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Just as Dysfunctional as the Next Person

The expression “the new normal” spawned a television series in 2012 based upon a gay couple living in Los Angeles. Instead of promoting a traditional family with a husband and wife, Hollywood decided to redefine what a typical family should look like in the 21st century. Whether you agree with this premise or not, the progressive movement has redefined what is common, expected and typical within society today.

Well then, are we [Jews] superior and better off than they? No, not at all. We have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), are under sin [held down by and subject to its power and control, Romans 3:9.

During the first century, the apostle Paul crossed paths with a community of believers who felt superior to other normal, ordinary citizens. This rubbed Paul the wrong way, inspiring a letter to confront this aloof, cocky and holier than thou complex. Within chapter 1 and 2 of Romans, Paul sets the stage to expose this flawed mentality. To drive home this point, Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet who once proclaimed, “there is no one righteous, not even one.”

As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one. 11 No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one! – Romans 3:10-12.

Before these Roman Christians could interrupt Paul with the words, “but I’m different,” their argument is blown out of the water. The only thing normal about everyone who walks the face of the earth is that you are just as dysfunctional as your neighbor, Sure, some will be more godly and moral than others, but no one is perfect. Despite this fact, some still try to tear down others to make themselves feel better. In the end, whether you want to admit it or not, you are just as dysfunctional as the next person due to your own sinful nature. May the hope of forgiveness revive your soul by embracing the Messiah, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Looking Up from Hell

At the end of every year, television networks reflect upon what happened, news worthy events of the year which form a best of list. When a year falls at the end of a decade, this only adds to programming as shows analyze current events of the past year and decade. If you did this for President Trump’s comments or tweets, there aren’t enough days in the year to follow the good, the bad and the ugly. One recent comment got my attention.

Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. 14 But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

During a Trump Rally in December, the president went off script. After being impeached by the House, President Trump told a story about a phone call from the widow of John Dingell, a former congressman from New York. Following this story, Trump couldn’t resist the opportunity to poke fun of a former adversary, suggesting that John Dingell might be looking up from hell instead of down from heaven. This particular comment created a fire storm in the media, making headlines on every cable channel and newspaper. Yet, few members of the media reported the full context, that one of Dingell’s last text before dying wished that President Trump would to go to hell. This doesn’t make Trump’s comment right, but it reveals the full context.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Most funerals assume that the loved one who died went to heaven. While this is a natural desire, hope and wish, the Bible paints a different picture. Jesus uses the analogy of two paths, a spacious one which many follow and a narrow trail which few find. Thus, if this is true, there are far more souls looking up from hell rather than looking down from heaven. Since you only get one chance, one life on earth, devote 2020 and beyond to following the Way so that your eternal destination will be secured before you die, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Glory, Honor and Peace

Before stepping down as leader of Israel, Moses gives a farewell address in Deuteronomy 30. In the middle of this speech, Moses gives a call to action in verses 15-17. These words reveal Moses’ hope for the nation of Israel, to listen to and obey God’s commands in the Torah. Based upon the passage below, the apostle Paul revisits this topic by detailing the pros and cons of obedience and disobedience.

But for those who are self-seeking and self-willed and disobedient to the Truth but responsive to wickedness, there will be indignation and wrath. [And] there will be tribulation and anguish and calamity and constraint for every soul of man who [habitually] does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), Romans 2:8-9.

Paul gives three explanations for why individuals end up habitually doing evil. The first two, self-seeking and self-willed, directly impact the third. Whenever anyone is self-absorbed, certain aspects of reality are overlooked. When you add to this equation by justifying and rationalizing wrong actions, the Truth within the Bible is discarded or ignored.

But glory and honor and [heart] peace shall be awarded to everyone who [habitually] does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), Romans 2:10.

Meanwhile, Paul promises three blessings for those who habitually do good: glory, honor and peace. While Romans 7:15-18 reveals that the ability to do good is hindered by our own sinful nature, Galatians 5:25 explains how the Holy Spirit can lead to good habits. Although you may be tempted to take short cuts or cross the boundaries set in the Bible, if you want to experience glory, honor and peace, doing good is the only path that promises these blessings.

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

A Key Ingredient for Success

During my interactions with family over Thanksgiving, the best tasting dishes elicited desires to ascertain the recipe. Some were provided from memory while others were derived from cookbooks and homemade recipes past down for a generation. This topic of conversation made me ponder, what is a key ingredient for success beyond cooking?

Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass, Psalm 37:5.

As I Stopped to listen to an interview while channel surfing, I heard a guest speaker talk about the important of desire. When experience and talent is limited, desire is the one thing that will propel individuals forward, striving to overcome failure after failure. Desire provides inspiration when hope and progress begin to diminish. Yet, if desire persists and breeds perseverance, desire becomes a key ingredient for success.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall will be filled, Matthew 5:6,”.

Whether you are referring to chasing dreams. fulfilling goals or losing weight, desire is one of the few aspects in life that you can control. Desire can ignite conviction, instill discipline and inspire change when progress doesn’t occur right away. Thus, if you want to start your 2020 New Year’s resolutions early or make good on vows from 2019 or earlier, desire is a key ingredient for future success.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving New Courage

Although the Wizard of Oz debuted in 1939, this became one of my favorite films as a child 40 years later. For some reason, reruns were broadcast twice a year, once before Easter and the other around Thanksgiving. The thought of a scarecrow searching for a brain, a tinman desperately wanting a heart and a cowardly lion hoping to find courage struck a cord with my soul. This film made me believe that it’s possible to receive new courage.

And the [Christian] brethren there, having had news of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage, Acts 28:15.

During a prolonged trip from Jerusalem to Rome, taking nearly 6 months, Paul seems to be wore down. Luke doesn’t expound upon why, but the passage above illuminates how the Christian community lifted his spirits. There are no details about who encouraged Paul or what was said, yet it’s clear that the words exchanged empowered Paul. After receiving strength to face the adversity of another trial, God prepared Paul for what lied ahead in Rome.

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor called Timothy. Apparently, Paul received news that Timothy had become fearful, timid about speaking out against wrong behavior and teaching. Paul reiterates that this inclination is not from God. Rather, the Lord has given believers a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Therefore, if you are searching for courage today, look no further than the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Positions of Authority

Near the end of Luke’s account of the first century church, the apostle Paul finds himself in the middle of a long drawn out trial.  After overseeing this case for two years, Governor Felix was succeeded in office by Porcius Festus.  Prior to leaving his position, Felix caved to public pressure, leaving Paul as a prisoner in chains to curry favor with powerful Jewish leaders.  Held captive by a political justice system, Paul recognized that his fate was in the hands of positions of authority.

So, said he, let those who are in a position of authority and are influential among you go down with me, and if there is anything amiss or criminal about the man, let them so charge him, Acts 25:5.

While the United States Judicial System is not perfect, it’s based upon the concept that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.  This idea is foreign to many countries where some are held against their will in encampments, jails or re-programing sites for weeks, months or years.  Unfortunately, positions of authority are often influenced by political figures who seek absolute power, control and expanding their jurisdiction.  Despite their innocence, some people are still waiting in jail for an influential leader to come to their rescue.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God, Romans 13:1.

In the passage above, perhaps the apostle Paul is referring to his own situation, waiting for justice.  Whatever the inspiration for this statement, Paul recognizes that God places leaders into the positions that they now hold.  Although some may not deserve it, God has a purpose or reason for the outcomes that have already taken place.  Unfortunately, the answers many hope, pray for and seek often don’t arrive until the afterlife.  Thus, for now the only reasonable action obedient citizens can take is to be subject to governing authorities, praying for wisdom to guide your state or country.

by Jay Mankus

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