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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

A National Anthem in Crisis

Prior to the events in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11th 2001, the relationship between sporting events and the playing of National Anthems had become a mundane ritual.  If you take away the Olympics, playoffs and the Super Bowl, anthems were rarely ever televised.  Some professional sports even played anthems while players were still in the locker room.  However, post 9/11 the singing of Francis Scott Key’s song united this nation for a minute or so daily.  I was in Philadelphia for the first National Football League Monday Night Football game following this terrorist attack.  When a flag the shape of the United States was displayed across the entire field, the crowd went crazy, setting the stage for an emotional national anthem.  Those professional athletes who have chosen to kneel or sit have forgotten what the national anthem represents.  As more begin similar displays as a protest, the future of America’s national anthem is in jeopardy.

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! – Psalm 105:2

As a former teacher, I understand pressure to remove the national anthem at professional sporting events isn’t the end but the beginning of an attempt to erase any trace of God from American history.  During homeroom or over a loud speaker, public schools read a daily passage or verse from the Bible up to the early 1960’s.  The reading communicated a morale, trait or value teachers hoped to instill within their students.  When a few atheists were offended, a law suit followed that removed the Bible permanently from public education.  When schools obliged others were upset about students and teachers praying for each other.  This too was banned, stripping God’s influence from the classroom.  Looking back at history, schools have never been the same as God has removed his own blessing from those who have not made room for Him.  Then, there was the 10 commandments, “surely we can’t allow human beings to read and see these rigid rules.”  Today, religious leaders are arrested if 10 commandment statues aren’t removed from all court buildings.  Finally, there is the pledge of allegiance which has been made optional for children or simply discarded all together.  If the national anthem is silenced, there’s always something else atheists, leftists and progressives will deem offensive.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted, Isaiah 49:13.

I hope the owners of professional sports teams don’t cave to public pressure like weak minded republicans more interested in gaining approval from the press rather than upholding American values.  During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp.  When this promise was made, I don’t think Trump realized how deep and dangerous this resistance would be.  While the media continues to label the Trump presidency as the worst ever, the horizon appears to be void of any leaders willing to stand up for the national anthem.  Sure, there may be some closet defenders, afraid to vocalize their opinions.  Yet, America appears to be on the verge of a social war between the past and the present.  As someone who grew up in a military family, respect was impressed upon me.  Unfortunately, some where along the way respect for God and country has slowly faded away.  In view of this decay, may God raise someone up to carry the torch for the National Anthem so that this treasured tradition does not disappear like those now forgotten.  Stand up and sing, thanking God for all the Lord has done for this land called America.

by Jay Mankus

 

The God Hypocrisy

Earlier this week an elderly man destroyed a brand new statue of the ten commandments.  Initial media reports suggested that this might have been part of a car accident.  After further investigation it was uncovered that this destruction was posted on Facebook Live.  In fact this was the second religious statue this man had destroyed,  If this attack was aimed at any other politically correct religious symbol, the liberal media would have been outraged.  Unfortunately, the God hypocrisy caused this story to be buried or omitted completely.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! – Revelation 3:15

Prior to the attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11th, 2001, God was being pushed out of American culture.  The Bible, prayer and religious freedom were being kicked to the curb, discarded like old possessions at a garage sale.  Following 9/11, Major League Baseball decided to let God back in by singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.  Meanwhile, more people attended worship centers on the Sunday after 9/11 than ever before or since.  Unfortunately, when good times return God is usually one of the first relationships to be placed on the back burner.

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth, Revelation 3:16.

If God would have a letter commissioned to the United States of America today it would be similar to the church in Laodicea.  At some point, individuals develop an on again off again relationship with God.  This unhealthy habit breeds a lukewarm spirit where people use God as a crutch leaning on Him in times of trouble.  Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ yet exhibits an inconsistent faith results in another God hypocrisy.  Thus, unless individuals begin to live out the Christian faith, church attendance will continue to decline.  You shouldn’t have to wait until the next 9/11 like event to turn your life around.  May this blog or the Darryl Worley song Have You Forgotten inspire you to dial up your faith by trusting and obeying an invisible God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Fostering Love

The concept of foster care in the United States was inspired by Charles Loring Brace.  In the middle of the 19th century, Brace’s heart was torn by the thousands of homeless children living in the slums of New York City.  Brace believed that these children would do much better if placed into a farm setting with Christian families living in the country.  Thus, the Orphan Train movement was born, transporting more than 100,00 children from 1853-1890.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends, Proverbs 17:9.

In the Old Testament, King Solomon encouraged the Israelites to foster love.  Anyone can point out someone’s flaws.  Yet, when attacked human beings tend to go on the defensive. Whether words spoken are in the form of exaggerations, in gest or gossip, any brash decision usually divides and separates relationships.  Therefore, when push comes to shove, its better to foster love by overlooking any offense against you.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

The apostle Paul addresses a similar issue during the first century.  Unfortunately, love was becoming just another word, void of meaning.  In their prime, DC Talk sang above Love is a Verb.  Love is meant to be exercised through selfless acts.  Sure, family may verbalize their love but without any sincere demonstration these terms of endearment are empty.  In view of the negativity fueled by a press upset after their candidate didn’t become president elect, turn the other cheek by fostering love.

by Jay Mankus

 

Where Liberty and Church Street Meet

Shipping Wars, a reality television show on A&E debuted on January 10th, 2012.  Simulating the competitive nature of this trade, I spent 2 years of my life pursuing this career back in 2000 and 2001.  In order to make money, you have to be willing to spend it up front.  In fact, I once made $2000 in 24 hours, driving an overnight delivery from Wilmington, Delaware to Chicago.  Unfortunately, this never happened again as like most Americans, I struggled to make a living.  Nonetheless, as I drove a weekly route up to East Rutherford, New Jersey, the World Trade Center was always there to greet me in the sky as I drew near.  This beacon of light stood where Liberty and Church Street met.

As the summer of 2001 faded into fall, I made an emergency trip to New York City, passing the twin towers for the last time.  After 9/11, lights lite up where this grand building once resided, but approaching New York was never the same.  When the United States was attacked on our own soil, the pursuit of life and liberty took on an entirely new meaning.  In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, churches experienced an initial awakening, packed for prayer vigils and services.  More than 10 years later, church attendance is declining and liberty is under a different kind of battle, invisible to the human eye.

On the Atlantic Coast of America, most downtown areas are filled with centers for worship.  The further west you travel across the fruited plains, the less this scene is repeated.  As progress occurs in society, traditions tend to fall by the wayside, surpassed by modern thinking.  While atheists are still trying to have the steel cross found in the Twin Towers remains removed from the 9/11 memorial, this relic is a symbol for a lost and dying world, John 3:16-17.  As the Freedom Tower replaces the World Trade Center at Liberty and Church Street, may this day in history never be forgotten, especially on this Independence Day, July 4th.

by Jay Mankus

Powerless

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Last night, my favorite lamp (if there is such a thing) and the only light source in our family room went out just before Bible Study.  After investigating for a few minutes, I discovered the main plug had begun to tear away from the cord creating a fire hazard.  Thus, I was forced to improvise, bringing a lamp from upstairs as a temporary solution.  Without an electrician at my immediate disposal, I was powerless, left in the dark contemplating another annoying hassle thrown into the equation called life.

On August 14th, 2003, 50 million residents of the Northeastern portion of the United States were powerless, forced to resume life without power during the largest power outage in U.S. history.  An aging electrical grid left residents from Ohio,  across to New York City and up as far as Ontario, Canada without power.  Like a bad practical joke, America didn’t have a choice except slow down, go back in time and make the best of life for 24 hours.  Fortunately, I had moved to southern Indiana in June or I would have spent my birthday in the dark.

Enslaved by technology 10 years later, this generation might have a hissy fit if a similar outage occurs, crying out for 4G, their favorite game systems and high definition television.  Blinded by the delicacies of life, many adults still act like spoiled children, complaining until they get their way.  Romans 8:3 refers to a spiritual blackout, where people are powerless, unable to save themselves from sin and its powerful grip.  In a pit of despair, Psalm 30:1-3, helpless to turn life around, God sent his son Jesus to be a sin offering, cancelling the debts we have accrued .  Therefore, the next time the lights go out for an extended time, grab a flashlight and find a Bible.  While you may be powerless, God provides the juice in Romans 5:8 to flip your life around for good.

by Jay Mankus

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