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Tag Archives: heart

The Giving and Taking of Life

Twenty four hours ago, I was celebrating my oldest son’s wedding.  As I witnessed James and Emma’s love for one another, an overwhelming sense of joy touched my heart.  This event highlights a blessing from God as the giver of life in the form of gifts from above, James 1:17.  Unfortunately, I received a text a few hours ago informing me that my uncle John, my dad’s oldest brother, passed away this afternoon.  This wave of emotions has reminded me of the giving and taking of life.

So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself, and he sat [down] among the ashes (rubbish heaps), Job 2:7-8.

Every month or so I stumble upon a television evangelist who paints the Christian life through rose colored glasses.  These messages follow the same script, promising that the moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, all of your troubles will disappear.  While new believers will possess a new found hope, this depiction of life is not realistic.  With every blessing, individuals will also endure hardship, pain and suffering.  According to Job, you have to accept the good with any bad that comes your way.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still cling to your integrity [and your faith and trust in God, without blaming Him]? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the [spiritually] foolish women speaks [ignorant and oblivious to God’s will]. Shall we indeed accept [only] good from God and not [also] accept adversity and disaster?” In [spite of] all this Job did not sin with [words from] his lips, Job 2:9-10.

In the passage above, Job’s wife speaks as if thinking out loud.  As she witnessed the boils covering her husband, anguish, grief and frustration motivated her response to “curse God and die.”  In the heat of the moment, knee jerk reactions are a common occurrence.  Nonetheless, if you are looking for answers to why God allows bad things to happen to good people, Job nails it!  You must accept the good with the bad.  According to one of Jesus’ disciples, going through trials are designed to build character, 1 Peter 1:6-7.  Therefore, If you want to possess a realistic approach to life, roll with the punches as you experience the giving and taking of life.

by Jay Mankus

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Out of Faith… Out of Mind

The phrase out of sight out of mind appears to have originated during the 13th century. The first literary appearance of this idiom can be traced to Woorkes in 1562.  Out of sight out of mind refers to the reduced importance and emergence of something that is not within eyesight. When something is not immediately visible, actions, beliefs and choices fluctuate.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.

This saying also applies to faith.  For example, when children are taught to say grace before eating a meal, prayer becomes an active part of someone’s life.  However, whenever individuals slowly drift apart from God, forgetting prayer will occur.  As an adult, I find myself constantly stuck in some sort of spiritual rut.  Since praying doesn’t come naturally to me, losing touch with faith causes my mind to forget to pray, especially saying grace before I eat a meal.  Subsequently, out of faith becomes out of mind.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

According to the author of Hebrews, faith requires belief.  Genuine faith includes a belief in an invisible God who rewards those who earnest seek his will.  The apostle Paul highlights this process in Romans 12:1-2.  Faith is meant to be active, devoting one’s life as a living sacrifice.  However, when faith slips, minds tend to wander, drifting apart from God’s will,  Therefore, if you want to remain spiritually sharp, treasure and store up God’s Word within your heart, Psalm 119:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Awakenings

The summer of 1969 is filled with a rich resource of history.  Beside the Bryan Adams song which debuted in June of 1985, one of the most famous musical festivals of all time took place in upstate New York.  Woodstock began August 15th, 1969 and concluded four days later in Bethel, New York near White Lake.  While legendary artists, famous bands and iconic performers took turns on stage, a major medical breakthrough in the Bronx, New York was overshadowed.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation], Matthew 11:28.

Based on a true story, neurologist Oliver Sacks attempts to recount a series of awakenings within a mental hospital that took place during the summer of 1969.  The 1990 film Awakenings starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams highlights the doctor patient relationship of the first to awaken from over two decades in a catatonic state.  After convincing a Bronx administer to use an expensive experimental drug therapy on one patient with family consent, a little boy breaks 18 years of silence, coming to life as an adult.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:29-30.

The older I become, the more I observe individuals who enter a trance life state, hiding disappointment, frustrations and pain within their heart.  The past can hold a series of burdens which can suck the joy out of any life.  Even those who possess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are at risk.  The only way for a true awakening to occur begins by placing your burdens at the foot of the cross.  As you pray for healing, hope and peace, may the Holy Spirit awaken your soul like those revived in the summer of 69.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction.  In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea.  One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene.  Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus.  Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced.  Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus.  Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen.  This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him.  It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants.  Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit.  Any type of change is difficult.  However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible.  Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted.  As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains.  For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Unshakable

In the first century, sometime after 30 AD a Jewish zealot was fearful that the Jesus movement would ruin his religion.  Thus, Saul used the Synagogue of the Freedmen as a pawn to attack the character of a newly appointed apostle.  While Jesus choose to remain silent when brought him before the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), Stephen defended his faith.  Just as religious leaders accused Jesus of de-emphasizing some of the ten commandments, Stephen was of charged with committing blasphemy against Moses and God.  Luke records Stephen’s entire defense in Acts 7.

Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him, Acts 7:54.

Without any notes, Stephen gives an unshakable defense of his faith.  As if reading the Bible which wasn’t available for another 300 years, Stephen summarizes the Bible from the patriarchs to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The passage above is the response of the Sanhedrin.  These men were convicted and enraged at the same time.  Luke’s choice of words give the appearance of a pack of wolves ready to pounce upon their prey.  Despite this reaction, Stephen didn’t apologize, backdown or retract his previous comments.  Rather, Stephen was prepared to become the first Christian martyr post Jesus.

 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy], Acts 7:55-57.

On the verge of death, the Holt Spirit fixed Stephen’s mind on his future destiny in heaven.  Just as this council was about to pick up stones to form a firing line, Stephen gazed into heaven.  This vision is verbalized causing Sanhedrin members to take off their outer robe so that each could throw their stone as hard as possible.  Unfazed by this commotion, the Holy Spirit enabled Stephen to drown out the noise.  Instead of focusing on the gory details of death, Luke simply states that Stephen fell asleep, unshakable until the very end of his life.

by Jay Mankus

Music and Lyrics

As a former song writer of A Simple Confession, I enjoy watching documentaries on musicians.  When Music Television first launched in 1983, one of my favorite programs was Behind the Music.  This show interviewed lead singers and song writers, revealing the inspiration behind the lyrics of their songs.  When I watched the 2007 film Music and Lyrics, I was inspired to begin working on a new song or album.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God, Colossians 3:16.

Hugh Grant plays a washed up singer living on the coattails of his past, playing wherever fans crave music from the 1980’s.  When his agent receives a call from a famous pop star, Grant is given a couple days to compose a chart-topping hit for this teen sensation.  Drew Barrymore serves as a replacement plant sitter, interrupting Grant’s session with his lyricist.  When Barrymore begins to put these lyrics into a catchy melody, she is hired to complete this song.

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:19.

The Bible mentions the power of music and lyrics.  When David played his harp for King Saul, the sound uplifted his soul.  The prophet Samuel claims that music soothes the soul.  While Huey Lewis sang about the Power of Love in 1996, the Bible is filled with examples of how music encourages, inspires and uplifts hearts.  As individuals meditate on the word of God, hymns, melodies and spiritual songs, the Lord will put a new song upon or within your heart and mind to share with others.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Company of Believers

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers, Acts 2:42.

The basic definition for a company is a number of individuals gathered together for a particular purpose. The name of each company is designed to send a message to the general public to explain their purpose for existing. During the first century, a doctor sums up a new religious movement in Acts 2:42-47. The passage serves as a blue print, a mission statement of their core principles. Luke narrows in on the apostles teaching, daily fellowship and prayer.

Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was [exclusively] his own, but everything was common property and for the use of all. 33 And with great ability and power the apostles were continuously testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace [God’s remarkable lovingkindness and favor and goodwill] rested richly upon them all, Acts 4:32-33.

Two chapters later this company of believers became a well oiled machine. Peter and John inspired by the Holy Spirit urged new converts to become part of this body, of one heart and soul. Instead of focusing on what religion can do for you, first century Christians treated each member of their congregation like family. This mentality eliminated poverty as wealthy members sold land or property to take care of whatever financial emergencies that came up or occurred daily.

At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders (attesting miracles) were continually taking place among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in [the covered porch called] Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest [of the people, the non-believers] dared to associate with them; however, the people were holding them in high esteem and were speaking highly of them, Acts 5:12-13.

In the beginning of chapter 5, a married couple devised a plan to infiltrate this company of believers. Apparently, this act of kindness was motived by a desire to be recognized, seeking personal praise rather than humbly give. The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to expose Ananias’ plot, verbally rebuking this imposter. When Ananias laid money at the apostles’ feet from a piece of property sold, this couple agreed to withhold some money. However, they told everyone this was all the money from their sale. After Ananias and Sapphira both died of heart attacks, blamed on lying to God, fear gripped this entire community. This unfortunate event scared away other imposters, half-hearted people as only the true company of believers gathered at Solomon’s Colonnade to worship the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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