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Tag Archives: Israel

The Degrading Power of Sin

The Bible is littered with depressing, shocking and troubling accounts of people who have fallen from grace.  Jealousy led Cain to kill his brother Abel after God was not pleased with his offering.  Abraham lied to a king, claiming that his wife was his sister, afraid that he might get killed.  Love caused Samson to marry and sleep with an enemy of Israel.  Lust drove David to commit adultery and murder to be with the woman of his dreams.  These are just a few examples of the degrading power of sin.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], Romans 1:24.

Those who fall prey and become ensnared by sin do so due to a spiritual problem.  The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church of Corinth encouraging members to take their thoughts captive.  When minds begin to wonder, temporary pleasures supersede desires to retain the knowledge of God.  While not everyone gives into temptation, sin has a seductive power like an addiction that won’t leave you alone.

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. For the willingness [to do good] is present in me, but the doing of good is not. 19 For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want to do, I am no longer the one doing it [that is, it is not me that acts], but the sin [nature] which lives in me, Romans 7:18-20.

Within a chapter to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul confesses sins power over his own life.  Paul details failures, struggles and the crippling power of sin reigning within his life.  Like a caged wild animal, the sinful nature within human beings is too strong to control on your own.  When sin leads souls on the door steps of temptation, only one name can help you escape from behind the devil’s door.  Call out to Jesus and you will be saved, Romans 10:9-11, on the path toward restoration.

by Jay Mankus

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I Can’t Help Myself

My father was born in Lithuania.  As immigrants from certain Europeans countries began to migrate to the United States, stereotypes began to develop.  Whether it was the era, how my dad was raised or specific mannerisms, my father tended to be stoic unless he was angry.  Meanwhile, my mom who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania wasn’t afraid to wear her emotions on her sleeve.  Like any child, I exhibit a combination of qualities from each of my parents.  Nonetheless, whenever my heart is moved or touched by something special, I can’t help myself, easily brought to tears.

As He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance; 13 and they raised their voices and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were [miraculously] healed and made clean, Luke 17:12-14.

During the first century, Jews and Samaritans were enemies as hatred and resentment spilled over from the past.  This tension began when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judea in the south.  The north whose second capital was relocated upon a hillside in Samaria often did what was right in their own eyes.  The southern kingdom remained more true to God as some kings reminded citizens of their spiritual heritage.  The main issues between Jews and Samaritans began during 722 B.C. when Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity.  The byproduct of this siege led to intermarriages between Gentiles and Israelites.  Thus, Samaritans earned the reputation of being only half Jewish, labeled and ridiculed for centuries.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; 16 and he lay face downward at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. He was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten [of you] cleansed? Where are the [other] nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to give thanks and praise to God, except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:15-18

Recognizing this portion in history, Jesus is shocked by how little appreciation is shown to God by 9 Jewish lepers.  On the other hand, the Samaritan leper is overwhelmed after being healed.  According to a first century doctor, this man couldn’t help himself, praising God over and over again.  Sometimes in life, stereotypes influence how people act, behave and interact with others.  Yet, when you slow down and look around to see the numerous minor miracles in your life, you too can model the thanksgiving demonstrated by this Samaritan leper.  May the example of this first century man inspire you to develop a new outlook on life in 2019.

by Jay Mankus

Developing a Heart for Kingdom Things

When you consider common talk radio debates such as who is the greatest, opinions vary.  Some look strictly at physical features.  Others point to sheer strength and overall talent.  Meanwhile, intelligence, personality and wit is not overlooked.  On some occasions, appearance, gravitas and stature can be so impressive that even a prophet of God is fooled.  Such was the case in Samuel’s quest, seeking to find and anoint the next king of Israel.  In a rush to complete this task, Samuel neglected a vital trait, someone with a heart for kingdom things.

So it happened, when they had come, he looked at Eliab [the eldest son] and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:6-7.

As Samuel approached a handsome young man, the oldest son of Jesse, the Holy Spirit spoke.  It’s not clear if a spirit of conviction fell upon Samuel or God appeared in the form of a whisper.  Regardless of the communication style chosen by God, the message was crystal clear, this man is not the one, lacking a heart focused on kingdom things.  Since the heart is hidden from plain view, people can masquerade, pretend and trick others from discovering what’s in their heart.  While Samuel looked to the oldest son of Jesse to find Saul’s replacement, God’s candidate was in the fields, serving as a lowly shepherd.  Also a musician, David relied on God to provide for his daily needs.

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].  “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].  “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.  “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied, Matthew 5:3-6.

During his sermon on a mountain side, Jesus lists a series of qualities, beatitudes that serve as a to do list to develop a heart for kingdom things.  Like a spiritual blueprint, Jesus rolls out a vision to identify qualities Christian should spend their time on earth chasing after.  These characteristics are based upon sacrifice, servanthood and trusting God.  According to Jesus, individuals who pursue kingdom things will be completely satisfied.  While the world will continue to tempt souls to indulge their human nature, the Lord is searching for future leaders to elevate their faith.  May this blog inspire you to develop a heart for kingdom things.

by Jay Mankus

Wrestling with God’s Will

Wrestling is an activity of grappling with an opponent; trying to throw or hold them down on the ground.  For any boy growing up with another sibling, wrestling is bound to occur.  Back in my childhood, parents and teachers would refer to this as rough housing.  Unleashing your energy and frustrations upon someone following an argument or disagreement until one or both parties give up.  The most famous wrestling account in the Bible is listed below.

So Jacob was left alone, and a Man [came and] wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the Man saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched his hip joint; and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him, Genesis 32:24-25.

Prior to his encounter with an angel disguised as a man, Jacob developed a reputation as a deceiver.  Jacob bribed his older brother Esau out of his birthright, tricked his father into blessing him and fled from his family history.  In order to become the person God wanted Jacob to be, a wrestling match was preordained.  This night long struggle pushed Jacob to his physical limits, holding on despite having his hip dislocated.  In the eyes of God, Jacob passed this test, primed for bigger and better things in life.  At the conclusion of this event, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament.

Then He said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” 27 So He asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed,” Genesis 32:27-28.

When my life doesn’t take the path that I expect, I try to figure out what went wrong.  From time to time, the cause and effect is obvious, a lack of obedience to God, prayer and worship.  However, there are moments when promises from the Bible, Psalm 37:4, collide with road blocks as dreams and goals are denied or rejected.  This frustration has led me to wonder if becoming a screen writer is part of God’s will.  Am I not delighting myself in the Lord enough or does God want me to pursue another career in the future?  While I am not participating in a physical wrestling match, I find myself wrestling with God’s will.  According to the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, the only way to know God’s will for sure is by offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  If implemented successfully, clarity will come and my own wrestling match to ascertain God’s will can end.

by Jay Mankus

You Only Get One Life

As the 2018 National Basketball Association kicked off their season in Boston this week, I am reminded of a tragedy from the past.  Len Bias was the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, selected by the Boston Celtics.  This former all American who played at the University of Maryland was primed for greatness.  Yet, during a post draft party, Len decided to try Cocaine, apparently for the first time.  This fateful decision induced cardiac arrhythmia resulting in Bias’ death two days later.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

I was about to start my senior year of high school when I first heard of Len Bias’ death.  Growing up ninety minutes from College Park, Maryland, this news was devastating.  To make matters worse, I lost one of my best friends to cancer during my sophomore year of college.  When my grand father passed away, it was tough to deal with, but at least he lived a full life.  However, when a young person, who hasn’t entered the prime of their life is taken away by death, this reality is hard to accept.  Unfortunately, human beings don’t have nine lives like cats who seem to escape death on numerous occasions.

But if your heart turns away and you will not hear and obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you will certainly perish. You will not live long in the land which you cross the Jordan to enter and possess, Deuteronomy 30:17-18.

During his farewell address as leader of Israel, Moses pours out his heart to his followers.  In the middle of his speech, Moses urges the crowd to be careful to make wise decisions.  According to the passage above, each choice you make on earth leads to one of two destinations: life or death.  Since you only get one life to live, choose life.  This isn’t a video game where you get to hit a reset button to receive a new life.  Rather, actions have consequences, especially when poor choices are made.  Therefore, may the words of Moses speak to your heart as you seek to make the most of the life God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

 

Pray at Lunchtime for the United States

The origin of praying for a meal has ties to the Old Testament and New Testament.  In the days of Israel, cup bearers were similar to modern day secret service agents.  Instead of serving as an armed guard, these men tested the food and wine for poisons.  If no one died, this meal was safe for the king to enjoy.  One of the most famous cup bearers is Nehemiah, who God used as a vessel to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  In the first century, the apostles gave thanks for each meal the Lord provided.  While the passage below does not detail the words spoken, praying before eating was a form of thanksgiving.

Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all, and he broke it and began to eat, Acts 27:35.

Today, Christians continue this practice, folding their hands, closing their eyes and either silently or verbally expressing thanks to God for daily bread.  Just as Moses gave thanks for manna from heaven and quail via God, saying grace is an act of appreciation for the little things in life.  Unfortunately, praying at lunch has made national news recently for the wrong reason.  Brigadier General John Teichert who has a blog encouraging individuals to pray at lunchtime for the United States is being threatened by a lawsuit.  Attorney Michael Weinstein who trolls Christians on military bases recently said, “General Teichert should be doing time behind prison bars, not commanding a Wing wearing a general’s stars,”

Then all of them were encouraged and their spirits improved, and they also ate some food, Acts 27:36.

Luke provides the benefits of praying before a meal in the passage above.  Based upon the words used by Luke, saying grace can be moving as people pour out their hearts to God.  This specific prayer encouraged everyone in attendance as well as uplifting their spirits.  If public prayer for a meal could have this impact on a group of people, why is this attorney be so upset?  If prayer can inspire souls to act, what’s the big deal?  How is prayer hurting military bases and the men and women who serve this country?  Perhaps, if atheists, critics and skeptics begin to pray, this world would become a better place.  May the readers of this blog keep General Teichert in your prayers so that the power of prayer will continue to thrive in this country and throughout the world.

by Jay Mankus

The Shadow of Death

Every morning and evening before sunset, shadows reflect the landscape of the earth.  Mountains, rolling hills and trees leave imprints of what is near or around you.  Once darkness exchanges day with night, shadows are limited to moonlight, stars and the northern lights.  However, the shadow of death can apear at a moments notice, signaling that your days on earth are numbered.  24 hours ago there was a murder suicide in my neighborhood, taking the lives of two twenty year olds.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me, Psalm 23:4.

Psalm 23 is a common Bible reading at funerals.  As a shepherd living under the stars, shadows were a normal sight for David.  Yet, the painful reality of death inspired David to coin this chapter.  The only time I have witnessed death was just before my oldest sons birth.  Since my grandfather’s health was failing, family was noticed as everyone gathered around his bed.  Struggling to breathe, my sister Cindy began to read Psalm 23 to ease his pain.  A few minutes later, grandpa Kautz gave up his spirit.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.”

One of the forefather’s of Israel, Moses eludes to the shadow of death in his farewell address before Joshua takes over for him as leader.  Moses provides an unique perspective, using choices as an analogy.  According to Moses, the choices you make daily lead to one destination or the other.  Life and death are a series of choices that shape the path you will take in life.  If this is true, choose life so that the shadow of death will be held off until later on in life.

by Jay Mankus

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