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Clouds of Darkness

It doesn’t always take a meteorologist or radar to predict a pending storm.  Temperatures may drop, wind gusts rise and skies blacken to serve as a warning sign.  Before the thunder claps, streams of showers on the horizon begin to fall like a ballet in the distance.  However, until it comes, nobody knows what’s hidden in the clouds of darkness.

This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.  For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet.  No one was strong enough to subdue him, Mark 5:3-4.

Besides weather, clouds of darkness can hover over individuals.  Elements could be demonic, a product of bad environments or caused by poor decisions.  In this state, people can take a change for the worse, often reaching a place where they appear to lose their mind.  Loved ones become helpless, unable to snap friends, neighbors and co-workers out of the spell, veiled by a cloud of darkness.

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid, Mark 5:15.

Prior to the arrival of Jesus, those held hostage by these clouds were helpless.  However, resurrection power changed the fate of those living in darkness forever.  Today, healing is just a prayer away.  Complete restoration doesn’t usually occur overnight.  Rather, ungodly beliefs take time to be purged, cleansed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If clouds of darkness start to surround you, may the Lord of Light stand with you until the storm is over.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Inside the Praise of an Apostle

Praise is not a natural emotion, at least once the sinful nature entered life’s equation.  When one rule was overlooked to indulge curiosity, the world forever changed.  At one point following Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, God’s anger continued for a generation, 40 years to be exact, Psalm 95:10.  Spoiled, spineless and spiritually lukewarm, many Jews forgot how to praise their God.

A few thousand years later, a misguided man was brought to the forefront.  Blinded by the presence of Jesus, a prideful leader was humbled by the Almighty God, Acts 9:1-19.  Although his transformation was immediate, not every cheered, especially the victims of his persecution.  Nonetheless, Saul from Tarsus tarried on with his relationship with God, unlike what most Christians will ever experience.  Pushed to the brink of death several times, a heart of worship grew within the apostle Paul.

Instead of pouting, “why me God,” Acts 16:16-36 takes a look inside a heart of praise.  Punished for doing the right thing, Paul used negative circumstances as a stepping stone to present prisoners with the good news of Jesus Christ.  The rest of this account is a testament to God’s blessings and faithfulness during the storms and trials in life.  If today’s generation of Christians can apply one lesson from the life of Paul, its simple.  Stop pouting and start praising, whether life is good, bad or indifferent, Philippians 4:4-9.

by Jay Mankus

The Sons of Thunder

Nick names provide a window into a person’s soul.  Although some may be based upon an embarrassing moment, humorous personality or sarcasm, nicknames serve as terms of endearment, sobriquet or a tag that sticks.  If you allow yourself to become vulnerable in a social setting, sooner or later you too will receive one.

In the first century, two young fisherman were given an unusual nickname in Mark 3:17, known as the sons of thunder.  Growing up on their father’s boat, James and John likely passed on fishing stories to the disciples.  The origin of this label has 3 possible explanations.  First, since fisherman like to go out in the rain, perhaps whenever the boys went along with dad, it began to thunder.  On the other hand, thunder can also represent someone with a bad temper, wearing emotions on your sleeves.  Finally, since voices echo on water, each might have possessed a loud voice, bouncing off the water like thunder.  Whatever the source, people are watching to see who you really are.

Most of the nicknames I accrued over time occurred in either high school or college.  Blue Jay, Mank the Tank and Praying Mantis are just a few of the ones that come to mind.  While reflecting on this topic, I began to wonder, how will people remember me?  Was I a hypocrite, jerk or pain in the butt?  I’m sure some of my former students have strong opinions either way.  Though people will continue to dole out nicknames, make sure the one’s you earn glorify God.

Feel free to share your favorite nick name and the context in which it was coined.

by Jay Mankus

Let’s Plow the Road

In the final fight scene within Independence Day over the skies of a California desert, Bill Pullman plays president Thomas Whitmore.  America’s last hope, this former fighter pilot leads a cast of misfits to plow the road for the last jet with a missile hoping to bring down an alien ship about to destroy their underground hide out.  Without this cover, defeat was inevitable.  Who will risk their life today to plow the road for future generations?

Looking to politicians won’t find you much inspiration.  Nor do most professional athletics provide the type of consistent leadership the youth of this country need.  Unfortunately, the frozen chosen, church going believers often behave more like Pharisees than the body of Christ.  As a result, people of faith are putting up road blocks to God instead of demonstrating the love of Jesus.

In Luke 9:57-63, Jesus is trying to separate the lukewarm from truly devoted followers.  Setting the bar high, one by one, the wishy washy walk away, unable to met the standards set by God, disqualifying themselves.  Not much has changed today as individuals still struggle to live in the world without losing faith, Matthew 19:16-24.  Instead of plowing the road, storms have blocked the path Jesus blazed. 1 John 2:6.  Despite this reality, its never too late to change.  Therefore, one light at a time, Matthew 5:13-16, let’s plow the road for others to follow.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Will See How Great is God

Life is like riding a new roller coaster for the first time, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns with unexpected corkscrews around blind corners.  Subsequently, individuals change, evolve or are transformed by the ebb and flow of trials.  Nonetheless, unless a caterpillar enters the chrysalis, it will never be able to fly.

When hard times arrive. (and they will find you) there is a tendency to cry out to God, complain and wrestle with reality, Psalm 77:1-4.  Whether its coping with death, illness or unemployment, there is no easy way out.  However, on the day of when storms arise, Asaph provides a blueprint in Psalm 77:5-13 to help struggling souls see how great God is.

The moment you begin to remember recent miracles, times when God carried you or meditate on the works of the Lord, perspectives change.  Yet, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of pain, find rest in God’s chrysalis until your transformation is complete.  After the hurricanes of life, keep your head up so that you will begin to see how great is our God.

by Jay Mankus

Hitting the Reset Button

     When the sun arose along the Atlantic Coast this morning, the landscape has been transformed by the wind and waves of Hurricane Sandy.  Piers like the caption above have disappeared into a few mangled pieces of debris scattered across sand dunes, at least what’s left of them.  Meanwhile, home owners, local businesses and nearby residents are left to pick up the pieces of their properties, trying to salvage as many things as possible.  In a sense, these families affected will be hitting the reset button today, forced to start over from scratch.
     Every month or so, my old laptop will freeze.  Sometimes, I will walk away for a few minutes and return to a normal screen.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I am forced to hit ctrl, alt delete.  While I may lose what I was working on, at least I have the option of hitting the reset button, to reboot my computer.  Although not life threatening, for a writer, computer failures are more of an annoyance than anything else.
     In the early first century, Jewish leaders struggled to grasp the message Jesus communicated daily.  One night, one of the Pharisees, secretly met with Jesus, afraid of what his peers might think.  During their conversation, John 3:1-21, Nicodemus asks a few questions to comprehend Jesus’ mindset.  Sarcastic at first, Nicodemus leaves Jesus dumbfounded.  However, the words of John 3:16-17 stuck with Nicodemus.  Based upon the accounts of John 7:50-52 and John 19:38-42, Nicodemus hit the reset button in his mind, becoming born again, John 3:5.
     According to Matthew 6:19-24, despite the material possessions and wealth people accumulate, these things will pass.  Storms will erode our homes, possessions will decay overtime and life will run out.  Therefore, before its too late, don’t miss out on your chance to hit the reset button on your life spiritually, Acts 8:30-38.  The one whom Jesus loved leaves you with the promise of eternal security, 1 John 5:13.  Follow the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:20-21, reboot your mind spiritually and you will off to a good start!
by Jay Mankus

Blocked Paths

With the recent tornado outbreak in the mid-west, I am reminded that landscapes can be forever changed in a blinking of an eye.  After the storm subsides, mangled debris, trees stripped of their bark and objects lay in ruin.  Streets, homes and parks blend together into one, shutting down entry and exit into a town for days at a time.

For those who have experienced Job-like trials in their lives, its easy to feel trapped.  Some times when we cry out to God for answers, a sin in our life blocks the path, causing our connection with the Holy Spirit to fail.  When Christian’s experience spiritual power outages, they are most vulnerable, opening a door to demons of despair, hopelessness and suicide like Judas in Matthew 27:1-5.

As I stress, day after day, praying and searching for a new position, I am reminded of Ephesians 2:10.  The apostle Paul uses the Greek word poiema, meaning end product.  The English word used in the translation from the Greek is workmanship.  What Paul is trying to say in this passage is God is the Poet and we are His Poems.  Although we may appear to face a blocked path or experience writer’s block, God knows the ending to our poem.  Therefore, if you are feeling discouraged today, read Ephesians 2:10, claim the good works God has prepared in advance for us and trust God to carry you through life’s storms!

by Jay Mankus

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