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Change Your World

In the first century, one man set out to change the world.  This higher calling wasn’t rushed.  Nor did this man leave anything up to chance.  Rather, Jesus waited for the appointed time prior to selecting twelve disciples to lay a foundation for change.  Dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s, Jesus kept in step with the Holy Spirit to carry out the necessary Old Testament prophecies yet to be fulfilled.  Fasting, praying, being baptized, spreading goods news about the kingdom of God, training future leaders and surrendering to authorities set the stage for the climax.  As the crucifixion of a perfect lamb was about to be laid to rest in a tomb, a resurrection cancelled the written code the moment death was conquered, Colossians 2:13-15.  This one supernatural act has changed the world forever.

 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him, John 3:16-17.

The film Equalizer debuted In 2014, introducing a character who wanted to change the world one person at a time.  Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, a retired CIA black ops operative using a local hardware store as his mission field.  When McCall sees injustices that occur within his spheres of influence, he acts immediately to accomplish the greater good.  After hours, during breaks or on the job interactions are used by Robert to develop relationships, challenging co-workers, customers and strangers to be the best you can be.  During one moving scene, Robert talks to a girl who is trapped by her pimp, unable to break free to fulfill her dream to become a singer.  Not wasting this opportunity, Robert exclaims, “change your world!”

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Sometimes when you feel the urge to make a difference in this life, its hard to know where to start.  Depending upon the atmosphere, circumstances or environment, many good intentioned individuals can become overwhelmed before ever getting started.  Thus, changing your world for the better requires a joint effort.  From a spiritual perspective, ground work must by laid through fasting and prayer.  Like the building of an ministry team, when the timing is right God will raise up leaders to fill the gaps that exist.  Yet, while you are waiting for the world to change, don’t lose heart.  Rather, let faith guide you until agents for change arrive.  May the words of this attached scene from Equalizer inspire you to change your world beginning today.

by Jay Mankus

Whispers of Hope

If your voice tends to dominate or over power conversations, your ears will have a hard time hearing the whispers of others.  Breaths, murmurs and subtle tones will be drown out, oblivious to talkative souls.  Meanwhile, the down trodden, hurting and hopeless can become skeptical to any sort of good news.  Jaded hearts turn to sarcasm, laughing at any glimpses of hope.  Regardless of where you may be on this spectrum, a growing number of individuals ignore daily whispers of hope.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you, Psalm 39:7.

Like any distressed soul, its not uncommon to want to find someone who will listen to your frustrations.  Whether this is a co-worker, friend or neighbor, venting has a way of releasing any built up tension within you.  After sessions of complaining, ranting and unloading the stress weighing you down, periods of relief can be temporarily found.  In the Old Testament, David discovered a way to embrace whispers of hope.  Although living as a shepherd can be lonely, with few interaction with people, God is only a prayer away.  Thus, pouring our his heart to the Lord became a daily practice, waiting for his life to change for the better.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

The apostle Paul takes David’s concept to a new level in the passage above.  While praying enables individuals to cry out to God, reading the God allows the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart through whispers of hope.  Whenever Paul was depressed, discouraged or frustrated, reading the Old Testament provided encouragement and the inspiration to endure.  Since modern readers have the luxury of a completed Bible, the Old and New Testaments, studying the Bible is the best way to hear whispers of hope.  May this blog inspire you to live out Romans 10:17 as faith comes from listening and reading God’s Word.

by Jay Mankus

Finding A Shack to Meet with God

There isn’t anything that God asks individuals to do that his son Jesus didn’t already model on earth.  Apparently, spending time alone with God was so important that Jesus got up earning in the morning to meet with his heavenly father.  While this location is not mentioned by name it involves a secluded place, probably in the mountains outside of town.  If you want to emulate Christ in all ways the first step should be finding a shack, an isolated location to meet with God.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

In the 2017 film based upon the 2007 book written by William P. Young, the Shack contains a scene where the main character receives a invitation to meet God in a shack.  The only problem is that this is the place where Mack’s daughter was murdered.  Confiding in a friend, Mack is not sure if this mysterious card in the mail is a trap sent by the his daughter’s killer, a sick prank or God?  Afraid and curious, Mack ends up spending a weekend with God that transforms his life.

Simon [Peter] and his companions searched [everywhere, looking anxiously] for Him, 37 and they found Him and said, “Everybody is looking for You!”Mark 1:36-37

The passage above details the hindrance that awaits anyone hoping to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  If you don’t wake up early enough or find a setting without distractions, your time with God will be interrupted.  Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church has a saying for any believer who rushes through their morning devotion.  Nelson refers to this as a spiritual spit bath, void of the living water.  In view of this analogy, if you want to celebrate and experience the abundant life of John 10:10, make your preparations today to find your shack to meet with God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Are You in Tune with God?

I spent five years as a member of my school band.  Playing the alto saxophone as a novice required hours of practice each week.  As long as I put in the necessary time, progress was made, developing an ear for music.  However, the older I became, other things took priority causing my musical talent to slip.  Before long I was one of the worst members of my junior high band, completely out of tune with the songs for our spring concert.

He was stating the matter plainly [not holding anything back]. Then Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him, Mark 8:32.

If setting aside time to perfect an instrument is key to remaining sharp, then spending a portion of your day praying, reading the Bible and listening to worship music is crucial to staying in tune with God.  Delaying, postponing or skipping this portion of your day will have a similar impact on your life.  Initial signs may be relatively obscure.  However, the more Bibles collect dust, prayers cease and Sunday becomes a day without attending church, attitudes, behavior and life styles will change for the worse.

But turning around [with His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for your mind is not set on God’s will or His values and purposes, but on what pleases man,” Mark 8:33.

Whenever someone makes a scene in public, this is an obvious sign that an individual is out of tune with God.  After Jesus laid everything on the line to his disciples, disclosing his future death, Peter scolded Jesus.  While its unclear how long this occurred, Jesus responds with a powerful statement, referring to Peter as Satan.  Instead of meditating upon and pondering what Jesus said, Peter had an emotional outburst.  Though its never pleasant to see someone explode, these acts serve as a warning that you are not in tune with God.  Therefore, the next tune you are about to lose it, be still so that you can get back in tune with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

What Makes It Worthy

David Paul Kuhn felt inspired to write a book about a topic many have brushed aside.  As technological rapidly changes, automation, computers and robotics are taking away millions of jobs once held by working men in America.  If modern advances in driverless vehicles continues to progress, another 3 million truck drivers could be in danger of losing their long held careers.  In his 2015 book, What Makes It Worthy, Kuhn details the importance men derive from working.  If men can’t provide for their families, a sense of worth is lost, creating a chain reaction that negativity impacts future generations.  The goal of this book is to illustrate the worthiness of maintaining a job.

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, Philippians 4:8.

The term worthy refers to abilities that merit recognition.  Whether you have a certain job title such as a doctor or demonstrate impressive qualities, others will quickly take notice.  Careers, fields of work or occupations place individuals within a specific social status.  Entry level positions will place you within the lower class.  Promotions into lower management will elevate you into the middle class.  Meanwhile, entrepreneurs, exceptional sales and higher degrees can lift some hard workers into the upper class.  However, on the way to the top, some participate in illegal, shady or ungodly methods.  Thus, pursuing noble causes outside of any career provides its own sense of accomplishment.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

When I first got married, I always felt inferior while talking to other groups of men.  While it didn’t help living in an affluent suburb west of Chicago, I didn’t possess the DNA to become rich and wealthy.  My relationship with Christ didn’t mesh with the ways of the world.  Thus, I became confused, unable to find my place in this world until becoming a high school Bible teacher and golf coach.  Six years have passed since this position was taken away from me, placing me back where I was before.  Nonetheless, if you want to experience a sense of worth, begin with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.  From here, the Holy Spirit will guide you to the place where you need to be, Galatians 5:25.  Until then, keep praying until clarity and self worth is restored.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Knowing, Believing and Claiming

To promote higher forms of thinking in education, Dr. Benjamin Bloom introduced six learning domains in 1956.  Each domain serves as a building block, applying knowledge one level at a time.  Today, Bloom’s Taxonomy uses remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating to ensure that words spoken in classrooms don’t fall upon deaf ears.  On the spiritual side of knowledge, D. James Kennedy developed Evangelism Explosion in the 1970’s so that individuals introduced to the Bible would go beyond just knowing.  One of the terms Kennedy crafted within training materials is mere intellectual assent.  This theological saying refers to people who knows something to be true within their minds but doesn’t act upon this information.  According to the brother of Jesus, faith without deeds is dead, resulting in a shallow foundation, susceptible to being completely uprooted by schemes of the Devil.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder, James 1:19.

Belief is based upon awareness to something that makes sense or convincing evidence which gives credence to what you thought to be true.  The closer one gets toward the truth, doubt slowly disappears.  However, if the source for what you believe contains contradictions, inconsistencies and misleading statements, faith will be stunted.  Jesus’ earthly brother James brings up a valid point when considering belief in the passage above.  Merely believing in God doesn’t make you special as even demons, servants of the Devil acknowledge this fact.  Thus, if you regularly attend church, give a monthly tithe and strive to do good works, this is a good start but not the top of the mountain.  The author of one New Testament book dedicates an entire chapter, Hebrews 11 to illustrate what genuine belief looks like, faith in action.

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it, John 14:10-14.

If Benjamin Bloom were to create spiritual learning domains today, knowing, believing and claiming would suffice for the initial three stages.  Early in the first century the illiteracy rate was high, forcing the uneducated to rely on hearing rather than reading.  Romans 10:17 reveals that churches gathered together in homes, synagogues or down by a river to publicly read out loud parts of the Old Testament and available letters written by apostles.  Meanwhile, James 1:22-27 encourages individuals to become doers of the Word, practicing belief.  Sensing religion is worthless without applying what you believe, James urges his audience to care for orphans and widows.  The final level of faith is introduced by Jesus in the passage above.  If you know and believe, claiming God’s promises is the next logical step.  This spiritual exercise is accomplished through praying over passages of the Bible.  Depending upon what you are dealing with, modern technology can give you a verse in seconds with a click of a mouse, providing a powerful weapon.  Those who mature from knowing to believing and onto claiming may begin to experience untapped potential, taking Jesus at his word to bless those who believe.  I pray that these words inspire you to take your faith to the next level by claiming God’s promises in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

All You Zombies

 

My first introduction to the concept of zombies came in the form of Creature Double Feature presentations each Saturday.  This syndicated horror show began airing on the east coast in the 1970’s.  Since I lived just outside of Philadelphia at the time, I was intrigued by the thought of watching movies usually reserved for theaters.  About a decade later, the Hooters, a up and coming band from Philadelphia released All You Zombies, a single from their second album Nervous Night.  Using biblical references from the Old Testament, the lyrics contain a stanza where the band asks God, “where have your children gone,” hiding in the dark.  The context suggests fear, peer pressure and sin cause many human beings to become like zombies, void of the abundant life within John 10:10.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life, Matthew 27:51-52.

Recently, the fascination with zombies has been brought to the forefront through The Walking Dead on AMC.  Premiering in the United States on October 31, 2010, this series uses a post-apocalyptic setting where Rick Grimes plays a sheriff deputy who awakens from coma only to find the world overrun by zombies.  However, you don’t have to resort to Hollywood or science fiction to believe in zombies.  All you have to do is read the accounts within the four gospels of the Bible to find the origin of the term zombies.  Matthew was an eye witness to this strange but true event.  In the minutes following Jesus’ resurrection, the bodies of holy figures mentioned in the body came out from their tombs.  If the holy city refers to Jerusalem, the Night of the Living Dead wasn’t just a film that debuted in 1968.  Rather, saints of the past walked through the capital of Israel either in grave clothes or in a resurrected form appearing to many people until Jesus ascended into heaven forty days later.

They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people, Matthew 27:53.

Thirty five years after the Hooters released All You Zombies, the call remains the same.  As a chorus in this song proclaims, “You don’t have to hide anymore!”  Sure, we all have hidden sins, secret scars or parts of your life that you are be ashamed.  Nonetheless, God wants his children to break free of their past by coming toward the light of Christ.  Many people wait as long as possible, hoping someone comes along to stand with them.  Yet, faith requires trust, not walking by sight.  Individuals must place their eyes toward heaven, praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you where to go and what to do.  Perhaps, this is why a disciple introduced the readers of his gospel to the power of numbers, Matthew 18:19-20.  When two or more are gathered, God’s power is unleashed.  May this blog inspire you to come out of your comfort zone to serve God by using all of your talents and gifts.

by Jay Mankus