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When Your World Has Been Shaken

Some reporters have compared the Coronavirus to the millennials 9/11. Since my youngest two children were born after September 11th, 2001, I understand this comparison. For me, I remember exactly where I was when I first received news of two airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers. At this time in history, I was an independent contractor and regional staff writer for Travel Golf Media. Both of my positions were impacted as air travel ceased until new safety standards were implemented. Yet, as the Coronavirus continues to reap havoc throughout America, life as we know it has been disturbed and shaken.

There he came to a cave and lodged in it; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? 10 He replied, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away, 1 Kings 19:9-10.

The Old Testament details a story about a prophet whose own world had been shaken. According to the passage above, the Israelites had turned their back on God, turning a deaf ear to Elijah. Beside feeling useless, altars dedicated to the Lord were discarded from mountain tops. In addition, Elijah’s friends were all killed at the hands of Jezebel. Without any signs of improvement, this former spiritual leader had lost the will to live, giving up hope that God could alter his situation. As a way to get Elijah’s attention, a series of natural disasters struck the land. Taking notice, Elijah did not see the Lord as the source behind the tornado, earthquake and fire. Yet, after these storms, Elijah was ready to hear God’s still small voice.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Well, if you live in a state like Delaware, you are now under a stay at home order. Normal outdoor sports are now out of the equation, on hold until the Coronavirus fades or dies out. Sure, you can go to the grocery store, get gas and take a walk around the block, but that’s it. So… what is one to do with their life when your world has been shaken? Well, after you binge watch your favorite show or series, dusting off the Bible would be a step in the right direction. The great aspect of free will is that God doesn’t force you to anything. The choices that you make throughout life will shape who you become. May this forced time at home due to the Coronavirus draw you near to God as the world around us continues to be shaken.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Amazing the Difference One Day Makes

If you do a search of “what a difference a day makes,” you will find a series of sermons on this topic.  Some use examples of extreme events such as the dropping of the first atomic bomb, experiencing a natural disaster or witnessing a terrorist attack like September 11th, 2001.  These devastating days are compared to the silence of an aftermath, where time seems to stand still.  Whenever trials arise, individuals are forced to confront change, trusting God one day at a time.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

For any of you who have played golf before, a typical round is similar to the quote from Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you will get.”  Unlike any other sport, practicing doesn’t mean you will improve.  The more you play golf, the easier it becomes to pick up bad habits.  Thus, a bad swing, chip or putt can unlock demons of doubt that will haunt you throughout the rest of your round.  This is what my daughter Lydia endured during his first round of this years Girls Delaware Junior Golf Championship.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Following the first round, my daughter wanted to quit golf.  Twenty four hours later, Lydia figured something out on the range prior to her round and everything clicked.  Beside a few holes, she was either chipping or putting for birdie.  Despite a few three putts, Lydia played the round of her life consistently hitting her driver over 200 yards.  There are certain things in life that don’t make any sense.  Yet, when attitudes awake to a new day and confidence returns, it’s amazing the difference one day makes.

by Jay Mankus

Sticks and Stones Wound Souls

Whenever anyone experiences a series of bad breaks, those close to this individual may begin to wonder why suffering, tribulations and unfortunate events have visited their friend.  In the Old Testament, bad and good were often linked to God.  Thus, a mentality developed to associate anything good with blessings and the bad as some sort of curse from God.  This is the context of the passage below as Job has listened to his friends attempt to explain the freak accidents and natural disaster that destroyed his possessions and took the lives of his children.

“I also could speak like you, If you were in my place; I could compose and join words together against you and shake my head at you,” Job 16:4.

Job calls out those who have made numerous accusations against him.  One of the translations refers to words that can tear you into pieces.  Essentially, Job states that anyone can sit back and point their finger in the direction of blame.  Yet, Job refuses to participate in this futile activity.  Rather, Job turns his attention toward seeking God to find understanding for his recent trials.  In today’s volatile climate of daily verbal assaults against those the media disagrees with politically, this is an important lesson to learn.

A [shortsighted] fool always loses his temper and displays his anger, but a wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back, Proverbs 29:11.

The phrase sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me first appeared in 1872.  Mrs. George Cupples presented this saying as advice in Tappy Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature.  While this piece of wisdom attempts to develop mental toughness, the Bible reveals a different story.  When anger or tempers influence language, critical words inflict wounds to human souls.  While there are no initial bruises like marks from sticks and stones, vulnerable hearts take each blow.  Before anyone person gets hurt or killed like the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, its time to lay down your weapons so that healing may begin now.

by Jay Mankus

Costing More Than Its Worth

 

In times of crisis or natural disaster, the normal rule of law is often overlooked.  Thus, when Hurricane Katrina brought mass flooding to New Orleans, looters were rampant, taking whatever they could find and carry.  These acts of transgressions were excused as people were forced to go into survivor mode.

People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving, Proverbs 6:30.

In the days when Israel was a thriving nation, a similar mindset occurred.  Anyone thought to steal due to hunger pains wasn’t as criticized as one who committed crimes out of greed.  Nonetheless, Jewish law stated that anyone caught would have to pay back 7 times the amount stolen,  Thus, crime doesn’t pay, costing more than its worth.

Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house, Proverbs 6:31.

Solomon takes this concept one step further, comparing adultery to stealing.  This analogy is considered out of date by Hollywood, especially as the biblical concept of marriage fades from American culture.  This moral decline reveals a downward trend with no end in sight.  Despite the lack of a moral conscience, its essential to spread the word that poor decisions cost more than a moment of pleasure is worth.

by Jay Mankus

Isolated Showers

 From a meteorology perspective, weather systems can stall on occasion, creating isolated showers in the same location for hours or in a worst cause scenario for days at a time.  This phenomena is known as a stationary front, where a boundary is formed between two air masses neither of which replaces the other.  Whenever a weather system travels less than 6 miles per hour, its deemed to be stationary.  Unique wind conditions makes this possible as the north side of a stationary front move in a East to West direction.  Meanwhile, on the southern edge, winds reverse, moving from West to East.

 

According to a September 15th article in the U.S.A. Today, experts are blaming an unusually strong ridge of high pressure parked over Western Canada for the deadly flooding in the Boulder region of Colorado.  Over one month later, hundreds of people are still unaccounted for, likely washed away in the torrent rapids flowing down the Rocky Mountains.  This natural disaster has conjured up memories of the Big Thompson flash flood of 1976 where 144 were killed just north of Boulder.  Those who believe in God often struggle to make sense of these storms, wrestling for answers to grasp why.

 

Although every geographic area does not encounter the same natural disasters, all regions experience isolated showers.  Literal storms can bring lightning, thunder and heavy rains.  Spiritual storms offer a different challenge, testing your faith, patience and soul.  While people can seek shelter for isolated showers, life’s trials are often unexpected, resulting in an invisible tsunami attempting to wipe you out spiritually.  It’s not if these isolated showers will occur, but when.  Therefore, when a spiritual stationary front knocks on your door, arm yourself with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27.

by Jay Mankus

Full Force Nature

 

In their original series Full Force Nature. the Weather Channel credits Mother Nature for these awe inspiring events.  The purpose of each 30 minute episode is to rebroadcast extreme weather conditions caught on film.  However, before the days of phone, ipad and video cameras, historians who survived nature’s full force recorded similar natural disasters.

One such phenomena took place around 1450 years before Christ was born.  According to Moses, an eyewitness, a horrific storm pounded Egypt in Exodus 9:13-32.  This passage reveals God’s anger toward Pharaoh as the Lord unleashes his full power, not holding anything back.  Based upon Moses’ description, lightning, thunder and golf ball sized hail pelted any animals, crops, homes or people who were unprepared.  If we are to take Moses at his word in Exodus 9:23-26, no storm can compared to this massive system sent by the hand of God.

Since God warned Egypt, those who feared God took immediate measures, Exodus 9:20, while the ignorant and skeptics were caught with their pants down.  Unfortunately, in real life, God get’s all the blame for destruction and Mother Nature get’s a pass except for the beautiful days.  Unless you consider the film A Year Without A Santa Claus when most people gave Santa the credit for snow on Christmas Eve.  My point is that you can’t have it both ways, either God created it, He allowed it to happen or scientific conditions for a Perfect Storm merged forming a super cell.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus paints an unique picture.  Like Pharaoh, James doubted Jesus, not able to comprehend God’s full force nature until some how his big brother rose from the dead. Acts 1:3.  This front row seat transformed his perspective of God in James 1:16-17.  James was deceived by the world, unable to grasp the truth until he was confronted by a ghost, a resurrected Christ.  Hopefully, you don’t have to endure an earthquake, hurricane or tornado before you become a believer.  May you share in the promise of James 1:18, passed on by an eyewitness to God’s full force nature.

by Jay Mankus

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