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Tag Archives: mind

A Heartbeat

I recently stumbled upon an interesting article from 2014.  A google search led me to NPR, National Public Radio’s website which posted a piece entitled Why Hospitals and Families Still Struggle to Define Death?  Maanvi Singh examined two cases of people on life support.  Three neurologists said that Jahi McMath died when her brain lost all function after complications from a tonsillectomy.  While a coroner has issued an official death certificate, Jahi’s family won an appeal to keep their daughter on a ventilator.  This is where science and faith collide.

For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb. 14   I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well, Psalm 139:13-14.

A fetus’s heart rate begins soon after fertilization and is visible during an ultrasound at the sixth week of pregnancy.  Meanwhile, when a human heart stops beating while in an emergency vehicle or at a hospital, this person is deemed to flatline.  If resuscitation does not trigger hearts to beat, this individual is pronounced dead as doctors move on to the next living patient who needs intervention.  King Solomon referred to the heart as the well spring of life, Proverbs 4:23.  When this spring dries up, life ceases to exist.  While cases of life support may convince some that when brain cells are beyond repair death has arrived, I believe a heartbeat is the deciding factor.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being formed in secret, and intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth.16  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were appointed for me, when as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape], Psalm 139:15-16.

As abortion debates continue today with a few states suggesting doctors and or mothers can choose to terminate life after a child is born, the names Amy Grossman and Brian Peterson come to mind.  When Grossman became pregnant while attending the University of Delaware, this couple got a hotel room off campus as Amy was about to give birth.  Instead of giving their child up for adoption, the baby was thrown into a dumpster and left to die in 1998.  If this event occurred today in the state of New York or Virginia, Amy and Brian would have never gone to jail.  So what has changed over the past 20 years?  Has America become blinded by political correctness that a heartbeat doesn’t matter anymore?  I’m not sure what to think, but I pray that common sense will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

 

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How Did I Get This Way?

When puberty begins in junior high, teenagers undergo a series of changes.  Depending upon the choices made and friendships established, this will shape the path individuals take in high school.  For those who are able to continue their education in college, majors, professors and relationships will further dictate who you become.  Despite this journey, many adults awake to an epiphany “how get I get this way?”

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

Skarlett Riot sings about this in the song Voices.  The opening stanza refers to whispers which restrict what you hear.  The next stanza refers to being paralyzed, unable to control your mind.  Finally, this British rock band uses imagery of Cain’s conversation with God in Genesis 4:6-7 to suggest demons can get into your head.  The moment individuals begin to listen to these demonic influences, souls can relate to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-20, doing the opposite of you want.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The Psalmist has a much easier explanation for how did I get this way.  The author lists three basic distractions in life: following the crowd, hanging around those who bend the rules and joining this behavior by lowering your standards.  The best way to avoid giving into temptation is by embracing the Bible.  Those who make a habit of following biblical teaching will be to endure spiritual droughts that cause faith to waver.  Thus, if you are shocked by the person that you have become, follow the Psalmist advice to flee any voices in your head.

by Jay Mankus

Wake Up to God’s Greatness

There are plenty of distractions in life.  Extreme circumstances, hardships and trials can make the mentally strong lose sight of God.  As individuals begin to question “why me,” whispers from demons seek to shift the blame toward God.  If you give into anger, emotions or frustrations, spiritual blindness awaits.  Thus, instead of waking up to God’s greatness, roots of bitterness fill disappointed hearts.

“Indeed, at His thundering my heart trembles and leaps out of its place. 2 “Listen carefully to the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that goes out of His mouth! “He lets it loose under the whole heaven, and His lightning to the ends of the earth. “After it, His voice roars; He thunders with the voice of His majesty, and He does not restrain His lightning [against His adversaries] when His voice is heard. “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend, Job 37:1-5.

This is what happened to Job prior to the passage above.  When friends accused Job of disobeying God, his defense mechanisms kicked in.  As observers of these events assumed Job was being cursed by God, Job made the mistake of becoming self-righteous.  Apparently, an incoming storm awoke Job to God’s greatness.  The passage above highlights how lightning and thunder magnify God’s power.

Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the [height of the] heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You, [who is Your equal]? 20  You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive and renew me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth, Psalm 71:19-20.

The Psalmist uses reflection to help individuals to meditate upon God’s greatness.  For those not distracted by day to day worries, the beauty of creation does not go unnoticed.  Rainbows, sunsets and panoramic views renew and revive souls.  If only people could let go of daily concerns, stress and worries, eyes will be opened to the greatness of God.  My prayer is that America awakes from its spiritual slumber to see and rejoice in God’s greatness.

by Jay Mankus

Out of Faith… Out of Mind

The phrase out of sight out of mind appears to have originated during the 13th century. The first literary appearance of this idiom can be traced to Woorkes in 1562.  Out of sight out of mind refers to the reduced importance and emergence of something that is not within eyesight. When something is not immediately visible, actions, beliefs and choices fluctuate.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.

This saying also applies to faith.  For example, when children are taught to say grace before eating a meal, prayer becomes an active part of someone’s life.  However, whenever individuals slowly drift apart from God, forgetting prayer will occur.  As an adult, I find myself constantly stuck in some sort of spiritual rut.  Since praying doesn’t come naturally to me, losing touch with faith causes my mind to forget to pray, especially saying grace before I eat a meal.  Subsequently, out of faith becomes out of mind.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

According to the author of Hebrews, faith requires belief.  Genuine faith includes a belief in an invisible God who rewards those who earnest seek his will.  The apostle Paul highlights this process in Romans 12:1-2.  Faith is meant to be active, devoting one’s life as a living sacrifice.  However, when faith slips, minds tend to wander, drifting apart from God’s will,  Therefore, if you want to remain spiritually sharp, treasure and store up God’s Word within your heart, Psalm 119:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction.  In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea.  One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene.  Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus.  Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced.  Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus.  Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen.  This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him.  It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants.  Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit.  Any type of change is difficult.  However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible.  Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted.  As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains.  For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Unshakable

In the first century, sometime after 30 AD a Jewish zealot was fearful that the Jesus movement would ruin his religion.  Thus, Saul used the Synagogue of the Freedmen as a pawn to attack the character of a newly appointed apostle.  While Jesus choose to remain silent when brought him before the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), Stephen defended his faith.  Just as religious leaders accused Jesus of de-emphasizing some of the ten commandments, Stephen was of charged with committing blasphemy against Moses and God.  Luke records Stephen’s entire defense in Acts 7.

Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him, Acts 7:54.

Without any notes, Stephen gives an unshakable defense of his faith.  As if reading the Bible which wasn’t available for another 300 years, Stephen summarizes the Bible from the patriarchs to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The passage above is the response of the Sanhedrin.  These men were convicted and enraged at the same time.  Luke’s choice of words give the appearance of a pack of wolves ready to pounce upon their prey.  Despite this reaction, Stephen didn’t apologize, backdown or retract his previous comments.  Rather, Stephen was prepared to become the first Christian martyr post Jesus.

 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy], Acts 7:55-57.

On the verge of death, the Holt Spirit fixed Stephen’s mind on his future destiny in heaven.  Just as this council was about to pick up stones to form a firing line, Stephen gazed into heaven.  This vision is verbalized causing Sanhedrin members to take off their outer robe so that each could throw their stone as hard as possible.  Unfazed by this commotion, the Holy Spirit enabled Stephen to drown out the noise.  Instead of focusing on the gory details of death, Luke simply states that Stephen fell asleep, unshakable until the very end of his life.

by Jay Mankus

The Company of Believers

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers, Acts 2:42.

The basic definition for a company is a number of individuals gathered together for a particular purpose. The name of each company is designed to send a message to the general public to explain their purpose for existing. During the first century, a doctor sums up a new religious movement in Acts 2:42-47. The passage serves as a blue print, a mission statement of their core principles. Luke narrows in on the apostles teaching, daily fellowship and prayer.

Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was [exclusively] his own, but everything was common property and for the use of all. 33 And with great ability and power the apostles were continuously testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace [God’s remarkable lovingkindness and favor and goodwill] rested richly upon them all, Acts 4:32-33.

Two chapters later this company of believers became a well oiled machine. Peter and John inspired by the Holy Spirit urged new converts to become part of this body, of one heart and soul. Instead of focusing on what religion can do for you, first century Christians treated each member of their congregation like family. This mentality eliminated poverty as wealthy members sold land or property to take care of whatever financial emergencies that came up or occurred daily.

At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders (attesting miracles) were continually taking place among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in [the covered porch called] Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest [of the people, the non-believers] dared to associate with them; however, the people were holding them in high esteem and were speaking highly of them, Acts 5:12-13.

In the beginning of chapter 5, a married couple devised a plan to infiltrate this company of believers. Apparently, this act of kindness was motived by a desire to be recognized, seeking personal praise rather than humbly give. The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to expose Ananias’ plot, verbally rebuking this imposter. When Ananias laid money at the apostles’ feet from a piece of property sold, this couple agreed to withhold some money. However, they told everyone this was all the money from their sale. After Ananias and Sapphira both died of heart attacks, blamed on lying to God, fear gripped this entire community. This unfortunate event scared away other imposters, half-hearted people as only the true company of believers gathered at Solomon’s Colonnade to worship the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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