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Tag Archives: encouragement

If You Take the Time to Listen

My evenings at Amazon vary as I try to fix any problems before product gets shipped out to customers.  Typically, free time is rare as I am usually exploring and examining some sort of defect.  However, the other night I was selected to be part of a survey, asked a series of questions by a human resource staff member from Seattle.  Due to an initial technical glitch, I was able to talk to a co-worker.  This five minute conversation opened my mind to the importance of listening.

Then a woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink”— For His disciples had gone off into the city to buy food— The Samaritan woman asked Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life),” John 4:7-10.

My co-worker was in her first week in a new position.  When my initial phone calls failed to go through, she had to email her manager to figure out what to do.  As we both waited, I discovered that this young woman had lyme disease for ten years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.  Since she never had what is called a bullseye, a tell tale sign of lyme disease, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her for a decade.  I shared of my own struggles twenty years ago from this same disease.  As I talked, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering, “this is what happens when you take the time to listen.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not get thirsty nor [have to continually] come all the way here to draw.” 16 At this, Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I do not have a husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. You have said this truthfully,” John 4:15-18.

When I read the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was a masterful communicator, never wasting an opportunity to interact with a stranger.  Despite the political tension between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus goes out of his way to talk to a woman who has a history of bouncing from one relationship to the next.  After five failed marriages, this woman was trying to love without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  During an intense back and forth, Jesus plants a spiritual seed within this woman for faith to grow.  When you take the time to listen to another person, God can use you to offer a message of encouragement, healing and hope.

by Jay Mankus

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The Healing of Harms

The Healing of Harms is one part testimony and one part inspiration to those who are alone.  The goal of this project speaks to those facing insurmountable odds and needing answers after falling in harms way.  Released in 2006, the Healing of Harms is the first non-independent studio album done by the Christian rock band Fireflight.  This serves as a greatest hits album with the emphasis on lyrics that soothe human souls.

So Saul told his servants, “Find me a man who plays well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a brave and competent man, a warrior, discerning (prudent, eloquent) in speech, and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him,” 1 Samuel 16:17-18.

The genre of Fireflight is a combination of Pat Benatar with an occasional Joan Jett sound.  I stumbled upon Fireflight while listening to songs on You Tube for a couple of hours two years ago.  I guess the female led vocal groups l was listening to at the time suggested that I would enjoy Fireflight.  Usually, I find groups with a great song and so-so lyrics.  Or inspirational lyrics that get lost within an average sound.  However, the Healing of Harms contains the best of both worlds.

Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Please let David be my attendant, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 So it came about that whenever the [evil] spirit from God was on Saul, David took a harp and played it with his hand; so Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would leave him, 1 Samuel 16:22-23.

The first king of Israel understood the healing power of music.  At some point during his reign, King Saul began to be tormented by an evil spirit.  Apparently, godly music refreshed Saul’s soul, causing this spirit to flee.  Today, countless spirits of doubt, fear and shame haunt individuals daily.  When words of encouragement fail to result in healing, maybe it’s time to withdraw to a quiet place where inspirational music can serve as a healing of harms.

by Jay Mankus

Remaining Above the Fray

The expression above the fray refers to abstaining from getting involved in a heated argument, confrontation or debate.  While individuals may participate by adding their opinion, temperance is demonstrated by going the right distance and no further.  One of the reasons I have not activated my twitter account is to avoid being dragged into a no win situation of endless mudslinging back and forth.

But avoid foolish and ill-informed and stupid controversies and genealogies and dissensions and quarrels about the Law, for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 After a first and second warning reject a divisive man [who promotes heresy and causes dissension—ban him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him], 11 well aware that such a person is twisted and is sinning; he is convicted and self-condemned [and is gratified by causing confusion among believers], Titus 3:9-11.

Controversy is nothing new.  During the first century, philosophers meet in the marketplace to exchange their ideas.  When these new teachings conflicted with biblical principles, dissensions and quarrels about the God’s law triggered heresy, a departure from biblical beliefs.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul warns a servant of Christ to avoid getting sucked into these futile discussions.  In the centuries following biblical times, God raised up Christian historians who wrote apologetic books defending and justifying biblical truth.

Therefore if there is any encouragement and comfort in Christ [as there certainly is in abundance], if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship [that we share] in the Spirit, if [there is] any [great depth of] affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love [toward one another], knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose [and living a life that reflects your faith and spreads the gospel—the good news regarding salvation through faith in Christ], Philippians 2:1-2.

The best solution to remain above the fray is by developing a Christ-like mind.  Arguments tend to bring out raw emotions that influences human nature to attack, lash out and seek revenge.  Yet, Jesus shares a contrary message, to let God judge the living and the dead.  Jesus had the power to call down fire from heaven as the Son of God, but he choose to live a humble life as a blue collar carpenter.  By taking time every day to meet quietly with God, this spiritual discipline empowered Jesus to carry out God’s will on earth.  When individuals begin to practice Philippians 2:2-5, attitudes will transform toward a heavenly mindset to remain above the fray.

by Jay Mankus

You Can Only Do So Much

Ten years ago, I volunteered for a week to serve as a camp counselor at an overnight Christian Camp just south of Reading, Pennsylvania.  Due to a weeklong heat wave, a cabin without air conditioning and inner ear infection that lingered the rest of that summer, I never returned for a second year.  Instead, my two sons now serve as camp counselors at Camp Cedarbrook.  During a de-briefing session over lunch, my oldest son James shared his frustrations of boys in his cabin who never listened to him.  Despite repeated attempts, numerous reminders and intervention from veteran counselors, James was unable to change these bad habits.  Unfortunately, you can only do so much in one week of time.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

Unless you are a coach, counselor, parent or teacher, you may not realize that America is on the verge of a parental crisis.  After years of appeasing, bribing and spoiling children, basic character traits, courtesy and morals are missing.  Instead cell phones, electronic devices and video games are killing social skills, creating a further divide between children and parents.  Those individuals who are diligently working to stop this trend have their own obstacles to overcome.  Abandonment, death and divorce has led to single parent homes, struggling to provide and raise kids at the same time.  Giving a word of encouragement to my son, I replied “you can only do so much on your own.”

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another, Proverbs 27:17.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is a small quote from King Solomon.  This wise man compares a black smith to being the best person you can be.  When human beings enter into an accountability relationship, affirmations point out the good while flaws are pointed through honest assessments.  As long as both parties seek the best interest of the other, character is strengthened like iron sharpening iron.  For those who feel called into the ministry, you may not be able to win the hearts and souls of those who you love.  God doesn’t call everyone to be successful, but faithful.  Therefore, if you feel overwhelmed by a lack of progress in your life, remember you can only do so much.

by Jay Mankus

Why Do You Call Me Good?

Affirmations, compliments and encouragement used to be a common presence in daily conversations.  This positive vibe appears to be vanishing, replaced by sarcasm, witty comments and venting frustrations.  In some spheres of life, the word good is chosen as a means to gain favor.  A student seeking acceptance from a teacher will approach this special individual with kind speech to initiate a discussion.  In the passage below, this is exactly what occurs.

As He was leaving on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially good and morally perfect], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” – Mark 10:17

Perhaps Jesus perceived the motives of this rich young ruler changing the discourse by replying, “why do you call me good?”  While I don’t know how the rich acted in the first century, today wealthy people tend to get what they want.  Whether this means buying it, bribing or convincing others this decision will result in a financial gain in the future, money can be persuasive.  Whatever the reason, Jesus makes the point that being good won’t gain you access to heaven.

Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially] good [by nature] except God alone, Mark 10:18.

Jesus cautions this young man that human nature defaults to self.  The apostle Paul writes about this internal struggle in Galatians 5:16-18.  During a letter to the church of Rome, Paul shares about his own personal battle, Romans 7:13-15.  Despite Paul’s attempt to be good, he failed miserably, unable to control his sinful nature.  This experience likely inspired Paul to once confess, “I am the greatest sinner of all,” 1 Timothy 1:15.

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love (high regard, compassion) for him, and He said to him, “You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 22 But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God], Mark 10:21-22.

After a brief comment about the last 6 commandments, Jesus addresses the main question of this rich young ruler, how do you inherit eternal life?  Jesus gives a three step action plan.  First, go sell your land and property.  Second, give the proceeds to the poor.  After this is complete, follow me by walking the same path as a servant.  While this reality can be distressing for any rich person, verse 22 provides the key to eternal life.  You must treasure your relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, more than anything on earth.  Or as Matthew 6:33-34 once wrote, “seek first God and his righteousness.”  This is what makes someone good, but since no one is perfect God offers grace through faith in Christ as only way to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Period

In the context of history, a period is a length or portion of time.  Physics refers to the interval of time between successive occurrences of the same state.  Woman experience a flow of blood and other material from the lining of the uterus, lasting for several days each month.  Meanwhile, English uses a period as a punctuation mark to clearly define the end of a sentence.

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it, Habakkuk 2:2.

Punctuation enables writers to separate sentences and their elements to clarify meaning.  In my early years,  I was an expert at crafting run on sentences, confusing my teachers and lowering my grade.  To make matters worse, I battled periods of stammering and stuttering throughout high school.  One of the only ways I could clearly communicate was with a pen and paper.  Thus, poor grammar hindered my ability to express myself.

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.

Oddly enough, I have spent the last 25 years in one form of writing or another.  This began as a poetry teacher in West Virginia, offering nightly active learning workshops for students.  From here I dabbled with song writing, climaxing with an album.  After exploring short stories, I ventured into a monthly news letter called Soul Improvements as an editor.  Serving as a staff writer for Travel Golf Media, developing high school Bible Curriculum and now writing movie scripts is all part of the journey I am on.  I’m not sure where this gift will take me, but I will continue to pursue this quest until God punctuates the end of my life with a period.

by Jay Mankus

Excuse Me

A generation ago, respect was demanded, encouraged and reinforced by most suburban neighborhoods.  Whenever someone burped, farted or responded in a rude manner in public, this act was addressed immediately.  Local communities looked out for the best interest of adolescents as adults weren’t afraid to correct inappropriate behavior.  This era reflected a time when the majority ruled.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come, 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, there is a growing movement in America to remove any monument or statue linked to slavery.  During an interview with the media last week, President Donald Trump addressed this issue.  Using George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as examples, Trump replied “where are you going to stop?”  If this trend is allowed to continue, the offended will expand their sights to erase remaining traces of Christianity within America.  Today, the minority find ways to rule.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! – 1 Corinthians 10:12.

If this removal of American history doesn’t disturb you, let me remind you of Kryziukalnas, Lithuania.  When the former Soviet Union invaded the Baltic States in June of 1940, Soviet officials removed all resembles of faith.  This meant removing all religious symbols.  When the iron curtain fell in the 1980’s, crosses that were found were placed on a hill in northern Lithuania.  This site ensures that future generations won’t forget what happened in the past.  Today, this area is known as the hill of crosses, a symbol of religious freedom.

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.

In recent days, traces of America’s Civil War are being destroyed.  Fueled by a media frenzy, any monument or statue that suggests racism is under consideration for removal.  However, if local, state and government officials allow this excuse me mentally to reign, any landmark could be in jeopardy.  Do Americans really want to follow in the footsteps of communism?  Who will learn from history if it’s completely obliterated?  May the city of crosses serve as a living example to learn from past mistakes.  Instead of saying excuse me, use any offensive historic symbol as teachable moments to educate those who were not alive.

by Jay Mankus

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