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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

Don’t Lose Your Edge to be Great

I was first introduced to the concept of losing your edge while watching the film Top Gun. The context of this expression occurs following an intense encounter with bogeys over the ocean. Cougar, the top pilot on the ship requests a private meeting with his Commanding Officer. Shaken up by this close call, Cougar lost his edge and then turns in his wings so he can return to be home with his newborn child. Cougar’s resignation opens the door for Maverick played by Tom Cruise to attend the Top Gun school with co-pilot Goose.

For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. 13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart, Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Sixteen years later, American rock band LCD Soundsystem released their single “Losing My Edge”. The lyrics of this song refer to younger kids, a new generation who are about to take your place. Whenever an individual loses their confidence, the swagger that individuals once possess quickly vanishes. However, if another person comes along out of nowhere to challenge your position, this should inspire you to greatness. If you lose your edge to be great, apathy and complacency will soon take its place.

And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will. 28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose, Romans 8:27-28.

In a first century letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul provides a message of hope for those of you filled with doubt. The difference between confidence and doubt is night and day. A confident golfer will put a tee in the ground, take a practice swing and drive a tee shot straight down the middle of a fairway. A golfer consumed with doubt will likely block a tee shot out of bound or snap hook it into a nearby hazard. When Christians start accepting, believing and claiming the promises in the Bible, an ordinary day is replaced by answered prayers and miracles. Therefore, whenever you lose your edge to be great, place your trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6, so that confidence can be regained.

by Jay Mankus

Joy is a Choice

The book definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure that results in happiness. Meanwhile, rejoice refers to expressing great delight that is inspired by this source of joy. When internal joy is expressed in an external manner, individuals experience elation, gratification, and jubilation. Like momentum in a sporting event, the presence of joy can transform lives. brimming and bubbling over with a new found confidence.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In a letter first century to Christians scattered throughout the world due to religious persecution, the earthly brother of Jesus suggests that joy is a choice. Based upon the passage above, joy is a mindset that you maintain regardless of the circumstances. Whether you encounter hardships, trials or temptation, joy is a byproduct of faith. As Christians mature over time, the spiritual fruit of joy is conceived in your life.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Unfortunately, joy is a rare quality in a world filled with anxiety, sadness, and worry. Instead of exuding joy, negative atmospheres and climates overwhelm troubled souls. Thus, misery tends to drown out any glimpses of hope. When joy is absent, the apostle Paul urges believers to rely on prayer to alter your mood. Therefore, if joy is a choice, make sure that the Holy Spirit provides the spark needed to keep this spiritual fruit alive.

by Jay Mankus

Lone Survivor

Bruce Willis played David Dunn in the 2000 film Unbreakable. As the film begins, Dunn’s marriage is falling apart, taking the train to New York for an interview. Upon his return, the train derails and Dunn is the lone survivor. Little did David know that this was no accident, a plot by Elijah Price played by Samuel L. Jackson to see if his polar opposite existed.

And the Sabeans swooped down upon them and took away [the animals]. Indeed, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you, Job 1:15.

In the passage above and below, Job suggests that no matter how great an accident or natural disaster, there is usually at least one survivor. This individual often served as a reporter, recounting exactly what happened and when. After God allowed Satan to inflict Job’s family with a series of tribulations, a lone survivor brings back the bad news to Job.

While he was yet speaking, there came also another and said, The fire of God (lightning) has fallen from the heavens and has burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you, Job 1:16.

If there are no positive signs of surviving a trial, hope can be lost. Unless you begin to experience a victory or victories, confidence disappears. As doubt enters your mind, thoughts can wander from fear to panic and even suicide. Thus, if you want to overcome your current crisis, remember the hidden remnant that the Lord sustains, 1 Kings 19:18. This knowledge serves as a promise to help the hopeless survive and see another day.

by Jay Mankus

Keeping the Faith

Faith is derived from the Latin term fides meaning confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. Personal beliefs, convictions, and expectations add to someone’s faith. During his closing remarks in a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul brings up an overlooked aspect of faith. Referring to a spiritual element, faith is not only conceived but Christians must remain part of it.

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

Perhaps, Paul learned this from one of Jesus’ disciples. In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus uses his own personal experience. Apparently, many first century Christian began turning their faith on and off like a light switch. When faith becomes dormant, it’s a sign that you have become disconnected from God. This trend suggests that your heart and mind is being controlled by your flesh, not God’s Spirit, Romans 8:5.

What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:14-17.

When the apostle Paul commands followers “to keep the trust and holy fervor,” he is reminding believers that faith and deeds go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Based upon first century historians, James did not believe that his brother Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until the resurrection when James came to faith. Since life on earth is like a marathon, keeping the faith consists of abiding in and acting upon your love for Jesus Christ. May this blog inspire you to keep your faith active.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond Doubt

Self-doubt often comes from a lack of experience as individuals face new challenges in life. When confronted with any task no matter how confident that you may be in a specific field, the fear of failure may enter your mind. However, some people encounter extremely high levels of doubt to the point where it becomes debilitating. This is the mental condition that the Devil wants to keep you in, frightened by lingering thoughts of doubt.

For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, Romans 8:38.

One chapter earlier, the apostle Paul confesses an inability to control his own body, Romans 7:16-18. Despite possessing good intentions, Paul found himself held captive by sin, unable to do what was good and right in God’s eyes. Instead of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Paul’s faith was inoperable, caving to and indulging his sinful nature daily. So what happened in one chapter? What sparked Paul’s transformation from addiction to living a spirit filled life?

Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:39.

If you glance back at the beginning of Romans 8, Paul’s mind was in the wrong place. As soon as Paul began to focus on eternal treasures by forgoing temporary pleasures, doubt began to disappear. When Christians begin to operate in the supernatural realm, fixated on producing spiritual fruit, Galatians 5:22-23, a hunger and thirst for righteousness is conceived. This is the mindset which inspired Paul to write beyond a doubt, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” May this blog encourage you to pursue a similar mindset so that you can begin to live beyond doubt.

by Jay Mankus

The Place Where Momentum Dies

Acceleration, briskness, expeditiousness and tempo are words associated with momentum. This invisible force is often played out during competitions as individuals or teams excel, clicking on all cylinders. When someone goes on a roll, confidence becomes contagious, spreading to teammates. Unfortunately, as quickly as this energy arrives, one error, mistake or mental lapse will cause momentum to vanish. The place where momentum dies is within the human mind.

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being spiritually impassioned, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John; Acts 18:25.

Whenever human beings become tired, artificial means are relied upon to stoke physical momentum. Coffee, caffeine and energy drinks are drank daily to awaken senses so that maximum effort is achieved at work. When one drink starts to wear off, another is consumed to ensure that momentum is maintained. While artificial methods often develop results, drinking too much caffeine can result in unpleasant side affects such as muscle tremors, nervousness or an upset stomach.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. 25 If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit], Galatians 5:24-25.

The Bible refers to a spiritual momentum. At the start of Paul’s third missionary journey, a Jews named Apollos felt spiritually impassioned by the Hebrew Scriptures which he studied daily. In a letter to the church at Galatia where Apollos first learned about Jesus, Paul credits this momentum on the spiritual discipline known as keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. However, Paul suggests that spiritual momentum is broken by appetites and passions from within. This sinful nature causes weakened minds to give into temptation. Thus, until you crucify these spiritual barriers, you won’t be able to become empowered by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Having Your Mind in the Right Place

The United Negro College Fund was incorporated on April 25th, 1944. As World War II continued, this organization adopted the motto, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” As casualties piled up day after day, common sense recognized that this madness must come to an end. The founders of this non-profit must have realized the importance of having your mind in the right place.

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both [c]inclination and character], because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation], Isaiah 26:3.

While the world relies on education as its source to stimulate minds, the Bible provides a different perspective. The prophet Isaiah reminds the nation of Israel of God’s faithfulness. Peace of mind comes from confidence and hope that God will provide and take care of human needs. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul refers to the daily spiritual war between the human flesh and God’s spirit. Jesus told his disciples on the eve of his death, “the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Depending upon the state of your mind, your actions will follow.

For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]; Romans 8:5-6.

Yesterday, I had one of those days, waking up late, rushing out of the house, hoping to get to work on time. A major accident that occurred in front of me insured that I was late. At this moment, my mind wasn’t in the right place. A few hours later when I reflected upon events earlier in the day, my mind was opened. If I was on time, I could have been part of this six car pile up. In a sense, God sheltered me from harm, a minor miracle that I failed to see until my mind was in the right place. How many others miracles and praises do we miss when our mind is on other things?

by Jay Mankus

Finding Answers in a Loss

At the end of last year, my daughter and I joined a volleyball league. Every Friday night until April, I am able to compete for an hour. While the initial reason for participating was to allow my daughter to sharpen her skills during the offseason, I find myself outclassed by much younger and athletic individuals. The ultimate purpose of any sport is to determine who is the best. Thus, when you lose more than you win, human nature begins to search for answers to explain why your team lost.

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

In her 2017 song Can’t Live Without, Hollyn sings about someone who doesn’t know what they are chasing after. Using the context of a person driving in rush hour, sometimes you are so busy that lose sight of where you are actually going. Near the end of the lyrics, there is a transition which struck a nerve, ” Some people gotta lose it all to find out what they really want.” Progress, success and victory doesn’t require any need for reflection as positive momentum breeds confidence. Yet, embarrassment, failure and losing leads souls to ponder why.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me., 2 Corinthians 12:9

As a former professional athlete, I hate to lose, even if it’s playing a board game with my family at home. However, my desire to win takes joy away from competing. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states if you get rid of competition, you eliminate pride. Thus, if you take your focus off of winning and turn it toward savoring the opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the final outcome or scoreboard reads. Thanks to Hollyn’s song, I am now able to see the big picture, a father who is able to spend quality time with his daughter. While our team’s record may be mediocre, I have found an answer in a loss.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Be Afraid or Hesitant to Ask God

If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him, James 1:5.

Three pillars of faith advise readers of the Bible to essentially do the same thing. The earthly brother of Jesus suggests that if anyone lacks wisdom, ask God who has a long history of generosity. The disciple whom Jesus loved adds to the concept. The context to any prayer request should emphasize and align your wishes with God’s will. Meanwhile, during his Sermon on the Mount Jesus urges listeners to not be afraid or hesitant to ask God. Rather, continue to seek and knock on God’s door until answers are received.

This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. 15 And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him, 1 John 5:14-15.

In the passage above, John speaks from experience. These words aren’t some unrealistic dream that you hope for God to answer a prayer. Rather, John refers to his degree of confidence as he reflects upon all the prayers that the Lord has specifically answered. One of the reasons some people don’t offer up prayer requests to God is the fear of being disappointed. John urges readers of the Bible to move beyond doubt by trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:21-22.

One of Jesus’ biggest frustrations with human beings is their lack of dependence on God. Throughout the gospels Jesus highlights one essential point, “you don’t have because you haven’t asked.” According to the passage above, prayers are directly linked to your degree of belief. The greater your faith, the more you will begin to see answers to prayer. However, when doubt enters your mind, prayers become words without any divine power. Therefore, if you want to see modern miracles don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask God. When you do pray, place your personal trust and confidence in Jesus to do what he promises in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

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