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Don’t Become Despondent Through Fear

Living out a Christian faith can be oppressive, tedious, and seemingly without end of obstacles. Furthermore, when things don’t go the way you expect or think, it’s not uncommon to suffer from depression. When confidence is lost or hope slips away, fear can suck the joy out of life. Like a golfer who is all over the place during their round, there are many days where you have to grind everything out.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you, Ephesians 3:12-13.

Whatever optimistic message you have received about a new life in Christ, every day has a new set of challenges. If you let your guard down, become over confident or don’t have enough prayer cover, extreme discouragement may not be too far behind. Unpleasant emotions are a byproduct of fear, caused by a belief that someone or something is a threat. This is where faith must rise to the occasion, opening the door for boldness and courage to shine through.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

Apparently, despondency was an issue in the first century as the apostle Paul writes a similar message to two different congregations. The context of the passage above refers to you reap what you sow. If your mind is constantly fixated on fear, you will become worn down by despondent thoughts. Therefore, if you want to rise above your circumstances, approach God with a humble heart, expecting blessings for those who belong to the household of faith.

by Jay Mankus

Blessed More than Ever Before

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. These attitudes to strive for while on earth each begin with the word blessed. Jesus suggests that those who demonstrate or possess these qualities will be filled with peace and prosperity. These 9 traits are realistic goals depending upon your DNA and personality type. However, you won’t have every spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Nonetheless, once these hidden talents are revealed to you, blessings come as these gifts are put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6.

Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal. 20 But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Matthew 6:19-21.

In the second chapter of his sermon, Jesus turns his attention toward motives. While probing human hearts, Jesus calls his followers to look inward to examine where you stand. Using treasures in the context of priorities, Jesus wants to know if your focus is on the eternal or temporary? Jesus suggests if your heart is in the right spot, the Lord will provide everything you need for life, Matthew 6:33. However, if you are distracted by fame, fortune or temporary pleasures, blessings will be replaced with a spirit of emptiness.

Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings. You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it, Malachi 3:8-10.

An Old Testament prophet adds a new dimension to the source of blessings. According to Malachi, blessings are directly linked to the tithe individuals give to their local church. Those who withhold their income by giving less than ten percent of their salary will experience limited blessings. Malachi refers to this lack of trust as a way people defraud God. However, if you come to a point in your life when you acknowledge that everything you have is a gift from God, hearts are drawn toward tithing. Therefore, if you want to see the storehouses in heaven open up before your very eyes, make 2021 the year you began giving back to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Starting Over in 2021

ξεκινώντας από την αρχή is the Greek word for starting over. Meanwhile, the Latin expression for starting over is iterum incipi. When translated literally into English this refers to again, a second time. As 2020 is thankfully ushered out for good, it’s time to hit the reset button. While no one knows for sure how long the Coronavirus will stick around, starting over with a blank canvas gives me hope of a brighter future.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

Despite earning a nickname as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah 9:1 and Jeremiah 13:17, there is a glimpse of positive news. In the passage above, the Lord finally gives Jeremiah a message of hope. These future plans includes blessings, dreams and a final outcome worth waiting for. Therefore, if you still haven’t gotten over the worst pandemic in the last century, the Bible provides some encouraging news.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired, Isaiah 40:30-31.

Another Old Testament prophet provides an analogy that most adults can relate to. Between the spread of Covid-19, forced closures of businesses and the stress of trying to stay alive, 2020 has worn out countless souls. Thus, as many have lost their energy and joy for life, it’s time to place your faith in God’s hands again. Just as eaglets trusted their parents renew their strength, it’s time to place your faith in God to start over in 2021.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Comparison

Guilt by Association dates back to 1525 as a Medieval Latin expression. However, the idea that an individual is guilty of a crime because he associates with the person who actually committed it can be found in the Bible. While Eve actually ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam was right there with her the whole time, Genesis 3:6-7. One chapter later, Cain is the first to experience guilt by comparison.

And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, Genesis 4:3-4.

Whenever individuals begin to believe that the grass is greener on the other side where someone else resides, envy and jealousy is conceived. The saying “grass is always greener on the other side” originated in the 19th century. The more you compare your own life to a family member, friend or neighbor, guilt can consume your soul by wishing you had this or that. When Cain realized how hard it was to be a farmer, the comparisons began.

But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:5-7.

Cain’s guilt from comparison leads to a one on one conversation with God. Trying to figure out why Abel’s offering was embraced by God while his was rejected results in anger, depression and frustration. In response to Cain’s displeasure, God reveals how guilt by comparison has lead to an internal struggle. When sin crouches at your door, you must resist or else guilt will ravage your life. Instead of wanting what you don’t have, appreciate all the little things that God has blessed you with in life.

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

Spiritual Enrichment

Enrichment is the action of enhancing or improving the quality or value of something. This term is often association with increasing the proportion of a particular isotope in an element. During the cold war, the Soviet Union and United States began competing to see who could stock pile the most nuclear weapons. The enrichment of uranium using the U-235 isotope makes it possible for use in a nuclear reactor or weapon.

I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:4.

In the opening of his first letter to the church of Corinth, Paul introduces the concept of spiritual enrichment. This process is made possible by God’s grace who is willing to give sinners multiple second chances. Indirectly referencing John 3:16-17, Jesus’ death and resurrection gives a breath of life to the hopeless. This free gift isn’t forced upon individuals. Rather, for those who accept Jesus into their hearts, Romans 10:9-10, favor in the form of spiritual blessings enriches lives.

[So] that in Him in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech [to speak of your faith] and complete knowledge and illumination [to give you full insight into its meaning]. 1 Corinthians 1:5.

One of the ways modern Christians are enriched is through giving, sharing and serving others. Whether you give blood in this time of need, share any excess that you may have to the needy or serve in a local food bank, these are ways to enrich others. As the Coronavirus continues to plague the United States and the rest of the world, may God open your eyes to daily opportunities to spiritually enrich family, friends and neighbors.

by Jay Mankus

When Everything Goes According to Plan

Every so often, I question God’s timing. When my life seems to stand still, moving in slow motion, I get impatient. While this may not happen every month, several times a year I get frustrated by a lack of progress. The Bible suggests human minds struggle to comprehend, fathom or understand God’s grand design. Thus, for now I feel like Job, pondering the purpose of trials in life like the Coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the world.

Then Joseph could not restrain himself [any longer] before all those who stood by him, and he called out, Cause every man to go out from me! So no one stood there with Joseph while he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept and sobbed aloud, and the Egyptians [who had just left him] heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it. And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? And his brothers could not reply, for they were distressingly disturbed and dismayed at [the startling realization that they were in] his presence, Genesis 45:1-3.

Joseph of the Old Testament likely experienced similar mood swings. After sharing vivid dreams with his family, he quickly became despised by his brothers. Sold into slavery as a teenager, Joseph worked his way up to a caretaker for Potiphar’s estate. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s flirtatious wife falsely accused Joseph of rape leading straight to prison. Unlike me, Joseph kept a position attitude until the Lord finally completed his ultimate goal.

But now, do not be distressed and disheartened or vexed and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors, Genesis 45:5-7.

What human beings see as defeat, failure and losses, God uses these moments to prune the dead branches in your life, John 15:1-5. The hard part is remaining in the vine, sticking with Jesus as darkness surrounds you. To those that stay near the Lord, abundant fruits flow in the form of blessings in life. Yet, bitterness, pride and selfish ambition cause many to wander away, trying it on your own. If I could just learn to be more Joseph in Genesis, maybe I’ll begin to see God’s hand as everything goes according to His plan.

by Jay Mankus

When the Storms of Life Come Crashing through Your Front Door

At this stage in life, I consider myself blessed. From an early age, I’ve had opportunities to travel throughout the United States. From the scenic views of Arcadia National Park in Maine to the palm trees of Miami Beach, these trips have sketched wonderful memories in my mind. As I have grown older, I have gone from the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia all the way to southern California to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Whenever you travel a lot, you’re exposed to different types of climate and weather phenomena. Throughout my half century on earth, I’ve survived blizzards, earthquakes, hurricanes, northeasters and tornadoes. One of my first brushes with a natural disaster occurred while on vacation as a child.

For we know that if the tent which is our earthly home is destroyed (dissolved), we have from God a building, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, 2 Corinthians 5:1.

One summer in Maine, my two sisters and I got stuck in a hail storm, running for cover with our hand over our heads. The cabin my parents rented shook, the lights went out and hail continue to crash upon the roof. An hour later, we went out to check for damage. Apparently, a water spout crossed the lake and took out a neighbor’s house. Until today, I was one of the lucky ones, unaffected by nature’s wrath. As I was running to my car to escape the rain, I noticed a few shingles laying in my front yard. Looking back, an entire section of my sliding above my front door was ripped off and missing, exposing 2 pieces of plywood. With another inch of rain expected tonight, only God knows what the total damage will be.

For while we are still in this tent, we groan under the burden and sigh deeply (weighed down, depressed, oppressed)—not that we want to put off the body (the clothing of the spirit), but rather that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal (our dying body) may be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection], 2 Corinthians 5:4.

If this would have happened at any other time in my life, I would have been angry, frustrated and stressed out about the cost of this damage. Yet, my first thought was, “I guess it was my time to tackle adversity.” A few years ago a micro burst picked up our trampoline, struck two fences and was thrown into a neighbor’s yard, but our house was spared. Perspective has a way of revealing what matters, my wife and children are fine. Thus, while I’ll have to dig into savings to quickly restore this damage, this nuisance will soon past. Therefore, if the next weather system comes crashing through your front door, remember to praise God as you go through this spiritual storm.

by Jay Mankus

Forming a Complete Picture of God

It’s rare that you see kindness and severity in the same sentence. These opposing terms highlight elements of God’s nature. According to the apostle Paul, you should take note and appreciate both aspects of God’s personality. While God can demonstrate affection, concern and warmth, this is only one side of the picture. When commands, decrees and expectations aren’t met, God’s wrath is displayed through curses, loss and rebukes.

Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you—provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away), Romans 11:22.

In the second half of the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual disclaimer. God’s grace and kindness is dependent upon how you exercise your free will. Those who abide in the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, enjoy and partake in fellowship with God. However, if you indulge your sinful nature, the severity of God can be unleashed upon disobedient souls. When you consider the pros and cons, a complete picture of God comes into view.

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses an analogy to paint his own picture of God’s true nature. Comparing a relationship with God to taking a walk, you have one of two options. According to John, each choice either represents light or darkness. Decisions inspired by the Holy Spirit result in blessings. On the other hand, poor choices influenced by your sinful nature bring spiritual darkness. The more you abide in Jesus, the clearer human minds become, able to envision a complete picture of God.

by Jay Mankus

Coronavirus Choices

Prior to March 12th, 2020, most Americans were carrying on with their normal routines. Yet, when breaking news reported Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had contracted the Coronavirus, sports lovers were in for a rude awakening. The National Basketball Association immediately suspended their season. This initial decision inspired the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to suspend their seasons as well. By the end of this week, more dominoes fell as the NCAA’s March Madness Basketball Tournament, the Player’s Championship and two Nascar Races were cancelled.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

With most sporting events put on hold for a minimum of 2 weeks, possibly a month, the Coronavirus has altered the lives of sports enthusiasts. Instead of lounging around at home to watch a game, going to a sports bar with friends to enjoy college basketball or catching highlights on ESPN, new habits will have to be formed. Whether you are stuck at home watching your children, under a self imposed quarantine or forced to find something else to do when your initial plans were cancelled, perhaps the Coronavirus pandemic is a blessing in disguise.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

After binge watching a series on Amazon Prime with my wife early this weekend, I felt compelled to go outside and do something. Bored out of my mind, I took my kids golfing Saturday morning. Despite a beautiful day, the COVID-19 scare kept most golfers off this course, Their loss was my gain, playing 18 holes in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. Although Americans have been infected, placed under quarantine or lost their lives, the Coronavirus is changing the way people live their lives. What I call Coronavirus Choices is forcing individuals to re-think their diet, sleep habits and sanitary rituals. While only God knows how long this pandemic will last, may you use your new free time at home to make better choices daily.

by Jay Mankus

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