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The Pathway to Addiction and Freedom

As a story teller, there was no one better during the first century than Jesus.  Appealing to visual learners, Jesus painted vivid pictures allowing the minds of listeners to follow along with each word.  Nearing the end of his sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives those in attendance two choices.  There are two different roads that you can follow in this life.  One leads to addiction, the other toward freedom.  You may have a great time on the popular path, but in the end you’ll be left with an eternal hangover.  Meanwhile, the path less traveled is a difficult journey, but the benefits to staying the course are eternal.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

After Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, one of Jesus’ disciples goes into greater detail about the broad road that leads to destruction.  John refers to emotions that keep individuals ensnared, paralyzed by lustful desires.  These cravings distract souls from any standards that they may have held, kept or were raised with prior to turning on to this interstate.  Lust, sensual desires and pride tend to blind those ashamed, guilty or filled with remorse by this change of course.  Unfortunately, the longer anyone stays on the path to addiction, the harder it becomes to leave for good.

Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

Instead of typical road signs that you may see everyday, the pathway to freedom contains God’s precepts.  These nuggets of truth preach an alternative message from the flashy advertisements on the highway to hell.  Words such as serve, surrender and selfless appeal to those searching for something deeper, pondering the meaning of life.  The further you travel along this barren road, the narrower it becomes.  Ideally, accountability partners, friends and mentors will encourage you to choose freedom over temporary pleasures.  To persist, press on and demonstrate resolve.  In the end, the choose is yours.  I’ll leave you with Moses’ farewell address to Israel, Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.

by Jay Mankus

Praying for the President

Thursday was the National Day of Prayer.  On April 17th, 1952 Harry S. Truman signed a  bill into law declaring this day as the National Day of Prayer for the United States of America.  However, in 1988 President Ronald Reagan ammended this law.  Part of a simplification process, Reagan decreed the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way, 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Anyone with a busy schedule may be caught off guard by this special day.  I didn’t realize this until late last night.  Thus, I was compelled to ascertain what could I do with the little time that was left.  In a letter to a young pastor, who happened to be a teenager, the apostle Paul encouraged his pupil to pray for everyone.  Since America does not have a king, the president and civil servants in high positions should be included within your daily prayers.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44.

However, skeptics may reply, “what if I don’t like the president?”  Political enemies may come to the conclusion, “surely I can’t pray for someone that I detest.”  Perhaps this explains Jesus’ words above, urging his followers during the Sermon on the Mount to love and pray for your enemies.  Granted, democrats, liberals and progressives will have a tougher time adhering to this call.  Nonetheless, if you want to be a doer of God’s Word, pray for president Trump no matter what your political leanings may be.  As you pray, the Holy Spirit will either change your heart or his.  Regardless, a simply prayer can make a difference.  May the National Day of Prayer become a 365 day practice.

by Jay Mankus

Doing Whatever It Takes

As a parent, I can anticipate failure before a grade is given or the final score is relayed.  The secret to this insight is simple, hard work is often rewarded and laziness is penalized.  For me, the most painful aspect of parenting is seeing the potential your child has yet being unable to convince them to do whatever it takes to ensure success.

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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.

For those of you who coach or teach, this same dilemma exists.  How do you express someone’s gifts or talents without trying to live your life through them?  In the film Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams plays a psychologist who is introduced to a genius played by Matt Damon with a troubled past.  These secret scars, hidden from plain view prevent Will from doing whatever it took to apply his knowledge in a positive manner.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” John 14:15.

Today, the future is bright, but too many young people don’t have the resolve necessary to see their dreams come true.  Sure, the average teenager wants to have a great life, but this doesn’t happen with a snap of your finger.  Only the disciplined, driven and hungry will begin to see the fruits of their labor.  Thus, a parent can encourage, inspire or motivate their offspring.  In the end, a parent can only pray that their child develops a zeal to follow God’s will on earth.  The key to this fulfillment is doing whatever it takes.

by Jay Mankus

 

Walking a Fine Line

There is a growing tension that exists between men and women.  As sexual harassment accusations continue to come forward daily from previous encounters, common interactions that were once considered the norm must be re-evaluated.  The days of coarse joking, innuendos and sarcasm may be over as someone from the opposite sex could be offended by what you thought was funny.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear, Ephesians 4:29.

The Bible provides instructions for those sensing that a change needs to be made.  In a letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul urges individuals to focus on the positive.  Despite how difficult it may be to alter your vocabulary, the advice encouraged above isn’t complex.  If you want to walk the fine line, focus on only those things that build others up.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving, Ephesians 5:4.

When I was in college back in the early 1990’s, a series of rapes had taken place on campus.  The university did a study to pin point some of the reasons to explain why this was happening.  One report blamed this on poor lighting throughout campus.  Female students were so afraid walking alone at night that if you were a guy and said hello or smiled, girls thought you might be a rapist.  This atmosphere caused most male students to keep their head downs, avoiding any type of eye contact.  It’s sad to see interactions come to this point, but keeping a low profile is another way to walk a fine line.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Final Resting Place

At end of a grueling day, many people have a bed which serves as resting place.  The less fortunate may have to rely on a couch, sofa or floor to lay their heads.  Meanwhile, the homeless are forced to find an abandoned home, park bench or shelter to survive.  Whatever struggle you are forced to endure, everyone faces the same destination, a final resting place six feet under the earth.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

Solomon provides insight to what happens to individuals after dying.  Just as God created Adam out of dust, one day human beings will return to this previous state.  Yet, this wise king adds a new dimension to death.  In the same way that Jesus gave up his spirit on the cross, this essence returns back to the Creator the moment you pass away.  This concept suggests that our lives are on loan from God, a temporary gift that lasts far too short.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away, Revelation 21:4.

On Monday afternoon, I watched helplessly as my father in law was laid to rest.  As crying, grief and sobbing surrounded me, I came face to face with the grim reality of life.  As the casket was lowered six feet beneath the earth’s surface, this final resting place is permanent.  Yet, John the Revelator shines light on the hope which waits to those who call upon the name of the Lord.  The words in the passage above should serve as inspiration to get right with God before your hour glass of life runs out.  While your final resting place on earth will not change, there is time to secure your reservations for heaven now, 1 John 5:13.  May this blog encourage you to leave no doubt, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Three Ways God Saves Us From Ourselves

Young people can be naïve, unaware of the dangers that lurk outside of their comfort zones.  Thus, when individuals turn eighteen or twenty one, a thirst for freedom causes many to enter situations that result in a free fall.  This is where God steps in, swooping down like an eagle to save an eaglet who still doesn’t know how to fly on their own.  Unfortunately, the average person fails to recognize, see or thank the invisible presence who saves us regularly.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:31.

When you do earn your wings, there are other factors in life that can halt your growth in a split second.  The apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a marathon.  For those of you who experienced running in some capacity, everyone sooner or later hits a mental wall.  When you do reach this point, human nature tells you to stop, rest a while or simply quit, never to run again.  As soon as this whisper arrives, God intervenes sending angels, the Holy Spirit or other runners to encourage you to keep going until you cross the finish line.  This second sign also goes unnoticed as many participates fail to acknowledge God’s hand, saving you from defeat or failure.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

The final way God saves us from ourselves is through our perspective of trials and tribulations.  Since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, perfection does not exist.  There is no perfect family, job, neighborhood or state.  Each has it’s frustrating, irritable and negative influences.  Those who seek perfection in any aspect of life will always be disappointed.  Therefore, if situations won’t change, God has to transform your attitude of unpleasant experiences in life.  This process is like sanctification, taking a lifetime to complete.  Yet, only those who trust in the Lord and lean not in their own understanding will see life through the eyes of Christ.  As you stand in the storm clouds of life, may God save you by adopting the attitude and mind of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Something Greater Than the Temple

Traditions play an important role in life.  Religious traditions passed on by parents influence what you believe, especially early on in life.  During the first century, Pharisees displayed a holy reverence for Solomon’s Temple.  This passion for a physical place to worship the Lord soon became a stumbling block, limiting God’s power in their lives.  Subsequently, during one encounter with religious leaders Jesus refers to something greater than the temple.

 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here, Matthew 12:6.

Today’s Roman Catholic Church shares some of the practices of Judaism.  Modern priests play a similar role as great high priests in the Old Testament.  However, instead of sacrificing animals to forgive sins, confessionals are used to hear and forgive the sins of their congregation.  While there is a movement to encourage members to read and study the Bible on their own, traditions of the past have stunted spiritual growth.  Thus, the concept of a place greater than the temple is still foreign to many.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

The apostle Paul understood what Jesus meant by something greater than the temple.  Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, an earthquake destroyed the temple that the Jews held in high esteem.  This event opened the door for a transformation to occur, from the temple into your own heart, Romans 10:9-10.  Thus, using a priest as a mediator between God and man was no longer necessary.  Instead, followers of God need to view their bodies as a living temple of the Holy Spirit.  When modern believers make this connection, the human heart becomes greater than the temple.

by Jay Mankus