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Expecting God to Come Through One More Time

As a former high school teacher, I understand how and why students struggle to remember important information.  Depending upon the day or time, I could tell who was paying attention from those zoned out.  Entertainment, social media and video games has influenced this generation, resulting in a shortened attention span.  Unless students find a topic interesting, hearts, minds and souls drift off into space.  If attending school becomes a drag, getting teenagers interested in spiritual matters can be just as challenging.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor (respect) except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household,” Mark 6:4.

To a certain extent, the people living in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth became spoiled.  After his first miracle at a wedding in Cana, there was a growing sentiment that if Jesus just performed one more miracle, then people would believe.  This show me mentality is the opposite of genuine faith.  Perhaps, some individuals were jealous, not present for Jesus turning water into wine.  Thus, expecting God to come through one more time doesn’t seem unreasonable.

And He could not do a miracle there at all [because of their unbelief] except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. He wondered at their unbelief.  And He was going around in the villages teaching, Mark 6:5-6.

Nonetheless, a spiritual haze fell upon the citizens of Nazareth.  When you add this to the reputation of this town, even one of Jesus’ own disciples questioned if anything good could come out of this place, John 1:46-47.  Crime and poverty demoralized many who lived there, setting the stage for a show me, don’t tell me mindset.  Thus, Nazareth became like kryptonite to Jesus, unable to perform miracles when returning home.  John Mark states that Jesus was surprised by this inexplicable unbelief.  This spiritual state prevented individuals from expecting God to come through one more time.  Maybe this same condition is influencing Americans today?

by Jay Mankus

When I Can’t Find My Way Out

Although you may not know or recognize it, everyone has their own kryptonite.  This weakness makes human beings limited, powerless or at best, vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.  For me, I can be directionally challenged, regularly losing my way.  Stubbornness only worsens my condition, trusting in myself instead of leaning on outside sources like modern technology.  Unfortunately, some people never make the necessary changes, unable to find their way out of addiction, bad habits or poor choices.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

The author of the book of 1 Corinthians uses history as a way of understanding the past.  As the apostle Paul reflects upon the foundation of Israel as a nation, most died before ever seeing God’s promise fulfilled.  Whether ignorance, selfishness or a lack of vision was to blame, the majority did not please God.  Instead of appreciating manna from heaven, greed led souls to demand more.  God was treated like a grocery clerk at a check out line, praying for this or that without any regard for developing an intimate relationship.  Thus, the wilderness serves as a remainder of what not to do.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

What I fail to comprehend about the nature of God is that the Lord uses wilderness phases in life to prepare us for what’s next.  If you don’t adapt, learn or mature during these trials, you won’t be ready to succeed in the future.  While guarding angels are working behind the scenes to usher in the good things God has planned for us, Philippians 1:6, I often get in the way.  Impatience wants me to quickly skip ahead to the next journey in life before overcoming present obstacles.  Thus, it’s sad to say that I can’t find my way out, leaving me stuck living in the wilderness of broken dreams.  Perhaps, 1 Corinthians 10:13 contains the key, the missing link to take those living in defeat toward the door of victory.  May you endure this present life long enough so that the way out is revealed to you through whispers of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

 

Moderation

In ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary, the travails of John Daly are highlighted in Hit it Hard.  Based upon a song written by John, a two time major winner on the PGA Tour, Daly shares his battle with alcohol, gambling and series of failed marriages.  Due to an addictive personality, the concept of moderation is something Daly has has a hard time grasping.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything, 1 Corinthians 6:12.

Whether you are Superman, a professional athlete or an average human being, everyone has a kryptonite.  This condition, element or weakness prevents individuals from reaching their full potential.  Temptation is always lurking, trying to lure people away from good habits and safe environments.  Danger arrives when inner demons convince former addicts that they can handle a situation without God’s help.  This usually results in self-destruction.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body, 1 Corinthians 6:18.

There are ways to view moderation.  First, some will say that adults should be mature enough to know their limits.  Requiring self-control, this logical approach gives people freedom to develop boundaries.  The second perspective is more cautious, understanding that once you open pandora’s box, there’s no going back.  Either way, unless you have a friend who holds you accountable or a personal relationship with God, the quest for moderation can be a never ending battle.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

The Place of No Return

Deep inside of every individual, a confidence exists whispering “I can do this.”  No matter how dire a situation may get, hope exists giving those on the verge of disaster an optimistic perspective on the future.  Unfortunately, some go too far, reaching the point of no return.

Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead, Proverbs 2:18.

Solomon’s kryptonite was women.  While Don Juan’s move from one partner to the next as if playing a game is impressive, Solomon set the bar high, acquiring over 1000 women as king of Israel.  Somewhere along this accumulation process, Solomon reached a point of no return.  This lustful passion carried him over the edge, creating a wedge between God and the sinful nature.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, Galatians 5:16.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the apostle Paul offers a word of hope.  The only way to withdraw from the place of no return involves the Holy Spirit.  This invisible counselor can help you come back to your senses.  On your own, expect failure.  Yet, with the Lord on your side, you can find your way back home soon.  Start now.

by Jay Mankus

Something is Missing

In the realm of Marvel Comics, each super hero has a weakness.  Despite their power and strength, beneath the surface lies a kryptonite, a force that evens the playing field.  If these figures allow this element to remain in their presence, their impact on society is minimized.  The same can be said about normal human beings who experience mediocre lives, struggling to ascertain what’s missing, preventing you from reaching your full potential.

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:8.

Although its probably over analyzed in sports, each year a Cinderella team comes out of no where to contend and sometimes win a championship.  On paper, there’s no logical explanation for this.  Yet, when individuals and a group come together to form perfect chemistry, an atmosphere for success is achieved.  Despite what the experts may say, when you surround yourself with the right people, you will be surprised by results that follow.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12.

A thought occurred to me yesterday at work, something is missing in my life.  My enthusiasm, joy and passion for life is gone.  As I tried to put my finger on the real issue, another message came to me.  The missing ingredient for me is a church home.  Prayer and a personal quiet time reading the Bible can only take you so far.  After experiencing the demise of Red Lion Evangelical Free Church and School up close as leader, its been hard for me to go all in, afraid of getting hurt again.  Yet, if I want to reach the summit of my potential, the missing link for me is committing 100 % to a congregation that I can serve in.

by Jay Mankus

 

Finding the Weak Link

Whenever law enforcement or the FBI wants to bring down a powerful criminal, perhaps they might start with surveillance.  After a period of time, officials will search for a small fry who has access to the big fish.  When the weak link is identified, this individual is pressured to provide important information.  If this person does not cooperate, threats of prosecution often persuade them to go along.

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him, Mark 14:1.

Early in the first century, religious officials realized they could not outwit Jesus, so they began to secretly probe his twelve disciples.  During this process, the chief priests identified someone they could influence.  Miffed by Jesus’ waste of perfume, the treasurer Judas Iscariot, was tweaked enough to turn to the dark side.  Tempted by thirty pieces of silver, Judas agreed to betray Jesus with a kiss.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly, Mark 14:4-5.

Regardless of how strong someone may appear, each possess flaws, imperfections and weaknesses.  Thus, no one is exempt from being exposed as a weak link.  Satan knows your kryptonite, scanning back and forth throughout the earth, waiting to pounce on the isolated, vulnerable and weak.  Therefore, be on guard, armed with the armor of God, Ephesians 6:12-20 so when the days of evil come, you will be ready to defend yourself.

by Jay Mankus

The Unbreakable Theory

In the realm of Super heroes, there are usual two polar opposites who become arch enemies.  Like characters within Marvel Comics, it takes time for each individuals’ hidden powers to become realized.  Through trial and error, supernatural abilities are developed, harnessed and put into action to either better the world or pursue evil.  Although appearing unbreakable, every hero and villain possess a weakness, invisible until their Kryptonite sucks away their strength.

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:17

In the 2000 film Unbreakable, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis portray a modern day relationship between a villain and superhero.  However, each character appears lost, unaware of their purpose in life.  Inspired by a love for comic books, Samuel L. Jackson resorts to terrorism, searching for someone who is unbreakable.  Meanwhile, Bruce Willis plays a security guard, unaware of his unique gift until he passes Jackson’s test, the lone survivor of a deadly train wreck.

As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. – Romans 7:17

In the spiritual world, a similar force is at work, resulting in an unseen battle between good and evil.  C.S. Lewis tackles this subject in Mere Christianity within chapter 1 of Book 2, entitled the Invasion.  Known as dualism in theology, there are two independent powers in the universe that are in conflict with one another.  These competing forces of good and evil require a third party, a judge to determine who is to blame or at fault.  This war rages on in the human body daily as the sinful nature and worldly desires entice souls through temptation to choose wrong over right.  Although there aren’t superheroes in this life, may the power of the Holy Spirit keep you from becoming forever broken.

by Jay Mankus

Blinded by Loyalty

Superman had kryptonite, Samson Delilah and for many coaches, loyalty blinds them from helping their team reach their full potential.  From the sidelines, I’ve seen professionals fail to win a title by filling in their rosters with their guys, not the most talented ones.  Meanwhile, travel ball squads often finalize the team with coaches kids, forgoing success to make everyone’s parents feel better.

Like a student experiencing their first bout of puppy dog love, you can’t get through to these individuals until its too late.  Developing an affection, attachment or devotion is natural, yet seeing the big picture isn’t always possible.  The blinding forces of love make it hard to think straight, especially when an outsider points out certain flaws.  Out of loyalty, feelings prevent most from making the best decisions for the greater good of a team.

In life, sometimes you have to take chances even if it means ruffling feathers.  While you may not change the minds of those in charge, if you remain silent you are committing a sin of omission.  If things go bad, you might even lose friendships.  Nonetheless, if you want those you care about to reach their full potential, don’t be afraid to expose anyone blinded by loyalty.

by Jay Mankus

 

By the Sweat of Your Brow

 

The poor have said, “the rich have won life’s lottery!”  Meanwhile, the middle class are waiting for their big break, a chance for the world to recognize their talents.  On the other hand, the wealthy are trying to keep up with the Joneses, working harder than ever to buy their next show piece.

Whether you are wrestling with poverty, keeping your head above debt or living on cloud 9, everyone makes their living by the sweat of their brow.  Since original sin entered mankind in Genesis 3:17-19, God made life as we know it hard.  Gone are the days of milk and honey, evaporating in a promised land turned to sand.  Like the humidity of a summer sun sapping all your strength, the worries of life can wilt any soul not prepared for unexpected trials.

As I was doing my final touches of yard work before the growing season ends, I was reminded of God’s words in Genesis 3:19.  Yes, even the invincible will experience kryptonite at some point.  This will paralyze your ability to save yourself, leading to the grave, to become like the dust that God formed Adam out of.  In view of this bleak destiny, its vital to make plans for the afterlife, John 14:3.  Therefore, while you have time to breathe, take note of God’s promise in 1 John 5:13-15.  Inquire before you expire.

by Jay Mankus

The Real Incredible Hulk

I’m not talking about Lou Ferrigno who played the Incredible Hulk for 5 seasons on the television series which aired on CBS from 1978-1982.  Nor am I referring to a Marvel Comic superhero like Spider Man, whose powers came as a result of a freak chemical accident.  Rather, the real incredible hulk was a man born around 1100 BC, over 3100 years ago.

In the annuals of history, records reveals civilizations of Nephilim, descendants of giants, Genesis 6:4.  However, the living hulk came from a traditional family, son of Manoah.  His birth in itself was a miracle, since his mother was sterile according to Judges 13:2-3.  Although an angel of the Lord foretold of Samson’s birth, this hulk received his power by keeping the Nazarene covenant with God: no razor shall touch his hair, no wine shall reach his lips and nothing unclean will touch his hands.

As a result, this incredible hulk tore apart the mouths of lions with his bare hands, Judges 14:5, killed 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone, Judges 15:16 and pulled down the 2 pillars to a temple he was tied to, Judges 16:29-30.  Like comic book super heroes, Samson’s Kryptonite was a beautiful woman named Delilah.  Similar to a Hatfield marrying a McCoy, his marriage led to his subsequent death,  When Samson finally gave Delilah what she was after, the secret to his strength, his fate was sealed.

While alive, the incredible hulk did not rely on anger to display his might.  Samson’s supernatural power was bestowed upon him by God, a clear blessing from staying true to his parent’s vows.  Once Delilah cut his hair, Samson was powerless, cut off from God’s Spirit.  In this world filled with temptations, don’t allow compromise to render you useless.  Follow the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:1-2 and you will see incredible changes as you serve the Creator who endows all spiritual hulks!

by Jay Mankus

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