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Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Weather or Not?

Whenever I go on vacation, I try to check weather forecasts prior to leaving.  Depending upon the site you choose, you can research temperature up to ten days or hour by hour.  Usually, this helps me know what clothes to pack.  Unfortunately, just because a network has the most sophisticated technology in the world doesn’t make their anchors weather experts.  Anyone with a weather radar channel or doppler program open can see weather systems approaching.  However, unless you understand what you seeing on a screen, the exact forecast will always be in doubt.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? – Psalm 56:3-4

This past weekend I had planned a family ski trip in the Poconos, two hours north in Pennsylvania.  The early projections called for heavy snow Saturday, causing me to alter my initial plans.  To make matters worse, the state of Pennsylvania issued a state of emergency at noon Saturday.  Two days of skiing at Camelback Mountain turned into one, but snow didn’t start falling until five in the afternoon.  Right on the ice/snow line, estimations ranged from three to twelve inches.  To a certain extent, my families plans were held hostage by an ever changing weather report.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

In times of doubt and indecision, individuals are forced to rely on common sense.  When you aren’t able to decide which way to go or turn, the Bible introduces the concept of trusting God.  You may take the information provided like a weather forecast, but God’s Spirit, Galatians 5:25, can direct you like it did for the apostle Paul during the first century.  Perhaps, this explains why the translators of the King James Bible use the term Holy Ghost to describe the Holy Spirit.  This invisible force serves as a counselor, a guiding hand during times of darkness.  Whether or not forecasts are correct, trusting God can turn cloudy or foggy mornings into an ideal day on the slopes.  Sometimes the weather is merely a state of mind.  When trust is present, fear is replaced by a loving appreciation for God.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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My Grand Father’s Rocking Chair

Prior to the breakdown of traditional families in America, my parents generation were committed to maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Despite living four hours away, I visited grand parents on each side of my family 3-4 times per year.  I didn’t need ancestry.com to know who my relatives were.  Rather, I grew up sitting around a large kitchen table listening to stories for a minimum of 30 minutes per meal.  My earliest recollections of my mom’s father, a resident of Hershey, Pennsylvania was sitting on his lap eating chocolate kisses.  While this chair rocked, it is considered a glider, green leather upholstery with stained wooden arm rests.  As I grew up, Grandpa Kautz and I developed a special bond, the love for golf.  After retiring, my grandfather became a starter at Hershey Country Club, able to play golf for free after work.  Prior to his death, my wife Leanne and I were able to play 18 holes with him on this course.  Although none of us played well, I still cherish the memories of this day.  Following his death, my grandfather left me 2 possessions, his golf clubs and his rocking chair/glider.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Psalm 119:105.

Last spring, my wife and I traveled down to Tampa, Florida to clear out her father’s condo.  Jim Wagner was an avid golfer who visited this place a few times each winter to avoid harsh Chicago winters.  After 25 years of vacations, the condo was sold following Jim’s death in 2017.  It’s amazing how many possessions you can accumulate and fit into a two bedroom condo over a quarter of a century.  Sorting through each closet was emotional for my wife, a 3 day chore that resulted in several piles: donations, keep and trash.  One of the items that was headed for the dumpster was a tall lamp made out of driftwood.  At first glance, I agreed to throw this out.  However, this piece of furniture grew on me, especially with the brightness, illuminating one side of the master bedroom.  Thus, I couldn’t part with this light, driving it back to Delaware.  Prior to this trip, my grandfather’s chair was collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom.  Due to a lack of light, I wasn’t able to see so I kept finding another place to read.  As strange as it may be, it seems that this glider was waiting for my driftwood lamp to make an unusual partnership.  Now, a day doesn’t go by without turning on this lamp  before sitting down to read, write or watch television.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

Jesus made a practice of finding a secluded place to spend time with his heavenly father each day.  The passage above doesn’t provide a specific location like a desert, mountainside or the wilderness.  On another occasion, Jesus encourages an audience to go find an empty room, close the door behind you before praying.  Prayer, study and worship isn’t meant to be public act to bring attention to yourself.  Rather, God wants individuals to locate an intimate setting so that there is nothing to distract you.  As for me, my grandfather’s glider and driftwood lamp has become like an inner sanctuary.  As I open up the Bible, study these pages and pour my heart out to God in prayer, I connect with God.  To a certain extent, this chair has become my Cave of Abdullah, 1 Samuel 22.  This place in my house now serves as a refuge, where I can retreat from the troubles and worries of life.  While I could always do better, become more committed and focused on the Lord, I continue to withdraw each day as God waits in eager expectation for me to turn on my lamp and recline in this chair.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

This chair has become an

I Can’t Help Myself

My father was born in Lithuania.  As immigrants from certain Europeans countries began to migrate to the United States, stereotypes began to develop.  Whether it was the era, how my dad was raised or specific mannerisms, my father tended to be stoic unless he was angry.  Meanwhile, my mom who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania wasn’t afraid to wear her emotions on her sleeve.  Like any child, I exhibit a combination of qualities from each of my parents.  Nonetheless, whenever my heart is moved or touched by something special, I can’t help myself, easily brought to tears.

As He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance; 13 and they raised their voices and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were [miraculously] healed and made clean, Luke 17:12-14.

During the first century, Jews and Samaritans were enemies as hatred and resentment spilled over from the past.  This tension began when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judea in the south.  The north whose second capital was relocated upon a hillside in Samaria often did what was right in their own eyes.  The southern kingdom remained more true to God as some kings reminded citizens of their spiritual heritage.  The main issues between Jews and Samaritans began during 722 B.C. when Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity.  The byproduct of this siege led to intermarriages between Gentiles and Israelites.  Thus, Samaritans earned the reputation of being only half Jewish, labeled and ridiculed for centuries.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; 16 and he lay face downward at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. He was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten [of you] cleansed? Where are the [other] nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to give thanks and praise to God, except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:15-18

Recognizing this portion in history, Jesus is shocked by how little appreciation is shown to God by 9 Jewish lepers.  On the other hand, the Samaritan leper is overwhelmed after being healed.  According to a first century doctor, this man couldn’t help himself, praising God over and over again.  Sometimes in life, stereotypes influence how people act, behave and interact with others.  Yet, when you slow down and look around to see the numerous minor miracles in your life, you too can model the thanksgiving demonstrated by this Samaritan leper.  May the example of this first century man inspire you to develop a new outlook on life in 2019.

by Jay Mankus

More Than a Bell

Nearly twenty years ago I worked directly across the street from the Liberty Bell, driving by it six days a week.  To a certain extent, I took this local landmark for granted, just another piece of scenery on my ninety minute commute home.  Two years after leaving this position, National Treasure debuted in theaters.  Nicolas Cage and Justin Bartha play treasurer hunters, Benjamin Gates and Riley Poole, searching for a treasure left behind by several founding fathers who were Free Masons.  In this film, the Liberty Bell holds a clue, the next piece to a puzzle that ultimately leads to a hidden vault underneath a church in New York City.  Yet, this two thousand pound structure made out of copper and tin is much more than just a bell.

And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan, Leviticus 25:10.

In 1751, the Pennsylvania assembly ordered a bell for its State House, today’s Independence Hall.  The assembly chose a biblical inscription from the Bible that proclaims “liberty throughout the land,” Leviticus 25:10.  This bell would become an emblem of American independence.  One century later this bell also served as a symbol of the anti-slavery movement during the Civil War.  Initially, the Liberty Bell summoned Philadelphia lawmakers to their assemblies and local citizens to public announcements.  Today, over five million visitors travel to Independence National Historical Park to see this national treasure.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; Isaiah 61:1.

The context of the phrase “liberty throughout the land” comes from an Old Testament practice known as the Year of Jubilee.  The symbolism of this celebration is based upon freedom, setting anyone living in bondage or enslaved free.  Every fifty years on the Jewish calendar, the Jubilee cancelled any outstanding debts.  Thus, slaves were allowed to return to their homeland without being forced to return.  When you add the year of Jubilee to the end of slavery in America, the Liberty Bell has duel meanings.  If you ever have a chance to visit Independence National Park in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, remember that this monument is much more than a bell.

by Jay Mankus

Listen, Obey and Yield

During the last half century, I have been fortunate enough to attend, listen and participate in numerous inspirational events.  I went to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during a Billy Graham Crusade to hear NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White speak.  Shortly after getting married, I heard former Colorado football coach Bill McCarthy address a crowd of sixty five thousand men during a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field.  I spent a year under the spiritual leadership of Alistair Begg, the voice of Truth for Life ministries at the Chapel in Solon, Ohio.  Finally, I spent another year soaking in the knowledge of John Ortberg via Community Services at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois.

But even as he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were [greatly] afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, My Chosen One; listen and obey and yield to Him!” – Luke 9:34-35

Many of these speeches invigorated my soul, eager to live out my faith.  Yet, there is one message that stands alone in the Bible.  In the passage above, there were only four people present.  Beside Jesus, James, John and Peter were on a mountain that was engulfed by clouds.  This formation is similar to a heavy fog, limiting your visibility to a couple of feet.  Within this cloud, the voice of God the Father spoke.  To make sure there isn’t any doubt, God identifies Jesus as his own son.  Believing that brevity is clarity, God the Father shares seven words.  The command is simply: listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found there alone. And they kept silent, and told no one at that time any of the things which they had seen [concerning the divine manifestation], Luke 9:36.

Listening means to be attentive, concentrate, hang on and keep your ears open.  Obeying is the act of accepting, bowing, carrying out, deferring to and submitting to that which is being recommended.  Yield refers to bear, contribute, fetch, gather, provide and realize the plan.  In this context, the calling that God has designed for your life.  According to the passage above, theses three disciples were in awe, reflecting upon what had just happened.  None of these men revealed this event until after Jesus rose from the dead.  Although there were only three eye witnesses, God’s message to modern believers hasn’t changed.  Listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

You Can Only Do So Much

Ten years ago, I volunteered for a week to serve as a camp counselor at an overnight Christian Camp just south of Reading, Pennsylvania.  Due to a weeklong heat wave, a cabin without air conditioning and inner ear infection that lingered the rest of that summer, I never returned for a second year.  Instead, my two sons now serve as camp counselors at Camp Cedarbrook.  During a de-briefing session over lunch, my oldest son James shared his frustrations of boys in his cabin who never listened to him.  Despite repeated attempts, numerous reminders and intervention from veteran counselors, James was unable to change these bad habits.  Unfortunately, you can only do so much in one week of time.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

Unless you are a coach, counselor, parent or teacher, you may not realize that America is on the verge of a parental crisis.  After years of appeasing, bribing and spoiling children, basic character traits, courtesy and morals are missing.  Instead cell phones, electronic devices and video games are killing social skills, creating a further divide between children and parents.  Those individuals who are diligently working to stop this trend have their own obstacles to overcome.  Abandonment, death and divorce has led to single parent homes, struggling to provide and raise kids at the same time.  Giving a word of encouragement to my son, I replied “you can only do so much on your own.”

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another, Proverbs 27:17.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is a small quote from King Solomon.  This wise man compares a black smith to being the best person you can be.  When human beings enter into an accountability relationship, affirmations point out the good while flaws are pointed through honest assessments.  As long as both parties seek the best interest of the other, character is strengthened like iron sharpening iron.  For those who feel called into the ministry, you may not be able to win the hearts and souls of those who you love.  God doesn’t call everyone to be successful, but faithful.  Therefore, if you feel overwhelmed by a lack of progress in your life, remember you can only do so much.

by Jay Mankus

What Have I Been Doing?

The older that I get, each year seems to be a carbon copy of the last one.  I start off strong, eating healthy, exercising and spending regular time with God in January.  When spring arrives, I usually let some things slide, struggling with my diet and working out.  By the start of summer, my life resembles a house that hasn’t been cleaned for months.  As I was singing a worship song on Sunday, a spirit of conviction overwhelmed my soul.  Like a still small voice, the Holy Spirit asked, “what have you been doing the past few years?”

I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death], Romans 7:9.

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays Phil, a news reporter from Pittsburgh on assignment.  During his trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Murray get’s stuck in a blizzard, forced to stay another day.  Unfortunately, Murray is caught in a time gap, reliving Groundhog Day over and over again.  To a certain extent, I feel like Bill Murray’s character, trapped by time.  However, while Phil slowly learned to make the most of each day, I keep making the same mistakes year after year.  Like the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, I find myself stuck in a pattern of sin, unable to break free.

So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully delight in the law of God in my inner self [with my new nature], 23 but I see a different law and rule of action in the members of my body [in its appetites and desires], waging war against the law of my mind and subduing me and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is within my members, Romans 7:21-23.

Since I began working nights four years ago, attending church has been a difficult task due to my sleep schedule.  When I did miss a Sunday, I started watching a few pastors on TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  At some point, I thought I was strong enough to go without a congregation, attending church about once a month.  Yet, now I know I was misled by a rationalizing mind.  God designed human beings to be social creatures who thrive in a fellowship of believers.  Unfortunately, I was blinded, believing that I could exist apart from Christ’s body.  Boy… was I wrong!

Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? 25 Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin, Romans 7:24-25.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know the necessary course of action, reconnect and join a church.  As a former youth pastor, its hard to overlook all the flaws that I see when I visit a new church.  Nonetheless, I have to make a decision before the summer ends.  As I cope with my wretched state, at least deliverance is available to those who trust in Jesus Christ.  May this blog serve as a warning so that you don’t make the same mistake of trying to serve God without a church to call home.  If you don’t, you might find yourself pondering, “what have I been doing?”

by Jay Mankus

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