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Tag Archives: encouragement

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

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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

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

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

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