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Pace Yourself

I possess one of those addictive personalities where I tend to follow an all or nothing mindset. When I become passionate about something, I develop the “eye of the tiger” fueled by an intensity to accomplish whatever I set my mind to do. Unfortunately, emotional excitement doesn’t last forever. Subsequently, when I don’t pace myself, I often crash and burn before experiencing the thrill of victory.

Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go, Joshua 1:6-7.

As Israel began to prepare to enter into God’s promised land, Joshua provides advice for spiritually pacing yourself. Joshua suggests that courage can be conceived from reading the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible which were available to the Levitical Priests. As you begin to live in the pages of the Bible, don’t turn away, drift or stray from God’s commands. As you begin to practice keeping the Sabbath holy, pacing yourself is possible.

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success, Joshua 1:8.

Whether you’re running or trying to endure the hectic schedule of a busy work week, meditating and reflecting upon biblical principles will help your sanity. Meanwhile, Joshua suggests that those who maintain a daily time of Bible Study will become prosperous and successful. As you learn to set the spiritual pace for believers to follow, the example that you display daily will inspire others to observe and practice spiritual disciplines.

by Jay Mankus

An Unreserved Approach to God

Approach refers to draw closer; to come very near to. Prior to coming to faith, I viewed God as the great disciplinarian. Growing up in a Roman Catholic Church, God’s grace, love, and mercy was foreign to me. Thus, I developed an Old Testament perspective, one of judgment and wrath. I never felt good enough or worthy to approach God. Until joining a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I couldn’t comprehend an unreserved approach to God.

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. 14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:12-14.

As the apostle Paul began to meet other Jewish converts to Christianity, a similar mindset prevented many from drawing near to God. The passage above serves as encouragement, opening the door to what is possible for those who believe in Jesus. Instead of allowing doubt to reign in your head, dare to have the boldness, courage, and confidence to approach God. When the presence of fear is removed, an unreserved approach to God is possible.

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The passage above connects the Old Testament with the realization of the Messiah in the New Testament. Rather than continue in the ways of Mosaic Law to atone for sin, the author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a great High Priest. This symbolism fulfills the words of Moses in Leviticus 17:11 which grants access to the throne of God. Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that those who believe are granted permission to an unreserved approach to God. Take advantage of this new access, Romans 5:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

Unsung Heroes

A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities is considered a hero. During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, first responders, doctors, and nurses were labeled heroes. Willing to put their own lives in danger to save the lives of others earned these brave individuals this badge of honor. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi capitalized on this term by naming the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act of 2020 the Heroes Act. However, a common criticism of the HEROES Act by Republicans was that many of its items in the bill were not directly related to the Coronavirus.

We who are strong [in our convictions and of robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; [we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others] and not to please ourselves, Romans 15:1.

In today’s politically charged climate, when a news story doesn’t fit into the mainstream’s narrative, heroic acts go unrecognized. Such is the case for members of the National Guard in California. State officials called off their search for 200 campers trapped at Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest. The conditions were deemed too dangerous with zero visible due to huge plumes of smoke. Despite the odds, over 200 people were rescued by National Guard helicopters. A Blackhawk helicopter, emergency response team, fire and medical elements from the 144th Fighter Wing swooped into action, placing their lives at risk to rescue trapped campers.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually], Romans 15:2.

The word hero does not appear in the Bible. However, when you do a search for hero in OpenBible.info, positive actions are provided. According to the apostle Paul, biblical heroes bear with neighbors to uplift their souls. Other qualities including laying your life down for a friend, staying positive despite the circumstances, and choosing love over hate. While the self absorbed seek to draw attention to themselves, unsung heroes do what’s right when nobody is looking. Heroes don’t wait for others to comes to the rescue. Rather, heroes follow their conscience and convictions to help whoever is in need. While rewards may not come on earth, unsung heroes will be commended in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Far from Oppression

The term fear is mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous. When fear is left to linger without confronting, this invisible force can ravage hearts and minds. When ideal conditions are present, oppression is conceived. Oppression is the prolonged cruel and unjust treatment that often debilitate souls.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you,] John 16:33.

While speaking to his disciples, Jesus revealed a plan to be far from oppression. After telling these 12 men that he would be killed, a spirit of fear likely hovered over their minds. Sensing this attack, Jesus comforts these individuals with a promise, sending a counselor following his departure. Encouraging these individuals, Jesus calls for acts of courage, to be undaunted in the face of fear.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.

Apparently, this message got through to at least one of the disciples. The passage above suggests that you too can be far from oppression if you do not fear. The key is seeing Jesus’ role in conquering fear. Perfect love drives out fear, expelling any traces of terror. As you mature spiritually, fears that once held you down, slide quickly to your side. The ultimate goal is to reach full maturity of love so you steer clear of oppression.

by Jay Mankus

The Cinderella Story of the Bible

Ella sees her world turn upside down when her beloved mother dies, and her pained father remarries another woman. Just when a glimmer of hope arrives, Ella’s cruel stepmother prevents her from attending the Royal Ball. Lady Tremaine was hoping for one of her daughters two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella, to catch the eyes of the prince at this ball. Despite this dire situation, Ella was determined to honor her mother’s dying words,”have courage and be kind.”

Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it, Esther 2:2-4.

Long before Cinderella’s fairy tale was written, a Jewish woman found herself in a similar situation. When King Ahasuerus banished his ungrateful wife, a beauty contest was organized by the king’s servants. Beautiful virgins were invited to come to the capital city of Shushan. According to Bible scholars, somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 women competed in this Miss Persia Pageant. Uncle Mordecai persuaded Esther to participate, recognizing this contest as a divine opportunity.

Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem, Esther 2:7-9.

The odds for Esther to win this beauty contest was far greater than Cinderella. Yet, each woman received divine intervention. Although none of the top contestants are mentioned by name, I’m sure there were characters similar to Anastasia and Drizella. Just as the prophet Samuel passed over David’s 7 older brothers to choose a lowly shepherd as king, Ahasuerus selected Esther to be his next bribe. This true story should give all men and women hope that nothing is impossible with God, Luke 1:37.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Breakfast Club

It’s hard to believe that February 2020 will mark the 35th anniversary of the Breakfast Club’s release.  This eighties film introduced five teenagers from five distinct social classes.  An athlete, brain, loner, prom queen and rebel are forced to spend an entire Saturday together in detention.  This motley crew clashes initially as stereotypes prevent each from opening up about who these students really are outside of school.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent, Proverbs 10:19.

In today’s political climate, the Breakfast Club would never occur.  Three white boys and two white girls is not an inclusive representation of modern culture.  Meanwhile, skeptics would be turned off by white privilege, offended by anti Me Too Movement messages and disappointed from the lack of diversity.  When symbolism becomes more important than the substance of a movie, meaning and purpose get lost.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends, Proverbs 17:9.

During an eighties weekend on AMC, I watched the Breakfast Club from beginning to end for the first time in years.  Beyond the plot of this classic film, I was struck by the courage it takes to get beneath surface level conversation.  Looking back on my own years in high school, I rarely took the time to fight through the BS.  I shied away from unpleasant encounters, afraid of what I may find or what others might recognize about me.  If you want to go beyond the breakfast club, press on until you discover what makes someone behave the way they do.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing God

My first exposure to the true meaning in the Bible came through two college courses.  Biblical and Classical Literature began by reading all 66 books of the Bible and ended with several classics like Beowulf.  My second class, the Bible as Literature wasn’t as interesting.  While examining the symbolism of the Bible with other ancient stories was educational, I don’t think my college professor went to seminary.  These experiences taught me not to read too much into literature.  Rather, take each piece in its original historical context.  Perhaps, this may explain why Joshua urged readers of the Bible to meditate on God’s laws day and night so that important details are not missed or neglected.

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God,” Matthew 5:8.

In the first century, a spiritual leader entered the scene as a vivid story teller, using analogies called parables to captivate an audience.  In the passage above, Jesus lists a series of beatitudes.  According to Jesus, any individual who pursues these spiritual ambitions will be blessed by God.  If anyone wants to develop a pure heart, three traits are necessary: godly character, integrity and moral courage.  These values are a mindset, steps toward becoming spiritually mature.  For those who stay the course, seeing God work in your life won’t be a concept that you read in a book.  Rather, your eyes will be opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit altering, changing and transforming your life.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3:2.

A disciple of Jesus makes an interesting connection in the passage above.  As children, babies cling to their parents, relying on their mother’s milk for food and father’s leadership for direction.  Jesus welcomed little children in his ministry, eager to bless, hold and interact with them.  Yet, when children grow up, innocence is lost as negative adults begin to verbally squash a teenager’s dreams.  John tells first century adults to live in anticipation of God’s promises in the Bible.  Live by faith like children expecting to walk hand and hand with God in heaven.  The key to making this a reality is developing a pure heart.  As hearts become aligned with God’s will, you will see God move in America.

by Jay Mankus

Bowing Down to Spiritual Bullies

Joel Kaplan has been a lifelong friend of Brett Kavanaugh.  This relationship compelled Kaplan to attend Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing as a sign of support.  This is what friends do, to be there in times of need for those they care about.  The only problem for Kaplan is that he is the Vice President of Facebook.  As employees of Facebook saw Joel on television sitting behind Kavanaugh, staff became outraged, demanding an explanation.  When Kaplan returned to work, he was pressured, bullied into apologizing for being a friend of Kavanaugh.

Then the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped and served the Baals, Judges 2:11.

Whenever there is an absence of spiritual leadership, individuals begin to follow human nature.  After the death of Joshua, who was used to lead Israel into God’s promised land, there was a spiritual void.  When no one volunteered to stand up to show others the way, Jews began to do what was right in their own eyes.  Throughout the course of history, this cycle repeats itself until convicted hearts repent, confessing the error of their ways by turning back to follow God.  Based upon recent current events, progressive leaders are stepping up to redefine right from wrong.

And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods from the gods of the peoples who were around them, and they bowed down to them, and offended and provoked the Lord to anger. 13 So they abandoned the Lord and served Baal [the pagan god of the Canaanites] and the Ashtaroth, Judges 2:12-13.

Apparently, there is some new Bible, source of truth, that I am not aware of.  This new standard evidently claims that president Trump is evil and anyone who follows or supports him is a bad person.  These beliefs are being enforced by protestors, hoping to scare others from publicly supporting likeminded candidates, leaders and politicians.  While president Trump has his flaws, allowing loose lips and undisciplined tweets to express unnecessary comments, no one should bow down to bullies.  As worldly influences continues to challenge what you think and believe, may the power of the Holy Spirit give you the courage to stand up and reinforce the values you hold dear.

by Jay Mankus

 

God Uses What Little We Have to Demonstrate How Great He Is

Whenever a team receives awards, praise and recognition, there is a temptation for the best athletes/players to take most of the credit.  Yet, God uses a series of events, methods and situations to prevent success from going to your head.  At the height of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, thousands of people came to faith in Christ.  Instead of saying, “look at how great I am,” Paul became inflicted with a painful physical ailment.  This condition forced Paul to rely on the Lord for strength.  God used what little energy Paul possessed to demonstrate how great the Lord can work in spite of  our weaknesses.

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! – 2 Corinthians 12:7

While Jews lived as slaves for nearly 400 years within Egypt, God called one man to confront their leader.  The only problem is that this man, Moses, suffered from a severe speech impediment.  In other words, Moses stuttered regularly, especially when he was nervous.  Despite this disability, God wanted Moses to be the one to lead Israel’s exodus out of Egypt.  Initially, God gave Moses a safety blanket, his brother Aaron to speak for him.  However, at some point the Holy Spirit empowered Moses to have the courage and words to stand up to Pharaoh.  Throughout this ordeal. Moses learned that God can use a faithful stutterer to do things that was once unimaginable for someone with this condition.

Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

As I look back on my own life, I was never a good student until high school.  I endured a learning disability which led to a fifth grade reading level while in tenth grade.  When you add  this to my own speech impediment, regularly stammering words, the odds were against me.  Yet, in my many weaknesses, Christ has become a strong influence in my life.  Although I am no longer a high school teacher, my former fear of speaking in public has vanished.  Sure, I probably could have done more with my life.  Nonetheless, God uses what little you and I have to demonstrate how great God is.

by Jay Mankus

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