RSS Feed

Tag Archives: hope

The Tears of Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The metal framework of this landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel. This gift from France was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Three years later, Eiffel completed his own masterpiece in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the first symbol of the Statue of Liberty has been forgotten. Initially, the purpose of this erection of Lady Liberty served as a seal of the friendship between France and the United States. At her feet is a broken chain of slavery designed as a symbol of freedom. Meanwhile, The inscription on the tablet she is holding contains JULY IV MDCCLXXVI, the day of the Declaration of Independence for the United States.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

Between 1886 and 1924, nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States through the New York Bay on their way to Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that achieving the American dream was now a possibility for new arrivals. Ellis Island became the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for 62 years from 1892 until 1954. To those entering this body of water at night, the uplifted torch of Lady Liberty was a welcoming sign and was meant to enlighten those who passed by. As the 250th anniversary draws near, revisionist historians are quickly disposing of America’s rich history. A day doesn’t go by without news of another statue removed or threatened from a downtown area. If this trend continues, there will be nothing left to remind citizens of America’s past mistakes and victories.

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:13-14.

While the tears of Lady Liberty continue to fall as America goes through an identity crisis, the Bible provides hope for the hopeless. In a letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul reminds individuals of this region that Jesus came to liberate sinners. Instead of being held captive by addiction, God wants everyone to experience spiritual freedom. Yet, bad habits have a way of ensnaring souls, similar to a yoke of slavery. Whenever you allow your sinful nature to get out of hand, reigning in your flesh can take months or years to regain control. Thus, if you are looking for a glimmer of hope, love is the answer. Paul references the golden rule, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” This reminder can be traced back to the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus reveals love is conditional. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you, Matthew 6:14-15. May your own acts of love inspired by the Holy Spirit turn Lady Liberty’s frown into a smile.

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

Who is Chasing Who?

The book definition of chase is to pursue in order to catch or catch up with. Children grow up chasing neighbors in games like Hide-n-Go Seek or tag. After going through puberty, teenagers begin chasing members of the opposite sex, hoping to find true love. Upon graduating from high school, careers, dreams and goals are laid out with aspirations to find success. Along the way, God comes into the picture, planting people, road blocks and spiritual seeds into our lives. However, two first century encounters reveal the true nature of God via Jesus who chases lost souls.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan [and a] woman, for a drink?—For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans— 10 Jesus answered her, If you had only known and had recognized God’s gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water, John 4:9-10.

The first begins in the city of Samaria, often bypassed by Jews. When you dig into the Jewish culture, woman and children are treated with little respect. Jewish father’s were only allowed to speak to their daughter’s in public, not even their wives. Feeling stifled with this man made rule, Jesus places himself at a well in the middle of the day, waiting to minister to those who would come. Jesus uses this opportunity to introduce the concept of living water. This topic of conversation creates a spiritual thirst in a woman who spent a lifetime chasing after love without finding it.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, ” Luke 19:7-10.

During a visit to Jericho, another city with a tarnished past, Jesus reaches out to one of the most hated individuals in town. A tax collector name Zacchaeus treats Jesus’ like a rock star, hoping to get his attention. Hearing stories of healings, miracles and his vast wisdom, Zacchaeus was eager to ask Jesus a number of unanswered questions about life. Moved by the presence and words of Jesus, Zacchaeus is convicted to get right with God. At the end of this conversation, a first century doctor unveils Jesus purpose for coming, “to seek and to save the lost.” While you may not be currently running after God, Jesus is chasing after you, seeing great potential within. As soon as individuals come to their senses, the lost get found.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Periods of Darkness While Living in the Wilderness

Following the Exodus out of Egypt, Israel spent 40 years living in the wilderness. This time served as a transitional period before entering God’s promised land. While the Bible refers to a wilderness, in reality the Jews spent their days in the hot desert sun and nights surrounded by snakes and scorpions. Spending a week or weekend in the wilderness camping or hiking can be rejuvenating. However, living off the gird for an extended period of time requires a complete trust in God to provide daily bread.

And I will confirm with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land, and [My people] shall dwell safely in the wilderness, desert, or pastureland and sleep [confidently] in the woods, Ezekiel 34:25.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic inflicted America in 2020, state mandated quarantines have separated family members, friends and neighbors. While some states have eased these restrictions during the month of May, I still haven’t been able to visit my parents. Due to speculation of a second wave of COVID-19 striking communities who don’t practice social distancing, these past 3 months have created a new type of wilderness, living inside your home most of the time. At some point faith has to trump fear, trusting God that life will soon return to a new but safe normal.

And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing, and I will cause the showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing [of good insured by God’s favor], Ezekiel 34:26.

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the prophet Ezekiel refers to a covenant of peace. For those of you struggling during this period of darkness and uncertainty, the verses above serve as a glimmer of hope. Ezekiel promises to keep those living in the wilderness safe from evil beasts. Meanwhile, Ezekiel refers to a hill of blessing, showering God’s people with grace and favor. While you may not sense peace at the moment, I pray that this biblical promise encourages you. When the wilderness is replaced by normalcy, perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation for the little things in life that we have all taken for granted.

by Jay Mankus

Fear Verses Faith

As the Coronavirus began to quickly spread throughout the United States in March, most states enacted 14 day stay at home orders. The goal of this quarantine was initially designed to flatten the curve, lower the spike in cases of COVID-19. Since the end of March, this quarantine was extended into April and now into May, with schools cancelled for the rest of the Spring. With each extension, the goal posts have been moved, suggesting America shouldn’t re-open until a cure is discovered. Following Dr. Fauci’s Senate hearing last week, the stock market plummeted as his comments created a wave of fear and panic throughout this nation.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

Last week, Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports posted a video on Twitter of his opinion on the quarantine. This rant went viral on social media as millions of people felt and sensed his frustration. Although Portnoy didn’t use the words fear verses faith, he wants the ability to choose for himself. Instead of being held hostage, living in a police state, Dave wants to take a chance to live, even if it means catching COVID-19. As families continue to be out of work, considered non-essential, alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide is on the rise. Like anything in life, choices have consequences. However, if fear of catching this disease paralyzes one’s ability live, faith must come alive to counterbalance these concerns.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

While fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If you watch the news on any given night, most broadcasts promote fear, detailing the number of new cases of the Coronavirus and the updated death toll. If you are searching for hope, cable news is the last place to look. The context of the passage above is geared toward a teenage pastor named Timothy, likely in over his head. Instead of allowing fear to reign, Paul encourages Timothy to remember God’s promises. Thus, the next time you sense fear is consuming your soul, cry out to the Lord in prayer so that God’s Spirit of power, love and self-control will set you free from fear.

by Jay Mankus

When You are Going Through a Phase in Life

As children begin to experience and go through puberty, this period initializes a series of phases in life. Depending upon maturity, support systems, and upbringing, most teenagers don’t respond well to change. Each phase could last as short as a week, extend for months or stretch beyond a year. As a former teacher, I recognize the obvious signs and signals. Yet, some are like poker players who hide their cards well.

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5.

If I had to point to my own life, the junior high years were the hardest for me. At five feet tall and ninety pounds for 2 years, I was an easy target for bullies. One of the only positives for me was my speed, able to outrun most of my attackers like Forrest Gump. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a Jenny who attended the same school. My neighbor Jeanette went to a private school so I was forced to fend for myself like the social misfits in the classic film Outsiders.

Which He poured out [so] richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. [And He did it in order] that we might be justified by His grace (by His favor, wholly undeserved), [that we might be acknowledged and counted as conformed to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action], and that we might become heirs of eternal life according to [our] hope, Titus 3:6-7.

I thought joining the Boy Scouts might help me overcome the fitting in phase. Looking back, I found just as many bullies there as in school. What I really needed was a personal relationship with Jesus, but this didn’t happen until 10th grade. As I put God on hold for a few more years, a couple of friends were sent to help me while God was waiting. Thus, as some of you may be struggling with a new phase in life, don’t forget to call on the name of the Lord to get you through the challenges that you’re currently facing.

by Jay Mankus

What Would the Bible Say about You?

At the end of his letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul thanks those who worked quietly behind the scenes. Without these men and women, Paul’s ministry journeys would not have been possible or successful. Beginning with a deaconess and woman who opened her home as a congregational meeting place, Paul wanted to ensure that their contributions were not minimized or overlooked. Unlike the gospels where woman and children are excluded from the overall count of individuals present, Paul places women first on his list.

Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, That you may receive her in the Lord [with a Christian welcome], as saints (God’s people) ought to receive one another. And help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many including myself [shielding us from suffering]. Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, Who risked their lives [endangering their very necks] for my life. To them not only I but also all the churches among the Gentiles give thanks, Romans 16:1-4.

In another letter to the church at Galatia, Paul breaks down his entire life into three stages. Galatians 1:11-24 serves as an outline for sharing your faith by detailing your life before knowing Jesus, your conversion experience and transformation since making this decision. While every faith story contains peaks and valleys, portions of your testimony will connect with or touch other souls. One of Jesus’ disciples urges first century Christians to be prepared, always ready to provide the reason for the hope that you have in God, 1 Peter 3:15-16.

[Remember me] also to the church [that meets] in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was a firstfruit (first convert) to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked so hard among you. Remember me to Andronicus and Junias, my tribal kinsmen and once my fellow prisoners. They are men held in high esteem among the apostles, who also were in Christ before I was. Remember me to Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, that one tried and approved in Christ (the Messiah). Remember me to those who belong to the household of Aristobulus, Romans 16:5-10.

As I turn our attention toward today, I’m curious about what modern writers might say. Would you receive a shout out like Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila or be out-shined by other believers? As you go to work, reside in a neighborhood and let your guard down at home, what do people notice? According to my children, I drive too fast, I’m impatient and too opinionated. Are your daily actions full of light or do moments of darkness blur the love of Jesus inside of you? The book of Acts ends abruptly. Some scholars suggest that either the final chapter was never fully completed or simply missing. When judgement day arrives, what will God say about you? Only time will tell so make the most of the days that the Lord gives you.

by Jay Mankus

Leaving Behind an Echo of Love This Easter

For members of the faith community, this Easter will be unlike any other. There will be no large Passover celebration, no trip to Mecca or sunrise Service with fellow believers. Rather, in this age of social distancing, staying at a minimum of six feet away from those whom you love, what is a person to do? How can you celebrate a risen Savior without spreading the Coronavirus? Perhaps, leaving behind an echo of love is the solution.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men, Matthew 28:2-4.

Huh? Maybe the self isolation process has taken a toll on me, but hear me out. The book definition of echo is a sound or series of sounds caused by the reflection of sound waves from a surface back to the listener. When words are replaced by random acts of kindness, an echo of love is sown. This may be doing something without being asked, cleaning the house or serving others by putting your families needs above yourself.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples, Matthew 28:5-8.

Thus, as you are forced to take a rain check on partaking in communion, passing the peace and worshiping the Lord at church, 2020 may open the door for a new tradition. Whether this is having a bonfire in your backyard, a marathon game night or some other creative idea, don’t forget to leave an echo of love in your home. Although you may not have much to be thankful for in 2020, the resurrection provides hope for the afterlife.

by Jay Mankus

I Hope So

When it comes to music, timing is everything. Some songs aren’t recognized or uncovered until a band is well past their prime. Each day countless songs are available to listen to or buy on itunes, Pandora or You Tube. Unfortunately, many within this graveyard of songs from the past merely collect dust, forgotten and ignored until the right moment arises.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope, Romans 15:13.

Last week I stumbled upon the song God I Hope So. I didn’t think much of this 2012 song from Remedy Drive until I reached the chorus. “Maybe this is just the way it had to be, maybe there’s a beauty in this tragedy I don’t know but I hope so.” These lyrics seem to apply to the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite being released eight years too early, this song challenges people to reflect upon the frailty of life.

Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:14.

In the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman refers to hope as being dangerous during a lunch time conversation with good friend Andy Dufresne played by Tim Robbins. For a prisoner serving a life sentence, hope is the only thing you have to get you through each day. Likewise, as the world fights the invisible disease known as COVID-19, hoping for a cure is leading individuals to pray. Although no one knows the day and time this cure will arrive, I hope it comes quickly so that joy will return to America.

by Jay Mankus

The Day Sports Stopped

March 12th, 2020 will go down as the day sports stopped in America. As soon as a member of the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the Coronavirus, the National Basketball Association was the first domino to fall. By the end of this second week in March, Major League Baseball, Nascar, the National Hockey League and the Professional Golf Association all suspended their regular seasons. Meanwhile, in college, March Madness, the NCAA men’s and woman’s basketball tournament were cancelled as well as the entire Spring sports season.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:17-18.

Following the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, sports was used as a means to get the United States back to a somewhat normal life again. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has not let up, shutting down businesses, schools and all professional sports until May at the earliest. If this wasn’t bad enough, major cities across the country have seen a recent spike in cases. Now spreading well beyond New York City, only God knows when this pandemic will end. Thus, for now, not even sports can help unite and uplift this country.

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken, Psalm 34:19-20.

The context of the Psalm above refers to David who pretended to be insane before Abimelech. If you have been stuck in quarantine for the last few weeks, you might be ready to have a similar reaction. The thought of an invisible disease attacking healthy Americans is scary. Thus, when the circumstances surrounding you are beyond your control, hopelessness can set in. Yet, God uses hardship, trials and tragedy like the Coronavirus to get your attention, crying out to the Lord in prayer. Since sports won’t be around anytime soon to cheer you up, look to God for deliverance. May the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit be uplifted by the hope of God’s healing power.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: