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Undoing the Works of the Devil

One of my inspirations to become a youth pastor and high school Bible teacher was to help teenagers avoid the same mistakes that I made when I was their age. Perhaps, this desire was a form of penance to undo the works of the Devil from my younger years. I spent a majority of my adolescence indulging my sinful nature to bring me pleasure. Meanwhile, to those little children who were watching, I set a poor example on numerous occasions.

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.

One of the comments Jesus made about adults who corrupt innocent children was to tie a millstone around their neck and throw them into the sea to drown. The imagery of this story in the Bible put the fear of God into me. This combined with a reoccurring nightmare about dying as a child set the stage for God to begin to move me away devilish acts. Like most teenagers, I was a slow learner who couldn’t quite put all the sinful habits of my past behind me.

[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done], 1 John 3:8.

When you do give into that demon on your shoulder whispering evil thoughts into your mind, confession is your best option, James 5:16. This doesn’t mean when a similar urge returns that you’re safe. Rather, one of Jesus’ former disciples compares the Devil to a predator seeking to prey on isolated and weakened Christians, 1 Peter 5:8. If and when addiction or bad habits get the best of you, this is when you need to wrestle with your flesh to break free, Galatians 5:16-18. If you want to undo the works of the devil in your life, your have to put to death that sinful mindset by taking your thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6.

by Jay Mankus

God is Watching Over You

If anyone had a reason to doubt and question God, it was Job, a character in one of the oldest books of the Bible.  After his children died in a storm similar to a tornado, Job contracted boils all over his body.  Old Testament rationale associated the bad things that happened to individuals as a sign of punishment from God.  Thus, as bystanders stood by watching the trials that besieged Job, even three of Job’s best friends began to doubt his innocence.

“Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a ruler or a teacher like Him?” – Job 36:22

Feeling abandoned, one thought came to Job’s mind, God is watching over you.  While Job’s wife wanted him to curse God and die, his years of spending time with God enabled common sense to prevail.  Just as Jacob physically wrestled with God, Job struggled to comprehend what was happening to him.  This spiritual tussle inspired Job to record these events within an Old Testament book.  The worse things get in life, God has a way of humbling people to the point desperately trusting the Lord with your heart, soul and mind.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel.  Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly].  The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand, Psalm 121:3-5.

The Psalmist describes how God specifically watches over human beings.  Shepherds gave thanks for not twisting their ankle despite walking along rocky terrain.  Meanwhile, others sang about God’s never ending protection, watching over us like the old Bette Midler song From a Distance.  Finally, God is like a keeper, a shepherd guiding sheep around danger, a shade of protection in times of trouble.  Therefore, the next time you find yourself in the midst of adversity, remember the invisible guardian in the heavens above who is watching over you and me.

by Jay Mankus

When You Will See How Great is God

Life is like riding a new roller coaster for the first time, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns with unexpected corkscrews around blind corners.  Subsequently, individuals change, evolve or are transformed by the ebb and flow of trials.  Nonetheless, unless a caterpillar enters the chrysalis, it will never be able to fly.

When hard times arrive. (and they will find you) there is a tendency to cry out to God, complain and wrestle with reality, Psalm 77:1-4.  Whether its coping with death, illness or unemployment, there is no easy way out.  However, on the day of when storms arise, Asaph provides a blueprint in Psalm 77:5-13 to help struggling souls see how great God is.

The moment you begin to remember recent miracles, times when God carried you or meditate on the works of the Lord, perspectives change.  Yet, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of pain, find rest in God’s chrysalis until your transformation is complete.  After the hurricanes of life, keep your head up so that you will begin to see how great is our God.

by Jay Mankus

When the Lord Turns His Face

Sometimes in life, you don’t achieve the results you’re looking for.  Instead, you begin to search for answers to explain why you were defeated, failed and were unsuccessful.   As you wrestle for the truth, some may be tempted to blame God.  Although you may never discover the source of life’s failure, there are times when the Lord turns His face.

According to the director of music, God does not listen to those who cherish sin in their hearts, Psalm 66:18.  As individuals begin to entertain, harbor, foster and nurture sinful desires, it becomes impossible to please God, Romans 8:5-8.  Once minds are set on self indulgence, the Lord will wait to act until you’re willing to come back to your senses, Isaiah 1:15-16.

The next time disappointment knocks on your door, may be its time to search your heart, to see if you’re to blame, Psalm 139:23-24.  If no one is clearly at fault, perhaps you’re experiencing growing pains, 1 Peter 1:5-7, as the Lord is preparing you for the future.  Whatever obstacle you are currently facing, don’t forget that the Lord will turn His face and if God does remember what you need to do to regain His attention, Romans 12:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Fraility of the Human Heart

Since Thursday afternoon at 5pm, my life has been a whirlwind of emotions.  After a successful second interview at Amazon on Wednesday, I sensed a promotion in the near future, trying to stayed reserved until I hear the news.   A little more than 24 hours later, my focus switched toward a battle to live, unable to stand or breath on my own.   One second I felt like I was having a heart attack, the next a CAT Scan revealed a pocket of blood around my lungs and liver.

For the past 3 days, I have had a tube sucking the blood out of these 2 areas trying to prevent infection.  Until this improves, I am in limbo, getting stronger, but still waiting on my internal bleeding to stop.  Unfortunately, my body is not healing as quick as it use to in the days of my youth.  Thus, life has been put on hold temporarily, in God’s hand and in His time as I wrestle with the Fraility of the human heart.

God has taught me a subtle lesson these past few days, He’s in control no matter what I try to do.   Though I usually try to speculate about the future, I am helpless, trusting in God’s grace to get me through this ordeal.  Sooner or later, my odds of improvement increase, yet the Lord knows the next steps that I will take.  As for now, time is the enemy, placing me behind where I want to be as the reality of life’s fraility has come crashing through the front door of my heart.

by Jay Mankus

King of the Court

Being honored as part of the home coming court would have been nice, but I didn’t even make the ballot.  Although becoming king of a basketball court was a dream, this white man’s got no game.  However, there was one place where I did shine for a season.  Believe it or not, I was king of the sand volleyball court.

During my final 2 summers of college, I teamed up with a wrestler from Cleveland State University, Eddy Z.  Whenever I wasn’t working at the country club or playing golf, I spent most of my free time on the old sand volleyball court at Geaugua Lake, now called Geaugua Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom.  Sure, I had other hobbies like singing karaoke at Rick’s Cafe, dancing at one of the night clubs on the Flats in downtown Cleveland and traveling, yet sand volleyball became my passion.

After taking a volleyball class at the University of Delaware, I was able to rebuild strength in my surgically repaired ankle and extend my vertical jump beyond 30 inches.  This knowledge was utilized as I played Wallyball in the winter, winning an intramural title on a coed team with Doug, Liz and Rosie; later losing to the men’s and women’s volleyball team in the finals of a co-ed March Madness style 32 team field.   Despite having several flaws in my techniques, my will to win overcame these deficiencies.

Eddy was quick like lightning, able to dig or get to any ball in the fenced in arena, developed an amazing skyball serve and set the ball as good as anyone I have ever known.  Meanwhile, I perfected a windmill serve, causing a fast downward motion, cupping my hand to create a knuckle ball affect.  In the end, Eddy and I probably lost 3 matches in 2 years, beating teams from Ohio State, Miami of Ohio and Kent State on a regular basis.  On 1 summer day, we played 8 straight hours, only stopping to drink water before dispatching the next team.  Though we shared the court with other season pass members and visitors to Geaugua Lake, whenever I entered the gate, I felt like I was king of the court.

Now, old, mostly bald and grey, all I have are the memories of the music, the wave pool crashing next door and the cheers from the crowd after another point won.  However, today, there is a new king.  While, not exactly new, yet new to those who choose to follow Him.  Despite the gifts or talents you have been given, without this king life is incomplete, John 10:10.  May you come to know the true King of the Court, awestruck by his glory and wonder, Psalm 19:1-6.

by Jay Mankus

Dying Nations

If you study geography, globes and maps appear to be in a constant state of flux.  Portions of Africa and other regions of the world go through transitions as individuals wrestle for control and power.  Depending upon the ruler and their worldview, citizens are at the mercy of its leaders.

According to Psalm 135:15-17, vital signs can be detected  by the finger prints left by mankind.  The images of a culture reflect their aspirations, priorities and ultimately, their god.  When idols cripple a nation, Acts 17:16, its only a matter of time before empires fall like Rome.  If America continues on its current path, the inevitable will happen, erasing any impact it has as a world leader.

To change course, nations have options if they wish to survive.  Civil wars, rebellions and revolutions are just a few of the usual suspects.  However, if 1799 is any clue from the past, only a spiritual revival can save countries from vanishing from the pages of modern textbooks.  As concerts of prayer began to change the mindset of Christians in America, God began to ignite a fire within lost souls.  May history repeat itself, giving life to dying nations across the globe thereby fulfilling the great commission in the process, Acts 1:8.

by Jay Mankus

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