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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

Malicious Accusations

Some of the Psalms in the Bible are like pages out of David’s personal diary. David went from a lonely shepherd boy to a war hero, killing a giant called Goliath. This unlikely rise to greatness incited a spirit of jealousy in those whom David surpassed. Chants by fans of his victorious battles even caused King Saul to become envious of David’s accomplishments. Thus, David quickly gained several enemies who spewed malicious accusations, some warranted and others unwarranted.

Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child]. Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies [those who lie in wait for me], Psalm 27:10-11.

When these words began to eat away at David’s soul, he cried out to the Lord for help. Based upon the passage above, David’s own parents turned against him for undisclosed reasons. When you examine Samuel’s visit to Jesse in 1 Samuel 16, it appears that David’s oldest brother Eliab was the apple of his parents’ eyes. David was an after thought, not even invited to this special meeting. Yet, at some point, David’s fame and popularity created a rift or David’s parents were embarrassed by some of his ill-advised decisions.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me; they breathe out cruelty and violence. [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! – Psalm 27:12-13

One of the translations of verse 12 uses malicious accusations in place of cruelty and violence. Perhaps, David became cocky, conceited by his success as a soldier. This unhealthy pattern is played out in 2 Samuel 11 as David has an affair with a soldier’s wife. Instead of confessing his sin publicly, David gave orders for Israel’s army to withdraw, allowing Uriah to die behind enemy lines. While David didn’t like the malicious accusations made against him, his actions made the bed he was forced to lie in. While you can’t control what others say about you, a life devoted to character and integrity can persuade former enemies to change their minds about you.

by Jay Mankus

An Unlikely Cure for Depression

As someone who has worked nights the past 7 years, there usually isn’t anything good on television overnight. Despite trying to sleep on my nights off, my body is use to staying up late. Thus, I have a tendency to channel surf from time to time. Over Thanksgiving I caught an author who was speaking about an intriguing account from Cambodia. While talking with a psychologist doing research oversees, an unlikely cure for depression was discovered.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

This psychologist was studying Cambodian techniques on treating depression. One case study centered around a rice patty farmer who lost his leg when a land mine exploded. Doctors initially provided an artificial limb to continue his occupation after being medically cleared to return to work. Unfortunately, the strength to stay under water and added pain from this injury was too much for this man to overcome.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

When depression overwhelmed this man’s soul, medication was considered, but not prescribed. Instead, doctor’s listened to this man pour out of his heart, trying to come up with an alternative solution. After several days of discussion, this man was given a cow instead of drugs. This gift enabled this man to transition to a milk farmer. After one month of changing occupations, this man’s depression disappeared. Perhaps, its time that America adopts similar policies by stop handing out drugs and start being creative so that more unlikely cures for depression are discovered.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Fighting Off Worry with Prayer

As a parent of teenagers, it’s not uncommon to receive a troubling text or phone call about a developing situation. While driving home from a friend’s house last night, my wife answered her cell phone. I could hear my son’s voice as Daniel was upset about a disturbing letter. Focused on driving, I tried to keep my mind on the road as the winds of worry began to consume my soul.

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened, Matthew 7:7-8.

After getting home after 10 pm, nothing could be done to resolve this issue until Friday morning. The letter my son received claimed that he didn’t complete his defense driving course over the summer which triggered a series consequences. Until my wife called our attorney in the morning, nothing could fix this error. Thus, my son and I remained restless, unable to sleep last night.

And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a] firm relying trust) 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 cast into the sea, it will be done. And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

As I finally sat down in bed before sunrise, the verses above raced through my mind. The more I thought about these passages on prayer, I became emboldened, claiming these promises in a moving movement of prayer. Part of my didn’t want to be disappointed, but an inner faith fought off worry with prayer. When I woke up before noon, I was excited to hear that this mistake was corrected and no court hearing was necessary. The past 24 hours have taught me a valuable lesson, fighting off worry with prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Exercise and Discipline

I am currently in the middle of an 8 week exercise program designed to help get my fifty year old body back into shape.  Similar to a building block, each week adds additional disciplines, exercises and reps.  It’s one thing to say that you are going to run first thing in the morning or workout after coming home from work, but executing this plan is much more difficult than I thought.  Thus, the only way to endure, improve and strengthen my body is through exercise and discipline.

Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men, Acts 24:16.

During his opening argument in a hearing before Governor Felix in Rome, the apostle Paul refers to a different kind of exercise and discipline.  This statement points to 3 aspects which every individual must overcome: carnal affections, bodily appetites and worldly desires.  While these inner demons appear to be similar, each attack, tempt and wrestle for control of your body.  When faith is not exercised and discipline not enforced, addiction and bad habits ravage unprepared souls.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

The apostle Paul uses an analogy of a long distance runner and boxer to illustrate what it takes to spiritually exercise and discipline your faith.  While I know nothing about boxing, I can speak to Paul’s comment about running with a definite aim.  Before running, stretching must occur to loosen up muscles to avoid injury.  Like my current exercise program, running should start at a short distance, then gradually incease distances each week.  Cutting corners, skipping a step or jumping ahead often results in a weaker body.  Thus, the most logical starting place for exercise and discipline is to take life one day at a time; improving with each passing day.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

World Mental Health Day

This year’s day to recognize global mental health is Thursday October 10th. World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. More than 150 countries take part is this day to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ life worldwide. Leaders in Australia feel so strongly about this issue that an entire week is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace, Romans 8:5-6.

Unfortunately, most of the curriculum, education and programs will steer clear of biblical principles. Yet, this provides me an open door to examine what the Bible has to say about mental health. The apostle Paul claims the biggest obstacle to achieving a mind at peace is fleshly desires which crave instant gratification. This internal force must be brought under control and tamed by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation, Romans 10:8-10.

According to C.S. Lewis, the Holy Spirit is only accessible to those who have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Mere Christianity details Cardinal and Theological Virtues. Cardinal virtues include prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. These traits are available to everyone who strides to obtain mental health. Yet, access to the Theological virtues of charity, hope and faith is limited to active believers in Jesus. Therefore, if you want to truly celebrate mental health, embrace Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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