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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

Moving from Have to Toward Thank You

The Emancipation Proclamation was announced by president Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862.  This document which freed slaves and criminalized future slave owners became law on January 1st, 1863.  Unfortunately, the news of this decree did not reach Texas for another year, keeping many African Americans enslaved well beyond this date.  When freedom finally arrived, individuals were able to move from have to toward thank you.

No longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord, Philemon 1:16.

During the first century, a man named Onesimus was a slave owner, overseeing a young man named Philemon.  Serving as a slave prepared Philemon to be a faithful servant of Paul.  Based upon the passage above, Paul came to see Philemon as a brother in Christ, not a slave.  Thus, Paul’s recognized his devotion behind to scenes to ensure the success of Paul’s missionary journeys.  Philemon moved beyond having to do something because he was forced to by Onesimus.  Rather, Philemon’s work was inspired by a spirit of thanksgiving.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

When anyone decides to leave their former way of life to follow Jesus, this transition doesn’t always mesh well.  Attitudes, behavior and habits are hard to break, especially for those who become addicted to harmful things.  Understanding grace, mercy and forgiveness seem easy, but where a have to desire enters this equation, joy can be lost.  Christians shouldn’t go the church, pray and read the Bible because they think they have to.  Rather, these spiritual disciplines should be done out of a spirit of gratitude, remembering that you have been saved by grace through faith.  May this blog convince you to move from a have to mentality toward a thankful heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Pathway to Addiction and Freedom

As a story teller, there was no one better during the first century than Jesus.  Appealing to visual learners, Jesus painted vivid pictures allowing the minds of listeners to follow along with each word.  Nearing the end of his sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives those in attendance two choices.  There are two different roads that you can follow in this life.  One leads to addiction, the other toward freedom.  You may have a great time on the popular path, but in the end you’ll be left with an eternal hangover.  Meanwhile, the path less traveled is a difficult journey, but the benefits to staying the course are eternal.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

After Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, one of Jesus’ disciples goes into greater detail about the broad road that leads to destruction.  John refers to emotions that keep individuals ensnared, paralyzed by lustful desires.  These cravings distract souls from any standards that they may have held, kept or were raised with prior to turning on to this interstate.  Lust, sensual desires and pride tend to blind those ashamed, guilty or filled with remorse by this change of course.  Unfortunately, the longer anyone stays on the path to addiction, the harder it becomes to leave for good.

Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

Instead of typical road signs that you may see everyday, the pathway to freedom contains God’s precepts.  These nuggets of truth preach an alternative message from the flashy advertisements on the highway to hell.  Words such as serve, surrender and selfless appeal to those searching for something deeper, pondering the meaning of life.  The further you travel along this barren road, the narrower it becomes.  Ideally, accountability partners, friends and mentors will encourage you to choose freedom over temporary pleasures.  To persist, press on and demonstrate resolve.  In the end, the choose is yours.  I’ll leave you with Moses’ farewell address to Israel, Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.

by Jay Mankus

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