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I Could Use a Little Help Down Here

Newscaster Evan Baxter played by comedian Steve Carell leaves Buffalo, New York behind when he wins a seat in Congress. Yet, as Evan moves to Washington D.C. with his family, no one could imagine God’s request, played by Morgan Freeman, for this rising star. This is the background for the 2007 film Evan Almighty where a series of God instances leaves this amateur to commit political suicide, confessing God’s calling to build an ark. My favorite scene occurs when Baxter initially struggles to get his new project going, crying out to God, ” I could use a little help down here.”

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple, Luke 14:25-27.

I usually don’t agree with Hollywood’s portrayal of a biblical truths, especially after their epic flop of Noah in 2014. However, the Almighty films beginning with Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey in 2003 and the most recent Evan Almighty, provide a more accurate view of God’s character. After God purchases additional lots and provides all of the supplies to build an ark, Evan agrees to complete this task, unaware of why or when this boat will be needed. This is where many Americans find themselves, unsure if what they are currently doing is worth completing. “Should I move on or keep my word by finishing what I started?”

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples, Luke 14:28-33.

The gospel of Luke refers to 72 other disciples, servants of God, but not part of Jesus’ inner circle. At some point, Jesus challenged those who were eager to become followers. Combining common sense, tough love and wisdom from heaven, Jesus doesn’t want people to regret making a decision. Luke 9:57-62 highlights three different conversations that Jesus had with individuals who weren’t fully committed. Thus, each turned back, going on with the rest of their life. As 2020 quickly heads toward February, maybe it’s time for you take a moment to reflect. Are you doing God’s will? Are you uncertain about your career, college or future plans? Before you feel overwhelmed by life, don’t forget to ask God daily like Evan, ” I could use a little help down here.”

by Jay Mankus

Fleeing Communism Only to See it Come to America

While Germany sought to seize control of Europe during World War II, the Soviet Union used this distraction to expand their own borders. Known as the Invasion and Annexation of the Baltic States, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia were invaded in 1940. Living in Lithuania at this time, my father’s family barely escaped as Communism overran his native country.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God, Romans 13:1.

After a couple from America agreed to sponsor the Mankus family, my dad became a proud immigrant along with his two brothers. As a growing number of Lithuanians entered this country, many relocated to Binghamton, New York where my father spent the rest of his childhood. Working hard to learn English and excel in school, my family made the most of this opportunity, a prime example of living the American dream.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29.

Sixty years later my father is retired, enjoying the fruits of his labor. Yet, as he enjoys fishing, golfing and reading, the same ideology which caused him to flee Lithuania has found a home in the United States of America. If you use a search engine to find modern examples of Communism you will see China, Cuba, North Korea and Russia. However, if you watch cable news, read national publications or scan social media, you will find communist propaganda. Except for a few outlets like OAN news, the media is united so that progressivism will prevail. Unless God intervenes, I’m afraid this country is on the verge of becoming the United Socialist States of America.

by Jay Mankus

Awakenings

The summer of 1969 is filled with a rich resource of history.  Beside the Bryan Adams song which debuted in June of 1985, one of the most famous musical festivals of all time took place in upstate New York.  Woodstock began August 15th, 1969 and concluded four days later in Bethel, New York near White Lake.  While legendary artists, famous bands and iconic performers took turns on stage, a major medical breakthrough in the Bronx, New York was overshadowed.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation], Matthew 11:28.

Based on a true story, neurologist Oliver Sacks attempts to recount a series of awakenings within a mental hospital that took place during the summer of 1969.  The 1990 film Awakenings starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams highlights the doctor patient relationship of the first to awaken from over two decades in a catatonic state.  After convincing a Bronx administer to use an expensive experimental drug therapy on one patient with family consent, a little boy breaks 18 years of silence, coming to life as an adult.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:29-30.

The older I become, the more I observe individuals who enter a trance life state, hiding disappointment, frustrations and pain within their heart.  The past can hold a series of burdens which can suck the joy out of any life.  Even those who possess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are at risk.  The only way for a true awakening to occur begins by placing your burdens at the foot of the cross.  As you pray for healing, hope and peace, may the Holy Spirit awaken your soul like those revived in the summer of 69.

by Jay Mankus

 

Whose Life is Worth Saving?

If you live along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, your life is interrupted for eight months every year.  Any condo, house or trailer within walking distance of a beach lives under a strict ordinance.  Florida’s state Game and Wild Life Department restricts outdoor landscaping lights of any kind.  If you are wondering why, this law has been enacted to save the lives of future sea turtles.  During the hatching process, lights draw the attention of newly born turtles.  To ensure baby sea turtles make it back to the ocean, local authorities constantly warn residence about outdoor lighting.  While hatchings usually don’t occur until May, the state of Florida has taken extreme measures for eight months to save the lives of baby sea turtles.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.

Meanwhile, the states of New York and Virginia have made national headlines for a different reason this week.  A 2019 New York abortion bill has extended a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy from the third trimester all the way leading up to giving birth.  A similar abortion bill in Virginia was tabled after losing five to three during a committee meeting vote.  The Virginia legislation is said to be more humane, allowing woman to give birth, resuscitate the child if necessary, keep this newborn warm before ending it’s life.  Each of these bills give doctor’s, medical staff and women giving birth the authority to abort whenever deemed necessary.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them, Psalm 139:13-16.

These contrasting stories lead me to one question, whose life is worth saving?  Do Americans care more about pets and turtles than newborn babies?  Furthermore, how did this country reach this point?  How can we devalue the miracle of giving birth while giving more rights to animals without a soul?  Maybe it’s too late for this discussion, but I care too much about this country to see it wander into an immoral abyss.  I’m not sure what the answer is, but prayer is definitely one of the solutions.  May the Lord have mercy on the United States as future voters contemplate which leaders will have the boldness, courage and fortitude to steer this nation back where God desires.

by Jay Mankus

What It Means to be One Nation Under God

Since October media reports has followed caravans of people from Latin America, hoping for a better life.  Depending upon your choice of cable news networks, reporters covering this story have attempted to define who these people really are.  As the masses have reached the border seeking asylum, politics have divided Americans.  Those who don’t want borders have invoked religion, accusing opponents of being anti-Christian, failing to love these individuals like Jesus.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world, James 1:27.

Anyone who picks and choses what they want to believe from the Bible while disregarding other parts is known as syncretism.  This practice blends cultures, religions and schools of thought to appease, relate to and unite a large diverse audience.  Unfortunately, when politicians use syncretism it’s often masked with Saul Alinsky tactics from Rules for Radicals.  Instead of using the Bible in its proper context, political talking points often seize opportunities like the caravan to condemn and criticize anyone who dares to disagree.  If you watch any nightly news, politics is a vessel of division.  What America needs is to go back to its roots.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17

The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States was composed by Captain George Thatcher Balch. Balch was a Union Army Officer during the Civil War and later became a teacher of patriotism in New York City schools.  The most recent alteration of its wording came on Flag Day in 1954, when the words “under God” were added.  When my father’s family fled Lithuania during the Soviet Union’s invasion of the Baltic States, he came to America to start over living with a host family.  While a large number of Lithuanians migrated to Binghamton, New York, these immigrants eventually became citizens.  The goal wasn’t to make America Lithuanian.  Rather, it was to become one nation, united by a common faith in God, to carry on their former nation’s heritage united under one flag.  This is what it means to live as one nation under God.

by Jay Mankus

Cash or Credit?

The concept of using a credit card began in the United States during the booming 1920’s.  John Bigging of the Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn in New York invented the first bank associated credit card in 1946.  A few years later Frank McNamara introduced the first nationally used credit card.  The Diner’s Card was created to help families pay restaurant bills as a recent study has suggested individuals paying by credit will spend 47% more than those paying cash.  Thus, over the past 70 years shoppers continue to hear cashiers say “cash or credit?”

A man lacking common sense gives a pledge and becomes guarantor [for the debt of another] in the presence of his neighbor, Proverbs 17:18.

This consumer shift from cash to credit has altered business and marketing practices.  For example, a brief comment in the 1910 Sears Catalog stated “using credit to purchase merchandise is folly.”  This is a complete paradigm shift from modern advertisements.  American Express used Roger Daltrey in 1985 to convince future shoppers, “don’t leave home with out it.”  Other credit card companies offer cash back bonuses for spending X amount of dollars per year.  The only problem is that over 100 million Americans do not pay back their monthly balances leading to a debt epidemic enslaving families with bills they aren’t able to pay back.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender, Proverbs 22:7.

When my wife and I take our family on vacation, we usually withdraw cash, two to three hundreds each.  The only time we use credit cards is for gas and restaurants.  A few years ago, we spent a week down in Clearwater, Florida.  With the Phillies in town for Spring Training, my wife wanted to get nice seats.  After $5 for parking, $27 per seat and a couple of snacks, it was painful to blow almost $200 cash in one day.  As Dave Ramsey says is his financial peace university classes, when you use cash instead of credit cards, you can feel the pain of wasting hard spent money.  May this blog challenge you to rethink your spending habits so that you don’t become of slave to debt.

by Jay Mankus

 

Looking Through a Key Hole

My dad’s mother, an immigrant to this country, spent most of her time in the United States living in Binghamton, New York.  Beside working as a nurse at a local hospital, my grandmother rented out the second floor of their house which consisted of three separate apartments.  After her three sons graduated from college, Joanna continued to work at this hospital but left these spare rooms vacant.  During my childhood, these upper rooms provided an excellent place for hide and go seek.  Due to squeaky wooden floors, you were forced to tip toe, spying through open keyholes in antique doors.  From this vantage point, you could check to see who was coming or wait until someone revealed their hiding place.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Prior to high tech security systems with hidden cameras, most modern front doors contained a peek hole to look through before opening the door.  This safety feature protected children from unwanted strangers like the classic scenes from Home Alone and Uncle Buck.  However, these peek holes were not always used for wholesome reasons.  Over the years, some have fallen prey to voyeurism, using binoculars, open key holes and peek holes to feed fleshly desires.  Those who give into these ungodly desires open the door for pornography that leads to reprobate minds.  While each individual is vulnerable to different types of temptation, Jesus urged his own disciples to watch and pray so that the Holy Spirit will override earthly desires.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, James 4:7.

Jesus’ earthly brother chimes in with his own advice.  In the first chapter to first century believers, James 1:13-15 claims that temptation is not God’s fault.  Rather, the process of giving into sin is a series of compromises, often subtle that lead careless souls on the verge of going beyond boundaries defined by the Bible.  Thus, James commands his readers to resist the Devil by submitting yourself to God.  Meanwhile, the apostle Paul adds another piece of this spiritual puzzle, 1 Corinthians 10:13, when tempted look for the way out of your predicament.  If there is one song that demonstrates the danger that lurks on the other side of a keyhole it’s the children’s classic O Be Careful Little Eyes.  May this blog inspire you to avoid taking a second glance so that the urge to sin is quickly broken by eyes fixated on the cross of Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

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