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All Out of Sorts

Sort isn’t one of the sexiest words in the English language.  Yet, its synonyms reveal a wide array of meanings.  Arrange, categorize and grouping items enables individuals to bring order to their lives.  However, it doesn’t take much until complacency, laziness or unexpected trials leaves you all out of sorts.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 1 Corinthians 14:33.

After my son was rushed to the hospital last Tuesday, my routine schedule was thrown out the window.  One week later, dazed, exhausted and in dire need of sleep, I find myself hanging by a thread.  All out of sorts, I’m trying to leave the land of confusion for the peace promised in the Bible.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves, Romans 15:1.

During a visit to the church of Corinth, Paul witnessed several believers all out of sorts.  Subsequently, Paul called on godly leaders to be patient with those failing in their faith.  While its nice to have others focused on your own well being, hurting individuals receive much more by serving others.  Therefore, despite your current situation, reach out to someone less fortunate to help the body of Christ heal.

by Jay Mankus

Overwhelmed by Priorities

Every day when I arise from sleep, my mind is overwhelmed by the choices at hand.  Do I read?  Should I write?  Perhaps I need to work out?  Maybe hitting the snooze button and rolling over is my best option.  Either way, the choices you make will dictate the path your life takes.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Luke 12:34

Like most years, my New Years Resolutions are being modified as desires to lose weight, eat healthy and draw closer to God have fallen short.  Sometimes I feel as if I am in a tug of war, pulled in a direction I don’t want to go, yet over time I submit, dragged to a new low.  By enduring these trials, I am beginning to comprehend the words of the apostle Paul as he explains how the sinful nature can influence one’s priorities.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15

When Jeremiah opened his mouth to Israel, negative messages usually came forth.  Thus, this servant of God was nicknamed the weeping prophet.  If you too feel depressed, frustrated or lost, there are some promises in the Bible to cling to.  Lamentations 3:20-24 suggests God’s forgiveness is new every morning.  Therefore, if you fail to keep the priorities that you hold dear, may God’s grace lift you up each time you fall.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Waking Up in the Minority

When you fall asleep each night, only God knows what will occur in the dark of night.  However, you don’t have to rest for the world to change.  Rather, the moment you begin to stop standing up for what you believe, eventualy you will wake up in the minority.

America is a good case study to test this theory.  Prior to the 1960’s, faith was a foundation for most communities with the local church serving as a beacon of hope.  Yet, when the religious community was lulled to sleep by apathy, Woodstock transformed the worldview for future generations.  Subsequently, only 33 % of Americas believe in absolute truth, now in the minority.

All you have to do is take a look at the war on Christmas, banning Nativity Scenes even in the Bible belt to recognize this societal change.  It’s no wonder that public schools are erasing Christian holidays from its calendars.  Freedom of speech is free unless you profess Christ, then you will be silenced.  If this trend continues, you too may wake up one day, finding yourself in the minority.

by Jay Mankus

Those Were the Days

Over the weekend, I got off the Exit called Reflection.  Trying to avoid an eat, sleep, work and repeat the same cycle over again mentality, I pulled off to take a breather, camping in the mountains with my daughter.  Subsequently, I was able to slow down enough to take my spiritual pulse.  Laying back in the wilderness, thoughts began to flood my mind.

Healed from most of the scars from losing my teaching position to a new management group, God allowed me to see positive images from my past.  Similar to the theme song from All in the Family, the Lord brought to recall memories that made me think, those were the days.  Skipping my planning period to partake in a gym class with juniors and seniors, participating in school fundraisers like Donkey Basketball, Dodgeball, Golf Megaathon & Volleyball and developing an Ultimate Frisbee class will always hold a special place in my heart.

Although, you and I may not be exactly where we want to be currently, there’s still time to change course.  Perhaps you need to pull over, take a break or spend time reflecting.  You can start by reading Philippians 4:8; then apply this principle like a scene from Polyanna, playing the good game.  If this exercise can become a habit or daily routine, you may reach a point in time when you can honesty say, “those were the days!”

by Jay Mankus

Where Do Certain Thoughts Come From?

At age 10, I began to experience a reoccurring nightmare.  Maybe I watched one too many scary movies, but each night I was awaken in the same manner.  Whether I was restless or enjoying a peaceful sleep, an image appeared out of no where.  First, I felt the sensation of slipping off a cliff.  Once I reached a free fall mode, I was at ease until the ground came into view.  Just before striking the canyon floor, my body shook, waking me up.  This went on for nearly 2 years.  Why, I’m not sure.  Perhaps, God allowed these thoughts to enter my mind to lead me toward the meaning of life.

A couple of years ago, I was driving my family home after vacationing in Chicago for a week.  It was getting late, the sun had set and everyone in the car was asleep.  I was traveling on the Ohio Turnpike, heading east toward the Maumee River.  As I was approaching the river valley, a whisper entered my mind, “drive off the bridge.”  Shocked initially, it didn’t take long to determine the origin of this thought.  Similar to the Dana Carvey’s Church Lady skit on Saturday Night Live, “could it be Satan?”

Over the course of a lifetime, the mind will become weary, bombarded with a plethora thoughts.  If individuals are careless, lazy or tempted, souls are vulnerable.  When you try to fight a spiritual battle with mental discipline, sooner or later you will lose.  Therefore, its essential to practice 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, by taking your thoughts captive.  Whether thoughts are from God, Satan or your own sinful desires, how you respond to them will dictate the path that you choose.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Christmas Without Gifts?

This morning a thought came to my mind, what would Christmas morning be like without gifts?  First of all, most would enjoy a good night sleep before going to church or sleep later after attending a midnight service.  Once awake, the distractions of presents might actual promote quality conversations as individuals reflect upon the previous year.  As breakfast or brunch is served, discussions would likely move toward meaningful topics, free from typical superficial talk about who received the best gift and which family member got the shaft or least favored status.

Without the rush of getting back to play with your newest toy, the birth of the Messiah might become real to young children.  Instead of being brain washed by traditions of Christmas, Colossians 2:8, words from the Bible would fall upon fertile soil, Matthew 13:23, opening the door for faith to prosper, Romans 10:17.  Thus, Christmas wouldn’t be about what you got for Christmas.  Rather, hearts and minds would be transformed from “Thank you Santa, to Thank you God for the promise of Matthew 1:23.”

If I struggle with balancing a traditional Christmas with worshiping baby Jesus, I’m sure I am not alone.  My Christmas Day prayer is that I will point my children toward the true reason for this season.  When the sunsets on the 25th, families shouldn’t have to wait another calender year to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Rather, the Spirit of Christmas can and should be kept alive through the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4, given to all those who believe.  Although the day is now December 26th, its never too soon to start preparing your hearts for a Christmas without gifts, devoted to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

by Jay Mankus

Not So Weak After All

On my only day off during last week, I spent time helping finish field work in anticipation of Opening Day for Greater Newark Baseball.  Fighting a fever, extreme exhaustion and side effects from medicine, I quickly became emotionally drained.  Unable to sleep, I wrote a blog at 4:30 am, that’s in the morning for those who slept past noon over Spring Break.  Anyway, the only strength I could muster was a lame, but effective prayer, “In my weakness Lord, be strong today!”

Minutes after verbalizing these words, I lost my keys, was late to work and felt worthless for most of my first shift.  However, as I look back on my day, somewhere near the end of my first shift, the power of the Holy Spirit kicked in.  From there, God blessed me with one amazing encounter after another.

I was able to bring a smile to hundreds of children through a 30 minute long Chick-fil-A cow appearance at the Christiana Mall.  I nearly brought one parent to tears after offering her infant a Mini-Cow.  Another woman mumbled under her breath, “I need to eat Chick-fil-A, their people take care of their customers like first class citizens.”  Between 4-8pm this evening, I was walking on air, floating on the wings of angels.  Paul was right in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, when we are weak, Christ truly is strong, and not so weak after all!

by Jay Mankus

Tarry With Me

In a vulnerable state, Jesus asks 3 close friends to stay with him and pray, Matthew 26:36-38.  Going a little further into the garden of Gethsemane to be alone, Jesus begins pouring out his heart to his Heavenly Father.  Returning an hour later, Jesus finds Peter, James and John sleeping instead of praying.  Disappointed by their response to his time in need, Jesus asks this question in Matthew 26:40, “could you not tarry with me for one hour?”

Jesus reveals the purpose for prayer in Matthew 26:41:

1. Prayer keeps you spiritually alert.

2. Prayer protects your mind from temptations.

3. Prayers helps you tap into the willingness of the Holy Spirit.

While the context of this passage limits the scope of prayer, God has placed an unique burden upon my heart.  During the month of March, God is leading me to prayer for an hour a day.  Now I ask you, “will you tarry with me?”

I met a young missionary before graduating from college whose testimony included not using an alarm clock to get up.  God woke up this individual at the same time every morning, 6am to begin his day in prayer, praising God.  Inspired by his account, I tried to apply this to my own life during my final semester of college.  To my surprise, God used sunlight shining directly on my pillow to arise and awaken me exactly at 6am.  Although I tend to be a night owl, God answered my prayer every day for 3 months, keeping my prayer life active, my mind sober and excited for each new day.

When it comes to prayer, I am certainty not an expert.  I tend to lean on the Psalms of David, who had a heart for God according to 1 Samuel 16:7.  Whenever I start to lose focus, I’ll rely on Jesus’ outline in Matthew 6:5-15, the words of Jesus’ brother in James 5:13-20 and of course David in Psalm 32:1-11.  You don’t have to be eloquent when you pray; all you need is a pure heart who seeks to know God.  See what God can do when you if you devote one hour per day to prayer in March.  May God perform miracles in your life!

by Jay Mankus

Mere Images

The expression “you are what you eat” is nothing new.  Nor is practice what you preach.  However, the prophet Hosea brought me something fresh and poignant this morning.  According to Hosea 9:10, you become a mere image of that which you worship.

If you study time management theories, you will stumble across the Pyramid Theory, which attempts to break each day into 24 one hour time slots.  Since the average individual sleeps roughly 8 hours a day, every person has 16 hours to invest their time.  If work consumes another 8-10 hours per day, people may only have 6 hours for their own personal use.  Thus, how you treat these precious hours will reveal your character, interests and priorities.

Israel had wasted their free time indulging in self gratifying practices during the days of Hosea.  This decision caused most of the Jews to become like grapes rotting in the desert heat.  As a result, their hearts shifted toward corruption, radically transforming their lives.  Instead of dedicating their bodies to the God of Abraham, most desecrated their flesh to shameful idols.  Looking into a mirror, their witness became just as vile as the images they worshiped.

Today, golden calves have been replaced by the internet, television and twitter.  While Jesus calls people to go into the world to tell others what God has done for you, Mark 5:19, the real question is, are you living in this world or of the world?  When people look into your day planner, where are you investing your time?  Do people see Jesus living in you or in something else center stage?  May the month of March serve as a transition, a restoration project to erase sin from your life by allowing Abba Father, to mold and shape you into the precious image of Jesus his son, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.

by Jay Mankus

From a Mountain Top to the Valley of Despair

Throughout the course of history, unusual events have occurred which defy the laws of gravity.  Skeptics argue that reality has been embellished, like a fishing story, changing each time it is told.  Meanwhile, just when it appears you understand the mind of God, a twist of fate leaves you dumbfounded, unable to comprehend why something happened.

On top of Mount Carmel, like a classic western movie, Elijah challenges King Ahab’s prophets to a duel.  However, guns are replaced by fire, with the winner burning up the hopes of the loser’s god.  According to 1 Kings 18:36-39, Elijah was victorious as the Lord God answered his prayer, sending fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice soaked in water.  Unfortunately, this mountain top experience was short lived.

When a king is publicly embarrassed, it usually doesn’t go well for the man that brought him disgrace.  Being a poor loser, King Ahab complains to his wife, the most wicked woman in the kingdom, 1 Kings 19:1.  Not ready to accept defeat, Queen Jezebel fires back with a death threat, vowing to send a hitman to kill Elijah, 1 Kings 19:2.  Forgetting the power of God, Elijah ran down the mountain into a valley of despair, wanting to die than face this trial, 1 Kings 19:3-4.

The average person lives in this valley, where heartbreak, pain and setbacks are a daily occurrence.  A spirit of depression hovers over this valley, like a stationary dark cloud, waiting for winds of change.  However, the forecast for change looks bleak, leaving a state of hopelessness in your heart.

Dr. Love sends a messenger with a recipe for healing in 1 Kings 19:5-9.  Thinking out of the box, God sends an angel to fulfill this subscription of sleep.  Although Solomon urges people to avoid slumber in Proverbs, sometimes the best thing for depression is rest.  Getting up twice to eat, the food draws Elijah back into a deep sleep.  Once revitalized, its time to go back up the mountain.

Whether you are presently on the mountain top, half way or in the valley, God’s voice is only a whisper away, 1 Kings 19:10-13.  However, we need to get our lives straightened out before you can have full reception, Isaiah 1:15.  If you follow the directions in Isaiah 1:16-17, there is a wonderful promise of hope.  Don’t delay in fulfilling; Come reason with God today so you can rise on wings like eagles to the peak, Isaiah 40:31.

by Jay Mankus

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