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Christmas is a Time for Second Chances

The retail calendar is an endless cycle, constantly moving from one celebration to the next. As soon as Halloween festivities end, stores are transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. Meanwhile, on television a month of horror flicks are replaced with movies about joy, thanksgiving, and praise. When Thanksgiving Dinner’s wind down, Christmas shopping comes to life or should I say ignite. Whether you wait in lines or do most of your purchases online, consumerism doesn’t overshadow the fact that Christmas is a time for second chances.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. 25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly puzzled (astonished, bewildered), saying, Who then can be saved [from eternal death]? – Matthew 19:24-25

During a first century conversation, the 12 disciples became deflated following a parable shared by Jesus. The point of Jesus’ analogy was to illustrate that individuals aren’t good, holy or strong enough to save themselves. Attempting to be some sort of superhuman Christian, the disciples became depressed, painfully aware of their limitations. As despair began to set in, Jesus’ words served as a swing in momentum, “anything is possible with God.” Yes, even those of you who need a second chance this Christmas.

But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God, Matthew 19:26.

George Bailey, played by James Stewart, needed a visit from an angel to notice just how wonderful his life was. A ruthless TV-network chief played by Bill Murray in Scrooged needed to witness his own death to realize what was truly important in his own life. As you sit down at some point this Christmas to watch one of the classics films, the Lord wants to remind you that forgiveness, grace and mercy is available every day, Lamentations 3:31-25. For Christmas is the season of second chances, a fresh start and a new beginning in life. Seize this opportunity to begin again with God, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Unmasking Nightmares

As Halloween 2019 arrives, will the events of today result in nightmares tomorrow? Nightmares are triggered by anxiety, stress or trauma. These unpleasant dreams can range from reliving a scene from a recently watched horror movie to strong emotional unrest within your mind. The most severe nightmares are brought on by posttraumatic stress disorder. Engaging in military combat, coping with abuse or witnessing a death can make every night like a real life Nightmare on Elm Street.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully, 1 Peter 5:7.

At the beginning of chapter 5, a former disciple of Jesus addresses the sufferings individuals will experience on earth. Anyone who makes the decision to follow Jesus is at greater risk. For example, the person who wrote this letter was crucified up-side down for his faith. When anxieties, concerns and worries overwhelm your soul, Peter urges Christians to cast their cares at the feet of Christ. As nightmares begin to stir your mind into a tizzy, cry out to God in prayer to stop these brain tremors in their tracks.

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, 1 Peter 5:8.

Just when I thought it was safe, Peter drops a bombshell about a spiritual danger that exists. As a child, I loved to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. One of the episodes illustrated the passage above as lions recognized, separated and wore down weak animals who were surrounded and killed. This passage unmasks Satan’s schemes on earth. One of the ways people get worn down is through nightmares. When bodies don’t get enough sleep, minds are weakened, affecting how you function. If you want to fight back, the apostle Paul suggests using spiritual weapons to protect your mind, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. As believers begin to put on the armor of God, Ephesians 6:12-18, minds will receive the protection you need to unmask nightmares as an attack from the evil one.

by Jay Mankus

More than Just a Fright Night

Every October television networks devote their programming to reruns of Halloween and horror themed movies. Meanwhile, local cities, communities and towns use haunted forests, houses and theme parks to prepare individuals for Halloween. The first purpose-built haunted attraction was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House located in Liphook, England. Since this establishment opened in 1915, nearly every region has developed their own Fright Land to scare the hell out of visitors.

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

Most brains have a memory capacity of about 2.5 petabytes. This is equivalent to 2.6 million gigabytes. To place this fact into its proper perspective, Blu-Ray discs hold roughly 50 gigabytes. This means that the human mind is comparable to a digital television able to store up to 3 million hours of television shows. While this potential is impressive, if minds absorb too many images of horror, pornography or other inappropriate content, this opens the door for unclean spirits to enter your life.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

Human minds don’t need an internet connection to be reminded of the unpleasant experiences of their past. All your mind needs is a flashback, a song or some sort of trigger to unleash these haunting memories. Anyone who has ever been abused, raped or fallen prey to pornography have these nightmares seared into their minds. As individuals use horror flicks to get into the mood to celebrate Halloween, it only takes one unwholesome image to inflict a troubled soul. Therefore, as Halloween approaches, be on guard so that this one night of fright doesn’t turn into a lifetime of reliving nightmares.

by Jay Mankus

Escaping the Demon of Dread

 

Dread is one of those words rarely expressed verbally, but it’s affects are on display daily.  This inner fear causes individuals to anticipate something with great apprehension.  Synonyms include emotions such as anxious, terror and worry.  Whenever someone experiences overwhelming events, the demon of dread has a way of attaching itself to souls.  Unless you are prepared, things can snow ball out of control, inciting panic.  This is a normal day for those under the extreme burden of dread.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation,” Matthew 12:43-45. 

This reality isn’t just a rerun of some Halloween horror movie made by Hollywood.  Rather, anyone without discipline, faith or a set routine can experience this spirt like a black cloud that hovers over your life.  Dread influences minds, transforming a normal person into a miserable son of bitch, pardon my French.  If you overcome initial attacks, the passage above suggests demonic entities run in packs, feeding off of each other.  Even after sweeping your spiritual house clean, you are still not out of the woods.

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer,” Mark 9:29.

Prior to his death and resurrection, Jesus sent out his disciples two by two.  The purpose of this exercise was to prepare these disciples for the future, life after Christ.  Similar to a trial basis, this gave Jesus a chance to see who would sink and who would swim.  Following this time on their own, Jesus had a question and answer session for disciples, serving as an evaluation of their journeys.  One team came across a demon that wouldn’t leave.  In response, Jesus replied, this kind can only be driven out by prayer.  Today, many people, including me are oppressed by dread.  While I am an amateur in the arena of demons, the only way to escape the demon of dread is through prayer.  May this advice lead you to find peace in the near future.  If necessary, fast and pray so that healing will arrive soon.

by Jay Mankus

 

3 Days in Paradise

As Christmas quickly approaches, Thanksgiving get’s the short end of the stick.  A mere blip on the radar screen as retailers transition from Halloween to Christmas overnight, often bypassing Thanksgiving completely.  If you don’t believe me, malls, outlets and retail shops are now open Thanksgiving night to start Black Friday shopping early.  To avoid complaining anymore on this day of thanks, I want to share about 3 special days in paradise.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change, James 1:17.

Since my mind tends to wonder, I write down everything I learn from reading the Bible, recording these thoughts in a journal.  At the beginning of October, the journal that was suppose to last for the year was completely full.  Without any cash on hand, I sorted through some old journals to see if there was any room to record a few days or weeks.  This search led me to stumble upon an old day timer from 2001.  This book recorded a brief history of my days as a staff writer for Travel Golf Media.  The 3 days that stick out are March 12-14th.

http://www.saddlebrook.com/tampa-golf/

Unfortunately, the same day I uncovered this day timer, my wife informed me that her father had passed away from complications of a car accident a week earlier.  As I celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I believe God wanted me to remember these 3 days.  Prior to my kids Spring Break, I spent several hours contacting golf courses in Florida ahead of this family vacation.  Leanne’s parents Jim and Barb flew down while my family drove down the 12 plus hour drive to Tampa.  While I didn’t have enough time to play golf every day, I was able to schedule 72 holes in 3 days.

http://www.belleviewbiltmore.com

My wife and I were initially suppose to play day one, 36 holes at Saddlebrook Resort and Spa, an hour north of Tampa Bay.  Since Leanne was sick, her father Jim stepped in as my photographer for the day.  We teed off at 8:07 on the Champonship Saddlebrook course, had lunch with the Director of Golf on the cabana and went off at 1:30 in the afternoon on the Palmer Course.  Since this resort is the world headquarters for the Arnold Palmer School of Golf, the pro paired us with a father and son who attended this week long golf clinic.  This is probably the only day I made my father in law feel like a king.

http://www.golfchannel.com/video/places-play-and-stay/tampa-bay/

On Tuesday, Leanne, Jim and I played Biltmore Golf Course, south of Clearwater, about a mile from the Gulf of Mexico.  This Donald Ross original is a classic tree lined course with plenty of character.  The final round was in Lutz, Florida at the TPC of Tampa Bay, teeing off at 11:14.  Host of one of the Senior PGA tours most popular stops, this course is challenging but fair if you hit it straight, not one of my strong points.  While I only had one good round out of four, the weather was beautiful and the company great.  As I celebrate Thanksgiving 2017, I will always remember my 3 days in paradise playing golf.

by Jay Mankus

A Ghostly Encounter

As Halloween approaches each year, I’m always wondering how to respond to this secular holiday.  After reading a passage today about what the disciples appeared to see, this is as good of a time as any to address ghostly encounters of the Bible.  Depending upon which source you reference, a ghost can take the form of an apparition of a dead person.  This manifestation may appear as a glimmer, shadow or spirit.  However, you want to define a ghost, based upon the passage below it’s clear that Jesus’ own disciples believed in ghosts.
But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear, Matthew 14:26.
One of the most famous ghostly encounters in the Bible occurs in the Old Testament.  During the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul’s prophet Samuel and spiritual mentor dies.  When this source of discernment was no longer available, Saul panicked following a rare defeat on the battlefield.  Turning to a medium which he banned from his kingdom, Saul sends servants to find the Witch on Endor.  Despite fear of breaking the law, Saul convinces this witch to perform a séance.  This term is French referring to taking a seat, a session to bring back spirits from the dead.
Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”  “Bring up Samuel,” he said.  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”  The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”  The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth,” 1 Samuel 28:11-13.
Unlike the séance which takes place in the 1990 film Ghost, the spirit of Samuel comes back to give King Saul a message.  Instead of receiving comforting news, the ghost of Samuel communicates the impending doom set to fall upon Saul.  This chapter brings up multiple issues to contemplate.  However, the greatest lesson from this ghostly encounter can be found in who you trust.  While God has allowed certain individuals to communicate with spirits of the past similar to the Sixth Sense, trusting in the Lord alone is essential.  Anything else opens the door for fear which the disciples experienced in Matthew.  Therefore, despite what you might encounter in this life, make sure that you practice the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 so that you are sheltered by the Holy Spirit.
by Jay Mankus

No Reason to Pretend

In order to put on a happy face, some individuals feel compelled to hide their misery from co-workers, family and neighbors.  Like a Halloween masquerade party, many profess to be fine all the while anguish, grief and pain collect.  Although the motto “fake it until you make it” sounds logical, there is no reason to pretend.

From a mere vocational point of view, the last 5 years of my life have been like a hurricane, causing flood waters to break through levy’s.  As the storm surge continues to rise, my heart, soul and mind cling to promises of the Bible, hoping the trials subside soon.  When success reigned supreme, life was a piece of cake.  However, as turmoil entered my life through the winds of change, I’m not the same person.

Sure, I try to stay upbeat, but I am a mirage of my younger years, a piece of drift wood transformed by time, wind and water.  Water logged, especially around the waist, I long for dry land, a beach to call home.  Footprints along the shore are obvious signs that God has been carrying me.  When the waves calm, I will arise, perhaps wiser than before.  Like a work in progress, a strand of clay in the molding process, there is no reason to pretend it isn’t well with my soul.  Yet, I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12-14.

Don’t be afraid to be transparent; real so that a hurting world can see the only thing holding believers together, Romans 5:5.

by Jay Mankus

Let The Redeemed Say No

Anyone can say yes, especially toward a proposition relating to sex.  In reality, it takes a strong man or woman to take a stand, going against the temptations of this life, 1 John 2:15-17.  Therefore, its essential for God’s children to walk according a different beat, Matthew 7:13.  The time is now for followers to proclaim, “let the redeemed say no!”

 

The fifth chapter of Galatians contains 2 great winds, pushing in opposite directions.  While one can guide you to safety, the other is set on pushing you over a cliff, causing your conscience to become disabled.  Compromise is rolling into town, with a gentle breeze of “can I get some?”  Meanwhile, common sense is holding its ground, like a trade wind, constantly whispering its motto to hearts and minds willing to change.  This spiritual weather system is on display in Galatians 5:16-17.

The ghost of Eve walks these streets, knowing what’s right, but curious, intrigued by the unknown.   Demons and evil spirits play Trick or Treat, handing out over-hyped Halloween Candy.  Inside these Turkish delights lie a cold heart, like a wicked witch with dishonest intentions.  Invisible to the naked eye, guardian angels intervene, trying to break the spell souls have fallen prey under.  With the conclusion of this tug of war no where on the horizon, the Holy Spirit provides one last message to ears that can hear, “let the redeemed say no!”

by Jay Mankus

A Not So Hallow Eve

 

 

 

 

As the shelves of major retail stores make a transition from Halloween to Christmas, I was reminded today of the dangers Halloween represents.  While most children and some teenagers dressed up last week to go trick or treating, the naive fail to recognize the spiritual darkness that goes on behind the scenes.  When you examine the reality of demonic activity in scripture, this chocolate covered tradition is actually a not so hallow eve.

The most common Greek nouns used in scripture related to demons are daimon, similar to the main character in The Omen movie series and daimonion.  When translated into English, these 2 terms both refer to a demon or pagan gods as in Deuteronomy 32:17, 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 and Revelation 9:20.  Another Greek noun pneuna refers to a spirit, which is often accompanied with the adjective akatharatos meaning an unclean spirit like Mark 1:26-27 or poneros, an evil spirit which influenced Saul’s behavior in 1 Samuel 16:14-16.

Many churches struggle to communicate a balanced approach in this area, either ignoring demons completely or blaming the devil and his demons for each sin a Christian commits.  The purpose of this blog is not to scare people, but to make them aware of the dangers which exist in the spiritual realm, Ephesians 6:12.  If Jesus’ first command in Matthew 10:1 to his newly gathered disciples was to take authority over and drive out evil spirits from first century citizens, you would think there would be a sense of urgency in today’s church to do likewise.

However, Satan has convinced vast media outlets and many followers of Jesus that demons are few and far between today.  Meanwhile, anyone who speaks of exorcists or encounters with demons are often thrown under the per verbally bus, labeled as crazy, nuts and spiritual wackos.  Only those who reside in third world countries or have been part of missionary trips overseas can attest to the clear and present danger that demons present.  As demons continue to masquerade as drunk drivers, the insane and murderers, test the Bible for yourself so you won’t be caught off guard.  Maybe you too will come to a similar conclusion that October 31st is a not so hallow eve.

by Jay Mankus

The Disguise

As Halloween stores prepare to provide costumes to people of all ages, hearts are disguised with good intentions.  Innocence is broken by curiosity, compromise or a lack of knowledge about the hidden darkness within this national celebration.  According to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Satan masquerades as an angel of light making what is wrong seem right.

When I was a kid, I loved Halloween for the candy, walking several miles each night until my pillow sack was completely filled or too heavy to carry anymore.  The protocol after I returned home was to lay out each piece of candy I received for my parents to inspect them.  Any piece that appeared to be tampered with was thrown away before I could eat my favorite chocolates.

Now that I am an adult, I have been exposed to the evil present in our world.  I have met practicing witches, had college roommates interact with a warlord during a mission trip and seen evil forces destroy godly men and women.  If Satan is the ruler of the air until Jesus returns, Ephesians 2:2, people should no longer be surprised by evil.  Therefore, uncover the disguise of evil through reading the Bible, praying and by following the James 4:7-8 principle.

by Jay Mankus

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