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Afraid of the Silence

The pastor of the church Leanne and I attended on Sunday did a ten second experiment in the middle of his sermon. After reading Psalm 46:10, he glanced at his watch, not saying a word. This awkward silence felt longer than ten seconds, but he was trying to prove a point. The next portion of his message illustrated how most adults are afraid of silence, drowning it out with noise from some form of electronics.

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him, Psalm 62:5.

Back in high school, silence was never a good thing on a date. Despite my fears of stuttering, I tried to say something funny to keep a conversation going. From a relational point of view, silence is either a sign of boredom or a lack of compatibility. As an adult, my own silence is usually a byproduct of shear exhaustion. While I enjoy talking, I don’t mind the silence as much as it gives me time to reflect upon life.

Set a guard, O Lord, before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips, Psalm 141:3.

According to the Psalmists, a collection of chapters written by different authors, silence is symbolic of a mature faith. When you don’t like your job or work, anyone can become great at procrastinating. Yet, the more time you kill in idle adventures, the less time you have to connect with and stay in tune with God. When you’re talking over someone, it’s hard to listen. Even if you’re afraid of the silence of being alone like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, when the Holy Spirit speaks God’s message, it’s clearer in the silence.

by Jay Mankus

Hear, Listen, and Heed God’s Voice

Depending upon how well you sleep the night before and how you’re feeling when you get up, your mental alertness varies. If you wake up in a fog, you’ll overlook the obvious signs of God’s presence. Meanwhile, your ability to hear will be impaired until your body fully wakes up. On the other hand, if you’re well rested and possess a sound mind, hearing, listening and heeding God’s voice is possible.

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.

Anyone who has ever battled depression for an extended period of time, turns their attention to within. This fragile state of mind causes me to block out what’s going on around me. My main concern is dwelling on my pathetic state, seeking a pity party from others I come in contact with. Subsequently, you may end up like Elijah who isn’t hungry and would rather sleep, hoping his situation improves in the morning.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:20.

According to a vision received by John, God will try to get your attention. John uses the analogy of God knocking on a door, perhaps the door to your heart. If you’re sober, you’ll have a better chance of listening, seeing, and sensing the presence of God. Yet, John suggests hearing and listening is just step 1 and step 2 of this process. The final call is heeding the advice God gives you. Ready, set and engage God.

by Jay Mankus

Brace Your Mind

The book definition of brace is a device fitted to something, in particular a weak or injured part of the body, to give support. After a car accident, particularly a fender bender, it isn’t uncommon to see the person who was hit in a neck brace. Yet, in this age of mental health awareness, no one practices the concept of bracing your mind. Rather, drugs are often prescribed to kill your pain as if to pretend everything will be okay in the morning.

So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed. 14 [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel], 1 Peter 1:13-14.

When you listen and read the four accounts of the Gospel, Peter comes across as the most vocal disciple. While several of the disciples are shown periodically talking amongst one another, it is Peter who raises his voice to express opinions to Jesus. Unfortunately, Peter made a habit of talking before thinking through what he was about to say. Perhaps this is what caused Peter to exclaim “brace up your minds.”

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-3.

The apostle Paul adds to Peter’s statement in the passage above. When an individual transitions from living for themselves to dedicating their lives to God, this takes time. Programing your minds to exchange curse words for more appropriate terms isn’t easy. This is why it’s important for all Christians to brace up their minds so that your new life in Christ will eventually shine through to others.

by Jay Mankus

Do Not Mix Snobbery with Faith

In this age of politics, if a representative does not hold a liberal or progressive view, these individuals are immediately called and labeled racists by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the political leaders doing the name calling have stopped serving the people they claim to represent by paying homage to campaign donors and lobbyists. One of the only things worse than this is mixing snobbery with faith.

My brethren, pay no servile regard to people [show no prejudice, no partiality]. Do not [attempt to] hold and practice the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Lord] of glory [together with snobbery]! – James 2:1

Jesus is painfully honest of his expectations for Christians in Matthew 5:43-48. Yet, as I study the Bible, I find Jesus more frustrated by religious leaders than anyone else. Sure, there is plenty of blame to pass around as everyone has failed to live up to God’s standards, Romans 3:9-12. Nonetheless, Jesus was irritated by religious zealots who confused religion with faith, Mark 2:25-27.

For if a person comes into your congregation whose hands are adorned with gold rings and who is wearing splendid apparel, and also a poor [man] in shabby clothes comes in, And you pay special attention to the one who wears the splendid clothes and say to him, Sit here in this preferable seat! while you tell the poor [man], Stand there! or, Sit there on the floor at my feet! – James 2:2-3.

The book definition of snob is a person with an exaggerated respect for high social positions or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class. The earthly brother of Jesus points out discrimination that was occurring in first century churches. The wealthy were given preferential treatment while the poor became social outcasts. When the concept of loving all your neighbors is absent, modern-day Christians mix snobbery with faith. Listen, learn and love!

by Jay Mankus

Full of It

Every generation has their own cultural language. These slang sayings or words provide unique ways to communicate with people your own age. When I was younger, if you said something outlandish, you would likely hear someone in the crowd say, “you’re full of it.” This expression refers to being unreliable or ridiculous (usually due to making unfounded or nonsensical statements).

For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody, 1 Timothy 4:8-9.

As I have grown older and wiser, I am not as vocal as in my younger years. Rather than speak prematurely, I tend to sit back and observe my surroundings. As a listener, it’s easier to see the character of those who you interact with or work side by side. Over time you’ll be able to extract what inside other human beings. Or as the apostle Paul suggests in the passage above, what are you full of?

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the [g]breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature],exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. 13 And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, naked and defenseless to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do, Hebrews 4:12-13.

A first century doctor makes an interesting observation while listening to Jesus speak. On this particular day, people came from all over Judea and Jerusalem and to seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. Near the end of his speech, Jesus reveals that human beings speak out of the overflow of their heart. Whatever is inside of you, will come out eventually, the good and the bad, Luke 6:45. In view of this reality, the next tell you open your mouth, be cautious as what are you full of will soon be revealed.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

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.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Explaining the Unexplainable

My favorite author as a teenager was Daniel Cohen.  Most of Cohen’s books coincide with unsolved mysteries.  The television series In Search Of which ran from 1977-1982 examined mysterious phenomenas.  This fascination continued with Unsolved Mysteries which ran for a decade into the 1990’s.  Today, this traditional programming continues with the History Channel’s version the Unexplained.

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything, Genesis 9:2-3.

Unfortunately, over the past 40 years, topics such as Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Abominable Snowman still remain a mystery.  These creatures of the night are more legend, a figment of our imagination rather than reality.  During a recent binge of the Unexplained, I came across a new mystery, the Mongolian Death Worm.  Sure, the name sounds strange for a worm, but this crypto that resides underneath the Gobi Desert inspired Tremors, a 1990 film starring Kevin Bacon.  However, until an actual body is caught or carcass found, this creature will remain fiction until facts prove it’s existence.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind,” Job 12:7-10.

Based upon the passage above, God has all the answers.  Unfortunately, most people don’t take the time to listen or slow down enough to reflect upon God’s creation.  Those who birdwatch, fish or sightsee have the advantage of taking in the heavens and the earth.  While there will always be unexplainable events and questions that you will have to wait until heaven to be answered, take the advice of the Psalmist.  “Be still before the Lord, Psalm 46:10.”

by Jay Mankus

Average Isn’t Good Enough

In the context of golf, average is like the par for each hole listed on a course’s scorecard. Amateurs golfers strive for par, hoping to take advantage of the easier holes. Meanwhile, the more difficult holes will challenge players, often satisfied with a bogey, one over par. This isn’t the case for professionals who will usually miss 36 hole cuts if they don’t shoot several strokes under par. Average golf professionals don’t last long on the PGA Tour, demoted to a lesser tour or forced to pursue another career.

Concerning this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull and sluggish in [your spiritual] hearing and disinclined to listen, Hebrews 5:11.

The Bible doesn’t paint a positive picture of average Christians. The author of Hebrews refers to an individual who is dull, ignorant and stubborn. Instead of reaching new heights, an unwillingness to listen has resulted in an average life. The difference between an amateur and a professional is the amateur dabbles, unsure of themselves. The professional is committed, determined and focused, possessing a faith in their God given talent. Most amateurs are content with their current status, falling back on another trade as their main career.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers [because of the time you have had to learn these truths], you actually need someone to teach you again the elementary principles of God’s word [from the beginning], Hebrews 5:12.

According to the Bible, God expects Christians to move beyond elementary principles. The apostle Paul uses the analogy of growing up, from a child into a man, 1 Corinthians 13:11. At some point, the Lord wants all believers to put aside childish ways. Modern churches use the confirmation process as a vehicle for growth, enabling teenage boys and girls to take ownership of their faith. As adults, God expects more, to move beyond an amateur mindset toward the devotion of a disciple. May this blog inspire souls to draw closer to Jesus, eager to serve the Lord daily.

by Jay Mankus

Speed Trap

Back in 1986, I was introduced to the need for speed. The film Top Gun coincided with the year I received my driver’s license. Thus, when Maverick and Goose approach their fighter jet, played by Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards, I understood their conversation, “I feel the need, the need for speed.”

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; James 1:19.

I was naïve back then, unaware of the speed traps lurking around each corner. Nine months after I got my license I received my first speeding ticket, flying down the St. George’s Bridge, oblivious to the cop at the bottom of the hill. This past Monday, I spent the day in traffic court for my son Daniel who received a ticket Christmas Eve, driving to my parents house after work. Hopefully, he too learned a valuable listen.

For the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us], James 1:20.

The Bible has an interesting perspective on speed traps. Instead of focusing on driving, the context above refers to speeding up and slowing down. The earthly brother of Jesus encourages first century Christians to be quick to listen. Apparently, the need for speed is centered around becoming a better listener. Meanwhile, you must fight the urge to become angry, slowing down as a form of discipline to tame your tongue. Therefore, the next time you get behind the wheel, dial in your ears toward heaven so that you avoid any urge for a lead foot or road rage.

by Jay Mankus

The Door to Life

The word entrance is an opening that allows access to a place.  The most common entrance is a door, but others include corridors, gates and passages.  Prior to modern technology such as cell phones, email or social media, you went to someone’s house if you wanted to get their attention.  The Bible uses a similar concept, but before you find the correct door, you must listen first.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me, Revelation 3:20.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between listening and acting upon advice from the Holy Spirit.  Anyone can notice, observe or understand the way to heaven, yet unless you exercise faith by opening the door to life, this knowledge is useless.  If you take the passage above literally, God speaks to individuals throughout life.  This could be through miracles, signs or wonders.  Nonetheless, God doesn’t do everything for you as only you can open this door.

Whoever you are who seeks to honor these doors, you should seek not to admire the gold or the expense, but the craftmanship of the work instead.  The noble work is bright, but because it is nobly bright, let it brighten minds so that they may travel through the true lights to the True Light. where Christ is the True Door, Abbot Suger – 1140.

Abbot Suger was a French abbot, statesman, and historian during the late 11th century.  Suger was one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture.  If you enter any historic church, you will likely find magnificent stain glass windows inside or behind the altar inspired by this time period.  At some point in his life, Suger listened to God’s voice and opened the door to life.  In the quote above, Suger suggests that there are counterfeits, masquerading as the way to heaven.  Yet, by the end of his life, Suger came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the true door to life.

by Jay Mankus

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