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Monday Morning Atheist

An atheist is defined as anyone who lacks belief or denies the existence of a God or gods.  Unfortunately, as another weekend flies by the anguish of starting a new week of work weighs heavy on restless souls.  Thus, when the average American awakes on Monday morning, not many people feel close to or seek God to find the strength to carry on.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ, Romans 10:17.

In his book entitled Monday Morning Atheist, Doug Spada encourages readers to switch God on as Monday morning arrives.  When Christianity becomes a religion, the emphasis is placed on Saturday or Sunday as the day of worship.  Thus, God can be limited to your churches doors if you embrace this mindset.  Faith is designed to be a relationship that lasts 7 days, not something that you pick up whenever you feel like it.

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, Mark 1:35.

Jesus sets the example for those who tend to be distracted by others or stressed by the upcoming schedule you have to meet.  While his disciples are swayed by human demands, Jesus took the first moments of each day to spend with his heavenly father.  Therefore, don’t allow worry to lead you to become a Monday morning atheist.  Rather, slow down, be still before the Lord and let the Holy Spirit influence the steps you take 7 days a week.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Going Back in Time to Move Forward

Disney’s animation movie Cars premiered at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 26th of 2006.  Lightning McQueen, the star and voice of Owen Wilson, illustrates what happens when an individual seeks to do whatever it takes to reach the top of their profession, the Piston Cup for McQueen, whatever the cost.  Just before reaching his goal, Lightning accidentally stumbles upon Radiator Springs, a once booming town on Route 66.  Forced to fix a portion of the road he destroyed, McQueen is taught a series of life lessons before moving on to his final race of the season.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Over the weekend, I spent a portion of 4th of July weekend in Amish country.  Spending the night at a bed and breakfast, I felt like I was transported back in time to life without technology.  There was no television, internet or bars to make a call.  Instead, there were books, nature and others to converse with.  Spoiled by distractions in life, it became painfully clear during my visit that my communication skills have deteriorated.  Tuning out others with technology had become a way of life for me, a misguided attempt to hide my inadequacies.  Thus, going back in time has created a thirst for conversations in the future.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Today, emails, Facebook and Twitter are flawed forms of communication.  While you may be able to express what you feel or think, often this form of expression is self-centered, void of any genuine face to face interaction.  Although emails may be convenient, they are superficial, not offering time for questions and answers like good old fashion meetings.  Perhaps, this generation has become too dependent on technology.  Sure, any information you desire is only a click away, but people are what makes the world go round.  Therefore, everyone needs time to get away, slow down and cruise the streets of a real life Radiator Springs.  Only when you go back in time for some rest and relaxation will you be ready to move forward.

by Jay Mankus

Suppressed Anger

If you slow down enough to take a look around, suppressed anger lingers deep inside the human heart.  The tension within the bullied builds until a spirit of revenge is born.  Once this seed is implanted inside of  troubled minds, the stage is set for the next school shooting.

During my sophomore year of high school, I was introduced to another form of suppressed anger.  A friend from my cross country team began to punch me in the arm every team I saw him in school.  This scenario repeated itself for 6 months until I took the time to find out why.  Carl, who became my best friend, hit me to express his frustration as he helplessly watched his mother slowly die of cancer.

Today, some of the cruelest people you encounter often possess a secret that motivates their behavior.  Just watch the Breakfast Club, paying close attention to John Bender’s character played by Judd Nelson.  Whether its a bad family life, negative influences or low self-esteem, each plays a factor in determining which person you will meet.  May a clear understanding of Galatians 5:19-22 allow you to discern suppressed anger from those who are simply evil.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Gotta Get It Right

During my last year as a youth pastor, I was responsible for running Confirmation, a year long class for 8th graders who sought to take ownership of their faith.  Before the actual ceremony during church in the Spring, I took my group away on a retreat about 30 minutes west of Columbus, Indiana.  Coming out a year earlier, I showed the movie Groundhog Day to break the ice, easing the tension for those uncomfortable with talking about God.  Essentially, Bill Murray keeps repeating the same day over and over again, until he gets it right.

Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still like this movie.  However, there are several life lessons worth noting.  First, too many individuals, me especially, become consumed with what they are doing, where they are going and what they need to accomplish every day.  As a result, blinders prevents you from appreciating, interacting and slowing down long enough to develop permanent meaningful lasting relationships.  Secondly, distracted people often don’t recognize, see or stop to help someone in need with a smile, word of encouragement or passing prayer.  Finally, life is best served by embracing daily distractions that God provides.  These interruptions offer opportunities to minister, nurture and uplift struggling souls.

While listening to the song Get it Right by Silverline, I sensed the urging of the Holy Spirit to write this blog.  Although each day is filled with trials and errors, life is too short to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.  If  you are touched by these words, join me in the quest to get it right, John 10:10.  Yet, when you fail, don’t give up, Galatians 6:9-10.  Rather, by leaning on Christ, Philippians 4:13, believe in your heart that over time, you will get it right.

Please comment on my blog how your journey is going.  This post is dedicated to Elizabeth, one of my students who gave her heart to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, at the end of our confirmation retreat.

by Jay Mankus

Missed Opportunities

There are moments in life when you are at the right time and place.  However, if you are on the verge of doing something special, obstacles such as awareness, discernment and time can be hindrances.  Depending upon the state of your emotions, you might just miss a golden opportunity to accomplish God’s will.

I can recall several encounters with people over the course of my life.  Some of these friendships never developed because I did not make a good first impression.  On other occasions I sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit, yet an individual or stranger was distracted by trials in life.  If I was more prepared or they were spiritually sober, perhaps my life would be much more engaging, full of conversational experiences.

Despite my past failures, I did make the most of one opportunity.  While attending a youth ministry conference in Chicago, I happened to meet my future wife.  The atmosphere at this facility made it conducive to slowing down to meet, interact and develop permanent meaningful lasting relationships.  Little did I know that one of the girls in my small group would become my soul mate.  Similarly, if you have failed to cease the moment like me, apply the words of Colossians 4:2-6 so that you won’t miss the opportunities that the Lord provides.

by Jay Mankus

Traffic Jam

In August of 2010, one of the worst traffic jams on earth took place.  According to Forbes Magazine, the Beijing-Tibet Expressway came to a standstill as traffic backed up for 62 miles.  This nightmare scenario lasted 12 days until the gridlock ended.  As summer vacationers crammed onto this highway, too many cars entered without any place to exit, resulting in an epic battle of patience.

Whether its Memorial Day, Labor Day or Thanksgiving Weekend, traffic is one of those things you can’t avoid.  Sure you can plan ahead, using GPS to find alternate routes, but when roads are packed there is usually no where to go.  As a former resident of Chicago, traffic jams are a daily occurrence extending your commute by 1-2 hours regularly.  When I worked at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, I left home 2 hours prior to my shift.  I took a book to read in case I was early, yet nearly every morning I arrived just in a nick of time.

From a spiritual perspective, traffic jams occur for multiple reasons.  Sometimes, individuals need to slow down, take a deep breathe and embrace God’s creation, Psalm 46:10.  On other occasions, God wants to divert people in a different direction, away from harm and temptation, Galatians 5:16-18.  Meanwhile, dead ends and roadblocks serve as supernatural vehicles to bring about God’s will, Proverbs 19:21.  Therefore, the next time you find yourself in a traffic jam, ask the Lord to provide faith, perseverance and maturity until the roadway is clear, James 1:2-4.

Feel free to share the worst traffic jam you’ve been stuck in.

by Jay Mankus

Where God’s Calling is Clearest

Skeptics will tend to agree with the words of 1 Samuel 3:1, “in those days the word of the Lord was rare.”  If these conditions exist today, how can someone discern or know if it is actually God’s voice calling out?  History provides 5 examples where God’s calling  is clearest.

1. In the Temple of the Lord, 1 Samuel 3:1-18.

Although just a boy, Samuel was raised in the temple.  Since his mentor was a priest, Samuel learned how to approach God, yet had never heard his voice.  On one ordinary night, Eli the priest introduced Samuel to the voice of the Lord.

2. Reading the Word of the Lord, 2 Kings 22:11-13.

Often, God is the first thing people cut from a busy schedule, allowing their Bible to collect dust on a shelf.  Time away from this book slowly reveals a shift in one’s actions, behavior and words.  After hidden for several years, Josiah finds a copy of the Old Testament hidden in a closet.  Astonished by the words he is reading, the king of Judea is moved by God to repent for the sins of his nation.

3. Retreating to a Remote Location, Mark 1:35-39 & 1 Kings 19:9-13.

To flee distractions and interruptions, Jesus regularly began his day in solitude, talking to God the Father.  This enabled the son of God to go where the Lord wanted Him daily.  Meanwhile, most retreat destinations are located in mountains or valleys, isolated from the hectic pace of life.  This atmosphere opens the door to listen for God’s still small voice.

4. Fasting and Worship, Nehemiah 1:4-11 & Acts 13:1-4.

Fasting is the practice of going without food for a set period to seek God’s will in a specific matter.  When you add worship to this equation, the Holy Spirit often opens up doors that were previous locked.  During a worship service, Paul and Barnabas each sensed a clear calling to become missionaries, sharing the good news of Jesus to a lost and dying world.

5. Keeping in Step with the Holy Spirit, Acts 8:26-31 & Galatians 5:25.

Whether you are in God’s house, fasting, praying, reading the Bible, retreating to recharge your spiritual batteries or in a state of worship, these environments provide unfiltered access to the Holy Spirit.  Essentially, this takes faith to the next level, becoming a doer of the word, Matthew 7:24.  Believers should test every voice, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, before accepting God’s calling, Isaiah 6:8.  If you think I’ve left any place out, please let me know under the comment section.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Life Perspective of Matthew 6:33

Looking back at the core principles my parents taught me, I learned 3 things lived out by my father: discipline, hard work and honoring the Sabbath.  As a son of an immigrant, my dad persevered as he learned English, eventually becoming a Ivy League student before entering the military.  His service to this country in the Army reinforced these attributes while his Roman Catholic background instilled in him a wholehearted effort to attend church wherever he was and whatever else he was doing.

Although the jealous may give circumstance or luck the credit, its clear that his successful career in sales, nice house at the beach and extended health is directly related to Matthew 6:33.  When an individual begins to seek God first by worshiping the Lord Sunday, starting each day in prayer or studying the Bible, these acts get God’s attention.  If these selfless acts continue with the right motives, the promise of daily bread and other blessings follow.  Sure, maybe my dad didn’t earn as much as he desired or reached the position of his dreams, but I see the fruits of his labor today.

While far from being perfect, I am trying to pass the baton to my own children so that they too may live a life of discipline, hard work and keeping God’s day holy.  Though the hypocrite in me may steer my kids off course from time to time, I can’t help but cling to Jesus promise within Matthew 6:33.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteous and all these things (life, food, drink, clothes and health) will be given to you as well.”  Before 2014 speeds up too fast that you can’t catch up, take some time to slow down, Psalm 46:10, so that the hope of Matthew 6:33 may find you and your family.

by Jay Mankus

A Midnight Stroll

One of my most memorable New Year’s Eve celebrations occurred in 1992.  In the middle of a mild Winter, temperatures in Delaware soared above 70 by midday.  Instead of your typical indoor festivities, I spent most of the day and evening outside.  Spending my last New Year’s in Newark before moving to the mid-west with friends from Chrysalis and college, I had ample time to say goodbye.  After watching the ball drop, commencing 1993, a half dozen people or so took a midnight stroll.

The temperature was 62 degrees at 12:15 am, perfect to walk, star gaze and reminisce about the special times I encountered while growing up in Delaware.  I don’t recall how many miles this stroll involved, but nearly 3 hours later the temperature dropped to 26 degrees as an arctic cold front blew through, causing the pace to pick up during the last mile just to stay warm.  This was one of those nights where time seemed to stand still allowing me to soak in the memories.  Despite the sadness, I knew God was leading me to a better place, preparing me through a trade school in Minnesota to become a polished leader.

Looking back, its hard to believe 21 years have passed.  Now as a parent, strolls become like wind sprints, stopping and starting, trying to keep up with busy schedules of 3 children.  Midnight strolls would be nice if I didn’t go to sleep shortly after eating dinner on some work days.  Thus, I do my best to be balanced, while trying to survive the difficulties of life.  On this special night, may God help you to slow down enough to practice Psalm 46:10.  The more you practice this biblical principle, the Holy Spirit can provide joy and peace for you in 2014.  Have a memorable, but safe New Year’s Eve!

by Jay Mankus

Situational Ethics

When you stop for a moment and take a look at what’s really going on in the world around us, its head scratching.  Students killing or sleeping with teachers?  The glorification of abortion, giving woman who are pregnant the legal right to destroy human life?    Lying as a religious practice to deceive curious minds about to realize the truth?  Copy cat school shootings, seeking 15 minutes of fame?  Nudity on public television and in prime time?

The only logical explanation for these bizarre acts is a growing phenomena, known as situational ethics.  Instead of maintaining a set of moral absolutes, where there is a clear distinction between right and wrong, situations are now giving individuals other rational choices.  Thus, in the heat of the moment or deep within the context of your trial, good excuses for sin can be made.  Dictionary’s refer to situational ethics as a system that evaluates acts in the context of their circumstances rather than by a set of moral standards.

This concept is nothing new as Jesus indirectly mentions it during a famous sermon found in Matthew 5:21-26.  Referencing the 6th commandment, the Lord chooses the word murder, not kill.  Thus, in war, killing is acceptable since the situation dictates a kill or be killed mentality.  When war breaks out between nations, right and wrong is turned upside down.  How then can someone know what is right or what can individuals rely on for a moral compass?

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis devotes an entire chapter entitled Some Objections.  Lewis talks about the Law of Human Nature which states “human beings have a curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain manner guided by their conscience, but despite these inclinations to do the right thing, they do not follow this law, breaking it through deviating behavior.  Beside war, the herd instinct, self-preservation  and motherly love steers people to take drastic measures based upon the extant of the storm or situation.

Today, these factors have blinded innocent hearts, naive minds and desperate souls from looking beyond the here and now.  With tomorrow hard to reach for many, ethics don’t seem that important as surviving today is the goal.  In John 18:33-38, a governor called Pilate called for a private meeting with Jesus.  In his heart, Pilate knew Jesus was innocent.  In fact, his own wife had a dream telling her to warn her husband about Jesus.  Although the clear response was in view, the situation urged Pilate’s own sinful nature to do the wrong thing.

Life is like years of trial and error.  I’ve spent 44 years getting it wrong day after day.  Yeah, the easy thing to do is blame the situation or the hand you’ve been dealt by God.  However, the temple within you expects more, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.  May the God above your situation take you to a better place this Christmas season.  Reach out to the One who can so you the way, John 14:6.

by Jay Mankus

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