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The Smallest Level of Faith is Hope

Martin Seligman’s research on learned helplessness was a inspired by a study using laboratory rats. In this particular experiment, rats were placed into water for an extended period of time. After ten minutes of fervently swimming to stay alive, the rats began to give up, drowning. A second experiment was launched to focus on learned helplessness. This time rats were removed from the water after 9 minutes, each were dried off and given food before repeating this process. The second time these rats fought for 15 minutes and the third they remained swimming for half an hour.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself,] Ephesians 2:8-9.

A series of parables shared by Jesus became etched into the mind of a first century doctor. Three particular stories inspired an entire chapter, Luke 15. The common element of these 3 parables is the length at which God will go out of his way to rescue the lost. Whether you have gone astray like a lost sheep, misplaced a valuable possession, or have chosen to go your own way like the prodigal son, God is waiting with open arms to welcome you back. If God can save undeserving sinners of the past, there’s no reason not to believe that God won’t save you or me either.

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5.

The message of salvation provides a glimmer of hope for the faithless. Just like the rats who were rescued from the water in the experiment above, God sent Jesus to seek and save those who are lost, Luke 19:10. Prior to hope entering your life, doubt resides within most minds, taking control over your thought life. Therefore, the smallest level of faith is hope, Hebrews 11:1-6. Since you have to start some where, allow hope to enable you to overcome learned helplessness.

by Jay Mankus

PERMA

The technical term PERMA is an acronym for a model of well-being put forth by Martin Seligman. Seligman is considered a pioneer in in the field of positive psychology. PERMA consists of five important building blocks of well-being and happiness. The P stands for positive emotions, E for engagement, R for relationships, M for mission and A for accomplishments. This model was designed to help those individuals who have experienced post traumatic stress disorder and want to overcome this through a major comeback mentally.

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore, Psalm 16:11.

The Bible compliments the PERMA model through a series of promises. Whenever you are on the road to recovery, doubt is one of the greatest obstacles, filling your mind with unbelief. Following a grueling injury while running a cross country race in high school, my doctors weren’t optimistic of me making a full recovery. After seeing the x-rays of my torn tendons, I was told that I would never run again, a permanent screw would have to be placed into my ankle, and I’d probably walk with a limp the rest of my life.

If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love. 11 I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing, John 15:10-11.

At this time as a 16 year old, I wasn’t aware of the power of prayer. The day before my operation I was mobbed by Christian friends who laid hands on me, praying for a successful surgery. Twenty four hours later, the chief surgeon at Thomas Jefferson Hospital was amazed, explaining this procedure to me after I woke up. Like a skeptic who became open to the power of God, my ankle magically popped into place after twisting it back into where it belonged. Although I never heard of PERMA until listening to a recent sermon, I understood the importance of removing doubt from your mind before you pray, Matthew 21:19-22. May prayer be your PERMA.

by Jay Mankus

To Keep Satan from Gaining the Advantage

There are 3 main courses of action that result in opening the door for Satan to gain advantage over your life. The first involves an unwillingness to forgive someone who has trespassed against you, Matthew 6:12-15. The second occurs when individuals begin to do what’s right in their own eyes, Judges 21:25. Finally, when you begin to crave and desire worldly impulses, Romans 8:5 and Galatians 5:16-18, the sinful nature takes over your body.

Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another. 26 When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him], Ephesians 4:25-27.

While visiting a couple of his new church plants, Paul observed Satan was beginning to gain advantage over new and young believers. The context of this unhealthy pattern in Ephesus began in marriages. When a spouse was disappointed, hurt, or offended, several began to go to sleep with anger and bitterness within their hearts. Some couples allowed these feelings to create a wedge between them. In the process, the door was opened for a spiritual foothold to develop.

If you forgive anyone anything, I too forgive that one; and what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sakes in the presence [and with the approval] of Christ (the Messiah), 11 To keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions, 2 Corinthians 2:10-11.

During the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, families have been put to the test. Lost income due to being a non-essential employee has strained relationships nationwide. Meanwhile, essential workers have put their lives at risk to help keep America going. Depending upon where you are on your own spiritual journey, keeping Satan from gaining the advantage over us can be exhausting. Yet, as you learn to forgive, look to the Bible for guidance, and set your heart and mind on things above, God regains control. May the Holy Spirit begin to transform your life so that Satan’s advantage disappears.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Safety Deposit Box

Banks in the United States began offering safekeeping services in the early 1800’s. This form of special deposit coincided with America’s Gold Rush that inspired prospectors to travel west to California. Thus, storing newly discovered gold in banks for security purposes gave birth to safety deposit boxes. To avoid getting robbed, banks became the safest place in town to hold valuable assets.

For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God. 21 But it is God Who confirms and makes us steadfast and establishes us [in joint fellowship] with you in Christ, and has consecrated and anointed us [enduing us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit]; 2 Corinthians 1:20-21.

While writing a first century letter, the apostle Paul refers to a special security deposit. According to Paul, God guarantees this as a fulfillment of His promises in the Bible. Based upon Romans 10:9-11, this seal comes in the form of the Holy Spirit. While modern believers were not present on the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, today’s outpouring of God’s Spirit serves as a counselor and guide, John 16:13.

[He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise], 2 Corinthians 1:22.

Instead of needing a key to access this safety deposit box, God designed an unique door. There is no knob on God’s side of this door, Revelation 3:20. Rather, the only handle is on our side. God is standing on the other side, knocking on this door, trying to get your attention. Yet, freewill doesn’t force God upon you as individuals have the choice to open or ignore God’s voice. If you haven’t experienced the treasure inside of God’s Safety Deposit Box, it’s only a prayer away, 2 Peter 1:3-7.

by Jay Mankus

A Powerful Pull

Control freaks are people who feel an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any given situation. To those of you who possess this natural inclination, it’s a powerful pull. According to the Gospel of Matthew and Mark, Peter and his brother Andrew were the first two disciples chosen by Jesus. If this is true, why would Jesus pick a control freak to become the Rock of the first century church? – Matthew 16:18

Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:22-23.

The passage above and below reveals the character arc of Peter. After being praised by Jesus a few verses earlier, Peter refuses to accept the will of God. This flawed mindset is exposed as being a hindrance to God. Without saying the words, Jesus rebukes Peter for being a control freak. If this powerful pull is not addressed immediately, Peter will become a stumbling block to God instead of a rock of faith.

Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if You approve, I will put up three booths here—one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah. While he was still speaking, behold, a shining cloud [composed of light] overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is My Son, My Beloved, with Whom I am [and have always been] delighted. Listen to Him! – Matthew 17:4-5

Unfortunately, Peter was resistant to change. Being part of Jesus’ inner circle only fueled Peter’s ego. Peter wasn’t afraid to verbalize what others were thinking, asking if Jesus wanted shrines built for the special moment above. Peter believed that Jesus would rise to power as King of the Jews. As a control freak, Peter was drawn to this first century rock star who had an alternate plan. Thus, Peter was unable to let go of this controlling pull.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 Therefore, Jesus said to Peter, Put the sword [back] into the sheath! The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it? 12 So the troops and their captain and the guards (attendants) of the Jews seized Jesus and bound Him, John 18:10-12.

The final passage above confirms that Peter was unable to let go of his desire to be in control. Willing to defend Jesus so that he could be an earthly king, you can see the disappointment in Peter’s eyes after told by Jesus to stand down. Perhaps, Peter’s public denial of Jesus hours later is due in some part of his unwillingness to accept God’s will. The powerful pull of control freaks still exists today, Galatians 5:16-18. Unless you yield to God’s Spirit, this internal tug of war will continue to grow into a powerful pull.

by Jay Mankus

A Part or Apart?

Any great story teller is able to interweave reality with a past event to impart knowledge. The four gospel authors of the Bible record 42 parables shared by Jesus. While there were probably many more shared during Jesus’ 3 year earthly ministry, each of these stories include a nugget of truth. Depending upon the length of these encounters, singular or multiple truths and wisdom have been left behind for readers to discover and digest.

I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me, John 15:1-4.

One of the most famous stories of the Bible compares God to a gardener. Meanwhile, Jesus is a vine, connected to God with the purpose of bearing fruit. However, there is a catch. If Christians remain in and stay a part of the vine, blessings will occur in the form of spiritual fruit. However, if you choose to live life on your own, apart from God, it’s impossible to bear fruit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul puts a new spin on this concept. Instead of using the analogy of a vine, Paul writes about faith. Faith isn’t something that you take on and off like clothes. Rather, faith is designed to be a part of you as your relationship with God grows and matures. Just as Jesus urged believers to abide in Him, Paul reminds the church that faith is a part of your new identity in Christ. Therefore, don’t drift away, apart from God, but make Jesus a part of your daily life.

by Jay Mankus

The Fervor of Faith

During a discussion with a woman at a well in Samaria, the topic of conversation transitions to worship. The woman refers to her descendants who worshiped on this mountain, pointing toward Mount Gerissim. Apparently, first century Jews were legalistic, belittling Samaritans for not going to temple at Jerusalem to worship God. However, Jesus points to a time in the future, following his death and resurrection, when individuals will be able to worship God in any place or time.

God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:24.

In the passage below, the apostle Paul builds upon this concept. Whenever individuals enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, an intimacy develops. As faith increases, man’s relationship with God becomes a daily priority. Thus, faith isn’t something that you put back on the shelf and walk away from like a Bible. Rather, faith becomes part of you, growing into a fervor through a higher calling via the Holy Spirit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

This Samaritan woman mentioned by John, one of Jesus’ disciples, is introduced as a restless individual, searching for answers to life’s questions. This journey led the Samaritan woman to look for love in relationships, leaving one man after another when love disappeared. However, when Jesus talked about living water, a spark was triggered within her soul. Hungry for more, John 4:39 reveals that a fervor for faith was conceived, leading her entire family to faith in Christ. This is the kind of fervor that we all need today.

by Jay Mankus

Familiar Fears

According to a recent study, there are ten common fears that children share. This list includes fear of flying, of public speaking, of heights, of the dark, intimacy, dying, failure, rejection, spiders, and commitment. When face to face education returns to each state, familiar fears of failure, rejection and public speaking will once again take center stage. Depending upon one’s ability to fit in or find new friends, these fears will either intensify or subside.

For it is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. 15 To one he gave five talents [probably about $5,000], to another two, to another one—to each in proportion to his own personal ability. Then he departed and left the country. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he gained five talents more. 17 And likewise he who had received the two talents—he also gained two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money, Matthew 25:14-18.

During a conversation about the signs of end times, Jesus tells a story to illustrate what it will be like when the Son of Man will return to earth. Known as the Parable of the Talents, Jesus uses 3 servants to illustrate his point. If you really like your job, you don’t want to disappoint or let your boss down. Thus, you will do everything in your power to fulfill your daily duties so that you may receive praise and or recognition. Any effort less than 100% will be seen as not caring, not afraid of letting others down.

His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. 24 He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed [the grain]. 25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own. 26 But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather [grain] where I have not winnowed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents, Matthew 25:23-28.

In the passage above, the least trusted servant allows familiar fears to affect his decision. The fear of failure and rejection caused this man to bury his talent. A lack of confidence persuaded this servant to avoid taking a chance or risk. Rather than use basic economics or creativity, fear drove this servant to an illogical decision. When familiar fears aren’t addressed, souls become paralyzed, influencing your thought process. Therefore, if you want to please your heavenly father, begin thinking like God, 2 Timothy 1:7.

by Jay Mankus

The Constitution vs. Communism

There were five primary influences behind the formation of the United States Constitution. The two main individuals are John Locke and Montesquieu along with the Freemasons. Locke’s contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence. Charles-Louis de Secondat, a.k.a. Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu was a French judge and political philosopher who was the principal source of the theory of separation of powers. This was implemented into the United States Constitution. Meanwhile, Freemasons, which included several founding fathers, argued, conceived, and ratified this immortal document. The final two sources of inspiration were the Bible and Greek philosophy.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels each study the history of the world’s economics in the 19th Century. As each began to examine how finances, industry and power are controlled by countries, the roots of communism were planted. As countries, empires and nations have evolved over time, each tend to go through five different stages. This includes Primitive Communion, Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism. Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh are three of the most famous communist leaders of all time. Unfortunately, these 3 men are also responsible killing millions of their own people, targeting those who didn’t conform to the laws and rules enforced with a heavy hand. This same method continues today by using concentration and reprogramming camps to coerce the rebellious into conforming.

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:13-14.

Like any great society, countries reach a crossroads, unsure of which way to turn. Should a nation to return to their past or proceed toward a progressive future? This is what is at stake for the United States of America on Tuesday November 3rd. Do American citizens want to follow the lead of Europe by embracing Communism? Or will immigrants who fled communism to chase the American Dream convince their neighbors and others to reject this form of government? Only time will tell the fate of this country. Depending upon your political party, the lines have been clearly drawn. Will you vote to defend and uphold the Constitution or do you want the blow up our current system and in the process embrace Communism?

by Jay Mankus

When God’s People Pray

Jesus told his 12 disciples to “watch and pray” three times. Based upon the context of Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33, and Mark 14:38, this call to action occurs just prior to Jesus’ betrayal. When Christians don’t watch and pray, a willing spirit is swept aside to indulge earthly desires. Instead of telling the world to wait, few believers ever find their way out of temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

While you also cooperate by your prayers for us [helping and laboring together with us]. Thus [the lips of] many persons [turned toward God will eventually] give thanks on our behalf for the grace (the blessing of deliverance) granted us at the request of the many who have prayed, 2 Corinthians 1:11.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul views prayer as a cooperate duty. When you take the time to slow down, observe the environment and ongoing situations, prayer provides spiritual help to those in need. When God’s people pray, the lips of the lost eventually turn back toward God. Based upon the passage above, Paul regularly witnessed answers to prayers as God granted many of his requests.

It is a reason for pride and exultation to which our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world [generally] and especially toward you, with devout and pure motives and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues), 2 Corinthians 1:12.

The more individuals see answers to their prayers, a sense of pride develops. Prayer isn’t seen as a waste of time babbling to an invisible God. Rather, as the power of prayer exerts holy influence over lost souls, faith is strengthened. If your current prayers aren’t being answered, you are either not praying according to God’s will or doubt is sabotaging the end result. As America enters a crisis of faith, make sure you watch and pray.

by Jay Mankus

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