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Tag Archives: blessings

When Did You Stop Living?

As an adult, there are moments in life when I miss the simplicity of my childhood years.  The innocence of youth shielded me from the concerns of my parents.  When I was free from major responsibilities, I never really appreciated the numerous blessings God showered my life.  As I have traded places from child to parent and guardian of three children, I have stopped living somewhere along the way during this transitional period.

But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God, Mark 10:14.

This overwhelming sense of conviction consumed me after listening to a song from my past.  When a high school friend introduced me to Christian music. I began a life long journey to uncover hidden gems that express an uplifting message.  This quest led me to Plankeye, a group which began as metal, moved toward classic rock and produced a dance album as well.  After listening to a single from the 1996 Commonwealth album, the lyrics of Bicycle inspired this blog.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, Philippians 4:8.

This song refers to the dialogue between a son and his parents.  Apparently, his parents believed their son got married way too early in life.  Despite this young man’s initial struggles, he is living out his dream with the woman he loves.  In response to this criticism, the son replies, “when did you stop living anyway?”  At some point, parents give up on ever fulfilling the dreams of their childhood.  When doubt creeps into minds, a lack of faith prevent adults from taking chances, risking failure.  May these words inspire you to get on with your life, to face your fears and conquer the mountains currently blocking you from fulfilling God’s will on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Where Envy and Resentment Can Lead You

Envy and Resentment are like a notorious WWE Tag Team Wrestling Champion.  Envy begins each bout, distracting opponents by focusing on what others have instead of how God has blessed you.  The moment you fail prey to this tactic, resentment hits you over the head with a chair.  This is immediately followed by a punch to your gut before ending up in a headlock, struggling to break free.  Anyone who fails to come to their senses will be dragged away like a rag doll.  This is how envy and resentment lead people to some of the most vile and wretched places on earth.

Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to set free for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had turned Jesus over to him because of envy and resentment, Mark 15:9-10.

During the first century, Jesus was despised by the ruling class.  The thought of a carpenter from Nazareth developing a massive spiritual following offended the chief priests, elders and scribes.  When his disciples failed to adhere to Jewish ceremonial laws, this lack of observance opened the door for envy and resentment to consume these religious leaders.  If Jesus’ popularity continued without some sort of intervention, the power of future Pharisees and Sadducees was in jeopardy of being stripped away.  Thus, envy and resentment fueled this elite group to conspire, plot and pressure authorities to crucify Jesus.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice, Ephesians 4:31.

When the apostle Paul turned his back on Judaism to follow Jesus Christ, he began to experience pushback from envy and resentment.  Human nature feeds off of the acts of the sinful nature, thriving on venting frustrations as well as unleashing your anger on others.  Yet, if this run away train of emotions possesses you, exhibit A features Cain who killed his brother due to jealousy.  Today, America’s ruling establishment is teaming up with the deep state to foil Donald Trump’s presidency.  This resistance has lasted more than a year, crushing souls along the way.  Perhaps its time to take a step back before envy and resentment devours another victim.  May the passages above convict hearts before any further actions are taken.  If not, envy and resentment may lead participants to an undesirable eternal destination.

by Jay Mankus

 

Estranged

When love is absent, conditions can deteriorate.  If this negative climate persists, relationships can be torn apart.  By products of this atmosphere result in arguments, fights and misery.  Without reconciliation, family, friends and relatives can become estranged.  This tension creates a dysfunctional mood at an family gathering or reunion.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.

The Bible refers to estranged in context of a relationship with God.  Any type of sin separates individuals from God.  In the Old Testament, Israel was given the Torah as a set of standards for life.  Breaking, cutting corners or slightly deviating from these laws is described as a willful act of disobedience.  Deuteronomy 28 contains a list of blessings for those who obey God, ending with a much longer list of consequences called curses.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near, Hebrews 10:24-25.

A first century Jewish convert to Christianity wrote the book of Hebrews.  In the passage above, advice is provided to restore estranged relationships.  Accountability serves as a tool to sharpen one another spiritually.  While this takes place in the form as a Bible Study, prayer or sharing group, these fellowships promote healing and forgiveness.  If you find yourself in a relationship drifting away or falling apart, take steps now so that these precious bonds are not severed permanently.

by Jay Mankus

Lady Poverty

I heard an interesting sermon last weekend on a topic previously unknown to me.  A priest was giving a summary of the life of Saint Francis.  Born into a wealthy family, Francis was torn between the pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps and his faith.  According to a 13th century eye witness. Francis took off his clothes in public, stripping down until he was naked, giving his possessions to the poor.  This act demonstrated Francis’ rejection of the world while placing his sole trust in his heavenly father.  This leap of faith inspired the Lady Poverty movement resulting in amazing servants like Mother Teresa.

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you,” Leviticus 25:35.

Francis of Assisi traveled to the Vatican hoping to get a meeting with the Pope.  The goal was to gain support from Rome so tht Francis’ calling would not be some rogue movement.  Unfortunately, Francis’ first attempt failed, unable to get the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church.  Years later Francis wrote a famous letter to Clare which led to his second visit to Rome.  This time Francis was successful, getting the Pope’s blessing to start the Lady Poverty movement which still exists today.  While I’m not encouraging people to literally follow in Francis’ footsteps, tackling poverty concerns in your area should suffice.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17.

The passage above should speak to every heart.  While poverty may be hidden in some neighbors, a growing number of busy intersections are filled with people with signs begging for food or money at red lights.  Although this may be a public nuisance in the eyes of local politicians, its a sad reality of broken families and people who have no one to help them in their time of need.  The Bible eludes to Christians as the hands and feet of Christ.  Yet, as cars continue to look the other away, passing by the poor suggests that the Lady Poverty movement is dying.  In view of this, may hearts, minds and souls be drawn to lend a helping hand when you have the opportunity to give.

by Jay Mankus

Staying Connected to the Right Things

When you add together all the live audiences, radio and television, Billy Graham proclaimed the good news about Jesus Christ, Romans 6:23, to 2.2 billion people during his 99 years on earth.  However, someone had to introduce Billy to Jesus.  Without this individual’s efforts, the spread of Christianity may not be what it is today.  Mordecai Ham was an evangelist who visited Charlotte, North Carolina while Billy was in high school.  Moved by Mordecai’s message one evening, Billy invited Jesus into his heart, Romans 10:9-10, as a teenager.  When people stay connected to the right things, spiritual fruits blossom.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment, He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly, Acts 10:1-2.

During the first century, the apostle Paul traveled throughout the Middle East on four different missionary journeys.  I guess you can say Paul from Tarsus was the Billy Graham of his day.  Yet, if it wasn’t for a man named Cornelius, Paul may have never become a Christian.  This military leader developed a stout reputation in his community.  This devout believer was grounded, fearing God, a faithful giver and dedicated to prayer.  These spiritual disciplines led to a vision from God that set the stage for Paul’s conversion to Christ.  Staying connected to the right things opened the door for an angelic encounter, as Cornelius immediately responded by faith.

One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 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 10:3-4.

Before writing the Book of Acts, Luke traveled with Paul on several of his mission trips.  In this case, it appears Luke interviewed Cornelius, recounting his recollection in the passage above.  Based upon this event, God has the ability to commemorate prayers and offerings from your past.  Thus, if you stay connected to the right things, blessings are bound to come.  Sure, nearly 2000 years later the apostle Paul receives most of the credit for fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:7-8.  Nonetheless, God is searching for the next Cornelius and Mordecai Ham who are willing to stay connected to the right things.  While you may never get the attention of a Billy Graham or apostle Paul, those who stay connected to the vine, John 15:1-4, will receive honor and praise from God the Father.

by Jay Mankus

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

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