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Στόχο: Finding a New Target in 2020

Στόχο is the Greek word for target. When translated into English, this term could apply to aim, destination, goal or landing place. As individuals celebrate New Year’s Eve, minds and thoughts will begin to turn their attention toward a new year. Once all of the celebrations have ended, determined souls will search for a new target in 2020.

And they said to me, The remnant there in the province who escaped exile are in great trouble and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its [fortified] gates are destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept and mourned for days and fasted and prayed [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

Unfortunately, sometimes your future may be blurred, clouded or uncertain due to unforeseen events. Accidents, failing health or trials can prove to be too much for one person to bear. Whenever you experience a devastating, horrific or troubling circumstance, follow in the footsteps of Nehemiah. After receiving news of Jerusalem vulnerability, this man fell to his knees, fasting and praying for a plan to rebuild this wall.

Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to listen to the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You day and night for the Israelites, Your servants, confessing the sins of the Israelites which we have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, statutes, and ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses, Nehemiah 1:6-7.

Before focusing on a solution, Nehemiah acknowledges the sins of Israel which brought this fate upon Jerusalem. Before any new target can be discovered in 2020, everyone needs to get right with God. As prayers are lifted up, hearts unload their pain and minds begin to think clear again, conditions will improve for a new vision to be seen. May the beginning of this year inspire you to pave the way for a new target to be located.

by Jay Mankus

Looking Up from Hell

At the end of every year, television networks reflect upon what happened, news worthy events of the year which form a best of list. When a year falls at the end of a decade, this only adds to programming as shows analyze current events of the past year and decade. If you did this for President Trump’s comments or tweets, there aren’t enough days in the year to follow the good, the bad and the ugly. One recent comment got my attention.

Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. 14 But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

During a Trump Rally in December, the president went off script. After being impeached by the House, President Trump told a story about a phone call from the widow of John Dingell, a former congressman from New York. Following this story, Trump couldn’t resist the opportunity to poke fun of a former adversary, suggesting that John Dingell might be looking up from hell instead of down from heaven. This particular comment created a fire storm in the media, making headlines on every cable channel and newspaper. Yet, few members of the media reported the full context, that one of Dingell’s last text before dying wished that President Trump would to go to hell. This doesn’t make Trump’s comment right, but it reveals the full context.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Most funerals assume that the loved one who died went to heaven. While this is a natural desire, hope and wish, the Bible paints a different picture. Jesus uses the analogy of two paths, a spacious one which many follow and a narrow trail which few find. Thus, if this is true, there are far more souls looking up from hell rather than looking down from heaven. Since you only get one chance, one life on earth, devote 2020 and beyond to following the Way so that your eternal destination will be secured before you die, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Pillars of Prayer

When I visit a tourist destination, rarely do I say, “look at that pillar!” This tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building often goes unnoticed. Yet, without these crucial supports, buildings will collapse, not able to stand the test of time. In ancient Greece, pillars were center pieces of famous landmarks that still stand today.

And as He saw one single leafy fig tree above the roadside, He went to it but He found nothing but leaves on it [seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. And He said to it, Never again shall fruit grow on you! And the fig tree withered up at once, Matthew 21:19.

During an early morning walk, Jesus introduced his disciples to pillars of prayer. When an unproductive fig tree did not offer any fruit for their hungry stomachs, Jesus cursed it, immediately withering in front of them. This miracle inspired disciples to ascertain about the power of prayer. The first pillar is faith. This must be accompanied by an unwavering reliance on God. The second pillar is belief. This is accomplished by removing any doubt from your mind, trusting in the God who created the mountains.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:20-22.

From personal experience, my mind tends to get in the way of prayers from being answered. It’s one thing to believe in the power of prayer, but Christians shouldn’t treat God like Santa Claus using prayer as a wish list. Instead, faith and belief must go hand and hand, yielding to God’s will. Yet, this shouldn’t hold you back, knocking on God’s door over and over again like the persistent widow. Prayer can be complicated, especially when prayers go unanswered. Nonetheless, when individuals don’t limit what heaven can do, you’ll be surprised just like the disciples above.

by Jay Mankus

Determined to Change the Status Quo

Status quo is a Latin phrase which refers to the existing state of affairs in regard to social or political issues. From a modern perspective, this is similar to the expression”don’t rock the boat” by maintaining the existing social structure and values. During a scene from National Treasure, Benjamin Gates’ father warns his son that unless the status quo changes, their lives will be in danger. Whenever I am pressured to conform to one ideology, mindset or worldview, my creative nature craves to go against the flow, finding a better way by thinking outside the box.

Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it, Matthew 7:13.

Jesus addresses the status quo during a first century sermon. Jesus uses the analogy of two roads: a super highway and a trail through the woods. The status quo is compared to a broad road, where the popular crowd resides followed by the masses and wanna be accepted. Meanwhile, the less attractive path is narrow, only accessible for one person at a time. Jesus details the eternal destination that awaits based upon the decisions each person makes on earth. Perhaps, Jesus is using fear instill a desire to change the status quo.

But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it, Matthew 7:14.

Thirty five years ago, I was a teenager who recently accepted Jesus to be my personal Lord and Savior. This decision didn’t sit too well with many of my non-believing friends. As I became an active member of my high school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I found comfort and support on the narrow path. Sure, being considered cool and popular by my peers would have been nice, but I was determined to change the status quo. A similar decision today could be compared with committing social suicide. Yet, in the end you have to decide who do you want to please; others or God. As for me and my house, I remain determined to change the status quo.

by Jay Mankus

Vain and Perilous Resistance

If you have ever experienced what I call a God instance, recalling this account to others often unveils bizarre details. In the passage below, I stumbled upon the most detailed version of Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. While explaining his new allegiance to Jewish leaders and Pharisees, the apostle Paul reveals the words spoken to him from heaven. Instead of listening to conviction from the Holy Spirit, Saul was persistent to hold on to his religious upbringing. Instead of embracing Jesus’ teaching, Saul kept kicking against the goads through a vain and perilous resistance.

And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew tongue saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute Me [to harass and trouble and molest Me]? It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads [to keep offering vain and perilous resistance], Acts 26:14.

When you are raised to adhere to, believe and follow a certain set of values, outside opinions usually fall upon deaf ears. Similar to Paul, I grew up Catholic, raised in a strict Roman Catholic church. While I did learn to fear God at an early age, the love of Jesus in the New Testament was rarely emphasized. Thus, as I began to be introduced to Christians who were actively participating in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10, I didn’t know how to respond. God used nightmares in the form of a reoccurring dream of dying over a two year period which finally brought me to my knees, giving up my own vain and perilous resistance.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:19-20.

Today, we live in an age of resistance. For the past three years, Democrats, Liberals and Progressives have failed to accept the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election. Instead of learning from their failed attempt to elect the first female president, Hillary Clinton, a resistance campaign has been executed daily with impeachment as the latest plan to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, when individuals fail to embrace the reality of truth, no substitute will do. No matter how hard you may try fill the void in your heart with earthly hobbies, pastimes and treasures, peace won’t be found until vain and perilous efforts to resist God ends. In the passage above, John has a vision of a special door. Heaven’s side doesn’t have a door handle, only a knocker, trying to get our attention on earth. While God knocks, only you can let the Lord in. May this blog inspire you to end vain and perilous resistance by accepting God’s free gift, Romans 6:23.

by Jay Mankus

Explaining the Unexplainable

My favorite author as a teenager was Daniel Cohen.  Most of Cohen’s books coincide with unsolved mysteries.  The television series In Search Of which ran from 1977-1982 examined mysterious phenomenas.  This fascination continued with Unsolved Mysteries which ran for a decade into the 1990’s.  Today, this traditional programming continues with the History Channel’s version the Unexplained.

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything, Genesis 9:2-3.

Unfortunately, over the past 40 years, topics such as Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Abominable Snowman still remain a mystery.  These creatures of the night are more legend, a figment of our imagination rather than reality.  During a recent binge of the Unexplained, I came across a new mystery, the Mongolian Death Worm.  Sure, the name sounds strange for a worm, but this crypto that resides underneath the Gobi Desert inspired Tremors, a 1990 film starring Kevin Bacon.  However, until an actual body is caught or carcass found, this creature will remain fiction until facts prove it’s existence.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind,” Job 12:7-10.

Based upon the passage above, God has all the answers.  Unfortunately, most people don’t take the time to listen or slow down enough to reflect upon God’s creation.  Those who birdwatch, fish or sightsee have the advantage of taking in the heavens and the earth.  While there will always be unexplainable events and questions that you will have to wait until heaven to be answered, take the advice of the Psalmist.  “Be still before the Lord, Psalm 46:10.”

by Jay Mankus

Appointed and Destined

The term appointed refers to a time or place decided on beforehand. Mainstream education often associates appointed with “white privilege,” not fair to those excluded from this process. Yet, this allotted, designated and pre-ordained time or place is chosen by God. When individuals delay, ignore or reject God’s calling, another is selected like David in 1 Samuel 16 to take someone else’s place.

And I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that is appointed and destined for you to do,’ Acts 22:10.

Sometimes this appointing requires assistance from another person or group. When Saul who became the apostle Paul was blinded by bright lights from heaven, an unidentified person led him by his hand to Damascus. God often uses extreme circumstances to awaken souls to obedience. Subsequently, Saul’s blindness persuades him to become open to accepting Jesus as Lord.

But since I could not see because of the [glorious intensity and dazzling] brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus, Acts 22:11.

The phrase destined for greatness doesn’t always amount to success. Freewill gives human beings the ability to accept, reject and wait to act upon the calling of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul was a rare exception, making the most of his faith in Christ. Sure, each generation will have a Billy Graham to carry it’s spiritual torch. Yet, the only way the appointed fulfill their destiny is daily obeying God by resisting temptation.

by Jay Mankus

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