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Praying for Participation and Sharing

Early on in a new school year, trying to get students to participate and share their thoughts can be difficult. As a former high school teacher, the only willing participants tend to be the class clown and teacher’s pets trying to earn brownie points. When all of their curriculum, education, and teaching methods fail to produce increased participation, don’t be afraid to pray for students to open up their hearts in your classroom.

[And I pray] that the participation in and sharing of your faith may produce and promote full recognition and appreciation and understanding and precise knowledge of every good [thing] that is ours in [our identification with] Christ Jesus [and unto His glory], Philemon 1:6.

In an obscure first century epistle, the apostle Paul writes to one of his servants in the ministry. While writing from prison, Paul prays for the participation in and the sharing of testimonies. As Christians reflect upon how they came to faith in Christ, your personal story will strike a nerve with a specific audience. The more you find opportunities to weave your faith into daily conversations, other people will begin to appreciate and understand your relationship with God.

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully, 1 Peter 3:15.

One of Jesus’ former disciples chimes in on this topic as well. Simon Peter who was never afraid to voice his opinion appears to have gotten wiser in his later years. Based upon the passage above, Peter learned the necessity to be courteous and respectful when sharing his faith. One of my favorite hymns in college was Blessed Assurance which promotes sharing your faith. Whenever I hear the chorus, “this is my story, this is my song,” I am inspired to participate and share my faith. This continues to be a worthy cause to pray for daily.

by Jay Mankus

Why Hurt People Begin to Hurt Others

Every day hurt people are like ticking time bombs. Depending upon the circumstances going on in their lives, once the wrong situation comes along, there are usually no warning signs. When a frustrated individual snaps, negative energy is unleashed upon everyone in the room where this unfortunate event takes comes. Like someone under the influence of alcohol, it may take hurt people a few days to realize the pain they’ve inflicted upon innocent souls.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need, Ephesians 4:26-28.

During a letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul begins to diagnose why emotional outbursts happen. The initial issue is anger that goes unresolved. Instead of explaining one’s frustration, this fury is swept under the rug temporarily. As days lead to weeks, a root of bitterness brews within human hearts. Meanwhile, this open door gives the Devil a foothold, an opportunity for hurt people to be used as a vessel of darkness.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Jesus predicted this scenario 2000 years ago. Whenever someone can not distinguish the voice of God from whispers of the Devil, self fulfilled prophecies begin to occur. Hurt and negative people begin a steady decline as hope and joy seems to disappear. To those who reach this spiritual condition, the Devil will steal, kill and destroy the lives of hurt people. If you feel like your life is too far gone, remember the words of Paul so that in your own weakness, Christ will become strong, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12.

by Jay Mankus

How Can You Love Your Neighbor When You Hate The Person You’ve Become?

Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist and British writer before becoming a lay theologian. C.S. Lewis once contemplated the concept of loving your neighbor. The following quote reveals his thoughts. You are told to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings.” This same dilemma exists today as how can you love your neighbor when many people don’t like the person they’ve become.

Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

Following a series of parables, Jesus is asked by a religious leader a spiritual question. “What’s the most important commandment?” Instead of de-emphasizing the other 9 from the most essential, Jesus divides the commandments into two parts. The first 4 commandments are based upon loving God with the final 6 focused on loving your neighbor. When Christians began to love God with all their hearts, soul and mind, the practice of religion turns into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 40 These two commandments [f]sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 22:38-40.

When hearts grow cold, love stops naturally flowing out of human beings. If faith is not revived or resuscitated, this lack of love can slowly turn into self hatred for oneself. When sources for love dry up, there is no positivity that bubbles over on to the people you interact with daily. The longer this subtle decay continues, there is no inspiration to love friends and family. The key to loving your neighbor is to tap into the love of God, John 3:16-17. As individuals begin to feel and sense God’s love, desires to pass this on to others is restored. Unfortunately, healing take time. Just hang in there long enough for restoration to ignite your heart with the love of God.

by Jay Mankus

Created, Connected and Called

If you’re not careful, life can become like a never ending roller coaster with corkscrews, free falls and upside down loops that make you dizzy. When your feet hit the pavement after immediately getting off this ride, it may take a couple of minutes before you can walk in a straight line again. On the surface, an amusement ride may look harmless, but the thrill that follows can affect your body for the rest of the day. Whenever you experience this uneasy feeling, all you want to do is find a seat. hoping that you’ll recover quickly.

Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [[d]with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God. [For it is He] Who delivered and saved us and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness [to a life of consecration, a vocation of holiness]; [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago], 2 Timothy 1:8-9.

From a spiritual perspective, one of Satan’s schemes to disconnect you from God. Like a long distance relationship that falls apart over time, separation causes you to forget what drew you together. Likewise, if you go a couple of days, weeks or a month with reading the Bible, spiritual qualities which once flowed naturally out of you begin to evaporate. If this persists, Christians may forgot who created them, faith will start to crack and the calling you once received from God can become like a distant memory.

We are assured and know that [[j]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was [k]aware and [l]loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. 30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being], Romans 8:28-30.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul touches on God’s persistence throughout life. Like the loving Father portrayed by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, God is waiting for you to return. Just as front porches once served as ways to pass the time each summer, God is the parent in a rocking chair waiting for you to come home. When you do, minds will be refreshed by your heavenly Creator. Hearts will start to sense the Holy Spirit drawing you closer to reconnect with God. Finally, as you reflect upon the Bible and pray, God’s will and purpose will be revealed so you can continue this life long journey known as faith.

by Jay Mankus

Recovering from an Uprooted Faith

As the summer comes to an end on the East Coast, the Atlantic Hurricane season tends to intensity. Whether you’re talking about a nor’easter, tropical depression, super storm or major hurricane, these weather events wash away dreams and uproot lives. When these systems dissipate, survivors are forced to come together as communities to pick up the pieces of what these storms have left behind to be salvaged.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night. And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity], Psalm 1:1-3.

The Psalmist compares a healthy individual to a tree planted by flowing streams of water. This daily nourishment promotes growth that enables fruit to prosper in season. Whenever an internal or physical storm uproots your faith, reading and meditating upon God’s promises in the Bible is the best way to start your recovery. When all seems lost, these living words stirs hearts and touch souls, Hebrews 4:12.

As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7.

According to the apostle Paul, there is only one Cornerstone upon which you can rebuild your faith. Jesus is like a thermostat that allows Christians to regulate their lives and recover from storms that uproot your lives. The more you read, study and share what you believe, Romans 10:17, faith springs to life. The more Jesus becomes your firm foundation for faith, a spirit of thanksgiving is conceived to give you a proper perspective after any storm.

by Jay Mankus

The Sequence of Story

A sequence is a particular order in which related events, movements, or things follow each other. In the process of telling a story, the best communicators set the scene using what some writers refer to as the 10 magic words. This information highlights who a story is about and details the journey which is about to begin. Depending upon the author or story teller, the sequence of story involves a beginning, middle and end.

Then the disciples came to Him and said, Why do You speak to them in parables? 11 And He replied to them, To you it has been given to know the secrets and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given, Matthew 13:10-11.

From a biblical perspective, the son of God used parables to connect with first century citizens. A parable is story structure used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson as told by Jesus in the Gospels. The New Testament details 46 different parables as Jesus tried to explain mysteries and secrets of the kingdom of heaven. My favorite is the Parable of the Sower as Jesus reveals how the environment in which you live influences the person that you become.

Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, to the assembly (church) of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah): Grace (spiritual blessing and divine favor) to you and [heart] peace. We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [O] brethren beloved by God, we recognize and know that He has selected (chosen) you;For our [preaching of the] glad tidings (the Gospel) came to you not only in word, but also in [its own inherent] power and in the Holy Spirit and with great conviction and absolute certainty [on our part]. You know what kind of men we proved [ourselves] to be among you for your good, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.

While writing 13 letters known as epistles, the apostle Paul developed a story structure known as U Centered Writing. Paul regularly starts his letters by getting the attention and gaining the interest of fellow Christians. Once this is accomplished, Paul creates a felt need, a flaw or weakness that believers need to work on. The remainder of his letters are designed to create a sense of urgency so that a commitment to change is conceived. Whether you’re writing a letter, telling a story or working on a screen play, stories continue to speak to human hearts and provide hope or inspiration to make a difference in the life that God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

You Can’t Quantify Feelings

Science is based upon the collection of data. This information is accumulated through a series of experiments using trial and error to quantify the difference between fact and fiction. Quantify refers to assessing, calculating, evaluating, gauging, sizing up and weighing the results. Theories are developed and formed based upon observing similar outcomes over and over again. One thing that scientists all agree on is that you can’t quantify feelings.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? 10 I the Lord search the mind, I try the heart, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings, Jeremiah 17:9-10.

One Old Testament prophets warns Jews of the dangers of feelings. If human hearts are deceitful, you can’t trust your feelings to be accurate. According to Jeremiah, hearts and minds can play tricks on you, resulting in waves of emotions. Meanwhile, feelings are temporary, often fleeting and fading from one thing to the next. Unless you are in love, feelings tend to change like the weather.

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses], Hebrews 11:1.

Since you can’t quantify feelings, the author of Hebrews reveals how faith is the vehicle designed to take the place of feelings. Faith serves as assurance like a spiritual heart beat to keep Christians going. When hope is absent or invisible, faith is the foundation for belief in God’s existence. While feelings often end in disappointment, living by faith and not by sight encourages others to do the same. When faith is lived out daily, blind hope can be quantified.

by Jay Mankus

Comforted, Cheered, and Encouraged

The term encourage(d) appears 9 times in the King James Version of the Bible. In an age where negative news steals most of the headlines, most Americans are searching for hope. Some sort of cheer, inspiration or uplifting story that rallies troubled souls to keep moving forward. Life is hard enough as it is without critics and condemnation from haters on social media.

[For my concern is] that their hearts may be braced (comforted, cheered, and encouraged) as they are knit together in love, that they may come to have all the abounding wealth and blessings of assured conviction of understanding, and that they may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly that mystic secret of God, [which is] Christ (the Anointed One). In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden, Colossians 2:2-3.

While writing a letter to members of the Church at Colosse, Paul gets sentimental in the passage above. Just as King Solomon warned Old Testament readers to guard their hearts, Proverbs 4:23, Paul urges believers to brace human hearts with comfort, cheer and encouragement. If the heart is the wellspring of life, protecting it all cost is essential. This is Paul’s prayer for the church that he helped plant during one of his missionary journeys.

Who died for us so that whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life. 11 Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11.

In one of two letters to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul reminds Christians of the hope that is in Jesus. Instead of dwelling on the negative side of mankind’s fallen, sinful nature, Paul shifts to the positive. Verses like John 3:16-17 and Romans 5:8, reinforces that Jesus died while we were still sinners. This is the good news of the gospel, 1 John 5:13, providing a reason to celebrate. This is why modern Christians should be comforted, cheerful and encouraged.

by Jay Mankus

Surrounded by Trouble

The older you become, the degree of trouble often intensifies. As a child, you may get your hand caught in the cookie jar. As adolescence arrives, someone in your neighborhood may catch you drinking, smoking or cursing out loud. If you are fortunate enough to attend college, you may choose to skip some classes or get involved into an inappropriate relationship. Like his 1989 song, Michael W. Smith claims that we are always living and learning, shaped by the trouble that surrounds us.

Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.

When your future is in jeopardy, trouble is fueled by anxiety, concern, and fear. The context of the passage above occurs during the Passion Week, sometime after Palm Sunday and before Jesus’ arrest. John 14 begins immediately after Jesus predicts his future death in John 13:38. Apparently, Jesus saw panic in his disciples eyes or sensed a spirit of hopelessness. Therefore, when your heart is troubled, believe and trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6.

Casting the ]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[n fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:7-9.

In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples suggests that trouble can be inflicted by invisible spiritual forces. Peter uses the analogy of a predator seeking out a weak or wounded prey, waiting for the right time to go in for the kill. Perhaps, Peter is eluding to the time he caved to peer pressure by denying to know Jesus three times in public. Sinful human beings will never escape trouble. However, as individuals learn to grow and mature, look for the way out of any temptation before all hope is lost, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Just What I Needed

As a teenager, the Cars became one of my favorite bands in high school. I actually met Rick Ocasek in passing, the lead singer of Cars, while walking through downtown Boston during a Spring Break in college. Ocasek wrote Just What I Needed in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts. While the inspiration behind this song varies depending upon the site you visit, the title speaks to human beings searching for a boost to get them through each day.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place, Psalm 23:5-6.

In the passage above, King David reflects back to his life as a lowly shepherd boy. This eloquent Psalm compares the responsibilities of a shepherd to how God provides for the needs of human beings. Whether you are in green pastures, having a great day or approaching the shadow of death, the Lord is all that you need to weave your way through life. While many search for love in all the wrong places, Jesus is just what I needed, Romans 10:9-11.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul builds upon Psalm 23. Like a global retail chain, the Lord serves as a massive supplier to fill all of our needs. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples claims that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. While songs like Just What I Needed may meet an emotional need, God’s grace, love, and mercy is a spiritual gift from heaven, John 3:16-17. As individuals accept this free gift, Romans 6:23, hearts, souls, and minds come to realize that this is just what I needed.

by Jay Mankus

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