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When You Misread Signs from God

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a belief that God immediately punishes individuals for their sins.  Perhaps, I heard too many sermons on the wrath of God from the Old Testament growing up.  Subsequently, I began to read too much into daily events, as if I knew why good or bad things were happening to me.  Fortunately, I’m not the only one who struggles to understand God.

“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” – Mark 8:15

One day while traveling across the countryside, the disciples forgot to bring their usual allotment of bread for their trip.  As soon as this was brought to Jesus’ attention, He began to warn the disciples.  Thinking Jesus was mad at them for forgetting the bread, each misread what the Lord was trying to say.  Instead of seeing the big picture, the twelve disciples were blinded by a narrow view of this world.

Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? – Mark 8:18

A day earlier, Jesus had fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  Focused on whose fault it was, forgetting the bread, each disciple failed to see that Jesus was and is the Bread of Life.  The yeast of the Pharisees is cynicism from human beings who try to discredit Jesus’ miracles.  Therefore, if you begin to live by sight and not by faith, you too may soon misread signs from God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Helpless… Except for Prayer

After last week’s election, most voters were optimistic that their newly elected leaders would cease this opportunity to make a difference.  Several days later, it appears that many career politicians have reverted to their former ways.  Add in a rogue president who disregards the constitution and citizens become helpless.

In a whirlwind of disappointment, I was reminded of a simple solution, prayer.  Scouring over the Psalms of David, there is nearly a prayer for each emotion you encounter.  Whether you feel betrayed, running for your life or in need of divine intervention, help is just a prayer away.

For those of us who struggle to let go, yearning to take control of daily situations, there is one truth you can’t ignore: the Lord reigns over heaven and earth.  Although you may not like the path America is going down or the road God has chosen for you, there is still time to act.  If you’re feeling  helpless like me, don’t let the sun go down without crying out to the Lord.  In the end, warriors of prayer will usher God’s ultimate will into existence.

by Jay Mankus

 

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

A few years ago, an atheist neighbor cried out to Jesus late in the evening.  When his dog got loose once again, she ran in front of  a car traveling down the street.  With little time to react, this accident could not be avoided.  As his dog struggled to survive, his prayer was fervent, “O Jesus, don’t let my dog die!”  On his way to a local vet, this prayer was repeated several times, speeding off in his SUV.  Unfortunately, sometimes our prayers don’t get answered or the outcome we desire is not fulfilled, ending in another pet tragedy.

Following the terrorists attack on the United States during September 11th, 2001, millions of Americans dropped to their knees to pray.  In this moment of despair, people turned to houses of prayer seeking comfort.  When the South Tower of the World Trade Center came crumbling to the ground at 9:58 am, several thousand were thought to be dead.  Although nearly 3000 did pass away in 3 different states, desperation led countless individuals to re-evaluate their lives.  As a result, families were conceived, relationships renewed and faith born again.

Thirteen years later, the worse is yet to come.  If the book of Revelation is correct, there will be 7 seven years of tribulation, unlike anything the world has seen before.  Once the prophecies within the Bible have been fulfilled, Jesus will return.  Though no one knows the exact day or time, signs have been left as clues to the future in Matthew 24.  I won’t speculate like many false prophets of the past, yet God will continue to use desperate times to achieve His will.  If you reach a point of desolation, may the promise of Psalm 102:17 lead God to hear and answer your prayers.

by Jay Mankus

 

Why I Experienced the Bottom of the Barrel

For those of you fortunate enough not to have tasted defeat, experience failure or feel the pain of loss, your perspective is limited.  Sheltered from this anguish, you haven’t been forced rely on the Lord.  Instead this smooth journey leads passengers to trust in their health and wealth, oblivious to the bottom of the barrel.

As I look back on recent heartaches of a 2-19 season as a coach, the struggle to rebuild my work career and dedication to the dreams of my youth, hardship has refined my faith.  Although the furnace isn’t a pleasant place to visit, 1 Peter 1:6-7, this necessary evil has lifted me up from the bottom on the barrel.  In the midst of this storm, I have a new appreciation for the little things in life.

Humility has helped me come to the realization that I can’t do it on my own.  Rather, I need a Savior to pick me up when I fall, Matthew 11:28-30.  Sure, it would be nice to forgo past trials, yet I wouldn’t be where I am today if these events did not occur.  Therefore, my focus shifts upward, Philippians 3:12-14, so that if I experience the bottom of the barrel again, the sun will shine upon my face letting me know that everything will be okay.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You’re Rejected by God

Rejections come in various forms like having a credit card declined, being dismissed by an employer or being turned down for a date.  However, whenever prayers go unanswered, problems continue to mount or nothing ever seems to go right, individuals feel rejected by God.  Confused by God’s lack of action and silence, wounded souls struggle to make sense of their current dilemma.

Following their banishment from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:23, the first family resembled a soap opera more than God’s well pleased creation.  To make matters worse, a sibling rivalry commenced in Genesis 4:3-5.  When big bigger, Cain, had his offering rejected by God, resentment and jealousy flowed toward his younger brother Abel.  As disappointment gave birth to depression, a wicked scheme tempted the mind of Cain.  It’s one thing to be honest with God, yet revenge led Cain to overreact, ending the life of his little brother.

Although the Lord does predestine certain leaders to fulfill the great commission, there are clear indications why God rejected Cain and accepted Abel’s offering.

1) God honors those who give their best, Matthew 5:48.  Genesis 4:3 suggests there was no sense of urgency within Cain to give the Lord his first fruits.  Cain waited until his belly was full and his family had enough food to eat before he got around to it.  Foregoing Matthew 6:33, Cain appeared to trust in his own ability and not God.  Meanwhile, Abel gave to the Lord his first and most precious sheep, believing God would replace these in the near future, Genesis 4:4.

2) Offer your body as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.  If everything that is good comes from above, James 1:16-17, when people honor God with their bodies, you get the Lord’s attention like Abel.  On the other hand, its easy to become lukewarm about things in life, picking and choosing when its convenient to serve God.  I guess you can say, Cain’s heart wasn’t into his offering.  Therefore, when you fall into this habit or pattern, its essential that you receive a spiritual heart transplant, Ezekiel 36:26.

3)Be your brother’s keeper by holding others accountable, James 5:19-20.  Cain tried to avoid any responsibility for his brother’s death.  Whether you’re the oldest or the youngest, each believer should set the example for others to follow, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.  Whenever someone does stray off course, its vital to steer wandering souls back toward the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.  Thus, the next time you feel rejected by God, reflect upon these 3 indicators so that you won’t regret or overreact to the hand you have been dealt like Cain.

by Jay Mankus

 

God Wants Your Sex

What?  Am I in the right place?  Are you sure you’re not referring to the George Michael song?  During a private conversation between Moses and God, Exodus 31:18, this concept was first introduced to the Israelites.

To prevent the excuse, “well, no one ever told me,” the Lord lays out His position about sex in plain view for all to see, Leviticus 18.   The first sex education message may be graphic in nature, yet God’s boundaries are clearly defined.  Every possible scenario, no matter have perverted, establishes a line in the sand to discourage unlawful sexual acts.   If Adam couldn’t keep the only law in the garden, Genesis 2:17, what’s going to keep mankind from pushing the sexual envelope.

To combat this temptation, God introduces the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21.  It’s not a coincidence that sex is linked to the first and last desire.  Sexual immorality is like an open door that many walk through, attracted by temporary pleasures and illicit scenery.  When lust becomes full blown, individuals are persuaded to partake in orgies, losing control of their sexuality.

According to the apostle Paul, the church in Corinth struggled to control their bodies.  Subsequently, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is written to help those who have strayed off course.  Beyond these addictive habits, soul ties merge you with a sexual partner.  These bonds often confuse souls, destroying relationships and preventing true intimacy from forming.  In view of this, God wants your sex so that your temple, physical body, will be offered as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1-2.  Please share your feelings, opinions and thoughts on this controversial topic.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Picture From God

The visual learner inside of human beings often struggle to believe in things that they can’t see.  Words are meaningless unless an image, thought or vision appears.  Sometimes a picture from God is what individuals are waiting for to breathe hope and life into their soul.

When the Lord slashed Gideon’s army from 22,000 to 300 men, he had his doubts about achieving victory.  To calm these fears, God provided a picture of success in Judges 7:9-15.  Peter had a similar experience in Luke 5:1-11.  As a professional fishermen, Peter wasn’t one to withhold his opinion.  However, after a humbling night on the water, a new kid on the block brought Peter to his knees, Luke 5:8.  These pictures from above empowered these followers to reach heights they never imagined.

Although its not mentioned, the men of Issachar likely received snapshots from the Holy Spirit.  While the world was distracted, these godly leaders stayed the course, keeping in step with the Lord, 1 Chronicles 12:32.  Today, this country and the world needs someone who understands the times.  May a picture from God engrave minds set on fulfilling Romans 12:2 so that the lost have someone to follow back home.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Side Effects of Rushing Through Life

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker starred in Rush Hour in 1998 spawning 3 sequels in the past 15 years.  Although some will debate exactly when or what movie started the age of cramming films with non-stop action filled with death and violence, one thing is clear, this rush is here to stay.  As attention spans continue to diminish, this 24 style serves as a drug, a rush of adrenaline to captive minds.

If you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic part of the United States, this mentality has transformed how people act, behave and treat one another.  Unfortunately, you won’t find much southern hospitality here as a spirit of rushing hinders the ability to be kind, nice or pleasant.  Though not everyone fits into this category, the side effects of rushing through life are evident.  Honking horns, obscene sign language and yelling flood the streets of this corridor.

From a personal perspective, this pace of life influences the quality of your relationships.  Either you or the person you are trying to engage is distracted by a wave of rush, in a hurry to get to no where.  Sad, but true, I’m the one who is usually persuaded to cut conversations short.  If you face a similar struggle, remember the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, leaning on this promise to snap you out of this bad habit.

Please share any other side effects that you see of rushing through life.

by Jay Mankus

That’s Nice… But I’ve Heard That Before

As I was cleaning today, I uncovered an old Concord High Yearbook sitting on the floor.  Last fall, my best friend from high school, Carl, came to Delaware to visit his parents for a week.  Catching up and reminiscing about our last high school reunion, I fetched my senior yearbook to put a face with all the names which came up.  I’m not sure what it is, but the older I get, the more I repeat myself, sharing the same story annually with my wife and kids.  As gracious as possible, I hear that apt reply, “That’s nice, but I’ve heard that before.”

From a writer’s perspective, there is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9.  When you’ve spent 3 years as an editor of a monthly newsletter and 2 more as the main contributor of this blog, some days you struggle to compose a paragraph let alone an entire piece.  However, as I opened my yearbook, I had forgotten who I was, what I had accomplished and how  a simple smile made an impact on my peers.  The perfectionist in me never allowed me to accept and embrace compliments.  Thus, these words were discarded, replaced by my lack of eloquence, stuttering and other deficiency’s.

This pessimism began to change for me in college during a Group service project on St. John’s Island in South Carolina.  To my surprise, everyone in attendance received their own mailbox, near the center of our living quarters at a local high school.  However, this mail was called Care Cards, a chance for others to write notes of encouragement and thanks to those who made a positive influence at some point during the day and week.  The catch was you couldn’t open your mail bag until you got on your bus before leaving.  I was so touched by this concept I incorporated it into my own mission trips when I became a youth pastor following college.  Like my yearbook, every few years I will stumble across old mail bags, bringing tears to my eyes and joy to my soul as I savor these fond memories.

From a biblical perspective, Israel’s memory was so poor, God called Moses to devote an entire book called Deuteronomy, the second law, reminding the Jews of everything they had forgotten.  Although retention varies among children and adults today, modern pastors recycle famous words of Jesus, the apostle Paul, and Peter to refresh the memories of lost souls.  While some in church may whisper, “That’s nice, but I’ve heard that before,” someone in attendance may be hearing this truth for the first time.  Therefore, be patient if someone tends to be redundant, for someone likely needs a reminder of promises within the Bible like John 3:16.

by Jay Mankus

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