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Fighting for Harmony

Most people don’t view life in terms of harmony.  Yet, musicians and song writers seek a place or state of mind where creativity flows.  Others withdraw to a secluded location, retreating to regain joy and purpose for life.  Behind the scenes, in one way or another, we are all struggling to find harmony.

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding, Romans 14:19.

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus spent forty days in the desert.  Fasting, praying and seeking God for insight, Jesus avoided the typical distractions within daily life.  This time of reflection served as a transitional period from a carpenter to a fisher of men.  Jesus turned his attention away from financial needs toward building a spiritual team of disciples.  Along the way, Satan arrives in Matthew 4:1-9 to disrupt this harmony.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind, 1 Peter 3:8.

Similar visits occur today by demons seeking to divide families, communities and nations.  Based upon current events, it appears the Devil is accomplishing his goal.  Anger, dissension and gossip are on the rise, fueled by social media.  Instead of attacking the source, people are fighting one another with words of hate.  Perhaps, it’s time to withdraw into the wilderness to reverse this trend by fighting back to regain a sense of harmony.

by Jay Mankus

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Making Room for God’s Servants

Churches, temples and other places of worship ask their members to pitch in.  This typically involves gifts, offerings and tithes to help maintain buildings, ministry needs and running costs.  Yet, in the early days of any congregation, sacrifices and time are crucial.  Those who see the big picture often make room for God’s servants.

She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God.  Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us,” 2 Kings 4:9-10.

In the Old Testament, there’s an account of a woman who came up with a selfless idea.  Not wanting to act alone, she shared this with her husband, convincing him to put an addition on their home.  When construction was completed, she left on open invitation to the prophet Elisha to stay whenever he was in the area.  This act of kindness was repaid by the Lord.

“About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” – 2 Kings 4:16

The symbolism of a barren woman in the Bible represents a lack of blessing from God.  Meanwhile, those who give birth to multiple children are deemed to have God’s favor.  The context of the passage above suggests this woman was well beyond the age of child bearing.  Despite this fact, Elisha promises the impossible, the miracle of a future son.  While not every kind act of repaid in full, the Lord honors those who make room for God’s servants.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Fatherless

You can find out a lot about someone based upon their action, behavior and content of spoken/written words.  While James is often considered the earthly brother of Jesus, few people realize he spent many years without a father.  Beginning in the second chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus’ father Joseph is not mentioned.  While there are many theories to explain Joseph’s absence, most scholars believe Joseph died several years before Jesus began his earthly ministry.  Thus, its assumed by the author John, Joseph is dead leaving James fatherless.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless, James 1:26.

Anyone who is blessed with having godly influences along the way in life tends to possess key insight.  Like the brothers of Joseph in the Old Testament who thought he was crazy, James had similar thoughts about Jesus.  Based upon the words chosen above, James doubted his brother prior to his resurrection.  Although he doesn’t specify, James likely joked about, made fun of or used sarcasm upon hearing Jesus’ boisterous claims.  Conviction inspired James to state religion is worthless without keeping a tight reign on your tongue.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world, James 1:27.

Beside helping the poor, James gives believers 2 areas where people should express their faith.  Likely thinking about his mother Mary, supporting widows is a worthy cause.  Meanwhile, orphans abandoned by their families or left homeless due to tragedy is just as needy.  Perhaps, James experienced times in life when he needed a father, but Joseph was long gone.  Though you may not know an orphan, that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone younger to mentor.  Desperate souls are longing for a friend to guide them through life.  Yet, without the helping hands of Christ’s servants in action, the lonely will remain feeling fatherless.

by Jay Mankus

 

Joe and Kay

Last weekend, I attended a benefit concert for one of my former students.  While listening to the music, speakers and video, I am touched by the legacy these two students have left behind.  Joseph Feeley was a gifted athlete, solid believer and destined to play professional baseball or become a long drive champion.  Meanwhile, Kaylyn Warren was an aspiring actress in school plays, talented singer and godly leader.  Unfortunately, each were taken away, struck down by vicious cancers.

And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary, Luke 18:3.

Like the tribulations of Job, somethings will never make any sense.  Subsequently, those who endure horrific conditions are forever linked by time.  From an earthly perspective, parents, relatives and students were robbed of spending more time with their friend.  On the other hand, each were relieved of their suffering and reunited with God the Father in heaven.  Trying to comprehend the Lord’s grand design can be overwhelming.  Thus, for now, all I can grasp is that by dying, these two teenagers impacted their peers with a persistent faith.

I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? – Luke 18:8

Over time, its easy to lose touch with the people you care about.  Yet, wherever you are, its crucial to find a ministry to poor your heart and soul into on earth.  Although, it may take some time to locate one that you believe in, God has a special place for you if you are willing.  Sure, there are distractions, trying to grab your attention.  Nonetheless, if you want to make an investment for eternity, remember the example of Joe and Kay so that others will be touched by your deeds when your time on earth runs out.

by Jay Mankus

 

No More Excuses

As a parent, it doesn’t take long for children to figure you out.  Ideally, you should be an example, positive and a role model.  Yet, when you have a bad day, start to fall away from God or have a weak moment you can’t run and hide.  You have to face the truth, a sinner who has fallen short of God’s glory.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst, 1 Timothy 1:15.

The apostle Paul is one of those unlikely individuals the Lord calls out of darkness into the light to do great things for God.  Yet, despite his successful earthly ministry, mentoring of young pastors like Timothy and many miracles performed, Paul was haunted by his past.  Whether it was his guilt of giving the order to have the apostle Stephen killed or persecuting Christians prior to his conversion, Paul recognized the error of his former ways.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them, James 4:17.

Sure, Paul could have blamed his upbringing as a Jewish zealot.  Yet, like other followers of Christ the conviction of the Holy Spirit exposes human imperfections.  Other believers, pastors or words of the Bible make this point painfully clear.  There are no more excuses, rational explanations or scapegoats.  Rather, sins of inaction are just as guilty as those who commit harmful acts.  Therefore, don’t run from the truth, accept it as a prodigal child in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

Remembering Those Who Refresh Souls

Its unfortunate that most people wait until a funeral to thank someone for the imprint made of their life.  Instead of sharing an encouraging word, time has a way of distracting individuals from expressing how they really feel.  Thus, souls often perish without hearing or knowing the impact they had on others.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 2 Timothy 1:16.

While writing a letter to one of his ministry partners, the apostle Paul urges believers to remember those who refresh souls.  To heed this call, I feel compelled to give a shout out for those people who have helped me along my faith journey.  The first was my high school swim coach, who also served as a science teacher and spiritual mentor.  To a student who was seeking for meaning in life, Ken Horne pointed me in the right direction as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle leader at Concord High.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone, Colossians 4:6.

After helping me develop a solid foundation, several college friends inspired me to further my faith.  My roommate Mike introduced me to contemporary worship music, Phil showed me how to live life to the fullest and Dave led me to see the importance of accountability.  There are others who deserve additional credit, but there will be other blogs to address their deeds.  For now, don’t let time slip away on this July 4th before you remember those who have refreshed your soul.

by Jay Mankus

All These Things

Prior to beginning his ministry on earth, Jesus faced three temptations during a forty day fast.  The first was physical as the Devil attacked the human bodies dependence on food.  According to Matthew 4:4, relying on the spiritual, the Bible, strengthens minds.  Yet, seeking God is much more than overcoming temporary pleasures.

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

Not giving up, Satan fought back, testing Jesus to see if He was willing to use God’s power for his own glory.  The request was not impossible.  Jesus could have called on angels to save His life.  This mental temptation feeds on pride, daring souls to prove the Devil wrong.   Instead of participating in this folly by lowering God’s standards, Jesus quotes scripture to expose the Devil’s cunning plot.  The key to righteousness is remaining humble, wrestling with desires of the sinful nature to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own, Matthew 6:34.

The final obstacle Jesus overcame was devotion, who will you worship?  The Father of Lies continues to make empty promises today, deceiving the uneducated daily.  Knowing and practicing foundational biblical truths is the last step of obedience before you can experience the promise of Matthew 6:33.  Although young men stumble and fall, seeking God and his righteousness must be your top authority.  Until this occurs, all these things are just a fantasy.  However, when you cross this threshold, following in the footsteps of Christ, the Lord will begin to provide in supernatural ways.

by Jay Mankus