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Doubt Kills

An arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities of water or amounts of debris highlight the magnitude of a tsunami.  This act of God can erase a beach, tropical destination or village in a matter of minutes.  Like a scene out of a chapter from Revelation, the Christmas morning tsunami which struck Thailand in 2004 devastated this region.  In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus compares doubt with a spiritual tsunami that can ravage souls.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind, James 1:6.

From time to time, I will cross paths with an extremely negative individual.  Fueled by doubt, this unhealthy presence can persuade hopeful hearts to become consumed by stress, worry and unrest.  Unless this invisible force is extinguished, doubt will continue to spread, poisoning souls one group at a time.  While the initial traces of doubt may appear vague, roots of bitterness will rise up from within troubled hearts, brewing until verbal assaults are unleashed in person or via social media.

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen, Matthew 21:21.

Jesus addressed doubt on numerous occasions with his own disciples.  These exchanges reveal his frustration as future leaders of the church became numb to the miracles performed by Jesus daily, John 21:25.  Perhaps, the words in the passage above are a call to snap out of it; wake up to the power of faith.  Using the surrounding mountains as a teachable aid, Jesus exclaims, “see that mountain over there, you can move that which stands in your way through faith.”  Yet, if doubt lingers, any dreams that you have will die.  Therefore, believe, have faith and put your trust in God before doubt kills another victim.

by Jay Mankus

Do You Believe Me Now?

The idiom “seeing is believing” was first recorded in 1639.  This saying is based upon the words of Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Based upon the passage below, Thomas doubted that Jesus could rise from the dead following his crucifixion.  Thomas developed a mindset that only physical or concrete evidence could convince him otherwise.  Unfortunately, this same thinking is prevalent today, keeping many in the dark, void of the faith necessary to believe in modern day miracles.

But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe,” John 20:24-25.

Thomas wasn’t the only disciple to experience a crisis of faith.  Apparently, several disciples did not believe the initial news that Jesus has risen from the dead.  Yet, these same men witnessed Jesus walk on water, turn water into wine and raise his friend Lazarus from the grave, cancelling a funeral in progress.  In addition, Peter, James and John watched Jesus transform into a heavenly figure, communicate with Elijah and Moses and cast demons out of formerly crazed individuals.  When seeing is believing becomes your motto for life, faith is powerless, preventing believers from ever experiencing the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10.

Now Jesus, having risen [from death] early on the first day of the week, appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported it to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them as they were walking along the way to the country. 13 They returned [to Jerusalem] and told the others, but they did not believe them either, Mark 16:9-13.

Only three out of a thousand Americans make close to a million dollars per year.  Those who don’t have the education, experience or knowledge to earn this annual salary may enter contests, gamble or pursue gameshows to attempt to strike it rich.  For a few, this pursuit may become reality.  Yet, many will remain in their current situation, struggling to pay all of their bills while trying to put enough food on the table.  When Jesus was hungry, prayer and a few resources fed thousands of people.  With these previous miracles in mind, perhaps its time to believe in God’s power now so that tomorrow will bring daily bread, manna from heaven and a storehouse of blessings.

by Jay Mankus

Taking Ownership of A Desire for Greatness

In a June 2013 post on Live Science, Stephanie Pappas wrote about some parents wanting to live their lives through their kids.  One of the flaws to this mindset is that rarely do these teenagers share the same desire for greatness.  When potential is revealed, seen or witnessed, aspiring parents may encourage, nudge or push children into a specific activity, hobby or sport.  Thousands of dollars are shelled out per year for competitions, equipment, lessons and travel teams.  With the rising costs of higher education, a full ride is the only way some students will ever be able to attend college.  Thus, parents do whatever they can for a loved one.  The only question is do these potential stars share the same dreams and vision of their parents?

God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend, Job 37:5.

You make a case for both sides of this argument.  For example, take Tiger Woods whose father Earl prepared Eldrick to become a golfing phenom as soon as he could walk.  Earl Woods used his military background to mentality test Tiger’s mind for every scenario on a golf course and in a tournament.  During Tiger’s prime, Woods was a machine, defying the experts with an epic run toward the greatest golfer of all time.  However, when Earl Woods died in May of 2006, Tiger’s amazing stretch slowed down after winning the 2008 United States Open, his last major title.  While injuries has played a part to his decline, perhaps Earl’s absence enabled Tiger to let his guard down, to lose his edge.  Whatever the reason, Tiger has altered his goals, enjoying playing golf again with a healthy body.

You will increase my greatness and comfort me again, Psalm 71:21.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Capriati is a good counter for the opposing side whose parents seemed to want success more than Jennifer at times.  This tennis star turned pro at age 13, winning 3 majors and a gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games.  However, television displayed the emotion of a teenager taking center stage before fully maturing.  Between Jennifer’s initial success, her parent’s desire for greatness and becoming burned out at an early age for a professional athlete, Capriati’s full potential was never realized.  Like anyone I’m sure she would like to go back and do certain things differently, yet at some point rising stars need to take ownership of a parent’s desire for greatness.  If not, greatness will fizzle out sooner rather than later.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

As a parent, I struggle with knowing when to push my children and when to walk away.  I believe every parent wants the best for their children, but selfish desires may interfere with your own ability to be a good parent.  During my fifteen years of coaching high school and youth sports, I found myself caring more than my players.  I take each defeat and loss personally, re-evaluating in my mind to see if I did everything in my power to set my players up for success.  In some circumstances, I was responsible for a loss, taking the blame.  However, I learned that if my kids don’t care, I need to rethink my priorities.  Am I too serious, not forceful enough or do I need to let go to see if someone takes ownership of a desire for greatness?  I still haven’t figured this out, but I am hopeful and prayerful that one day my children will develop a desire for greatness in this life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?

While most people have moved on with their lives following Easter Sunday, there is something I want you to consider about this religious holiday.  One of Jesus’ last words before dying on a cross reflects the anguish within his heart and soul.  In order for God’s plan to redeem mankind to be completed, Jesus’ heavenly father watched from a distance as his son died.  This lack of action caused Jesus to cry out, “my God my God, why have you forsaken me?”

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Matthew 27:46

If God let Jesus suffer and die, then human beings face a similar fate.  Despite God’s love for His one and only son, sometimes it feels like God turns his back on us as well. When Christians are in trouble, most reach out to God in prayer, begging and pleading with the Lord for divine intervention.  When a period of time passes without a clear answer, miracles don’t happen or a friend dies, many people feel like God has abandoned them.  When God doesn’t act immediately, its not uncommon to believe or think that God has forsaken you.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20.

Behind the scenes, God is more like the father portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Unfortunately, while on earth Christians must live by faith, not by sight.  Human nature craves and longs for signs from God.  Yet, faith must remain firm when God is silent.  Like a roller coaster that goes up and down, there will be moments when God’s presence seems near.  However, faith needs to steer you during periods of darkness.  If you lose hope, you too may be tempted to exclaim, “eli, eli, lama sabachthani which translates my God my God, why has you forsaken me into English.  In the meantime stay strong or if you have to, lean on others to get you through trials in this life.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus’ Last Will and Testament

A will is a legal document that allows you, among other things, to designate how and to whom your property is distributed.  Prior to the formation of modern companies like Legal Zoom, the Old Testament reveals the inheritance process for Jewish families.  Jewish inheritance customs were linked to family blood lines as detailed in Numbers 27:8-11.  The parable of the Prodigal Son refers to the financial breakdown with the oldest son receiving a greater percentage of wealth.  In the case of Jesus, his clothes were decided by chance, as soldiers cast lots to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy.

So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it will be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture, “They divided My outer clothing among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” 25 So the soldiers did these things.  But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister [Salome], Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, John 19:24-25.

Prior to his death on a cross, Jesus’ mother was the only family member to believe, remaining faithful to the end.  Since his father Joseph died years earlier, Mary was Jesus’ sole concern.  After members of his family referred to him as a crazy man who had lost his mind in Mark 3:21, Jesus embraced those who did the will of his heavenly father.  These are the individuals who Jesus called his family.  Yet, Jesus’ last will and testament was directed to John, handing the care of Mary over to him.  The passage below suggests that Mary moved into John’s house, staying with him until her death.

26 So Jesus, seeing His mother, and the disciple whom He loved (esteemed) standing near, said to His mother, “[Dear] woman, look, [here is] your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple (John), “Look! [here is] your mother [protect and provide for her]!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own home, John 19:26-27.

Beyond any possession that you may pass onto family, there is something more valuable.  The legacy that you leave behind will either inspire or deflate your children, family and spouse.  This mark can’t be faked as time will reveal the true nature of your character.  In a sense, Jesus’ legacy was carried on by 11 disciples and first century apostles.  Delegating, preparing and teaching these individuals has kept the good news of Jesus Christ alive today.  As you draw near the grave, may the Holy Spirit prompt you to develop a sense of urgency so that your faith will be passed on to the next generation.

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

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