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Battle Scars

In 1998, a film brought the battlefields of war into movie theaters across the country.  Using the invasion on the beaches of Normandy during World War II as a backdrop, Saving Private Ryan graphically depicts the brutal nature of war during an extended battle scene.  Those who survived were haunted by images of splattered blood, cries for help and the silence of death.  Some of these individuals returned home with visible signs of this violent venture.  Others possessed emotional and mental scars, like a part of their soul was ripped out and left behind.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.

More than eighty years later, descendants have their own battle scars.  Survivors of the Holocaust have to live with the knowledge of what happened to innocent Jews.  Immigrants have the memories of the hell they went through just to make it to America.  Meanwhile, those living in crime infested areas stay awake at night wondering, who is going to be next?  There are many that express how unfair life is or could be.  Yet, blaming, complaining and denigrating others didn’t save the world from Nazi Germany.  Rather, victory is achieved by forgetting your own battle scars by coming together for a greater purpose and cause.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, Matthew 11:29.

Instead of making situations better, divisiveness by modern politicians is only adding scars, one soul at a time.  Words are cheap, a campaign slogan to help get elected.  Yet, what this world needs are leaders who inspire others to rise above their own battle scars to make the most of life.  My largest scar is three inches long, what’s left of an ankle surgery from high school.  Prior to this procedure, I was told by doctors that I would never run again.  My Christian friends refused to believe this fate, offering up prayers to the Most High.  In the end, these prayers of intervention proved science wrong, healing me to be able to compete in athletic competitions throughout my life.  While not every story has a happen ending, come to Jesus with the battle scars from your past so that you will find rest for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Maybe It’s Make Believe?

According to systematic research within the field of child psychology, there are benefits for children engaging in pretend games.  Based upon an article in Psychology Today, Jerome and Dorothy Singer suggest this type of behavior is acceptable up to age seven.  Recent studies have found cognitive benefits to pretending as participants increase their language usage while role playing adults.  Meanwhile, the concept “theory of the mind” is developed and enhanced by children who exercise their imaginations by pretending.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1.

If you had to summarize 2017 in American History, some might suggest this is the year of “fake news.”  After a series of anonymous sources, articles and media reports were proven to be false, president Donald Trump took a phrase previously used and made fake news his trademark term.  As a former journalist, I know that there is a degree of truth in every statement.  However, when a bias exists within the mainstream media, exaggerations, opinions and theories are often shaped in such a way to be conceived as fact or the truth.  Perhaps, some individuals have never grown up, still pretending as if a six or seven year old.  This behavior has tainted current journalists and reporters, causing the average American to wonder, “maybe this story is make believe?”

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world, 1 John 4:1.

As you grow older, you will meet adults who want to hear themselves speak.  Maybe, these individuals were ignored as children growing up.  On some occasions I have met co-workers who pretend to living an amazing life.  Upon further review, digging deeper through a series of questions, I discovered these adults were simply living a lie.  According to the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, the first century was full of people who twisted the truth.  Thus, unless you test what you hear against the Bible, history and reality, you become vulnerable to believing a distortion of the truth.  May the lessons of 2017 make you wiser in 2018, practicing the advice of the Bible by dong your homework before believing that which is reported.

by Jay Mankus

 

Without You I’m a Disaster

You don’t have to experience the heart break of a broken relationship to know loneliness, pain and suffering.  Busy schedules may hide your grief momentarily, but idle time will eventually reveal the hole in your heart.  Reflection often stokes emotions held in check until now.  Over the holidays some will come to the conclusion without you I’m a disaster.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful,” John 15:1-2.

My Darkest Days sings about this reality in their song Without You.  While most people will think of this in a context of a man and woman, this also applies spiritually.  Biblical scholars and theologians reference John 15:1-8 as the answer to this connection.  Jesus uses an illustration of a gardener watering his vineyard.  Jesus is symbolic of the vine, human beings are the branches and the Holy Spirit nurtures and oversees life.  Unfortunately, many individuals attempt to live without remaining connected to the vine, Jesus.  This decision usually results in disaster.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:4-5.

One of the ways Christians neglect Jesus’ instructions is by trying to go through life without any regular time attending church, praying or reading the Bible.  While you may not recognize the difference, each day without interaction with God breeds selfish tendencies.  If this pattern continues, you will likely reach a point where you think you don’t need God.  Sure, in times of desperation Jesus will be like crutches until you can walk again on your own.  As someone who went down this path in college, your mind becomes transformed by the world, believing in lies whispered to you by the Devil.  Justification and rationalization become a new religion.  As 2018 approaches, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to help you see without accepting Jesus into your heart, Romans 10:9-10, life is a disaster waiting to happen.

by Jay Mankus

 

Trying to Survive in a World Void of Love

If you have your own twitter handle or follow daily tweets, hatred is regularly spewed.  Feelings, opinions and thoughts once keep inside human minds are now given a venue to be unleashed without any filter.  This sets the stage for a cruel environment as critics pick apart individuals that they disagree with, dislike or simply pile on.  This is the atmosphere children and adults are forced to deal with, trying to survive in a world void of love.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him,” Leviticus 19:17.

While technology wasn’t an issue, evil affected civilizations in the days of the Old Testament.  Moses addresses hatred that spread throughout the twelve tribes of Israel.  According to the passage above, bitter hearts were influencing relationships with neighbors.  Anyone who allows jealousy, hurt feelings or past encounters to prevent you from giving others the benefit of doubt incurs sin.  In many cases, lack of reason hampers love from being displayed.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen, 1 John 4:20.

The disciple whom Jesus loved gives his own take on why love is fading away, rarely displayed by anyone.  John believes people are afraid to be honest, caring more about being politically correct than being truthful.  Thus, a growing number of people offer lip service void of any signs of love.  This pattern must cease, replaced by humble hearts hoping to change.  While public education continues to focus on self esteem, love is derived from a spiritual transformation, Galatians 5:22-23.  When hearts are reborn, Romans 10:9-10, love is possible.  Unfortunately, love can’t be forced upon people, it occurs naturally as the Holy Spirit touches souls.  The only way to survive a world void of love unscathed is by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit through which love comes forth.

by Jay Mankus

Undaunted

Earlier in the week, I watched a documentary on near death experiences.  Similar to an episode of Project Afterlife, Destination America examined the experiences of two individuals who flat lined, then came back to life.  During these interviews, the man and woman describe their moments hovering above their bodies and the heaven and hell like encounters that followed.  Rarely do people get second chances at life, but for those granted a special exception, perspectives on life radically change.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen, Hebrews 13:20-21.

While I don’t recall the exact title, this show tried to help others understand unsolved mysteries about life.  The man selected for this episode was a neuro surgeon, spending a large portion of his career saving the lives of others.  In this scenario, the roles were reversed as his life slipped slowly away after several seizures.  His recollections of the afterlife altered the path of his new life.  This surgeon recalls a place similar to the accounts of hell in the Bible.  Dark, alone and filled with a constant eerie noise, it didn’t take long for panic to set in.  Upon waking up days later, his wife and son could see the fear in his eyes.  Like the reality show Scared Straight, this man didn’t need to go to prison to quickly turn his life over to God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

Meanwhile, the woman who was in a car accident, went through a much more pleasant experience.  Like scenes from the I Saw Heaven, this individual is reunited with family members who had died and gone to heaven.  She details one conversation, the last before waking up in the hospital.  An aunt tells this woman that her work on earth is not finished.  The Lord is sending you back to complete the purpose and will God has for you.  “Live fearlessly,” undaunted by the barriers and obstacles that exist.  After hearing this message, I feel like this applies to all believers, hoping to please God.  May this testimony inspire you to go through life undaunted, trusting in angels, divine intervention and God’s power to cross the finish line on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Where Did My Joy Go?

At the beginning of any relationship, there is an anticipation that consumes your body.  Similar to adrenaline, there is a rush each time you hold hands, embrace or hear the sound of this significant other’s voice on the phone.  As you experience this initial stage of courtship, your mind can’t keep thinking about the person you love.  Joy abounds every moment you spend together.  Then, little by little over time, joy disappears.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones, Proverbs 17:22.

This pattern also affects individuals who enter into a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10.  Introductions to faith occur in various places, from Bible studies, one on one conversations, spiritual retreats and revivals.  When you begin to connect with God through prayer, study and worship, a peace that surpasses all understanding begins to emerge.  As you interact with other believers, this spiritual bond deepens, filling souls with the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, hardship, temptations and worries in life suffocate the joy most people have for the Lord.

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full, John 16:24.

Within a letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul urges individuals who are single to avoid marriage unless called to do so.  The context of these words refer to the struggle to keep Christ first when married.  No matter how disciplined, focused and strong you are, the weight of the world can easily erode joy for life.  Thus, while you may not have the feelings you once possessed, faith is designed to carry you through the rough stretches in life.  If faith without deeds is dead, the same concept applies to joy.  This explains why my joy for life has vanished.  In view of this, make sure you rely on the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, so that joy will return and live again.

by Jay Mankus