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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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Euphoria and Misfortune

Whether you’re participating in a competition, watching a game or witnessing an accident, emotions vary depending upon the outcome.  Winning elicits smiles, encourages applause and promotes praise from those in the attendance.  Meanwhile, losing can trigger tears to flow, depression to linger and disappointment to reside within heartbroken souls.  Thus, anytime someone experiences euphoria, misfortune will visit those on the opposing side.

So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed, Mark 5:20.

The gospel of Mark contains one of the first exorcisms ever recorded.  Although there isn’t any evidence of this man’s head twisting around like Hollywood’s version, the demon possessed man exhibited super human strength.  Nonetheless, as Jesus performed another miracle, John 21:25, few people recognize the misfortune of this pig farmer.  Two thousands pigs is a lot of bacon, pork and income lost.  Without any warning, an entire life’s savings was gone, floating away like the devastation citizens of Texas are coping with following historic flooding.

Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened, Mark 5:14.

As the summer approaches, the weather will cause business owners to either praise God or curse Him.  Beach resorts are hoping for sunny and warm weekends while farmers pray for rain to water their arid fields.  Though car washes and golf courses long for dry skies, shopping malls wouldn’t mind an afternoon shower to fill up their stores.  Whatever happens, euphoria will come to the victors and misfortune to the defeated as this roller coaster of emotions will continue until your time on earth comes to an end.  Therefore, prepare yourself for every situation with the calming force of prayer, Philippians 4:6-7.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming the Transitional Zone

Each Spring lawn care companies give grandiose images of the perfect yard.  If you just buy this product, follow their three step process and properly maintain your grass, this could be your house?  Unfortunately, these commercials do not take into consideration the transitional zone, the area where Bermuda Grass in the south meets Tall Fescue from the north.  Following an internship in Golf Course Design and Maintenance, I asked a mentor what I should do with my lawn in Delaware.  His advice, “blow it up and start from scratch with fresh top soil and sod.”

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”- Genesis 12:3

Recently, president Obama has declared that America is no longer a Christian nation.  Meanwhile, liberal politicians have distanced the United States from our former ally Israel.  On the surface this may not seem like a big deal.  However, inside the Bible tells a different story.  The Old Testament is filled with verses the claim God blesses those nations which protect and support Israel.  On the other hand, those whom dishonor Israel will be cursed.  If this trend in America continues, the United States will find itself in God’s transitional zone, blessed since 1948 for helping Israel become a nation to on the verge of being cursed due to our lack of understanding of this biblical principle.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Beneath the surface, there are spiritual weeds, demons and evil spirits, seeking to cause havoc in the lives of individuals.  Since these forces are invisible, you can’t use Round Up to kill these entities.  Rather, prayer walks, fasting, worship and meditating on God’s Word will help those souls stuck in this transitional zone.  Although I can’t promise you that you’ll have a perfect life void of pests, I can assure you of the promises of God.  While you battle the visible tasks in this life, don’t forget to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, so that you can overcome life’s spiritual transitional zone.

by Jay Mankus

 

Ignoring an Obvious Blessing

As the sun rises on another day, alarms sound waking up individuals to begin a new adventure.  Pressed by hustle, bustle, and trying to get ahead in life, leaves many oblivious to a blessing right before their eyes.  The greatest miracle on earth are the children that are procreated and conceived by woman.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. – Psalm 127:3-4

While the passage above is true, love, sex and relationships can’t be forced.  Panicking due to a barren womb, Sarah tried to force the issue by sharing her maidservant with Abraham, her husband.  This selfish act gave birth to Ishmael, the Father of Arab nations.  This momentary lapse of judgment has haunted the nation of Israel ever since creating a clear and present danger for the Jewish faith.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. – Psalm 127:1

According to Solomon, churches and homes can’t be manufactured.  Though each requires discipline, hard work and faith, the future of any heritage is dependent upon the Lord.  Formulas, gadgets and technology may give a perception of success, yet in the end God will either bless or curse man-made efforts.  Therefore, before you start your next adventure, project or task, follow the words of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 so you no longer ignore obvious blessings.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Donkey Knows Best

As television evolves, the more preposterous ads, shows and slogans become.  Look no further than a time machine powered by Doritos, cologne that serves as a chick magnet and cars that cause a baby to speak their first words.  By the time Sunday evening rolls around, Super Bowl XLIX commercials will likely push the envelope further to a new low.

But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. – Numbers 22:22

The Bible contains its own version of improbable events.  A serpent that walks and talks, seas that turn to solid ground then swallows up an entire army and a man who rises from the dead.  While post-modernists may tend to believe Hollywood more than the authors of the Bible, one of my favorite passages is when a donkey knows best.

Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” – Numbers 22:28

According to a 2013 study, more than 164 million households own a pet.  Although cats and dogs get most of the attention, its not uncommon for country folks to own a donkey.  Own his way to curse Israel, Baalam travels on a donkey with Moabite officials.  However, his donkey encounters an angel of death.  Unseen by Baalam, he begins to beat his donkey, a shocking sight to those who support PETA.  After the third attack, the Lord enables Baalam’s donkey to speak.  Opening the eyes of his master, God allowed Baalam to realize that sometimes donkeys and all animals alike know best.

by Jay Mankus

The Enough Syndrome

Whether its the persistent increase of consumer prices or decline in the purchasing power of the dollar, most families and individuals understand how difficult it is to get ahead in this financial climate.  The majority fluctuate between not enough and just enough, making sacrifices to break even monthly.  Meanwhile, the blessed, talented and wealthy are fortunate to experience a more than enough income, reaching a place of security few can comprehend.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts 20:35

Prior to the bursting of the dot.com bubble on Wall Street, my wife and I made investments in two of the highest earning mutual funds in the world.  Thinking these were going to continue to rise in value and not wanting to pay the taxes for selling them, we elected to put less money down on our first house instead of cashing out to pay for our home in full.  This decision made sense until 2001 when the market tanked, flushing 60,000 dollars in paper money down the toilet.  Ever since this day, I know the anguish of the “Enough Syndrome,” living under the curse of not enough.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. – Deuteronomy 8:18

From a spiritual perspective, the Jews were led by God through 3 similar phases in life.  During 400 years of slavery in Egypt, not enough was par for the course, an accepted way of life.  Upon their departure, able to pillage Egypt following the plague of the First Born, Israel spent 40 years in the Wilderness, graduating up to a just enough status as God provided manna, quail and water to meet their daily needs.  Finally, the promise of a land filled with milk and honey was fulfilled, giving birth to a generation who tasted more than enough.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:33-34

Wherever you may be on this financial spectrum, remember the words of Job 1:21, “the Lord gives and takes away.”  Through the good times and the bad, there is a lesson to be learned.  At the end of each day, try to find and reflect on the positive things in your life, Philippians 4:8-9.  No matter how hard it may be, trust in the Lord to help you move from the months of not enough to years of more than enough!

by Jay Mankus

The Origin of Blessings

The concept of blessings is a central focus of God’s covenant relationship beginning in the book of Genesis.  This term is mentioned over 600 times in the Old Testament.  Following the fall of human beings in the Garden of Eden, God countered the curse of Genesis 3:14-17 with a promise of blessings to Abraham and his descendents, Genesis 12:3.  However, this promise comes with a condition of obedience and if individuals stray from these commands this pattern can be reversed in the form of curses, Deuteronomy 27-28.

The Psalmist provides more concrete examples of blessings as well as how one arrives at becoming blessed.  The foundation of blessings derives from a blameless state, Psalm 119:1.  This process is achieved over time keeping the Bible’s statutes, seeking God with all your heart and walking in the ways of the Lord, Psalm 119:2.  To arrive at this desired goal, though perfection is unattainable, careful attention must be paid to decrees, avoiding short cuts and eliminating wrong from the equation, Psalm 119:3-4.  Passing the torch from one forefather, Moses, to another, advice has been passed on to maintain blessings, Joshua 1:8.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Joshua 1:8

Today, there are various beliefs, opinions and views on why someone is successful or not.  Yet, history contains examples of people, families and nations that were blessed over time as well as countless who experienced one disappointment after another.  Although the thought of being blessed by God is exciting, the work that goes along with this commitment can be exhausting.  Human nature causes even the strong to get side tracked and wander away from the truth.  Therefore, if you want to find God’s favor in 2015, follow the steps mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Matthew 6:33-34 and Galatians 5:25.  Go with God and the Lord will walk by your side.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33

by Jay Mankus

 

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