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Doubt Kills

An arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities of water or amounts of debris highlight the magnitude of a tsunami.  This act of God can erase a beach, tropical destination or village in a matter of minutes.  Like a scene out of a chapter from Revelation, the Christmas morning tsunami which struck Thailand in 2004 devastated this region.  In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus compares doubt with a spiritual tsunami that can ravage souls.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind, James 1:6.

From time to time, I will cross paths with an extremely negative individual.  Fueled by doubt, this unhealthy presence can persuade hopeful hearts to become consumed by stress, worry and unrest.  Unless this invisible force is extinguished, doubt will continue to spread, poisoning souls one group at a time.  While the initial traces of doubt may appear vague, roots of bitterness will rise up from within troubled hearts, brewing until verbal assaults are unleashed in person or via social media.

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen, Matthew 21:21.

Jesus addressed doubt on numerous occasions with his own disciples.  These exchanges reveal his frustration as future leaders of the church became numb to the miracles performed by Jesus daily, John 21:25.  Perhaps, the words in the passage above are a call to snap out of it; wake up to the power of faith.  Using the surrounding mountains as a teachable aid, Jesus exclaims, “see that mountain over there, you can move that which stands in your way through faith.”  Yet, if doubt lingers, any dreams that you have will die.  Therefore, believe, have faith and put your trust in God before doubt kills another victim.

by Jay Mankus

Your Next is Greater Than Your Now

Financial planners seek to guide individuals toward fulfilling their dreams in life.  Depending upon how soon families begin to set aside funds for retirement, this process requirements discipline, focus and numerous sacrifices.  Yet, all these preparations don’t ensure a happy ending.  Thus, its essential that people begin to trust God, believing that your next is greater than your now.

For I want you to know, believers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel [it is not a human invention, patterned after any human concept]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ.  You have heard of my career and former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to hunt down and persecute the church of God extensively and [with fanatical zeal] tried [my best] to destroy it, Galatians 1:11-13.

During a letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul gives a brief summary of his past, present and desire to follow God’s will in the future.  Paul doesn’t shy away from his ignorant past, blinded by a religious zeal for Judaism.  This obsession led Paul to conspire against the founding of the first century church.  Perhaps, the words of Stephen prior to his persecution and death broke through Saul’s calloused heart.

But when God, who had chosen me and set me apart before I was born, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [as the good news—the way of salvation], I did not immediately consult with anyone [for guidance regarding God’s call and His revelation to me]. 17 Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and stayed awhile, and afterward returned once more to Damascus, Galatians 1:15-17.

After being blinded on the road to Damascus, this set forward a chain of events resulting in Paul’s salvation.  The first thing Paul did following his conversion was going home to tell family and friends what God had done for him.  The Bible is silent on how Paul’s Jewish parents responded to and received this news.  Nonetheless, Paul quickly came to the conclusion that your next is greater than your now with Jesus.  Although, this doesn’t ensure a story book ending on earth, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does secure an eternal reservation in heaven, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Not About Deserve…It’s About What You Believe

From 1973 to 1986, the Super Friends was a popular television show on ABC geared for kids.  Based upon characters from DC Comics, this series used the Justice League as the home for super heroes who took turns each episode fighting evil in the world.  Over time, antagonists joined forces to create chaos in what became known as the Legion of Doom.  Every day, good and evil collided with battles won and lost, encouraging viewers to root for their favorite hero or foe.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

Thirty one year later, DC Comics has introduced a modern film placing Wonder Woman on the front lines during World War II.  Gal Gadot plays Diana who saves a British spy, Chris Pine, from drowning.  After being interrogated by Amazonian leaders, Diana uncovers some of her special super hero powers.  This revelation prompts Diana to leave her home with special agent Trevor.  Diana believes that if only she could kill the source of evil, the German leader, the war would come to an end.  When this doesn’t happen, Diana has a crisis of faith, doubting if the human race is worth saving.  Steve quickly intervenes, teaching Diana a valuable lesson, “It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe!”

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

Normally when I watch a movie, I am disappointed by the lack of depth.  Yet, the line above in this film spoke to me.  No one is perfect, as flaws exist within every living being.  These imperfections may be mild or blatantly obvious.  Nonetheless, Jesus believed everyone is worth saving.  Humanly speaking, you can’t change what the world thinks or believes, but you can change yourself.  As this subtle transformation begins, glimpses of Christ’s light appears, illuminated by the power of the Holy Spirit.  You may not possess superhuman strength like a superhero, but faith can make a difference in your life and those around you.  Thus, the next time you begin to lose hope in people, remember the words from Steve’s character, “It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe!”

by Jay Mankus

I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

Prepared for the Anointing?

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In the film Facing the Giants, the head football coach at Shiloh High accidently walks by a private meeting to oust him as coach.  Devastated by this revelation, a conversation with the janitor the next day changes his perspective.  This wise man recalls a parable of farmers waiting for rain to plant crops.  Only one man plowed his fields in expectation of God’s answer to prayers for water.  The janitor asked this coach at the end of his story, which one are you?

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him, 1 John 2:27.

Author Gary Smalley wrote a book entitled the Blessing when I was in college.  A friend suggested that I should read this before getting married.  During a marriage encounter seminar that Leanne and I attended while engaged, this resource was confirmed as a must read.  The book examines the Old Testament practice of Jewish fathers passing on a blessing to their oldest son.  However, in the case of Isaac and Jacob, the youngest deceives his brother to receive this special anointing.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” Luke 4:18.

Due to a breakdown in the American family, absentee fathers aren’t around to bless, develop and raise their own children.  Meanwhile, the passing of the torch from one generation to the next is being dropped.  Subsequently, young men are being robbed of this blessing.  These circumstances have created a mood where doubt reigns.  Until this atmosphere changes, no one is preparing for the anointing of God due to a lack of hope and faith.  May divine intervention reverse this trend.

by Jay Mankus

 

Spoiler Alert

As society evolves, new words arrive on the scene to define what’s really happening.  Such is the case of a spoiler alert, derived from someone watching a repeat of an episode, film or show.  Individuals sometimes memorize lines or think out loud, ruining a punch line before a first time listener can enjoy it.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” Genesis 3:15.

While clergy, pastors and theologians may use lofty words, the Bible is full of spoiler alerts.  These clues are known as prophecy, a foreshadowing of what God is planning to do in the future.  Following the fall of mankind, also known as original sin, the author places a subtle hint in between the punishment of Adam and Eve.  The passage above promises to send someone a second Adam to restore that which was lost.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Luke 19:10.

A well known doctor echoes this point in the New Testament.  Luke issues this spoiler alert to his readers, highlighting purpose for Jesus’ life on earth.  Meanwhile, the disciple John shares another spoiler alert at the end of the book of Revelation.  The plot for life has been exposed, but the hardest part is the waiting for God’s prophecies to be fulfilled.  May faith carry you to the finish line or as show biz states, “the grand finale.”

by Jay Mankus

God is Not Finished with America Yet

If you have ever read or studied the Bible’s last book, you will find something fascinating.  Revelation writes about several countries that exist today, but the United States and or a western influence is not mentioned.  This absence has led many scholars to suggest America’s run as one of the greatest nations on earth will end before Jesus returns.

Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved, Psalm 80:19.

During the 2016 presidential election, many citizens likely felt the United States was on the verge of falling apart.  Whether its was inappropriate behavior, scandals or vicious ads, the future did not look promising.  Nonetheless, the votes of the forgotten man and woman may be a sign that America still has a pulse.

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? – Psalm 85:6

In the Old Testament, Psalmists provided some hope for Israelites who where doubting the lack of God’s presence in their day.  The verses above can also be applied to Americans who share similar feelings.  Although I don’t know what the future holds, God is the source for revival today.  Therefore, whether you are a Hillary or Trump supporter, may the Holy Spirit awaken dead and dying souls to complete the will of God for this nation.

by Jay Mankus

 

Let It All Play Out

A prognosticator attempts to forecast what will happen in the future based upon present signs and indicators.  At the beginning of any election or sports season, these experts flood the airways hoping to accurately predict winners and losers.  While some have a better track record than others, before people get carried away its better to let things play out.

For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets, Amos 3:7.

In the game of life, God uses prophets, individuals in tune with the Holy Spirit to shine light on the path which should be taken.  Despite the obvious, the Lord does not force people to go along with his plan.  Rather, free will is offered as a choice to either accept or reject advice provided.  Some need to learn the hard way, like the Israelites who once wandered 40 years in the desert before submitting to the will of God.

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21.

While the book of Revelation reveals how life on earth ends, this doesn’t give believers permission to throw their hands up in the air and proclaim, “things are out of my control.”  Instead, God wants his children to let it all play out, day after day.  Sure, it would be nice to fast forward, skip death and advance to heaven.  Yet, the Lord has a plan for you and me to leave a lasting impression of a risen Messiah.  Therefore, let tomorrow worry about itself by asking God to guide you daily as a servant of the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Angels Peek into Your Conversations

One of my first experiences with the concept of angels was through the Christmas Classic It’s A Wonderful Life.  George’s guardian angel Clarence is sent down to earth to save him from committing suicide as well as helping him realize how good his life really is.  However, this earthly perspective does not shed light on what garners an angels attention.

They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen, 1 Peter 1:12.

God provided Peter with a revelation about angels detailed in one of his letters recorded in the Bible.  The passage above suggests angels are like fans in heaven who get excited when the Holy Spirit begins to transform individuals.  Though angels have the advantage of knowing the final outcome of the Bible, they are eagerly watching like viewing a favorite movie that you’ve seen a dozen times, waiting for the story to be played out.

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! – Luke 15:7

In It’s A Wonderful Life, a notion is put forth that whenever a bell rings, it represents an angel earning their wings.  Yet, the Bible claims individuals are saved by grace, through faith, not by work.  According to the gospel of Luke, heaven celebrates whenever a prodigal, lost sheep or wanderer turns back to the Lord.  Therefore, whether you are talking about the power of the Holy Spirit, repentance or planting seeds of faith upon fertile ground, don’t be surprised if an angel peeks into your conversation.

by Jay Mankus

Your Best… Your Very Best

In the film Facing the Giants, coach Grant Taylor played by Alex Kendrick, is stuck in a rut.  Staring at another mediocre season and concerned about getting fired, Grant turns to the Lord, praying for a possible solution.  After a sleepless night, this coach receives a revelation from God.  This answer reveals a new team motto, giving God your very best.

They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?- Mark 12:14

Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus faced an onslaught of questions from religious leaders.  Their goal was to trick Jesus with a series of hypothetical scenarios to publicly stump him.  This leads me to Jesus’ response to whether or not Jews should pay taxes.  The answer is priceless; not a Master Card commercial.  Rather, these words of wisdom speak to a greater truth.  Dedicating your life to the One who has instilled within you special gifts and talents.

They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him, Mark 12:16-17.

In a society that loves to keep score, sometimes your best is overshadowed by the winner or winners.  In fact, some may get discouraged, starting to think that you’re efforts are worthless or a failure.  Despite what others may do or say, Coach Taylor’s message to his team applies today to everyone.  Don’t let a lack of recognition stop your quest of discovering God’s will.  Instead, be still, mediate on the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to spur you on to give God your best, your very best.

by Jay Mankus

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