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Opening Your Eyes to the Suffering of Friends

When I was younger, I was naive.  This immaturity lead me to become blind, oblivious to the needs of my friends.  Carl who eventually became my best friend in high school often punched me in the shoulder, shouting out “punch buggy” yellow or blue.  Behind this aggression was a boy crying out for help as he silently watched cancer take his mother’s life.  I could have been there for him, providing a shoulder to lean on.  Yet, I was consumed by my own life.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him, Job 2:11.

News of the tragedy that struck Job spread to his friends and neighbors.  Since no funerals are referenced, these three men dropped what they were doing to comfort Job.  However, as they approached, the sight of Job’s condition was overwhelming.  This brought out raw emotions, crying with their friend.  Based upon the words used by Job, none of these friends could come to terms with what happened, remaining silent for a week.  Sometimes a hug is more powerful than words.

When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was, Job 2:12-13.

In this day and age, its easy to connect or reach out to friends using social media.  Since my emergency eye surgery last November, I posted on Facebook a need for prayers a couple of times.  I’ve been amazed and touched by the outpouring of support that I have received.  In the moments immediately following requests for prayers, I have felt the healing power of your prayers.  This experience has inspired me to open my eyes to the suffering of friends.  May this blog inspire you to reach a helping hand like the friends of Job in chapter 2.

by Jay Mankus

Live It Up

 

As I child, I didn’t have many worries in this world.  Sure, I had fears of heights and snakes, but I was naive about all the work my parents had to do to provide for the family.  While my mom and dad each worked full time jobs, I spent most of my time living life to the fullest.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil, Ephesians 5:15-16.

Now on the other side of the spectrum, I tend to let the stress in life steal my joy.  Instead of demonstrating a child like faith, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle in life.  Thus, the notion of living it up is far from my mind, a distant memory of my childhood.

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise, Proverbs 20:1.

Some adults never grow up after college, continuing to party, enjoying each weekend off.  Beside being costly, this isn’t how God wants individuals to celebrate life.  Rather, the Lord longs for the day when people embrace fellowship, rely on prayer and follow the apostle’s teaching.  May this guideline in Acts 2:42 spur believers on to live it up.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Religion Drives You Insane

I’ve heard many nightmares of how seminary can radically transform individuals for the good and bad.  Knowledge has a way of puffing up egos, encouraging once humble individuals to question those currently in spiritual leadership positions.  Depending upon the ideology taught at certain institutions, the gullible, naive and ungrounded can be swayed to embrace religion over a relationship with God.  This is just one example of how religion can drive someone insane.

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane,” Acts 26:24.

In the case of Paul from Tarsus, his peers from the synagogue felt betrayed.  After a dramatic transformation on the road to Damascus, Paul’s Jewish friends didn’t recognize him anymore.  This resentment festered causing the chief priest and religious leaders to arrest Paul on false charges.  During his trial in front of newly elected governor Festus and King Agrippa, Paul testifies to his conversion to the Way, rejecting Judaism for a personal relationship with Christ.  Halfway through, Festus came to the conclusion that his new found faith was driving Paul insane.

“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable, Acts 26:25.

So who’s right?  Are Christians insane for following an invisible God?  Are traditional religions crazy to holding on to traditions more than a thousand year old?  Or is there a middle ground, where faith and tradition can co-exist?  Matthew 10 sums up what Jesus thought about this topic, as religion can create division even within households.  Thus, while outsiders may call you names, tease or ridicule you, stand firm in the faith til the end.  The next time a friend thinks you’ve lost it, lean on the Holy Spirit to give you the words to make a reasonable defense.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” Matthew 10:34.

by Jay Mankus

 

Balancing Faith With Reality

My weekly routine includes time with a former co-worker reflecting on our years in Christian education.  While each discussion varies, one topic usually comes to the forefront, what impact did we have on our former students?  Did the lessons taught inspire faith or has the reality of a lost world caused souls to back slide?  Unfortunately, news of partying in college, suicides and students having kids out of wedlock has taken the wind out of our sails.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, Romans 5:5.

Out of sight out of mind is a common occurrence for Christians who leave the friendly confines of biblical education for a secular environment.  Perhaps, the foundations I once thought were firm was merely a mirage.  Then again, maybe I was naive, trying to make everyone feel good about life instead of challenging individuals to take a stand.  Time will sift the wheat from the chaff, yet as a teacher turned writer, I still struggle with balancing faith with reality.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly, Romans 5:6.

Since I joined Facebook 3 years ago, I’ve had former students and youth de-friend me based upon words in this blog.  At times, I may be perceived as over the top, out there or out of touch with reality.  Nonetheless, as I study the book of Acts, I am reminded of the only force on this planet which can still transform souls.  Sure, there are many things in the Bible that don’t make sense, but without the power of the Holy Spirit Peter, James and John would have returned to their fishing boats and the message of Jesus would have disappeared.  Therefore, as I continue to learn how to balance faith with reality, I cling to the promises in the Bible of an abundant life, where victory is not smothered by defeat.

by Jay Mankus

 

Taking A Back Seat To Your Children

In my younger days, naive and immature, I cared more about my men’s softball team than my oldest son’s T-Ball game.  Thus, as other men were coaching and influencing my son James, I got lost in trying to relive and hold on to my youth.  Learning the hard way, I realized Father Time couldn’t be beaten before I took a back seat where my children could be in the forefront.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3.

Unfortunately, too many young men never see the light, blinded by selfish ambition.  Fueled by pride, egos cause adults to remain the center of attention, long after their own high school graduation.  While hanging out in bars reminiscing about the Glory Days, far too many children are growing up without a role model to emulate.  Subsequently, teenagers often look toward pop culture to find meaning in life, only to be disappointed in the long run.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full, John 10:10.

After hearing the phrase “its better to give than receive” countless times throughout life, I finally tasted a piece of this fruit over the weekend.  As a proud parent on Sunday, watching my children all place in the top 3 of their age group, with James earning first, 11th overall, in the 2015 Blue Hen 5K, I realized all those times I went jogging with my kids finally paid off.  Although I was the only one in the family who didn’t medal, it didn’t matter.  I found joy in taking a back seat to my children, observing each one begin to find their niche, place and calling in life.  If you haven’t taken your seat, find one soon.

by Jay Mankus

 

All Insuranced Out

When I was a teenager, the only insurance that impacted me was obtaining auto so that I could drive.  The rest were an after thought.  I only went to the doctor when I was sick thus life was much more simplistic.  I guess you can say I was young and naive.

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all, Ecclesiastes 9:11.

Today, insurances have spun out of control.  Disability, identity protection, health and life have become nearly essential.  It only takes one accident, encounter with fraud, illness or tragedy to alter your life forever.  Without these protective measures, individuals can lose their life savings and more.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come, John 16:13.

However, if nothing happens to you, monthly bills can wipe away an entire pay check.  Thus, one is left to ponder, do I take the risk, bite the bullet by paying for all these insurances or do I trust God that nothing back will happen to me or my family?  There must be an easier solution to this long list of security measures, but as of now, “I’m all insuranced out” forced to play the game until something better comes along.

by Jay Mankus

So That’s Where It Comes From

Adults have different styles of communication, producing a wide range of reactions, even within their own children.  The authoritarian will claim, “this is the way its always been so there is no highway option.”  Meanwhile the laissez faire, who are often soft spoken will allow flexibility, offering little resistance to correction.  This broad spectrum of coaching, parenting  and or teaching leaves a gap, with many blanks to fill in between to properly convey crucial information.

As I child, I remember hearing daily pleas such as “wash your hands, brush your teeth and think before you speak.”  Maybe I was naive, but I never questioned or wondered why these things were so important.  I simply assumed by father knew best so I tried my best to follow directions.  While reading the Old Testament last week, I stumbled upon the source of my dad’s first command, Leviticus 15:11.

Before the invention of microscopes, God understood how germs spread.  Thus, to combat this concern, the Lord told Moses to tell the Israelites to wash their hands after going to the bathroom or before eating.  Although Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has influenced many to go to extremes, washing your hands is a simple way to remain healthy.  As Paul Harvey says in his famous radio deliveries, “Now you know, the rest of the story!”

What commands do you recall from your childhood?

by Jay Mankus

 

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