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All That is in the World

One of Jesus’ disciples makes an interesting observation about the world. John points out three temporary pleasures that the world offers: the lust of the flesh, the lust of your eyes, and the pride of life. These words appear to be a continuation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:19-24. These earthly treasures speak to human beings through enticement and lust. This is all that is in the world.

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself], 1 John 2:16.

The concept that sex sells appeals to the lust of the flesh. Whether this is in the form of advertising. commercials, or scenes from a movie, these images are designed to entice your cravings for sensual gratification. The second form of lust coincides with Jesus’ third temptation in Matthew 4:8-10. The Devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for his worship. The lust of the eyes plants a seed in minds for seeking control and power on earth.

And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever, 1 John 2:17.

The final temporary pleasure that the world offers is the pride of life. This ungodly belief makes some people think that you can control your own destiny. This desire is what has caused some in Hollywood to believe that they are God. Unfortunately, the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 4:4. You may try to fill the void in your heart with all that is in the world, but only Jesus satisfies, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

Feeling Invisible to the Outside World

Ten years ago, I was forced to reinvent myself after losing my teaching position at Red Lion Christian Academy in the middle of the school year. After a couple of stints on unemployment, I landed back on my feet at Amazon. This June will mark the beginning of my 10th year at this company. Yet, my only option for a promotion was switching to the graveyard shift. While the benefits and pay have been a blessing to my family, it has come at a cost. Working nights for the past 8 years has made me invisible to the outside world.

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, [i]with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). 13 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while [j]effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and [k]delight, Philippians 2:12-13.

There are many things in life that don’t show or reveal dividends right away. While I have always dabbled in creative writing, writing screen plays has coincided with the last decade. Despite countless hours crafting, planning and typing, all I have is 3 completed manuscripts. There is no book deal, notoriety or agents knocking down my door to produce one of my films. My efforts are invisible to Hollywood. Sure, I have ideas for a 10-episode sit-com and a drama based upon a grown-up Joan of Arcadia, but for now I feel invisible to the outside world.

Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[l]against God] and [m]questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, 16 Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may have something of which exultantly to rejoice and glory in that I did not run my race in vain or spend my labor to no purpose, Philippians 2:14-16.

The passage above provides advice for anyone who feels invisible. Whenever you set out to cultivate and fulfill a goal, this process can be exhausting. As I listen to weekly screenwriting podcasts to keep my dream alive, the Bible contains instructions for the here and now. Complaining and grumbling about a lack of success doesn’t solve any problems. Instead, the apostle Paul urges believers to rise above your circumstances in life. Hold out hope by presenting yourself like a bright star piercing the darkness of the unknown. Fan into the flame the gifts and talents that God has given you to see what happens. Do your best and let God do the rest until your hard work is rewarded.

by Jay Mankus

The Other Side of the Universe

As an aspiring screen writer, I listen to a dozen podcasts each week. My goal is to extract golden nuggets of information so that I can implement these concepts into my own scripts. The more I listen, I find myself on the other side of the universe, possessing a completely different worldview. Instead of recognizing God, many of these experts use similar vocabulary. Rather than blame or credit God, the universe is in control of whatever happens in life from a Hollywood perspective.

It is God Who sits above the circle (the horizon) of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; it is He Who stretches out the heavens like [gauze] curtains and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in, Isaiah 40::22.

One Old Testament prophet disagrees. Isaiah died as a martyr, sawed in two rather than deny his faith. Despite this cruel ending, Isaiah recognized who was in control of the universe. In the passage above, Isaiah alludes to God’s omnipresence. Life isn’t simply a random set of events that plays out in the universe. Rather, Isaiah recognized the words of Jesus’ earthly brother before they were written, James 1:2-4. Trials occur on earth as a form of preparation, leading to maturity as time goes by.

By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible, Hebrews 11:3.

C.S. Lewis gives one of the best explanations of different worldviews in Mere Christianity. Lewis uses Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. Human nature is a starting point where all human beings can relate to and understand. In the section entitled What Christians Believe, Lewis highlights virtues like prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude that everyone share. However, Theological virtues are limited to Christians via the Holy Spirit. Until someone enters into a relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, people will remain on the other side of the universe without knowing God.

by Jay Mankus

Making Peace with God

Hollywood usually falls short when attempting to accurately illustrate a biblical principle.  Yet, in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the evolution of Gary Sinise’ character helps viewers understand what is means to make peace with God.  Lieutentant Dan is born into a long lineage of military officers.  In his mind, Lieutentant Dan believed he was destined to die on a battlefield in Vietnam along with his battalion.  However, Forrest Gump’s act of bravery forced Lieutentant Dan to live the rest of his life on earth without legs.  As Forrest ran off to pursue other aspirations in life, Lieutentant Dan was bound to a wheel chair.  Bitterness grew within Lieutentant Dan’s heart until Gump became a shrimp boat captain.  Volunteering as Gump’s second mate, Lieutentant Dan wrestles with his purpose on earth.  During a major hurricane, Lieutentant Dan verbalizes his frustrations, welcoming the wrath of nature head on as if to seek a duel with God.  After this storm passes, Lieutentant Dan makes peace with God.

One of the criminals who had been hanged [on a cross beside Him] kept hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us [from death]!” 40 But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?-Luke 23:39-40

A first century doctor, no stranger to death, shares a story about Jesus just before his death on a cross.  For some reason, this encounter is glanced over by the other 3 gospel authors, skipped to cover other healings, miracles and stories.  In the passage below, Luke reveals steps toward making peace with God.  The first involves acknowledging your imperfections or as the apostle Paul once said, “falling short of God’s glory,” Romans 3:23.  Once individuals confess their sins to God, step two is geared toward securing an eternal destiny.  The disciple whom Jesus loved once proclaimed, “you don’t have to hope for an answer; you can know for certain,” 1 John 5:13.  On their death bed, hanging from a cross, one criminal went to hell and other was promised to be with Jesus in paradise, heaven.  This is one of the best biblical examples of making peace with God.

We are suffering justly, because we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, [please] remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 Jesus said to him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” Luke 23:41-43.

Whenever I attend a funeral, enter an emergency room or take off in an airplane, making peace with God is brought to the forefront.  Instead of reading a book or watching a movie, the fragility of life flashes through my mind.  Sadly, most people don’t consider making peace with God until its too late.  As my blood pressure sky rocketed yesterday while sitting in preop, I was powerless, unable to control my breathing.  When my eye surgery was cancelled, too dangerous to perform due to my elevated blood pressure, my perspective on life changed like Lieutentant Dan in Forrest Gump.  Maybe I won’t be the person I hoped for or be able to achieve the dreams that I aspire, but at some point I have to make peace with God.  I guess it’s time to surrender my goals by yielding to God’s ultimate plan for my life on earth.  Although I still don’t know exactly what that is, my recent health scare has provided me the opportunity to make peace with God where I am.

by Jay Mankus

Is It Really That Simple?

In the past year, a couple of comedians from Hollywood have referred to individuals who pray to God as being mentally ill.  While children have a tendency to have make believe friends, adults who talk out loud to an invisible God seems strange.  Although non-believers may refer to this sight as a sign of mental illness, this spiritual practice is an act of faith.  One day Jesus’ disciples were floundering as novice prayers, asking the son of God for help, to teach them how to pray effectively.

“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you,” Luke 11:9.

In the beginning of Luke chapter 11, Jesus gives his disciples an outline for praying known as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father.  This is similar to modern day acronyms like ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication or PRAY: petition God, repent, adoration for God and your own needs.  After receiving this basic format, perhaps one of the disciples pondered, is it really that simple?  In the passage above and below Jesus responds with the attitude, desire and will necessary to develop a powerful prayer life.

For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened, Luke 11:10.

First, don’t be afraid to ask God.  Since the Lord is all knowing, just verbalize any desire on your heart and thought on your mind.  However, when you do pray, be diligent, eager to hear and see the power of prayer at work in your life.  If any prayer is denied, in limbo or unclear, demonstrate persistence like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.  Jesus doesn’t want passive prayers.  Rather, keep on knocking, wrestling with God in prayer as you seek answers to prayer in the context of God’s will.  For those who seek a deeper relationship with God, may you come to a point when you can honestly say, prayer really is this simple.

by Jay Mankus

Bouncing Back from Defeat

Winston Churchill once defined success as going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.  I wish I was familiar with this quote during my final two seasons as a youth baseball coach.  I can’t remember how many games my team lost as defeat became of way of life.  Since these 2 teams only won 4 games, just one in my final season, celebrations were few and far between.  This likely explains Churchill’s emphasis on enthusiasm, learning from each failed attempt to ensure the same mistakes of the past aren’t repeated in future battles.

For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory, Deuteronomy 20:4.

In my first and only season as a head basketball coach, my players never experienced defeat, going 13-0.  The only time this team trailed at the half was in the city championship game, down by 10 points.  Clawing back in the second half, these players fought hard to send the game into overtime.  On the final play in overtime, my sixth man collected a weak side rebound, tipping the ball in at the buzzer.  When perfection is achieved, enthusiasm comes naturally.  Yet, as a coach, sometimes failure serves as a wake up call.  If a team despises losing, the fear of defeat motivates players to do everything in their power to ensure victory.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

Last Friday I received news that Hollywood rejected my latest screen play.  While this news should have been devastating, my soul was comforted by a Winston Churchill quote I heard on the radio.  C.S. Lewis defined success as the process of arriving in Mere Christianity.  A century earlier, Thomas Edison discovered 2000 ways how not to produce electricity before finally inventing the incandescent lightbulb.  If you can learn one thing from history it is that failure is a necessary evil to spur souls on to reach their ultimate goal.  As for me, I’m not sure if I will ever write a successful movie that is bought or produced by Hollywood.  Nonetheless, if I turn to Christ who strengthens me, my enthusiasm for writing will return so that my dream of writing one screen play per year in retirement may soon become a reality.  This is how I plan to bounce back from defeat.

by Jay Mankus

 

Searching for a Ray of Hope

The latitude lying within the Arctic Circle is known as the “land of the midnight Sun.”  Each summer the sun never sets, remaining on the horizon in this polar region.  While this is the season of never ending rays of sun, the other side of the world in Antarctica plunges into four months of darkness.  Unfortunately, you don’t have to reside in the South Pole to experience extended periods of darkness.  Accidents, trials and unexpected illnesses can leave dazed individuals searching for a ray of hope.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, John 1:5.

Over the last few decades, researchers and scientists have uncovered some of the negative influences that darkness has on human beings.  Seasonal affective disorder causes depression due to the limited number of hours of daylight every winter.  Depending upon the location, schedule and where people work, some individuals only see a few hours of daylight daily until the weekend arrives.  Darkness has a psychological affect, invoking doubt, fear and uncertainty.  Thus, beside waiting for Spring to come, the Bible provides a cure for those searching for a ray of hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope, Romans 15:13,

Any day now I will be receiving an email from Hollywood about a movie, screenplay that I submitted in April.  For six consecutive summers, I have opened up “I regret to inform you” notices, rejecting my previous projects.  I’m not sure if I can handle the news of another failure, but I am trusting God to shine light into any future darkness that I face.  When storm clouds roll in and begin to surround you, rays of hope enable souls to persevere until extreme conditions subside.  In the meantime, lean on the Holy Spirit as you struggle and fight to make your dreams come true.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Focusing on the Darkness Within

According to a 2015 article in Time Magazine, the top ten television shows of all time include Friends, Breaking Bad, the X-Files, Game of Thrones, Seinfeld, the Sopranos, Saturday Night Live, I Love Lucy, Mad Men and the Simpsons.  While five of these programs were comedies, the others contain adult content, graphic images and violence.  Based upon the series chosen on this list, American audiences are searching for something to laugh at and tune into nteresting dramas.  In order to grab someone’s attention, producers focus on the darkness within souls to spice up weekly episodes.

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so if your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive], your whole body will be full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. 23 But if your eye is bad [spiritually blind], your whole body will be full of darkness [devoid of God’s precepts]. So if the [very] light inside you [your inner self, your heart, your conscience] is darkness, how great and terrible is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

When tragedy strikes in the form of mass shootings, blame immediately goes to guns and gun owners.  After the facts reveal the true motives of any massacre, some of these events may be blamed on terrorism, others on bullying and some remain unexplained.  Whatever the inspiration may have been, rarely do experts, media panels or psychologists point the finger in the direction of Hollywood.  From time to time, mature video games that desensitize the frailty of life receive a portion of the blame.  Yet, unless a shooter survives their day of reckoning, no one will ever know for certain why school shootings happen.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 1:5-7.

The word light appears 272 times in the Bible.  Meanwhile, darkness is mentioned 162 times.  Two of Jesus’ disciples highlight the positive aspects and negative concerns of these terms.  According to Matthew, darkness is like a poison that corrupts hearts internally before external actions magnify evil from within.  John takes a different approach, comparing light to a truth detector.  Anyone who pretends to be a Christian while maintaining a relationship with darkness is a fool.  The ultimate goal is to expose any darkness within you by daily reading and studying the Bible.  Although Christians can’t control what Hollywood or others do, the decisions that you make will determine your destiny.  May the light of Christ guide you through the darkness.

by Jay Mankus

When Nightmares Become More Than a Dream

My first nightmare as a child was being chased by Bigfoot throughout my neighborhood, waking up as soon as I got caught.  These vivid details were likely due to my obsession with the paranormal, reading books from Daniel Cohen and watching shows like Unsolved Mysteries.  In 1984, Nightmare on Elm Street introduced the concept that nightmares can become more than a dream.  When 4 teenagers from the same neighborhood began to have the same dream of the Springwood Slasher, the legend of Freddie Kruger was born.  These graphic images ushered in a spirit of fear as individuals began to be afraid to go to sleep.

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear, Ecclesiastes 5:7.

Fourteen years later, another Hollywood production added to this concept.  Charmed ran on the WB for nine seasons, ending in 2006.  This series featured three sisters who discover they are descendants of a witch with each possessing unique supernatural powers.  During season 1, episode 5, entitled Dream Sorcerer uses dream therapy to introduce a character who is able to enter the dreams of other women.  One of the sisters Prue finds her sleep disturbed by strange visions in which she’s taunted by this mysterious man.  After an initial dream, Prue wakes up with marks on her back.

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17.

Over the last decade, Paranormal Witness, the movie and television series has interviewed and researched cases where nightmares became more than a dream.  Depending upon the episode, individuals were haunted by demons, evil spirits and powers of darkness that defy logic.  While critics, doubters and skeptics will continue to suggest this isn’t real, numerous victims continue to speak out today testifying to the fact that nightmares can become reality when you wake up from a cold sweat with emotional and physical scars.

“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.

Prior to ten years ago, I didn’t believe that nightmares could become more than a dream.  However, this all changed when I watched a marathon of Cold Case Files on A&E with my sister Kathie over Christmas break.  Initially, I was relaxing, vegging on the couch.  Yet, when a serial rapist began to open about a demon who visited his dreams in the form of a succubus, this got my attention.  Afterward, I began to do my own research.  I discovered succubus are female demons that seek to have sexual intercourse with sleeping men.  According to men who have come forward, these spirits often appear beautiful at first before transfiguring into devil like entities.  I felt compelled to write this blog not to scare people, but to prepare souls for future attacks so that you will be proactive in prayer to create hedges of spiritual protection.  Don’t let the sun go down before preparing your heart, soul and mind with a covering from the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

We’ve Become a Byproduct of Our Environment

From 1992 to 1999, Melrose Place aired on Fox.  This popular television series gave a glimpse of the elite living in Hollywood, California under the guise of Melrose Place.  Since I was in my last year of college at the time of this show’s debut, I never followed it, catching a scene or two while channel surfing before it’s departure 8 years later.  Looking back at an episode from season 6 that I recently watched, it’s clear that America has become a byproduct of it’s environment.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—Romans 5:12.

One of the draws to dramas like Melrose Place is that sex sells.  At least this was the rationale for entertainment up until the sexual harassment scandals of 2017.  Perhaps, Hollywood will be forced to alter their content in the aftermaths of sexual misconduct by stars that were uncovered.  Unfortunately, the damage has been done.  Love has been confused with lust as actors and actresses jump from one sexual encounter to the next without any consideration of the soul.

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

Subsequently, broken relationships, failed marriages and sexual confusion has become the norm.  Sleaze adult advertisements like Girls Gone Wild encouraged young girls entering college to engage in the acts of the sinful nature.  In an attempt to capture elicit sexual content, alcohol was used to coerce drunk and naïve individuals into embarrassing acts, indulging their flesh.  While good people still exist and have overcome the odds to remain holy and pure, the same can’t be said for a growing majority addicted to sin.  I’m not sure what the future holds, but America has become a byproduct of our past environment.  May God help us all to find deliverance!

by Jay Mankus

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