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Tag Archives: encouragement

Don’t Throw it Away

Every now and then, I will be overwhelmed by frustration. Whatever I am working on at this time turns into an epic failure. Human nature will trigger thoughts like “what’s the point or you’re wasting your time.” Apparently, one of Jesus’ disciples encountered a similar situation during the first century. Due to a growing number of spiritual imposters, John warns leaders to not throw away all that you’ve invested.

Look to yourselves (take care) that you may not lose (throw away or destroy) all that we and you have labored for, but that you may [persevere until you] win and receive back a perfect reward [in full], 2 John 1:8.

Perhaps John is reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 14:28. Before you build anything, start a new project or commit yourself to a time-consuming task, consider the costs. If you don’t have a time of reflection to sort out all the details, there’s a chance you’ll never finish this endeavor. Therefore, before you pour your heart and soul into anything, sit down to see if this can be accomplished.

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 6:9-10.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes to Christians who are thinking about giving up on someone or something. Whether you’re reaching out to a friend or working on a worthy project, in the end you reap what you sow. If anything is good or worthwhile, Philippians 4:8-9, think about such things. May the encouragement provided above help you not throw away all that you have invested. Keep the faith!

by Jay Mankus

When Christian’s Don’t Know How to Act

Becoming a Christian is like new parents coming home from the hospital with their first child. Adults may take Lamaze classes in preparation, but once there are no doctors around to tell you what to do, you’re on your own. While most churches provide literature for new believers or offer classes to help prepare newbies for a new life in Christ, there are still more questions than answers. Subsequently, countless Christians often don’t know how to act after trusting in Jesus to be their Lord and Savior.

As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. One [man’s faith permits him to] believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one [limits his] eating to vegetables. Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on and censure another’s household servant? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he shall stand and be upheld, for the Master (the Lord) is mighty to support him and make him stand, Romans 14:1-4.

While visiting the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul came into contact with new, immature and weak Christians. The passage above provides advice for coping and dealing with Christians who don’t exactly know how to act yet. As a former high school coach, Paul’s words remind me that not every individual responds well to criticism. Some people need encouragement, others need a pat on the back and the lackadaisical could use a stern talking to promote spiritual growth.

Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. 15 You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. 16 But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong. 17 So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin, James 4:14-17.

The earthly brother of Jesus was introduced to the concept of sins of omission. Perhaps, the Pharisees became so concerned about religious practices such as resting on the Sabbath that they failed to see opportunities to help and serve others. When his older brother was crucified on a cross at age 33, James realized that life is too short to not to know how to act. Therefore, if your conscience or the Holy Spirit compels you to act and you do not, you’re just as guilty as a sinner. Therefore, seize each day and learn to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so you begin to learn how to act as a Christian daily.

by Jay Mankus

When the Christian Community Gets Upset by God’s Grace

During my second year in youth ministry, I became in charge of the Confirmation process for 8th graders. The final event prior to the Confirmation Ceremony was a weekend retreat. Over this 48 hour period, one girl made a complete transformation. Prior to this decision, she was cruel, mean and wrecked many relationships throughout the church. Thus, when she made a commitment to dedicate her life to the Lord, several of her peers got angry at God.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And when Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. So he hurried and came down, and he received and welcomed Him joyfully. And when the people saw it, they all [a]muttered among themselves and indignantly complained, He has gone in to be the guest of and lodge with a man who is devoted to sin and preeminently a sinner, Luke 19:4-7.

On one first century visit to Jericho, Jesus encountered a similar situation. A short corrupt tax collector climbed a tree tried to get Jesus’ attention. Whatever Zacchaeus did to get recognized worked as Jesus left the crowd to have a private meeting at his house. Knowing Zacchaeus’ horrible reputation, members of the crowd questioned why in the world that Jesus would want to spend any time with this crook. Before even entering into a conversation, the community got upset with the possibility of God’s grace.

And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests, Acts 9:20-21.

The apostle Paul experienced this judgment following his conversion on the Road to Damascus. As a former persecutor of Christians and who oversaw the death of the apostle Steven, first century Christians were afraid of Paul. Some believed this was merely a plot to infiltrate the church. If it wasn’t for Barnabas who earned the nickname as the son of encouragement, Paul would have been banned from the church. Therefore, the next time someone in your church gets upset by God’s grace, be willing to give others a second chance with a heart of forgiveness and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming an Emotionally Draining Job

Every adult has experienced the unfortunate reality of having an emotionally draining job. This exhaustion may come from a stressful work atmosphere, dealing with difficult co-workers, the physical wearing and tear on your body or long 60 hour work weeks. Some of you may have to endure one of these factors while others of you face all four day after day and week after week. To those of you in a leadership role, the Bible does provide a plan to overcome an emotionally draining job.

And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices [to offer] to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 13 Next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, What is this that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening? – Exodus 18:12-14

Prior to a visit from his father in law, Moses worked sun up to sun down. Instead of developing a justice system, Moses tried to be Judge Judy, head of the People’s Court and a Supreme Court justice. After observing for a couple of days, Jethro realized that Moses had become a lone ranger, trying to do everything by himself. Jethro’s solution to overcoming an emotionally draining job was to adopt the art of delegation. Sometimes you have to communicate to your boss, “I can’t do everything.”

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, The thing that you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear out both yourself and this people with you, for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it all by yourself. 19 Listen now to [me]; I will counsel you, and God will be with you. You shall represent the people before God, bringing their cases and causes to Him, 20 Teaching them the decrees and laws, showing them the way they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover, you shall choose able men from all the people—God-fearing men of truth who hate unjust gain—and place them over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, to be their rulers, Exodus 18:17-21.

Similar to the process set up by Jesus prior to his ascension into heaven, the Great Commission is a form of delegation to spread the Gospel throughout the world, Mark 16:14-20. King Solomon writes about the importance of relationships in Proverbs 27:17. When two individuals agree to hold one another accountable, positive criticism sharpens you. Yet, when you are emotionally run down, a friend can become a sounding board and a source of encouragement to give you the strength to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

What Love Can Do for You

From a musical point of view, the Beatles were one of the most influential bands of all time. Despite being from England, the sound of the Beatles was embraced by Americans and idolized as their popularity grew. From a spiritual perspective, there isn’t much that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and I agree upon. However, there was one project released as a non-album single in July 1967 that I believe in. The title “All You Need is You” said all you need to say.

For I have derived great joy and comfort and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints [who are your fellow Christians] have been cheered and refreshed through you, [my] brother. Therefore, though I have abundant boldness in Christ to charge you to do what is fitting and required and your duty to do, Philemon 1:7-8.

One of the apostle Paul’s first century letters highlight what love can do for your life. Paul is reminded by comfort, encouragement and joy derived from the love of Jesus poured out upon him from fellow believers. When the hearts of a saint are full of the Holy Spirit, love bubbles over as a form of spiritual refreshment. Paul’s advice to one of the servants on his ministry team is to do what it fitting and required as a child of God.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith ([b]your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! 14 Let everything you do be done in love (true love to God and man as inspired by God’s love for us), 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Paul takes a different direction in a letter to the Church at Corinth. Love doesn’t come naturally. Rather, you need to be alert daily, regularly on your guard and stand firm in your faith. As Christians maintain their conviction and devotion for God, love can keep you going even when you don’t have the strength to carry on. According to Paul, love should be your motivation for everything you do, loving others as Christ loved the church.

by Jay Mankus

Shut It Down

The expression “shut it down” is an idiom, slang for to cease operations. Whether you’re referring to a dying business, a floundering device or an overheating vehicle, this command is uttered to prevent further damage. Instead of raising the white flag, shut it down implies that someone or something is giving up. While it’s never easy to admit defeat, these words suggest to move on and wait for another day.

Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind), Ephesians 4:31.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul urges Christians to break an unhealthy habit. Apparently, first century believers struggled to tame their own tongue. Instead of practicing self control, mouths began to spew abusive language. This pattern appears to have spread throughout the Church of Ephesus. Concerned about a full outbreak of trash talking, Paul had heard and seen enough, demanding, “shut it down!”

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:32.

Like a spiritual form of rehab, Paul adds instructions on how to change above. When urges to criticize, condemn or complain rise to the surface, a tender heart makes all the difference. Instead of treating others according to the world’s standards, remember what Jesus did for you on the cross. As a spirit of compassion begins to flow through your heart, shutting down malicious talk is possible. Rather than the tearing down others to make yourself feel better, choose encouragement to uplift those around you.

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

When a Resident is Not Present

When government officials began their regional lock downs in late March of 2020, the state of Delaware deemed my position as essential. Thus, as many were forced to stay at home, I ventured out on to barren streets to get to work on time. As several of my co-workers decided to opt out, afraid of catching Covid-19, I spent most of my shifts working solo, creating a large back log. While I was blessed with countless opportunities to work overtime, I became a resident who was not present in my community. To avoid getting sick, I stayed in bed as long as possible to prepare myself mentally for another night of work.

Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is, Ephesians 5:16-17.

While visiting the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul noticed a group of Christians who attended church regularly, but the presence of a living faith was absent. Based upon his numerous missionary journeys, fruits of the Holy Spirit easily visible in other churches was missing from Ephesian Christians. Based upon the passage above, there was an apathy, complacency and lack of urgency within the hearts and minds of believers. The solution to this void was to become filled with the Holy Spirit. This leads Paul to make an interesting analogy. Instead of getting drunk during celebrations, this fullness should occur daily.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit. 19 Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:18-19.

This spiritual infusion begins by reading the Word of God, Romans 10:17. As Christians dust off the covers of their Bible, encouragement, hope, and inspiration is found in these living pages. Yet, becoming filled up with the Holy Spirit starts when individuals enter into a personal relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10. From here, local churches come into play through fellowship with other believers, Acts 2:42-47. If you try to skip one of these steps like I did in 2020, you’ll become a resident who is not present, void of any signs of spiritual life. If you want to make a difference in 2021, make sure you take the time to become filled with God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

When Inspiration Means More than It’s Original Source

Throughout the course of your life, there will be ample individuals who will let you down. Some of these people may be a former mentor, highly regarded colleague or a member of your own family. Nonetheless, human nature will result in the downfall of many friends, leaders and quality members of society. If you have ever received advice, encouragement or wisdom from someone, at that moment in time the inspiration means more than the source.

Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My name receives and accepts and welcomes Me, Matthew 18:4-5.

For example, 17 years ago this month, former Christian singer Ray Boltz announced to his family that he was gay. Apparently, these feelings had troubled his soul prior to Boltz coming out of the closest. To most of his fans, this was a total shock, coming out of the blue. When this announcement first went public, some Christians bookstores responded by banning his music. While I understand the point they were trying to make, Boltz’s music remains inspirational today despite his reputation being ruined as a biblical musician.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in and acknowledge and cleave to Me to stumble and sin [that is, who entices him or hinders him in right conduct or thought], it would be better (more expedient and profitable or advantageous) for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the seam Matthew 18:6.

You don’t have to be in a rock group to fall from God’s grace. There are enough distractions in this world to quickly become entangled by sin, ensnared by addiction or become vulnerable to adopting a bad habit. However, Jesus does draw a line when your actions, behaviors or words lead a little child astray. This is where anyone who is hanging by thread must be cautious to not go beyond the point of no return. Yet, despite all of our imperfections, God still provides shining moments when someone is inspired by something you’ve done or said. This is why inspiration means more than it’s original source.

by Jay Mankus

When Hate Triumphs Over Love

Last Saturday night I was driving my daughter home from work. As a father trying to stay in touch with my last teenager living at home, I asked a series of questions. After a few minutes of surface level conversation, I uncovered a hot topic. Apparently, several of her co-workers were ecstatic by the announcement of Joe Biden as the 46th president. Curious, I asked why. Lydia responded, “they all hate Trump.”

If anyone says, I love God, and hates (detests, abominates) his brother [in Christ], he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen, 1 John 4:20.

According to a recent report, 93% of the news coverage over the past 4 years about Donald Trump was negative. Meanwhile, only 7% of the coverage regarding Joe Biden during the 2020 Election was negative. Thus, if you received the majority of information from the mainstream media in regards to who to vote for, you likely chose the former vice-president. Instead of loving your candidate, hating Trump appears to have been more of a persuasive factor than loving Biden.

And this command (charge, order, injunction) we have from Him: that he who loves God shall love his brother [believer] also, 1 John 4:21.

When you open the Bible, authors of this timeless book draw a clear distinction between love and hate. The apostle Paul refers to God as love in a letter to the Corinthian Church. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples refers to love as a verb, actively extending arms, hands and words of encouragement. When a society allows hatred to conquer and triumph over love, it’s a sign of the end of civility. Whatever happens in the next month and 4 years, I pray hatred will be cooled by hearts filled with love.

by Jay Mankus

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