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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

Going Back to Where You First Got Stuck

Sometimes authors use their life experiences and settings for a source of inspiration.  Prior to writing the Shack which was first published in 2007, William P. Young was an office manager and hotel night clerk.  These unusual hours provided an opportunity for William to pour out his heart and soul into writing.  Young’s resolve was rewarded with a book and a 2017 movie with the same name.  One of my favorite lines in this film occurs during a conversation between Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer.  A troubled father has an encounter with God when the Lord reveals, “Mack this is where you first got stuck.”

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken, Psalm 34:17-20.

To avoid a spoiler alert, I’ll let everyone who hasn’t seen the Shack to watch for yourself.  In the meantime, this sound byte reveals an important truth about life, at some point everyone get’s stuck.  Like a difficult math equation, it may take an extended period of time to solve this problem.  How you respond to this roadblock will impact your personal growth.  Those who give up, quit or walk away without discovering the answer will leave empty.  Anyone who persists, searches and receives the wisdom to obtain the correct answer will be able to move on, to live and learn.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you, 1 Peter 5:7.

In 1988, Christian Icon Michael W. Smith released i 2 Eye.  One of the hit songs from this album is Live and Learn.  The lyrics refers to where human beings first got stuck, tempted by forbidden fruit.  Prior to this day, there was no sin, suffering or pain.  Unfortunately, Adam and Eve’s willful act of disobedience has planted seeds of darkness into human hearts ever since.  Thus, Michael W. Smith writes about the sowing principle, sowing fields of stubbornness in his life.  Depending upon your current life, you may be your own worst enemy, self destructing on your own.  Others may still be stuck from a tragic event from your past, unable to let go of the pain.  Whatever your situation, perhaps its time to find a shack, retreat and spend time with God alone so that you can grow and mature from the place where you first got stuck.

by Jay Mankus

When Jesus Gives People a Reason to Leave

No matter when you were born, there will always be a culture, group or segment of society that is not welcome.  This perception begins through stereotypes, prejudging an entire race or nation based upon previous actions, beliefs and practices.  Such is the case of Canaan and Israel.  While Noah’s grandson gave birth to descendants who embraced evil, idolatry and wicked ways, God called Israel to be set apart from the rest of the world.  This tension continued during the first century when a needy woman approaches Jesus.

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” Matthew 15:23-24.

Based upon the passage above, a Canaanite woman appeared to have heard about Jesus’ healing powers.  Desperate to find help for her demon possessed daughter, this woman makes a scene in public, hoping to get Jesus’ attention.  Approaching on her knees, Jesus offers two interesting responses to this Canaanite woman’s request.  If you just read Jesus’ reply, he is blunt, initially disregarding her plea.  If you read between the lines, Jesus is giving her a reason to leave, to walk away without receiving an answer to her prayer.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” Matthew 15:26-27.

The underlining theme of this passage is perseverance.  This woman refused to take no for an answer, doing everything in her power to convince Jesus to extend his power beyond the Jews.  She could have walked away disappointed upon hearing that Jesus came for the lost sheep of Israel.  Hanging on despite the initial response, Jesus’ second comment in the passage above would have sent most people away in tears.  Nonetheless, this woman showed resolve, coming back with a witty response to win Jesus over.  In the end, you have two choices in life: accept reality by walking away disappointed or persist until God answers your prayers.

by Jay Mankus

Sense of Urgency

When I played professional golf in 1995, I met people who lived in their cars and ate peanut butter and jelly every day until they reached their dream.  In 1999, I was introduced to a few people who worked 7 days a week, foregoing vacations to achieve their financial goal.  As of today, exactly one month unemployed, a sense of urgency to find a new job is seizing my soul.

 

Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  My present plan is to find a position which I can do for the next 10 years.  However, each day out of work makes my financial situation dire, like America’s debt crisis.  On the other hand, I need to make the most of every second of every day, taking advantage of conversations, past relationships and untapped skills to attract a company.

 

My patience is wearing thin, my wisdom seems empty and my hope is fading until I can go to sleep knowing I will be working again.  As for now, I have to suck it up, press on and persist like the Persistent Widow in Luke 18 pleading with God until a new position is found.  As I wander through a forest of despair, I see the sun rising on a new day of opportunities with a sense of urgency spurring me on until hope is restored!

 

by Jay Mankus