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Overcoming Periods of Darkness While Living in the Wilderness

Following the Exodus out of Egypt, Israel spent 40 years living in the wilderness. This time served as a transitional period before entering God’s promised land. While the Bible refers to a wilderness, in reality the Jews spent their days in the hot desert sun and nights surrounded by snakes and scorpions. Spending a week or weekend in the wilderness camping or hiking can be rejuvenating. However, living off the gird for an extended period of time requires a complete trust in God to provide daily bread.

And I will confirm with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land, and [My people] shall dwell safely in the wilderness, desert, or pastureland and sleep [confidently] in the woods, Ezekiel 34:25.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic inflicted America in 2020, state mandated quarantines have separated family members, friends and neighbors. While some states have eased these restrictions during the month of May, I still haven’t been able to visit my parents. Due to speculation of a second wave of COVID-19 striking communities who don’t practice social distancing, these past 3 months have created a new type of wilderness, living inside your home most of the time. At some point faith has to trump fear, trusting God that life will soon return to a new but safe normal.

And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing, and I will cause the showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing [of good insured by God’s favor], Ezekiel 34:26.

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the prophet Ezekiel refers to a covenant of peace. For those of you struggling during this period of darkness and uncertainty, the verses above serve as a glimmer of hope. Ezekiel promises to keep those living in the wilderness safe from evil beasts. Meanwhile, Ezekiel refers to a hill of blessing, showering God’s people with grace and favor. While you may not sense peace at the moment, I pray that this biblical promise encourages you. When the wilderness is replaced by normalcy, perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation for the little things in life that we have all taken for granted.

by Jay Mankus

When Your World Has Been Shaken

Some reporters have compared the Coronavirus to the millennials 9/11. Since my youngest two children were born after September 11th, 2001, I understand this comparison. For me, I remember exactly where I was when I first received news of two airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers. At this time in history, I was an independent contractor and regional staff writer for Travel Golf Media. Both of my positions were impacted as air travel ceased until new safety standards were implemented. Yet, as the Coronavirus continues to reap havoc throughout America, life as we know it has been disturbed and shaken.

There he came to a cave and lodged in it; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? 10 He replied, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away, 1 Kings 19:9-10.

The Old Testament details a story about a prophet whose own world had been shaken. According to the passage above, the Israelites had turned their back on God, turning a deaf ear to Elijah. Beside feeling useless, altars dedicated to the Lord were discarded from mountain tops. In addition, Elijah’s friends were all killed at the hands of Jezebel. Without any signs of improvement, this former spiritual leader had lost the will to live, giving up hope that God could alter his situation. As a way to get Elijah’s attention, a series of natural disasters struck the land. Taking notice, Elijah did not see the Lord as the source behind the tornado, earthquake and fire. Yet, after these storms, Elijah was ready to hear God’s still small voice.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Well, if you live in a state like Delaware, you are now under a stay at home order. Normal outdoor sports are now out of the equation, on hold until the Coronavirus fades or dies out. Sure, you can go to the grocery store, get gas and take a walk around the block, but that’s it. So… what is one to do with their life when your world has been shaken? Well, after you binge watch your favorite show or series, dusting off the Bible would be a step in the right direction. The great aspect of free will is that God doesn’t force you to anything. The choices that you make throughout life will shape who you become. May this forced time at home due to the Coronavirus draw you near to God as the world around us continues to be shaken.

by Jay Mankus

Base Camp

During an expedition in Alaska, a man went for a short hike one morning when a blizzard fell upon this region.  Quickly turning back to return to base camp, white out conditions blinded this man, causing him to become disoriented.  After 15 minutes of wondering around, this man’s wilderness trained kicked in.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me, John 15:4.

Taking his backpack, this man took a stake, hammering it into the ground until it wouldn’t move.  Then, he tied rope to this stake, serving as marker, going in a circle 25 feet, then 50, 75 and so on.  Finally, after extending his rope to its farthest setting, 100 feet, this man bumped into base camp, thanking God for saving his life.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing, ” John 15:5.

This story reminds me the words of the disciple whom Jesus loved in chapter 15 of his gospel account.  John is trying to encourage his readers to stay connected to God through Jesus.  Jesus is like the stake in the illustration above serving as a firm foundation.  Without this reference point, the man from Alaska would have died.  In the same way, those who try live apart from Christ will lose their lifeline.  In view of this, don’t wander far from base camp unless you keep in step with the Holy Spirit, staying connected to Jesus while you are away.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Sheep Without A Shepherd

If you’ve ever gone to a mall to people watch, it doesn’t take long to see who knows where they are going and who is lost, trying to find their way.  Whether you’re driving a car, searching for something you’ve misplaced or walking on a unmarked trail, everyone from time to time experiences the pain of loss.  In the midst of this crisis, a sense of helplessness paralyzes souls, making it obvious that no matter hard one tries, you can’t save yourself.

While traveling throughout towns and villages, Jesus observed the crowd of individuals following him.  Watching intently, tears began to swell up in his eyes, as Jesus saw this group as sheep without a shepherd, Matthew 9:35-36.  They were looking for something more in life, hoping that Jesus had the answer.  Like sheep aimlessly roaming the countryside, hungry hearts longed for meaning to life.

Today, the silent majority wonders when their Shepherd will return.  As chaos abounds, modern sheep have been led astray by false prophets, hypocritical leaders and the twisting of the Bible.  Exiting the church after high school or during college, pessimistic sheep are searching for alternative means to enter heaven’s gate.  Although some turn back, coming to their senses like the prodigal in Luke 15, a growing number remain sheep without a shepherd.

by Jay Mankus

 

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