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Cancelled by Coronavirus

In a matter of days, college and professional sports seasons, public education classes and my volleyball league have either been cancelled, closed their doors for two to four weeks or suspended their seasons. The culprit, the Coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19 is to blame for this latest pandemic. While out picking up weekly supplies during my normal time, local shoppers treated Thursday afternoon as if the world was coming to an end. With this in mind, what does the Bible say about viruses?

At midnight the Lord slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead, Exodus 12:29-30.

The most famous plague of the Old Testament struck Egypt prior to the Exodus of the Jews. According to Moses, every family was impacted, losing the first born male overnight. Meanwhile, cattle farmers lost first born calves as well. According to Numbers 16:49, 14,700 individuals died in a plague brought on by the disobedience of Korah. Another 24,000 Israelites were wiped out by a similar plague in Numbers 25:9. There are other accounts of angels of death, deadly plagues and a real Devil who daily seeks to steal, kill and destroy the lives of weakened souls, 1 Peter 5:8.

So I looked, and behold, an ashy pale horse [black and blue as if made so by bruising], and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades (the realm of the dead) followed him closely. And they were given authority and power over a fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword and with famine and with plague (pestilence, disease) and with wild beasts of the earth, Revelation 6:8.

Whenever individuals experience the unknown, doubt, fear and panic can take hold of troubled hearts. In just one week, life as we know it has been turned upside down. The only recent pandemic that is comparable was the H1N1, back in the Spring of 2009. My oldest son contracted the Swine Flu months later during the Cross Country season. Although James missed nearly 3 weeks of school, he made a complete and full recovery. As human beings, not being in control of your health and well being conceives emotions of hopelessness. Yet, the only thing that you can do right now until COVID-19 goes into remission is pray to the God of miracles.

by Jay Mankus

How Bad Do You Want It?

To excel at a high level, many athletes join travel teams at an early age to maximize their full potential. Depending upon an individual’s commitment, desire and overall talent, coaches will push these rising stars to new heights. Parents will continue to fork over thousands of dollars each year with the goal of eventually earning a full college scholarship. The end result often relies on how bad do these student athletes want to compete at the next level.

Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

From a spiritual perspective, God uses free will to reveal who wants it more. Instead of forcing the earth to comply, God introduced the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel in Exodus 20. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ opened the door for Gentiles to be welcomed into God’s family. For anyone who wants to excel spiritually, Jesus summarizes a primary goal: love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul adds another element to how bad do you want to draw near to God. Paul suggests that human bodies are on loan from God. Thus, if you want to reach your full potential as a believer, treating your body as a living temple of God is essential. Those who want it more spiritually will separate themselves via fruits of the spirit. Since talk is cheap, time will tell how bad you want to please God?

by Jay Mankus

Integrity Doesn’t Take a Day Off

Daniel spent 70 years in public service while living in exile. Despite being 85 years of age at this point in time, Daniel served in 3 different administrations under 3 kings. Like any successful leader, Daniel developed a daily ritual, praying 3 times a day. This time of reflection enabled Daniel to remember Israel, hoping to return to his native country.

And over them three presidents—of whom Daniel was one—that these satraps might give account to them and that the king should have no loss or damage. Then this Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king thought to set him over the whole realm, Daniel 6:2-3.

According to the passage above, carefully following God’s laws in a foreign land helped Daniel distinguish himself from the other administrators. Apparently, Daniel didn’t leave his integrity in Jerusalem nor did he allow temptation to influence any thoughts of taking a vacation from his faith. Although the excellent spirit doesn’t specify if this is the Holy Spirit or not, Daniel maintained a positive attitude throughout his exile in Babylon.

Then they came near and said before the king concerning his prohibitory decree, Have you not signed an edict that any man who shall make a petition to any god or man within thirty days, except of you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed or repealed. 13 Then they said before the king, That Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, does not regard or pay any attention to you, O king, or to the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day, Daniel 6:12-13.

In this day of political correctness, integrity gets Christians into trouble daily. While you won’t end up in a den of lions like Daniel, standing up for God could result in a lost job, losing friends or a slandered reputation via social media. Going against the flow, especially taking a stand that opposes the modern progressive movement will result in outrage. Thus, making sure that integrity doesn’t take a day off requires self-discipline and will power. May Daniel’s example give you the boldness and courage to follow in his footsteps of integrity.

by Jay Mankus

The Dangers of Discouragement

Discouragement comes from a lack of confidence or enthusiasm. When events, your job or life doesn’t end up how you expected and wanted, this often results in disappointment. If no encouraging news follows, souls become deflated. If this dis-spiritedness continues without any glimpses of hope, discouragement can settle in upon a community, town or nation.

And they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, and the people became impatient (depressed, much discouraged), because [of the trials] of the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and we loathe this light (contemptible, unsubstantial) manna. Then the Lord sent fiery (burning) serpents among the people; and they bit the people, and many Israelites died, Numbers 21:4-6.

Israel was promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but were stuck going around in circles, lost in the middle of a desert. This is the context of the passage above as Israel became depressed and discouraged. Like an unhappy employee complaining about their company, Israel began to voice their frustration with God. Moses details how impatience fueled grumbling spirits, verbalizing their displeasure with God. God responds with an infestation of snakes, making their situation worse.

For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [[i]morally] to all people [not only [j]being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:8-10.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of a farmer to address discouragement. When the weather is bad, farmers at are the mercy of mother nature, God. Yet, you reap what you sow. Those who plan ahead, taking the time to secure their fields will be rewarded in the end. Unfortunately, many people give up before the harvest arrives, never seeing the fruit of their labor. Thus, the biblical way to overcome the dangers of discouragement is to fight through these tough emotional times by never giving up.

by Jay Mankus

Another Form of False Prophets

Moses is one of the first Jewish leaders to warn Israel concerning false prophets.  In the passage below, Moses provides a standard to determine if someone is speaking a message from God or simply presumptuously.  Unfortunately, some so called prophets are influenced by arrogance, a brazen attitude or overconfidence.  This lack of discipline results in false predictions, promises and statements.

When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him, Deuteronomy 18:22.

Since 1960, a Green New Deal has been proposed by a number of progressive candidates such as George McGovern, Al Gore and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  The most recent proposal from AOC, drafted in December of 2018, included a warning that the United States would suffer irreversible coastal damage if environmental changes aren’t enacted soon.  During a recent interview, the author of this latest Green New Deal proposal said “the Green New Deal is not primarily about addressing the climate crisis, but about replacing America’s capitalist economy with a more socialist one.”

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and they will provide great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect (God’s chosen ones). 25 Listen carefully, I have told you in advance, Matthew 24:24-25.

While Moses does not call presumptuous prophets liars, Jesus is more blunt in the New Testament.  Anyone who gives inaccurate, false or misleading statements about God are called false prophets.  Yet, the charisma of some of these individuals will cause many devout Christians to be deceived by what appears to be good intentions.  This led the apostle Paul to urge believers to test everything you hear with the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Thus, the next time you hear a statement that seems too good to be true, cross reference this with God’s Word so that you are not fooled by another form of false prophets.

by Jay Mankus

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

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

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