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The Day Demons Were Driven Out

For Jesus, this day started out like any other. Getting up early, taking a walk in the wilderness, and spending time in prayer. Yet, when the disciples woke up, they began to panic, unaware of Jesus’ morning routine. According to John Mark, a frantic search for Jesus began until he was found sometime after the sun rose. Rather than follow the whims of the disciples, Jesus went to the exact place where God wanted him to go.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a [u]deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him [[v]pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], Mark 1:35-36.

How you ever felt like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and never felt right all day long? Have you thought you knew exactly what you want to do today only to find out it was a waste of time? Based upon the passage above, the 12 disciples were in a full-blown panic. Instead of asking God for help, the disciples were frantically searching for Jesus. These were the emotions racing through the minds of these 12 men before Jesus led them to the place where God wanted them to go.

And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out. 39 [So] He went throughout the whole of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons, Mark 1:37-39.

This group traveled to Galilee where Jesus began to preach, teach, and heal. John Mark doesn’t go into specifics on who were demon possessed, but something Jesus said scared the hell out of these demons. Perhaps this encounter was similar to the slave girl that followed Paul around in Acts 16. Whatever the circumstances, the truth that Jesus spoke struck a nerve. Before the day was over, the power of the Holy Spirit was unleashed as these demons were driven out for good.

by Jay Mankus

Closing Your Heart to Compassion

One of my former pastors regularly preached about hurt people, hurting other people. Whenever you are betrayed, deeply hurt, let down and wounded, it takes time to heal. If someone rubs you the wrong way or is unrelentless about pressing you on an issue, you may reach a breaking point before exploding. This may explain why people close their heart to compassion.

But if anyone has this world’s goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and[m]fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him? – 1 John 3:17

If you watch enough movies or streaming services, you will find a character who is jaded about a past experience. This one event may cause someone to develop barriers that prevents them from ever becoming vulnerable again. This fear of being hurt shows up in Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting. Yet, the Bible is calling readers to open their hearts to compassion.

For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.

Jesus provides a good reason to open your heart to compassion in the passage above. In the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus unveils a condition for forgiveness. Like the Sowing Principle, if you forgive others, God will forgive you. However, if you close your heart to compassion, God will withhold his compassion from you. May these words bring healing and inspire you to open your heart to compassion.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting for the Right Time and Place

Timing in life can be extremely important. If you try to force something unnaturally like Sarah’s advice to Abraham to try to have a child through her maid servant Hagar, the consequences can last a lifetime or longer, Genesis 16:1-16. Meanwhile, King Solomon suggests that there is a time and place for everything, Ecclesiastes 3:1-10. This is followed up by the statement that God makes everything beautiful in His time, Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Again Jesus went into a synagogue, and a man was there who had one withered hand [[a]as the result of accident or disease]. And [the Pharisees] kept watching Jesus [closely] to see whether He would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might get a charge to bring against Him [[b]formally], Mark 1:1-2.

From a Jewish tradition perspective, the Sabbath was designed for worshiping God and resting. Yet, when the Son of God was sent to earth to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10, Jesus’ time on earth was limited to 33 years. Therefore, when Jesus saw an opportunity to heal or help a needy person, it didn’t matter to Him what day it was. During a worship service in a synagogue, Jesus notices a man with a withered hand. This creates a dilemma for Jesus: to heal or not to heal on the Sabbath?

And He said to the man who had the withered hand, Get up [and stand here] in the midst. And He said to them, Is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to take it? But they kept silence. And He glanced around at them with vexation and anger, grieved at the hardening of their hearts, and said to the man, Hold out your hand. He held it out, and his hand was [completely] restored, Mark 1:3-5.

If this was a Sunday through Friday, Jesus would have immediately reached out to this man. Yet, to show respect to his elders, Jesus enters into a theological discussion with the Pharisees that were present. When these religious leaders failed to answer his question, the timing wasn’t ideal. Nonetheless, Jesus wasn’t willing to wait another day to heal this man. To fail to act would have been a sin of omission. Subsequently, Jesus chose good over evil, a lesson he taught his earthly brother in James 4:17. Waiting for the right time and place may relate to certain things in life, but serving the Lord should never be put on hold.

by Jay Mankus

An Unlikely Cure for Depression

As someone who has worked nights the past 7 years, there usually isn’t anything good on television overnight. Despite trying to sleep on my nights off, my body is use to staying up late. Thus, I have a tendency to channel surf from time to time. Over Thanksgiving I caught an author who was speaking about an intriguing account from Cambodia. While talking with a psychologist doing research oversees, an unlikely cure for depression was discovered.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

This psychologist was studying Cambodian techniques on treating depression. One case study centered around a rice patty farmer who lost his leg when a land mine exploded. Doctors initially provided an artificial limb to continue his occupation after being medically cleared to return to work. Unfortunately, the strength to stay under water and added pain from this injury was too much for this man to overcome.

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.

When depression overwhelmed this man’s soul, medication was considered, but not prescribed. Instead, doctor’s listened to this man pour out of his heart, trying to come up with an alternative solution. After several days of discussion, this man was given a cow instead of drugs. This gift enabled this man to transition to a milk farmer. After one month of changing occupations, this man’s depression disappeared. Perhaps, its time that America adopts similar policies by stop handing out drugs and start being creative so that more unlikely cures for depression are discovered.

by Jay Mankus

Escaping Loneliness

Abandonment, isolation and rejection are just a few words that reflect the feelings within a lonely heart.  Loneliness can be self inflicted when alienated, busy or distracted by your own self interests.  Yet, most lonely people are haunted by broken relationships, a loss of confidence or low self esteem which often leads to withdrawing from family and friends.  For anyone who finds themselves in this predicament, the quicker you can escape loneliness, the better.

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The author of Hebrews suggests that not even Jesus was immune to loneliness.  Referred to as the great high priest, Jesus is able to sympathize and understand human weaknesses and temptations.  No verse in the Bible highlights this fact than the passage below.  On the verge of fulfilling God’s will, Jesus felt forsaken, abandoned by his heavenly father.  Despite the raw emotions expiressed, Jesus prepared himself for this moment by praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before..

Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice,Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Matthew 27:45-46

As a highly motivated individual, pursuing my own dreams and goals can result in isolation.  Unless I slow down to invite others into my life, invisible walls are built to shield myself from those who care about me.  Thus, before I find myself heading toward a lone ranger syndrome, I need to take a step back before speeding ahead.  The best way I have found to escape loneliness is by spending time meditating upon God’s Word.  When I do, the Holy Spirit puts everything into perspective by prompting me to  restore relationships that need to be healed.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

How to Increase Your Strength

Everyone wants to feel important at some point in time.  In the early stages of life, a desire to fit in will cause individuals to want to become a part of or join a specific group of people.  Whether this is a clique, fraternity, sorority or team, being part of a social setting adds a sense of belonging to lives.  To those embraced by their peers, an inner strength is found as a support system is formed.  This is one way that you can increase your strength.

Jesus did not let him [come], but [instead] He said to him, “Go home to your family and tell them all the great things that the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” 20 So he [obeyed and] went away and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten Hellenistic cities] all the great things that Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished, Mark 5:19-20.

During the first century, one man selected twelve individuals to become fishers of men.  As Jesus began to heal, perform miracles and spread a message that became known as the gospel, large crowds followed these 13 men daily.  This popularity inspired new converts to become disciples.  After being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to accept and receive him as a disciple.  However, God had another plan for this man’s life.  When you go home and tell others all that God has done to transform your life, your spiritual strength grows as faith is shared.

All those who heard him continued to be amazed and said, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem attacked those who called on this name [of Jesus], and had come here [to Damascus] for the express purpose of bringing them bound [with chains] before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), Acts 9:21-22.

One of the most radical spiritual transformations occurs in Acts 9.  A religious zealot who persecuted apostles as well as overseeing the killing of Stephen, was blinded by a light from heaven.  This sets into motion a series of events that leads Ananias to eventually heal Saul.  As soon as Saul is healed, Ananias baptizes Saul suggesting a spiritual conversion.  Like the man in Mark, Saul spends at least 2 years convincing Jews in Damascus that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  Like anything in life, the more you do something, the greater your confidence becomes.  Thus, if you want to increase your strength, make it your ambition to share your faith daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Is Hindsight 20/20?

Hindsight is defined as the understanding of a situation or event only after it has developed or happened.  For the past two years, a large cataract hindered my ability to see out of my right eye.  While I experienced periods of improvement, last summer my eye doctor suggested it’s time to deal with this situation.  As I struggled to read fine print, I came to the same conclusion, scheduling a surgery for late November.  A series of unforeseen events forced this operation to be postponed until last Thursday.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

Like any procedure, I was afraid, not knowing the ultimate outcome.  Before I was given drugs to numb the pain, I made my peace with God.  When the nurse at the front desk asked me for my will and testament prior to being admitted, worst case scenarios raced through my mind.  This request likely elevated my blood pressure so high that my first operation was cancelled.  As a person of faith, I wrestle with relying on medicine to resolve health problems.  However, when changes in diet, fasting and prayer does not improve your condition, my operation served as a last resort.  While the healing process takes roughly two weeks, only time will tell if my sight will be fully restored.

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.

I feel like the prophet Isaiah is speaking to me in the passage above.  I have no control over how well eye will recover.  Sure, I can listen to my doctor’s directions by taking my daily prescriptions, but the degree of healing is in God’s hand.  My dream of writing screen plays is dependent upon the final outcome of my cataract surgery.  Thus, all I can do is place my trust in the Lord,  believing that God will help improve my condition.  Although I am not considering this trial a pure joy as James 1:2-4 suggests, I am relying on hindsight, remembering how God has provided for me in the past.

by Jay Mankus

The Intrinsically Good and Evil

One day Jesus was disturbed as he observed religious leaders judging other individuals.  Outraged by this display of self-righteousness, Jesus compares unfair judgments to the principle of sowing and reaping.  Warning the Pharisees in the crowd, Jesus explains that the standard by which you judge others will be measured, applied to you in return.  Immediately following this statement, Jesus transitions into a discussion about what is intrinsically good and evil.

For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit. For figs are not picked from thorn bushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a briar bush, Luke 6:44.

Using a parable to prove his point, Jesus refers to humans beings as fruit bearing trees.  Essentially, what Jesus is saying in paraphrased form, “if you want to encapsulate who someone is, pay attention to the fruit which they bear on a daily basis.”  Some will produce excessive fruit, others will have sporadic growth seasons and a few won’t bear anything at all.  As you interact with society, brushing up against, coming in contact with and experiencing what different people have to offer, reputations will be developed and formed either good or bad.

The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:45.

The climax of Jesus’ teaching comes in the passage above, mouths speak out of the overflow of human hearts.  Thus, if you listen carefully, you can hear for yourself what is intrinsically good or evil.  The next time you listen to a conversation, observe a discussion or watch a report on cable news, your ears should be able to pick up something based upon the content.  Are these words good, honorable and moral?  Or has a bruised and wounded heart spewed depravity, hatred and wickedness?  While you can’t control what others say, you can cry out to Jesus to mend any part of a broken heart.  As this healing process begins, you should begin to recognize subtle changes in your vocabulary.  May the Holy Spirit transform your life to display that which is intrinsically good.

by Jay Mankus

Starting to Believe

If you listen, follow or watch cable news on a regular basis, you might begin to believe that the world is falling apart.  A majority of these networks blame Donald Trump for the world’s demise.  Yet, when you spend time outside in the real world, current accusations don’t appear to be as bad as initially reported.  If the media outlet you depend upon isn’t telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, who and what should you believe?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

In the passage above, a man approaches Jesus like a disgruntled shopper, complaining about the service he received from a couple of the disciples.  Evidently, the disciples were unable to heal this man’s son possessed by an evil spirit.  This boy was often thrown into epileptic seizures, foaming at the mouth and unable to control his own body.  Jesus attributes this failed miracle to a lack of faith.  Desperate to see his son freed from this helpless state, the man pleads with Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

In the 1992 film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup who is called to testify in court about one of the marines under his command who was killed.  During a cross examination by Tom Cruise who plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee a Navy defense lawyer, a heated argument ensues.  Known as”You Can’t Handle the Truth,” this scene depicts the effort and struggle to unravel truth from fiction.  When forming a belief system, this process is just as difficult, sorting through what your church, education and parents have taught you.  Meanwhile, friends, mentors and professors may be pressuring your to confirm to post-modernism or secularism humanism beliefs.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

When you come to a spiritual crossroads, the best advice is to follow in the footsteps of Berea.  This first century church urged their members to test everything they heard before reaching a conclusion.  Fact checking practices entailed combing through the Bible to determine if ideas, new teaching or theories were consistent with what the apostles taught.  Sometimes information is easy to decipher while other pieces take weeks. months or possibly years to grasp.  During a letter to Thessalonica, Paul reminds the people he visited to abstain from evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Although you will never know all the answers to life’s questions, at some point you have to start believing.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Overcoming a Miscarriage

As a former seminary student, I have come to appreciate the Greek language.  Unlike English which tends to be bland, dull and generic, Greek uses a variety of words to clearly distinguish raw emotions.  For example, the term miscarriage refers to the spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable, usually between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation.  From a scientific perspective, this is an acceptable definition.  Yet, for any woman who has endured this horrific event, the English language fails to detail the emotional anguish, heart break and pain couples go through in the days that follow a miscarriage.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

While I can’t imagine the disappointment women experience, I do have a unique connection to miscarriage.  My mother’s third child was a still born, a form of miscarriage.  I never met this individual who would have been my third sister.  There is no logical explanation to suffice why this took place.  Yet, a few years later, my parents tried one more time to have a child.  I’m sure deep down my father wanted a boy to avoid being drastically outnumbered.  Nonetheless, as my parents persisted, I was conceived, born during the summer of 1969.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4. 

According to the Bible, there will be no crying in heaven.  For the lost souls mothers and fathers never got the chance to meet, love and raise, they go immediately to heaven.  Although this fact may not comfort those still hurting, God longs to wipe away your tears, to heal and mend your broken heart.  After your period of mourning comes to an end, may God give you a spirit of perseverance to try again.  If your biological clock for giving birth is coming to an end, don’t forget the miracles of Sarah, Elizabeth and Mary.  May this blog serve as a means to help you overcome the pain of a miscarriage.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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