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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

When You Need to be Encouraged

I tend to be a positive person, trying to stay optimistic about life. However, over the past week, a wave of depression has come crashing upon the shores of my life. Like a rogue wave that comes out of no where, I wasn’t prepared to deal with this emotional undertow. As I attempt to regain my balance so that I’m not swept away by this strong current, I find myself in need of encouragement.

When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! – Psalm 32:3-4

I’m definitely not the first to experience such a strange week nor will I be the last to undergo what the Bible calls a trial. In the passage above, a series of bad choices causes King David to be overwhelmed by guilt. The longer David waited to confess his careless errors and mistakes to God, the worse he feels. As each day passed without acknowledging his sin, David’s strength was sapped like humidity from a summer heatwave.

If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind, James 1:5-6.

Jesus’ earthly brother reveals that earthly trials take the form of waves of doubt. Once fully developed, these spiritual storms contain a billowing surge that keeps coming. When you add the wind. conditions only get worse. According to James, when you find yourself stuck in one of these systems, call out to God in prayer to receive wisdom to get you through. While each storm varies, James 1:12 provides hope for those who hold on to Jesus until your storm passes.

by Jay Mankus

With United Hearts and One Voice

As the Coronavirus continues to ravage vulnerable individuals and spread across the United States, communities are being forced to come together. Instead of allowing politics, religion and worldviews to divide souls, the instinct to survive is slowly changing hearts and minds. Perhaps, in the face of tragedy as the death toll in the United States surpasses 30,000, this country will become united with one voice: find a cure for COVID-19.

Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, Romans 15:5.

I recently listened to a you tube clip of Amy Wolter from an old concert. The lead singer of Fighter shared her inspiration behind the song Radio Man. As a former disc jockey at a local rock station, listeners began to call in during request hours. Initial concerns were superficial like breaking up with a boy or girl friend. Over time, the need for healing intensified. These requested songs served as a form of healing as strangers poured out their concerns, troubles and unfortunate situations.

That together you may [unanimously] with united hearts and one voice, praise and glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), Romans 15:6.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul felt a need to unite the church at Rome. Perhaps, differences began to develop, causing friction within the body of Christ. Paul wanted mature adults to put aside childish ways by uniting under a common calling. As the Coronavirus transforms life as we know it due to its’ contagious nature, this is as good of a time as ever to come together as cities, states and one nation under God. The only thing missing are willing hearts ready to let go of control and let God in.

by Jay Mankus

When You Don’t Have It

Depending upon the day, energy level, focus, inspiration and motivation, results will vary, often drastically. Some days you wake up feeling great, get into a groove early on and finish with a great sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, these productive days can come and go, disappearing quickly. Then, there are weeks where you just don’t have it. For one reason or another, your normal degree of success drops, far from your normal self.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Psalm 119:105.

If you have ever competed in a competition or sporting event, you understand the concept of days when you don’t have it. A series of factors can cause a skilled individual to look like a beginner from time to time. While I’ve spent most of my life playing golf at a high level, I am currently in one of my worst funks in over a decade. Although I have only played four times this year, three of the four rounds have been dreadful. Despite concentrating and focusing, I feel lost, forgetting to apply the core principles which led me to play professionally more than 2 decades ago.

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.

This same mental struggle can affect Christians as well. Depending upon your daily Bible Study, prayer life and worship, it doesn’t take much to start slip sliding away from God. If your life is void of accountability or a mentor, this spiritual slippage may continue for months, a year or longer. According to the apostle Paul, hope can be regained by reading the Bible. I’ve had enough spiritual slides over the last 40 years that I know once your spiritual momentum is broken, it takes twice as long to regain. Yet, the good news is that Jesus came to seek to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

by Jay Mankus

Close to Your Heart and Near to Your Lips

Whenever you hear someone talking about a heart or lips, the context often refers to a physical relationship. While ease-dropping, you might discover that a friend is in love. Or an obnoxious and rude customer boasts loudly about hooking up with a woman last night. When love is in the air, even quiet and shy individuals open up to express the good news of a significant other.

But what does it say? The Word (God’s message in Christ) is near you, on your lips and in your heart; that is, the Word (the message, the basis and object) of faith which we preach, Romans 10:8.

In a letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul uses heart and lips in a spiritual context. Possibly referencing the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 4:23, the heart is the well spring of human bodies. Meanwhile, lips are the gateway to your mouth. When hearts and lips work hand in hand, beautiful expressions such as confession, encouragement and honesty flow.

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved Romans 10:9.

Although different personalities exist, baptism is symbolic of a public expression for an inner faith. Remaining silent about a personal relationship with God is not an option. Thus, Paul compels believers to come out of your shell by verbalizing what is in your heart. Faith provides the opportunity for what is close to your heart and near to your lips. May this blog inspire you to find an avenue to express your faith daily.

by Jay Mankus

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

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