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Surrounded by Trouble

The older you become, the degree of trouble often intensifies. As a child, you may get your hand caught in the cookie jar. As adolescence arrives, someone in your neighborhood may catch you drinking, smoking or cursing out loud. If you are fortunate enough to attend college, you may choose to skip some classes or get involved into an inappropriate relationship. Like his 1989 song, Michael W. Smith claims that we are always living and learning, shaped by the trouble that surrounds us.

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.

When your future is in jeopardy, trouble is fueled by anxiety, concern, and fear. The context of the passage above occurs during the Passion Week, sometime after Palm Sunday and before Jesus’ arrest. John 14 begins immediately after Jesus predicts his future death in John 13:38. Apparently, Jesus saw panic in his disciples eyes or sensed a spirit of hopelessness. Therefore, when your heart is troubled, believe and trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6.

Casting the ]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[n fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:7-9.

In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples suggests that trouble can be inflicted by invisible spiritual forces. Peter uses the analogy of a predator seeking out a weak or wounded prey, waiting for the right time to go in for the kill. Perhaps, Peter is eluding to the time he caved to peer pressure by denying to know Jesus three times in public. Sinful human beings will never escape trouble. However, as individuals learn to grow and mature, look for the way out of any temptation before all hope is lost, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Ready or Not Here I Come

Despite being over 50, I still have fond memories of my childhood. After my father was transferred from New Jersey to Wilmington, I’ve spent most of my life living in the state of Delaware. As a child, Jeanette’s house became the meeting place for neighborhood kids. Summers were spent playing board and video games during the day. At dusk, it was time for Hide and Go Seek, lasting until our curfews. If you were it, you would count to 100 before yelling, “ready or not, here I come.”

But what does it matter, so long as either way, whether in pretense [for personal ends] or in all honesty [for the furtherance of the Truth], Christ is being proclaimed? And in that I [now] rejoice, yes, and I shall rejoice [hereafter] also. 19 For I am well assured and indeed know that through your prayers and a bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) this will turn out for my preservation (for the spiritual health and welfare of my own soul) and avail toward the saving work of the Gospel, Philippians 1:18-19.

The apostle Paul uses a similar expression in his letter to the Church at Philippi. Instead of referring to a childhood game, Paul talks about one’s willingness to face death. Upon receiving tragic news, one man has a vision of what will happen after he dies, Job 1:20-21. This harsh reality comes as Job mourns following the death of his children. If Job wasn’t ready for death prior to this tragedy, he came to accept his future fate.

This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death. 21 For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity], Philippians 1:20-21.

The apostle Paul puts his own spin on Job’s realization. While writing to one of the churches that he helped plant, Paul introduces believers to upward thinking. Instead of fearing death, Christians should embrace it by placing their trust solely in Jesus. As fear of death begins to fade, committed followers can truly say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Since life is like a blimp on a radar screen, James 4:14-15, ready or not, here I come.

by Jay Mankus

Keeping the Faith

Faith is derived from the Latin term fides meaning confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. Personal beliefs, convictions, and expectations add to someone’s faith. During his closing remarks in a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul brings up an overlooked aspect of faith. Referring to a spiritual element, faith is not only conceived but Christians must remain part of it.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Perhaps, Paul learned this from one of Jesus’ disciples. In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus uses his own personal experience. Apparently, many first century Christian began turning their faith on and off like a light switch. When faith becomes dormant, it’s a sign that you have become disconnected from God. This trend suggests that your heart and mind is being controlled by your flesh, not God’s Spirit, Romans 8:5.

What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:14-17.

When the apostle Paul commands followers “to keep the trust and holy fervor,” he is reminding believers that faith and deeds go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Based upon first century historians, James did not believe that his brother Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until the resurrection when James came to faith. Since life on earth is like a marathon, keeping the faith consists of abiding in and acting upon your love for Jesus Christ. May this blog inspire you to keep your faith active.

by Jay Mankus

A Secret Truth

Mysteries tend to involve something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. Most children begin their lives stress free, trusting in their parents to provide for their needs. Depending upon their degree of maturity, parents tend to shield their young ones from the dangers of this world. Yet, according to the apostle Paul, human beings can not become partakers of eternal salvation based upon their own merit.

But I tell you this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot [become partakers of eternal salvation and] inherit or share in the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (that which is decaying) inherit or share in the imperishable (the immortal), 1 Corinthians 15:50.

Following this warning to members at the Church of Corinth, Paul transitions toward a special mystery. Apparently, this secret truth was decreed by the counsel of God. This event is linked to the crucifixion of Jesus, allowed to continue despite Jesus’ innocence for a hidden purpose. This secret truth in unveiled at the end of chapter 15 of Paul’s letter. The sting of death was removed through resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed), 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Jesus spoke of this mystery during a late night conversation with a Pharisee, John 3:1-5. The concept of being born again didn’t make sense to Nicodemus despite his vast religious knowledge. After making a sarcastic comment, Nicodemus shuts up, intrigued by the words of John 3:16-17. Based upon the actions and words within John 7:50-52 and John 19:38-42, Nicodemus put his faith and trust in Jesus. To those of you who are still left in the dark, Romans 10:8-11 unlocks this secret truth.

by Jay Mankus

When You Reach the Top… There’s Nothing There

Shortly after the great flood depicted in Genesis 7:11-12, a new mindset began to form. Despite hitting the reset button, God could not prevent mankind from developing a desire to reach the heavens. Thus, like minded individuals began to congregate in the city of Babel. This idea inspired the construction of a great tower, seeking to reach the top of the world. Unfortunately, before this project was completed, a spirit of confusion was poured out upon Babel.

And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth. 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them, Genesis 11:4-6.

Several thousands years later, order was restored on the Day of Pentecost. My initial question to this spiritual phenomena is why. Moses suggests that God was afraid that a united mankind could physically reach the heavens, making it to the top. Perhaps, an absence of trust and faith separated human beings from their true purpose on earth. Thus, Jesus’ ascension into heaven opens the door for an invisible presence to be introduced. To fulfill his promise in John 16:13, the Holy Spirit is unleashed in the middle of the first century.

And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, 2 When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words]. 5 Now there were then residing in Jerusalem Jews, devout and God-fearing men from every country under heaven. 6 And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together and they were astonished and bewildered, because each one heard them [the apostles] speaking in his own [particular] dialect, Acts 2:1-6.

When you ask world class athlete’s, business leaders and entrepreneurs about what it feels like to actually reach the top, considered the best in the world, responses are mixed. Some use this as an opportunity to retire on top. Others seek to become part of a destiny, hungry to set more records and reach new heights. However, many are filled with an emptiness as if to say, “is that it.” When accomplishments don’t fulfill the void in your heart, Jesus provides a spiritual alternative, John 10:10. May this season of Easter inspire you to replace your emptiness with purpose and meaning via faith.

by Jay Mankus

Reality Check

Reality is the state of things in the world as they actually exist. Reality includes the aggregate or sum of all that is real or existent within a system. This term is opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of what people hope for and want. Reality checks serve as a wake up call, an uneasy reminder of the obstacles that you must face and overcome. As Coronavirus cases grow, intensify and spread, returning to a normal life seems so far away.

So see to it that you do not reject Him or refuse to listen to and heed Him Who is speaking [to you now]. For if they [the Israelites] did not escape when they refused to listen and heed Him Who warned and divinely instructed them [here] on earth [revealing with heavenly warnings His will], how much less shall we escape if we reject and turn our backs on Him Who cautions and admonishes [us] from heaven? – Hebrews 12:25

In the passage above and below, the author brings up the topic of escaping God’s wrath. This section is introduced with an open ended question. How can you escape God’s wrath while turning your back on the creator of heaven? Going back in time, Moses’ encounter with God at Mount Sinai is revisited. When your life or the world has been shaken, who do you trust? How do you react, respond or what steps do you take to recover?

Then [at Mount Sinai] His voice shook the earth, but now He has given a promise: Yet once more I will shake and make tremble not only the earth but also the [starry] heavens. 27 Now this expression, Yet once more, indicates the final removal and transformation of all [that can be] shaken—that is, of that which has been created—in order that what cannot be shaken may remain and continue. 28 Let us therefore, receiving a kingdom that is firm and stable and cannot be shaken, offer to God pleasing service and acceptable worship, with modesty and pious care and godly fear and awe; Hebrews 12:26-28.

There are numerous plagues mentioned throughout the Old Testament. Some were curses placed upon enemies of Israel. Other outbreaks were linked to disobedience as individuals began to do what was right in their own eyes. If modern day was part of biblical times, the Coronavirus would definitely be mentioned. However, you can’t live your life in fear. At some point you need to place your faith in a higher power or you will be consumed and paralyzed by fear. Therefore, may COVID-19 serve as a reality check, a reference point to get your life and faith in order.

by Jay Mankus

I Don’t Believe What You Believe

After writing for a couple of hours, I began channel surfing to pass some time. Thirty seconds later, I stumbled upon the early stages of Footloose. As a former teacher, the idea of a senior boy standing up for his beliefs appeals to me. One of my favorite scenes from this film occurs later on when a rebellious preacher’s daughter has a heart to heart talk with her father. Lori Singer plays Ariel who opens up about a belief system which differs her dad, Reverend Shaw played by John Lithgow.

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.

When Singer shares that “I don’t believe what you believe,” I am reminded of a former student. Jennifer was an atheist forced to attend a Christian school by her parents. What made this situation worse, her parents turned out to be hypocrites, following the motto ” do as I say, not as I do.” Initially, there was tension between Jennifer and I, often leading to heated debates. However, as time passed, I accepted Jennifer for where she was spiritually, sharing the love of Jesus whenever I could.

Jesus said to him, Because you have seen Me, Thomas, do you now believe (trust, have faith)? Blessed and happy and to be envied are those who have never seen Me and yet have believed and adhered to and trusted and relied on Me, John 20:29.

In this day and age, politics and religion are two of the most divisive topics in America. If you don’t hold or share a similar view of the media in these areas, expect criticism. Anyone who dares to think differently, get’s out of line or speaks out will be labeled as controversial, dangerous and unsafe. It’s too bad that most adults can’t come to their senses by being willing to accept what others believe. Perhaps, the words of Jesus above may permeate hearts so that love will lead to accepting what others believe until faith is conceived.

by Jay Mankus

Force or Faith?

My son Daniel and I spent the last 4 days visiting a couple of Christian colleges before his cross country season begins. The goal of this trip was to ascertain what atmosphere, climate and setting Daniel would feel most comfortable attending. To avoid embarrassing any of these schools, one institution is in South Carolina and the other in Tennessee. After taking the official tour, meeting with advisors and visiting with coaches, it was easy to compare and contrast the pros and cons.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding, Proverbs 3:5.

When you spend over 1,800 miles in a car together, there is plenty of time to evaluate what you like and dislike. One university was more restrictive, forcing students to follow a rigid set of rules. The other school of higher education encourages students toward taking the narrow road, Matthew 7:13-14. Instead of being forced to do this or that, free will in cooperation with discernment is applied to guide individuals to follow God’s will.

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way], Proverbs 3:6.

While each school has some attractive assets and benefits, most people prefer being given a chance to be trusted. Although this philosophy of education opens the door for embarrassment, failure and potential expulsion, forcing teenagers to do something tends to result in rebellion. Since young people are unique, certain schools aren’t for everyone. Thus, as teenagers become adults, you have to decide do I need to be forced to obey or find an environment where faith is a personal choice?

by Jay Mankus

When Jesus Wants Your Lunch

Just prior to one of the most memorable miracles in the Bible, Jesus makes an unusual request. Testing the faith of Philip, Jesus asks his disciple to take an inventory of what food was on hand. As the crowds approached 5,000 men, excluding women and children, the disciples began to panic, urging Jesus to send the people home. Instead, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish are taken from a little boy, requesting this lunch to be shared with the others.

“There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down [to eat].” Now [the ground] there was [covered with] an abundance of grass, so the men sat down, about 5,000 in number, John 6:9-10.

Perhaps, Jesus is trying to teach this boy a valuable life lesson. Until you are willing to give, you won’t receive the blessing that God has in store for you. Jesus took that which was offered, 5 loaves and 2 fish and blessed it. Whether everyone closed their eyes during this prayer or not, some how this offering miraculously multiplied filling the stomachs of several thousand people.

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated; the same also with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they had eaten enough, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and they filled twelve large baskets with pieces from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten, John 6:11-13.

An Old Testament prophet refers to robbing God in Malachi 3:8-12 by not offering a tithe in faith. This biblical terms eludes to the feeding of the 5000. Most boys aren’t going to share a big lunch with a crowd of strangers. Yet. as individuals learn to trust God to replace what they have freely given with the storehouses from heaven, miracles are unleashed. This blog is a prime example that the next time Jesus wants your lunch, be confident that the Lord will provide.

by Jay Mankus

Remember or Forget

The book of Deuteronomy serves as a repetition of God’s laws.  Essentially Deuteronomy is a second statement of Mosaic Law.  The need for human beings to remember suggests that individuals tend to forget.  Thus, Moses is inspired by God to repeat what was written in previous books to highlight what God fearing Jews should remember and obey.

God fed you manna in the wilderness, [a substance] which your fathers did not know, so that He might humble you [by dependence on Him] and that He might test you, to do good [things] for you at the end. 17 Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth, Deuteronomy 8:16-17. 

Chapter 8 serves as a brief summary of God’s faithfulness to his people while in the wilderness.  When the people were hungry, manna from heaven appeared to eat.  After individuals became tired of bread, the Lord sent quail as well to eat.  However, murmurs began to spread among the camp that some hearts were considering to trust in their own strength rather than rely solely on God.  This led Moses to draw a line in the sand, “it’s your choice to remember or forget.”

18 But you shall remember [with profound respect] the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore (solemnly promised) to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will most certainly perish, Deuteronomy 8:18-19.

Each decision that you make has eternal consequences.  Remembering God through obedience results in blessings, seen and unseen.  On the other hand, those who slowly forget God will be punished via a series of curses meant to drive you back into the merciful hands of God.  Unfortunately, the longer you forget God, the harder it becomes to return.  For those who do, the spiritual baggage accrued takes months and even years to sort through.  In view of this, save yourself the heartache by remembering and obeying God’s Word daily.

by Jay Mankus

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