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Putting the New into a Brand-New Day

Celebrating New Year’s Eve as an adult isn’t as exciting as it was when I was younger. I’m not sure if it’s my new work schedule which forces me to go to sleep between eight and nine on weekdays or I’ve lost enthusiasm and luster of the newness of a brand-new day. While reading words from the prophet Jeremiah, I was reminded how quickly sadness can be replaced with joy. In the passage below, Jeremiah transitions from bad news to a message of hope.

My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: Lamentations 3:20-21.

Depending upon how bad of a day, month or year you are having, God’s promise of grace and forgiveness is encouraging to any sinner. Despite his numerous missionary trips, the apostle Paul still considered himself one of the greatest sinners of all, 1 Timothy 1:15. The closer that some believers get to God, the more their sins are laid in plain sight. While the perfectionist in me still causes me to beat myself up from time to time, meditating on God’s love and nature gives me hope for tomorrow.

It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him, Lamentations 3:22-24.

Perhaps, the ideal manner to start a brand-new day is simply emulating Jesus’ early morning practice in Mark 1:35. Although you may not be a morning person but taking a walk before you pray is a great way to clear your mind from the worries of life. Back in college, I ran three to five miles a few times a week to refresh my mind before returning to complete my homework. As 2023 continues to unfold, may the Holy Spirit guide you to develop a special time with God daily so that you’ll be eager and excited to put the new into a brand-new day.

by Jay Mankus

The Cost of Sacrifice

Prior to taking a walk with his disciples, Jesus rebukes James and John for their worldly mindset in Luke 9:54-56. This verbal admonishment appears to have gotten all of the disciple’s attention. Rather than say something stupid, the disciples listened intently to Jesus’ interactions with three individuals who were eager to become one of Jesus’ disciples. What they all heard was the cost of sacrifice.

And it occurred that as they were going along the road, a man said to Him, Lord, I will follow You wherever You go. 58 And Jesus told him, Foxes have lurking holes and the birds of the air have roosts and nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. 59 And He said to another, [v]Become My disciple, side with My party, and accompany Me! But he replied, Lord, permit me first to go and bury ([w]await the death of) my father. 60 But Jesus said to him, Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and publish abroad [x]throughout all regions the kingdom of God, Luke 9:57-60.

Jesus wasn’t being rude to these young Christians hoping to join His ministry team. Rather, Jesus was like a spiritual drill sergeant trying to expose the flaws and weaknesses of their faith. In the classic film Hoosiers, Gene Hackman tells parents of his basketball team that his players have to be stripped down before he can build them back up the right way. This is what Jesus was doing in today’s passage.

Another also said, I will follow You, Lord, and become Your disciple and side with Your party; but let me first say good-bye to those at my home. 62 Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God, Luke 9:61-62.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life in a comfortable place. My move to South Carolina this summer taught me about the cost of sacrifice. While I gave up a great paying job that was an ideal fit for my talents, family is more important than making money. Sure, good paying jobs provide luxuries in life. In the end, you have to solely trust in the Lord to provide, Matthew 6:33. May today’s blog help remind you of the cost of sacrifice.

by Jay Mankus

The Day Demons Were Driven Out

For Jesus, this day started out like any other. Getting up early, taking a walk in the wilderness, and spending time in prayer. Yet, when the disciples woke up, they began to panic, unaware of Jesus’ morning routine. According to John Mark, a frantic search for Jesus began until he was found sometime after the sun rose. Rather than follow the whims of the disciples, Jesus went to the exact place where God wanted him to go.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a [u]deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him [[v]pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], Mark 1:35-36.

How you ever felt like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and never felt right all day long? Have you thought you knew exactly what you want to do today only to find out it was a waste of time? Based upon the passage above, the 12 disciples were in a full-blown panic. Instead of asking God for help, the disciples were frantically searching for Jesus. These were the emotions racing through the minds of these 12 men before Jesus led them to the place where God wanted them to go.

And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out. 39 [So] He went throughout the whole of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons, Mark 1:37-39.

This group traveled to Galilee where Jesus began to preach, teach, and heal. John Mark doesn’t go into specifics on who were demon possessed, but something Jesus said scared the hell out of these demons. Perhaps this encounter was similar to the slave girl that followed Paul around in Acts 16. Whatever the circumstances, the truth that Jesus spoke struck a nerve. Before the day was over, the power of the Holy Spirit was unleashed as these demons were driven out for good.

by Jay Mankus

Going Off to an Invisible War

When individuals turn 18 in the United States, you can register to vote and enlist into the military if that is the path you want to choose. Prior to January 27th 1973, young men were forced to serve this country via a draft. Today, nearly 60 countries around the world still have some form of service conscription. As for modern day Christians, instead of heading off to boot camp for training, all you need to find is a quiet before going off to an invisible war.

But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open, Matthew 6:6.

This concept was first introduced by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The context of this passage was to ensure that prayer was done in a private setting, not as a way to show off in public as some Pharisees were doing. Jesus didn’t just preach to the masses, He lived out biblical disciplines. One of the apostle Paul’s ministry helpers recalls the time Jesus went missing in the middle of the night. As the disciples began to panic, Jesus was merely going off to an invisible war.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

Jesus went for a walk before sunset, finding a quiet place to begin his day with prayer. While Mark does not provide the length of time spent out in the wilderness, Jesus likely prayed for more than an hour, possibly two. As Jesus arose from this spiritual battle on his knees, He was armed with exactly where to go and what to do. As King Solomon once wrote about, “many are the plan’s in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevail,” Proverbs 19:21. This is what it means to go off to an invisible war.

by Jay Mankus

How Taking a Walk Can Change Your Life

Since most gyms remain closed as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, one of the most practical methods of exercise is taking a walk. If you have a pet, you already have a certain distance mapped out as you wait for your dog to do it’s business. Unless your current position is deemed essential, time shouldn’t be an excuse. In the first century, walking was a common mode of transportation. The Bible details a seven and a half mile walk to the town of Emmaus. Along the way, several individuals discussed current events as a resurrected Jesus catches up, asking questions and acting naive.

And while they were conversing and discussing together, Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them. 16 But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him, Acts 24:15-16.

The first walked that changed my life was a memorable discussion in college on the way to my youth group’s summer mission’s trip. A short walk turned into a couple of miles as a spirit of confession fell upon each of us. One girl opened up about being raped, another confessed about being sexually active with his girl friend and another revealed an addiction to pornography. This initial walk created a special bond, soul mates who began to pray for one another for freedom and healing. Shortly afterward, my friend Dave and I, who became the best man in my wedding, walked over ten miles one night, unveiling painful secrets from our past.

Then they drew near the village to which they were going, and He acted as if He would go further. 29 But they urged and insisted, saying to Him, Remain with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. So He went in to stay with them. 30 And it occurred that as He reclined at table with them, He took [a loaf of] bread and praised [God] and gave thanks and asked a blessing, and then broke it and was giving it to them 31 When their eyes were [instantly] opened and they [clearly] recognized Him, and He vanished (departed invisibly), Acts 24:28-31.

The final walk that changed my life occurred in Neenah, Wisconsin. At this time, Leanne was a youth director in Wisconsin and I served at a Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana. When you live eight hours away from your significant other, I treasured each moment together. On this particular day, I felt like I needed to become an open book. Thus, this walk took about an hour, walking throughout Neenah as I poured out my heart to Leanne. This one conversation set the stage for engagement and marriage. While not every walk that you have is pleasant, when you practice the James 5:16 principle, lives can be changed and souls bonded together for life.

by Jay Mankus

A Midnight Stroll

One of my most memorable New Year’s Eve celebrations occurred in 1992.  In the middle of a mild Winter, temperatures in Delaware soared above 70 by midday.  Instead of your typical indoor festivities, I spent most of the day and evening outside.  Spending my last New Year’s in Newark before moving to the mid-west with friends from Chrysalis and college, I had ample time to say goodbye.  After watching the ball drop, commencing 1993, a half dozen people or so took a midnight stroll.

The temperature was 62 degrees at 12:15 am, perfect to walk, star gaze and reminisce about the special times I encountered while growing up in Delaware.  I don’t recall how many miles this stroll involved, but nearly 3 hours later the temperature dropped to 26 degrees as an arctic cold front blew through, causing the pace to pick up during the last mile just to stay warm.  This was one of those nights where time seemed to stand still allowing me to soak in the memories.  Despite the sadness, I knew God was leading me to a better place, preparing me through a trade school in Minnesota to become a polished leader.

Looking back, its hard to believe 21 years have passed.  Now as a parent, strolls become like wind sprints, stopping and starting, trying to keep up with busy schedules of 3 children.  Midnight strolls would be nice if I didn’t go to sleep shortly after eating dinner on some work days.  Thus, I do my best to be balanced, while trying to survive the difficulties of life.  On this special night, may God help you to slow down enough to practice Psalm 46:10.  The more you practice this biblical principle, the Holy Spirit can provide joy and peace for you in 2014.  Have a memorable, but safe New Year’s Eve!

by Jay Mankus

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