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Let Your War Cry Be Praise

If you are a student of history, you can learn from past events to enhance your chances of succeeding in the future. Such is the case of Joshua who was chosen to lead Israel into God’s Promised Land. During a battle against the Amalekites, Joshua followed the advice given to him by Moses. On the surface this sounded crazy, but low and behold as long as Moses held his hands high, Israel prevailed, Exodus 17:9-11. Perhaps this one event opened Joshua’s mind to the concept of letting your war cry be the praise of God.

And the Lord said to Joshua, See, I have given Jericho, its king and mighty men of valor, into your hands. You shall march around the enclosure, all the men of war going around the city once. This you shall do for six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns; and on the seventh day you shall march around the enclosure seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets, Joshua 6:2-4.

The boundaries of the ancient land of Canaan included the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, west of the Jordan River. The last step toward taking possession of God’s promised land was conquering the city of Jericho. The greatest obstacle to taking control of Jericho was the vast wall surrounding this city. As strange as it may sound, the Lord gave Joshua unusual instructions in the passage above. Yet, this master plan didn’t seem like a logical idea. Nonetheless, Joshua believed and trusted God, passing on these directions to the entire nation of Israel.

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they raised a great shout, and [Jericho’s] wall fell down in its place, so that the [Israelites] went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 Then they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox, sheep, and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, Go into the harlot’s house and bring out the woman and all she has, as you swore to her, Joshua 6:20-22.

Instead of picking up traditional weapons of war, a marching band started their procession. For 6 days, the ark of the covenant was carried along the external walls, once a day with the trumpet section leading the way. On the 7th and final day of God’s plan, this marching band let in rip like an excited progressive band during a competition. Once everyone received the signal from their leader, a war cry of praise in accompany with trumpets hit one of the highest decibels recorded in the Bible. The next time you witness the Lord do the impossible, let your war cry be praise.

by Jay Mankus

Christmas is a Time for Second Chances

The retail calendar is an endless cycle, constantly moving from one celebration to the next. As soon as Halloween festivities end, stores are transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. Meanwhile, on television a month of horror flicks are replaced with movies about joy, thanksgiving, and praise. When Thanksgiving Dinner’s wind down, Christmas shopping comes to life or should I say ignite. Whether you wait in lines or do most of your purchases online, consumerism doesn’t overshadow the fact that Christmas is a time for second chances.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. 25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly puzzled (astonished, bewildered), saying, Who then can be saved [from eternal death]? – Matthew 19:24-25

During a first century conversation, the 12 disciples became deflated following a parable shared by Jesus. The point of Jesus’ analogy was to illustrate that individuals aren’t good, holy or strong enough to save themselves. Attempting to be some sort of superhuman Christian, the disciples became depressed, painfully aware of their limitations. As despair began to set in, Jesus’ words served as a swing in momentum, “anything is possible with God.” Yes, even those of you who need a second chance this Christmas.

But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God, Matthew 19:26.

George Bailey, played by James Stewart, needed a visit from an angel to notice just how wonderful his life was. A ruthless TV-network chief played by Bill Murray in Scrooged needed to witness his own death to realize what was truly important in his own life. As you sit down at some point this Christmas to watch one of the classics films, the Lord wants to remind you that forgiveness, grace and mercy is available every day, Lamentations 3:31-25. For Christmas is the season of second chances, a fresh start and a new beginning in life. Seize this opportunity to begin again with God, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Familiar Fears

According to a recent study, there are ten common fears that children share. This list includes fear of flying, of public speaking, of heights, of the dark, intimacy, dying, failure, rejection, spiders, and commitment. When face to face education returns to each state, familiar fears of failure, rejection and public speaking will once again take center stage. Depending upon one’s ability to fit in or find new friends, these fears will either intensify or subside.

For it is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. 15 To one he gave five talents [probably about $5,000], to another two, to another one—to each in proportion to his own personal ability. Then he departed and left the country. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he gained five talents more. 17 And likewise he who had received the two talents—he also gained two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money, Matthew 25:14-18.

During a conversation about the signs of end times, Jesus tells a story to illustrate what it will be like when the Son of Man will return to earth. Known as the Parable of the Talents, Jesus uses 3 servants to illustrate his point. If you really like your job, you don’t want to disappoint or let your boss down. Thus, you will do everything in your power to fulfill your daily duties so that you may receive praise and or recognition. Any effort less than 100% will be seen as not caring, not afraid of letting others down.

His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. 24 He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed [the grain]. 25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own. 26 But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather [grain] where I have not winnowed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents, Matthew 25:23-28.

In the passage above, the least trusted servant allows familiar fears to affect his decision. The fear of failure and rejection caused this man to bury his talent. A lack of confidence persuaded this servant to avoid taking a chance or risk. Rather than use basic economics or creativity, fear drove this servant to an illogical decision. When familiar fears aren’t addressed, souls become paralyzed, influencing your thought process. Therefore, if you want to please your heavenly father, begin thinking like God, 2 Timothy 1:7.

by Jay Mankus

How Do You Respond to God’s Glory?

There are certain events that can only be described as a miracle.  The car accident that you somehow avoided.  The birth of a healthy child after doctor’s gave a woman little or no chance to survive.  A full recovery from an operation when the odds and percentages were against you.  These events and others like it are glimpses of God’s glory on earth.  After you awake to experience another day, how will you respond to God’s glory?

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me disrespectfully and reject Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the [miraculous] signs which I have performed among them? – Number 14:11

In the early days of the Old Testament, God made regular appearances, displaying his mighty power.  After Noah witnessed and survived a global flood, the Lord started over with a man named Abraham.  Years later, a boy who was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter would alter the course of history.  When Egyptians mistreated his descendants, enslaved by Pharaoh, Moses murdered a man, living as a fugitive until meeting God in a burning bush.  Despite this amazing encounter, Moses focused his speech impediment instead of trusting in the power of God to cure his stuttering.

Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I am not a man of words (eloquent, fluent), neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute or the deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and will teach you what you shall say.” 13 But he said, “Please my Lord, send the message [of rescue to Israel] by [someone else,] whomever else You will [choose],” Exodus 4:10-13.

After escaping harm from the ten plagues sent by God, witnessing the Red Sea splitting in two and eating manna from heaven, Israel became spoiled.  Instead of treating God’s glory with awe and praise, many Jews began to disrespect the Lord, forgetting all the miracles of the recent past.  Perhaps, this explains why Jesus urges first century followers to live by faith and not by sight.  Whenever individuals reach a point where you demand God to give me this or show me a sign, we follow in the footsteps of Israel wandering around in the wilderness.  May this blog inspire souls to respond to God’s glory with the proper acknowledgement, praise and respect.

by Jay Mankus

From Spiritual Blindness to Humility

Spiritual blindness is a grievous condition experienced by those who do not believe in God, Jesus Christ, and His Word, the Bible. This state is often brought on by a popular view that God is all loving, preventing this spiritual being from sending human beings to hell. Spiritual blindness can also be contracted by the self-righteous. This occurs when religious individuals begin to compare themselves to less spiritual people. This comparison elevates their own self-esteem while lulling souls into a false sense of security.

He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [posing outwardly as upright and in right standing with God], and who viewed others with contempt: Luke 18:9.

During the first century, Jesus attempted to expose the spiritual blindness of religious leaders by using a parable.  This analogy compared one outstanding citizen, a Pharisee with a stellar reputation to a tax collector, the most corrupt and dishonest occupations at the time.  Jesus made his point by noticing the prayer habits of these two men.  This so called good guy exalted himself without any acknowledgement, gratitude or praise for the Lord above.  Meanwhile, the social misfit, hated by society, did not feel worthy to look up to heaven.  Rather, this tax collector beat his chest, disgusted by the spiritual condition of his soul.

The Pharisee stood [ostentatiously] and began praying to himself [in a self-righteous way, saying]: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—swindlers, unjust (dishonest), adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but was striking his chest [in humility and repentance], saying, ‘God, be merciful and gracious to me, the [especially wicked] sinner [that I am]!’– Luke 18:11-13.

Life is full of cycles. phases and transitional periods.  During these ups and downs, God humbles the proud and lifts up the meek.  The hardest part of these emotional experiences is remembering where you came from.  In the darkest days of Job’s trials, this broken man once said, “from ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”  This confession reflects upon God creating Adam out of the dust only to return to the ground following his death.  When human beings recognize the frailty of life, a mist that appears for a while then quickly vanishes, this should move the spiritually blind to humility.  May this painful reality prompt acts of faith to get your life in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

A Reason To Celebrate

According to a recent AAA survey, 112 million American traveled 50 miles or more to celebrate Christmas in 2018.  Like most holidays, airports and highways will be packed as families travel back and forth from these destinations.  Yet, how many arrived safely without incident?  Furthermore, how many individuals gave thanks to God upon arriving?

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean,” William Bradford, 1620.

The quote above seems applicable for any trip that you take.  In an exhibit dedicated to Pilgrims at the Museum of the Bible,  Bradford’s recollection of the Pilgrim’s landfall upon Plymouth Rock reveals the faith of those who set sail across the Atlantic.  Apparently, the Mayflower experienced rough seas, squalls and unsettling weather.  Nonetheless, when this journey was complete, God received the credit for arriving safely.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

As someone who has driven nearly one million miles behind the wheel of a car, my appreciation for God is lacking.  Sure, when road conditions are treacherous I cry out to the Lord, but rarely do I thank God when I arrive.  As I travel back home in the morning, I need to apply the passage above.  Praise should be continual, daily and genuine.  Instead of taking credit for keeping my family safe, I need to thank angels, divine intervention and God’s mercy for watching over me and my family.  Perhaps, we can all learn from the Pilgrims, with a reason to celebrate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

Don’t Overlook God’s Providence

Immediately following the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites fled into the desert.  When Pharaoh changed his mind, Moses led God’s people to the banks of the Red Sea.  Against all odds, the Lord enabled Moses to part this body of water before collapsing upon and swallowing up the Egyptian army.  After witnessing this miracle, any event that follows would be obscure.  Thus, when God magically sent bread, manna from heaven, the Jews slowly began to overlook the obvious.

And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the Israelites no longer had manna, but they ate some of the produce of the land of Canaan during that year, Joshua 5:12.

Like any human being, time has a way of changing your perspective.  Initial awe, excitement and joy can fade when everything that follows is small in comparison.  Perhaps, this explains Jesus comment to one if his disciples, “blessed are those do not see me yet believe.”  The testimony of followers of Jesus immediately following his resurrection should have been enough.  Yet, doubt prevented Thomas from believing, needing to see with his own eyes.  When you live with a miracle worker every day for three years, at some point you begin to over look the obvious, expecting greater things.

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me],” John 20:29.

As holiday shoppers rush through life to get their Christmas preparations in order, it’s hard to keep track of daily mundane responsibilities.  Meanwhile, subtle miracles are glanced over as God provides this or that without any praise or thanks.  Unfortunately, I tend to be the type of person who allows themselves to be pushed to the limit, on the verge of mental exhaustion weekly.  Thus, instead of seeing subtle signs of God’s providence, I have ignored the obvious.  I guess I need to follow the advice of the Psalmist by being still before God, Psalm 46:10.  When you do, you will stop overlooking the obvious by observing the hand of God over your life.

by Jay Mankus

Past Due

The phrase past due is an accounting term that refers to past the date on which a payment should have been made.  Those notices appear in the mail or as an email to warn customers of their violation.  This reminder is like a courtesy call, a method to encourage individuals to immediately pay the amount owed.  Yet, money is not the only that is past due.

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng, Psalm 109:30.

The most obvious past due response is thanks.  While American’s celebrate Thanksgiving every November, I often forget to thank the people who have helped me along the way.  Giving thanks shouldn’t be just an annual event.  Rather, thanksgiving should be a daily practice, slowing down enough to verbally share how much you appreciate your friends, family and co-workers.  Similar to Billy Joel’s song Honesty, thanksgiving can be such a lonely word.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

The second response that is past due is praise.  The Psalmist suggests that human beings were created to praise God, Psalm 150.  Prior to entering into a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, I was selfish and self-seeking.  Yet, when Jesus came into my life, I began to see the connection between blessings and God, James 1:17.  The earthly brother of Jesus wrote about this claiming that every good and perfect thing on earth comes down from heaven.  Although money may get the most attention in life, don’t forget to praise and thank God this holiday season.

by Jay Mankus

 

En Fuego

When Sports Center on ESPN was in its prime, at its height in popularity, the term en fuego was adopted to highlight a player who was on fire.  In other words, this individual had an unbelievable game, rarely missing if at all.  The noun fuego is a volcano in south central Guatemala.  When translated from Spanish into English fuego means fire or flame.  Someone on fire can not be hidden as their light magnifies and pierces through any nearby darkness.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness and delight; Come before His presence with joyful singing, Psalm 100:1-2.

In the passage above, the Psalmist describes someone who is spiritually on fire.  Heat is displayed by developing a heart for thanksgiving.  As servants of God begin to verbalize all that God has done, joy begins to overflow like a volcano ready to erupt.  When the Holy Spirit ignites souls with gladness, faith bubbles and oozes out of individuals naturally.  This delight moves Christians toward God’s presence; then enter the Lord’s courts with praise 7 days a week.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

During his sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate en fuego Christian life.  Faith is like a candle light, a flame used to expose the darkness around you.  As individuals add fuel to this fire, this light expands to reveal every imperfection in your life.  The closer you get to God, the more God uncovers your flaws.  This reality makes some fearful, overwhelmed by conviction and guilt.  Yet, if you want to be en fuego spiritually, blazing a trail for others to follow, place your trust in Jesus.  When you do, your faith will shine bright like a city on a hill.

by Jay Mankus

God Uses What Little We Have to Demonstrate How Great He Is

Whenever a team receives awards, praise and recognition, there is a temptation for the best athletes/players to take most of the credit.  Yet, God uses a series of events, methods and situations to prevent success from going to your head.  At the height of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, thousands of people came to faith in Christ.  Instead of saying, “look at how great I am,” Paul became inflicted with a painful physical ailment.  This condition forced Paul to rely on the Lord for strength.  God used what little energy Paul possessed to demonstrate how great the Lord can work in spite of  our weaknesses.

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! – 2 Corinthians 12:7

While Jews lived as slaves for nearly 400 years within Egypt, God called one man to confront their leader.  The only problem is that this man, Moses, suffered from a severe speech impediment.  In other words, Moses stuttered regularly, especially when he was nervous.  Despite this disability, God wanted Moses to be the one to lead Israel’s exodus out of Egypt.  Initially, God gave Moses a safety blanket, his brother Aaron to speak for him.  However, at some point the Holy Spirit empowered Moses to have the courage and words to stand up to Pharaoh.  Throughout this ordeal. Moses learned that God can use a faithful stutterer to do things that was once unimaginable for someone with this condition.

Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

As I look back on my own life, I was never a good student until high school.  I endured a learning disability which led to a fifth grade reading level while in tenth grade.  When you add  this to my own speech impediment, regularly stammering words, the odds were against me.  Yet, in my many weaknesses, Christ has become a strong influence in my life.  Although I am no longer a high school teacher, my former fear of speaking in public has vanished.  Sure, I probably could have done more with my life.  Nonetheless, God uses what little you and I have to demonstrate how great God is.

by Jay Mankus

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