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What Voices are You Listening To?

Movies are littered with famous lines from Hollywood actors and actresses. Amber Tamblyn played Joan Girardi in Joan of Arcadia, a teenage girl who suddenly has a special connection with God. To disguise this ability, creator Barbara Hall had Joan come down with Lyme Disease to rationalize the voices in her head. Subsequently, as season one ends, doctors chalk up Joan’s hallucinations as side affects of Lyme Disease.

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die, Genesis 3:1-3.

In season two, one of her brothers Kevin, played by Jason Ritter recalls Joan’ imaginary friend as a child. Forgetting this period of her life, as Joan puts two and two together, she realizes this still small voice was God the whole time. Unfortunately, talking to an invisible entity often results in being labeled as crazy by your peers. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise wanted to know the truth as do I so ask yourself, “what voices are you listening to?”

But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity. And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate, Genesis 3:4-6.

In the Garden of Eden, a snake begins to talk to Eve. Since Eve isn’t surprised by this talking snake, perhaps all animals could speak prior to the confusion at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Regardless of how, the passages above are similar to thoughts rushing through your head daily. As Christians learn to take their thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, you can start to figure out what voices you should listen to and those you need to rebuke and flee from.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Lose Your Edge to be Great

I was first introduced to the concept of losing your edge while watching the film Top Gun. The context of this expression occurs following an intense encounter with bogeys over the ocean. Cougar, the top pilot on the ship requests a private meeting with his Commanding Officer. Shaken up by this close call, Cougar lost his edge and then turns in his wings so he can return to be home with his newborn child. Cougar’s resignation opens the door for Maverick played by Tom Cruise to attend the Top Gun school with co-pilot Goose.

For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. 12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. 13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart, Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Sixteen years later, American rock band LCD Soundsystem released their single “Losing My Edge”. The lyrics of this song refer to younger kids, a new generation who are about to take your place. Whenever an individual loses their confidence, the swagger that individuals once possess quickly vanishes. However, if another person comes along out of nowhere to challenge your position, this should inspire you to greatness. If you lose your edge to be great, apathy and complacency will soon take its place.

And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will. 28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose, Romans 8:27-28.

In a first century letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul provides a message of hope for those of you filled with doubt. The difference between confidence and doubt is night and day. A confident golfer will put a tee in the ground, take a practice swing and drive a tee shot straight down the middle of a fairway. A golfer consumed with doubt will likely block a tee shot out of bound or snap hook it into a nearby hazard. When Christians start accepting, believing and claiming the promises in the Bible, an ordinary day is replaced by answered prayers and miracles. Therefore, whenever you lose your edge to be great, place your trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6, so that confidence can be regained.

by Jay Mankus

When a Conscience is Awakened

For a GPS to function, it must be connected to a satellite and fully charged by a power source. When one of these two variables is absent, these devices now part of every cell phone won’t operate. Meanwhile, a conscience is built into human beings, designed by God to serve as an internal means to guide souls. The book definition of conscience is a cognitive process that elicits emotion and rational associations based on an individual’s moral philosophy or value system. In order for a conscience to work properly, it has to be cared for, maintained, and fully charged by a sound mind and pure heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.

If you want to know what a conscience sounds like, listen to David’s words above. David’s conscience awoke immediately following being confronted by the prophet Nathan. To avoid any chances of a complete denial, the Lord gave Nathan an analogy, relaying this in a moving story found in 2 Samuel 12:1-7. This old Testament parable drove David to anger and rage, wanting the villain to pay for his wrong behavior. The moment Nathan proclaimed, “you are that man,” David’s conscience was awakened. Struck to the heart with guilt, David ‘s affair with Bathsheba and plot to kill her husband is exposed, laid bare for the world to see.

But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart, 1 Samuel 16:7.

The one scene from a Hollywood film that depicts a conscience that is awakened comes from Jerry McGuire. Playing a sports agent at the top firm in the nation, Tom Cruise visits one of his clients in the hospital. A professional hockey player who has experienced one too many concussions is hurt again. Instead of looking out for this man’s health, safety and well being, McGuire is focused on getting this NHL defensive stud his next contract. When the father’s son vehemently disagrees with Jerry’s greedy intentions, the screen writers describe this event as Jerry growing a conscience. Yet, this conscience was there the whole time. All a conscience needs is to be reborn and rejuvenated to start leading individuals to do the right thing daily.

by Jay Mankus

You Had Me at Hello

The expression “You had me at hello” comes from a classic scene from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The context of this saying by Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire begins early in this movie. Renee plays a little known secretary, Dorothy Boyd, observing from a distance the man who built a high powered sports agency firm where she works. When Cruise develops a conscience after talking to one of his client’s sons, this inspires a new mission statement. Unfortunately, this new philosophy results in Jerry’s firing. Upon his departure, Dorothy is the only employee who is willing to quit her job, joining Cruise to start a new sports agency. This loyalty causes Jerry to marry Dorothy before debt and failure results in their separation. When this failed business venture finally has it’s first break through, Cruise has no one to share this great news with. Thus, Jerry finds himself in the middle of a room filled with divorced women, hoping that he can salvage his marriage.

So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! – Luke 15:15-17

The Bible has it’s own version of you had me at hello. During a series of three parables, Luke illustrates how these analogies by Jesus illustrate how heaven celebrates individuals who turn back to God. The parable of Lost Sheep reveal how God searches after sheep, lost souls that go astray. The parable of the Lost Coin suggests that angels in heaven celebrate each time people make a U-turn back to God by repenting. The most famous example follows a younger brother who deserts his family, squandering his inheritance on wild living. When his money runs out, this prodigal is forced to become a slave at a pig farm, longing to eat the pods fed to the herd. From God’s perspective, when wayward souls come to their senses begging for forgiveness and mercy, the Lord embraces you at hello.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him, Luke 15:18-20.

No matter how far people stray from God today, it’s never too late to say hello. The prophet Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. When the Lord continues to urge you to tell Israel of bad news, it’s hard to remain positive. Yet, while writing the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah provides a glimpse of hope. Lamentations 3:19-24 contains the subtitle Hope in Relief of God’s Mercy. This passage unveils the biblical promise that God’s compassion never fails, new every morning. Therefore, whether this blog finds you in a state like Jerry Maguire, a wandering sheep or a prodigal that has gone over the deep end, the Lord is waiting for you with open arms. Luke’s depiction compares God to a retired senior citizen sitting on his front porch, waiting for his children to visit. As soon as you make that final turn back in the right direction, God the Father runs to meet you half way, welcoming you home.

by Jay Mankus

Starting to Believe

If you listen, follow or watch cable news on a regular basis, you might begin to believe that the world is falling apart.  A majority of these networks blame Donald Trump for the world’s demise.  Yet, when you spend time outside in the real world, current accusations don’t appear to be as bad as initially reported.  If the media outlet you depend upon isn’t telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, who and what should you believe?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

In the passage above, a man approaches Jesus like a disgruntled shopper, complaining about the service he received from a couple of the disciples.  Evidently, the disciples were unable to heal this man’s son possessed by an evil spirit.  This boy was often thrown into epileptic seizures, foaming at the mouth and unable to control his own body.  Jesus attributes this failed miracle to a lack of faith.  Desperate to see his son freed from this helpless state, the man pleads with Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

In the 1992 film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup who is called to testify in court about one of the marines under his command who was killed.  During a cross examination by Tom Cruise who plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee a Navy defense lawyer, a heated argument ensues.  Known as”You Can’t Handle the Truth,” this scene depicts the effort and struggle to unravel truth from fiction.  When forming a belief system, this process is just as difficult, sorting through what your church, education and parents have taught you.  Meanwhile, friends, mentors and professors may be pressuring your to confirm to post-modernism or secularism humanism beliefs.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

When you come to a spiritual crossroads, the best advice is to follow in the footsteps of Berea.  This first century church urged their members to test everything they heard before reaching a conclusion.  Fact checking practices entailed combing through the Bible to determine if ideas, new teaching or theories were consistent with what the apostles taught.  Sometimes information is easy to decipher while other pieces take weeks. months or possibly years to grasp.  During a letter to Thessalonica, Paul reminds the people he visited to abstain from evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Although you will never know all the answers to life’s questions, at some point you have to start believing.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Death of Professional Sports

In the 1996 film Jerry McGuire, Tom Cruise plays a hot shot sports agents who begins to develop a conscience.  When a defense men in the National Hockey League that he represents sustains another concussion, Cruise chooses money over his clients health.  Seeing right through this scheme, the son goes off on Jerry, setting the stage for conviction.  Unable to sleep with his guilt, McGuire has a vision which turns into a mission statement.  Unfortunately, this decision leads to his firing from the firm he practically built.  This mentality no longer exists just in Hollywood.  Rather, its a sign that the death of professional sports is near.

The way most leagues are run today, labor unions seek to get each player top dollar.  However, as salaries rise so do season ticket prices, parking and stadium concessions.  At some point, the annual income of fans will be tapped out; unable to commit to a full season.  Meanwhile, as stars continue to be insulted by excessive million dollar contracts not big enough for their ego, when will the masses begin to revolt?  Although I love watching sports on television, I see a day in the future when even I will tune out professional sports.

Back in its infancy, athletes worked jobs during the off-season as sports were more of a hobby with little pay.  This generation of stars played for the love of the game.  These pioneers made it possible for today’s athletes to flourish, earning more money than their wildest dreams.  Unfortunately, when individuals become bigger than life they lose touch with the middle class.  I try not to be negative, but if this current trend continues, it won’t be long before professional sports dies.

by Jay Mankus

 

Lost?

The hit series Lost ran for 6 seasons on ABC beginning in 2004.  When a plane crashes off a mystical island in the South Pacific, passengers hoping to arrive in Los Angeles are forced to struggle to survive.  While many are eager to find a way off this island, others are grateful to have a new leash on life.  Whenever anyone reaches a cross roads in life, you might wonder, “am I lost or merely in uncharted territories?”

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” – Luke 15:8

Though most people think getting lost is for those directionally challenged, there are two other possibilities.  In the film Top Gun, after Goose dies, Maverick played by Tom Cruise becomes mentally lost, unable to concentrate while trying to fly his fighter jet.  Meanwhile, if anyone has ever endured a painful childhood, you might suffer from soul spirit hurts like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, trying the understand why he was abused.

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him, Matthew 4:11.

Whether you are physically, mentally or spiritually lost, its essential to receive the support that you need.  After overcoming the Devil’s temptations, angels came to Jesus’ aid.  During a counseling session, Robin Williams playing the role of a psychologist lets Will know, “it’s not your fault.”  Finally, when everyone gave up on Maverick, his Flight Commander Viper provided the boost he needed to tarry on.  In the same way, all believers should extend a helping hand to anyone who looks or seems lost.

by Jay Mankus

 

Fulfilling My Duty

In the film 1992 drama A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise uses a unique defense to acquit his clients, two marines charged with murder.  Cruise convinces the jury members that these men were given an order, to perform a code red on a sub-standard private.  The defense claimed that Harold Dawson and Louden Downey are on trial for doing their job.  Beyond the realm of Hollywood, what does it mean to fulfill your duty today?

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day,” Acts 23:1.

Depending upon your calling, fulfilling your duty first begins as an individual.  What gifts or resources do you possess?  In the parable of the talents, the master goes away for an undisclosed amount of time, trusting his servants to be good stewards of what each was given.  Thus, God expects people to maximum their time and talent, seizing each day as a new opportunity to serve the Lord.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ – Matthew 25:23

In addition, you have to consider your role.  Are you a parent, spouse or teacher?  How are you influencing those around you?  Are you drawing people closer to God or do your actions serve as a stumbling block, causing children to question a life of faith.  If you’re like me, it becomes painfully obvious on a weekly daily that I have a long way to go.  Though I have days of being good and faithful, these are overshadowed by periods of disobedience, laziness and neglect.  Therefore, before Jesus returns make sure you get your house in order by fulfilling your duty to the Creator and Giver of Life.

by Jay Mankus

 

Lights of Order

Tom Cruise in Top Gun had a need for speed.  Sammy Hagar sings about not being able to follow the speed limit in “I can’t drive 55.”  You don’t have to be rich or famous to struggle to obey traffic laws.  While not every violator is caught, you may experience flashing sirens in your rear view mirror, yet I call them lights of order.

But all things should be done decently and in order, 1 Corinthians 14:40.

In the last several years, police have been tainted by a few bad cops.  Members of the liberal media have used this reputation to incite class warfare, igniting riots within St. Louis following the death of Michael Brown.  Although not every officer is a model citizen, tension exists within inner cities causing many to believe cops are the problem not the solution.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, 1 Corinthians 14:33a.

Despite this perception, its time to view law enforcement as ambassadors for order.  One of the major obstacles to this goal is the decline of morality.  As absolutes vanish, a mentality has conceived, leading people to do what’s right in their own minds.  Subsequently, America is reliving the mistakes of Israel, forgoing truth to justify actions.  Thus, the next time power goes out and lawlessness ensues, citizens will be reminded that while not perfect, police officers are lights of order.

by Jay Mankus

Cut To The Heart

King Solomon referred to the heart as the well spring of life.  His father David developed a reputation of having a heart for God.  The martyr Stephen wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers calling religious leaders rigid, stubborn and possessing uncircumcised hearts.  Over the course of one’s life, individuals may run from the truth for a while.  Yet, conviction, guilt or a simple word will eventually cut to the heart.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”- Acts 2:37

One of the most famous movie lines in pop culture comes from A Few Good Men.  Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup called by the defense in a death of a marine under his command.  Tom Cruise is Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee trying to prod the Colonel to admit he ordered a code red while under direct examination.  Fed up by a series of trivial questions, Nicholson pontificates with the classic phrase “you can’t handle the truth!”

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!- Acts 7:51

I think the reason why this scene and line is so often quoted relates to the impact truth has on the human heart.  Despite how hard someone may try to cover up a lie, God gave human beings a conscience to cut to their hearts.  Thus, when you’re misguided or in the wrong, truth has a way of softening up the heart.  Therefore, the next time you are humbled, use this teachable moment to let the Holy Spirit come in to transform your hurting heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

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