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When You're Unwilling to Change

Julia Roberts starred in the 1991 film Sleeping with the Enemy. However, nearly two thousand years before Nancy Price published her novel, a Jewish carpenter allowed himself to be infiltrated by a spiritual enemy. Jesus saw the potential in Judas Iscariot as a disciple, giving him an opportunity to change. Yet, in the end, this was part of God’s plan as Judas was unwilling to change despite witnessing countless miracles.

Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (the message) of eternal life. 69 And we have learned to believe and trust, and [more] we have come to know [surely] that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And [yet] one of you is a devil (of the evil one and a false accuser), John 6:68-70.

On December 12th, 2019, scientists discovered an unknown virus in Wuhan, China. As news of this spread across the country and throughout the world, the name Coronavirus was given. As the number of confirmed cases in the United States has surpassed 54,000, citizens are forced to make one of two choices. Practice social distancing by changing how you live your daily life or continue ignoring the new CDC guidelines? The first doesn’t guarantee staying healthy, but the latter risks spreading the Coronavirus to those whom you love.

When it was evening, He was reclining at table with the twelve disciples. 21 And as they were eating, He said, Solemnly I say to you, one of you will betray Me! 22 They were exceedingly pained and distressed and deeply hurt and sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, Surely it cannot be I, Lord, can it? 23 He replied, He who has [just] dipped his hand in the same dish with Me will betray Me! – Matthew 26:20-23

As Jesus’ betrayal grew near, one event sped up this process. When a prostitute wasted an expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus’ body, this decision pushed Judas over the edge. In his role as treasurer, Judas saw this act as a waste of money, not an act of worship. When a seed of betrayal was sown in Judas’ heart and mind, the Last Supper sets the stage for Jesus’ final call out. When individuals aren’t unwilling to change, the consequences can be eternal. May the current Coronavirus pandemic persuade stubborn hearts to alter their lives now before it’s too late.

by Jay Mankus

Cancelled by Coronavirus

In a matter of days, college and professional sports seasons, public education classes and my volleyball league have either been cancelled, closed their doors for two to four weeks or suspended their seasons. The culprit, the Coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19 is to blame for this latest pandemic. While out picking up weekly supplies during my normal time, local shoppers treated Thursday afternoon as if the world was coming to an end. With this in mind, what does the Bible say about viruses?

At midnight the Lord slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead, Exodus 12:29-30.

The most famous plague of the Old Testament struck Egypt prior to the Exodus of the Jews. According to Moses, every family was impacted, losing the first born male overnight. Meanwhile, cattle farmers lost first born calves as well. According to Numbers 16:49, 14,700 individuals died in a plague brought on by the disobedience of Korah. Another 24,000 Israelites were wiped out by a similar plague in Numbers 25:9. There are other accounts of angels of death, deadly plagues and a real Devil who daily seeks to steal, kill and destroy the lives of weakened souls, 1 Peter 5:8.

So I looked, and behold, an ashy pale horse [black and blue as if made so by bruising], and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades (the realm of the dead) followed him closely. And they were given authority and power over a fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword and with famine and with plague (pestilence, disease) and with wild beasts of the earth, Revelation 6:8.

Whenever individuals experience the unknown, doubt, fear and panic can take hold of troubled hearts. In just one week, life as we know it has been turned upside down. The only recent pandemic that is comparable was the H1N1, back in the Spring of 2009. My oldest son contracted the Swine Flu months later during the Cross Country season. Although James missed nearly 3 weeks of school, he made a complete and full recovery. As human beings, not being in control of your health and well being conceives emotions of hopelessness. Yet, the only thing that you can do right now until COVID-19 goes into remission is pray to the God of miracles.

by Jay Mankus

Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole

The expression fitting a square peg into a round hole comes from the Apollo 13 Space Mission. The entire crew would have died from carbon dioxide poisoning if Mission Control didn’t come up with a way to fit the square lithium hydroxide canisters into the round openings of the environmental exhaust system. The movie highlights this race against time when a warning light reveals dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. A brainstorming session begins at Mission Control in Houston using plastic bags, cardboard, tape, and all materials on board of Apollo 13 to solve this dilemma.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.

From my own personal experience, the older I get the less I see individuals open to thinking outside the box. Instead I hear the same old excuses, “this is the way we have always done it, we must follow the standard operational procedures or that’s just cutting corners.” Until an emergency arises, most people aren’t willing to deviate from the norm. However, there was a first century man who turned the Jewish culture upside down. Instead of focusing on a rigid set of rules, Jesus introduced a new way to live, expressing freedom like no one ever before or since.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6.

Sometime in the late 20’s AD, worshiping God in the temple at Jerusalem increased in importance. This would be like modern day Muslims traveling to Mecca for Ramadan. Just when this trend reached a buckle list status, Jesus spoke of a day when the temple would be torn in two. This teaching infuriated religious leaders, eventually resulting in Jesus’ death on a cross. Yet, Jesus placed a square peg into a round hole by revealing you don’t need to be in a building to worship God. Jesus took this concept one step further, explaining that human bodies are temples on loan from God, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. May this blog open your mind to see the vast miracles of the past and present as God continues to place square pegs into round holes daily.

by Jay Mankus

Running Away from the Hand of God

After the death of Joseph, who God used to save Egypt from a historic famine, future leaders forgot his impact on their country.  When Pharaoh Rameses II rose to power, the once favored Jews became enslaved for 400 years.  Four centuries leader, God chose a man named Moses to lead Israel to a promised land, free from slavery.  Despite this hardship, the Lord was afraid that Israel might change their mind by returning to Egypt and accept a state of misery.

So it happened, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearer; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war [that is, that there will be war], and return to Egypt,” Exodus 13:17. 

Upon the banks of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army was on the verge of surrounding Israel when the hand of God intervened.  Like a scene out of a tsunami movie, one million Jews walked to the other side before a wall of water returned to swallow up chariots and soldiers.  For the eyewitnesses, this event should have transformed their faith forever.  Yet, based upon the words of Moses in Exodus, some began to convince others to return to Egypt rather than trust in God to provide manna from heaven.

Further, he shall not acquire many [war] horses for himself, nor make the people return to Egypt in order to acquire horses [to expand his military power], since the Lord said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again, Deuteronomy 17:16.

As crazy as this may seem, modern believers continue to run away from the hand of God.  Despite countless miracles, signs and wonders, the faith of some have become weak.  The Lord doesn’t want his people to go back to being enslaved, yet weak minds can cause faith to crumble.  Jonah ran away from God in the opposite direction rather than following his call to go to Nineveh.  Unfortunately, my own actions reflect a similar pattern, doing what I want to do.  If only I would let go and trust God, I will see the hand of God at work rather than running away due to fear.

by Jay Mankus

A Reason to Reconsider

Imitation is a response by an observer or observers who replicate another’s behavior. This can be viewed as a form a flattery when the originator sees others coping a dance move, expression or unique style. One of the nicknames Jesus received during the first century was the Great Magician. Jealous of Jesus’ great healing powers, religious leaders began to refer to Jesus as an illusionist, performing miracles in the name of Satan, Matthew 12:24. Despite these claims, Jesus’ ministry inspired others to become faith healers without having a personal relationship with God.

Then some of the traveling Jewish exorcists also attempted to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I implore you and solemnly command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!” – Acts 19:13

During a trip to Ephesus, Luke details a family of brothers who became Jewish exorcists. This isn’t a scene out of the Exorcism of Emily Rose, a 2005 film. Rather, the sons of Sceva traveled to homes filled with desperate individuals hoping to be set free from demonic oppression and possession. Apparently, this was a viable occupation, making enough money and successful enough to rid souls from imps. Yet, when this crew confronted a legion of demons, all 7 got their butts kicked, barely escaping, fleeing in fear.

This became known to all who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified and exalted. 18 Many of those who had become believers were coming, confessing and disclosing their [former sinful] practices. 19 And many of those who had practiced magical arts collected their books and [throwing book after book on the pile] began burning them in front of everyone. They calculated their value and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver, Acts 19:17-19.

Like the top grossing horror films of all time, fear gripped everyone who interviewed these brothers or witnessed this assault. According to Luke, the thought of imitating the Christian faith stopped, resulting in a spiritual awakening that spread to practicing witches. Contrite hearts began to purge their lives from anything that attempted to imitate God’s power. Subsequently, magical books worth 50,000 pieces of silver were burned. The fear of God from what happened to the 7 sons of Sceva served as a reason to reconsider previous practices by embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior.

by Jay Mankus

The Exorcists in the Bible

The 1973 film the Exorcist is a classic horror movie that will scare the hell out of you. Adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel, a mother notices dramatic and worrisome changes in the behavior and physical make-up of her 12-year-old daughter. This storyline sets the stage for an exorcism conducted by two priests. Although this fictional scene may seem unbelievable today, the supernatural power exhibited by demons and evil spirits is consistent with that found during an exorcism gone wrong in the Bible.

Then some of the traveling Jewish exorcists also attempted to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I implore you and solemnly command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of one [named] Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this, Acts 19:13-14.

During Paul’s third missionary journey, God enabled Paul to perform extraordinary and unusual miracles. Just as followers of Jesus gathered around to touch the edge of his cloak, Matthew 9:20-22, aprons, handkerchiefs and towels touched by Paul were used to heal the sick. As bystanders watched in awe, 7 brothers decided to imitate Paul’s teaching, performing exorcists in the name of Jesus and Paul. However, during one encounter with a demon possessed man, an evil spirit attacked all 7, ripped their clothes off as each exited a house, running for their lives buck naked.

But the evil spirit retorted, “I know and recognize and acknowledge Jesus, and I know about Paul, but as for you, who are you?” 16 Then the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they ran out of that house [in terror, stripped] naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified and exalted, Acts 19:15-17.

College professors and public school teachers often refer to the Bible as out of date, not relative in today’s progressive culture. Yet, the passage above unveils a glimpse of the supernatural powers that exist in the spiritual realm. During my last few years at the University of Delaware, I was fortunate to meet and hear missionaries share their experiences living within third world nations. One guest speaker talked about America becoming spiritually dead, numb to the idea of demons, evil spirits and powers of darkness. Perhaps, the armor of God is included within of Ephesians 6 as a reminder to the 7 sons of Sceva who were from Ephesus to prepare skeptics for the schemes of the Devil. If you don’t take this threat seriously, you too could be caught off guard like these exorcists in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Greatest Hits

The term “greatest hits” often refers to a best of album from an artist, band or group.  This collection of songs highlights a musicians career, selecting the best, most popular and top singles.  The Eagles’ were one of the first groups to release a greatest hits album in 1976.  Shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway” have a comedy skit where entertainers such as Wayne Brady, Charles Esten and Brad Sherwood make up fictional best of and greatest hit songs.

There are also many other signs (attesting miracles) that Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name, John 20:30-31.

The Bible contains God’s version of greatest hits.  The four gospels contain 37 miracles performed by Jesus.  These miracles can be described as Jesus’ best of magical moments.  According to John, if all of Jesus’ miracles were written down, these volumes would not fit into the Library of Congress.  Based upon the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus performed miracles every day for three years.  Thus, the 37 selected demonstrate that Jesus is the master of all trades, defying death and science.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were recorded one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written, John 21:25.

Based upon individuals who have had a near death experience, each person will witness a video, a movie reel of your entire life.  This screen plays your greatest hits as well as your most embarrassing moments.  After this review of your life has finished playing, judgement awaits.  According to the apostle Paul, there is no one righteous, not even one, Romans 3:10.  Due to this painful reality, there is only one proper response, Romans 7:24-25, thanks be to God for Christ our deliverer.  While the world seems to focus their attention on greatest hits, God calls lost souls to repentance.  May the Lord change our hearts before Judgement Day arrives.

by Jay Mankus

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