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Tag Archives: hope

Living in a Shade of Gray

The term gray refers to a color intermediate between black and white.  This description highlights the distinction between right and wrong.  Some variations of gray may be closer to black with others leaning toward white.  However, when the sunsets and darkness emerges, determining one from the other becomes increasingly more difficult.  These conditions leave many today living in a shade of gray.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin, James 4:17.

The earthly brother of Jesus introduces the concept of sins of omission in the passage above.  Likely taught to him by his big brother, James adds a new level to what it means to sin against God.  While the Old Testament points to the ten commandments, the New Testament stresses becoming a doer of the Word of God.  Knowing the Bible is one thing, but if you don’t apply Jesus’ teaching, the apostle Paul refers to you an annoying distraction.  Thus, if you know what is the right thing to do and fail to do it, you are just as guilty as a blatant sinner.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:1-2.

In her song Strangely Dim, Francesca Battistelli sings about how thoughts influence your perspective on life.  When you dwell on the negative, hope becomes strangely dim.  Yet, when you look to God by fixing your eyes upon Jesus, everything seems to fall into place.  Yet, temptation does not give up, using justification and rationalization to deceive you with shades of gray.  May this attached you tube and the words of my blog guide you through confusing times by clinging to God’s Word when you can’t distinguish between right and wrong.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Breaking Free from Depression

There are seven common symptoms of depression.  Notable signs include crying spells, irritability and fatigue, withdrawing from loved ones.  The longer misery, sorrow and unhappiness persist, individuals lose hope that this condition state will ever improve.  While declines, recessions and slumps are a common pattern within society, breaking free from depression can be exhausting as you struggle to cling to the thought of improving.

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation], Matthew 11:28.”

According to a 2015 study, 350 million of the world’s population is affected by some form of depression.  Eleven percent of adolescents will develop a depressive disorder by age 18.  Women are 70 percent more likely to experience depression in their lifetime than men.  Over 16 million Americans have had at least one major depressive episode.  Thirty percent of college students have reported feeling depressed which has disrupted their ability to function at school.  Finally, the estimated cost of depression in terms of loss of productivity at work and healthcare related costs in the United States is 80 billion dollars.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:29-30.

If depression is this big of a deal, how can people break free?  Jesus encouraged first century followers to not hide their feelings.  Rather, let your emotions out by openly sharing how you feel to Jesus.  Those who remain silent, keeping everything within, build up tensions as this mounts like a heavy burden growing more intense with each passing each day.  Therefore, those who publicly confess their depression to God and others if available will begin to experience a comforted soul.  While some may need to seek professional help or make an appointment with a pastor, the sooner action is taken, the lighter your burden will become.

by Jay Mankus

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.

by Jay Mankus

Simplifying the Process of Growing Old

When an adult explains a new concept to a child, certain things tend to get lost in translation.  Grown ups may be tempted to use big words, trying to impress an athlete or student.  Instead of simplifying the process, arrogance and pride can get in the way, widening this communication gap.  If an audience of kids become dazed and dumbfounded, its time to seek to a higher power, reflecting upon the story telling skills demonstrated by Jesus.

And looking toward His disciples, He began speaking: “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are you who are poor [in spirit, those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for the kingdom of God is yours [both now and forever], Luke 6:20.

Jesus began his most famous sermon with a common sense approach, the beatitudes.  Instead of looking down on the less fortunate, Jesus used analogies that everyone could understand.  Thus, Jesus encourages individuals to set goals, attitudes that you want to aspire to be. obtain and possess.  Jesus takes negative terms like hungry, poor and weeping, then applies each to a positive spiritual quality.  These phrases give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the broken and joy to the emotionally numb.

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are you who hunger now [for righteousness, actively seeking right standing with God], for you will be [completely] satisfied. Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are you who weep now [over your sins and repent], for you will laugh [when the burden of sin is lifted], Luke 6:21.

Jesus simplifies the process of growing old by reminding adults of a child like faith.  Before the innocence of youth is lost, kids possess great ambition, dreaming about the person they want to be when they grow out.  As time passes, thoughts change, influenced by the culture of each generation.  Without striving to achieve some of these beatitudes, the complications of life stunt spiritual growth.  Unless you are refreshed by God’s grace, you may become a grumpy old man, frustrated by what might have been.  Nonetheless, if you want to simplify the process of growing old, call out to Jesus so that you can regain a child like faith.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting for Good Things to Come

Waiting is contrary to human nature.  When you see something that you like or want, the concept of waiting seems pointless.  Yet, as I look back on my on life, there are certain things that I wasn’t ready to possess.  A lack of maturity, given something instead of earning it and forcing the issue are all contributing factors.  Perhaps, waiting is a tool God uses to prepare individuals for the future.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him, Lamentations 3:25.

When you don’t have the financial means to afford a place to live, food to eat or resources like a vehicle, even atheists may offer up prayers for their current situation to improve.  If there is no one on earth to lean on, its only natural to look up the heavens and hope for better days.  The Bible encourages souls to seek God instead of seeking alternative routes or taking short cuts.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

David compares waiting to a spiritual exercise like working out.  Waiting requires a gut check, seeing if you have what it takes to stick it out.  This process involves concentration, focus and a willingness to finish what you start.  Those who receive what they have been waiting for tend to appreciate what they now have.  Therefore, if you want to pursue a noble cause, trust God as you wait for good things to come.

by Jay Mankus

Enduring a Spiritual Identity Crisis

If you enjoy or follow sports, success is defined by winning and losing.  Despite how many victories a team earns over the course of a season, if a championship is not won, fans lose hope.  In the meantime, coaches, players and stars who endure humiliating loses in the playoffs are labeled as chokers, overrated and trashed throughout social media.  Those who seek to self identify themselves using these standards will experience disappointment, failure and shame unless titles are won.  Thus, its not uncommon for people to go through some sort of identity crisis.

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant, 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Non-athletes tend to use a different set of standards.  Depending upon your career choice, degrees earned and annual salary, value is placed upon your life.  Intelligence, social status and wisdom add or subtract to how the world views your importance.  Anyone called into the ministry, social work or has a low paying jobs are looked down upon by the upper class.  If you let this bother you, then you may be tempted to adopt worldly standards.  The longer you allow yourself to be defined by rich or poor, wins or losses and success or failure, the more likely you will go through a spiritual identity crisis.

It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening], 1 Corinthians 13:5-7.

When I moved to Chicago after getting married, living among millionaire neighbors, I tried to fit in initially.  Unfortunately, the best job I could find was making thirty thousand dollars a year, chump change to everyone around me.  Attending Willow Creek Community Church on Wednesday nights helped alter my perspective.  As I began to hear, read and meditate upon God’s standards in the Bible, my soul was comforted by the fact God keeps no records of wrong.  Therefore, if you ever feel like your life doesn’t measure up to the world’s standards, use biblical principals to overcome any spiritual identity crisis that you may endure.

by Jay Mankus

 

Too Far Gone?

Every night concerned friends, parents and teachers are wondering if the person in their thoughts and prayers is too far gone.  In same cases, broken relationships only make this situation worse.  Typically, the parent-child interaction is tense and brief with flare ups possible at any time.  If this climate persists, doubt persuades parents to believe that they have lost their child, too far gone to salvage.

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, 2 Timothy 4:10.

In a letter to a first century pastor, the apostle Paul shares his concern about a fellow believer who abandoned his faith.  While the details of Demas’ demise is unclear, it appears that this missionary regressed, craving certain aspects of life.  Perhaps, Demas was merely going through a phase, something that he needed to do prior to committing fulltime to the ministry.  The hardest part for any coach, friend, parent or teacher is letting go, giving this individual the room they need to come to their senses.

But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 We are suffering justly, because we are getting what we deserve for what we have done; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, [please] remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” – Luke 23:40-42

One of the characters in the Bible who could be considered too far gone is a criminal hanging on a cross next to Jesus.  On the verge of death, there was no hope for his future.  Nonetheless, this dire state inspired this man to seek security for the afterlife.  If Jesus can welcome a criminal sentenced to death, then no one should be considered too far gone.  For those currently enduring broken hearts, hang on to hope through prayer, asking God for common sense to break the stubborn hearts of a prodigal spirit.  Until reconciliation arrives, trust God to get you through.

by Jay Mankus

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