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Memorializing Christ

The Bible claims that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, Hebrews 12:2,  The author of Hebrews attempts to explain how the Old Testament applies to Jesus who shed his blood as a form of propitiation.  The apostle Paul builds upon this by saying Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross, 1 Corinthians 15:53-57.  While Memorial Day weekend comes once a year, we should memorialize Christ’s victory daily as Jesus disarmed the powers and the authorities which stood oppose to human beings, Colossians 2:15.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life, Leviticus 17:11.

In the original Webster’s Dictionary, the word authority does not exist by itself.  Rather, the term authority is found under the definition for author.  The root of authority comes from the term authorship meaning origination or creation.  After being expelled from heaven, Lucifer tried to obtain the earthly authority given to Adam and Eve by God using deception.  When his plan began to change Eve’s mind, Adam didn’t stop her.  In response to the fall, Jesus was sent as the second Adam, Romans 5:12-21, to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 9:22.

The science of God, theology, can be confusing.  Sometimes it takes time to digest complex passages in the Bible.  Instead of getting bogged down, I try to simplify things so I do not forget what the Lord has done.  According to Romans 3, we all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory.  The wages for this fall is an unfortunate payment, death, Romans 6:23a.  However, the reason why we should memorialize Christ is at the end of Romans 6:23b.  “For the gift of God is eternal life, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

by Jay Mankus

When Right is Wrong, Wrong is Right and Everything Else Turns to Gray

Since public Bible readings and prayer was banned from public education during the 1960’s, it was only a matter of time before right and wrong would come under attack. Beginning in 1980, a group of Kentucky parents targeted the Ten Commandments.  These parents argued that the posting of copies of the Ten Commandments in each public school classroom violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In the ensuing case Stone vs. Graham, the court ruled 5-2 in the parents’ favor declaring, “the Ten Commandments had no secular legislative purpose” and were “plainly religious in nature.”

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20

This is a far cry from what America’s founding fathers believed. While serving as the second president of the United States, John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (October 11, 1798). The freedom that our founding fathers aspired to achieve was a freedom in the context of moral standards based upon biblical principles. Yet, after all aspects of God was neutered from public education, atheists began to attack public displays of faith. Whether it’s nativity scenes, statues of the Ten Commandments or monuments in the shape of crosses, reminders of right and wrong have vanished from public squares throughout America.

So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin, James 4:17.

Gray areas refer to ill-defined situations, fields not readily conforming to a category or to an existing set of rules. One of the purposes of the Bible is to define boundaries designed to keep God near while shielding yourself from evil. Unfortunately, as right and wrong is no longer clearly defined for young people, absolutes have turned into expanding gray areas. Meanwhile, opinions expressed on talk shows are being elevated to the status of facts. Despite this growing trend, Jesus’ earthly brother clarifies the status of right and wrong. While the amoral do exist, if you know what’s right and don’t do it, sins of omission are equivalent to sins of action. Therefore, if you’re not sure which way to turn, open the Bible and find out for yourself, Romans 10:17.

by Jay Mankus

The Tears of Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The metal framework of this landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel. This gift from France was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Three years later, Eiffel completed his own masterpiece in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the first symbol of the Statue of Liberty has been forgotten. Initially, the purpose of this erection of Lady Liberty served as a seal of the friendship between France and the United States. At her feet is a broken chain of slavery designed as a symbol of freedom. Meanwhile, The inscription on the tablet she is holding contains JULY IV MDCCLXXVI, the day of the Declaration of Independence for the United States.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

Between 1886 and 1924, nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States through the New York Bay on their way to Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that achieving the American dream was now a possibility for new arrivals. Ellis Island became the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for 62 years from 1892 until 1954. To those entering this body of water at night, the uplifted torch of Lady Liberty was a welcoming sign and was meant to enlighten those who passed by. As the 250th anniversary draws near, revisionist historians are quickly disposing of America’s rich history. A day doesn’t go by without news of another statue removed or threatened from a downtown area. If this trend continues, there will be nothing left to remind citizens of America’s past mistakes and victories.

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:13-14.

While the tears of Lady Liberty continue to fall as America goes through an identity crisis, the Bible provides hope for the hopeless. In a letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul reminds individuals of this region that Jesus came to liberate sinners. Instead of being held captive by addiction, God wants everyone to experience spiritual freedom. Yet, bad habits have a way of ensnaring souls, similar to a yoke of slavery. Whenever you allow your sinful nature to get out of hand, reigning in your flesh can take months or years to regain control. Thus, if you are looking for a glimmer of hope, love is the answer. Paul references the golden rule, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” This reminder can be traced back to the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus reveals love is conditional. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you, Matthew 6:14-15. May your own acts of love inspired by the Holy Spirit turn Lady Liberty’s frown into a smile.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Periods of Darkness While Living in the Wilderness

Following the Exodus out of Egypt, Israel spent 40 years living in the wilderness. This time served as a transitional period before entering God’s promised land. While the Bible refers to a wilderness, in reality the Jews spent their days in the hot desert sun and nights surrounded by snakes and scorpions. Spending a week or weekend in the wilderness camping or hiking can be rejuvenating. However, living off the gird for an extended period of time requires a complete trust in God to provide daily bread.

And I will confirm with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land, and [My people] shall dwell safely in the wilderness, desert, or pastureland and sleep [confidently] in the woods, Ezekiel 34:25.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic inflicted America in 2020, state mandated quarantines have separated family members, friends and neighbors. While some states have eased these restrictions during the month of May, I still haven’t been able to visit my parents. Due to speculation of a second wave of COVID-19 striking communities who don’t practice social distancing, these past 3 months have created a new type of wilderness, living inside your home most of the time. At some point faith has to trump fear, trusting God that life will soon return to a new but safe normal.

And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing, and I will cause the showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing [of good insured by God’s favor], Ezekiel 34:26.

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the prophet Ezekiel refers to a covenant of peace. For those of you struggling during this period of darkness and uncertainty, the verses above serve as a glimmer of hope. Ezekiel promises to keep those living in the wilderness safe from evil beasts. Meanwhile, Ezekiel refers to a hill of blessing, showering God’s people with grace and favor. While you may not sense peace at the moment, I pray that this biblical promise encourages you. When the wilderness is replaced by normalcy, perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation for the little things in life that we have all taken for granted.

by Jay Mankus

When Materialism Becomes a Disease within Your Heart

A new missionary in Africa wanted to hit the ground running. His initial goal was to take a spiritual inventory by talking to community and village leaders. To his surprise, the greatest barrier in this culture was materialism. Trying to make sense of materialism in a land plagued by hunger and poverty, this man asked, “how could this be?” The elders pointed to a spirit of coveting, not satisfied by and with their own possessions, always wanting more.

Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it, Job 1:6-7.

No matter where or when you enter this earth, there is an invisible adversary looking to prey on weakened souls. While not everyone is tempted by materialism, a fallen angel known as Lucifer is eager to uncover your most vulnerable areas. The Bible is littered with spiritual forces of evil ready to pounce on isolated individuals on the verge of giving up. This is when you need to lean on a community of believers, to overcome temptation and weakness, by asking Jesus to be strong, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

As my father once said, you never have enough money no matter what your annual income may be. Thus, you have to reach a point of contentment, finding that balance between work and play. Perhaps, this explains the words from the author of Hebrews listed above. As someone who has struggled with being a workaholic in the past, balance is essential to preventing me from becoming burned out. While most Americans have been stuck at home, I’ve spent the last 10 weeks working over time. Although the extra cash has been a blessing, money disappears quickly. Therefore, until you yield control of your money over to God, materialism will continue to linger as a dreaded disease within human hearts.

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

When Everything Goes According to Plan

Every so often, I question God’s timing. When my life seems to stand still, moving in slow motion, I get impatient. While this may not happen every month, several times a year I get frustrated by a lack of progress. The Bible suggests human minds struggle to comprehend, fathom or understand God’s grand design. Thus, for now I feel like Job, pondering the purpose of trials in life like the Coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the world.

Then Joseph could not restrain himself [any longer] before all those who stood by him, and he called out, Cause every man to go out from me! So no one stood there with Joseph while he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept and sobbed aloud, and the Egyptians [who had just left him] heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it. And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? And his brothers could not reply, for they were distressingly disturbed and dismayed at [the startling realization that they were in] his presence, Genesis 45:1-3.

Joseph of the Old Testament likely experienced similar mood swings. After sharing vivid dreams with his family, he quickly became despised by his brothers. Sold into slavery as a teenager, Joseph worked his way up to a caretaker for Potiphar’s estate. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s flirtatious wife falsely accused Joseph of rape leading straight to prison. Unlike me, Joseph kept a position attitude until the Lord finally completed his ultimate goal.

But now, do not be distressed and disheartened or vexed and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors, Genesis 45:5-7.

What human beings see as defeat, failure and losses, God uses these moments to prune the dead branches in your life, John 15:1-5. The hard part is remaining in the vine, sticking with Jesus as darkness surrounds you. To those that stay near the Lord, abundant fruits flow in the form of blessings in life. Yet, bitterness, pride and selfish ambition cause many to wander away, trying it on your own. If I could just learn to be more Joseph in Genesis, maybe I’ll begin to see God’s hand as everything goes according to His plan.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming the Coronavirus Mountain

If you listen to cable news, scan social media or regularly follow Twitter, fear is spread daily about the Coronavirus. When the CDC updates their numbers of new cases and death toll every afternoon, panic can set in at anytime. Trying to fight this invisible disease can overwhelm even optimistic souls. Thus, the more contagious and deadly the Coronavirus becomes. it’s like trying to climb the Mt. Everest in Himalayan Mountains by yourself, without any assistance.

And Peter remembered and said to Him, Master, look! The fig tree which You doomed has withered away! 22 And Jesus, replying, said to them, Have faith in God [constantly], Mark 11:21-22.

Beside being called a Jewish Rabbi, Jesus was an amazing teacher, using visual aids to illustrate spiritual truths. Earlier in the day, Jesus was hoping to rely on a fig tree to satisfy his hunger. Upon further review, this tree was barren. Seizing the moment, Jesus cursed this tree which withered immediately. This act wasn’t done for selfish ambition. Rather, Jesus wanted to demonstrate the power of prayer. To show the spiritual potential for those who believe in God.

23 Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. 24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it], Mark 1:23-24.

In his book Relentless, John Tess shares his battle with cancer. Given 18 months to live with a rare form of prostrate cancer, this disease was relentless, coming back time after time. Three years into his struggle to survive, one verse from the Bible transformed John’s perspective. Mark 1:23 uses a mountain to convey that obstacles face individuals daily. The only way to conquer and overcome these barriers is through prayer. May God give you the faith to believe that fasting and prayer will result in developing a cure for Coronavirus.

by Jay Mankus

The Machaira

The Greek word used by the apostle Paul to describe the sword of the spirit is machaira. The actual word is μάχαιρα, an 18 inch dagger used as a weapon of war during hand to hand combat. This piece of the armor of God represents the Word of God which serves two purposes. First and foremost, as a defensive weapon to correct and expose the lies of the Devil. Then, transition onto offensive by attacking secular worldviews through wielding the promises within the Bible to shine light upon an ever darkening world.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:12.

One of the problems with war is identifying the enemy. As chaos on the battlefield ensues, some hide, retreat or pretend to be on your side. Perhaps, this explains the apostle Paul’s words in the passage above. Within any war, there are powers, rulers and spiritual forces working behind the scenes. Instead of giving into anger, frustration or rage, the person you are mad at could simply be a vessel of the Devil, distracting you from the real battle.

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God, Ephesians 6:17.

Just prior to introducing the Sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation is mentioned first. When armor isn’t put on in the correct order, soldiers become vulnerable, not completely covered. This helmet protects your mind from becoming concussed. During the battle called life, there will be individuals who won’t feel saved as doubts from the Devil are implanted within your minds. Life can be tiring, especially if you live pay check to pay check. Yet, without protecting yourself with the armor of God, you’re destined to fail. Therefore, may the machaira empower you to rely on the Bible to defend and enhance the kingdom of God.

by Jay Mankus

Translating God

There are many unsolved mysteries that have been recorded throughout the history of the earth. Some of these mysteries are detailed in the Bible. Whenever you read something that doesn’t make sense, you have to go back to see what the context is to help you understand what really happened. Unfortunately, there are chapters and verses in the Bible that require further research. This process is often referred to as translating God to extract why an account or story has been placed in the Bible; unveiling God’s nature.

And behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. The man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you shall he offer the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Behold, the altar shall be split and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. [Fulfilled in II Kings 23:15, 16.] When King Jeroboam heard the words the man of God cried against the altar in Bethel, he thrust out his hand, saying, Lay hold on him! And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not draw it to him again, 1 Kings 13:1-4.

When I first heard a sermon on the passage above, I immediately thought of the song U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. This hit song reached #1 on the Hip Hop and R&B Billboard charts in 1990. Normally, kings would call upon body guards or soldiers to remove an individual from their presence. However, the words of this unnamed prophet from Judah infuriated King Jeroboam so much that he tried to harm this man. In what can only described as a scene from a Science Fiction film, King Jeroboam’s hand immediately shriveled up.

And he went and found the corpse thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion stood by the body; the lion had not eaten the corpse or torn the donkey. 29 The prophet took up the corpse of the man of God and laid it upon the donkey and brought it back, and the old prophet came into the city to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid the body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! 31 After he had buried him, he said to his sons, When I am dead, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones, 1 Kings 13:28-31.

The news of this strange encounter and subsequent healing spread throughout the land like a raging wildfire. A wayward prophet, paid off by King Jeroboam to only proclaim positive messages to enhance his reign felt compelled to reach out to this man of God. When his own sons couldn’t alter his course, this desperate man made up a story about an angelic counter to persuade him to stay an extra day. This decision proved to be fatal, killed by a mountain lion on his way back to Judah. Realizing it was his fault, the corrupt prophet has this man buried in his own personal tomb. Although this story has a sad ending, translating this chapter reveals the important of complete obedience to God. Anything less is unacceptable.

by Jay Mankus

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