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Understanding Demonic Oppression

When the Coronavirus began to spread throughout the United States back in March of 2020, relatively unknown doctors became instant celebrities. While Dr. Anthony Fauci received most of the attention as the media’s darling, Dr. Oz was a regular guest panelist on cable news and talk radio. Depending upon their area of expertise or practice, these physicians tried to educate the general public on understanding the dangers of COVID-19. Although their advice varied, I learned the best way to stay healthy involved getting 7-8 hours of sleep and staying hydrated daily.

And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom last? For you say that I expel demons with the help of and by Beelzebub. 19 Now if I expel demons with the help of and by Beelzebub, with whose help and by whom do your sons drive them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.20 But if I drive out the demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has [already] come upon you, Luke 11:18-20.

When it comes to understanding demonic oppression, one of the best sources comes from a first century doctor named Luke. Beside his daily practice, this man sought to become a historian. As Luke began to hear about and see miracles that defied science, eagerness to record these details inspired two books. During a personal account with Jesus, Luke details a powerful spirit referred to as the strongman. Within this parable, Jesus suggests that a person freed from demonic oppression is not completely safe, Rather, if these individuals are careless, reverting back to former sinful practices, demons can return with more powerful tormenting spirits.

When the strong man, fully armed, [from his courtyard] guards his own dwelling, his belongings are undisturbed [his property is at peace and is secure]. But when one stronger than he attacks him and conquers him, he robs him of his whole armor on which he had relied and divides up and distributes all his goods as plunder (spoil). 23 He who is not with Me [siding and believing with Me] is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me [engage in My interest], scatters. 24 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it roams through waterless places in search [of a place] of rest (release, refreshment, ease); and finding none it says, I will go back to my house from which I came. 25 And when it arrives, it finds [the place] swept and put in order and furnished and decorated. 26 And it goes and brings other spirits, seven [of them], more evil than itself, and they enter in, settle down, and dwell there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first, Luke 11:21-26.

In a chapter to the Church at Rome, Paul reveals his own demonic oppression, experiencing periods where he was unable to control his body, Romans 7:15-18. This baffling ordeal left Paul scratching his head, unable to break free from sinful desires. Beside Galatians 5:16-18, Romans 8:5-8 highlights an external battle that occurs within everyone’s soul. While many try a form of teetotalism, the practice of complete abstinence, Jesus reveals that certain spirits can only be removed via prayer, Mark 9:26-29. Although the book definition of demonic oppression is the work of evil spiritual forces that urge us to sin, deny God’s word, feel spiritually dead, and to be in bondage, few see this for what it is, Ephesians 6:12. While I’m not an expert on this topic, there is a lot more to life’s decisions than the “devil made me do it.” Thus, further study the Bible if you want to fully understand demonic oppression.

by Jay Mankus

Remaining Positive in a World Full of Bad News

I find myself turning the channel quicker and quicker each time I stop by to get a quick news update. My ears have developed a sharp antenna, recognizing intros to the latest hit piece slandering President Trump. As cable news anchors eagerly await comments from their guest panelists, I’m already channel searching, trying to something apolitical to watch. Unfortunately, even sporting events are becoming a haven for politics.

And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord. 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me, Lamentations 3:18-20.

In the passage above, Lamentations reveals Judah’s pathetic condition following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. This collection of poetic laments flowed out of broken hearts following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 Before Christ. In the midst of this devastating news, many wore their emotions on their sleeves. Perhaps, the Coronavirus in 2020 serves as a painful reminder of how blessed and good life was prior to this pandemic.

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 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 3:21-24.

While many might want to go back in time to experience handshakes and hugs, public displays of affection will have to wait for now. Yet, within this misery and isolation, God has not changed. Although our circumstances are different, the Lord still offers grace, mercy and loving kindness. Thus, despite living in a world full of bad news, God is my hope and strength. May the biblical promise above give you the faith to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

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

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

When the World Changes Too Fast

The brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault introduced the tale of a Sleeping Beauty, a princess who was cursed, driven into a deep sleep meant to last for 100 years. Meanwhile, Washington Irving details the events of Rip Van Winkle who went missing for 20 years after refusing to do his daily chores. Although these two stories are fairy tales, anyone who is suffering from amnesia in 2020 probably won’t recognize their surrounding once their memory has been restored. While amnesia is a partial or total loss of memory, the Coronavirus has erased years of close contact communication.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:2.

This year has introduced new practices such as a self quarantine and social distancing as well as reinforcing the importance of washing your hands. Anyone who traveled abroad at the beginning of 2020, would struggle to catch up with the world that is changing so fast. The idea of singing and worshiping God in a church seems strange now. While some states have closed churches completely, others have banned singing in public spaces. Until a cure has been discovered, corporate worship will likely be limited in the months to come.

It is a reason for pride and exultation to which our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world [generally] and especially toward you, with devout and pure motives and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues), 2 Corinthians 1:12.

The apostle Paul comments on how the world influenced first century Christians. In a letter to leaders in Rome, Paul encourages believers to renew their minds daily by studying the Bible. The more you are able to drown out the world, the clearer your calling on earth will become. Meanwhile, a letter to the Church at Corinth pleads readers to embrace the grace of God. It’s easy to beat yourself up by focusing on imperfections, the negative and your weaknesses. However, as the world quickly changes, the Word of God remains the same. This inspired a disciple to proclaim “God has given us everything we need in life,” 2 Peter 1:3-4. Test everything and cling to that which is good.

by Jay Mankus

What Do I Need to Drop?

Since churches have been closed due to the Coronavirus back in March, I’ve picked up a couple of bad habits. After spending an entire decade at one church and school, the past 10 years have been difficult. Although my current work schedule hasn’t helped, being a spiritual nomad without a church to call home has left me feeling empty. As churches in our area slowly reopen, it’s time for me to drop the excuses for not getting involved.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? – Matthew 5:43-46

One of my greatest offenses is a carefree faith that isn’t that much different than anyone else. Instead of being set apart like the Salt of the Earth and Light of the World, I’m no holier than a pagan. This spiritual slide has led me to harbor bitterness, hold on to grudges and forget to forgive others as Christ forgave me. Rather than carry these burdens with me another day, it’s time to drop this bad habit at the foot of the cross.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:12-15.

The apostle provides a blue print in Colossians 3 for those who feel compelled and convicted to drop bad habits. this process begins with a change of heart and mind, Colossians 3:1-4. The second step isn’t as easy, regaining control of a flesh that have gone wild, Colossians 3:5-9. If this doesn’t do the trick, there is always the warning above, forgiveness is conditional based upon how you forgive others. Before your soul becomes too far gone, drop whatever is preventing you from being reconciled with God and others.

by Jay Mankus

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