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Reflecting God’s Glory

In the final scene of Cast Away, Tom Hanks comes to a four way intersection, unsure of which way to go.  The lone survivor of a plane crash, everyone assumed Hanks character Chuck Noland was dead, moving on with their lives despite never finding his body.  Stuck on a remote island for a couple of years, Hanks had ample time to reflect upon his years on earth.  Like many individuals consumed by advancement, promotions and work, Hanks never took the time to appreciate life.  After listening to a sermon last Sunday morning, a spirit of conviction overwhelmed my soul.  Somewhere along the way, I have forgotten to reflect God’s glory.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

On a sunny day, you can see your reflection from a still body of water.  However, when windy conditions arise, this reflection disappears, broken by choppy waves.  Looking back on my last seven years, I haven’t experienced many calm days.  Yet, I have allowed busyness to distract me from what’s really important in life.  Instead of living for a higher purpose, I have regressed, defaulting back to survivor mode.  Rather than concentrating on glorying God, the only thing people see are my selfish desires, void of a servant’s heart.  This sad reality has awoken my soul from years of a spiritual slumber.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 5:14-16.

No one likes to be ridiculed, teased or persecuted.  Yet, Jesus told his followers to embrace these attacks.  Unfortunately, this harsh climate is causing some believers to deflect, hide from or minimize their relationship with God.  Jesus addressed this fear in the first century, providing instructions to be bold, shining God’s light wherever you go.  One of Jesus’ disciples takes a similar stance, 1 Peter 3:17-18, encouraging followers to not worry about suffering for doing good.  This suffering should be viewed as a badge of honor.  If you can reach this point of spiritual maturity, then the world will begin to see glimpses of God’s glory, a reflection of the love of Jesus inside your heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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We Found Each Other in the Dark

Tom Hanks plays the head cell block guard on death row in the 1999 film The Green Mile.  During his interactions with convicted murderers, one prisoner fits the physical description, but internally something is different.  Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, an intimidating man who possesses the gift of healing.  After witnessing 2 minor miracles, Tom Hanks convinces his entire staff to risk their jobs in order to save a woman dying from cancer.  James Cromwell, Hank’s boss in the film, is married to Patricia Clarkson who is on the verge of death.  After a powerful healing scene, Clarkson talks to Duncan revealing a dream she had during her ordeal with cancer.  This vision refers to finding each other in the dark.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 1:5-7.

The Bible uses the imagery of darkness to refer to moments or periods of time individuals are separated from God.  One of Jesus’ disciples associates being in God’s presence with fellowship.  As a personal eye witness to Jesus’ life on earth for 3 years, John testifies to the fact that Jesus was the real deal, full of love and light.  While most people flee from the lost, lonely and social outcasts, Jesus built his ministry around comforting, healing and waiting until desperate souls were touched by a miracle.  Jesus went into the darkness to help those unable to escape on their own.

But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him, John 11:10.

Human nature creates a curiosity within human hearts.  Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, even if you have been taught right from wrong, some won’t stop until they taste forbidden fruit.  For those who follow longings, lust and temptation into darkness, returning back where you came from isn’t as easy as it seems.  Enlightenment has a way of enticing people, creating a hunger for more.  Despite the presence of God’s light in small portions of this world, darkness seems to growing more and more by the day.  This expansion is causing many to stumble, stuck in darkness together.  May the light of Christ pierce through this darkness, John 1:5, so that those who unable to find their way out will be united once again into fellowship with God.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Fool’s Eyes

One of my favorite quotes from Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks is “stupid is as stupid does.”  Sometimes its easier to recognize stupidity rather than go into specific details.  A common synonym for stupid is foolish.  This label is earned when an ill-advised act, choice or word is made.

A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth, Proverbs 17:24.

According to King Solomon, fools tend to get distracted.  Instead of thinking before you act, the world provides ample temptations to lose your way.  While the discerning keep wisdom in sight, fools wander off the straight and narrow.  The longer an individual indulges in the pleasures in life, the hardest it becomes to leave this wayward road.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world, 1 John 2:16.

People don’t wake up and decide I’m going to do something foolish.  Rather, a series of compromises places souls on a path toward destruction.  The naive believe they will be able to turn back whenever they want.  Unfortunately, the fool’s eyes often wait until they are on verge on death before coming to their senses.  May those struggling at this moment heed the verses in scriptures above to escape a fool’s eyes before its too late.

by Jay Mankus

 

Watch Out for The Easy Way Out

One of the more teachable moments in Hollywood comes from a scene from A League of Their Own.  When the Rockford Peaches star catcher played by Gina Davis quits the team, manager Tom Hanks confronts her before driving home with her husband.  Davis’ excuse was that “it got too hard.”  Hank’s response, “It’s suppose to be hard, if it wasn’t everyone would play.”  Thus, whether you are an athlete or trying to make the best of this life, make sure you don’t take the easy way out.

I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense, Proverbs 7:7.

In the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to put my priorities in order,  Subsequently, my time reading the Bible, praying and working out has been pretty lame.  I could take the Gina Davis approach, claiming its just too hard to keep up with, perhaps taking a holiday from God.  On the other hand, each day without God brings me closer and closer to person in Proverbs 7:7, deteriorating what common sense that I still possess.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, Matthew 7:13.

In the famous poem known as Footprints, 2 sets of footprints become one while walking on the beach.  This imagery suggests that sometimes God carries us when we can’t go any further.  As you read this blog, maybe you’re exhausted, tired or ready to give up the fight.  Before you decide, make sure you don’t succumb to the easy way out.  Pray, show resolve and hang tough!

by Jay Mankus

 

A Few Wrong Notes

As a former alto saxophone player, it doesn’t take much to ruin a concert.  One wrong note, breathe or mistake can lead to humiliation.  However, sometimes a musician might deviate from the script, experimenting with a certain song or sound.  For Neil Young, a few wrong notes at a cafe in Ontario opened the door for this 18 year old aspiring artist.  As Paul Harvey famously stated, “and now you know the rest of the story.”

Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens, Psalm 150:1.

Hollywood’s version of a few wrong notes is illustrated by the Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do.  When Guy Patterson, a back up drummer called into action after the regular drummer breaks his arm, he speeds up the song with a faster, hipper tempo.  Subsequently, lead vocalist and song writer Jimmy Mattingly is forced to follow this beat.  When this version of the song That Thing You Do hits the air waves, the Wonders become an overnight sensation.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, Psalm 150:6.

In the book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis uses a piano analogy to introduce the Law of Human Nature.  Without knowledge of notes or reading a music sheet, chaos usually ensues.  However, when basic principles are introduced, people develop an ear for what’s right and wrong.  In this life, God has given every individual a conscience to guide us.  The more individuals become in tune with God, a few wrong notes are easily recognizable.  Unfortunately, for those who wander down the wrong path, justification and realization take over blinding people from the truth.  Before arrogance or pride take over, may the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the few wrong notes you are playing so your final song will end in eternity.

by Jay Mankus

Theories about Falling Apart

I grew up in the soft rock era as nearly every album contained a minimum of one ballet per side.  During the 1980’s, radio stations played the same 12-15 songs in a loop.  Except for all request lunch hours or evenings with Delilah, individuals waited in their cars, on their deck or listening to a stereo as depicted in Tom Hanks’ film That Thing You Do.  Groups like Air Supply sang about being lost without their significant other in All Out of Love.  However, when it comes to theories about falling apart, no one compares to the band Chicago.  While I loved their music, their songs are filled with break up lyrics, trying to recover from one broken relationship after another.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me, John 15:4.

Canadian Rock band Thousand Foot Krutch continues to expand upon theories about falling apart.  In their video of the song Falls Apart, TFK uses ropes like strings on a puppet.  The lyrics suggest that everything falls apart when they walk away from their girl.  However, beyond the obvious is a spiritual message.  Whenever a person of faith walks away from God, their life begins to slowly fall apart.  Like Bette Midler’s famous song, the Lord is the Wind Beneath Our Wings.  Thus, any type of absence, departure or period of prodigal journey will weaken the human soul.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:5.

In a private meeting with his disciples, Jesus gives one final theory about falling apart.  The Lord compares himself to a vine, the source of life.  God plays the role of a gardener, pruning those areas of life that are unproductive.  By staying connected through Bible Study, prayer and worship, spiritual nourishment is provided.  However, the moment you become disconnected, removing God from the equation, emptiness replaces the Giver of Life.  Therefore, if you feel like you’re on the verge of falling apart, tap into a higher power to rejuvenate a thirsty soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

Make My Heart Like Yours

Music can be similar to relationships.  The more open minded you are, the likelihood of you accepting and embracing someone or something increases.  Unfortunately, stereotypes about an artist, genre or musician cause individuals to give up on a certain sound after a few seconds of listening.  Subsequently, the careers of millions fail, far short of where they hoped, rejected before having a real shot to succeed.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Such is the case of Linda Elias, wife of Rick whose own career far surpassed hers.  Rick spent a decade as a member of Rich Mullins Ragamuffin band and his music was featured in the 1996 Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do.  As for Linda, following in the Belinda Carlisle genre, I thought her 1991 album The Meaning of Life would jump start her career.  However, in Christian music industry, unless you’re Amy Grant, you’re not going to get the attention you deserve.  As a result, you can’t find any of Linda’s songs on Pandora or You Tube.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Nonetheless, during my recent fast I have started listening to one hour of inspirational music a day.  While soaking in the lyrics to Make My Heart Like Yours, I was moved, touched by God.  This song is more like a prayer, wishing that one day our hearts will become more like Christ.  In this song, Linda confesses her failures and shortcomings.  Leaning on God’s grace, she yearns to be transformed.  As I am daily reminded of my own sins, I am eager, waiting for God to make my heart like his son’s, Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Linda’s album the Meaning of Life is available at Amazon.com for those willing to give a promising artist a chance.

 

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