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Tag Archives: stars

The Shadow of Death

Every morning and evening before sunset, shadows reflect the landscape of the earth.  Mountains, rolling hills and trees leave imprints of what is near or around you.  Once darkness exchanges day with night, shadows are limited to moonlight, stars and the northern lights.  However, the shadow of death can apear at a moments notice, signaling that your days on earth are numbered.  24 hours ago there was a murder suicide in my neighborhood, taking the lives of two twenty year olds.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me, Psalm 23:4.

Psalm 23 is a common Bible reading at funerals.  As a shepherd living under the stars, shadows were a normal sight for David.  Yet, the painful reality of death inspired David to coin this chapter.  The only time I have witnessed death was just before my oldest sons birth.  Since my grandfather’s health was failing, family was noticed as everyone gathered around his bed.  Struggling to breathe, my sister Cindy began to read Psalm 23 to ease his pain.  A few minutes later, grandpa Kautz gave up his spirit.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.”

One of the forefather’s of Israel, Moses eludes to the shadow of death in his farewell address before Joshua takes over for him as leader.  Moses provides an unique perspective, using choices as an analogy.  According to Moses, the choices you make daily lead to one destination or the other.  Life and death are a series of choices that shape the path you will take in life.  If this is true, choose life so that the shadow of death will be held off until later on in life.

by Jay Mankus

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The Compass of Prayer

In the first season of Survivor Borneo contestants could bring one personal item to keep on their Island.  Depending upon the personality, individuals chose from a wide variety of possessions based upon wants and needs.  Dirk Been, the first person to ever be voted off the show during a tribal council brought his Bible.  Since editors have a way of slicing film to create stars, villains and proverbial losers, his decision to bring the Word of God wasn’t applauded.  Yet, for Dirk this book was like a compass for life.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,  John 15:7.

The earliest accounts of Jesus highlight a morning routine, Mark 1:35-39.  While his disciples were sleeping, Jesus would arise early before sunset to a quiet location.  This solitary location provided ideal condition for the compass of prayer.  Meditating, Jesus began to listen to His heavenly Father, providing a road map for the next day.  Although the disciples had their own agendas and plans, the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to people of need, fulfilling God’s will daily.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

Today, obstacles to achieving a clear and open communication with God continue to increase.  Doubt, unanswered prayers and worry cause individuals to try to find their way alone.  Unlocking this veil begins and ends with the Bible.  Hearts, minds and soul touched, nurtured and inspired by words of truth are like an introduction to orienteering.  Comprehending the whole process takes time.  However, through trial and error, the compass of prayer will lead you to the light.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Sermons of John Wise

John Wise is one of those individuals who has been forgotten by history.  A reverend at the Congregational Church in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Wise blazed a trial which the founding fathers of America emulated.  Until yesterday, I never realized that the Declaration of Independence was based upon by a sermon series John Wise preached in 1687.  These messages were inspired by a tax levied by royal Governor Andros without the representation of a legislative body.  Wise was one of the first civil rights leader, going to jail for his opposition, a pioneer who used his pulpit to preach liberty and justice for all.

John Wise devoted his entire life to the ministry, serving from the time of his ordination to his death in 1725.  Prior to his passing, Wise completed his most famous work,   A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches in 1717.  This compilation became a blue print that was adopted in 1776 during the Continental Congress, known as the Declaration of Independence.  When reverend Wise spoke to his community, he didn’t see black, red or white skin.  Rather, Wise developed an expression saying, “there are only 2 kinds of races, those who believe in God and those who don’t!”  This is just a glimpse of the sermons of John Wise.  These inspired words are simply Supernatural as DC Talk once sang.

There is much to learn from this second generation Pilgrim leader.  First, a preacher should not be muzzled by the government.  Church should be a place of refuge where worshipers can experience heaven on earth before going back into the world like disciples for the next 6 days.  Second, the Bible is a blue print for life, liberty and the American way.   Allowing atheists to silence the spiritual foundation of this country is like spitting the reverend Wise in the face.  Finally, history is like a true National Treasure, full of mentors, stars and visionaries who have made America a great nation.  Go to a local library today to examine diamonds in the rough, lost over the course of time, by a media ashamed of God.  If you want to know more about John Wise, David Barton has written books about his impact on American History.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Necklace Called Pride

I’m not one to wear bling, yet there is something invisible beyond the gold chains adorned by celebrities and stars.  Beneath the surface, a powerful spirit has risen up, taking hold of human hearts.  Although disguised by many characters and personalities, the necklace called pride is real.

According to an eyewitness known as Asaph, the arrogant proudly display this attribute, Psalm 73:6.  Pride is like a confidence that gets out of control, leading to cockiness, conceit and diarrhea of the mouth.  This necklace is contagious, spreading to the heart, mind and soul.  If left on, side affects could lead to diabolical pride according to C.S. Lewis, permanent blinding one’s perspective of truth.

As the gang culture increases, energized by rap music, the decay of families and morality on the decline, pride is the new source of power.  Just as Naturalism replaced Theism during the Renaissance, pride has surpassed faith in modern circles.  Attitude, behavior and words are being swayed daily from necks full of pride.  May the words of Proverbs 15:31-33 unlock the chains of pride holding individuals back from God.  In time, may the promise of Proverbs 11:2 use disgrace as a vehicle for change.

by Jay Mankus

 

Realigning the Stars

On the last night of the 3 Magi’s journey from the East, the star they had been following became stationary, hovering over the birth site of Jesus, Matthew 2:9-10.  One final night of glory, this unique star completed its purpose, gradually fizzling out like those created before it.  According to the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, they are 7 main types of stars based upon their color and luminosity.  The star which appeared in the sky above Bethlehem on that glorious night falls under the O or B classification, the rarest and brightest of all the stars in the universe.  Once a star depletes its hydrogen supply, they are downgraded and this declassification is a signal that their end is near.  In entertainment, Hollywood or professional sports, as one stars falls, another is in the background, ready to quickly steal their spotlight.

On March 14th, 1981, one such star destined for greatness was snuffed out.  Skip Dillard was a free throw away from becoming a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, as his #1 ranked Depaul Blue Demons were on their way into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, referred to as March Madness today.  In the days of endless One and One’s, St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia kept fouling Depaul players late in the second half, who then began missing the front end, their first shot, allowing the Hawks to rebound the ball after only one free throw attempt.  As Depaul’s big lead shrunk to one in the closing seconds, all Skip had to do was make one shot at the line to secure a tie, prior to the existence of 3 pointers and two free throws to close out the game.  Called “Money in the Bank” by his teammates, Skip’s shot fell short, St. Joe’s rebounded the miss, got the ball quickly up court and made a shot at the buzzer to stun Depaul.  This nightmare became reality for Skip who responded to this setback by becoming addicted to cocaine and committed 15 armed robberies to support his habit, resulting in an 11 year prison sentence according to the Chicago Tribune.  College players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird stole Skip’s fame as the media realigned the stars for these 2 NBA Hall of Famers.

When you are young, thinking you are invincible is a common mindset.  As I watch college sports on television or listen to my youth baseball players chat before and after a game, many think too highly of themselves.  Instead of being a voice of reason, parents often add to their child’s delusion, believing their daughter or son is the best player on the team.  Maybe the thought that their child’s athletic career is a lottery ticket for life instills in many parents a glimmer of hope.  However, these same parents often baby and or spoil their children, not providing an atmosphere of discipline, mental toughness and work ethic necessary to make good athletes great and elite players, stars at the college level.  If you analyze any NFL draft, its clear that talent doesn’t always translate onto the professional  level.  Thus, the degree to which someone shines lies in the choices you make and in God’s grace, Deuteronomy 28:2.

Currently. my own stardom has faded with time as my attractiveness as a youth pastor left when I reached 30.  Meanwhile, a decade of teaching has aged me another 20 years, especially during my 5 year stint teaching middle school.  Despite the fact that employers may overlook me for positions due to being too old or in some cases over qualified, I cling to the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12-16.  Though I can’t control external forces, I do have authority over my personal world according to Dutch Sheets in his book Authority in Prayer.  Thus, I am aiming to shine like a star in the universe, providing spiritual light during these dark days in American History.  I am responsible for aligning my life toward God’s will, yet only God can realign the stars in the universe!

by Jay Mankus

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