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Light Shines Brighter in the Dark

If you live in the middle or northern parts of the United States, you have probably experienced one of the strangest Springs in recent memory.  After the Northeast experienced four noreasters in March, April has greeted the Midwest with a couple of late snow storms as winter attempts to hold on for another week.  While Spring will eventually give way to Summer, there is one truth hidden within these unusual weather patterns.  Light shines brighter in the dark.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil, John 3:19.

The Bible is filled with references to light and darkness.  Jesus uses light to illustrate that which is good, right and true.  Meanwhile, darkness symbolizes imperfections, lies and secret sins that people are afraid of, hoping that no one finds out these embarrassing deeds.  According to Jesus’ earthly brother, freedom comes from opening up, allowing light to enter darkness, James 5:16.  When confession is genuine and sincere, God’s light brings healing to wounded souls.

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, Ephesians 5:8.

The apostle Paul eludes to this transition in a letter to the church of Ephesus.  Later in this chapter, Paul writes about how human nature influences individuals to gravitate toward darkness, where there are no rules or standards.  Yet, Paul reminds believers of their decision to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, choosing light over darkness.  However, some stop growing along the way, comfortably numb.  In this scenario, imperfections are not exposed as God’s light is not fully magnified.  Although it may be difficult, painful and humbling, let God into every area of your life.  When you do, light will shine brighter in the dark to restore you back toward the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Removing the Stench

As heat and humidity replaces the cold rainy days of Spring, you won’t be able to escape sweating.  This drastic change can leave a toxic odor in the air.  Whether its deodorant or laundry detergent, it might take some time to remove the stench brought on by summer conditions.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Beyond smell, individuals can stink internally.  According to the apostle Paul, this occurs by abusing your body.  Instead of participating in wholesome activities, there is a temptation to turn to the dark side.  Like the curiosity which possessed Adam and Eve in the Garden, tasting evil is a sure way to become filled with a stench.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, Ephesians 5:2.

The apostle Paul provides a solution to remove this stench.  While we were still sinners, God sent his son to be a fragrant offering.  Like stains on a carpet, Jesus lived, died and rose again to blot out our imperfections.  The Prophet Isaiah uses the symbolism of snow to cover our sin to make us whole again.  Walk in love and you too will remove the stench of sin.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Going to the Dump

Every  summer I was exposed to a local dump in Maine.  Since our cabin did not have garbage pick up, guests were expected to take all their trash to be disposed of at the county recycling center.  The smell of the bags in the August heat was fowl, but this was all part of the complete experience of going to the dump.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.

While addressing the masses one day, Jesus refers to a different kind of dump.  The context of this discussion is based upon individuals carrying around baggage.  Whether its depression, stress or worry Jesus doesn’t want people to go through life alone.  Rather, when trash in life begins to pile up, drop to your knees to unload the garbage you have collected.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

The world proclaims he who dies with the most toys wins.  Yet, when people pass away your body will eventually become dust.  Thus, our bodies are on loan from God.  The Holy Spirit is the source of life for human souls.   The opposing force known as the sinful nature wages war by bombarding minds with trash from life.  To combat this weapon used by the Devil, go to the dump daily to unload worries in prayer which God replaces with rest.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

When People Die Before They Reach the ER

Unfortunately, tragedy makes the headlines as well as the front pages of news papers every summer in the form of heat stroke related deaths, infants left in vehicles too long or wandering into the wrong place at the wrong time.  Former NFL player and head coach Herm Edwards tries to mentor rookies each season by proclaiming, “nothing good ever happens after midnight.”  Despite these warnings, curiosity often cause people to die before they reach the Emergency Room.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Addiction is one of many silent killers that can be curtailed by accountability.  In biblical times, communities, families and the local synagogue served as positive peer pressure, providing boundaries to keep morality in and evil out.  While everything is cyclical, apathy, humanism and vanishing absolutes are re-writing how individuals should live.  This loosening of society has perverted freedom, resulting in chaos on the streets of major cities.  According to Jesus, the seed of murder is conceived when a spirit of anger consumes a human heart.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell, Matthew 5:22.

Despite Eve’s sin, Adam’s lack of leadership and a world falling apart at the seams, no one seems to care.  An avalanche of emotions is stoking a fire of hatred, resentment and revenge.  What ever happened to common sense?  Will anyone ever wake up to smell the coffee of a society slipping away from God?  If these warning signs continue to be ignored, doctors will be helpless to act, like a M.A.S.H. unit who receives their patients too late, dead on arrival.  May the  words of a classic song “Stop Children What’s that Sound ” prompt hearts of actions to reverse the trend of a culture slip sliding away from God.

by Jay Mankus

Wilted Flowers… Wilted Souls

Based upon  a 2013 CNN article, roughly 224 million roses are grown to prepare for Valentine Day shoppers.  Beside candy, roses have become a symbol for this special day, with the average person spending $130 to impress their significant other.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for these expensive flowers to die.  Life can be prolonged by adding fresh water daily and trimming the stems.  Yet, in the end, the smell of flowers will fade, wilt and end up in the trash.

The human soul can relate to the final resting place for roses.  Individuals who are quiet, shy or wonder why no accepts them for who they are, often wilt like flowers.  The lack of communication, intimacy and relationships can weigh on a heart, resulting in loneliness.  Unless a soul experiences good news, hope or something positive, faith can fade into oblivion.  Like a deer that pants for water on a hot summer day, those that thirst for temporary pleasures will taste the sourness of disappointment.

According to the Bible, the soul finds rest in God alone, Psalm 62:1.  Though many will try other avenues to fill this void, nothing can satisfy like Jesus; just ask the woman at the well, John 4.  Mankind may try to stop the grass from withering and flowers from falling off their stems, yet the only cure to wilted souls is the Word of God, Isaiah 40:8.  If the thought of a cold dark winter has brought you down, may the promise of Romans 8:38-39 sustain you when all seems lost.

by Jay Mankus

Double Trouble: One Foot in Heaven and the Other in Hell

Anna Chapman, Klaus Fuchs and Frank Abagnale Jr. all have one thing in common, each lived a secret life as a spy for years until eventually having their cover blown.  Even in a normal day to day setting, the desire to be accepted socially does persuade some to become fake, afraid that others will reject who they really are.  Thus, when a student enters college as a freshman, some chose to blend in, living a double life.

I fell into this trap during the years at the University of Delaware.  For a semester, I was one of the most popular freshman on campus, known as one of the 4 horsemen, getting all the invites to parties, hanging out late and playing sports on “the Beach” in place of studying.  When no one was looking, I snuck out of my dorm to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting once a week as a close Christian.  Essentially, I limited my faith to once a week, for an hour, with one foot in heaven and the other in hell.

Unfortunately, this cycle repeated itself during my senior year of college.  Although my faith was not hidden at school, the summer provided a leave of absence from God, indulging in the pleasures on earth.  While not everything I did was evil, I spent too much time dangling on the fence.  I was the epitome of lukewarm, following in the footsteps of the church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:15-16.  This act of double trouble forced me to make a decision, should I stay or should I go?  Though it has not been smooth sailing, I’d rather be on a narrow path than a road that leads to destruction, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Coasting on Cruise Control

If you’re traveling cross country in a car or planning a long day trip, the invention of cruise control is a nice luxury.  Although vacation traffic may limit your opportunities, open highways, especially at night, provide a chance for drivers to rest their legs.  With only a few weeks of summer remaining, try to get away for a little R & R coasting on cruise control.

From a spiritual perspective, coasting through life is something that you want to avoid.  Unfortunately, there is where I find myself, using a busy work schedule as an excuse.  Somewhere in the last month, I’ve lost my spiritual mojo.  As a result, my devotional time is sporadic, prayer life lame and influx of the Holy Spirit is wading.  Like the classic line from Star Trek, I feel like Captain Kirk’s frequently request to Scotty, “I need more power!”

Regardless of your circumstances, sooner or later everyone grows tired, Isaiah 40:29-31.  When you reach your breaking point, find yourself exhausted or wake up spiritually numb, God saw this coming.  In these days of desperation, running on empty, you might find yourself crying uncle, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.  While coasting on cruise control led you to this state, yielding to the Lord will help you rise up from the ashes of despair.  Fan into flame 2 Timothy 1:7 so that the only coasting you do in life is driving in the country.

by Jay Mankus

 

Where Did the Summer Go?

Boredom, enjoyment and time have a unique connection.  When experiencing something dull or uninteresting, time seems to drag, slowing down to a crawl as you check the clock regularly.  On the other hand, as you indulge in a leisure activity that you love, times often flies by at warp speed.  Perhaps, this may explain where the summer went.

At the end of June, I got the news of my promotion at work.  Initially, time ticked away at a normal pace.  Yet, by the time families book this weekend, plan that weekend and try to fit in some old acquaintances, September is on the horizon.  Unfortunately, the older I become, time appears to vanish, with entire months disappearing from the calendar.  Where did the summer go?  Maybe its stored away in one’s heart, separating the cherished memories from the moments you would like to forget.

As for now, the Lord’s brother provides great advice for those trying to make sense of time, James 4:13-15.  Since today has enough trouble of its own, each soul must savor the remaining days of summer.  Although you may not be able to check off something from your bucket list, a day at the beach, fishing, taking a drive in the country or watching the sunset will certainty relieve stress.  Before Labor Day arrives, soak in the sun while you still have time.  Feel free to share what your favorite summer pastime?

by Jay Mankus

 

When the Darkness is My Closest Friend, Psalm 88:18

In Juneau, the capital of Alaska, the summer sun is about to say goodbye as another season is wrapping up.  Before you know it, winter will arrive, leaving parts of this state in the dark.  Although Juneau’s shortest day will see the sun for 6 hours and 22 minutes, Barrow, Alaska, located 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle, endures 67 days of darkness annually.  For those who call extreme geographic destinations  home, darkness will become their closest friend.

For those that live in the lower 48 states, darkness is not just a seasonal event, its a state of mind.  With an invisible enemy seeking to steal your joy for life, John 10:10, disappointment can lead some to call darkness home.  Like going to see the doctor, Jesus performs a light examination in Matthew 6:19-24.  Whenever human beings place earthly treasures in greater priority than the Lord, darkness enters the equation.  The question is, “how great is this darkness and has it gotten a hold of your soul?”

Psalm 88 is a chapter of the Bible dedicated to anyone who has tasted bad news, experienced disasters or dealt with years of tough luck.  The sons of Korah wear their emotions on their sleeves, crying out to God in their days of darkness.  When trials strike without warning, maintaining a positive outlook on life is difficult.  Therefore, if you feel like darkness has become you closest friend, practice the principles of prayer in Psalm 88.  Though I can’t guarantee anything, perhaps as you cry out to God the Son will break through any dark clouds hovering over your life.

by Jay Mankus

Dying of Thirst

When a body does not possess as much water and fluids as it should, dehydration sets in.  Dehydration can be mild, moderate or severe, life threatening if not replenished with liquids.  According to Men’s Health, there are 6 stages of dehydration, traced by the color of one’s urine.  When exercising in the summer sun, dehydration can lead to symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  In a worst  case scenario, death can occur like the tragedy of Korey Stringer, a former Minnesota Viking who passed away on August 1st, 2001 following an NFL training camp practice.

There are others who are dying of spiritual thirst, unable to find the living water Jesus promises in John 4.  I spent the first 15 years in isolation, using my stuttering as an excuse to avoid intimate relationships.  Whenever you can’t communicate, express your feelings or make an emotional connection with someone, a part of you begins to die inside.  Spiritual dehydration commences once an individual is cut off from meaningful conversation which enriches one’s life.  If this separation continues, souls become cold and numb, on the verge of dying of thirst.

This is where we find a Samaritan woman, who had become a social outcast even among her own people.  After 4 broken relationships, the word on the street wasn’t kind.  Terms such as adulterer, prostitute or whore were likely whispered behind her back.  John 4:7-26 records an interesting conversation between 2 polar opposites between a prophet and someone searching for meaning in life.  Hot and thirsty, Jesus breaks the ice, then changes the topic of conversation from the weather to eternity.  Before the day was over, this lost soul is introduced to living water which quenched her thirst.  May this story quench your spiritual thirst and give you assurance for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

 

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