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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

A Fast for Freedom

The biblical definition of a fast is abstinence from food, drink, or a specific aspect in life. This spiritual discipline is usually done in private or part of a public religious devotion in affiliation with a local church. Fasting is not found as a command in the Torah; nor is any type of fast mentioned until the days of Judges in the Old Testament. Nonetheless, in times of death, exile, grave danger and illness, dire situations have awakened souls in the past and present to fast until an answer to prayer is received.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:13-14

A typically fast is kept silent, a commitment or vow made between you and God. However, in the case of Esther, she is in a position of power, wife of the king, in prime position to take action as one of the members of her husband’s cabinet wanted to exterminate the Jewish race. Overwhelmed by the moment, queen Esther called upon God’s people to fast and pray for three days. The purpose of this fast was to receive insight, wisdom, and the exact words to persuade the king. While often called the Esther Fast, this portion of the Bible provides the blueprint to a fast for freedom.

Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai,16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went away and did all that Esther had commanded him, Esther 4:15-17.

As the final days of 2020 countdown this December, the Coronavirus has broken cities, families and neighborhoods. Declarations, edicts, and state emergency proclamations have placed extreme restrictions on businesses, citizens, and public education. Meanwhile, if you are an entrepreneur, own a business or work in a non-essential field, you understand the pain of Covid-19. Human beings can only take so much, moved to a breaking point due to this worldwide pandemic. If you feel like there is no where else to turn, join me in a Fast for Freedom so that truth, justice and the America way can be restored by triumphing over Communism and Socialism.

by Jay Mankus

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

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