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More Than Just a Strange Thing

Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror show which is currently in the middle of its third season on Netflix.  This television series was created, written and directed by two brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer.  The setting of this show takes place back in the 1980’s, an era where it was common for teenager boys to binge on playing video games.  This passion or should I say addiction causes many boys to lose touch with reality.  Today, this obsession continues as many boys and girls are consumed by modern online games like Fort Nite.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?  Who has strife? Who has complaining?  Who has wounds without cause?  Whose eyes are red and dim? – Proverbs 23:29

In a recent episode of Stranger Things, social media exploded over their reaction between a scene with two teenage boys.  To avoid a spoiler alert, two characters get into an argument about girls.  One boy wants to pursue a girl that he likes while the other is not ready to grow up, clinging to his love for video games.  Unfortunately, this innocent scene has led a number of people on twitter to question the gender of this boy who doesn’t like girls at this time.  This is just another example of individuals reading way too much into a fictional show.

Your [drunken] eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things [untrue things, twisted things], Proverbs 23:33.

In 1997, the band Common Children released the song Strange Rain on their Delicate Fade album.  The lyrics of Strange Rain refers to the washing away of innocence.  The more children are exposed to adult content, growing up is accelerated.  In the second stanza of Strange Rain one line strikes a cord with me “when wonder fades in time forgive us for this crime.”  The more young children experience, hear or see things that they shouldn’t, innocence is stolen and wonder for life fades away.  While parents try to shield their children from danger, strangers things lurk around every corner.  This is where trusting God becomes essential.

by Jay Mankus

Starting a New Life

Perspective gives parents the right impression of what to expect in the future.  Unfortunately, the early years of any marriage is filled with trial and error.  As I look back on the first few years of raising my oldest son James, I was out of my element.  I don’t do well around crying babies.  After screaming for an hour or so in his crib, Leanne or I would drive around the block a few times until James fell back to sleep.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed or embarrassed, Genesis 2:24-25.

As the years passed, sports filled up much of out time, going to baseball games, cross country races, golf matches and track meets.  Through the years, I learned that James was motivated by awards, food and money.  After achieving an agreed upon goal, the entire family went out to dinner to celebrate this accomplishment.  This tradition continues today, often going to Buffalo Wild Wings and our favorite Chinese restaurant.  However, after tonight, James will start a new life with his wife to be Emma.

Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God], 27 so that [in turn] He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy [set apart for God] and blameless. 28 Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself, Ephesians 5:25-28.

The covenant of marriage was first introduced to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the church at Ephesus.  Men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  In a letter to Corinth, Paul uses the term charity.  The only way human beings can love one another is through the Holy Spirit.  This spiritual presence is only available to those who enter into a personal relationship with God.  Thus, if any of you are considering starting a new life, don’t forget to invite Jesus along the way.

by Jay Mankus

Neglecting the More Important Matters of the Law

There was a time within history where both parents played an vital role in raising children.  Before the establishment of formal education, the local church or temple instilled godly principles from the Old Testament to help shape character.  One of these passages serves as a check list of God’s expectations: seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly.  To avoid overwhelming young people, Micah’s brief summary highlights the more important aspects of God’s law.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

During an encounter with religious leaders, Jesus points out their hypocrisy.  At this point in the first century, Pharisees flaunted their faith, making sure people in their community heard about or witnessed their tithing to God.  Jesus was trying to tell these individuals in the verse below, “you’re missing the point.”  Giving back to God through a weekly or monthly offering is honorable.  Yet, faith is suppose to be a life style, not something you turn on and off.  Anyone who allows faith to become inactive neglects the more important matters of the law.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former,” Matthew 23:23.

When the concept of justice is applied to politics, there seems to be unequal justice under the law.  If you are liberal, progressive or possess a secular worldview, some offenses are overlooked.  Meanwhile, Christians, Jews and other religious leaders are held to a higher standard.  While everyone should attempt to be the best person you can, no one is able to escape sin.  Those who break man’s law face fines or even prison.  Others who trespass against you make justice more personal.  Perhaps, this may explain the inclusion of love kindness after justice.  Most people seek justice for the wrongs that you have endured in this life.  However, anytime love and forgiveness is not demonstrated to those who sin against you, the more important matters of God’s law is neglected.

by Jay Mankus

 

Setting the Table

Prior to fast food dinners out, setting the table was a daily chore delegated by parents to teach their children about how to properly prepare before each meal.  Beyond laying out table arrangements, this term has been adopted by other avenues.  Baseball uses this analogy to encourage players to get into scoring position so that power hitters can drive them home.  After reading a passage of the Bible today, this saying also relates to a spiritual principle.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way,” Mark 1:2.

If you want to change the hearts, minds and souls of other people, a foundation must be set.  There needs to be a beacon of light, pointing the way through their actions, behavior and words.  Although I never thought of it in this manner, John the Baptist set the table for Jesus.  Inspired by a chance to come clean, purge bad habits and verbally profess their shortcomings, John developed a large following who sought forgiveness.  Despite his success, John recognized that he was only a small piece to life’s puzzle, ready to pass the baton to the Savior of the world.

I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” Mark 1:8.

Hidden within John’s words is the realization that his ministry was temporary, unable to permanently change individuals.  However, the real Messiah will offer an invisible power called the Holy Ghost in the King’s James Version.  While the power of sin will continue to cause the masses to fall prey to addiction, character flaws and poor decisions.  The hope of the Holy Spirit provides an anointing that can lead to freedom.  May the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 lead you to usher in heaven while living on earth as you set the table for future generations of faith.

by Jay Mankus

 

Do Whatever He Tells You

If you were raised in a military family, questioning a person of authority isn’t an option.  Colonel Jessup played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men illustrates this truth during direct examination by Tom Cruise in a military court, “if marines don’t follow orders in Cuba, people die!”  Once any individual earns the respect of their fellow civilians, peers or platoon, most will do whatever he or she tells you to do.

In the case of Mary, mother of Jesus, she knew her son was special by age 12, Luke 2:51-52.  Eighteen years later, her opinion had not changed, believing her son had divine powers, John 2:3.  Thus, when a friend was about to face public humiliation, running out of wine at a wedding ceremony, Mary relies on Jesus to come to the rescue.  However, there was a problem, Jesus had only called 6 of his 12 disciples, John 1:35-51, with 6 more remaining to complete his ministry team.  Initially, he refuses to act, explaining God’s timing to commence his 3 year ministry had not yet arrived, John 2:4.  Nonetheless, Jesus keeps the vow he made following his bar-mitz-vah to honor his father and mother, Exodus 20:12.

As soon as this conflict was settled, Mary moves into action, ordering the servants at the reception to “do whatever Jesus tells you,” John 2:5.  Led by the Holy Spirit, Matthew 4:1 and angels, Matthew 4:11, Jesus examines the situation, develops a plan and gives orders to the servants, John 2:6-8.  With their jobs and reputations on the line, these workers carefully follow Jesus’ instructions.  Likely scratching their heads, hoping for the best, these servants wait in fearful anticipation of the master’s first impression, John 2:9.  Not sure if they will be embarrassed, curiosity holds their attention until each receives good news, John 2:10.  If this first miracle of Jesus teaches us anything, do whatever He tell you and good things are bound to follow.

If you’ve experienced or seen any modern day miracles, feel free to share in the comment section below.

by Jay Mankus

Boundaries, Bounties and Blown Opportunities

I witnessed a pastor go old school today, committing what some may call social suicide.  Taking no prisoners, this man of the cloth convicted households who display little boundaries or prefer to be their child’s best friend.  When parents don’t say no, define acceptable perimeters or clarify right from wrong behavior for their children, kids become one with the world.  Instead of being transformed by the word of God, Romans 12:1-2, teenagers are becoming like dust in the wind, blown from one trend to the next.

Today, more than ever, society has been turned upside down, just watch any commercial airing in prime time which ties sex to their products.  In the Wild West, cities and town offered bounties for anyone who were able to help authorities catch a criminal wanted for a hideous act.  If only an entrepreneur had enough money to offer rewards for good behavior, perhaps this country might return to its Judeo-Christian heritage.  Unfortunately, lines drawn in the sand keep moving, enforced differently by the government, leaders and schools, resulting in a generation of confusion.

From my own perspective, its frustrating to look back on all the blown opportunities I missed as a father.  Depression, fatigue and time have chipped away the standards I want to consistently uphold for my family.  Although I would like to turn the clock back, all I can do is look to history to avoid future failures.  Essentially, I need to become a Moses’ like figure, clearly communicating God desires for daily living, Exodus 19:3-6.  The best advice for anyone wrestling with parenting is found in Proverbs 22:6, “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  May the words of the Bible provide blueprints for youth and adults struggling to identify absolutes, Psalm 119:105.

by Jay Mankus

Passing on a Winter Tradition

One of my most fondest memories as a child was playing in the snow.  My parents had a toboggan that  our family would pile on, going down steep hills on golf courses or at state parks.  When the snow was too high to drive any where, I created a luge slide off of our back steps or went across the street to Jeanette’s.  Although I never went as fast as I did on the toboggan, I always looked forward to building bigger and better courses each year.

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When my 3 children were still young, I began to make a short slope off the back deck.  Although my wife wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea, its become a winter tradition, that is of course when we get snow in Delaware.  Over time, this luge course has turned into extreme tubing, starting on top of a slide on the deck, continuing down the steps of my deck, guided by picnic table benches, winding around a U-shaped wall before ending some where near the back fence.  Who said adults couldn’t still have fun or be a kid at heart.

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Anyway, with my oldest son now in driver’s ed, it won’t be long until there’s an empty nest with no one left to entertain or raise.  Thus, I hope I cherish each snow day that I have with my children before they’re all grown up.  While my body isn’t what it use to be, I still enjoy playing hard and passing on an appreciation for life.  In the end, I pray that my children will develop their own winter traditions, thanking God each time it snows.

by Jay Mankus

When Israel Was Amoral

The term amoral refers to someone who has never been taught right from wrong.  Based upon how people are raised, will determine their degree of innocence.  Strict parents attempt to clearly distinguish moral from immoral behavior, with some becoming too legalistic.  Meanwhile, a growing trend has parents treating their children like friends, overlooking discipline, trying to be liked instead of providing a moral compass for life.  As a former teacher, the moment you assume all your students know the basics, you’re thrown for a loop, scratching your head at all the diverse standards people use.

In the days of Exodus 18, Israel was amoral, not able to ascertain right from wrong on their own.  Before receiving the 10 commandments in Exodus 20, God only provided laws regarding to Himself, Exodus 15:26.  Therefore, when it came to being civil to one another, opinions and values varied.  As a result, Moses was the Supreme Court, the only judge in Israel working from sunrise and sunset 6 days a week, Exodus 18:13-18.  As a shrew man of wisdom, Jethro knew that Moses would not be able to keep up this pace, on the fast track to burn out.  Before he crashed and burned, Jethro gave Moses a vision for the first court system, elevating his own burdens by training others to oversee easy disputes, Exodus 18:19-22.

Based upon the location of this passage in relation to the 10 commandments, one might suggest God’s introduction of the last 6 commandments is directly related to Israel’s amoral state in chapter 18.  Unfortunately, as states in America continue to ban court houses from publicly displaying the 10 commandments, citizens of this country appear to be just as confused as the Israelites many years ago.  If schools and work places had Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-40 in plain view for everyone to see, maybe just maybe, amoral people would learn and be persuaded to treat others as they want to be treated.  May God use these passages in the Bible to transform Americans from amoral citizens into law abiding and loving individuals.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiven… Not Excused

One of my weakest areas as a high school teacher was consistently disciplining students by the same standards day in and day out.  When I was in a good mood, I tended to be more patient, forgiving or overlooking acts I normally confronted or punished.  Meanwhile, if I was frustrated or irritated by a previous class, the wrath of Mr. Mankus came down in full force, kicking students out of class or sending several willing participants to after school detention.  In a sense, my goal was to communicate the message, “you’re forgiven, yet not excused for your behavior.

 

As a parent, this struggle has become more complicated as my kids have grown up and become too comfortable to their laid back dad.  Whenever I try to corral them toward a desired behavior, I receive sarcasm, creating a chain of laughter at my dinner table.  Discipline is like an art form which requires discernment, firmness and a set of values to abide by.  Bribing my children doesn’t work as well as it once was, spanking only worked when they were younger and yelling is too exhausting.  Although I am imperfect, all I can do is strive to live out Proverbs 22:6, proclaiming, “you’re forgiven by not excused from your actions.”

John 8:1-11 contains a woman whose hand in caught in the cookie jar of sin.  Before the days of judges and juries, the religious leaders were old school, taking action right away.  Interrupting Jesus’ teaching, the Pharisees were eager to apply the law of Moses, seeking the death penalty for the adulterer.  Thinking of his journey to the cross, Jesus turned his attention to perfection, looking for the guiltless to pick up the first stone.  Writing down the sins of the people in the crowd in the sand, the accusers leave one by one, dropping their rocks on their way home.  Although the crowd fled, Jesus didn’t let the woman off easy.  John 8:11 implies once you ask God for forgiveness, an act of contrition is necessary.  Jesus loves you just the way you are, but cares enough to move you beyond sin.  Therefore, the next time you receive forgiveness, God expects genuine repentance, turning 180 degrees toward Him, leaving sinful ways in the rear view mirror.

by Jay Mankus

The Envy of Cain

When envy is present within the hearts and minds of individuals, jealousy usually isn’t far off.  Envy and jealousy often feed off of one another breeding the other feeling.  Envy arises deep inside the human soul, aroused by someone else’s material possessions, personality or unique gifts resulting in a spirit of discontent and resentment.  On the other  hand, jealousy is the emotion one experiences when someone thinks they are about to be replaced by the flavor of the month, leading to apprehension and fear.  This is where you find Cain within the pages of Genesis 4.

Cain was the prized baby, the first born boy on planet earth.  As an infant, his mom and dad waited on every cry and whimper.  Like modern parents returning from a hospital, both are clueless, not sure how to handle or respond to this new creature who has entered their life.  As for Cain, every thing was peachy keen until Abel arrived onto the scene.  Cain was now longer the main attraction, forced to share time with his baby brother.  If this wasn’t enough to bear, Cain realized how much harder farming was compared to shepherding, Abel’s occupation.  Then, God had to go and play favorites, rejecting Cain’s weak offering, but extremely pleased by the fat portions brought by Abel, Genesis 4:3-5.  These ingredients conceived the envy of Cain.

Before I studied the definitions of envy and jealousy, I never imagined either of these 2 acts of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21, stirred inside my heart.  However, as I read the numerous definitions and examples of each on the internet, I saw signs of the envy of Cain within me.  Whether you are a coach, teacher or hard working employee, there is always someone quicker, smarter and more appealing than you.  Thus, you need to learn to be content in the areas God has gifted you.  If you don’t, you are giving the devil an open door for the envy of Cain to reside within you, Ephesians 4:25-27.  Therefore, lean on the the grace, forgiveness and mercy of God to purge yourself of any traces of envy or jealousy.

by Jay Mankus

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