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The Way Maker

The 1920’s has been described as the Jazz Age or roaring twenties. This decade of prosperity was marred by the Great Depression which began in August of 1929. Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus brought an era of spiritual enlightenment. This was accomplished by turning people’s attention away from following a set of rules, the Torah, to entering into a personal relationship with God. However, even his twelve disciples were often left in the dark, unclear of what Jesus meant by following the way.

And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way, John 14:3-4.

The disciple whom Jesus loved reflects upon these words after Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. John had plenty of time for reflection while living in exile on the Island of Patmos. Jesus spent the last three years of his life on earth pouring his heart and soul into twelve men. Little by little, Jesus showed this motley crew how to live, pray and serve mankind. Despite witnessing numerous miracles daily, a couple of disciples still doubted Jesus and couldn’t fully comprehend the way.

Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him. Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father [cause us to see the Father—that is all we ask]; then we shall be satisfied, John 14:5-8.

Thomas and Philip are identified in the passage above, living by sight, not by faith. During a Sermon of the Mount of Olives, Jesus compares the way to two roads, a super highway and a narrow path. Prior to his arrest, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of religious leaders, referring to an inner temple, not the place of worship in Jerusalem. The Bible, especially the four gospels, provides clues for modern believers who seek a similar path, the Way. May this blog conceive a burning desire for you to follow the Way Maker, also a song by Mandisa.

by Jay Mankus

Afraid of What the Silence Might Reveal

Driving in a car without listening to music, a podcast or talk radio seems odd. Unless of course your car’s stereo system isn’t working. This makes me wonder why human beings have grown accustom to filling in any brief moments of silence with conversation, some sort of electronic game or texting. Perhaps, individuals are afraid of what the silence might reveal?

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress, Psalm 46:10-11.

To avoid any bad news, heartbreak or humbling reflection, minds race to fill in the blank moments daily. As you wake up, thoughts lead many to check cell phones thinking, “maybe I missed a phone call or important text?” Others click on the news to catch up on current events to pass the time before work. Meanwhile, overachievers will check emails to prepare their minds for what to expect today. As you make your way toward school or work, did you pause to consider what God wanted you to do or say?

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons, Mark 1:35-39.

During the third and final day of my current Esther Fast, I received a rhema from God. Like a whisper from the Holy Spirit, I came face to face with my fears, afraid of what the silence might reveal. Beside not living up to my potential as a leader, selfishness has kept me from being a servant of the Lord. Not having a church family to call home, I’ve taken several steps backwards spiritually. My prayer for 2020 is that I finally surround myself with a community of believers to build up my wife Leanne and family. While the news may not be what you want to hear, don’t be afraid of silence anymore.

by Jay Mankus

Form Without Function

Function is the basis for an act, serving as the bridge to your ultimate purpose.  Unfortunately, if you find yourself overwhelmed by a hectic schedule, many carry on with their daily routines without any meaningful reflection.  Anyone who allows the busyness of life to consume their soul, you may end up as a prime example of form without function.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works, James 2:14.

At some point following his brother’s death, James began to re-evaluate his belief system.  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus challenged his tradition view of Judaism.  The concept of a Messiah was believed to be part of the end times.  Yet, Jesus taught James that faith must be accompanied by good works inspired by love.  Without any external change by displaying fruits of the Spirit, you are merely form without function.

If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective], James 2:15-17.

While observing religious practices for most of his life, it appears James was simply going through the motions, without a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10.  Jesus’ lifestyle slowly convicted James’ heart, making him realize that his faith was dead, inoperative.  Following the commandments, praying and worshipping God is merely a to do list, a spiritual checklist.  Seeing the error of his way, James writes to first century Christians to encourage believers to activate their faith.  The love of Jesus is the form in which faith is meant to function.  May this lesson revive and rejuvenate your soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

Holding Everything Together Until the Glue Dries

Early on in my marriage, Leanne and I went to antique shops, searching for a piece of furniture that could be refinished.  Wooden chairs were a common purchase, trying to breathe new life into classic designs.  Scraping and sanding away old paint often revealed imperfections.  In some cases, spindles needed to be reattached with glue.  Without a wide arrange of clamps available to apply to a curved angle, brute force was necessary to hold everything together until the glue dried.  This process often involved placing your arms and legs into a death grip to avoid spindles from popping out of place.  If pressure wasn’t maintained until the bonding process was complete, we had to start all over again from the beginning.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together, Colossians 1:17.

As my body approaches the half century mark in age, I’m beginning to feel like an antique.  Instead of having a spindle or two out of place, I feel broken, trying to pick up all the pieces.  Yet, I have learned that I can’t do this on my own.  According to Jesus, the spiritual healthy should be able to self medicate their lives.  However, if you attempt to do this without spiritual brothers and sisters within a church fellowship, holding everything together can be overwhelming.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12, in “your own weaknesses, lean on Jesus to make you strong.”

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but [only] those who are sick, Matthew 9:12.

While I am not a counselor by trade, I often find myself scouring the Bible to find answers to my struggles in life.  This daily process involves reflection, meditation and searching for nuggets of truth to heal and mend my soul.  Unfortunately, I spend many weeks out of the year depressed, unable to hold things together.  Again and again, I fight through the pain in my heart to stay optimistic.  The one trait I have on my side is a faith empowered by the promises in the Bible.  Against all odds, the Holy Spirit propels me to press on despite how I feel day to day.  This invisible force is the glue that holds everything together until the bonding process of sanctification is complete.

by Jay Mankus

Playing God

If you take the time to catch up on breaking news, you might notice a disturbing new trend.  Instead of providing the full context of a conversation, sound bytes are used to promote a certain narrative.  Instead of relying on truth, justice and the American way, political allegiances have been formed.  This decision has replaced the Bible with political correctness.  Anyone who does not adhere to this new standard is attacked, exposed and slammed for intolerance.  The idea of a corrupt media was something I thought was impossible, left for nations of dictators from third world nations.  Yet, as the media’s elite begin to play God, redefining right and wrong, I’m afraid of what the future holds.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment, James 2:13.

In 2009, Paramore released Playing God, a single from their third album Brand News Eyes.  Lead singer Hayley Williams was one of the authors of this song, collaborating with band members Josh Farro and Taylor York.  The music video begins with Hayley sitting in her car, staring at a cross and a button of Jesus on her dashboard.  This time of reflection sets the stage for a new concept, what if God did not introduce freewill?  Instead God used force, to tie people up so they didn’t go where God didn’t want them to be.  While God refuses to participate in this mindset, adults, other siblings and parents from time to time like to play God.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

Known for his wisdom, King Solomon addressed this topic during his day.  According to Solomon, everyone has an idea, a plan for their lives.  While your heart may guide you throughout this life, God ultimately establishes the direction you will take.  Along the way, barriers, obstacles and road blocks stand in your way, altering your course.  Thus, the sooner you start keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, the better off you will be.  Rather than condemning those around you for not following the path of integrity, make sure you show mercy to others so that when you do fall, forgiveness will be extended to you.

by Jay Mankus

 

Trying to Heal a Defiled Heart

If you maintain a burdensome schedule each week, finding time to take an honest assessment of your life isn’t easy to do.  Most busy people press on. ignoring any signs, symptoms or traces of trouble.  When a state of emergency was issued for Delaware during the fourth snow storm in March, I was forced to slow down, unable to go to work.  After reading the passage below, an overwhelming sense of guilt struck my soul, exposing a defiled heart.

After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. 16 [If anyone has ears to hear, let him he}” Mark 7:15-16.

As a former high school teacher, I gave my students some sort of assessment every 3 weeks.  Homework, papers, quizzes and exams were given during each unit to reveal the degree of comprehension.  Unfortunately, after graduating from high school or college, adults rarely think about assessing their faith like educators.  This lack of reflection often hides glaring issues.  As for me, a lack of candor has brought to light a defiled heart.

For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit. For figs are not picked from thorn bushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a briar bush. 45 The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:43-45.

According to Jesus, your choice of language provides immediate feedback to what’s in your heart.  If you find yourself using coarse joking, put downs or sarcasm, this serves as a warning of a heart in grave condition.  In order to take a positive step forward, confession is the best place to start, James 5:16.  If your language does not improve, finding an accountability partner can help turn your life around.  While transformation takes time, meditating on Bible verses, prayer and fasting are all honorable steps toward healing a defiled heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

Self Medicating Pain

According to a 2017 article posted on The Upshot, Josh Katz uses new data to illustrate that drug deaths in America are rising faster than ever before.  Drug overdose claimed the lives of nearly 64,000 Americans in 2016.  A large majority of these deaths are being blamed on opioids, prompting a 2017 presidential commission to address this growing crisis.  Instead of coping with depression, an attempt to self medicate pain has resulted in deadly addictions nationwide.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” – Matthew 9:10-11.

During the first century, class warfare was commonly practiced to avoid negative influences from those who shared a different worldview.  This mindset caused religious leaders to question Jesus’ association with sinners, regularly dining and reaching out to social outcasts within society.  In the passage below, Jesus reveals the purpose for this unusual outreach.  If you read between the lines, the goal for any adult is learning how to take care of yourself.  This is a sign of maturity, being able to self medicate pain through spiritual practices.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, Matthew 9:12.

The apostle Paul shines light on how this is accomplished within Philippians 2:1-4.  The spiritual healthy gradually develop a Christ like mindset.  Before beginning every day, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place, often on a mountain top outside of where he was staying, void of distractions.  Essentially, Paul is suggesting you can’t help others until you take care of your own needs first.  When your daily devotions, prayer and reflection is complete each morning, you are primed to self medicate pain.  Until this process is complete, you won’t be any good to anyone.  Therefore, if you want to be healthy, not needing a doctor, start each day with a daily dose of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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