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A Lament for Covid 19

A lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. One Old Testament writer developed the nickname of the weeping prophet. Unfortunately, every time Jeremiah seemed to receive a message from the Lord, it made him cry or brought sadness to Israel. Perhaps, this was the inspiration for the Book of Lamentations. Whatever the reason, certain events like Covid-19 bring a similar cry for help today.

And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord. 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me, Lamentations 3:18-20.

Since the Coronavirus struck the United States in 2020, more than 770,000 lives have been snuffed out by this deadly plague. Despite having access to vaccines in 2021, Covid 19 has now taken more lives in the United States this year than 2020, 386,233 and counting. You would think that as more Americans get vaccinated the death toll would steadily decline, but this is not the case.

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not, Lamentations 3:21-22.

When science doesn’t have the answers or a cure, Jesus is the last line of defense. In the passage above, Jeremiah takes a dire situation and changes his perspective. Instead of focusing on what can’t be done, Jeremiah remembers all the past miracles performed by God in the Bible. Despite how bleak your future may be, hold on to Jesus as you lament to the Lord for a real cure for Covid 19.

by Jay Mankus

The Connection Between Fear and Faith

When I get bored of listening to music, I turn to Podcasts for entertainment. As an aspiring screen writer, I often turn to Alex Ferrari’s Bulletproof Screenplay Podcast for inspiration. I recently clicked on one covering how Hollywood incorporates the nature of fear into films. The guest writer spoke about the Samaritans from the Bible which peaked my interest. This author explained how Samaritan parents created numerous gods to scare their children into obedience.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [g]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear [h]brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, fears are broken down into three different categories. Social phobias, agoraphobia and specific object phobias are like fingerprints that make one individual different from another. Whether your fears consists of animals, heights or public speaking, trusting God to confront and face these phobias is the first step toward experiencing freedom and peace. Yet, if fears are not faced, you will be limited in what you can do and where you can go in life.

But they have not all heeded the Gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed (had faith in) what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself). 18 But I ask, Have they not heard? Indeed they have; [for the Scripture says] Their voice [that of nature bearing God’s message] has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the far bounds of the world, Romans 10:16-18.

One of my favorite Christian songs of all time is from the group David and the Giants. I was so moved by their classic ballad “Perfect Love,” I incorporated this song into my wedding ceremony more than a quarter of a century ago. The lyrics are based upon 1 John 4:18. While every human being is afraid of dying at some point in their lives, only one was able to conquer death. Jesus faced his sentence of death on a cross with perfect love. The connection between fear and faith is yielding control over to God by allowing Jesus to take the wheel and guide you through life.

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

Don’t Break a Child’s Spirit

In this age of child prodigies, being an elite athlete in any sport forces many to grow up way too fast. Instead of living a carefree life until attending college or a trade school, the pressure to be the best can take a toll on young adolescents. If a parent begins to live their lives vicariously through this phenom, the fun of competing can quickly fade. Subsequently, many children end up resenting sports due to a controlling father or mother.

Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit,] Colossians 3:21.

First time parents tend to become more strict with their first child and gradually become more lenient with every child thereafter. Yet, in the first century, Jewish father’s were disciplinarians, prone to demonstrate a tough love. Based upon the apostle Paul’s observations of parenting in the Church at Colosse, several children were walking around defeated, unable to please their father. This is likely the inspiration behind Paul’s command, “don’t break their spirit.”

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.

Since my father served in the military, my initial years as a parent involved stern discipline. Yet, as my two boys, James and Daniel, learned how to speak, I had to ease off the throttle before I broke the spirit of my boys. To suddenly alter and change your ways isn’t easy as you can go too far in the lenient direction. Nonetheless, the goal of any parent is to train up a child in the ways of the Lord so that a legacy of faith will be left behind, Proverbs 22:6.

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

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

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

Christmas in Exile

The longer that the Coronavirus continues, the more city, local, and state officials are flexing their political muscles. Flatten the curve has led to bans on inside dining, a pause in face to face public education and edicts on how many members can be inside a home during the holidays. Subsequently, America citizens are seeing their freedoms quickly vanish. If you’re wondering who is the mastermind behind the saying “never let a crisis go to waste,” it’s Saul Alinsky. You’ll find a similar quote on page 89 of his book Rules for Radicals. The context of this expression comes from a section marked communication “in the arena of action, a threat or a crisis becomes almost a precondition to communication.”

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with a part of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them into the land of Shinar [Babylonia] to the house of his god and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god, Daniel 1:1-2.

Exile comes from the Hebrew word galut. When translated into English, this refers to a forced migration. This theme reoccurs throughout the Old Testament This trend began during a worldwide drought in Egypt. However, after Israel was split in two following the reign of Solomon, the 10 northern tribes were carried off into exile in 722 BC, 2 Kings 17:6-23. Meanwhile, Judah, the 2 remaining southern tribes experienced their own exile in 586 BC. The passage above reveals what happened to Daniel while living in Babylon. Daniel was given a new name, forced to learn a different language and alter his diet initially. The first chapter of Daniel provides a blueprint for how to spend this Christmas in exile.

Then said Daniel to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove your servants, I beseech you, for ten days and let us be given a vegetable diet and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat of the king’s [rich] dainties be observed and compared by you, and deal with us your servants according to what you see, Daniel 1:11-13.

Despite the restrictions placed on Daniel’s life, he wasn’t willing to compromise his beliefs. Based upon the context of chapter 1, Daniel picked his battles, where to comply and what to resist. Following a 10 day trial known as the Daniel Fast, Daniel and his friends won his superiors over, staying true to his Jewish diet. Depending upon what state you live in, you may be able to adopt some of the principles Daniel practiced. Later on in chapter 6, Daniel defies a decree on banning pubic prayer, willing to face a den of lions rather than disobey his heavenly father. Therefore, as some of you face the notion of spending this Christmas in exile, draw inspiration from Daniel so that faith prevails.

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

Inspiration Doesn’t Follow a Schedule

The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something is known as inspiration. This invisible force tends to reveal itself in the form of artistry, creativity, flair, imagination, and vision. While attending a youth ministry trade school more than 25 years ago, I was introduced to Green Light Thinking. This exercise channels inspiration from our minds on to a piece of paper. During this 5 minute period, there is no such thing as a bad idea, writing down every inspirational thought.

Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

According to the apostle Paul, authors of the Bible were inspired by divine forces. Whether morning, day or night, inspiration doesn’t follow a schedule. Like momentum that fluctuates back and forth in a close athletic competition, spectators are on the edge of their seats until the end of the game. This is the type of anticipation that Christians should experience each time they open up the Word of God. When hearts and minds become open to the spiritual realm like a sponge, inspiration will flow.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future], John 16:13.

During a conversation with his disciples, Jesus unveils what the Holy Spirit will resemble when it arrives on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2. This invisible Spirit is like a personal guide to direct you toward the Truth, the meaning of life. There isn’t a set place or time to meet. Rather, the Holy Spirit counsels those of you who are paying attention, keeping in step with this inspirational force, Galatians 5:25. Despite what your daily schedule may bring, may you be open to the possibility so that you go with inspiration when it arrives.

by Jay Mankus

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