liberty served as a seal of the friendship between France and the United States. At her feet is a broken chain of slavery designed as a symbol of freedom. Meanwhile, The inscription on the tablet she is holding contains JULY IV MDCCLXXVI, the day of the Declaration of Independence for the United States.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

Between 1886 and 1924, nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States through the New York Bay on their way to Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that achieving the American dream was now a possibility for new arrivals. Ellis Island became the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for 62 years from 1892 until 1954. To those entering this body of water at night, the uplifted torch of Lady Liberty was a welcoming sign and was meant to enlighten those who passed by. As the 250th anniversary draws near, revisionist historians are quickly disposing of America’s rich history. A day doesn’t go by without news of another statue removed or threatened from a downtown area. If this trend continues, there will be nothing left to remind citizens of America’s past mistakes and victories.

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:13-14.

While the tears of Lady Liberty continue to fall as America goes through an identity crisis, the Bible provides hope for the hopeless. In a letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul reminds individuals of this region that Jesus came to liberate sinners. Instead of being held captive by addiction, God wants everyone to experience spiritual freedom. Yet, bad habits have a way of ensnaring souls, similar to a yoke of slavery. Whenever you allow your sinful nature to get out of hand, reigning in your flesh can take months or years to regain control. Thus, if you are looking for a glimmer of hope, love is the answer. Paul references the golden rule, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” This reminder can be traced back to the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus reveals love is conditional. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you, Matthew 6:14-15. May your own acts of love inspired by the Holy Spirit turn Lady Liberty’s frown into a smile.

by Jay Mankus

What Do I Need to Drop?

Since churches have been closed due to the Coronavirus back in March, I’ve picked up a couple of bad habits. After spending an entire decade at one church and school, the past 10 years have been difficult. Although my current work schedule hasn’t helped, being a spiritual nomad without a church to call home has left me feeling empty. As churches in our area slowly reopen, it’s time for me to drop the excuses for not getting involved.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? – Matthew 5:43-46

One of my greatest offenses is a carefree faith that isn’t that much different than anyone else. Instead of being set apart like the Salt of the Earth and Light of the World, I’m no holier than a pagan. This spiritual slide has led me to harbor bitterness, hold on to grudges and forget to forgive others as Christ forgave me. Rather than carry these burdens with me another day, it’s time to drop this bad habit at the foot of the cross.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:12-15.

The apostle provides a blue print in Colossians 3 for those who feel compelled and convicted to drop bad habits. this process begins with a change of heart and mind, Colossians 3:1-4. The second step isn’t as easy, regaining control of a flesh that have gone wild, Colossians 3:5-9. If this doesn’t do the trick, there is always the warning above, forgiveness is conditional based upon how you forgive others. Before your soul becomes too far gone, drop whatever is preventing you from being reconciled with God and others.

by Jay Mankus

Drop It!

Everyone has at least one member of their family who feels like they always have to get in the last word. Instead of letting a comment go without a response, the temptation to reply is indulged. This character flaw often leads to arguments, heated debates and never ending disputes. Thus, before tempers flare, someone must intervene with a simple message, “drop it!”

So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God). It is on account of these [very sins] that the [holy] anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience (those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will), Among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to [such practices], Colossians 3:5-7.

The apostle Paul refers to this expression in the passage above. Instead of focusing on the negative, Paul begins chapter 3 with the ideal, “setting your hearts and minds on things above, Colossians 3:1-4. After setting the bar for Christians to reach for, Paul does a reality check by referencing acts of the sinful nature. These desires are natural until individuals make a decision to follow Jesus. This is when believers must drop their former practices.

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. 13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. 14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony], Colossians 3:12-14.

Paul recognizes that certain things will be hard to drop, especially forgiving those who have severely hurt you in the past. Thus, Paul urges individuals to forgive others just as Christ has forgiven you. Perhaps, Paul is referencing the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:14-15, where Jesus introduces the forgiveness clause. Therefore, if you want to receive God’s forgiveness, drop any bitterness in your heart now to ensure your own forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

A Soldiers Rage

A well known pastor recently had an extended layover at an airport. This extra time opened the door for an intriguing conversation with a stranger. As these two men talked, a soldier in his late twenties asked, “so what do you do?” This opportunity brought God into their discussion. Moments later there was a period of silence. Eager to dive deeper, the pastor asks this soldier, ” so what’s your story? Since our flight has been delayed, we’ve got plenty of time now.” After a slight hesitation, this marksman began to bear his soul.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, James 1:19-20.

While this pastor had heard several sob stories over the course of his ministry, this one went straight to the top. At age 3, his father committed suicide. Six years later, he witnessed a sexual assault and a murder. Before this suspect was arrested, he was threatened to be killed if he told anyone. If this wasn’t enough, one of his sons who was babysat while he was serving in the Middle East was sexually assaulted. All of these bitterness turned into rage, prompting this soldier to become a killing machine, a gifted machine gunner. At this point, tears welled up in both men’s eyes as a soldier’s rage was revealed.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil, Psalm 37:8.

This story reminds me of my friend Harry from Ohio. However, by the time I met Harry, he was already filled with bitterness. The best way to describe Harry was that he cursed like a sailor in every sentence, lived with his girlfriend and spent each day rebelling from God. Yet, during a trip to Cedar Point in Ohio, my best friend Eddy and I stood in shock as Harry bumped into his former youth pastor. Scratching our heads, we never knew, thought or could imagine that Harry had a spiritual past. This divine encounter turned Harry’s life around. Although the transformation moved slowly, this soldier’s rage was replaced by the grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

Letters of Love

Prior to 10th grade, I hated the English language. Perhaps, this explains why I took 4 years of French and 2 years of Spanish in high school. As a shy stuttering student who was afraid of embarrassing myself, two English teachers laid a foundation for letters of love to express what I was unable to say out loud. Mrs. Ehrig and Mrs. Harker instilled in me a desire to write.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

This ability didn’t come naturally until I fully grasped key elements of English like grammar and spelling. This progress coincided with the coming out of my shell to let others in. Following high school graduation, I wanted to find a way to maintain these newly formed friendships. This desire gave birth to a passion for writing letters. Each year of college I devoted more and more time for letter writing to share my appreciation to those individuals who blessed and enriched my life.

Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us, Romans 5:7-8.

While I still enjoy writing, there is another letter of love that surpasses all understanding. The Bible is God’s letter of love revealing His willingness to give up His one and only son to die for our sins. The passages above illustrate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, Colossians 2:13-15, willing to be nailed to a cross to pardon the sins of the past, present and future. May this act of love and the attached song by the Kry remind you of God’s letter of love.

by Jay Mankus

Just as Dysfunctional as the Next Person

The expression “the new normal” spawned a television series in 2012 based upon a gay couple living in Los Angeles. Instead of promoting a traditional family with a husband and wife, Hollywood decided to redefine what a typical family should look like in the 21st century. Whether you agree with this premise or not, the progressive movement has redefined what is common, expected and typical within society today.

Well then, are we [Jews] superior and better off than they? No, not at all. We have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), are under sin [held down by and subject to its power and control, Romans 3:9.

During the first century, the apostle Paul crossed paths with a community of believers who felt superior to other normal, ordinary citizens. This rubbed Paul the wrong way, inspiring a letter to confront this aloof, cocky and holier than thou complex. Within chapter 1 and 2 of Romans, Paul sets the stage to expose this flawed mentality. To drive home this point, Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet who once proclaimed, “there is no one righteous, not even one.”

As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. 11 No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! – Romans 3:10-12.

Before these Roman Christians could interrupt Paul with the words, “but I’m different,” their argument is blown out of the water. The only thing normal about everyone who walks the face of the earth is that you are just as dysfunctional as your neighbor, Sure, some will be more godly and moral than others, but no one is perfect. Despite this fact, some still try to tear down others to make themselves feel better. In the end, whether you want to admit it or not, you are just as dysfunctional as the next person due to your own sinful nature. May the hope of forgiveness revive your soul by embracing the Messiah, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Best for You and Me

As a recovering perfectionist, I tend to look at a glass half empty. This tendency to be negative often results in beating myself up inside. While I can forgive others for committing transgressions against me, forgiving myself is another story. This process may take days, weeks or months to get over a stupid blunder, error or mistake. Whenever anyone is too hard on themselves, Satan uses this vulnerability to steal your joy for life.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows), John 10:10.

While using an analogy of a shepherd tending his sheep, Jesus illuminates the dangers that sheep face while on earth. According to John 10:6, the crowd was initially confused so Jesus spoke in clearer terms. This is the context of the passage above as Jesus reveals how Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy souls. Although this spiritual truth may elicit fear upon receiving this news, you have to know what your enemy will attempt to do to avoid becoming the next victim.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need, Ephesians 4:28.

One of the songs from their 2009 album Breaking the Silence, The Letter Black sings about what’s best for you and me. The lyrics of Best of Me focuses on an individual who is haunted by their past. The author suggests that the only thing keeping us alive breathing is the knowledge of God’s existence. Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus provides meaning and purpose for life as new converts seek to ascertain God’s will. As minds are renewed by the Bible, Romans 12:1-2, what’s best for you and me is using your own God given gifts and talents to serve the Lord on earth.

by Jay Mankus

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