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Personal Responsibility

After my father was transferred to the mid-west, I spent nearly a decade living in Cleveland. This enabled me to visit local attractions like Cedar Point Amusement Park and Sea World. Over time I began to learn some of the local history of this area. While discovering the Flats in downtown Cleveland, a series of night clubs, sports bars and restaurants, I was informed about the famous fire on the Cuyahoga River. The more I researched this river that runs through downtown Cleveland, I found that much of this dark past has been hidden from the public.

So you shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood shed in it, but by the blood of him who shed it. 34 And you shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell in the midst of the people of Israel, Numbers 35:33-34.

As a growing industrial city, pollution in Cleveland was never a concern until a 10th fire broke out on the Cuyahoga River. Beginning in 1868, fires were accepted as a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution. These first 9 fires were mostly hidden from the national media, despite the 1.5 million dollars in damage caused by the 1952 blaze. Unfortunately, up until the 1970’s, bodies of water were used as dumping areas, expecting currents to carry this trash downstream. However, the optics of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was so bad, that Congress acted a year later to form the Environmental Protection Agency.

Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles, so that, although they may slander you as evildoers, [yet] they may by witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God in the day of inspection [when God shall look upon you wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock], 1 Peter 2:11-12.

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, pollution is considered a personal responsibility. Under the leadership of Moses, God urged Israel to be good stewards of their new promised land. When individuals decide to become lazy or sloppy with their surrounding environment, people are defiling the land in God’s eyes. In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples speaks of another type of pollution. Cursing and destructive words are viewed as a form of air pollution. Meanwhile, inappropriate actions, behavior, and choices result in spiritual corruption, polluting souls. Thus, if you want to make a difference in this world, exercise personal responsibility by seeking to live an upright life.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Willfully Living Outside of God’s Will?

A stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants, regardless of the consequences is consistent with someone who possesses a willful personality. Similar to a narcissist, willful acts are deliberate, with an excessive interest on themselves. Like any bad habit, the further you deviate and go off on your own, the more difficult it becomes to yield control to someone else. This might explain why some Christians are still willfully living outside of God’s will.

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), so that when it fails, they [those you have favored] may receive and welcome you into the everlasting habitations (dwellings). 10 He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the [case of] unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), who will entrust to you the true riches? – Luke 16:9-11

The college years tend to be the most difficult period for Christians to hold on to faith, especially when you attend a secular college or university. As for me, I was like a teeter totter, going up and down and back and forth. After abandoning God my first semester to explore the party scene, I made Jesus the Lord of my life at a retreat during winter session. At least I thought I did until each summer was spent drifting and slipping away, going clubbing on the Flats in downtown Cleveland every weekend.

For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—Ephesians 1:5

This sinful cycle finally came to an end my senior year of college, after breaking my ankle while playing sand volleyball. Stuck in bed my finally two weeks of that summer, I reached my spiritual point of no return. Sick of my lukewarm faith, the Clash song Should I Stay of Should I Go describes the thoughts rushing through my head. After days of contemplation and prayer, I ended 4 years of willfully living outside of God’s will. Reminded of a song from a Lay Witness Mission that I attended in college, the following words confirmed my decision, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

by Jay Mankus

A Thornbush in a Drunkard’s Hand

Forrest Gump gave America the notion that “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.”  This imagery reminds individuals of the days of generic Valentine Day boxes filled with an unlabeled variety of flavors.  Unfortunately, few movies address delicate issues like alcoholism in When a Man Loves a Woman.

Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool, Proverbs 26:9.

According to King Solomon, drunkenness is nothing new.  Jewish wedding receptions often lasted several days with some extended for a week.  It was common for hosts to bring out cheap wine once most of the guests were hammered, unable to tell the difference anymore.  Whether Solomon is referring to an actual event following a party or using hyperbole, drinking numbs the pain of individuals.  The physical affects with a thornbush will be felt after the alcohol wears off.

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap, Luke 21:34.

One of the hardest transitions facing young people is learning to have fun in life without alcohol.  When my father was transferred to Cleveland while I was in college, making new friends was tough.  After meeting some people my own age, I became their designated driver whenever this group went clubbing on the Flats in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.  Unfortunately, most of them could not dance without getting drunk.  Not wanting to wait one evening, I traded places with a girl friend, helping the crew down 3 pitchers of beer.  While I was the life of the party for a few hours, the lingering affects of this spree lasted 2 days.  Thus, I know what its like to be a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand and its not a place where you’ll ever want to visit.  Heed the passage above to avoid the pain I endured.

by Jay Mankus

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