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Only One

In the realm of sports, there is only one champion each year. While ties can and do occur in the Olympics with individuals sharing a gold medal, professional sports continue into overtime until a champion is crowned. The longest playoff game in major sports history was a 13-12 World Series Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. This October 29th, 2017 game lasted 10-innings, totaling five hours and 17 minutes.

Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears, 2 Samuel 7:22.

As time passes, team secrets may leak out, revealing elements of cheating. Whether this involves stealing signs, the use of banned substances such as steroids or investigations like Spy Gate, champions and championships become tainted. When talent isn’t good enough, the rules are bent, erased or stretched to enhance a team’s chances of winning. In recent history, commissioners of several sports have adjusted the record books to place asterisks next to certain accomplishments. These decisions ultimately leave in doubt who is the best in a sport or who is the only one who didn’t cheat.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5.

In the spiritual realm, no one compares to the God of the Bible. After an encounter with the prophet Nathan, King David comes to the conclusion that there is no one like God. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul clearly states that there is only one mediator between God and man. Throughout history many have claimed to have a secret connection with God, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is one of a kind. Unlike any other religious leader, the founder of Christianity ascended into heaven and remains the only living God. While there will always be doubters, skeptics and those unwilling to believe, Jesus remains the only one, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

The Cinderella Story of the Bible

Ella sees her world turn upside down when her beloved mother dies, and her pained father remarries another woman. Just when a glimmer of hope arrives, Ella’s cruel stepmother prevents her from attending the Royal Ball. Lady Tremaine was hoping for one of her daughters two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella, to catch the eyes of the prince at this ball. Despite this dire situation, Ella was determined to honor her mother’s dying words,”have courage and be kind.”

Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it, Esther 2:2-4.

Long before Cinderella’s fairy tale was written, a Jewish woman found herself in a similar situation. When King Ahasuerus banished his ungrateful wife, a beauty contest was organized by the king’s servants. Beautiful virgins were invited to come to the capital city of Shushan. According to Bible scholars, somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 women competed in this Miss Persia Pageant. Uncle Mordecai persuaded Esther to participate, recognizing this contest as a divine opportunity.

Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem, Esther 2:7-9.

The odds for Esther to win this beauty contest was far greater than Cinderella. Yet, each woman received divine intervention. Although none of the top contestants are mentioned by name, I’m sure there were characters similar to Anastasia and Drizella. Just as the prophet Samuel passed over David’s 7 older brothers to choose a lowly shepherd as king, Ahasuerus selected Esther to be his next bribe. This true story should give all men and women hope that nothing is impossible with God, Luke 1:37.

by Jay Mankus

Dreams are Like the Stars of Your Destiny

Nightly dreams mainly occur during a stage of sleep known as REM.  This acronym stands for rapid eye movement where brain activity is high, a similar level to being awake.  REM sleep results in the continuous movements of your eyes while you sleep.  Meanwhile, neurologists like Freud and Jung have developed their own theory.  The Dream Theory states that dreams merely come from within the human psyche, exposing what is in your unconscious mind.

For in a multitude of dreams and in a flood of words there is worthlessness. Rather [reverently] fear God [and worship Him with awe-filled respect, knowing who He is], Ecclesiastes 5:7.

When I searched the Bible for another point of view, a Jewish king frowned upon dreaming.  Referred to as one of the wisest men to walk the face of the earth, King Solomon focuses on who to listen to, God or your dreams in the passage above.  Despite this warning, Solomon does have something good to say about dreams in Proverbs 3:24.  Anyone who practices discretion and sound wisdom will be blessed by a deep and sweet sleep.  Later on in this book, Solomon writes about moments in life where dreams, prophecies, revelations and visions are absent, Proverbs 29:18.  When this occurs, rely on God’s laws in the Bible to guide your steps.

And having been warned [by God] in a dream not to go back to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him,” Matthew 2:12-13.

One aspect of dreaming is described in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul uses the phrase keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:25 as a way to follow God.  In the second chapter of the New Testament, Matthew gives two examples of how God uses dreams.  The first is similar to a nightmare, a warning to not go back to Herod.  Moments later, an angel of the Lord appears in Joseph’s dream.  These clear instructions ushered Joseph into action immediately.  God spoke to Joseph through dreams on numerous occasions, each time to direct and guide his steps on earth.

Now Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to [the details of] this dream which I have dreamed; we [brothers] were binding sheaves [of grain stalks] in the field, and lo, my sheaf [suddenly] got up and stood upright and remained standing; and behold, your sheaves stood all around my sheaf and bowed down [in respect].” His brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Are you really going to rule and govern us as your subjects?” So they hated him even more for [telling them about] his dreams and for his [arrogant] words. But Joseph dreamed still another dream, and told it to his brothers [as well]. He said, “See here, I have again dreamed a dream, and lo, [this time I saw] eleven stars and the sun and the moon bowed down [in respect] to me!” – Genesis 37:5-9

In the case of Joseph, his dreams were the stars of his destiny.  Based upon the accounts in Genesis, Joseph possessed a special connection with God.  Some may refer to him as a prophet with others focusing on his gift of dream interpretation.  Whatever the source, the favor of God never left Joseph despite a series of hardships.  While many Christians would have become bitter and given up on hope, Joseph never wavered.  From a practical perspective, if you believe in a dream, destiny or goal, a resolve and will is conceived.  When darkness settles in, faith serves as a compass to keep dreams alive.  May the saying “dreams are like the stars of your destiny” be more than just a slip inside of a fortune cookie.  My the Holy Spirit awaken your soul to reach for the stars as you seek to follow God’s will daily.

by Jay Mankus

A Consequence for Failing to Listen

For three years, Jesus poured his heart, soul and mind into twelve men. Whether eating, drinking, lodging or traveling together, Jesus trained these disciples on what it means to be a Christian. While the phrase “let him who have ears listen” is not widely recorded in the New Testament, this expression was likely repeated daily. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Jesus talks everyone should listen.

And other seed fell into good soil, and as the plants grew and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times [as much as had been sown].” And He said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words,” Mark 4:8-9.

Unfortunately, busyness, distractions and timing influence your degree of listening. When I’m tense, tired or interruptions occur, my mind wanders. Thus, even when motivational speakers convict, encourage or inspire you to act, listening is a two step process. First, you must clearly hear what has been instructed. Second, heeding the words of Jesus requires a special attention to details, noticing the big picture. Without these two elements working together, the good news about Jesus Christ falls upon deaf ears.

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your countrymen; you shall listen to Him and obey everything He tells you. 23 And it will be that every person that does not listen to and heed that Prophet will be utterly destroyed from among the people,’ Acts 3:22-23.

During a sermon given by Peter, a passage from the Old Testament is quoted. Peter is trying to connect with his mainly Jewish audience by revealing a prophecy made by Moses. Without beating around the bush, Peter uses a message of fear to get the attention of this crowd. In this day of political correctness, suggesting that heaven isn’t for everyone results in outrage and persecution. Yet, Peter states that not hearing and taking heed of Jesus’ teaching will result in spiritual destruction. May this warning prompt hearts to develop a keen sense of listening.

by Jay Mankus

Before Anything Gets Lost It Becomes Loose

Initial signs that there may be something wrong in your life are subtle. Normal wear and tear may result in an occasional squeak or rattle. These vague warning signals may be ignored if time constraints, exhaustion or pressure exists. Unless routine maintenance is performed, cars, possessions, relationships and souls will continue to deteriorate. If no action is taken, things will become loose, fall off and get lost if neglected.

So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down [some of] the trees. But it happened that as one was cutting down a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Oh no, my master! It was borrowed!” – 2 Kings 6:4-5

In the Old Testament, a servant of Elisha began to chomp down some trees along the banks of the Jordan River. The sound of each power HACK, one after another drowned out any hint that this axe was about to break. Borrowed from a neighbor, this servant wasn’t treating this tool in a malicious manner. Rather, the thought of clearing a small section of woods next to the river brought on adrenaline to get this job done as soon as possible.

The man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron [axe head] float. He said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out with his hand and took it, 2 Kings 6:6-7.

Nobody knows the exact time or place when one of your possessions will break. In a span of a few weeks, two cars that I was driving broke down on three different occasions, the last on Interstate 95 this year. How you respond to these unfortunate events will reveal your true character. The only description of this servant in the passage above is a man of God. Instead of complaining, this man immediately turned to prayer and a prophet for help. In an instant, that which was lost is found. May this blog awaken you to the principle before something gets lost it becomes loose.

by Jay Mankus

Is Hindsight 20/20?

Hindsight is defined as the understanding of a situation or event only after it has developed or happened.  For the past two years, a large cataract hindered my ability to see out of my right eye.  While I experienced periods of improvement, last summer my eye doctor suggested it’s time to deal with this situation.  As I struggled to read fine print, I came to the same conclusion, scheduling a surgery for late November.  A series of unforeseen events forced this operation to be postponed until last Thursday.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

Like any procedure, I was afraid, not knowing the ultimate outcome.  Before I was given drugs to numb the pain, I made my peace with God.  When the nurse at the front desk asked me for my will and testament prior to being admitted, worst case scenarios raced through my mind.  This request likely elevated my blood pressure so high that my first operation was cancelled.  As a person of faith, I wrestle with relying on medicine to resolve health problems.  However, when changes in diet, fasting and prayer does not improve your condition, my operation served as a last resort.  While the healing process takes roughly two weeks, only time will tell if my sight will be fully restored.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

I feel like the prophet Isaiah is speaking to me in the passage above.  I have no control over how well eye will recover.  Sure, I can listen to my doctor’s directions by taking my daily prescriptions, but the degree of healing is in God’s hand.  My dream of writing screen plays is dependent upon the final outcome of my cataract surgery.  Thus, all I can do is place my trust in the Lord,  believing that God will help improve my condition.  Although I am not considering this trial a pure joy as James 1:2-4 suggests, I am relying on hindsight, remembering how God has provided for me in the past.

by Jay Mankus

How God Works Behind the Scenes

One day a family emergency arose in the house of Kish.  Those of you who are pet owners understand the frustration when your dog gets out, roaming the neighborhood until you are able to get them back on a leash.  According to the passage below, donkeys escaped from a back field and did not return.  Similar to a household chore, Saul is requested to take a servant with him to corral these animals.

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, had wandered off and were lost. Kish said to his son Saul, “Please take one of the servants with you and arise, go look for the donkeys.” And they passed through the hill country of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but did not find them. Then they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there and the land of the Benjamites, but they [still] did not find them, 1 Samuel 9:3-4.

From a human perspective, Saul was embarking on a minuscule task to help his family.  Based upon the details provided by Samuel, this unsuccessful search went on for a couple of days.  This quest just so happened to enable Saul to cross paths with a revered prophet.  While Saul and his servant look for a couple of donkey, Samuel was searching for Israel’s first king.  This unusual encounter illustrates how God works behind the scenes.

Now a day before Saul came, the Lord had informed Samuel [of this], saying, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him as leader over My people Israel; and he will save My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have looked upon [the distress of] My people, because their cry [for help] has come to Me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “There is the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall rule over My people [as their king],” 1 Samuel 9:15-17.

Tonight you may have to work.  Others may be forced to go to school tomorrow morning.  Over the weekend, you will likely have to fix something, start a project or work on something around the house.  These mundane exercises often bring about boredom, a waste of time to many Americans and individuals throughout the world.  Yet, just as Samuel was secretly searching for a king, God is behind the scenes waiting for the next person who is willing to stand in the gap, by awakening their faith, Ezekiel 22:30.

by Jay Mankus

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