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When Right is Wrong, Wrong is Right and Everything Else Turns to Gray

Since public Bible readings and prayer was banned from public education during the 1960’s, it was only a matter of time before right and wrong would come under attack. Beginning in 1980, a group of Kentucky parents targeted the Ten Commandments.  These parents argued that the posting of copies of the Ten Commandments in each public school classroom violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In the ensuing case Stone vs. Graham, the court ruled 5-2 in the parents’ favor declaring, “the Ten Commandments had no secular legislative purpose” and were “plainly religious in nature.”

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

This is a far cry from what America’s founding fathers believed. While serving as the second president of the United States, John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (October 11, 1798). The freedom that our founding fathers aspired to achieve was a freedom in the context of moral standards based upon biblical principles. Yet, after all aspects of God was neutered from public education, atheists began to attack public displays of faith. Whether it’s nativity scenes, statues of the Ten Commandments or monuments in the shape of crosses, reminders of right and wrong have vanished from public squares throughout America.

So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin, James 4:17.

Gray areas refer to ill-defined situations, fields not readily conforming to a category or to an existing set of rules. One of the purposes of the Bible is to define boundaries designed to keep God near while shielding yourself from evil. Unfortunately, as right and wrong is no longer clearly defined for young people, absolutes have turned into expanding gray areas. Meanwhile, opinions expressed on talk shows are being elevated to the status of facts. Despite this growing trend, Jesus’ earthly brother clarifies the status of right and wrong. While the amoral do exist, if you know what’s right and don’t do it, sins of omission are equivalent to sins of action. Therefore, if you’re not sure which way to turn, open the Bible and find out for yourself, Romans 10:17.

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

Erasing the Memory of Nancy Green

The latest victims to fall prey to the Cancel Culture Movement is Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth and Uncle Ben. It was only a matter of time for these politically incorrect brand news to be removed and replaced by a more appropriate progressive image. This soul-searching comes in the wake of the Pepsi Company’s announcement on Wednesday to rename it’s Aunt Jemima Syrup Brand. This decision ends a 130 relationship with Quaker Oats which began in 1889 with a black woman named Aunt Jemima who was originally dressed as a minstrel character.

Who by [the help of] faith subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouths of lions, Hebrews 11:33.

While Quaker Oats is attempting to be socially responsible, there are actually erasing the memory of Nancy Green. Aunt Jemima was a real person based upon a woman born in Kentucky on November 17, 1834. Although born a slave, Nancy Green would eventually become a maid for a prominent family in the state of Illinois. Known for her special gifts as a cook and story teller, Nancy went on to become went on to become the first black corporate model in the United States. Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green. This opportunity opened the door for Nancy Green to earn her freedom, devoting the rest of her life to the church and fighting poverty.

Extinguished the power of raging fire, escaped the devourings of the sword, out of frailty and weakness won strength and became stalwart, even mighty and resistless in battle, routing alien hosts, Hebrews 11:34.

Now that Aunt Jemima’s face and name will be eliminated, the memories of Nancy Green will likely fade as time goes by. Just like the removal of historical statues in cities in across the United States, the roles of these influential leaders will disappear from history books. To avoid a similar fate, the Bible contains a Hall of Faith. The author of Hebrews devotes an entire chapter to men and women to ensure their acts of faith were not forgotten. Hebrews 11 serves as a history lesson of individuals in the Old Testament. Just like the legacy of faith left behind by Nancy Green, the Hall of Faith reminds readers of necessary attributes that you should strive to emulate.

by Jay Mankus

Oops I Have Done It Again

In the earliest days on earth, God provided Adam and Eve with a vast amount of freedom. The passage below states Adam’s daily responsibility in the Garden of Eden. There wasn’t a long list of to do’s and dont’s. Rather, God limits the rules to one: do not eat from the tree of knowledge. With the boundary line between right and wrong clearly set, only one tree and it’s fruit was off limits. This couple didn’t have to guess what the right thing to do was nor could they claim to be amoral, not knowing right from wrong.

And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die, Genesis 2:15-17.

When Eve flirted with Lucifer, a serpent in disguise, a seed of doubt was conceived within her mind. The longer this conversation continued, enticement and lust for this forbidden fruit grew. Despite standing right there next to his wife, Adam was complicit, serving as a curious bystander. This joint act of disobedient forced God to introduce a new set of laws via the Torah to combat original sin. While God was willing to forgive this transgression, punishment is handed out for each guilty party in Genesis 3.

Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it. And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who [reverently] fears God and abstains from and shuns evil [because it is wrong]?-Job 1:6-8

While Genesis is the first book of the Bible, Job is the oldest book. Comments made in chapters 40-41, suggest that Job was living in a land of dinosaurs. If this is true, that would mean Job lived prior to the flood detailed in Genesis 6:17. Job doesn’t refer to Satan as a snake. Rather, Lucifer is a fallen angel who has retained his supernatural powers. Like a spiritual lion seeking to pounce on weak minded individuals, this fact is not to be taken likely. If you disregard or ignore this information, you may find yourself ensnared by sin, stuck in pitiful addicted state. Instead of saying “oops I have done it again,” make sure repentance results in acts of contrition. May this blog inspire you to focus on spiritual transformation.

by Jay Mankus

Perhaps It’s Time to Sober Up?

I have what medical professionals refer to as an addictive personality. An addictive personality is a hypothesized set of personality traits that make an individual predisposed to developing addictions. I can’t just have one drink; everything I do is to the extreme. Whether it’s playing golf every day in high school, running 6 miles for fun in college or playing sand volleyball up to 8 hours a day each summer that I lived in Ohio, my motto for life is all or nothing. This aspect of my DNA puts me at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a riotous brawler; and whoever errs or reels because of it is not wise, Proverbs 20:1.

When it comes to alcohol, I was a quick learner. Sure, there was a temptation in college to act cool by drinking. Yet. after one semester of partying, I grew out of this stage by sobering up. While I still went clubbing along the Flats in Cleveland, Ohio each summer, I usually went as the designated driver. From time to time, I let my guard down by drinking to excess. Following a severe hangover that last 2 days and an alcohol poisoning scare at a wedding reception, my drinking days ended.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

The Bible uses sober in a different context. While sober can refer to the practice of abstinence, one of Jesus’ disciples writes about becoming alert, clear-headed and spiritually awake. In this context, alcohol isn’t the enemy. Rather, the Devil possesses angelic powers, roaming the earth like a predator eager to pounce on the unprepared. Although quitting drinking can be extremely difficult, demonic influences and oppression seek to keep the powerless addicted. In view of this, it’s to sober up by joining Jesus, teaming up through a personal relationship so that freedom and victory is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

Living as a Fugitive from God

Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones star in the 1993 the Fugitive.  When noted surgeon Richard Kimble is wrongfully accused, tried and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife, a crash enables him to escape to prove his innocence.  Like any modern murder mystery series, sometimes the evidence is overwhelming, making it nearly impossible to convince authorities of the truth.  Thus, most fugitives are forced to runaway until a plan is advised to regain their freedom through the justice system.

But the man who was injuring his neighbor pushed Moses away, saying, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this remark Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons, Acts 7:28-29.

One of the forefathers of Israel found himself in a similar position.  Raised by the daughter of Pharaoh, Moses could no longer remain silent as his descendants were being treated as slaves of Egypt.  When Moses witnessed a brutal beating, he avenged the oppression of one man by killing an Egyptian.  As soon as news spread of Moses’ act of aggression, he fled to Midian, leaving as a fugitive for forty years.  All we know about these wasted years is that Moses fathered two sons.

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was astonished at the sight; but as he went near to look more closely, the voice of the Lord came [to him, saying], Acts 7:30-31.

You don’t have to commit a crime to feel like a fugitive.  Rather, all you need to do is make other things in life a greater priority than God.  If this trend continues, it won’t be long before Sunday is just another day to do what you want instead of pausing to worship the Lord.  God nudged Moses by using an angel to get him back on track, in the direction of where the Lord desires.  Sadly, I find myself in a similar place, living as a fugitive from God.  I thought Easter Sunday would reignite a fire within my soul, but my priorities haven’t changed.  I shouldn’t need an angel to tell me to return to church.  Rather, an infusion from the Word of God, the Bible should provide conviction to bring me back again.

by Jay Mankus

Freedom, Frustration and Finality

In that day you will not [need to] ask Me about anything. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name [as My representative], He will give you. 24 Until now you have not asked [the Father] for anything in My name; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete, John 16:23-24.

One of the biblical definitions of freewill is the freedom to use a created will as a moral agent. For example, listen to what Jesus says about prayer in the passage above. Prior to the Holy Spirit, the disciples weren’t able tap into the power of prayer. Jesus makes the assumption that you don’t have because you haven’t asked. Perhaps, the prayer lives of these godly men had become bland, generic and stale, void of any specific requests.

You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your lust goes unfulfilled; so you murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of God]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires, James 4:2-3.

However, there is a catch. When you do offer up prayer requests to God, you may possess impure motives. The earthly brother of Jesus refers to agendas not of God which are denied. Thus, if you treat prayer as a wish list for self-promotion, unanswered prayers will follow. Being rejected by God will result in frustration, especially if you think the content of your prayers are offered up with a sincere heart. The only other logical explanation for unfilled prayers are aspirations, dreams and goals that don’t align with God’s will.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done,” Luke 22:41-42.

An hour before his betrayal, Jesus cries out to his heavenly father, overcome by anguish and stress. This prayer is mentioned by each of the gospel authors. The interesting aspect of this prayer is that as time passes Jesus moves from freedom to frustration toward finality. Jesus begins by asking, “if it’s possible take this cup, your will from me.” Reflecting upon his words, Jesus alters his request to include “not mine but your will be done.” Before completing his prayer, Jesus accepts his fate, surrendering to God with the words, “thy will be done.” May Jesus’ prayer help you to transition from frustration toward finality by embracing God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

More Than a Bell

Nearly twenty years ago I worked directly across the street from the Liberty Bell, driving by it six days a week.  To a certain extent, I took this local landmark for granted, just another piece of scenery on my ninety minute commute home.  Two years after leaving this position, National Treasure debuted in theaters.  Nicolas Cage and Justin Bartha play treasurer hunters, Benjamin Gates and Riley Poole, searching for a treasure left behind by several founding fathers who were Free Masons.  In this film, the Liberty Bell holds a clue, the next piece to a puzzle that ultimately leads to a hidden vault underneath a church in New York City.  Yet, this two thousand pound structure made out of copper and tin is much more than just a bell.

And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan, Leviticus 25:10.

In 1751, the Pennsylvania assembly ordered a bell for its State House, today’s Independence Hall.  The assembly chose a biblical inscription from the Bible that proclaims “liberty throughout the land,” Leviticus 25:10.  This bell would become an emblem of American independence.  One century later this bell also served as a symbol of the anti-slavery movement during the Civil War.  Initially, the Liberty Bell summoned Philadelphia lawmakers to their assemblies and local citizens to public announcements.  Today, over five million visitors travel to Independence National Historical Park to see this national treasure.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; Isaiah 61:1.

The context of the phrase “liberty throughout the land” comes from an Old Testament practice known as the Year of Jubilee.  The symbolism of this celebration is based upon freedom, setting anyone living in bondage or enslaved free.  Every fifty years on the Jewish calendar, the Jubilee cancelled any outstanding debts.  Thus, slaves were allowed to return to their homeland without being forced to return.  When you add the year of Jubilee to the end of slavery in America, the Liberty Bell has duel meanings.  If you ever have a chance to visit Independence National Park in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, remember that this monument is much more than a bell.

by Jay Mankus

Witchcraft: Fact or Fiction

According to a report that broke late last week, a coven of witches in New York plans to hold an event this week.  The purpose of this public gathering is to perform a ritual to place a hex on recent Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  I watched a segment on cable news over the weekend as a liberal guest speculated on what the sponsors of this ceremony hope to accomplish.  While neither claimed to be an authority on hexing, this news story makes me wonder if witchcraft is fact or fiction?

Then Saul said to his servants, “Find for me a woman who is a medium [between the living and the dead], so that I may go to her and ask her advice.” His servants said to him, “There is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” So Saul disguised himself by wearing different clothes, and he left with two men, and they came to the woman at night. He said to her, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up [from the dead] for me [the spirit] whom I shall name to you.” But the woman said to him, “See here, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off (eliminated) those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. So why are you laying a trap for my life, to cause my death?” 10 Then Saul swore [an oath] to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this.” 11 So the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed with a loud voice; and she said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but [tell me] what do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a divine [superhuman] being coming up from the earth,” 1 Samuel 28:7-13.

One of the most detailed passages in the Bible in relation to witches occurs in the Old Testament.  In the passage above, the witch of Endor is compared to a medium.  The best modern comparison to this woman would be the show Crossing Over.  John Edward is a psychic who claims to be able to communicate with the spirits of dead members of his audience.  At the height of this shows popularity, I asked my senior pastor what he thought about Edward’s gift.  Based upon the encounter above, able to communicate with Samuel, he believed certain individuals do have a special ability.  While certain parts of Crossing Over may be faked or over dramatized, some experiences are genuine.

O you foolish and thoughtless and superficial Galatians, who has bewitched you [that you would act like this], to whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified [in the gospel message]? This is all I want to ask of you: did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying [the requirements of] the Law, or was it the result of hearing [the message of salvation and] with faith [believing it]? Are you so foolish and senseless? Having begun [your new life by faith] with the Spirit, are you now being perfected and reaching spiritual maturity by the flesh [that is, by your own works and efforts to keep the Law]? Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing—if indeed it was all for nothing? So then, does He who supplies you with His [marvelous Holy] Spirit and works miracles among you, do it as a result of the works of the Law [which you perform], or because you [believe confidently in the message which you] heard with faith? – Galatians 3:1-5

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses witchcraft in a different context.  A group of zealous religious leaders were unable to let go of the traditions of Judaism.  Thus, this sect known as the Judaizers began to add conditions to salvation.  When the apostle Paul visited the church in Galatia, these individuals had tricked members through excessive legalism, slowly forgetting about the grace of God and freedom in Christ.  This compelled Paul to ask, “who bewitched you?”  Paul uses the analogy of a witch casting a spell over these church members, forgetting everything that Paul had taught during a previous visit.

 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places, Ephesians 6:10-12.

After searching through the scriptures, there are only 2 questions left to address: what is a hex and are witches real?  According to the dictionary, a hex refers to casting a spell over someone or something.  The purpose of this act is to jinx a person by calling upon demonic powers.  When you search placing a hex on someone, most of my searches tied nexing to voodoo, taking a pin and placing it in a voodoo doll.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul reveals three different realms of darkness.  Physical opponents in the form of rulers, worldly forces that tempt individuals to be lured into darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  While modern day witches may not resemble characters from Bewitched, Charmed or other Hollywood shows, witches do exist and can harm the body of Christ by placing curses of those they deem to be the enemy.  Thus, its essential to use prayer as a hedge of protection to prevent you and your family from current or future curses.

by Jay Mankus

Trapped

On the surface, I’m pretty good hiding how I feel.  Perhaps, a defense mechanism from my years as an athlete, I often go into survivor mode, pushing forward regardless of the pain.  This psychosis like state led me to complete a high school cross country race after spraining my ankle during the first mile.  Unfortunately, when I crossed the finish line, I collapsed ripping my ankle from its tendons, twisting the born ninety degrees in the wrong direction.  This is the first time in my life where I felt trapped, unsure of what my future held.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

The term trap refers to being corned, shut in, on the verge of being captured.  This imprisoned state is where many believers find themselves, stuck in spiritual quicksand, unable to break free.  Those who visit this dark place typically return from time to time, caught in a vicious cycle.  Sometimes a friend will come to your rescue, able to pull you back into a community of believers.  Other situations require a wrestling match, claiming the promises of God from the Bible in prayer.  Unfortunately, some people never escape, deceived by the Devil or doubt, succumbing to a downward spiral of depression.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:3.

Even Jesus’ own disciples felt trapped by the worries of this life.  Judas Iscariot committed suicide, overwhelmed by guilt that sealed his fate.  Peter who was a spiritual rock, publicly denied knowing Jesus three times, resulting in tears and wounded ego.  However, Jesus restored Peter following his resurrection in John 21:15-23.  At some point, the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that God has given us everything we need in life to overcome being ensnared and trapped by sin.  Therefore, don’t lose hope like Judas and those who succumb negative voices inside their heads.  Rather, reach out to Jesus so that freedom will be experienced today.

by Jay Mankus

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