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Lord It’s Been So Long

If you’re not careful, life can be like a white water rafting trip. Once you’re on the river, there is danger lurking around every corner. Depending upon the classification and level of rapids, each one can come fast and furious. Unless there is some sort of break in between for your mind to relax, there will be no rest for the weary. Anyone who finds themselves on a wild ride may be so focused on survival that taking time to spend with God is like a blip on a radar screen.

Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, and said to them, Get up this way by the South (the Negeb) and go up into the hill country,18 And see what the land is and whether the people who dwell there are strong or weak, few or many,19 And whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. And be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes, Numbers 13:17-20.

In his 1993 song, Power and Promise, Brett Williams uses the phrase, “Lord It’s Been So Long.” The context of these lyrics date back to Moses waiting to enter God’s Promise Land. In the second stanza, Williams refers back to the anguish Mary felt while her brother Lazarus was dead for 3 days. When signs of God’s power or presence is absent, invisible to your eyes, staying optimistic in times of trouble is difficult. This is where faith comes into play.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him]. 11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep, John 11:9-11.

However, when basic spiritual routines like going to church, reading the Bible or praying stop occurring, God fades from your memory. While the Coronavirus may have been an excuse for some to use in 2020, it’s time to reconnect. The imagery of Luke 15:20 pictures the Lord as a concerned parent, patiently waiting on the front porch for prodigals to come home. Until lost souls come to their senses, this reconciliation is put on hold. Therefore, if you find yourself distant from God, today as good as any day to open up by saying, “Lord, it’s been so long.”

by Jay Mankus

Removing the Element of Doubt

There are 72 accounts in the Bible that mention doubt. This feeling of uncertainty prevents human beings from achieving their full potential. This is what Abraham Maslow calls self-actualization, reaching the top of the pyramid as our hierarchy of needs are met. One of the greatest barriers standing in our way is doubt. Jesus said to first century followers, “a lack of belief is keeping you from a mountain top experience,” Matthew 21:18-22. Meanwhile, Jesus’ earthly brother refers to doubt as a series of crashing waves, propelled by strong winds.

Now the wife of a son of the prophets cried to Elisha, Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. But the creditor has come to take my two sons to be his slaves. Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? Tell me, what have you [of sale value] in the house? She said, Your handmaid has nothing in the house except a jar of oil. Then he said, Go around and borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels—and not a few. And when you come in, shut the door upon you and your sons. Then pour out [the oil you have] into all those vessels, setting aside each one when it is full, 2 Kings 4:1-4.

The aftermath of the Coronavirus has taken a toll on small businesses across the country. The dreams of many hopeful entrepreneurs have been dashed, leading many in the same position of the woman in the passage above. Down to her last jar of oil, this woman was desperate, just hoping to survive. The solution to her problem didn’t sound too promising, collecting as many empty containers from her neighbors as possible. Yet, similar to Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, the oil inside of her only jar kept flowing.

So she went from him and shut the door upon herself and her sons, who brought to her the vessels as she poured the oil. When the vessels were all full, she said to her son, Bring me another vessel. And he said to her, There is not a one left. Then the oil stopped multiplying. Then she came and told the man of God. He said, Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons live on the rest, 2 Kings 4:5-7.

According to a Charles Schwab’s 2019 financial study, 59% of Americans live pay check to check. Another 2019 survey discovered that 65% of Americans own their own home. Depending upon your current financial status, future goals may need to be altered. Yet, until the element of doubt is removed, you’ll never reach your full potential. This is where faith must swoop in to replace doubt. When lingering thoughts of doubt chip away at one’s inner confidence, a belief in the power of the Holy Spirit is crucial to removing the element of doubt. In the passage above, debts were paid off and retirement became a reality. Just believe!

by Jay Mankus

Saved by a Button

While most industries have been ravaged by the Coronavirus, Television Streaming Services have expanded and prospered. Although not every service has survived this competitive field, consumers can now decide what they watch and when daily. The days of waiting for your favorite show or series to air are over unless of course you want to watch a live sporting event. During a recent episode of Mystery at the Museum, I learned that a famous composer’s life was saved by a button on his tunic before he’d ever written a note.

He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed, 1 Peter 2:24.

George Frideric Handel was performing of one of Matheson’s operas, Cleopatra, in 1704. Playing with his best friend, composer Johann Mattheson, the two of them suddenly argued while on stage. This quarrel escalated into a sword fight, a duel to the death. Immediately, Mattheson quickly took control, placing Handel on the defensive. As the audience watched in amazement, Mattheson gave the final blow, striking Handel in the chest. However, as the sword was about to pierce Handel’s skin, a large button on his tunic intervened, snapping the tip of Mattheson’s sword. This wardrobe malfunction ended this duel and saved Handel’s life.

For you were going astray like [so many] sheep, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian (the Bishop) of your souls, 1 Peter 2:25.

Whether you call this luck or divine intervention, George Frideric Handel now had the time to compose The Hallelujah Chorus. King George III was so moved by Handel’s Messiah he stood up during this piece, at the premiere. Most of Handel’s adult life was spent in London, England, offered a position by Queen Anne with the princely annual salary of £200. Composing The Messiah in 1741, a scriptural text was later compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible to enhance Handel’s piece. This amazing selection would have been never composed if it wasn’t for a large button strategically placed on George Frideric Handel’s tunic.

by Jay Mankus

Open My Eyes Through Faith

Paul Baloche was sitting in a pew, listening to his pastor pray for the congregation. Upon hearing the expression “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see you,” Baloche was inspired to write a song. Baloche’s soul was touched by the wisdom of this prayer request. As Paul Harvey once said on his radio broadcast, “and now you know The Rest of the Story.”

When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept, Genesis 21:15-16.

After Sarah convinced Abraham to cast out one of his maid servants, Hagar and Ishmael were forced into the wilderness to find a new place to live. When Hagar ran out of water, she lost hope, laying down her child in the shade under a shrub. Unsure of what to do next, Hagar found an appropriate place to weep and cry out to the Lord. Sensing death was near, the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar. Despite being consumed by despair, the Lord opened Hagar’s eyes to a miracle, an empty bottle now filled with water.

And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is. Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink, Genesis 21:17-19.

The Coronavirus has forced the world to view life through a new lens and perspective. The idea of sitting down with friends inside a restaurant seems like a foreign concept today. Yet, sometime in the near future, the fears of COVID-19 will pass, replaced by a new concern, fear or worry. However, as long as desperate hearts cry out to the Lord in prayer, your eyes will be opened to see all the good things God provides, James 1:17. This is my prayer for 2021 that eyes will be opened through faith in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When You Don’t Have the Strength to Carry On…

Michael W. Smith-Live And Learn – YouTube

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul had his own battle with an illness. Instead fighting off the remnants of the Coronavirus, Paul was ravaged by a messenger from Satan. Apparently, Paul was inflicted by a thorn in his flesh, perhaps a splinter became infected. Based upon the context of the passage below, this condition persisted for a number of months if not longer. Some scholars have suggested that Paul is referring to some sort of demonic oppression that began to wear down his emotional and physical strength.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

I was first introduced to today’s two passages by my high school swim coach. Since I only joined the swim team to stay in shape for cross country, I struggled to finish every practice. When you’re running and you trip, you can stop for a moment to retie your laces. However, when your in the middle of a pool, out of breath and tired, you have to keep swimming until you reach the other end. Through my first two years, I only completed a handful of practices. Yet, when I began to take Coach Horne’s advice, Christ became my strength when I was exhausted in the pool.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.

During my sophomore year of high school, my coach also introduced me to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Instead of just being relating this concept to swimming, I learned to apply the Bible to life. While not everyone in these monthly Bible Studies were genuine believers, I tried to become like a sponge, soaking in as much as I could. I guess the best approach to take about implementing the Bible into you life is using the message from Michael W. Smith’s 1989, Live and Learn. No one is ever a completed or finished project. Rather, each day provides opportunities to live and to learn when you don’t have the strength to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

Have You Been Knocked Down??? Perhaps it’s Time to Get Up

Living in South Jersey at the time, I remember my parents taking me to see Rocky I shortly after it debuted in theaters in November of 1976. Despite seeing this film 49 years ago, I still recall how engaged the audience was with Rocky’s character played by Sylvester Stallone. Beside the raucous cheering, total strangers bonded as the fight scene continued until the 15th and final round. Men and women began to cry out, “get up Rocky; get up!” Have you been knocked down in 2020? If so, perhaps it’s time to get up.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

While the Coronavirus has resulted in a living nightmare for countless Americans, the worst year for me was 2012. Before I could enjoying celebrating the start of a new year, I received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing me that my teaching position of 10 years would be terminated at the end of the month. This call was like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of my sails. Beside flying to California for Leanne’s uncle’s 80th birthday party, the next 18 months was filled with disappointment, heartbreak and unemployment.

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:2-3.

At the time, I never thought this trial would end until I landed on my feet at Amazon. If 2020 has left you in the dark, clueless to where to go or what to do, you’re not alone. According to the author of Hebrews, Christians who have passed away are up in heaven cheering you on. Life is compared to a marathon like spectators at the Olympics encouraging tired runners to keep on going until the race is finished. Whatever your current circumstances maybe, don’t let pain keep you down. Rather, get up while there is still time to finish what God has prepared for you to do, Philippians 1:6.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming and the Overcomer

Overcoming refers to one of three scenarios. To defeat another in competition or conflict such as overcoming the opposing team to earn a victory. To deal with successfully by prevailing over a series of obstacles or mount a comeback to redeem yourself. Finally, to overpower with a will to survive, despite being overcome by emotions or personal grief. However, when you examine this word, overcoming takes consistency, discipline, and effort to push on no matter what trial you face.

But he who keeps (treasures) His Word [who bears in mind His precepts, who observes His message in its entirety], truly in him has the love of and for God been perfected (completed, reached maturity). By this we may perceive (know, recognize, and be sure) that we are in Him: Whoever says he abides in Him ought [as [a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself, 1 John 2:5-6.

Well, 2020 has been like a tsunami that keeps on rising, crashing higher and harder with every wave. Life long dreams to own a business have been either derailed or wrecked for countless entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, college graduates are waiting and waiting for a job in their field, wondering if amassing thousands of dollars in debt was really worth it? Anyone who has endured the Coronavirus, statewide lock downs and job insecurity knows how difficult it is to overcome all of the setbacks 2020 has brought.

Yet you still have a few [persons’] names in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, and they shall walk with Me in white, because they are worthy and deserving. Thus shall he who conquers (is victorious) be clad in white garments, and I will not erase or blot out his name from the Book of Life; I will acknowledge him [as Mine] and I will confess his name openly before My Father and before His angels, Revelation 3:4-5.

Yet, this is where faith comes into the equation, crying out to an invisible God whose Son has already overcome death, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58. If you feel like you can’t overcome the mountain currently blocking you from achieving success, jump on the Jesus Train to get you over the hump. While the Lord doesn’t promise an easy ride, cling to the one who knows what it takes to be an overcomer. During an intimate conversation with his disciples, Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life, John 14:6. Don’t be afraid to ride on Jesus’ coat tails until you regain your strength to carry on. Get your ticket to ride the J-Train today.

by Jay Mankus

Worn Out Before the Worship Begins

The Coronavirus has taken a toll on families, lives and souls in 2020. According to a recent report, over 100,000 small businesses have closed this year. Meanwhile, if further lock downs or restrictions are enacted in the weeks and months to come, more the 85% of restaurants could be forced to go out of business for good. Although the thought of Christmas may serve as a healthy distraction for some, many Americans are worn out before Christmas worship services begin, me included.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! – Psalm 95:6

The book definition of worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. While talking to a Samaritan woman in the middle of a hot summer day, Jesus refers to a physical thirst for living water. True worship is valuing the treasures of God, not temporary pleasures that quickly fade away. The inner essence of worship is designed to pour out your heart to the Lord. This occurs by responding to acquired knowledge of the Bible within your mind, as longings within your heart begin to ooze out. However, if you are emotionally spent, how do you regain a vigor for worship this Christmas?

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth,” John 4:24.

One thing Jesus doesn’t want is a counterfeit, a phony Christian faking worship. When anxieties, burdens, and concerns overwhelm your soul, Jesus serves as a weighing station, Matthew 11:28-30. Prayer is a way you can unload all of your spiritual trash, sucking any joy remaining in your life. Once this removal is compete, true worship can begin. Therefore, if you are still trying to pick up the pieces shattered by Covid-19, meet with Jesus now so that you’ll be ready to worship God on Christmas Day.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing Beyond the Present this Christmas

Since I stopped listening to and watching any type of news cast, I’ve been much happier. If I ever get curious about what’s going on in the world, all I have to do is click on the internet to see how depressing everything appears to be. Following Trump’s apparent loss in the 2020 Presidential Election, I thought stories would shift from the Coronavirus toward a more positive outlook for the future. From what I’ve read online, there must be a contest that I’m not aware of between news organizations to see who can present the bleakest forecast.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

As I read about the latest death toll from Covid-19, I was reminded of an old song by Randy Stonehill. The lyrics of this song is filled with sadness, sorrow, and tragedy, very apropos for probably one of the worst years of the 21st century. Stonehill uses the backdrop of a Denny’s restaurant to compare an orphans Christmas meal with symbolism from the Bible. While the attached you-tube is gut wrenching, listening to this song helps me realize just how blessed my life is despite the current crisis facing America.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

A wise Old Testament king predicted that these days would come. While the details are always slightly different, you can’t escape trials that pop up. These unexpected circumstances and events don’t wait for you to catch up. Rather, when crap hits the fan, things will get messy often leaving emotional and physical scars. Like the depressing story in the song Christmas at Denny’s, it’s hard to see beyond the present. Yet, when I read the miraculous testimony of Elizabeth and Mary, with God anything is possible this Christmas, Luke 1:37.

by Jay Mankus

Christmas in Exile

The longer that the Coronavirus continues, the more city, local, and state officials are flexing their political muscles. Flatten the curve has led to bans on inside dining, a pause in face to face public education and edicts on how many members can be inside a home during the holidays. Subsequently, America citizens are seeing their freedoms quickly vanish. If you’re wondering who is the mastermind behind the saying “never let a crisis go to waste,” it’s Saul Alinsky. You’ll find a similar quote on page 89 of his book Rules for Radicals. The context of this expression comes from a section marked communication “in the arena of action, a threat or a crisis becomes almost a precondition to communication.”

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with a part of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them into the land of Shinar [Babylonia] to the house of his god and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god, Daniel 1:1-2.

Exile comes from the Hebrew word galut. When translated into English, this refers to a forced migration. This theme reoccurs throughout the Old Testament This trend began during a worldwide drought in Egypt. However, after Israel was split in two following the reign of Solomon, the 10 northern tribes were carried off into exile in 722 BC, 2 Kings 17:6-23. Meanwhile, Judah, the 2 remaining southern tribes experienced their own exile in 586 BC. The passage above reveals what happened to Daniel while living in Babylon. Daniel was given a new name, forced to learn a different language and alter his diet initially. The first chapter of Daniel provides a blueprint for how to spend this Christmas in exile.

Then said Daniel to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove your servants, I beseech you, for ten days and let us be given a vegetable diet and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat of the king’s [rich] dainties be observed and compared by you, and deal with us your servants according to what you see, Daniel 1:11-13.

Despite the restrictions placed on Daniel’s life, he wasn’t willing to compromise his beliefs. Based upon the context of chapter 1, Daniel picked his battles, where to comply and what to resist. Following a 10 day trial known as the Daniel Fast, Daniel and his friends won his superiors over, staying true to his Jewish diet. Depending upon what state you live in, you may be able to adopt some of the principles Daniel practiced. Later on in chapter 6, Daniel defies a decree on banning pubic prayer, willing to face a den of lions rather than disobey his heavenly father. Therefore, as some of you face the notion of spending this Christmas in exile, draw inspiration from Daniel so that faith prevails.

by Jay Mankus

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