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The Dumbing Down of America

If you follow current events, every day there is at least one news story that sounds like an April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, most of these are true, a sign of the dumbing down of America. Take for example a recent press conference by the mayor of New Your City. Mayor Bill de Blasio was shocked on April 20, saying it is “unconscionable” that criminals released early from prison over coronavirus fears would commit new crimes. De Blasio could not understand how someone who was shown mercy could quickly become a repeat offender. Can someone say, “hello McFly.”

For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul made a head scratching statement. While the educators, philosophers and scholars of his day likely scoffed upon receiving news of his comment, Paul’s words have proven to be prophetic. From a historical context, a painting from the Italian Renaissance points to this transition. Raphael’s School of Athens includes two well known philosophers. Plato represents the old school of thought, pointing up to heaven. Meanwhile, Aristotle is symbolic of the new age, pointing within. As the centuries have past, many have rejected God in favor of science.

For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning; I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing, 1 Corinthians 1:19.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul uses the expression “baffle and render the wise useless.” Perhaps, Paul was referring to mere intellectual assent. This occurs when individuals have a logical appreciation for God, knowledge without belief. On average, there is 18 inches between the human heart and mind. Yet, until the heart and mind are on the same page as Roman 10:9-10, faith is merely a concept. When individuals are brilliant, logical or wealthy, trusting in an invisible God seems foolish. While in college, I came across a stat that said 85% of people who decide to follow Jesus do so before the age of 18. Thus, the older you get, the harder it becomes to surrender. When people resist God, foolish statements and dumb reasons often follow.

by Jay Mankus

You Had Me at Hello

The expression “You had me at hello” comes from a classic scene from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The context of this saying by Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire begins early in this movie. Renee plays a little known secretary, Dorothy Boyd, observing from a distance the man who built a high powered sports agency firm where she works. When Cruise develops a conscience after talking to one of his client’s sons, this inspires a new mission statement. Unfortunately, this new philosophy results in Jerry’s firing. Upon his departure, Dorothy is the only employee who is willing to quit her job, joining Cruise to start a new sports agency. This loyalty causes Jerry to marry Dorothy before debt and failure results in their separation. When this failed business venture finally has it’s first break through, Cruise has no one to share this great news with. Thus, Jerry finds himself in the middle of a room filled with divorced women, hoping that he can salvage his marriage.

So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! – Luke 15:15-17

The Bible has it’s own version of you had me at hello. During a series of three parables, Luke illustrates how these analogies by Jesus illustrate how heaven celebrates individuals who turn back to God. The parable of Lost Sheep reveal how God searches after sheep, lost souls that go astray. The parable of the Lost Coin suggests that angels in heaven celebrate each time people make a U-turn back to God by repenting. The most famous example follows a younger brother who deserts his family, squandering his inheritance on wild living. When his money runs out, this prodigal is forced to become a slave at a pig farm, longing to eat the pods fed to the herd. From God’s perspective, when wayward souls come to their senses begging for forgiveness and mercy, the Lord embraces you at hello.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him, Luke 15:18-20.

No matter how far people stray from God today, it’s never too late to say hello. The prophet Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. When the Lord continues to urge you to tell Israel of bad news, it’s hard to remain positive. Yet, while writing the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah provides a glimpse of hope. Lamentations 3:19-24 contains the subtitle Hope in Relief of God’s Mercy. This passage unveils the biblical promise that God’s compassion never fails, new every morning. Therefore, whether this blog finds you in a state like Jerry Maguire, a wandering sheep or a prodigal that has gone over the deep end, the Lord is waiting for you with open arms. Luke’s depiction compares God to a retired senior citizen sitting on his front porch, waiting for his children to visit. As soon as you make that final turn back in the right direction, God the Father runs to meet you half way, welcoming you home.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming the Burnout Syndrome

This week the World Health Organization has officially added Burnout Syndrome to its’ list of recognized disorders.  Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.  Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress.  Those most affected by this disorder are individuals forced to work a second job, those seeking to reinvent themselves in a new career after being laid off and workaholics.  Whenever human beings do not possess some sort of balance in the form of active hobbies, people are at risk of becoming burned out.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship, Romans 12:1.

According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, only one third of Americans enjoy and feel engaged by their current occupation.  If this study is accurate, nearly 70% of adults go to work each week disappointed, frustrated and unsatisfied with their job.   Trying to find what you were born to do or the job or your dreams can be extremely difficult.  This search can take months, years and even decades to complete until you find yourself eager to get up daily to do what you love.  For those of you in a holding pattern, doing whatever position you have to until another door opens, staying optimistic is hard.  Yet, as individuals wrestle with symptoms of the burnout syndrome, there is a cure for this disorder in the Bible.

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:2.

The apostle Paul writes a letter to the church at Rome to help people feeling lost, not sure about what direction to take in life.  Overcoming the burnout syndrome begins with viewing your life as a gift from God.  Just as Rush Limbaugh has coined the phrase “talent on loan from God, ” each day on earth should be devoted to becoming a living sacrifice for God.  When a decision is made to dedicate your life to God, holiness and worship become a daily priority.  According to Paul, as believers begin to read, study and meditate upon the Word of God, the Bible, hearts and mind become aligned with God.  Therefore, if you want to overcome the burnout syndrome, begin the quest to ascertain God’s will for your life so that your job will become a mission from above.

by Jay Mankus

God Doesn’t Move… But Many Run Away

The phrase “like father like son” first appeared in 1616, written within a book called Bibliotheca Scholastica Instructissima.  This piece included proverbs collected by an Englishman named Thomas Draxe.  Apparently, this idiom existed in the English language prior to this date, verbally communicated in similar manners or ways.  The point expressed by this saying implies that sons tend to emulate their fathers in action. behavior and word.  The eyes of a young child are watching, copying what they see.

Then the eyes of the two of them were opened [that is, their awareness increased], and they knew that they were naked; and they fastened fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden, Genesis 3:7-8.

The Bible has another way of explaining like father like son.  The theological term used in the Old Testament is generational sins: weaknesses or tendencies that are handed down to individuals through the generations from parents or members of a family. These sins can involve behavioral patterns and ways of thinking that keep us trapped in the past.  When Adam and Eve broke the only rule in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:16-17, God didn’t move, but this couple ran, hiding in shame.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers upon the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],” Exodus 34:6-7.

When the news that Aaron, his brother, helped the people of Israel create a golden calf, righteous anger led Moses to break the 10 commandments.  After coming back down the mountain, Moses introduces generation sins with the phrase iniquities of the father.  Any violation of God’s moral law is considered an iniquity.  Thus, each time a father strays from the Word of God, setting a bad example for his children, these sinful tendencies are passed down three to four generations.  Isaac learned how to lie from his father Abraham, Jacob’s family was notorious for disguising the truth and Solomon developed an unwholesome obsession with women after his birth from an adulterous affair.

‘Because the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land which He promised to give them, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 But now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving wickedness and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting (avenging) the wickedness and guilt of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers],’ Numbers 14:16-18.

Everyone has some sort of tendency to collect or pick what they see on a daily basis.  This subconscious practice shapes who you and I become.  Some may do this to fit in, others to obtain a hobby with a few to merely pass time.  Nonetheless, the scene in the Garden of Eden is replayed daily when conviction leads to guilt and shame.  Instead of drawing near to God, many run away ashamed, embarrassed and haunted by past mistakes.  When any hopes for perfection are shattered, may the grace of God lead you to stick around.  Wait for God’s forgiveness and mercy to be poured out through confession like a cold glass of water on a hot and humid day.

by Jay Mankus

Playing God

If you take the time to catch up on breaking news, you might notice a disturbing new trend.  Instead of providing the full context of a conversation, sound bytes are used to promote a certain narrative.  Instead of relying on truth, justice and the American way, political allegiances have been formed.  This decision has replaced the Bible with political correctness.  Anyone who does not adhere to this new standard is attacked, exposed and slammed for intolerance.  The idea of a corrupt media was something I thought was impossible, left for nations of dictators from third world nations.  Yet, as the media’s elite begin to play God, redefining right and wrong, I’m afraid of what the future holds.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment, James 2:13.

In 2009, Paramore released Playing God, a single from their third album Brand News Eyes.  Lead singer Hayley Williams was one of the authors of this song, collaborating with band members Josh Farro and Taylor York.  The music video begins with Hayley sitting in her car, staring at a cross and a button of Jesus on her dashboard.  This time of reflection sets the stage for a new concept, what if God did not introduce freewill?  Instead God used force, to tie people up so they didn’t go where God didn’t want them to be.  While God refuses to participate in this mindset, adults, other siblings and parents from time to time like to play God.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

Known for his wisdom, King Solomon addressed this topic during his day.  According to Solomon, everyone has an idea, a plan for their lives.  While your heart may guide you throughout this life, God ultimately establishes the direction you will take.  Along the way, barriers, obstacles and road blocks stand in your way, altering your course.  Thus, the sooner you start keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, the better off you will be.  Rather than condemning those around you for not following the path of integrity, make sure you show mercy to others so that when you do fall, forgiveness will be extended to you.

by Jay Mankus

 

Losing Your Personality

Charisma, magnetism and presence separates one person from the next.  These qualities are built into human beings like DNA.  Some individuals are born with charm, gravitas and hutzpa, naturally flowing out of their souls.  Other people like me rely on confidence to display their personality.  Unfortunately, when things don’t go your way, depression can cause you to forget or lose sight of who you are and the person God wants you to be.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

In their song, Back to the Start, Esterlyn writes about this topic.  While I am not sure if losing your personality is possible, you can lose your way.  When and if this occurs, the author of this song encourages anyone struggling to go back to the start.  Conviction, guilt and remorse has a way of eating at souls.  This nagging feeling can suck the life out of those who dwell on the negative.  Thus, before things get any worse, go back to the foot of the cross, where grace, mercy and forgiveness can be found.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is easier said than done.  Those who give into the desire to strive for perfection usually end up disappointed.  Meanwhile, the temptation to be in control entices individuals to place their sole trust in themselves.  This ill-fated decision blinds minds from God’s willingness to provide daily bread for those who believe.  If today’s blog finds you losing touch with your personality, go back to the start so that your confidence will be placed in the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

More than the World Has to Offer

Regardless of how you were raised, there will always be individuals who embrace a prodigal spirit.  Despite countless warnings, some people have to learn the hard way, ignoring the advice of friends, family and mentors.  For those who go down this path, this could be merely a phase in life before common sense takes over.  However, the longer you indulge your flesh, any reckless binge can become bad habits or in extreme cases resulting in addiction.  After cravings, desires and lust have been satisfied, what else does the world have to offer?

A few days later, the younger son gathered together everything [that he had] and traveled to a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and immoral living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to do without and be in need, Luke 15:13-14.

Every day throughout the world, a modern version of Garden of Eden takes place as demons, evil spirits and sinful minds justify poor decisions.  The whispers of Satan lurk within minds eager to compromise.  Temptation often begins with “Did God really say or is God keeping me from enlightenment?”  From here its only a matter of time before the fall.  Yet, what are these distracted souls missing?  What does Jesus mean by living water?  How does one obtain an abundant life?  Perhaps, opening the pages of the Bible will open your eyes to an alternative life style that provides more than the world has to offer.

Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And]the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘You shall not eat from it nor touch it, otherwise you will die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened [that is, you will have greater awareness], and you will be like God, knowing [the difference between] good and evil,” Genesis 3:1-5.

One day a Pharisee was curious about a popular first century leader.  Afraid his colleagues might find out, Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night, in the cover of darkness.  Following a sarcastic comment, Jesus reveals his purpose for being born, coming to save mankind, John 3:16-17.  This concept was hard to grasp for a religious zealot like Nicodemus.  During a later conversation with a tax collector, Jesus takes this concept one step further, “coming to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.  Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, Jesus offers a clean slate.  While the world tends to keep a record of wrongs, God offers an infinite amount of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  When you come to your senses, your heavenly father is waiting with open arms.

by Jay Mankus

When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

In any social setting, there are preconceived thoughts based upon appearance, attire, background, education, intellect and wealth.  If character is excluded from this set of standards, people can be misled, confusing right from wrong and vice versa.  Like Samuel waiting to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel, the heart is often overlooked.  While David’s brothers fit the physical features of a leader, David’s heart set him apart from his siblings.  Thus, Samuel told Jesse to call his youngest son from the fields, led by the Holy Spirit to anoint David.

Now there was a woman in the city who was [known as] a sinner; and when she found out that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume, Luke 7:37-38.

Several hundred years later, another famous anointing took place.  Unfortunately, the disciples were fooled by the tarnished reputation of an unwelcomed guest.  To make matters worse, this woman broke and wasted a valuable vial of perfume.  The actual worth of this bottle was equivalent to nearly a years pay for a first century laborer.  This display blinded religious leaders from the true intentions of this woman.  Staring at the spilled perfume as if it was a load of cash blowing in the wind, the man who invited Jesus over to his house is offended by Jesus’ interaction with this prostitute.  Subsequently, in Simon’s eyes right is wrong and wrong is right.

Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin],” Luke 7:39

Over reactions like Simon are carried out within homes every night in the 21st century.  Instead of seeing things for what they are, preconceived notions blind decent human beings from the truth.  Thus, knee jerk reactions lead to conflict, division and tension within Christian homes.  Perhaps, everyone needs to become more like Jesus, expecting the best in others regardless of past or present reputations.  May this passage of the Bible speak to your soul, opening your heart to forgive, forget and extend God’s grace and mercy to others.  If you don’t, you too may confuse right from wrong and wrong with right.

by Jay Mankus

I Don’t Know How He Does It

The thought of patience is foreign to me.  I have a short fuse, easily enraged by obstacles that get in my way, slow me down or become a burden to me in any manner.  So when I read the Bible, the command to love, be patient and kind seems impossible to achieve.  The idea of forgiving and loving enemies is hard to comprehend.  Nonetheless, when religious leaders and the people who followed Jesus turned on him, shouting for death by crucifixion, this Man practiced what He preached.  Moments from death, Jesus cried out to his heavenly father, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”  I don’t know how He did this?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

The context of the passage above shines light on the nature of God.  Anyone can talk a good game, pretend to be good person or use money to influence the general public.  However, if you don’t display love, all of your gifts and talents are meaningless.  The apostle Paul uses the analogy of a clanging symbol to prove his point.  You may be an amazing musician, but without love you are nothing.  Perhaps, people inside of church at Corinth were forgetting the purpose of being a Christian, becoming Christ like is all aspects of life.  Essentially, Paul was trying to prove a point, this is not how you do it.

Let all that you do be done in love, 1 Corinthians 16:14.

Today, many believers fail miserably, unable to love, display patience or be kind.  Part of this failure is due to a departure of complete trust in God.  Rather, the temptation to be self-reliant has trumped faith.  Instead of undergoing a subtle spiritual transformation, the world is winning, with compromise after compromise.  If the apostle Paul struggled to defeat temptation, Romans 7:14-18, everyone will face a similar fate.  In the meantime, yield to God, surrendering control of your life.  When you do, the mercy God displayed for you can flow outwardly toward others.  While I still don’t know how Jesus loved the unlovable, let all that you do be inspired by love.

by Jay Mankus

You Can’t Run From Your Past

As an adult, you can learn from previous mistakes.  Depending upon the degree of your past transgressions, the healing process varies.  Those who succumb to addiction at some point in life will have a much tougher road to recovery than individuals who just flirted with temptation.  In the end, you can run, but you can’t hide from your past.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.

The disciple whom Jesus loved makes an interesting observation in the verse above.  Your degree of faith is based upon your level of sincerity.  Those who open up about dark periods of their past are considered genuine.  Yet, many remain silent, afraid that previous lapses in judgments will cause others to abandon current relationships.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5:16.

Since recent allegations made by women against Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore, the media is assuming that these accusations are true.  I don’t know Judge Moore nor can I speak on his behalf.  Nonetheless, I know that everyone has secret scars.  These imperfections are symbolic of periods in life that you are ashamed of, hoping no one finds out.  Yet, James the earthly brother of Jesus urges individuals to come forward by acknowledging any unconfessed sin.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy, Proverbs 28:13.

Whether you are talking about a public figure, Hollywood star or yourself, the Bible applies to everyone.  According to Solomon, one of the wisest individuals to walk the face of the earth, mercy is dependent upon confession.  Jesus reinforces this concept at the end of the Lord’s prayer, Matthew 6:14-15.  Therefore, if you want to escape the demons of your past, confess any deeds of darkness so that grace, healing and mercy will be found.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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