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Leading by Example

Routines are like a comfort zone for people who thrive in a structured environment. Yet, my recent move to South Carolina has thrown me into a foreign land where I’m trying to figure out how everything works. At times, I feel like an undercover boss, seeing day to day details with fresh eyes. Unfortunately, this state is no different than Delaware with people saying one thing but failing to lead by example.

The instruments and methods of the fraudulent and greedy [for gain] are evil; he devises wicked devices to ruin the poor and the lowly with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is just and right, Isaiah 32:7.

Passing the buck and casting the blame are learned skills from adults on television. Whenever someone does take responsibility for their actions is a rare sight in America today. I was taught long ago that integrity is doing right when nobody’s watching. As a new employee, I see people change their work habits depending upon who’s around. I guess I’m just old school as work is work until it’s time to play.

But the noble, openhearted, and liberal man devises noble things; and he stands for what is noble, openhearted, and generous, Isaiah 32:8.

According to one Old Testament prophet, the noble lead by example. This isn’t done to get noticed or recognized. Rather it’s to please God by emulating the life of Jesus, Ephesians 4:1-3. I can’t waste my time worrying about what other people are doing or saying. As long as I strive to demonstrate the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12, I’ll lead by example and let God take care of my future career.

by Jay Mankus

What to Do Next When Your Nest is Empty?

The term empty nest began in the middle of the 1900’s. When parents aren’t able to move on after their children start college or move out on their own, doctors refer to this condition as the “empty nest syndrome.” When children are born, parents make a series of sacrifices to raise their offspring to the best of their abilities. However, once a home is vacant, it’s hard to transition to your next phase in life.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

One Old Testament prophet blames a lack of vision for an individual who begins to self-destruct. One of the reasons Jesus left his followers with a great commission in Acts 1:8-9 was to provide a sense of direction in life. Rather than guess or speculate, the Great Commission continues to be fulfilled today through missionaries sent to the ends of the earth.

Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. 13 I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward, Philippians 3:12-14.

As for empty nesters, my home is quiet for the first time in 24 years. With my two youngest children now off at college, I need to spend time in prayer to figure out what God wants me and my wife to do next. Once you complete honey do lists at home, parents with empty nests must learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so that God’s will for your life will be fulfilled.

by Jay Mankus

Focus on Character

We are approaching the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech. On August 28th, 1963, MLK delivered this speech following a March in Washington D.C. inspired by a calling for equality and freedom for all. My favorite moment in this speech is Dr. King’s fervent dream when Americans will focus on the content of character rather than the color of skin.

And Samuel did what the Lord said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming and said, Have you come peaceably? And he said, Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice. And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and called them to the sacrifice. When they had come, he looked on Eliab [the eldest son] and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him, 1 Samuel 16:4-6.

While this sounds great in theory, one Old Testament prophet was deceived by the physical features and stature of Eliab. If a man of God can be fooled by a good looking individual, then anyone is susceptible. Martin Luther King Junior was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This ministry prepared Dr. King for his dream speech that focused on character.

But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart, 1 Samuel 16:7.

Perhaps Martin reflected upon the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5. The world is full of people who jump to conclusions or base their opinions upon what members of the media profess. Rather than provide context, specific flaws and weaknesses are demonized and highlighted. At some point in the near future, this woke movement must end and be replaced by an emphasis on character. I pray that this day comes soon.

by Jay Mankus

The Overflow of Mercy

Overflow occurs when a bottle, glass and or receptacle is filled beyond its capacity with a liquid substance. When you’re going through the drive thru of a fast-food restaurant on a hot summer day, you want your drink filled to the brim. Yet, due to company policies, most chains leave an inch at the top to avoid spilling cups in a customer’s lap.

They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him, Lamentations 3:23-24.

One Old Testament prophet attempts to explain the overflow of God’s mercy. Building upon a concept introduced in Psalm 103:11-12. David shines light on the infinite mercy that God possesses. This quantity is so extreme that its’ as far as the east is from the west. To those who have received a glimpse of God’s mercy, via prayer, it’s something that you’ll want over and over again.

The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. 26 It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord, Lamentations 3:25-26.

In the attached song, Casting Crowns sings about a physical well which Jesus speaks about in Matthew 11:28-30. The message in this passage refers to unloading your burdens at the feet of Jesus on your own. As sinners’ approach Jesus in prayer, the overflow of God’s mercy becomes achievable. Yet, this overflow can be immediately ceased if you don’t forgive others who trespass against you.

by Jay Mankus

The Baptism That Almost Never Happened

To an average person, the mind of God is hard to fathom. Yet even one of Jesus’ disciples; one of three members of his inner circle tried to cancel Jesus’ plan to save the world from sin, Matthew 16:20-23. Three years earlier, the spiritual leader known as John the Baptist attempted to pull off a similar stunt. In the passage below, John tries to talk Jesus out of being baptized by him. John felt unworthy to perform Jesus’ baptism.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John [f]protested strenuously, having in mind to prevent Him, saying, It is I who have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? – Matthew 3:13-14

Human beings have a hard time seeing the finger of God moving, touching, and working behind the scenes. Perhaps half the problem is that human nature makes most people focus on the here and now so that God’s greater good is never seen. Transition is one of those unpleasant experiences that seems unnecessary at the time it occurs, but it opens the door for future events to occur in your life. This is something that John and Peter both failed to recognize.

But Jesus replied to him, [g]Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to [h]perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him, Matthew 3:15-16.

Despite being a discerning prophet, John needed to be persuaded to baptize Jesus. Based upon the discussion in the passage above, John was finally sold on fulfilling all righteousness. Modern day Christians don’t have the luxury of Jesus talking sense into us. Yet we do have an invisible counselor to usher in God’s will for our lives, John 16:13. The next time the Devil, Ephesians 2:2, seeks to block you from doing what God desires, keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:26, so that God’s will prevails.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Permanent Presence

Before society was concerned about being cancelled or virtue signaling to the woke community, even non-believers talked about God’s permanent presence. In 1990, Bette Midler sang that From a Distance, God is watching us. If this is true, the words of one Old Testament prophet became a reality in the first century, roughly 2000 years ago, Isaiah 7:14.

But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [[o]permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being [p]rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do], 1 John 2:27.

One of the Jewish traditions that Isaiah was raised to follow was the unction. This is the act of anointing someone with oil or ointment as a religious rite. However, on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, followers of Jesus were anointed by the Holy Spirit. During a conversation with his disciples in John 16, Jesus promised to send a Holy Ghost, an invisible counselor to guide believers following his ascension.

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [[d]full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

The greatest advocate of God’s permanent presence is a member of Jesus’ inner circle. According to Peter, the Holy Spirit gives Christians everything that we need for life. The apostle Paul compares the Holy Spirit to a force that you can walk with, Galatians 5:25. Yet, the Holy Spirit is only available to those who believe in Jesus, Acts 2:28. Therefore, if you want to sense God’s permanent presence daily, call upon the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Purify Your Heart with Sincere Affection

Sometimes the truth that a friend shares strikes a nerve. Such is the case of one Old Testament prophet who reveals a painful truth in Jeremiah 17:9. When your heart becomes open to the possibility that you’re not as nice as you should be, your soul becomes open to changing for the better. This is the message that Peter has for a teachable spirit: purify your heart with sincere affection.

Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [HolySpirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart, 1 Peter 1:22.

Purification usually involves some sort of filtration process. Whether this is accomplished through cleansing, decontaminating or sterilizing the imperfections, purifying anything takes time. According to one of Jesus’ disciples, purifying your heart is based upon your degree of obedience to God’s commands. As the Holy Spirit convicts Christians for any wrongdoing, your heart begins the purification process.

So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins], James 4:7-9.

Yet, to achieve sincere affection, Christians must seek the Theological Virtues of hope, faith, and love. According to C.S. Lewis, Cardinal Virtues are available to anyone, but Theological Virtues are only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 13:13. Actions and faith must work hand and hand so that hearts will be purified as the fruits of this process develop into sincere affection.

by Jay Mankus

They Questioned It and Were Right

During my first year of college, I attended a “Why Knock Rock Seminar” at a local church. Why some of the theories that were espoused by the various speakers had a degree of merit, to demonize Christians who felt called to reach young people with rock music was moronic. One of these groups considered dangerous by the Puritans of the 1980’s was the Altar Boys. The Altar Boys’ punk rock sound was enhanced by Gut Level lyrics that spoke to my heart.

And her prophets have daubed them over with whitewash, seeing false visions and divining lies to them, saying, Thus says the Lord God—when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppression and extortion and have committed robbery; yes, they have wronged and vexed the poor and needy; yes, they have oppressed the stranger and temporary resident wrongfully, Ezekiel 22:28-29.

While doing some research for my new series Sing A New Song, I stumbled upon the song I Question It. Although the particular sound of this song hasn’t aged well, the lyrics were prophetic. When the church elite was busying condemning and judging those aspects of the youth culture that they didn’t like, the Altar Boys were trying to warn Christians through their Gut Level Music album in 1986. Instead of listening, complacency set in as liberals and progressives quietly worked behind the scenes to take over.

And I sought a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore have I poured out My indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their own way have I repaid [by bringing it] upon their own heads, says the Lord God, Ezekiel 22:30-31.

I guess it’s a little too late for the members of the Altar Boys to exclaim “I told you so!” Yet, the conditions of today remind me of the words of the prophet Ezekiel. God wanted someone to stand in the gap: a leader, a parent or students to defend that which is right and true. Unfortunately, no one rose to this occasion. Nonetheless, I sense a similar call to stand up for the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and for Religious liberties. Will the church sit back and watch from their pews or start reminding their neighbors of America’s heritage of faith? Time is of the essence so stand now or we too will be destroyed.

by Jay Mankus

The Other Side of the Universe

As an aspiring screen writer, I listen to a dozen podcasts each week. My goal is to extract golden nuggets of information so that I can implement these concepts into my own scripts. The more I listen, I find myself on the other side of the universe, possessing a completely different worldview. Instead of recognizing God, many of these experts use similar vocabulary. Rather than blame or credit God, the universe is in control of whatever happens in life from a Hollywood perspective.

It is God Who sits above the circle (the horizon) of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; it is He Who stretches out the heavens like [gauze] curtains and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in, Isaiah 40::22.

One Old Testament prophet disagrees. Isaiah died as a martyr, sawed in two rather than deny his faith. Despite this cruel ending, Isaiah recognized who was in control of the universe. In the passage above, Isaiah alludes to God’s omnipresence. Life isn’t simply a random set of events that plays out in the universe. Rather, Isaiah recognized the words of Jesus’ earthly brother before they were written, James 1:2-4. Trials occur on earth as a form of preparation, leading to maturity as time goes by.

By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible, Hebrews 11:3.

C.S. Lewis gives one of the best explanations of different worldviews in Mere Christianity. Lewis uses Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. Human nature is a starting point where all human beings can relate to and understand. In the section entitled What Christians Believe, Lewis highlights virtues like prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude that everyone share. However, Theological virtues are limited to Christians via the Holy Spirit. Until someone enters into a relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, people will remain on the other side of the universe without knowing God.

by Jay Mankus

Exercise Every Kind of Endurance and Patience

The origin of organized exercise can be traced back to Johann Bernard Basedow. Building upon Rousseau’s ideas of the “Natural Human,” Basedow opened the Philanthropinum in Germany in 1774. This center for physical exercise began by offering wrestling, running, riding, fencing, vaulting, and dancing. While writing a first century teenage pastor, the apostle Paul acknowledged the benefits of physical training. Yet, Paul felt that spiritual training provides a greater value for life.

For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody, 1 Timothy 4:8-9.

While runners warm up with stretching, Christians lean on prayer to prepare their hearts and minds for a new day. Just as muscles need to be loosened up prior to jogging, spiritual exercises requires tapping into the Holy Spirit. In a letter to the Church at Galatia, Paul lists a series of spiritual fruits to shoot for, Galatians 5:22-23. Perhaps, the passage below is a direct reference to the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Rather than develop an “Eye of the Tiger” mentality, Paul urges readers to hang in there with endurance and patience.

[We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy, Colossians 1:11.

From a human point of view, discipline and hard work will only take you so far. You may be able to beat yourself into submission like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. However, over the long haul, individuals need a higher power to invigorate and strengthen their soul. This is the type of spiritual exercise that Paul is talking about. If you’re feeling tired and weary, on the verge of giving up, spiritual exercise provides a spark to persevere. An Old Testament prophet uses the analogy of being lifted up by God so that endurance prevails. Isaiah 40:30-31.

by Jay Mankus

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