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Tag Archives: Easter

A Year Without Church

Before his tragic death in a plane crash, Keith Green created the song Asleep in the Night.  Although the original context refers to someone sleeping in, missing church on Easter Sunday, this song applies to my current dilemma.  Due to my grave yard work schedule, I can’t seem to get my lazy butt out of bed on Sunday morning.  Subsequently, 2016 can be described as a year without church, the fewest weeks I’ve ever attended.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living, Luke 15:13”

I wish I had a decent excuse, but what good would that do.  Like any other sin, missing church involves a lack of discipline, choosing laziness over obedience.  Instead of receiving God’s blessings of fellowship, praise and words of inspiration, I have become like the prodigal who continues to move in the wrong decision.  Hopefully, I will come to my senses soon so that I can spent 2017 in the house of God.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” Luke 15:17-18.

When you miss a day praying or reading the Bible, you can’t get it back.  Sure, you might try to do twice the praying or reading the next day to make yourself feel better, but the truth is something else was more important to you on the days you tuned out God.  Part of me still sees the Lord from an Old Testament perspective, one of judgement and wrath.  Yet, the New Testament opens the door on a loving God, desperately waiting for his children to give Him the attention He is worthy of.  May you learn from the errors of my way by visiting a local church regularly and invest time at home daily with the living God of the Bible.

by Jay Mankus



A Song for the Season

Every so often I will hear a song that touches my heart or stirs my soul.  The artist who sings and or writes these special songs have everything fall into place.  In some cases its as if the hand of God, divine intervention or angelic inspiration led to the final result.  When it comes to Easter, I can’t think of a better song that summarizes this special season than Forever by Kari Jobe.

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Saviour of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him

If you had to give a sunrise sermon, a condensed message, the lyrics of Forever highlight the death and resurrection of Jesus and what it means for you and for me.  You don’t have to listen to a 30 or 60 minute sermon to understand what this day means for Christians. Although every song has its time and place, Forever has become an instant classic for me, now a popular worship selection for Sunday mornings.

One final breath he gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

Instead of trying to come up with a new angle, I thought the words of Forever would suffice.  It only takes three stanzas to summary Good Friday through Easter Sunday.  While the words vary slightly from the actual Bible verses, Forever nails it, so to speak, touching core principles about what Jesus’ victory over death means.  The final portion of the third stanza quotes 1 Corinthians 15, concentrating on verses 55-57.

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Wherever you are on this Easter Sunday, may the song Forever remind you of the greatest sacrifice ever made.

by Jay Mankus

The Land of Look Behind

Prior to the 1982 documentary, a region known as The Land of Look Behind served as a refuge from slavery.  Jamaica’s interior topography, called Cockpit County, includes a mountain range with dense vegetation.  When the opportunity presented itself, oppressed slaves fled to the hills, trying to avoid their masters who sent the police for their return.  Some were successful, able to chart out a new life.  Unfortunately, most were caught; only able to imagine what could have been.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Living with regrets can be agonizing, wishing you can go back in time to change the course of history.  Yet, the reality of this life is that guilt, shame and remorse hover over sinful human beings.  There are many days I feel like a hostage, unable to break free of the hold of bad habits that have taken control of my decision making.  Subsequently, the words of Romans 7:15 have come to fruition in my life.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15

Now that Easter has passed, its important to look behind before you can move ahead.  Although problems will continue to exist, reflecting on past failures can set the stage for future success.  Since the story of the resurrection is fresh in the minds of believers, may the power of the Holy Spirit elevate individuals to new heights.  If the Pentecost could transform the disciples, why can’t the same Spirit inspire souls to usher in heaven on earth today?  Therefore, it’s time to catch a glimpse of the land of what can be.

by Jay Mankus


Thorns of the Flesh

And twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” – Matthew 27:29

In the passage above, Jesus’ head endured excruciating pain when Roman soldiers forced a crown of thorns into his head.  This particular species of thorn is only found in Israel.  The tips of each extend beyond two inches in length.  Similar crowns can be purchased online as even an inch of cardboard padding can not keep the longest thorns from breaking through their box.  If the slightest contact can draw blood from a finger, imagine the flow that poured forth fooling this cruel act thousands of years ago.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. –        2 Corinthians 12:7

Although recent persecution of Christians in the Middle East has brought back crucifixion, most face a new type of danger.  According to the apostle Paul, some face spiritual anguish in the form of illness, physical limitations or oppression from demons.  While you won’t draw blood, these moments, periods or trials can be extremely draining, sucking the lives out of souls.  In your weakness, you must lean on Christ to keep you strong.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. – Proverbs 18:21

Meanwhile, some may be wounded by words, cut to the heart and pierced by those whom you love.  When you reach this point or experience the pain of disappointment, remember the message of Hebrews 4:14-16.  Jesus has been tempted in every way just as we are, but did not sin.  In view of this truth, when the thorns of the flesh are pressed against your mind, cry out to Jesus for help.  Pray the prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:9-12 so that in your weak moments Christ will be strong!

by Jay Mankus


Not Just A Seasonal Thing

After the post-Christmas sales end, stores will be transformed over night trading in candy canes for Valentine’s Day chocolate.  Once presents under the tree are unwrapped tomorrow, birthday wishes will begin to enter the minds of children as well as those young at heart.  Unfortunately, if you allow consumerism to flood your thoughts, spiritual holidays will become a seasonal thing.

You don’t have to study statistics to recognize annual church attendance spikes each Christmas and Easter.  Somewhere in between, the message falls upon deaf ears, as the curious turn their attention to the next vacation or time off.  Subsequently, individuals have gotten good at placing God in a box a few times years, taking Him out of the attic bi-annually.

For me and those of faith, Christmas is not just a seasonal event.  In my moment of need, I exchanged a self-centered life style for a Purpose Driven Life, Psalm 118:5-7.  While my ways are far from perfect, a new peace surpasses my formal understanding, Philippians 4:7, broadening my perspective.  Thus, each day I revisit the manger, cross and resurrection to renew the seed of faith sown in my heart, Romans 10:9-10.  May the miracle of Christmas bring you to a similar place this season and throughout the year.

by Jay Mankus

Life’s Ransom

Director Ron Howard used a 1954 episode of The United States Steel Hour from the series Fearful Decision to produce the 1996 film Ransom starring Mel Gibson and Rene Russo.  Author Ed McBain’s novel King’s Ransom also influenced Howard’s portrayal of police procedure in this movie.  When a millionaire’s son is kidnapped, the ransom is set for $2 million for his safe return.

The Bible refers to another ransom in Psalm 49:7-9.  However, this amount is like the entertaining Master Card commercials, priceless.  Whether you’re rich or poor, white or blue collar, no payment is sufficient enough to receive eternal life.  Helpless, life a parent held hostage, Jesus intervenes, going to the bank called Calvary, Matthew 20:28.

The apostle Paul describes life’s ransom in Romans 6:23.  The wages, payment due for the errors, mistakes and sin you’ve committed in life is death, separated from God.  Despite your dire condition, Jesus decided to pay the ransom for your life on Good Friday, 30 AD, Romans 5:8.  Thus, the gift of God is in the mail, waiting for you to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10.  May the power of the Easter message come alive in your soul, resurrecting faith, hope and love, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

by Jay Mankus

Sizing Up My Faith

On Valentine’s Day, 2013, I published a blog entitled Supersize Your Faith.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, God led me to challenge friends and readers to super size their faith during the month of March.  I encouraged fellow believers to expand their reading of the Bible, ramp up prayer lives and become an active participant within church.  As the sun has set on the month of March, this Easter evening, its time to size up for my faith.

Beginning, March 1st, I attempted to read 3 chapters of the Bible per day.  While I didn’t hit my goal every day, God allowed me to finish Habakkuk – Malachi, the gospel of Mark, half of John and 31 Psalms.  Most of my days began with a Psalm, serving as my outline for morning prayer and providing direction for the prayer journal that I kept.  Although, my overall prayer life hasn’t changed, God’s response to recent prayers did.

For example, as I reflect upon the last 9 days, I can see the hand of God providing for me within 24 hours of my heart felt cries for help.  First, God gave me clarity through a series of interviews, closed one door while opening another and during a 3 day stretch answered me exactly as I requested with a job, desire to finish my movie and a 40 hour work week.  I even laid hands on my cat, who had a 2 inch hole near her back and within a few days this area was healed.  Before praying, this hole grew larger day after day.

My greatest failure, where I need to most work in the future was being more active in my church community.  Initially, I had contacted a friend about starting up a small group Bible Study, but I didn’t follow up so this good idea faded away.  Meanwhile, I didn’t possess a servant’s heart, often rushing out of church or I found excuses to rationalize my lack of action.  The only fruit I bore in this area was coming up an idea of an Easter Egg hunt on March 30th to reach out to T-ball children and families of the Greater Newark Baseball League, where I have coached the past 3 seasons.  Thankfully, my wife coordinated this event with Pastor Matt of Overflow, leading to a successful day, impacting many who attended this special event.

Like the 40 day challenged introduced in the film Fireproof, Super sizing your faith should never end.  When Kirk Cameron’s character, Captain Caleb began this series of tasks, little progress was made.  However, as soon as Caleb changed his attitude, his life was transformed from the inside out.  Therefore, don’t give up hope if you are feeling defeated.  Ask the Holy Spirit, 2 Timothy 1:7 for extra help to better understand the Bible, develop an intimate prayer life and leave a legacy for Christ in your community.  Rise up with the risen Savior!

by Jay Mankus