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Suffer Now or Suffer Later

Suffer is defined as an experience where you are being subjected to something bad or unpleasant. Affliction, distress, grief, misery, pain, sadness and trauma are byproducts of suffering. While the Bible contains numerous accounts of suffering, the story of Job is unfathomable. Messenger after messenger brought Job news of disaster and tragedy, Job 1:15-19. Raids, a natural disaster and war took away all of his animals and killed his children. A chapter later, God allows Satan to attack Job’s health, filled with boils, similar to an extreme reaction to poison ivy. Despite an urging from his wife, Job did not blame or curse God for his suffering.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The apostle Paul provides a biblical perspective of suffering in the passage above. While celebrating hardship is the last thing on my mind, Paul attempts to help his readers see the big picture. Suffering for doing the right thing, standing up for the right causes or walking with Jesus is like earning a spiritual merit badge. Meanwhile, even if you endure unexplained tribulations, the process of suffering builds character, endurance and maturity according to Jesus’ earthly brother, James 1:2-4. Thus, suffering now is better than suffering later in hell. Developing this biblical mindset toward suffering will bring a new perspective.

And the beast was seized and overpowered, and with him the false prophet who in his presence had worked wonders and performed miracles by which he led astray those who had accepted or permitted to be placed upon them the stamp (mark) of the beast and those who paid homage and gave divine honors to his statue. Both of them were hurled alive into the fiery lake that burns and blazes with brimstone, Revelation 19:20. Then the devil who had led them astray [deceiving and seducing them] was hurled into the fiery lake of burning brimstone, where the beast and false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (through the ages of the ages), Revelation 20:10.

In the passages above, John shares vivid details of visions of what hell will be like. Revelation 19 suggests that enemies of God will be hurled into a lake of fire alive. The imagery of this suffering is consistent with the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The wealthy man complains of torment, begging to dip his tongue in cool water. Despite being on fire, death does not occur, resulting in continuous suffering. Meanwhile, Revelation 20 takes this one step further, suffering and torment will occur day after day for ages and ages. After hearing a recent sermon on this topic, I am more convinced than ever to suffer now rather than suffer for eternity.

by Jay Mankus

When God Has to Repeat Himself

When I was a child, I rarely came to the dinner table the first time my mother called me.  Distracted by what I was doing at the time, I ignored the first warning.  The second call to come to the kitchen was louder, less pleasant and with a threatening tone.  This usually got my attention, but if I was fixated on a game,  I waited for the final warning.  As soon as I heard my full name, I knew I was in trouble, running as fast as I could to avoid future punishment.

This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven.17 Now Peter was still perplexed and completely at a loss as to what his vision could mean when the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon’s house, arrived at the gate, Acts 10:16-17.

When God seeks to get your attention, the Lord tends to be more patient.  Sometimes God will allow you to day dream about a specific act that He wants you to do.  If overlooked, God may speak to you through a passage in the Bible to further motivate you to act.  If this inspiration fades without any action, angels, visions or visitors may to sent to usher in acts of faith.  In the account above and below, Peter was stubborn, clinging to his former beliefs.  Like watching a rerun for the third time, Peter finally embraces God’s new message.

I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘Not at all, Lord; for nothing common (unholy) or [ceremonially] unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).’ 10 This happened three times, and everything was drawn up again into heaven, Acts 11:7-10.

The apostle Paul writes about offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  When your heart and mind are fixated on Jesus, you won’t need to have God repeat himself over and over again.  According to Paul, staying in tune with God is like being in a state of worship, staying on key.  As individuals renew their minds through studying the Bible, ascertaining God’s will for your life become an obtainable goal.  Thus, if you’re tired of being left in the dark spiritually, unsure of where to go or what to do, focus on godly values and ethical attitudes to guide your steps.

by Jay Mankus

Is it Worth the Sleepless Nights?

I have a tendency to dream big, develop amazing visions that only someone who is rich and famous should possess.  Yet, I press on, taking a leap of faith, trying to maximize my time, pushing my God given talents to the limit, hoping that I will taste success one day soon.  However, a part of me still wonders, “is it worth the sleepless nights?”

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear, Ecclesiastes 5:7.

According to one of the wisest to ever walk the face of the earth, dreaming is something you should be weary of.  I’m assuming Solomon is referring to those individuals focusing on a life outside of God’s will in the passage above.  Ultimately, God is whom you should fear.  Nonetheless, my greatest fear is living an entire life without using the unique gifts God has blessed me with.  Therefore, I will continue to endure sleepless nights until I find my place in this world.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future, Jeremiah 29:11.

While some my think I’m nuts, I believe God allowed me to lose my teaching position so that I could begin to write movie scripts.  Five years later, I have completed three films, the last in record time, less than 11 months.  I’m not sure why I have received visions on a trilogy about the Devil’s invisible attacks on mankind, but I know I need to be faithful to this calling.  Where this leads me, only God knows.  For now, its off to the editing process and copy righting, before sending this script off to Hollywood.  Perhaps, this year is the one that will put me on the map.  If not, the only thing standing in my way of success is another sleepless night.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

When the Holy Spirit Intercedes

There are certain events, occurrences or things that can’t be explained by science.  When the best, brightest and wisest cannot make sense of a situation, the Bible provides clues to the supernatural.  Sometimes the answer to these questions is simply the Holy Spirit interceded.

There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work, 1 Corinthians 12:6.

The apostle Paul lived a life like the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities.  The first half of his life was steeped in religious tradition, persecuting early Christians.  Following an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, a brief period of blindness caused Saul to contemplate the meaning of life.  After a transitional period, trying to comprehend what was happening to him, I guess you can say during this trip, the Holy Spirit intervened.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:7.

Modern Christians have testified to experiencing conversations where they have blacked out.  Although these individuals never collapsed, the Holy Spirit spoke through them.  However, in a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul refers to other manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  These include discernment, dreams, faith, intercession, insight, wisdom and visions.  While nobody knows to whom or when this supernatural event will occur again, yet when the Holy Spirit intercedes it is for the common good of the church.

by Jay Mankus

A Sixth Sense

Prior to 1999, the sense of taste, touch, sight, smell and feel were the major focus of scientists.  However, following the release of the Sixth Sense featuring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, elements of the supernatural have come to light.  Child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crow, played by Willis, fails to help a patient, discounting the voices he heard.  Thus, when he is hired to help Cole Sear, played by Joel, each discover the reality of a sixth sense.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake, 1 Kings 19:11.

The prophet Elijah is one of the first to uncover a spiritual sixth sense.  Following an encounter with an angel, Elijah goes up on a mountainside waiting to hear a message God.  Like a science experiment, the Lord sends a series of natural phenomena: earthquake, wild fire and tornado.  Forced to sort through these events, Elijah came to the conclusion that God was not behind these three natural disasters.  Using discernment, Elijah waits patiently, eventually being rewarded by hearing God’s whisper.

After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper, 1 Kings 19:12.

While I do not consider myself to be a prophet, I can relate to Cole from a spiritual sense.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I read the Bible, enlightened by a new truth that is revealed.  Occasionally, I may have a dream, vision or sense things either during or after praying.  Yet, the moment I unplug from the Bible, prayer and worship, my sense of discernment disappears.  Therefore, if you want to draw near to God, stay connected to the vine, John 15:5 and you too will discover a spiritual sixth sense.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Original Food Bank

I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance, Mark 8:2-3.

The concept of a food bank can be traced back to the days of Pharaoh under the leadership of Joseph.  Serving as the Secretary of Agriculture and blessed with visions of a coming drought, Joseph rose to second in command of Egypt developing a surplus of food to prepare for seven years of famine.  Humanitarians of the past inspired the creation of the world’s first food bank in 1967, founded in the United States and now there are several throughout the globe.

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them? “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, Mark 8:4-5.

However, there is one person who can be credited as the original food bank.  Jesus was constantly observant of others, thinking of their well being.  This mentality motivated Jesus to get his twelve disciples involved in this process.  Like any selfish person, they wanted to pass the buck, letting someone else provide assistance.  Pressing the issue, Jesus asked a simple question, “what do you have to give?”

The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over, Mark 8:8.

Today, countless needy people exist wherever you may live.  Unfortunately, most that possess the means don’t have the ambition, drive and time to reach out to souls who are hungry and thirsty.  I’m just as guilty as the next person, distracted by my own wants and needs.  Despite this reality, we all have something give.  Therefore, the next time you have some spare change, time or resources to share, follow in the footsteps of Jesus who is the original food bank.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Memorial Day Offering

Like a feud between siblings, the origin of the first Memorial Day celebration is clouded by history, with over 25 American cities taking credit.  The initial holiday was coined Decoration Day, based upon a 1867 hymn Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping.  Inspired by the end of the Civil War, ladies of the South decorated the graves of dead confederate soldiers.  Although president Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, the debate continues today as several cities had spontaneous celebrations back in the 1860’s.

Acts 10:4 introduces another memorial day, one with a spiritual background.  Legalism within the Jewish faith had exploded by the first century, creating social barriers between Jews, Gentiles and half-Jews due to inter marriage.  Like a leper, outcast by society, Gentiles were not initially accepted by the 12 apostles, who focused on reaching all the Jews within Jerusalem, Acts 1:8.  However, the persecution led by Saul caused early church leaders to shift directions in Acts 8:1-4 toward believers located in Judea and Samaria.  When the time had arrived, the prayers of a Gentile named Cornelius were answered.

An angel of the Lord came to Cornelius in a vision one afternoon, Acts 10:3.  While silent for years, God brings him great news.  Cornelius’ prayers and gifts to the poor have not been overlooked, brought to light in a memorial offering.  The final touch is communicated to Peter in a vision found in Acts 10:9-16.  This occurred so that legalism of Jewish Christians would be broken, lifted to welcome any Gentile into the kingdom of God.  Since Jesus died once and for all for all sin, 1 Peter 3:18, as a memorial offering for mankind, God’s goal was to eliminate cliches, factions and social barriers within the church, Colossians 2:20-23.  In view of this, don’t let holiday shopping, weather or worldly ways keep you from offering up a Memorial Day prayer!

by Jay Mankus

The Not-So Ultimate Gift

One of my favorite movies of the last decade is The Ultimate Gift based upon Jim Stovall’s best selling book.  Completed in 2006, this movie centers around Jason Stevens, a pampered rich kid who never had to work a day in his life.  When his grandfather, Red Stevens dies, he is left with a series of 12 tasks called gifts.  Thinking riches are attached, Jason slowly begins to develop motivation to complete these assignments.  What Jason doesn’t realize, this wild goose chase ends up transforming his life from a spoiled brat into a responsible, self reliant man.

Unfortunately, I think I am living out this movie without any cameras, riches or progress.  My first assignment is the gift of unemployment which was bestowed upon me last February.  Inspired to complete a movie God placed in my mind, I spent hundreds of hours, often burning the midnight hour to finish a 90 page script.  A few temporary jobs later, rejection letters galore and daily road blocks, I am back where I started, faced with editing my script, redoing my resume and finding a permanent job.  Like the boy that cried wolf, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, each day I experience is a not so ultimate gift.

The only thought I can grasp is that maybe all the strange circumstances I have encountered will make a great book one day like Bill Murray’s cross country trek in Larger Than Life with an elephant.  Hollywood can’t make up all of my bizarre happenings I have experienced: an undetective defect in my resume, a demon possessed computer, dead cell phones, false prophet encounters, sure thing leads that don’t materialize and following visions from my dreams without any results.  Despite my complaining, its only been 15 months, a far cry from Israel wandering in the wilderness.  If David had to wait for several years to become king of Israel, I guess I can suck it up until my not-so ultimate gift becomes the gift of work.

by Jay Mankus

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