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Tag Archives: miracles

Greatness Starts at the Bottom

Michael J. Fox starred in the 1987 film the Secret to My Success.  Fox plays Brantley Foster, a college graduate who gets laid off shortly after moving to New York City.  The premise of this movie is based upon the American Dream, starting from the very bottom and moving your way up through a company gradually to the top.  Like most college grads today, Fox found himself overqualified for most positions, but underqualified for the high paying positions.  While fictional in nature, Fox uses a worldly approach to get to the top.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” – Matthew 18:1

During a long walk between towns, the disciples lagged well behind Jesus.  At the back of a long caravan, the disciples began a heated debate on who was the greatest disciple.  While the author fail to address the content of this argument, below are a few likely positions that were taken.  Often brash, Peter begins by saying, “well Jesus did proclaim I am the petra, the rock upon which God will build his church on earth.”  John interrupts, “wait a minute, Jesus also said I am the one whom  he loves the most.”  James, brother of John, jumps into the fray “that’s nice boys, but Jesus called me first.”  When the disciples finally caught up, Jesus addresses this issue.

He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 18:2-3.

The passage above is one of two main passages about the being the greatest in heaven.  Mark 9:35-37 builds upon this concept, suggesting that whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant to all.  One thing you can say about Jesus is he practiced what he preached.  Despite healing and performing miracles daily, Jesus encouraged these people keep quiet, remaining humble throughout his earthly life.  If you combine these passages, there are two traits to consider.  First, maintain the innocence of a child by emulating your heavenly father.  Second, put the needs and wants of others before yourself.  If you want to be great on earth, start today by serving those in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

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Faith Without the Buts

The word “but” is one of 7 coordinating conjunctions in the English language.  This conjunction introduces a clause or phrase contrasting it with what has already been mentioned.  But indicates the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.  When an individual or writer opts to place a but in their sentence, this de-emphasizes the previous statement.  Thus, if you want a faith that is genuine, excuses highlighted by the term but need to be eliminated.

But He said this to test Philip, because He knew what He was about to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii (200 days’ wages) worth of bread is not enough for each one to receive even a little,” John 6:6-7.

During his three year earthly ministry, Jesus wanted to see his disciples progress, grow in their faith.  From time to time, Jesus asked questions to assess their degree of faith.  In the passage above, Jesus already made up his mind, to feed thousands of followers in the crowd.  However, Jesus is curious about how his disciples will respond to his request.  Philip took an inventory of the crowd, finding a boy with food, serving as a good starting point.  Unfortunately, Philip’s faith was overshadowed in the passage below with the one word, but.

 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?” – John 6:8-9

If only Philip had the discipline to stop his mind from doubting God’s power.  Yet, when push comes to shove, human minds struggle to believe in miracles.  When conditions defy logic or science, its hard to imagine that faith can move physical mountains, Matthew 21:20-22.  Nonetheless, if disciples witnessed healings by Jesus every day, but shouldn’t have entered their minds.  Therefore, if you want a faith without the buts, cling to God’s Word so that you are regularly reminded by what Jesus has done in the past and what God has the ability to do in your future .

by Jay Mankus

That’s Impossible

It’s a Miracle debuted on Pax Television in 1998.  This sixty minute documentary examined true stories that on the surface appeared to be impossible.  However, as eyewitnesses recounted these events, it was clear that angels, divine intervention and the power of prayer gave birth to a miracle.  This program that ran for six seasons reminding me that with God, anything is possible.

Now as He approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her [in the funeral procession]. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt [great] compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep,” Luke 7:12-13.

When I first read the passage above years ago, I didn’t conceptualize the magnitude of what Jesus was able to do.  I’ve attended several funerals where the victim died unexpectedly, long before they should have.  As a bystander, Jesus is moved by the Holy Spirit, stopping what he was doing to approach the casket.  When the pallbearer’s stopped, Jesus touched the bier and spoke life into this dead man.  What Jesus did defies logic and medical science, a resurrection.

And He came up and touched the bier [on which the body rested], and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise [from death]!”15 The man who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother, Luke 7:14-15.

In 2015, Project Afterlife took a closer look at near death experiences.  This Destination America series explored cases of individuals presumed dead by doctors, but miraculously awoke, given a mulligan, a new lease on life.  According to reports from missionaries in Africa, resurrections aren’t limited to the Bible.  According to eyewitnesses, persistent prayers refused to believe that their loved ones have passed on.  Like the example from the film Faith Like Potatoes, the impossible is occurring as the pronounced dead are being raised back to life.

by Jay Mankus

God Uses What Little We Have to Demonstrate How Great He Is

Whenever a team receives awards, praise and recognition, there is a temptation for the best athletes/players to take most of the credit.  Yet, God uses a series of events, methods and situations to prevent success from going to your head.  At the height of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, thousands of people came to faith in Christ.  Instead of saying, “look at how great I am,” Paul became inflicted with a painful physical ailment.  This condition forced Paul to rely on the Lord for strength.  God used what little energy Paul possessed to demonstrate how great the Lord can work in spite of  our weaknesses.

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! – 2 Corinthians 12:7

While Jews lived as slaves for nearly 400 years within Egypt, God called one man to confront their leader.  The only problem is that this man, Moses, suffered from a severe speech impediment.  In other words, Moses stuttered regularly, especially when he was nervous.  Despite this disability, God wanted Moses to be the one to lead Israel’s exodus out of Egypt.  Initially, God gave Moses a safety blanket, his brother Aaron to speak for him.  However, at some point the Holy Spirit empowered Moses to have the courage and words to stand up to Pharaoh.  Throughout this ordeal. Moses learned that God can use a faithful stutterer to do things that was once unimaginable for someone with this condition.

Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

As I look back on my own life, I was never a good student until high school.  I endured a learning disability which led to a fifth grade reading level while in tenth grade.  When you add  this to my own speech impediment, regularly stammering words, the odds were against me.  Yet, in my many weaknesses, Christ has become a strong influence in my life.  Although I am no longer a high school teacher, my former fear of speaking in public has vanished.  Sure, I probably could have done more with my life.  Nonetheless, God uses what little you and I have to demonstrate how great God is.

by Jay Mankus

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.

by Jay Mankus

Closing Your Mind to God’s Power

As a parent of three children between the age of 13 and 20, words reveal a common mindset that often goes unnoticed.  Perhaps, a decade of teaching high school has heightened my awareness to this growing epidemic.  A lack of confidence, low self-esteem and sheltered from positive influences is to blame for this spiritual condition.  What is this crisis?  Individuals who have closed their minds to believing in God’s power to change any grave or impossible situation.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

This lack of perception was present among first century disciples of Jesus.  Human nature caused these servants of God to confuse being good with salvation.  When a model example of righteousness was turned away by Jesus, doubt began to creep into the disciples minds, wondering if anyone could be saved?  However, in the passage above, Jesus corrects this flawed mindset by highlighting that nothing is impossible with God.  Unfortunately, Satan has convinced many believers today that God doesn’t have the power to alter, improve or transform their current dilemma.

For nothing will be impossible with God,” Luke 1:37.

A first century doctor provides a cure for this lack of faith.  Luke prescribes that when doubt begins to weaken your faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, turn your attention toward history.  The past serves as a reminder of God’s previous power in the lives of Elizabeth, Mary and various miracles throughout the Old Testament.  This record proves that nothing is impossible with God.  Therefore, don’t let the father of lies convince you to close your mind to God’s previous miracles.  May the word of God, Romans 10:17, open your minds to the mega possibilities when you let the Holy Spirit into your life.

by Jay Mankus

 

Overcoming a Miscarriage

As a former seminary student, I have come to appreciate the Greek language.  Unlike English which tends to be bland, dull and generic, Greek uses a variety of words to clearly distinguish raw emotions.  For example, the term miscarriage refers to the spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable, usually between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation.  From a scientific perspective, this is an acceptable definition.  Yet, for any woman who has endured this horrific event, the English language fails to detail the emotional anguish, heart break and pain couples go through in the days that follow a miscarriage.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

While I can’t imagine the disappointment women experience, I do have a unique connection to miscarriage.  My mother’s third child was a still born, a form of miscarriage.  I never met this individual who would have been my third sister.  There is no logical explanation to suffice why this took place.  Yet, a few years later, my parents tried one more time to have a child.  I’m sure deep down my father wanted a boy to avoid being drastically outnumbered.  Nonetheless, as my parents persisted, I was conceived, born during the summer of 1969.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4. 

According to the Bible, there will be no crying in heaven.  For the lost souls mothers and fathers never got the chance to meet, love and raise, they go immediately to heaven.  Although this fact may not comfort those still hurting, God longs to wipe away your tears, to heal and mend your broken heart.  After your period of mourning comes to an end, may God give you a spirit of perseverance to try again.  If your biological clock for giving birth is coming to an end, don’t forget the miracles of Sarah, Elizabeth and Mary.  May this blog serve as a means to help you overcome the pain of a miscarriage.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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