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Tag Archives: Lithuania

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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What It Means to be One Nation Under God

Since October media reports has followed caravans of people from Latin America, hoping for a better life.  Depending upon your choice of cable news networks, reporters covering this story have attempted to define who these people really are.  As the masses have reached the border seeking asylum, politics have divided Americans.  Those who don’t want borders have invoked religion, accusing opponents of being anti-Christian, failing to love these individuals like Jesus.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world, James 1:27.

Anyone who picks and choses what they want to believe from the Bible while disregarding other parts is known as syncretism.  This practice blends cultures, religions and schools of thought to appease, relate to and unite a large diverse audience.  Unfortunately, when politicians use syncretism it’s often masked with Saul Alinsky tactics from Rules for Radicals.  Instead of using the Bible in its proper context, political talking points often seize opportunities like the caravan to condemn and criticize anyone who dares to disagree.  If you watch any nightly news, politics is a vessel of division.  What America needs is to go back to its roots.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17

The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States was composed by Captain George Thatcher Balch. Balch was a Union Army Officer during the Civil War and later became a teacher of patriotism in New York City schools.  The most recent alteration of its wording came on Flag Day in 1954, when the words “under God” were added.  When my father’s family fled Lithuania during the Soviet Union’s invasion of the Baltic States, he came to America to start over living with a host family.  While a large number of Lithuanians migrated to Binghamton, New York, these immigrants eventually became citizens.  The goal wasn’t to make America Lithuanian.  Rather, it was to become one nation, united by a common faith in God, to carry on their former nation’s heritage united under one flag.  This is what it means to live as one nation under God.

by Jay Mankus

Excuse Me

A generation ago, respect was demanded, encouraged and reinforced by most suburban neighborhoods.  Whenever someone burped, farted or responded in a rude manner in public, this act was addressed immediately.  Local communities looked out for the best interest of adolescents as adults weren’t afraid to correct inappropriate behavior.  This era reflected a time when the majority ruled.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come, 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, there is a growing movement in America to remove any monument or statue linked to slavery.  During an interview with the media last week, President Donald Trump addressed this issue.  Using George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as examples, Trump replied “where are you going to stop?”  If this trend is allowed to continue, the offended will expand their sights to erase remaining traces of Christianity within America.  Today, the minority find ways to rule.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! – 1 Corinthians 10:12.

If this removal of American history doesn’t disturb you, let me remind you of Kryziukalnas, Lithuania.  When the former Soviet Union invaded the Baltic States in June of 1940, Soviet officials removed all resembles of faith.  This meant removing all religious symbols.  When the iron curtain fell in the 1980’s, crosses that were found were placed on a hill in northern Lithuania.  This site ensures that future generations won’t forget what happened in the past.  Today, this area is known as the hill of crosses, a symbol of religious freedom.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

In recent days, traces of America’s Civil War are being destroyed.  Fueled by a media frenzy, any monument or statue that suggests racism is under consideration for removal.  However, if local, state and government officials allow this excuse me mentally to reign, any landmark could be in jeopardy.  Do Americans really want to follow in the footsteps of communism?  Who will learn from history if it’s completely obliterated?  May the city of crosses serve as a living example to learn from past mistakes.  Instead of saying excuse me, use any offensive historic symbol as teachable moments to educate those who were not alive.

by Jay Mankus

My Dad

Since 1964, there have been several memorable songs in America and throughout the world.  One of the most popular, My Girl, was the first Temptation single to feature David Ruffin, the voice which transformed this group’s popularity.  However, on Father’s Day, I wonder why there hasn’t there been a similar song to honor dads, something like “My Dad.”  Although I will leave this up to professional song writers, I do think its vital to remember my own dad on this day.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him, Psalm 103:13.

My father was six feet tall as a twelve year old, a size that probably saved his life as the Russians began to invade his native Lithuania.  Fleeing his homeland and hiding in the Black Forest for weeks, my dad came to America with the clothes on his back.  Nothing was given to him as he earned a second language English, devoted himself to education and fell in love with the game of football, playing for the University of Pennsylvania before moving on to the Wharton School of Business.  From here, my dad went on to live the American dream, working his way up the corporate ladder before retiring after thirty years of service with the same company.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation, Psalm 68:5.

Today, I wish I had the same financial resources which my father provided, yet a different calling took me in another direction.  Though I dabbled with a career in golf as an architect and P.G.A. professional, the Holy Spirit nudged me toward youth ministry.  Weaving in coaching, teaching and writing, I’m not sure what the ending of my story on earth will look like.  Nonetheless, I am grateful for a wonderful father, encouraging family and a faith that steers me near the narrow road.  From here, all I can do is honor my father and mother, provide for my wife and children and only hope that I can have as much as an impact as my own father had on me.  Happy Father’s Day to all of you dad’s!

by Jay Mankus

More Than Patriotism

Following the aftermath of April 15th’s terrorist attack during the 2013 Boston Marathon, a spirit of patriotism appears to be spreading across the fruited plains.  Instead of listening to stars preform America’s Nation Anthem, spectators at sporting events in Boston and other cities have become participants, pouring out their soul in song.  Rather than steal the spotlight, celebrities have turned theirs mic away from their own lips, pointing it toward the stands to magnify the crowds’ voices.

As a son of an immigrant from Lithuania, my heart has been touched by this renewed sense of patriotism.  Goosebumps made my hair stand up the first time I saw these highlights.  However, in order for this feeling to last, more than patriotism is required.  While secular and revisionist historians attempt to hide the truth of this country’s founding, Americans must remember the faith of their founders.

Benjamin Franklin once called on delegates of the first Constitutional Convention to pray so that their deadlocks and disagreements might end.  George Washington believed in the divine providence of God after gunfire from an ambush appeared to have bounced off his body.  John Adams had a vision for a land built upon the honest practice of biblical principles.  Speaking on America’s independence, Patrick Henry acknowledged that God has blessed this land.  Therefore, if you are moved to patriotism, go one step further by following in the faith of our founders!

by Jay Mankus

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