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The Dangers of Discouragement

Discouragement comes from a lack of confidence or enthusiasm. When events, your job or life doesn’t end up how you expected and wanted, this often results in disappointment. If no encouraging news follows, souls become deflated. If this dis-spiritedness continues without any glimpses of hope, discouragement can settle in upon a community, town or nation.

And they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, and the people became impatient (depressed, much discouraged), because [of the trials] of the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and we loathe this light (contemptible, unsubstantial) manna. Then the Lord sent fiery (burning) serpents among the people; and they bit the people, and many Israelites died, Numbers 21:4-6.

Israel was promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but were stuck going around in circles, lost in the middle of a desert. This is the context of the passage above as Israel became depressed and discouraged. Like an unhappy employee complaining about their company, Israel began to voice their frustration with God. Moses details how impatience fueled grumbling spirits, verbalizing their displeasure with God. God responds with an infestation of snakes, making their situation worse.

For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.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 [[i]morally] to all people [not only [j]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 6:8-10.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses the analogy of a farmer to address discouragement. When the weather is bad, farmers at are the mercy of mother nature, God. Yet, you reap what you sow. Those who plan ahead, taking the time to secure their fields will be rewarded in the end. Unfortunately, many people give up before the harvest arrives, never seeing the fruit of their labor. Thus, the biblical way to overcome the dangers of discouragement is to fight through these tough emotional times by never giving up.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of Hope

Hope is like a double edged sword. On one side, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain outcome or thing to happen. Meanwhile, on the other side reality exists, the state of things as they actually are currently. This opposition denounces an idealistic or notional idea of what hope has to offer.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation, Romans 5:3-4.

In the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, two prisoners argue about hope while talking over a meal. Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins reveals his perspective of hope, describing this as a place in your mind that no one can take away from you. Red Redding played by Morgan Freeman disagrees, interrupting Robbins to highlight the dangers of hope.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:5.

The apostle Paul writes about the biblical meaning of hope during a first century letter to the church of Rome. Perhaps, even Christians were losing hope and needed a word of encouragement to press on. Paul makes three guarantees about hope. Hope never deludes, disappoints or shames human beings. Why, you may ask? God’s love has been poured out to hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit to those who believe. This is the power of hope.

by Jay Mankus

Letting Things Roll Off Your Back

Mammals such as otters and seals have very greasy fur which serves as protection from becoming water logged. Meanwhile, waterfowl such as ducks possess greasy feathers which enables beads of water to roll off their backs. This is where the saying “let things roll off your back” is derived. This simile is an expression of encouragement urging a friend not to let criticism, disappointing news or hardship bother them.

One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid anymore, but go on speaking and do not be silent; Acts 18:9.

During the apostle Paul’s second missionary journey, a mob of unbelieving Jews began to follow him from city to city. These individuals disrupted his teaching and made threats upon his life. By the time Paul reached Corinth, modern day Greece, stressed consumed his soul. One night the Lord appeared in a vision, urging Paul to let things roll off his back. Continue doing what I called you to do, keep speaking without fear.

For I am with you, and no one will attack you in order to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So he settled there for a year and six months, teaching them the word of God [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ], Acts 18:10-11.

Based upon the promise above, God placed a remnant of believers in Corinth. Some of these individuals such as Gallio were in leadership positions to shield Paul from harm. Subsequently, Paul experienced 18 months of blessings, peace and spiritual revival. Paul sent 4 letters to the church of Corinth, 2 of which are found in the New Testament. When you let things roll off your back like Paul, the possibilities are endless.

by Jay Mankus

When You Are Unable to Make the Best of a Difficult Situation

Whenever people pray for patience, God tends to have a sense of humor placing individuals into extreme circumstances.  These scenarios put patience to the test, seeing whether you will pass or fail.  Well, a few weeks ago I wrote a blog about making the best of difficult situations at work.  Apparently, the Lord has given my faith a pop quiz to see if I am practicing what I have preached about recently.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

The apostle Paul points to endurance as a key element to get you through troubling times in life.  Endurance includes acceptance, bearing with, fortitude, persistence and tenacity to withstand curve balls that interrupt your life.  According to the passage above, Christians undergoing trials should seek guidance from the Bible.  As you receive encouragement from God’s promises, it is possible to make the best of a difficult situation.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

However, there is an invisible force that you must be cautious of to avoid acting out impulsively without any regard for God and his precepts.  When push comes to shove, childish ways inside of me are about to erupt, wanting to throw a tantrum like the days of my youth.  Unless you habitually keep in step with the Holy Spirit, ungodly words will come out of your mouth.  Thus, until I get this area of my life under control, I won’t be able to make the best of a difficult situation.

by Jay Mankus

Leaving God’s Footprint Behind

The Roman lyrical poet Horace first coined the Latin phrase carpe diem.  When translated into English, carpe diem loosely means to “seize the day.”  This may explain why professor John Keating, a poetry teacher played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society references this expression.  When applied to a Christian faith, believers should be focused on leaving God’s footprint behind.

For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both himself and others] and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah, through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.  And Barnabas left for Tarsus to search for Saul; Acts 11:24-25.

Luke introduces a man named Joseph in Acts 4:36-37 who developed the nick name Barnabas, “son of encouragement” for his generous donations to the church.  When Jesus’ disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion to Christ, it was Barnabas who defended his faith, Acts 9:27.  In the passage above, Luke reveals the secret behind Barnabas’ success, full of the Holy Spirit.  At some point, God called Barnabas to disciple Saul, investing one year of his life to nurture his faith.

And when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For an entire year they met [with others] in the church and instructed large numbers; and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, Acts 11:26.

By the time these men left, Antioch became a symbol of God’s footprint on earth.  As members of the church emulated the life and teachings of Jesus, community members referred to this group of believers as Christians.  Today, Professor William Rees is the father of carbon footprints, derived from a paper, Environment and Urbanization, written in 1992.  While Christians should be good stewards of the earth God created, the Holy Spirit is searching for individuals who want to leave behind God’s footprint wherever you go and whatever you do.

by Jay Mankus

Walking in the Fear of the Lord

If you attend college or graduate school, you are bound to cross paths with intelligent professors.  Unfortunately, some of these teachers are so obsessed with their field, that understanding this courses is like taking a foreign language.  When I first opened the Bible in high school, I had similar concerns, overwhelmed by phrases, terms and words beyond my comprehension.  A priest once proclaimed in his homily, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, quoting the passage below.  When the context was added, a father teaching his son about the importance of listening to God, a light went on in my head.

To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection]. The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; But arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline, Proverbs 1:6-7.

Three decades later, a new term caught me off guard, “walking in the fear of the Lord.”  Perhaps, Luke is referring to the events of Acts 5:1-13.  A couple named Ananias and Sapphira attempted to emulate the generosity of Barnabas, the son of encouragement.  However, Ananias had impure motives, seeking attention and fame.  When confronted by Peter, both lied resulting in cardiac arrests, dying within hours of one another.  At the end of this story, Luke highlights the fact that great fear gripped the church and that non-believers were afraid to associate with the apostles.  Only genuine believers gathered at Solomon’s portico for worship.  The context of this story shines light on what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord.

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

When I was a teenager, death was the last thought on my mind until a boating accident placed me in the shipping channel of the Chesapeake Bay as a freighter headed for me and my neighbor Richie.  This near death experience set the stage for me to begin to draw near to God.  Like any prodigal, I didn’t always take the straightest path or quickest route.  Nonetheless, reverent fear of God put life on earth in perspective for me.  While sitting in my bed the summer before my senior year of college with a broken ankle, I was forced to consider God’s plan for my life.  This is where I truly decided to follow Jesus and haven’t turned back.  Sure, I have taken earthly pitstops, backsliding every now and then, but walking in the fear of the Lord has straightened me out over time.

by Jay Mankus

What You Don’t See

Every day someone will encounter persecution.  This will occur in the form of abuse, discrimination, oppression, punishment or victimization.  Persecution can be subtle by someone trying to manipulate you or brash by individuals who holds a higher position or social status in life.  However, what you don’t see is how current trials and tribulations prepare you for future events.

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

When I was in third grade, I walked to an elementary school in my neighborhood.  After desegregation was passed in Delaware, I was forced to attend a school in inner city Wilmington.  I went from the safety of the suburbs into a school with mainly African American and Hispanic students.  At the time, I was overwhelmed, scared and questioning God about why I had to go through this.  Thirty years later, when I became a high school teacher, these 3 miserable years helped me relate to a broad spectrum of students.

In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

In the passage above, Peter writes a letter to first century Christians.  While one of Jesus’ disciple doesn’t specify about which trial he is referring to, Peter warns believers that persecution is a necessary evil.  Whether it was denying Jesus in public or making a fool of himself, trials serve as a refining process for faith.  The apostle Paul uses the analogy of being clay shaped by God the Potter who molds and fastens us into his own image.  The hard part is going through the fire, furnace.  Therefore, the next time you feel overwhelmed by hardships, what you don’t see is God setting the stage for your next assignment in life.

by Jay Mankus

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