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Reunited

While sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car growing up, the radio was set to a local soft rock station. During summer vacations, I often listened to the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. One of the songs that I remember listening to was Reunited by Peaches and Herb. This R&B classic sings about a couple who comes to their senses, deciding to get back together. Like anything in life, sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

They got up that very hour and went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven [apostles] gathered together and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon [Peter]!” – Luke 24:33-34

Following a post-resurrection conversation with Jesus, Peter was inspired to reunite with the rest of the disciples. Although Judas Iscariot was not present, committing suicide due to guilt from betraying Jesus, eleven men got together in Jerusalem. While musicians who reunite often go back on tour or craft a new album, the disciples were waiting on instructions, unsure of what to do. Prior to his ascension into heaven, Jesus has one last meeting with these leaders to discuss God’s plan for reuniting believers.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He]. 18 Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:16-19.

This event is known as the Great Commission, a blue print that future apostles follow throughout the book of Acts. The opening lyrics from a Kurt Kaiser song sums up the passage above. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And so all those around will warm up to its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experience it, you spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on.” Just as the disciples passed on Jesus’ message to apostles, modern Christians are encouraged to do the same. The only way to be reunited in heaven with those whom you love on earth is by fulfilling the Great Commission today.

by Jay Mankus

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It’s Not Over Until You Quit

If you have ever coached, played or watched a little league baseball game, you know that no lead in safe.  My oldest son James played in the 11-12 year old championship game two years in a row.  The first game went into extra innings as each team went ahead, lost the lead only to tie the game in their last at bats.  Running out of pitchers, James came on in relief, pitching the 7th and 8th.  Needing one out to close out the game, an error let in the tying run.  In the bottom of the 8th, James was left on the mound while the opposing team celebrated.  One year later, the championship game went into the 9th, but this time his team walked off champions.  I hope these 2 games helped teach my son that it’s not over until you quit.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” Matthew 21:22.

During my sophomore year of college, my ultimate frisbee team reached the finals.  From a talent stand point, my team didn’t deserve to win based upon merit.  Down the entire game, I threw a Hail Mary pass as time was about to expire.  Laying on my back, I watched as my throw sailed over two teammates in the end zone.  However, a gust of wind miraculously keep the frisbee in the air long enough for our fastest player to make a game tying catch.  In overtime, a defensive stop gave us a chance to take our first lead of the game.  While making a catch in the end zone, a 6 foot 3 inch 200 pound defender landed on my arm.  Somehow by the grace of God, I held on seal the victory.  This experience taught me to never give up.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

After the crucifixion of Jesus on a cross, one disciple committed suicide, others went into hiding and a few returned to their former trades.  On the eve of Easter Sunday, Jesus’ mother,  Mary Magdalene and other women went to ceremonially prepare Jesus’ body.  Perhaps, some of them went to this cave, tomb hoping for a miracle.  Upon their arrival, an angel of the Lord delivered incredible news.  If someone can rise from the dead, then nothing is impossible.  Thus, these godly women learned a valuable life lesson, its not over until you quit.  Therefore, despite whatever trials you may endure, don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

by Jay Mankus

Trapped

On the surface, I’m pretty good hiding how I feel.  Perhaps, a defense mechanism from my years as an athlete, I often go into survivor mode, pushing forward regardless of the pain.  This psychosis like state led me to complete a high school cross country race after spraining my ankle during the first mile.  Unfortunately, when I crossed the finish line, I collapsed ripping my ankle from its tendons, twisting the born ninety degrees in the wrong direction.  This is the first time in my life where I felt trapped, unsure of what my future held.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

The term trap refers to being corned, shut in, on the verge of being captured.  This imprisoned state is where many believers find themselves, stuck in spiritual quicksand, unable to break free.  Those who visit this dark place typically return from time to time, caught in a vicious cycle.  Sometimes a friend will come to your rescue, able to pull you back into a community of believers.  Other situations require a wrestling match, claiming the promises of God from the Bible in prayer.  Unfortunately, some people never escape, deceived by the Devil or doubt, succumbing to a downward spiral of depression.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:3.

Even Jesus’ own disciples felt trapped by the worries of this life.  Judas Iscariot committed suicide, overwhelmed by guilt that sealed his fate.  Peter who was a spiritual rock, publicly denied knowing Jesus three times, resulting in tears and wounded ego.  However, Jesus restored Peter following his resurrection in John 21:15-23.  At some point, the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that God has given us everything we need in life to overcome being ensnared and trapped by sin.  Therefore, don’t lose hope like Judas and those who succumb negative voices inside their heads.  Rather, reach out to Jesus so that freedom will be experienced today.

by Jay Mankus

Going Back to Your Former Way of Life

Following Jesus’ death and Judas’ suicide, half of the disciples began to contemplate what to do with the rest of their lives.  Apparently, Peter already made up his mind, deciding to go back to his former trade as a fishermen.  Based upon the passage below, it didn’t take much to convince several others, spending a night on the Sea of Galilee.  This short passage highlights what happens when people lose faith.  In many cases, the spiritually lost return to their old ways, to their former life before Christ.

Simon Peter, and Thomas who is called Didymus (the twin), and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, as well as [John and James] the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said, “And we are coming with you.” So they went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing, John 21:2-3.

After a failed night at sea, these six men were dejected, striking out every where they went.  Desperate for redemption, these disciples take advice from a man standing on the shore.  As soon as their nets caught a large school of fish, John put two and two together, recognizing the man on shore as Jesus in resurrected form.  In the greatest fishing story within the Bible, the disciples hauled in 153 fish.  Like grilling on your own deck, Jesus set up a charcoal fire, starting to cook these fish as they were brought to shore.

So when they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire set up and fish on it cooking, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three [of them]; and although there were so many, the net was not torn, John 21:9-11.

The term charcoal fire appears only twice in the Bible.  The first mention occurs just before Peter denies Jesus a third time, warming his hands over a charcoal fire during a cold night.  Perhaps, Jesus choses this form of fire to remind Peter of his past transgression.  During a private meeting in John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter if he loves the him three times, reminiscent of Peter’s public denial.  Between the smell of the charcoal fire and these three questions, Jesus is sending a message to Peter. “Why did you revert to your former way of life?  Look at me; I’ve risen from the dead.  Are you ready to get back into the game; eager to feed my sheep, the church?”  The next time you find yourself reverting back to your former way of life, remember this chapter of the Bible so that you remain connected to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Haunted by What Could Have Been

When the outcome what you were expecting does not become reality, hearts and minds tend to explore why.  There may be an obvious explanation like a more deserving person who received that which you desired.  However, there will be many outcomes that leave you scratching your head, dumbfounded by fate.  The persistent will not give up, working harder each day to alter their current course.  Others may press on a little longer just in case God changes his mind like Abraham’s prayer below.  Unfortunately, the deflated, tired and weak give up hope, haunted by what could have been.

Abraham approached [the Lord] and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous (those who do right) with the wicked (those who do evil)? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous [people] within the city; will You really sweep it away and not spare it for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing—to strike the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right [by executing just and righteous judgment]?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find within the city of Sodom fifty righteous [people], then I will spare the entire place for their sake,” Genesis 18:23-26.

Judas Iscariot was a fortunate individual, chosen by the son of God to be one of 12 disciples.  Based upon a few details in each of the four gospels, this Judas was the treasurer of Jesus’ earthly ministry for 3 years.  Some translations refers to Judas overseeing the money bag, containing the collection of tithes by individuals blessed, healed and saved by Jesus.  According to the passage below, when a woman wasted an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus, this set Judas off.  Perhaps, this was the last straw, convincing Judas to betray Jesus.  As religious leaders celebrated Jesus’ capture, Judas withdrew to the desert to hang himself.  Guilt, remorse and shame influenced Judas to commit suicide, missing out on starting the first century church.

Then Mary took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, the one who was going to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and [the money] given to the poor?” Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor [for he had never cared about them], but because he was a thief; and since he had the money box [serving as treasurer for the twelve disciples], he used to pilfer what was put into it, John 12:3-6.

Last week a New Jersey woman went to complain at school after her daughter was cut from the cheerleading squad.  Instead of using this rejection as inspiration to work harder to make it next year, this defiant mother convinced the board of education to force the team to accept everyone who tries out.  What would have happened if Michael Jordan’s dad or mom forced his high school coach to not cut him?  America may not have been able to watch one of the greatest NBA players of all time.  Thus, instead of being haunted by what could have been.  Dig down deep into your soul, ask the Lord for resolve and give everything that you have so that God’s destiny for you will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

The Disowning

Behind the scenes, there is a strategic attempt to disown the founding fathers of America.  This progressive movement is seeking to disown any leader who was influenced by religious or spiritual principles.  At some point in time dealing with that which is offensive has become more important than doing the right thing.  Subsequently, college professors, educational curriculum and mainstream media pundits are disowning that which made America the greatest country in the world.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven,” Matthew 10:32.

During my five years as a student at the University of Delaware, I was fortunate to meet several foreign exchange students.  Many came to America hoping to make something out of their lives, perhaps doing better than their own parents.  I got to know most of these individuals through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship which met every Friday night on campus.  Once I grew out of the party scene, I began to hunger for something more in life.  Thus, Bible studies, campus events and prayer groups allowed me to dig deeper, drawer closer to God while developing godly friendships.

“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven,” Matthew 10:33.

One girl that I met was from South East Asia.  Before Spring Break, she wrote her parents, informing them that she had recently made a decision to follow Jesus Christ.  Excited to share this news, it took almost a month to receive a return letter.  However, when she opened it, the response was shocking, disowned by her own family with no place to go home to after the Spring semester ended. While friends reached out to console her, most of us didn’t know what to say.  Unable to comprehend why Buddhists responded in this way, I guess her parents felt betrayed by leaving the only faith they knew.  After some time of contemplation, a few days before final exams began this girl stepped into the path of an oncoming train, committing suicide.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” Matthew 10:38.

While this was a tragic event, there is another which has eternal consequences.  Before sending his disciples out on a trial run, Jesus is blunt, clearing communicating his expectations.  There is no half-way for a follower of Jesus, you’re either all in or you’re not with God.  These high standards explain why so many turned away.  Today, there is public pressure to deny the Bible, it’s principles and teaching.  Those who do so are applauded and praised by the media.  However, this disowning fulfills Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5.  Those who don’t deny Jesus face daily judgment, persecution and ridicule.  In the end, do you want to receive praise from mankind while being disowned by God?  Or do you endure hardship for the meantime, live as an outcast, yet receive recognition in heaven?  This is the dilemma of the disowning, where two worlds collide.

by Jay Mankus

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