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The One Thing In Life That Brings Out Your Best and Worst

Before attending a youth ministry trade school back in 1993, there was a series of books I needed to read prior to my first class.  How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Bringing Out the Best in People are the two that I remember the most.  Carnegie’s book opened my eyes to practical principles for making friends naturally as well as the art of persuasion.  Meanwhile, Bringing Out the Best in People introduced me to the 3 C’s: Don’t criticize, complain or condemn other people.  When I began to tame my tongue by steering my words in a positive direction, my life ascended toward greatness.  From a personal, social and spiritual perspective, 1993 was the best year of my life.

Now if we put bits into the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. And look at the ships. Even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. In the same sense, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See [by comparison] how great a forest is set on fire by a small spark! – James 3:3-5

In the years that have followed, I have never come close to this level of joy and satisfaction.  There have been periods, glimpses of greatness, but each time I quickly came back down to earth.  The reason for my fall lies in the tongue.  According to Jesus’ earthly brother, the tongue is like a rudder on a ship.  When rudders begin to malfunction, ships lose control, going off course.  Following a two year stint as a youth pastor, I let my conversation slip, spitting out destructive, harsh and negative comments.  The longer I allowed my tongue to be undisciplined, it didn’t take long to descend to some of the lowest points in my life.  Like any frustrating moment, human tongues feed off of misery, unleashing vicious thoughts formally kept silent deep inside your mind.

But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts], James 3:8-10.

In the passage above, James reveals the danger of the tongue.  No matter how disciplined you may be, you can only hope to contain this aspect of your flesh.  When you open your mouth, only God knows what will come it.  One day you may be filled with blessings; the next followed by curses.  James urges first century readers of his letter to consider their moral obligation to God.  The words and vocabulary that you choose should reflect a reverence for God.  In addition, your mind should be influenced by God’s precepts as you meditate day and night on these principles.  Without taking this advice seriously, your conversations will resemble a roller coaster ride, with highs that uplift others and lows that cut to the heart.  May this blog challenge you to transform the content of your words in 2019.

by Jay Mankus

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Believing in a Move of God

When I am depressed, frustrated or find myself falling into bad habits, I cry out to God.  This prayer in the form of a Hail Mary, a sports related phrase, doesn’t always work.  The best way to explain this lack of response from God is that I have already made up my mind, not open to applying God’s advice.  Until I reach the point of a contrite heart, turning 180 degrees from sin toward God, the Lord isn’t ready to take me serious.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved! – Psalm 80:19

During periods of the Old Testament, Israel was waiting on a movement of God.  The Bible refers to this process as a revival, where God resuscitates, restores and relaunches souls back on track toward God’s will for your life.   However, Individuals must display acts of contrition before a move of God will commence.  An Old Testament prophet eludes to this principle in Isaiah 1:15-20.  Isaiah talks about a time when God will not answer your prayers.  According to Isaiah, until you wash yourself by purging evil from your life, God will not bless your life or move in a mighty way.

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? – Psalm 85:6

The author of Hebrews adds one key step to jump starting a move of God, belief must come first.  This first century apostle states that you can’t please God unless faith in God is acted upon.  This is why many Christians end up falling short of experiencing the abundant life of Christ, John 10:10.  Hebrews 11 serves as the Bible Hall of Fame as each candidate is recognized by the faith they displayed.  If this blog finds you like me, frustrated and hopeless, may these promises in the Bible revive you so that a move of God will uplift your soul and re-energize your life.

by Jay Mankus

A Message of Hope Forgotten with Time

Its not very often that the same generation is able to witness three of the greatest miracles of all time.  First century residents living along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea were fortunate eyewitnesses to these miraculous events.  A few months prior to the census in the days of Caesar Augustus, a priest reflects upon his encounter with an angel.  The only problem is that Zacharias becomes mute due to his initial doubts.  Thus, Zacharias is forced to participate in the very first game of Charades to explain what happened behind closed doors while in the temple.  At his son John’s circumcision, Zacharias regains his ability to speak.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zacharias begins to prophesize about the hope that Israel and the world will soon experience.

And Mary said,“My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant;
For behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God! – Luke 1:46-48

Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth is the first to be made aware of the conception of God’s son.  The moment Mary visit Elizabeth during the final three months of her pregnancy, the sound of Mary’s voice caused John to leap in her womb.  Immediately following this, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirt as she begins to prophecize about Mary’s virgin birth.  Although engaged to be married to Joseph, the Holy Spirit supernaturally used one sperm from God the Father to conceive, enabling Mary to be pregnant without any physical or sexual contact.  The news of this reality overwhelms Mary, inspiring what the Bible calls Mary’s song.  The beginning of this song is highlighted above as Mary praises God for this special anointing and blessing.

Now Zacharias his father was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him, and he prophesied, saying,“Blessed (praised, glorified) be the Lord, the God of Israel, Because He has visited us and brought redemption to His people, Luke 1:67-68.

Thirty three years later, Mary watched helplessly as her son Jesus was sentenced to death on a cross.  Although the Passion of the Christ depicts Mary watching Jesus being flogged thirty nine times, its unclear whether Mary was present for each of these violent lashings.  Mary watched Jesus be nailed to a cross, suffer and die hours later.  The only thing comparable today is a parent enduring the anguish of a child battling terminal cancer.  A few days later, the funeral is cancelled when an angel conveys that Jesus was raised from the dead.  According to Luke and the other gospel authors, Jesus appeared to several hundred eyewitnesses, walking, talking and revealing his scars to doubters.  While atheists, progressives and skeptics continue to plant doubt in the minds of modern day people of faith, these events are non-fiction.  Therefore, if you are in desperate need of good news, this blog is a message of hope forgotten by time.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Association

Television is filled with shows based upon the concept guilt by association.  Whether you prefer dramas like Bones, Castle, CSI or NCIS, each follow a similar format.  A death, murder or victim is found in the opening scene.  Crime scene investigators collect evidence, put together a list of suspects and use modern technology to solve each case.  Initially, the obvious culprits are interviewed leading the audience in one direction before a twist or turn take authorities to a previously unknown person of interest.  Although some episodes are based upon true stories, viewers of these programs should be weary of their own friends with troubled pasts.

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

The first chapter of the longest book in the Bible addresses guilt by association.  The passage above provides a short list of what to do and what not to do.  The author uses walking to illustrate how you can begin hanging out the wrong people.  Though walking is an innocent act, its like an open door into another world.  The further you walk with someone, the more you begin to accept, embrace and stand for ungodly beliefs.  However, the moment you sit down with this crowd, joining and participating in similar acts commences.  This passage serves as a warning, encouraging souls to avoid guilt by association through seeking God’s blessings.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.  And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The passage above provides a blueprint for those who desire to please God.  Meditating on God’s Word, the Bible helps prevent individuals from walking, standing and joining inappropriate acts, behavior and deeds.  Meanwhile, spiritual disciplines like Bible Study, prayer and worship rejuvenate souls daily as if drinking from the living water mentioned in John 4:14.  If you clearly want to avoid guilt by association in the future, live out the apostle Paul’s advice in Colossians 2:6-7 to become deeply rooted in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

Another Reason to Pray

My son Daniel recently took the whole family out to dinner.  Proud of his new job, working at the local Brazilian Steakhouse, he wanted everyone to taste the food he takes home each night.  During the evening, several co-workers complimented my son of his strong work ethic and dependability.  Surprised by all this flattery, I thought to myself, “what have I done?”  Drawing a blank, I couldn’t point to anything in particular.  The only thing that came to mind was my daily prayers for each member of my family.  Perhaps, this simple discipline is paying off, transforming individuals through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Matthew 5:4.

One of the hardest parts of praying is the uncertainty of answers to prayer.  God answers with one of three responses, yes, no and not now.  While some things are obvious like praying for a job or getting into the school of your choice, most topics for prayer take weeks, months or years to get a clear reply.  Although, I have gone through periods of doubt, wondering if I was merely wasting my time, a verse from the book of Acts has given me hope.  According to Luke, a well known first century physician, God has the ability to commemorate acts of faith.

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God, Acts 10:4.

Cornelius was a God fearing centurion who led the Italian Regiment.  Cornelius wasn’t a do what I say, not what I do kind of guy.  Rather, Cornelius practiced his faith, emulating a godly leader at home and on the battle field.  Based upon the angelic encounter above, God has the ability to bless, honor and memorialize prayer warriors.  Therefore, if you feel like your current prayer life is void of results, don’t lose heart.  Rather, press on with another reason to pray so that God will respond soon to your heart felt plea for action.

by Jay Mankus

Memory Loss

There are 10 common symptoms of memory loss.  Whether it’s confabulation, confusion, forgetting names, getting lost, irritability, language difficulties, depression, struggling with day to day affairs, following directions or neurological issues, any of these are signs of old age.  Anyone who exhibits these traits are often diagnosed with dementia or in severe cases, Alzheimer’s disease.  As medical and science advancements enable human beings to extend life expectancy, memory loss will likely affect you at some point in the future.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing, James 1:23-25.

In the first century, some of the disciples developed memory loss between Maundy Thursday and Resurrection Sunday.  Despite being warned on several occasions, eluding to this event in the future, Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion a day later led to a spiritual meltdown.  One of Jesus’ vocalist followers, Peter, denied knowing Jesus three times in public within 24 hours.  Others went into in hiding, afraid they too many be arrested or sentenced to death like their leader.  After 3 years together, a few days of trials resulted in spiritual memory loss.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:13-14.

The latest democratic talking point is accusing President Donald Trump of memory loss day after day, claiming to be signs of dementia.  Unfortunately, these accusers are suffering from the same thing, unable to come to grips with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election loss.  Instead of wasting their breaths on endless excuses, it’s time to follow the advice of the apostle Paul in the passage above.  Sure, memory loss is a reality in most individuals, especially when it comes to names of people you just met.  Nonetheless, worrying about the past is a lost cause.  Rather, press on toward the future, focusing on that which God has called you to do.  Those who heed this call will begin to feel much better while you invest your time on heavenly causes.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Leave No Child Behind

In 2001 president George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law.  The premise of this bill was to insure no child was forgotten, lost or left behind in the educational system.  When this policy failed to meet it’s expectations, the stage was set for Common Core to come to the rescue.  Nearly two decades later, Common Core is now being rejected by some states as ideology is replacing reading, writing and arithmetic.  In the end, the only one who can insure no child is left behind is the Creator of heaven and earth.  Yet, as activist judges, liberal movements and progressive politicians ban God from public education, the real question should be does God want to stick around in America to help or bless another land who is open to biblical teaching?

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6

The flaw with president Bush’s slogan Leave No Child Behind is that he excluded the family.  Education begins and ends in American homes.  God ordained parents to educate, instruct and train children in the way that they should go in life.  When parents begin to prepare boys and girls for the various stages in life, success is not guaranteed but increases the probability for a positive outcome.  Unfortunately, at some point in time parents were convinced by government officials that it takes a village to raise children.  When this compromise was embraced, adults shifted their attention to other things while schools became the sole source of learning.  This mindset opened the door for children to be left behind, forced to figure things out on their own.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3.

When I was young, my father’s commute to work was a 90 minute ride both ways.  Thus, the only time I really saw my father was on the weekends.  To make up for this, my dad took off most of August, going away to Maine for a couple of weeks each summer for vacation.  At some point, I made a decision that when I was a father, I would put my children first.  While I was still selfish until my oldest son was 12, conviction led me to give up playing men’s softball to take a more active role in my children’s life.  Although I am far from perfect, sacrificing my own interests for my children has been worth it.  For the last 4 years, I’ve switched my work schedule around to attend, coach and support my kids’ hobbies.  If you truly want to see that no child left behind, start with your own family and you will see the fruits of putting the needs of others above yourself.

by Jay Mankus

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