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The Force Behind the Darkness

Whether binge watching a drama, scanning social media or checking for the latest news update, I have become numb to seeing death, destruction and violence. While the expression “pushing the envelope” originally comes from the field of aviation, limits continue to be elevated and raised. This concept also applies to programming as the further the envelope is pushed, the force behind darkness on earth comes into focus.

And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die, Genesis 2:15-17.

While the Old Testament is filled with commands, decrees and rules, God’s initial plan for the earth contained only one rule. This boundary set by the Lord put just one thing in the Garden of Eden off limits, the Tree of Knowledge. Adam didn’t have to guess about what to do or not to do. The summary of God’s conversation with Adam is mentioned above. When darkness came to earth in the form of a fallen angel, Adam was right there with Eve, Genesis 3:6. Instead of correcting the deception and lie spread by Lucifer, Adam remained silent, a willing participant in original sin.

And you [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins In which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God]. Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind, Ephesians 2:1-3.

Although Adam and Eve did not physically die, the spiritual light within their souls was snuffed out. The apostle Paul speaks about their spiritual condition in the passage above. The consequence of their disobedience was the activation of a sinful nature. Instead of listening to God, human beings are now under the control of a demonic presence. Later on in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul expands upon the force behind this darkness, Ephesians 6:12. While humans can’t see the supernatural realm, there are spiritual forces at work to prevent the light from prevailing.

by Jay Mankus

How Should a Christian Respond to Smut?

A generation ago, the content of movies, songs and television shows were heavily scrutinized.  If there was any traces of questionable material, conservative critics might label this as smut.  This term refers to anything that might be seen as obscene, pornographic or too revealing.  As Hollywood continues to push the envelope beyond decency over the past half century, smut has become mainstream, available at most check out counters in America.  This reality has caused me to ponder, “how should a Christian respond to smut?”

While He was in Bethany [as a guest] at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster vial of very costly and precious perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured the perfume over His head, Mark 14:3.

In the passage above, Jesus is anointed by a woman with a questionable reputation.  According to other accounts of this event in the gospels, this woman’s name is Mary.  Based upon comments made by local guests, Mary was a first century prostitute.  Having a lady of the night approach you at a party might be tempting to the average guy.  Yet, this encounter didn’t phase Jesus, even if Mary’s breasts were hanging out of a low cut blouse.  Jesus was tempted in every way just as men are tempted today by smut, but did not sin.  This makes Jesus the supreme authority on how to respond to and overcome smut.

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin, Hebrews 4:15.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to eyes as the lamp of the body.  Keeping them pure is crucial to responding to immodest attire as the summer approaches.  One of Jesus’ disciples refers to three aspects that must be held in check.  According to 1 John 2:15-17, lust, sensual cravings and the longing of eyes stand in the way of responding to smut in a godly manner.  The apostle Paul urges one of his pupils to run away and flee from youthful desires in 2 Timothy 2:22.  According to Paul, the best way to respond to smut is by pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace.  May this advice equip you to overcome future encounters with smut.

by Jay Mankus

It Seemed Pretty Innocent at the Time

Hollywood story lines attempt to produce a few basic responses.  Comedies seek to provoke laughter, dramas hope to gain your attention and genres somewhere in between try to imitate life through the art of entertainment.  Despite getting this down to a science, projecting which film, series and program will flop or succeed hasn’t been perfected.  Thus, the concept of pushing the envelope continues, stretching further and further each year.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

The idea of a poor school teacher dying of cancer turning toward drugs to provide for his family seemed pretty innocent at the time.  The backdrop to Breaking Bad was original and made sense.  Why would a hard working man want to leave his family with the debt of countless medical bills.  Yet, as chemistry teacher Walter White begins manufacturing and selling methamphetamine, a cult following began during this shows five year run.  Like anything in life, this concept influenced some to produce and experiment with meth.

For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer, Romans 13:4.

My wife flew to Chicago on Wednesday for a funeral of a family member who became enslaved by meth.  While Bryan Cranston was able to evade the law in Breaking Bad, my nephew wasn’t as fortunate.  In real life, most behavior seems relatively innocent at first.  Yet, as you move from the light into darkness, evil stimulates further immoral acts.  By the time most people come to their senses, addiction has already arrived.  While I’m not blaming this hit show for Brandon’s drug overdose, I’m merely warning anyone on the verge of breaking bad.  May God send the Holy Spirit quickly to those who need divine intervention to escape darkness by finding the light.

by Jay Mankus

Rules Without Reason

As a former high school teacher, I spent ten years hearing teenagers complain about rules without reason.  While students enjoy testing a teacher’s limits, pushing the envelope as far as possible, these complaints aren’t without merit.  Sometimes I established rules that didn’t make sense.  Following a methods course in Classroom Dynamics, I began to see the error of my way.  Thus, I started to alter, change and eliminate any rules without reason.

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? – Luke 14:28

Unfortunately, the government not only thrives on creating rules without reason, new legislation often provides positions to enforce these new policies.   While cell phone and texting laws are practical, some states have made it illegal to eat and drive.  In fact if you want a big gulp from 7 Eleven, local officials are trying to prevent individuals from purchasing anything over 24 ounces.  It’s no wonder that Frank Baum wrote the Wizard of Oz to illustrate the empty promises made by the United States government.  Perhaps, a candidate in 2016 will run on the platform of ending rules without reason.

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.

The government is not the only culprit, as the church is not far behind, relying on theology written several hundred or in some cases thousands of years ago.  In an attempt to force a congregation to adhere to a denominations’ beliefs, teetotalism can surface.  This stringent enforcement contradicts free will, resulting in members feeling like they have the power to police others in the church.  Perhaps, its time to exchange religion for a personal relationship with God.  In doing so, the grace of God will flow as rules without reason are replaced with faith.

by Jay Mankus

Fifty Shades of Grey

The twentieth century wasn’t ready for the film Fifty Shades of Grey based upon E. L. James’ best selling novel.  However, the Hot Tub Time Machine generation welcomed this erotic romance, on pace to make over sixty million dollars during its opening weekend at the box office.  Fueled by declining absolutes in society, a wide range of patrons came out in droves, not caring whether or not their support was right or wrong.

In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.             Judges 21:25

Similar to Eve in the Garden, curiosity, enticing fantasies and lust led people to taste that which was once forbidden.  Now passe, kissing and telling is the rage, posting selfies on Instagram and the like.  Thus, the envelope continues to be pushed, with no restrictions in sight.  Go big or go home evolves with each flick, taking viewers where grandma and grandpa never imagined.

A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one. – Ecclesiastes 10:2

Despite what preachers may say, free will is offered to all human beings.  No one, especially God, is forcing you to stay home on the weekends to watch reruns of Little House on the Prairie.  Nonetheless, each decision you make on earth does have consequences.  Living life from a Fifty Shades of Grey perspective will leave you further and further from the truth, John 18:38.  May this blog speak to the Jonah’s of today, running in the compete opposite direction of God so that Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t lead to an eternity in hell.

by Jay Mankus

When Donkey Knows Best

As television evolves, the more preposterous ads, shows and slogans become.  Look no further than a time machine powered by Doritos, cologne that serves as a chick magnet and cars that cause a baby to speak their first words.  By the time Sunday evening rolls around, Super Bowl XLIX commercials will likely push the envelope further to a new low.

But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. – Numbers 22:22

The Bible contains its own version of improbable events.  A serpent that walks and talks, seas that turn to solid ground then swallows up an entire army and a man who rises from the dead.  While post-modernists may tend to believe Hollywood more than the authors of the Bible, one of my favorite passages is when a donkey knows best.

Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” – Numbers 22:28

According to a 2013 study, more than 164 million households own a pet.  Although cats and dogs get most of the attention, its not uncommon for country folks to own a donkey.  Own his way to curse Israel, Baalam travels on a donkey with Moabite officials.  However, his donkey encounters an angel of death.  Unseen by Baalam, he begins to beat his donkey, a shocking sight to those who support PETA.  After the third attack, the Lord enables Baalam’s donkey to speak.  Opening the eyes of his master, God allowed Baalam to realize that sometimes donkeys and all animals alike know best.

by Jay Mankus

God Wants Your Sex

What?  Am I in the right place?  Are you sure you’re not referring to the George Michael song?  During a private conversation between Moses and God, Exodus 31:18, this concept was first introduced to the Israelites.

To prevent the excuse, “well, no one ever told me,” the Lord lays out His position about sex in plain view for all to see, Leviticus 18.   The first sex education message may be graphic in nature, yet God’s boundaries are clearly defined.  Every possible scenario, no matter have perverted, establishes a line in the sand to discourage unlawful sexual acts.   If Adam couldn’t keep the only law in the garden, Genesis 2:17, what’s going to keep mankind from pushing the sexual envelope.

To combat this temptation, God introduces the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21.  It’s not a coincidence that sex is linked to the first and last desire.  Sexual immorality is like an open door that many walk through, attracted by temporary pleasures and illicit scenery.  When lust becomes full blown, individuals are persuaded to partake in orgies, losing control of their sexuality.

According to the apostle Paul, the church in Corinth struggled to control their bodies.  Subsequently, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is written to help those who have strayed off course.  Beyond these addictive habits, soul ties merge you with a sexual partner.  These bonds often confuse souls, destroying relationships and preventing true intimacy from forming.  In view of this, God wants your sex so that your temple, physical body, will be offered as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1-2.  Please share your feelings, opinions and thoughts on this controversial topic.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Original Indecent Proposal

Still of Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson in Indecent ProposalIn 1993, Hollywood pushed the envelope further than most screen writers had gone before in the film Indecent Proposal.  As Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore lose their life savings gambling in Las Vegas, they encounter a billionaire who offers a selfish plan to solve their financial woes.  Robert Redford offers one million dollars to the couple if Woody allows him to spend one night with his wife.  Controversial at the time, this concept is an idea taken right out of the Bible.

Still of Robert Redford in Indecent ProposalFour hundred years following the flood, God called Abram to leave Haran and the comfort of his family, Genesis 12:1.  Traveling toward Canaan, Abram makes 2 altars to the Lord, dedicating his life to the Lord in the hills between Bethel and Ai.  However, like the 1993 movie, during the first sign of turbulence, a famine, Abram relies on himself, not the Lord.  Since it was common for kings to steal beautiful wives, killing their husbands, Abram came up with the original indecent proposal.

Located in Genesis 12:10-13, Abram encourages Sarai his wife to tell a little white lie to Pharaoh.  Compromise is so subtle, logically excusing ourselves from sin due to circumstance.  As this plan is carried out to completion, Abram becomes a hero, honored with sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels and servants.  In the process, Sarai is taken as Pharaoh’s wife, but curses follow his family immediately.  Like the sailor’s in the days of Jonah 1:8, Pharaoh quickly recognizes Abram as the source of his troubles.

Being duped by Abram, Pharaoh confronts him in Genesis 12:17-20, kicking this couple out of Egypt, left to fend for themselves during the rest of the famine.  While on  the outside, Abram might have felt like he got away with his plan, consequences follow.  Sarai becomes barren, she talks Abram into having a son with another woman, Genesis 16:1-2 and trials become a way of life for this couple.  If your life is a mess like this family or you are feeling burdened by the stress of life, call on the name of the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6.  If you do this, the Holy Spirit will keep you from going through with any indecent proposals that pop into your mind, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

by Jay Mankus

Not A Laughing Matter

Comedy and humor have been turned upside down over the past 50 years in America.  If you examine sitcoms from the last 5 decades, you will find that each entertainer tries to push the envelope a little further than the person before them.  Somewhere between the 60’s and 70’s, Hollywood crossed the line, leaving courtesy, dignity and honor out in the dark.  As cursing, indecency and swearing have replaced natural wit in recent years, the content of most comics is not a laughing matter.

When I read Genesis 9:20-24 today, I was reminded of the days of my youth.  If this event took place in the early 80’s, most of the audience would be in shock, not sure how to respond.  Thirty years later, souls have been desensitized by the acts of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21.  Films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Animal House have stolen the innocence of our children’s generation.  Thus, instead have following in the footsteps of Shem and Japheth, our culture is now laughing with Ham.

It’s only fitting that the father of the Canaanites, Ham, became the thorn in Israel’s side.  In fact, God demanded that the Israelites destroy the Canaanites so that their life style would not corrupt God’s chosen people.  One of Jesus’ disciples has given us a new command today, to live in the world, but not of it, 1 Peter 2:11-12.  God doesn’t want us to become Amish and move to Lancaster or Puritans who isolated themselves from society.  Rather, we need to be salt and light, Matthew 5:13-14, refraining from laughing at inappropriate jokes, yet enjoying good and decent comedy.  I am just as guilty of the next guy or girl, smirking at comments made on talk radio as I drive to work.  However, its time to stand in the gap, Ezekiel 22:30, defending the principles of the Bible, Psalm 1:1-2, by proclaiming this is no longer a laughing matter.

by Jay Mankus

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