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Tag Archives: blessings

Beyond Tradition

In order to keep with tradition, individuals will travel across the country if necessary to be with their family.  American minds have been programmed to gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas annually, getting stressed out and becoming broke in the process.  Is this cycle really worth repeating or has the meaning of these special holidays become lost in translation from one generation to the next?  Perhaps the meaning lies somewhere beyond tradition.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, Philippians 4:6.

As a former teacher,  I know Thanksgiving has become commercialized and stripped of its original meaning to avoid becoming politically incorrect.  Yet, if you search hard enough, you will find what really happened to celebrate this occasson.  Early on the Pilgrims initially tried communism, sharing the land and it’s harvests for the common good of the community.  However, when hard working individuals realized there was no reward for going above and beyond what was expected, production declined making that first winter difficult to survive.  Recognizing this flawed system, the following year families were allowed to keep any excess harvest, bartering and trading with Indians.  When the concept of this free market system took off, the Pilgrims and Indians came together after the fall harvest to thank God for providing enough food to get families through the winter.

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High, Psalm 7:17.

Unless you are homeless or poor, it’s hard to appreciate the effort necessary to collect, gather and store food for several months without a refrigerator or modern applicances.  Some nights, families went to bed starving, not knowing when or if another meal will be provided.  This desperate environment forces you to either work tiredlessly for food or develop a complete trust that God will somehow supernaturally provide.  Today, Americans have so much more than the Pilgrims ever did that many become spoiled, complaining about superficial aspects of life.  Sure, it would be great to be rich, buy family members lavish Christmas gifts and not have to worry about making a car or house payment.  Yet, it’s time to go beyond the tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas to see life for what it is, a gift from God.  Don’t let earthly demands for these holidays steal your joy.  Rather, each time you wake up, look around at the blessings you have been given so that a spirit of gratitude will reign despite what others may do or say this holiday season.

by Jay Mankus

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When Life is Cruel and Unfair

The title of Clint Eastwood’s classic western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly provides a much more accurate assessment of life than I initially thought.  In this context, the good symbolizes blessings, fruits of hard work, rewards, success and victories in life.  Meanwhile, the bad includes accidents, disappointment, failure, injuries, setbacks and unforeseen events.  Ugly represents examples of when life is cruel and unfair, taking the forms of curses, demonic influences and generational sins.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, Exodus 20:5.

On my first day back to work following bereavement for my father in law’s funeral, I received more bad news.  One of my co-workers Dominic, suffered a brain aneurism on one of his day’s off.  Dominic is one of those people you enjoy interacting with, engaging, friendly, kind and at times longwinded.  Nonetheless, Dominic had just received a promotion, relocating to a new building in Maryland.  His future looked bright until a severe brain aneurism has left Dominic on the verge of death.  For a young man with a girl friend and the rest of his life in front of him, this fate doesn’t seem fair.

However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:  Deuteronomy 28:15.

The only way to explain this tragedy and similar heart breaking stories can be found in the ten commandments, specifically Exodus 20:5.  Moses reflects upon this biblical truth within an entire chapter in Deuteronomy.  Moses spends the first 14 verses of chapter 28 highlighting signs of God’s blessings.  The remaining 54 verses uncover hints of curses and or consequences of generational sins.  Due to the extent of details shared within this chapter of the Bible, it’s safe to say more curses exist than blessings.  Subsequently, people shouldn’t be surprised by examples of when life is cruel and unfair.  In view of this harsh reality, it’s essential to live each day on earth like it’s your last, assuring and preparing yourself for life beyond this world, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Blessings in the Eyes of the Beholder

Every time I look into a mirror, I am reminded of my emergency eye surgery last December.  Due to the type of the procedure, my right eye lid doesn’t close as it should.  If I were in high school or college, I’d probably be depressed by this permanent defect on my body.  Yet, as I have experienced good vision in consecutive months, this blemish has become a blessing in the eyes of the Beholder.

Or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.

To a certain extent, I am beginning to understand the words of the apostle Paul in the passage above.  The Lord had blessed Paul with a special connection.  While Wi-Fi didn’t exist in the first century, Paul was able to sense, see and understand the nature of God like no one else in his day.  Thus, Paul came to a point in life where he accepted his physical condition, realizing that his pain was a blessing in the eyes of the Beholder.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Human nature causes most people to complain daily.  I am not immune to this disease called sin, lashing out with criticism, frustration and impatience.  Nonetheless, after my wife’s father passed away over the weekend, God has humbled me, making me more teachable.  While my first reaction to trials will always be to question God, we all need to reach a state like the apostle Paul to accept the hand in life that we have been dealt.  The sooner we do, the easier it will become to recognize blessings in the eyes of the Beholder.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Why Did This Happen?

Since the Las Vegas mass shooting at the Harvest Country Music Festival on the evening of October 1st, 2017, everyone in the media is asking why did this happen?  As investigators begin combing through physical evidence, this reason for this evil act is still unknown.  While a timeline is being recreated, it’s hard to logically explain how someone could violently gun down so many.  Perhaps, the Bible can shed some light behind the mindset of a murderer.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it,” Genesis 4:6-7.

The first murder ever recorded occurs due to jealousy as a younger brother’s success becomes a motive for murder.  While Cain struggled to make ends meat as a farmer, God blessed Adam’s shepherding business.  When it came time to bring forth first fruits, similar to a modern day tithe, Abel had plenty to offer.  Meanwhile, Cain’s offering did not receive God’s favor.  As jealousy began to spread within his heart, the Lord confronts Cain in the passage above.

 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation,” Matthew 12:43-45.

When impure thoughts enter your mind, you have one of two choices.  You can listen to evil or take your thoughts captive by ruling over them.  This ongoing battle doesn’t take breaks so you may resist the first time, but as you grow tried and weary, individuals begin to give into temptation.  The passage above eludes to addiction as bad choices lead to a life style.  Once hooked on something, spirits often overwhelm weak souls.  In the case of Cain, once the idea of getting rid of the competition, his brother, it was only a matter of time.  Perhaps, Stephen Paddock allowed impure spirits to enter his body inspiring the murderous rampage he went on.  Although time will uncover more evidence, this blog gives a brief biblical explanation of why this tragic event happened.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Your Mind Get’s in the Way

Depending upon how you were raised, parents give advice, guidance and warnings as you grow up.  Some of the common phrases of my generation were “think before you speak, open mouth insert foot” and simply “think.”  These words suggest that sometimes your mind gets in the way.

But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!”  – Numbers 13:31

In the Old Testament, God had promised Israel a new land flowing with milk and honey.  Before entering this place, Moses sent out a team to explore this region.  Known as the 12 Spies, only two brought back a positive report.  The other ten were misled by minds gripped with fear.  This first glance underestimated the power of God as their minds got in the way.

 Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it,” Numbers 13:30.

In the end, the voices of Caleb and Joshua were silenced by the majority.  However, if you want to overcome doubt, leaders must raise their voices to convince the feeble and weak.  The next time you hear a crowd minimizing the power of God, step out in faith to persuade the masses.  If you don’t the human mind will get in the way, leaving you outside of the blessings God has in store for you.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

 

What Are We Praying for?

Frederick Douglass is a key figure featured every February during Black History month.  After escaping slavery in Maryland, Douglass completed his autobiography in 1845.  If you attended a public school, you probably never heard about this man’s great faith.  While talking to a friend earlier in the week, I was amazed to hear about his concept of prayer.  This made me wonder, what am I actually praying for?

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word, Psalm 119:9.

Instead of praying for the obvious, God’s blessings on your family, friends and work, Douglass narrowed in on a few simple things.  First, as a slave, Frederick prayed that his master would not beat him.  From here, Frederick fervently asked the Lord to have mercy on him so that his service would please his master.  Within his autobiography, Douglass comments on how his master’s treated him.  Oddly enough, those who claimed to be Christians treated him the worse.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well, Matthew 6:33.

Following this conversation, I was convicted, wondering how cruel I have treated others in this life.  Beyond the bubble that I live in, my actions are far from the grace, love and mercy Jesus demonstrated on earth.  Instead of treating prayer like some kind of Christmas wish list, perhaps it’s time to go back to the basics.  Whether this means using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide or quoting parts of Psalm 119, something has to change.  May this blog inspire you to put into practice Jesus’ words above, starting prayer by seeking God’s kingdom and righteous first.

by Jay Mankus

Serve or Be Served… The Latter is More Enticing

When professional athletes struggle to reach their full potential, videos are examined to see what bad habits or flawed fundamentals are present.  Unfortunately, in life most people don’t have film to examine.  Rather, individuals are forced to rely on friends, self reflection or therapists to turn floundering careers around.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap, Galatians 6:7.

One of the forces at work which determines positive or negative results in the Sowing Principle.  What comes around goes around is an earthly way to describe the biblical expression: you reap what you sow.  Essentially, if you serve others, the Lord will honor this decision by sending unexpected blessings in times of need.  Meanwhile, if the idea of being served by others entices you, the rewards for this choice will be temporary; resulting in a permanent void inside of your heart.

“Give and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you,” Luke 6:38.

Jesus explains this concept to his followers in the verse above.  In the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13, Jesus uses the imagery of a harvest to illustrate this principle.  Those who are planted within a fertile soil, environment, production increases.  Thus, if you reach a point in life where you are disciplined, grounded and serving others with your God given gifts, it’s possible to experience bountiful blessings.  Yet, if you feed your sinful nature, pursuing selfish desires, temporary pleasures will quickly vanish leaving a trail of heart break.  The choice is yours.

by Jay Mankus