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Going a Little Fargo Than Before

In the last 48 hours, there have been two school shootings.  The first was thwarted by a retired police officer on campus who immediately took out the shooter.  This heroic story from Dixon, Illinois was buried by most newspapers and omitted by the majority of cable news outlets on Thursday.  Meanwhile, today’s massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas has left ten dead.  If recent campus shootings with fatalities tend to dominate national news, then expect this coverage in Texas to go a little further than the Parkland, Florida frenzy from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence, Psalm 11:5.

Twenty two years ago, the film Fargo debuted in theaters.  At the beginning of this movie, there is a disclaimer stating this is based upon a true story, changing the names to protect the victims and survivors.  However, a recent article entitled Fargo: True Story or Work of Fiction calls into question the brutal nature of these crimes and murders.  In 2014, FX created a television series based upon Fargo starring Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks.  Just from my initial observations, the violence in this series devalues life and as well promoting individuals to seek revenge.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah 53:5.

Instead of solely blaming guns on these recent school shootings, perhaps its time to expand the suspect list to include movies, music and video games that exhibit violence.  Several of these tragic events are premeditated, inspired by years of bullying.  Others are demonically influenced after evil thoughts are sown and conceived into human minds.  According to recent investigations into murders by MS 13 gang members, Satanic worship is also to blame.  I don’t have all the answers to these growing number of school shootings, but I pray that the media doesn’t use survivors as pawns to repeal the second amendment.  May God’s angels surround the families and parents who will go asleep tonight without their children.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Its Sad What Most People Accept as Normal

Depending upon the hand you are dealt in life, unforeseen events can ruin any hopes that you have to live a normal life.  One woman in the Bible suffered from a rare bleeding disorder for 12 years.  During this ordeal, this woman spent her life savings on a potential cure.  Whatever good intentions these doctors possessed, each diagnosis, medicine and treatment failed.  Prior to hearing about Jesus, any thoughts of resuming a normal life were gone.  With nothing to lose, this woman fought her way through the crowds, reaching for one of the tassels on Jesus’rabbinical robe.  The moment her hand touched Jesus, she was immediately healing.  Sensing this release of power, Jesus sought out this woman.  The purpose of this conversation was to clarify the true reason for this miracle.  When science tells you, “that’s impossible,” faith is the vessel God uses to defy logic.

A woman [in the crowd] had [suffered from] a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much [suffering] at the hands of many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but instead had become worse, Mark 5:25-26.

In the days that followed, Jesus encounters a man who spent most of his days at a healing pool.  An invalid for nearly 4 decades, the idea of walking seemed to be a long shot.  This body of water in Bethesda was known for healing various illnesses through the years.  According to local reports, angels of the Lord stirred these waters at appointed seasons, with the first person to enter being healed.  Unfortunately, the slow reflexes of this paralyzed man prevented him from being the first one in the water.  Looking depressed, Jesus wasn’t sure if this man wanted to be healed.  This dialogue was necessary as doubt prevents miracles from occurring.  Thus, after this exploratory phase is complete, Jesus had another obstacle to overcome, the legalism of the Jewish Sabbath.  Religious leaders added man made regulations which prevented any type of physical exertion that included healing.  Subsequently, Jesus uses common sense as a way to ask permission to restore this man.  Remaining silent, Jesus goes ahead anyway, choosing good over doing nothing.  Against all odds, this man got up and began walking for the first time in 38 years.

There was a certain man there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” – John 5:5-6

In the past 20 years, I have battled iritis, arthritis of the eye.  Until the last 2 years, I endured periods of pain and discomfort.  Yet, today my vision is fading in my right eye.  Its sad to say, but I’ve accepted poor vision as a normal way of life.  Deep down, I want to believe that a miracle is possible based upon the 2 passages above.  However, maintaining the resolve of the woman with a bleeding disorder is tough to do.  Perhaps, some of you have a similar issue, crippled by an emotional, physical or spiritual ailment.  Instead of accepting your condition as the new normal, faith can help you rise above the mountains in front of you.  Therefore, don’t go down without a fight, wrestling with God in prayer.  You may have to wait 12 or 38 years to receive answers, but if you battle like the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8, there is a chance for a miracle to touch your life.

by Jay Mankus

Another Reason to Pray

My son Daniel recently took the whole family out to dinner.  Proud of his new job, working at the local Brazilian Steakhouse, he wanted everyone to taste the food he takes home each night.  During the evening, several co-workers complimented my son of his strong work ethic and dependability.  Surprised by all this flattery, I thought to myself, “what have I done?”  Drawing a blank, I couldn’t point to anything in particular.  The only thing that came to mind was my daily prayers for each member of my family.  Perhaps, this simple discipline is paying off, transforming individuals through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Matthew 5:4.

One of the hardest parts of praying is the uncertainty of answers to prayer.  God answers with one of three responses, yes, no and not now.  While some things are obvious like praying for a job or getting into the school of your choice, most topics for prayer take weeks, months or years to get a clear reply.  Although, I have gone through periods of doubt, wondering if I was merely wasting my time, a verse from the book of Acts has given me hope.  According to Luke, a well known first century physician, God has the ability to commemorate acts of faith.

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God, Acts 10:4.

Cornelius was a God fearing centurion who led the Italian Regiment.  Cornelius wasn’t a do what I say, not what I do kind of guy.  Rather, Cornelius practiced his faith, emulating a godly leader at home and on the battle field.  Based upon the angelic encounter above, God has the ability to bless, honor and memorialize prayer warriors.  Therefore, if you feel like your current prayer life is void of results, don’t lose heart.  Rather, press on with another reason to pray so that God will respond soon to your heart felt plea for action.

by Jay Mankus

Everything We Need

Whether you’re taking a class, solving a problem or studying a new concept, the hard part is knowing where to look to find the right answer.  While college professors often provide a study guide for examinations, God inspired individuals to record a series of letters that eventually formed the Bible.  According to one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, this book provides everything we need for life on earth.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness, 2 Peter 1:3.

Peter references God’s ability to use angelic, supernatural and unexpected events to provide.  The context of the passage above implies that God has bestowed everything necessary to live a dynamic spiritual life.  The more you hear, read and study about Jesus, Romans 10:17, faith increases as you learn through personal accounts of God at work inside of you.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, 2 Peter 1:4.

As you endure hardships within this life, God’s promises serve as a message of hope.  While some may chose to withdraw from the world like the Amish, God has called believers to live within, adding salt and light to a dark and dying world.  Although no one can escape sinning, remaining attached to the vine is essential, John 15:4.  The only way to escape corruption is through keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  Those who remain steadfast in the face of defeat will receive the assurance Peter speaks about in this passage.  The next time you are searching for answers, reach for the Bible and the truth will set you free from the burdens of this life.

by Jay Mankus

Use the Force of the Holy Spirit

In the context of Star Wars, the force is a metaphysical and ubiquitous power.  King Kayos is the first character to utter the expression, “may the force be with you.”  To awaken a certain kind of spirituality within his audience, George Lucas uses the concept of dualism to illustrate two opposing powers.  While the Jedi utilize the light side of the force, the Sith exploit the dark side, setting the stage for an epic battle between good and evil for dominance in the universe.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him, Mark 1:12-13.

Descending from heaven to restore what Adam lost, Luke 19:10, Jesus is sent to earth by God the Father to complete a secret mission.  When the timing was right, Jesus followed the force of the Holy Spirit.  This calling drew Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, similar to Jedi’s led to spend time with Yoda, training to prepare for future battles.  While in the desert, Jesus fasted and prayed, using the power of the Holy Spirit to prepare his heart, soul and mind for a three year ministry on earth.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

After completing God’s will, Jesus died on a cross, rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven.  Prior to his exit from earth, Jesus spent forty days, relaying a great commission for his disciples to carry out.  Today, followers of Jesus are still seeking to complete the instructions found in Matthew 28:18-20.  To help us on this journey, the apostle Paul provides further directions in the passage above to guide individuals along the way.  Therefore, if you’re not sure where to go or what to do, cry out to the Lord so that the force of the Holy Spirit will intercede on your behalf to guide you toward the light and away from Satan’s darkness.  Use the force daily, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

No Doubt About It

When I was young and stupid, I relied on bragging to prove that I could do something.  When challenged, I was often exposed as my cocky words could not be backed up by actions.  Subsequently, God used disappointment, humiliation and failure to allow me to mature.  While I never lost my passion and zeal for competition, I tried to let my play speak for itself in college.  Although I didn’t win every intramural championship, I believed in my heart that victory was attainable.  There was no doubt about it,

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men, Matthew 28:2-4.

In recent years, telling the truth is like an animal on the endangered species list.  Some people want to win so badly that exaggerating, fibbing and spreading rumors is all part of the process.  This destructive climate has poisoned politicians with misleading ads, slandering their opponents, hoping the general public will be persuaded to believe these lies.  If you have the cable news, newspapers and social media on your side, the lives of innocent people can be ruined, left like road kill along the shoulder of a highway.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day, Matthew 28:11-15.

As I am finishing my study of the Gospel of Matthew, I uncovered a similar first century plot.  Fearful the chief priest, Pharisees and religious leaders would lose their political power, they paid off Roman soldiers to spread false reports.  Despite the presence of zombies, the bodies of holy men and women from the past roaming the streets of Jerusalem for over a month, a corrupt scheme eventually halted the truth.  As a former high school Bible teacher, I come across secular films trying to discredit the Bible like this first century bribe.  Yet, when I research, study and watch these theories, I have come to one simple solution.  There is no doubt about the life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Return to Me

As a parent, it’s difficult to have all of your children follow the narrow path described in Matthew 7:13-14 throughout life.  On the surface, there isn’t anything attractive, cool or hip in the eyes of the world to stay an extended period of time.  While former generations of adults might have coerced, demanded and forced their kids to go to church and youth group, the overall results have been mixed.  Good parenting doesn’t always lead to mature teens.  Nor does abandonment by one or both parents always produce disobedient souls.  Various factors, influences and variables eventually shape young people into the people they become.  Regardless of this outcome, it’s never too late to return to Jesus.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Luke 15:10.

In a series of stories about getting lost, Jesus uses sheep, a sentimental coin and a rebellious son to illustrate his point.  These parables have made Luke 15 one of the most read chapters in the Bible.  Although the parable of the lost son gets most of the attention, the end of the lost coin reveals one of God’s most important qualities.  Unlike a human father who may turn his back on disobedient children, God the Father is standing on the front porch, waiting for you to come home.  Whenever someone decides to return home, there is a celebration in heaven for every repentant sinner.  Perhaps, guardians angels play a role in this human U-turn, away from the world and back toward God.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, Luke 15:16.

Regardless of how stubborn a person may be, everyone has a breaking point.  The human spirit can only take you so far until souls crack.  A first century doctor refers to this point as coming to your senses.  For the Jewish prodigal mentioned in the passage above, he was broke and homeless.  However, this is only half of the story.  This young man spent his inheritance, squandered it on wild living and had become a lowly servant at a pig farm.  According to Jewish law, pigs are unclean, unfit to eat.  Yet, this son became so desperate for food, he longed to eat the slop fed to these animals.  This humbling circumstance opened the door for repentance and a return home.  May this blog inspire anyone heading off in the wrong direction to return back to Jesus, 1 John 1:7.

by Jay Mankus