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Fear Verses Faith

As the Coronavirus began to quickly spread throughout the United States in March, most states enacted 14 day stay at home orders. The goal of this quarantine was initially designed to flatten the curve, lower the spike in cases of COVID-19. Since the end of March, this quarantine was extended into April and now into May, with schools cancelled for the rest of the Spring. With each extension, the goal posts have been moved, suggesting America shouldn’t re-open until a cure is discovered. Following Dr. Fauci’s Senate hearing last week, the stock market plummeted as his comments created a wave of fear and panic throughout this nation.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

Last week, Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports posted a video on Twitter of his opinion on the quarantine. This rant went viral on social media as millions of people felt and sensed his frustration. Although Portnoy didn’t use the words fear verses faith, he wants the ability to choose for himself. Instead of being held hostage, living in a police state, Dave wants to take a chance to live, even if it means catching COVID-19. As families continue to be out of work, considered non-essential, alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide is on the rise. Like anything in life, choices have consequences. However, if fear of catching this disease paralyzes one’s ability live, faith must come alive to counterbalance these concerns.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

While fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If you watch the news on any given night, most broadcasts promote fear, detailing the number of new cases of the Coronavirus and the updated death toll. If you are searching for hope, cable news is the last place to look. The context of the passage above is geared toward a teenage pastor named Timothy, likely in over his head. Instead of allowing fear to reign, Paul encourages Timothy to remember God’s promises. Thus, the next time you sense fear is consuming your soul, cry out to the Lord in prayer so that God’s Spirit of power, love and self-control will set you free from fear.

by Jay Mankus

Wake Up to God’s Greatness

There are plenty of distractions in life.  Extreme circumstances, hardships and trials can make the mentally strong lose sight of God.  As individuals begin to question “why me,” whispers from demons seek to shift the blame toward God.  If you give into anger, emotions or frustrations, spiritual blindness awaits.  Thus, instead of waking up to God’s greatness, roots of bitterness fill disappointed hearts.

“Indeed, at His thundering my heart trembles and leaps out of its place. 2 “Listen carefully to the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that goes out of His mouth! “He lets it loose under the whole heaven, and His lightning to the ends of the earth. “After it, His voice roars; He thunders with the voice of His majesty, and He does not restrain His lightning [against His adversaries] when His voice is heard. “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend, Job 37:1-5.

This is what happened to Job prior to the passage above.  When friends accused Job of disobeying God, his defense mechanisms kicked in.  As observers of these events assumed Job was being cursed by God, Job made the mistake of becoming self-righteous.  Apparently, an incoming storm awoke Job to God’s greatness.  The passage above highlights how lightning and thunder magnify God’s power.

Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the [height of the] heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You, [who is Your equal]? 20  You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive and renew me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth, Psalm 71:19-20.

The Psalmist uses reflection to help individuals to meditate upon God’s greatness.  For those not distracted by day to day worries, the beauty of creation does not go unnoticed.  Rainbows, sunsets and panoramic views renew and revive souls.  If only people could let go of daily concerns, stress and worries, eyes will be opened to the greatness of God.  My prayer is that America awakes from its spiritual slumber to see and rejoice in God’s greatness.

by Jay Mankus

Faith Without the Buts

The word “but” is one of 7 coordinating conjunctions in the English language.  This conjunction introduces a clause or phrase contrasting it with what has already been mentioned.  But indicates the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.  When an individual or writer opts to place a but in their sentence, this de-emphasizes the previous statement.  Thus, if you want a faith that is genuine, excuses highlighted by the term but need to be eliminated.

But He said this to test Philip, because He knew what He was about to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii (200 days’ wages) worth of bread is not enough for each one to receive even a little,” John 6:6-7.

During his three year earthly ministry, Jesus wanted to see his disciples progress, grow in their faith.  From time to time, Jesus asked questions to assess their degree of faith.  In the passage above, Jesus already made up his mind, to feed thousands of followers in the crowd.  However, Jesus is curious about how his disciples will respond to his request.  Philip took an inventory of the crowd, finding a boy with food, serving as a good starting point.  Unfortunately, Philip’s faith was overshadowed in the passage below with the one word, but.

 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?” – John 6:8-9

If only Philip had the discipline to stop his mind from doubting God’s power.  Yet, when push comes to shove, human minds struggle to believe in miracles.  When conditions defy logic or science, its hard to imagine that faith can move physical mountains, Matthew 21:20-22.  Nonetheless, if disciples witnessed healings by Jesus every day, but shouldn’t have entered their minds.  Therefore, if you want a faith without the buts, cling to God’s Word so that you are regularly reminded by what Jesus has done in the past and what God has the ability to do in your future .

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Placebos

My first encounter with the term placebo was during an episode of MASH, short for mobile army surgical hospital.  Due to extreme weather conditions and the volatility of an approaching enemy, medical supplies were cut off.  Thus, the only remaining medicine on site were sugar cubes.  While science was not on the side of these doctors, a plan was devised to convince their patients taking this placebo would improve their condition.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind, James 1:5-6.

This harmless pill is prescribed for the psychological benefit to a patient rather than for any physiological effect.  As long as individuals believe the medicine that they are taking will help their current state, conditions of patients remain the same or improve.  However, as soon as minds begin to doubt, sugar cubes are no longer effective.  Subsequently, faith is a deciding factor, believing and trusting in doctors to cure and heal their illness.

When the disciples saw it, they were astonished and asked, “How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once?” 21 Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:20-22.

Jesus provides a spiritual placebo for his disciples in the passage above.  The disciples began to limit God’s power in their minds.  This lack of faith stunted their full potential as future spiritual leaders.  Therefore, Jesus used the withering of a unfruitful fig tree as a teachable moment.  The spiritual placebo in this passage is putting your confidence and personal trust in Jesus.  When you reach this spiritual place, the power of prayer is unleashed.  If you reach a point in your life where you’ve tried every earthly remedy without any improvement, take this spiritual placebo from Jesus so that improvement will begin immediately.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Properly Utilizing God’s Power

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  Over the next forty days, the Devil began scheming of ways on how to trick Jesus into improperly using God’s power.  The longer Jesus went without food, fasting and praying to spiritually prepare his mind, the more vulnerable his body became.  Thus, in the passage below the Devil tempted Jesus to use God’s power for selfish reasons.  In a game of Truth or Dare, the Devil dared Jesus to show off, calling upon angels to keep him from falling.  Responding with Scripture, Jesus corrects the Devil’s abuse of God’s power.

Then he led Jesus to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple, and said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written and forever remains written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard and protect You,’ and, they will lift You up on their hands, So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied to him, “It is said [in Scripture], you shall not tempt the Lord your God [to prove Himself to you],’” Luke 4:9-12.

Before gathering a ministry team of disciples, Jesus experienced the best and worst from his fellow Jews.  Upon entering a town, Jesus went to the local synagogue, debating, listening and teaching God fearing Jews.  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, speaking with authority without any education or extensive training.  On one day, Jesus spoke about God’s grace extending to Gentiles, non Jewish believers.  This comment turned the crowd in Nazareth against Jesus, committing heresy in their eyes.  This uprising forced Jesus outside of town to a nearby cliff, as residents attempted to push Jesus off the edge to his death.  On this occasion with his life in danger, Jesus properly utilized God’s power, like a ghost, Jesus passed by the crowds escaping to Capernaum.

As they heard these things [about God’s grace to these two Gentiles], the people in the synagogue were filled with a great rage; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to hurl Him down the cliff. 30 But passing [miraculously] through the crowd, He went on His way, Luke 4:28-30.

Today, the debate of properly utilizing God’s power continues.  Should you treat God like a supernatural Santa Claus, praying to the Lord with a long Christmas wish list?  Or should you only ask for things in accordance with God’s will?  Do you take Jesus literally, “ask and you will receive?”  What is a good middle ground, a place to start?  If you use Matthew 7:12 as an outline for prayer, this may clear up any confusion that you currently are struggling to grasp.  Prayer is a three step process, asking, seeking insight to explain unanswered prayers and continue to persist, wrestling with the Lord in prayer.  May this passage guide you to understand how to properly utilize God’s power.

by Jay Mankus

About to Pass You By

Anyone who is fixated on their circumstances, may miss someone or something that God wants you to see.  Blind spots don’t just occur on car mirrors, individuals can get so entrenched in their own lives that time can pass you by.  If you’re not careful, you might wake up one morning and most of your life is gone.

He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, Mark 6:48.

Jesus tried to teach his disciples a similar lesson following the feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6.  Sending them ahead in a boat, Jesus stayed back to pray on a mountainside.  I’m not sure why he walked on the water, but it appears God wanted His son to do so, serving as an abstract lesson.  Although the sun had not risen yet, moonlight provided Jesus with light to see his way.  About to pass their boat by, the disciples finally recognized him, causing a stir of emotions.

But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Mark 6:49-50

If Jesus could feed a crowd of 5,000, walking on water shouldn’t have been a surprise to his disciples.  Nonetheless, people limit God’s power, surprised by answered prayers and miracles.  Perhaps so many walk around defeated, they don’t know what its like to experience victory in Christ.  Doubt, failure and misery can promote a sense of hopelessness that lingers. Therefore, if you feel like time is about to pass you by without tasting success, take courage, don’t be afraid and believe in the power of the resurrection to transform your situation.

by Jay Mankus

All In; Not Just When You Feel Like It

Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, unable to eat everything that you put on your plate.  In the same manner, when individuals open their mouths, empty vows spoken without any action leave a trail of broken promises.  This is not the standard Jesus set for his disciples.  Rather, he challenged his followers to be all in, not just when they feel like it.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, Mark 12:30.

Based upon the interpretations of modern poets, song writers and the world, love is a feeling.  Worldly love changes from one day to the next, something that you can lose over time.  However, a biblical love is a willful desire, which requires everything you have.  While you may experience periods of fatigue, not 100 %, faith inspires the weak to dig down deep with all your heart, soul and mind.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me,                             2 Corinthians 12:9.

According to the lyrics of Stellar Kart’s song All In, “Its easier to be the crowd, to just fit in and not stand out at all; To make a case for apathy, and never risk a thing in case you fall and this is life and we all decide the stand we take and this is mine.”  This stanza accurately describes the stance most people take in this life.  However, God expects more of his children, to follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul.  By praying the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, even in your moments of weakness, Christ’s power can lead any willing soul to become all in.
by Jay Mankus

 

When You’ve Got Nothing Left to Give

In the film National Treasure, Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Gates, a treasure hunter with a tarnished reputation.  Despite trying to warn authorities, no one takes his threat serious, that the Declaration of Independence is in danger.  In life, there are times when you reach a similar fate, when you’ve done everything you can think of, with nothing else to give.

The apostle Paul refers to these moments in life as periods of humility, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.  When you’re successful most of the time, individuals have a tendency to steal the spotlight from God by saying, “look at me!”  Whether you’re watching the Olympics, professional sports and a high school game, the victor receives the spoils.  However, behind the cameras, the losers are forced to face the fact they’re got good enough, with nothing left to give except reflecting on what went wrong.

Today, I find myself at the bottom of the barrel, leaning on the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  As much as I want to be magically healed and return to work now, I am stuck with an aging imperfect body which need times to be restored.  Thus, I have nothing else to give except time.  In my weakness, Christ needs to be strong, to carry me through the frustration of being helpless.  When you’ve got nothing left to give, lean on God’s power to lift you up each time you fall!

by Jay Mankus

The First Touch Down Celebration

Although Notre Dame often takes credits for their Touchdown Jesus mural directly behind the north end zone in Irish Stadium, there is another celebration that takes precedent.  Before the game of football, war was the main sport, battling for survival on open fields to see who was superior.  Yes, even prior to Goliath’s surprise collapse to David’s slingshot, there was a noteworthy day not to be forgotten.

According to Exodus 17:8-15, the Israelites met the Amalekites in the valley at Rephhidim.  Similar to a civil war battle, swords replaced muskets and canons.  High above the action, stood Moses, Aaron and Hur, praying for God’s side to be victorious.  As long as Moses’ hands were held high, Israel stayed in the lead, Exodus 17:11.  The moment he lowered his hands, the Amalekites began to take back momentum.  Unable to lift his hands high on his own, Moses called on Aaron and Hur to prop his arms up in a steady position.  By night fall, Israel delivered the knock out punch, spurred on to victory by the prayers and lifted hands of 3 men.

No, this isn’t a beer commercial about superstitions.  Nor is this a football game that ended on a last second field goal in overtime.  This is simply the first touchdown celebration, 2 hands held up high to the heavens, thanking God for today’s victory.  The Lord thought so much of this day that he urged Moses to write an account of this event so that those not in attendance could one day marvel at the power of the Almighty God, Exodus 17:14-15.  Instead of creating a statue like Touchdown Jesus, Moses built an altar for Jehovah Nissi, which means, “the Lord is my Banner!”  The next time your favorite team scores a field goal or touchdown, remember to lift your hands high like Moses, thanking God for the good things on earth, James 1:17.

by Jay Mankus

Squashing Any Attempts of Mutiny

When a teenager earns the trust of their parent or teacher, this individual often receives a little slack.  Depending upon their response to freedom, this teen will either acquire more or lose these privileges based upon their behavior.  The essence of trust is an assurance that when left alone, a person will continue to walk in credible and reliable ways, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2.  If trust is broken or respect lost due to unforeseen acts bent on evil, authority figures can step in to squash any attempts at mutiny.

 

Near of end of Israel’s 400 years of slavery in Egypt, Pharaoh became paranoid once his magicians could no longer duplicate the plagues made by the power within Moses’ staff, Exodus 8:18-19.  In fact, the sight of Moses in Pharaoh’s presence became like bad news, probably thinking to himself, “okay, what’s the next plague God is going to send my way?”  While Pharaoh kept promising Moses that he would allow Israel to worship the Lord in the desert, in the back of his mind he doubted their motives, Exodus 10:8-11.  Ticked off by a 3 day plague of darkness, Pharaoh lost his cool, banishing Moses from his presence, Exodus 10:27-29.  As a last ditch effort to squash the mutiny he believed Israel was planning, Pharaoh threatened to kill Moses if he ever entered the king’s presence again.

Playing cards vector

One thing I have learned in life, if God is up to something, no human hand, leader or nation can hold back His power.  Unfortunately, God’s timing is different from man’s timing, Ecclesiastes 3:11, causing mankind to scratch their heads, confused by righteous causes that are squashed and evil which prospers.  However, in these moments of frustration, one must remember the wisdom of Job 42:1-6.  Therefore, as you make the best of the hand God has dealt you, don’t fold until you have planned the game of life with every ounce of your heart, Colossians 3:17.

by Jay Mankus

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