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Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Long Road to Hope

The long road to hope begins with suffering.  Following the aftermath of original sin detailed in Genesis 3, a cursed was placed on this earth.  God’s creation of His perfect world was ruined, leading to a life of disappointment, frustration and suffering.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Romans 8:3.

Despite the pain often inflicted, individuals have something to look forward to the longer you walk down this road.  While your ego and pride may take a beating, glimmers of hope surface along the way.  Thus, when the sun breaks through the clouds, maturity is not that far away.

Perseverance, character; and character, hope, Romans 8:4.

If you hang in there long enough, a sense of hope comes into focus.  Beyond whatever self pity remains, God’s love still shines, radiating day after day.  When you don’t have the strength to take another step, a spirit is sent by your side to lead you to the end of this road.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, Romans 5:5.

The best way to describe God is like the scene in the Wizard of Oz.  Dorothy and her friends have been poisoned by a wicked witch, causing each to drift off to sleep, suddenly halting their journey.  Yet, snow is sent to awaken everyone so that they reach their final destination.  The Holy Spirit plays a similar role, the invisible force to help us persevere on the long road to hope.

by Jay Mankus

 

Rules Without Reason

As a former high school teacher, I spent ten years hearing teenagers complain about rules without reason.  While students enjoy testing a teacher’s limits, pushing the envelope as far as possible, these complaints aren’t without merit.  Sometimes I established rules that didn’t make sense.  Following a methods course in Classroom Dynamics, I began to see the error of my way.  Thus, I started to alter, change and eliminate any rules without reason.

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? – Luke 14:28

Unfortunately, the government not only thrives on creating rules without reason, new legislation often provides positions to enforce these new policies.   While cell phone and texting laws are practical, some states have made it illegal to eat and drive.  In fact if you want a big gulp from 7 Eleven, local officials are trying to prevent individuals from purchasing anything over 24 ounces.  It’s no wonder that Frank Baum wrote the Wizard of Oz to illustrate the empty promises made by the United States government.  Perhaps, a candidate in 2016 will run on the platform of ending rules without reason.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God, Romans 13:1.

The government is not the only culprit, as the church is not far behind, relying on theology written several hundred or in some cases thousands of years ago.  In an attempt to force a congregation to adhere to a denominations’ beliefs, teetotalism can surface.  This stringent enforcement contradicts free will, resulting in members feeling like they have the power to police others in the church.  Perhaps, its time to exchange religion for a personal relationship with God.  In doing so, the grace of God will flow as rules without reason are replaced with faith.

by Jay Mankus

Back to the Way Things Were

The Wizard of Oz is an American classic, airing annually on several networks.  While the characters on screen became bigger than life, the symbolism behind this film still exists.  The Wizard of Oz is compared to the United States government, promising the world, but rarely upholding their end of the bargain.  Thus, whether its health care, jobs or social security, many individuals are being let down, disappointed by politician after politician.

But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers, Acts 14:2.

Today, the media is trying to protect the great wizard of Oz, poisoning the minds of Americans who dare to question those in power.  Like the character on film hiding behind the veiled curtain, cameras are trying to convey a different picture than reality.  Assaulting the character of individuals, demonizing their beliefs and portraying an exaggerated point of view is all part of the daily charade known of liberal talking points.  However, America is still waiting for the next Dorothy to expose those hiding behind this facade.

Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them, Acts 14:15.

During the first century, Paul and Barnabas tried to enlighten the Jews about God.  Fearful of these men, religious leaders began to spread lies, hoping to keep members of their synagogues from converting to Christianity.  Unfortunately, these practices still exist as jealousy is causing modern leaders to confuse those on the verge of conversion.  Perhaps, this is why Paul encouraged his followers to test everything, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 so that minds don’t become poisoned by false and inaccurate teaching.  Now that Christmas is over don’t go back to way things were.  Rather, embrace the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, so that the circumstances of life doesn’t bring you down.

by Jay Mankus

Now I’ve Seen Everything

During the Clinton Administration, 1993-2001, America citizens were less intrusive.  When rumors of affairs, murmurs of  sexual misconduct and witnesses of past improprieties began to come forward, many people protested, claiming the president has a right to his own privacy.  The talking points in the media were clear, “as long as you work hard, give your all each day, everyone, including the president of the United States has the freedom to do what they want on their own time.”  As Dorothy proclaimed to her dog Toto upon landing in Oz, “we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore!”

This is how I felt last night while driving home from work when I heard the news Adrian Peterson, star running back for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings was arrested for spanking his child.  After one of his children pushed another out of the way while playing on a swing seat, Peterson choose to discipline his son, following in the footsteps of his parents.  Maybe he got carried away, but Adrian was simply trying to practice a biblical principle, Proverbs 22:6.  Surely, the state of Texas would understand this?  At least in the past they did, yet not now and not today in this culture of chaos.

If Adrian is guilty, then maybe the authorities need to go after the founders of Scared Straight and Beyond Scared Straight?  I’m kidding!  Remember when you could tell a joke, say something funny or sarcastic and not have to worry about the social police from shutting you down.  Anyway, my point is that spanking is a form of scared straight, associating pain with punishment.  My father used a paddle with a steel insert from his college fraternity.  As a former college football player, sure my butt was paddled a few times, yet I was a quick learner, acknowledging the importance of honoring your father and mother.  I’m not sure what’s next nor can I recommend a clear cut solution.  Nonetheless, now that I’ve seen everything, I sense Jesus’ return is closer than its ever been before.

by Jay Mankus

 

Rocky Road

On the way to see the wizard, Dorothy, Toto and the cast of misfits she picked up on the way to Oz didn’t always have a smooth journey.  The scarecrow, tinman and lion all had major flaws, but the company they provided on the yellow brick road was worth the risk.  Alone, Dorothy would have not been able to overcome the rocky road that the wicked witch brought forth.  Together, working as a team this motley crew, defeated the enemy, setting the witches servants free.

In life, I wish you could travel from point A to point B without any obstacles.  However, each day has its own set of detours, pot holes and road blocks.  One day you have a teaching job, the next day you don’t.  Others have seen marriage vanish before their eyes.  Meanwhile,  accidents, tragedy and illness ends the life of some way too soon.  Essentially, life is a rocky road with twists and turns that no one other than God can foresee.

Subsequently, the Bible warns its readers of the nightmares that greet individuals, James 1:2-4.  Although some suffer more than others, trials come in various shape and sizes.  Perhaps, as unfortunate events enter one’s life, faith and trust increases, forcing believers to climb, crawl or walk along a narrowing path, Matthew 7:14.  Looking back over the past 5 years, I thank God for the rocky road that I’ve endured.  As a disciple once said, “sometimes you have to go through fire to be refined for future endeavors,” 1 Peter 1:6-7.  May the rocky roads that you’ve encountered prepare you for future blessings in God’s time, Ecclesiastes 3:11

by Jay Mankus

The Wizard of Ur

On August 25th, 1939 the Wizard of Oz opened in theaters across the United States of America.  This film is based upon the 1900 children’s book written by Frank Baum.  The wizard in this classic flick is portrayed like a modern day politician, promising the world, but unable to deliver anything.  Dwelling in his palace, the Wizard of Oz was haughty, too good for the average citizen, deceiving his people to support his luxurious lifestyle.

In Genesis 12:1, the Wizard of all wizards, introduces himself to a man from Ur.  Before physically building a kingdom, this wizard promises Abram a great nation, full of his offspring.  The only problem with this amazing offer is that the person on the receiving end was elderly and his wife barren.  Without any ruby slippers or good witches to make this couples’ dream come true, the power of God’s divine intervention changed the course of history.

Several hundred years later, this promised land was within reach for Abraham’s descendents.  The only thing standing in their way was a desert and a deserted faith, putting God’s plan on hold temporarily.  At this crossroads, God appears like the Great Wizard in Exodus 20:18-21.  These verses incite fear, prompting the cowards to run away and hide.  Yet, in the end, God has prepared a place, beyond the rainbow, John 14:2-3.  This paradise is not limited to the Jews; rather its for all who believe, John 20:30-31.  May the Holy Spirit make your eternal wishes come true, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

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