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Coming in Abundant Blessings

As a child I remember singing the song “I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart, Where, Down in my Heart to Stay.” The chorus continues with “I’m so Happy, so very Happy, that I Have the Love of Jesus in my Heart.” This song was written by George William Cooke and copyrighted in 1925. Over the last century, this song has been introduced to children through camps, curriculum and song books to keep this message of joy alive.

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.

During the first century, the apostle Paul uses an expression that illustrates the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letter to the Galatian Church introduces the fruits of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. However, Paul’s letter to Roman Christians focuses on the benefits of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. According to the passage above, faith in action, inspired by the Spirit of God has the ability to abound and overflow soul’s with hope.

And I know that when I do come to you, I shall come in the abundant blessing of the Gospel of Christ, Romans 15:29.

Jesus spoke of the ideal in John 10:10, to live an abundant life despite the attempts of the Devil to steal your joy. Paul applied this concept to his preaching, expecting the Holy Spirit to change hearts and minds as he shared the good news about Jesus Christ. Writing about a potential visit to Rome, Paul expects abundant blessings to accompany his future trip. With the Coronavirus stealing most of today’s headlines with death and despair, may this blog bring a glimmer of hope to broken and crushed spirits.

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

A Spirit of Attitude

There are two common Greek words used to describe attitude in the Bible. Diáthesi̱ refers to disposition or mood while stási̱ points to body language and posture. If you are observant, attitude naturally flows out of individuals. Joy can’t be contained while depression sucks the life out of battered souls. Some wear their emotions on their sleeves, the reserved try to say even keeled and others are comfortably numb, jaded by previous trials in life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones, Proverbs 17:22.

King Solomon suggests that attitude is a choice. You can focus on the positive by looking at life with a half glass full mindset. Or you can be a party pooper, allowing depression to bring you down and everyone else around you. Thus, the attitude of one person filters down to impact your sphere of influence. Neighborhoods, schools and work environments are at the mercy of attitudes. Depending upon the response, whether good or bad, strong attitudes can alter hearts, minds and souls.

As it is written, God gave them a spirit (an attitude) of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, [that has continued] down to this very day, Romans 11:8.

Perhaps, this explains the apostle Paul’s comment in the passage above. It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience periods of insensibility. When the negativity of another person’s attitude impacts your perspective, a state of near-unconsciousness can blind you from the truth. To overcome this spiritual stupor, Paul urges first century believers to set their heart and minds on things above, Colossians 3:1-4. The best way to fight poisonous attitudes is by developing a spiritual attitude fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The more you meditate upon the Bible, your attitude can spread joy to others, like good medicine for the soul.

by Jay Mankus

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Living and Moving in the Ways of the Spirit

Every year or so I come in contact with an individual who possesses a dynamic personality. On the surface, these people seem perfect, blessed with keen social skills and filled with a joy for life. Curious and eager to know what makes them tick, I often ask a few probing questions. After a couple of minutes interacting, many of these individuals are at a higher spiritual level, living and moving in the ways of the Spirit daily.

So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit], Romans 8:4.

My Catholic upbringing limited my knowledge of the Holy Spirit throughout my teenage years. However, college was a different story, encountering several uncomfortable scenarios. I witnessed people slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, holy laughter, a pastor who prayed in rhymes and one church that practiced casting out demons. Unfortunately, none of these churches ever explained how I could life and move in the ways of the Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit, Romans 8:5.

All I have is the teaching of the apostle Paul to help me comprehend this concept. First, Paul stresses the importance of your mind, focusing on eternal treasures; not temporary pleasures. Second, once you develop the proper mindset, Paul uses the expression “governed by the Spirit.” Just as Joshua urged Israel to meditate on God’s Word day and night, a biblical mindset is crucial to keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. However, until you crucify your own sinful passions, you won’t be able to live and more like Jesus during his 3 year ministry on earth.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Best for You and Me

As a recovering perfectionist, I tend to look at a glass half empty. This tendency to be negative often results in beating myself up inside. While I can forgive others for committing transgressions against me, forgiving myself is another story. This process may take days, weeks or months to get over a stupid blunder, error or mistake. Whenever anyone is too hard on themselves, Satan uses this vulnerability to steal your joy for life.

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 overflows), John 10:10.

While using an analogy of a shepherd tending his sheep, Jesus illuminates the dangers that sheep face while on earth. According to John 10:6, the crowd was initially confused so Jesus spoke in clearer terms. This is the context of the passage above as Jesus reveals how Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy souls. Although this spiritual truth may elicit fear upon receiving this news, you have to know what your enemy will attempt to do to avoid becoming the next victim.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need, Ephesians 4:28.

One of the songs from their 2009 album Breaking the Silence, The Letter Black sings about what’s best for you and me. The lyrics of Best of Me focuses on an individual who is haunted by their past. The author suggests that the only thing keeping us alive breathing is the knowledge of God’s existence. Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus provides meaning and purpose for life as new converts seek to ascertain God’s will. As minds are renewed by the Bible, Romans 12:1-2, what’s best for you and me is using your own God given gifts and talents to serve the Lord on earth.

by Jay Mankus

The Joy of Parenting

As a parent with 3 children over the age of 15, my days of having a full house are nearing an end. This reality has prompted me to make my two younger children a weekly priority. When I came home from work earlier this week, there was a sticky note for me from my son Daniel. Hoping to play frisbee golf after class, I made arrangements to have lunch and play afterwards. While neither of us played that well, spending a couple hours together brought joy to my heart.

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist, 1 Corinthians 8:6.

When I got back home, I remembered that my daughter Lydia had a volleyball at 3:45. Despite an urge to be lazy, I jumped in the shower, got dressed for work and rushed out the door. Despite some traffic, I arrived as the first serve was being struck. I’ve seen better performances, yet being able to watch Lydia play the sport she loves was worth the 30 minute drive. The team had some good stretches of play, but watching Lydia set the match winning spike was priceless.

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? – Malachi 2:10.

My efforts to be a good parent was just one day. The God of the Bible does this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, keeping watch over his spiritual children on earth. Rarely, do I comprehend the joy that comes from being a parent. Since we live in a society and world that is becoming more and more negative, hearing a positive story is a rarity. Yet, I feel compelled to write this blog today to proclaim parenting is not dead. It’s not easy, but as parents study the Bible to train children in the way they should go, the joy of parenting is experienced.

by Jay Mankus

Growing Old and Apart

As one of the newest  members of the AARP club, this is a sign of getting old.  Yet, as I reflect upon my current state of relationships, time has caused me to forget and ignore special friendships from my past.  Part of this is due to my desire to be a good father, spending as much time with my children as possible.  Unfortunately, without a healthy balance at the moment, I am growing old and apart.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,” Genesis 2:18.

After creating the heavens and the earth, God recognized that a pet could not replace a human soul mate.  Subsequently, the Lord created the first woman out of Adam’s rib.  This miracle set the stage for the institution of marriage, Genesis 1:23-24.  When two people become one, a special bond is formed.  Yet, this doesn’t mean you should forget the people that you have crossed paths with over the course of your life.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:12.

Following king David’s affair with Bathsheba, a spirit of conviction consumed his soul.  After hearing the prophet Nathan’s analogy of a little ewe lamb, David became painfully aware of his transgression.  Psalm 51 serves as a prayer of confession, asking the Lord to pardon him from sin.  In my case, before my home becomes an empty nest in 3 years, I need to reconnect with old friends.  While I may not be welcomed back with opened arms, I need to follow the prayer of David above so that I grow old and reunite with old friends.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing Criticism for What it Is

The book definition for criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone or something based upon a perceived fault or mistake.  The key word here is perceived as modern criticism is usually based upon ideology.  Subsequently, if your beliefs, convictions or worldview varies from the socially acceptable norm, condemnation, denunciation and nitpicking will arrive fast and furious.  When the media chimes in, criticism often snowballs like an avalanche.

They preached the good news to that city and made many disciples, then they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening and establishing the hearts of the disciples; encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, saying, “It is through many tribulations and hardships that we must enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:21-22.

Shortly after being stoned by his spiritual opponents, on the verge of death, the apostle Paul gets back on his feet to share a lesson learned from this near death experience.  As he walked back to the same town where leaders wanted to kill him, Paul realized that anyone who wants to preach the good news about Jesus Christ must embrace hardship and tribulations.  Essentially, Paul is saying “don’t take religious criticism personally as they hated Jesus first,”

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus builds upon Paul’s words in Lystra.  Trials build character resulting in spiritual maturity.  While criticism can and will be deserved from time to time, Christians must see criticism for what it is, a refining process that leads to genuine faith.  The more faith is tested, endurance and inner peace will shine through.  No one likes to be criticized, but when you see it through the lens of the Bible, spiritual growth is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

Hollow

When my parents moved to Delaware, I developed a sense of adventure by exploring this new state.  A creek in my backyard flowed into a large forest, protecting a tributary that led into the Delaware River.  I spent hours fishing each summer with a net.  After I brought back my catch in a bucket, I attempted to build a dam to preserve my collection.  Unfortunately, after each major storm, the dam overflowed freeing these big and colorful fish.  Nonetheless, when I was younger I woke up with excitement, eager for what would happen each day.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things, Isaiah 45:7.

As time has passed, dealing with failed dreams and goals have taken a toll on my soul.  After receiving two rejection letters from Hollywood last night, my joy for life has been replaced by anxiety, dread and disappointment.  Instead of seizing future moments of free time that I do have, depression has placed me into a state of misery.  The child like faith that I once possessed is drowning in self pity causing me to develop a half glass empty attitude.  Like a tree that looks healthy on the exterior, somewhere along the way I have become hollow inside.  Perhaps, I have become afflicted by spiritual termites, gnawing on my heart.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed, 1 Peter 2:24.

The book definition for hollow is having a hole or empty space inside.  Synonyms include empty, vacant, void and unfulfilled.  Muhammad Ali once said “age is whatever you think it is; you are as old as you think you are.”  As a professional boxer, Ali demonstrated mind over matter to stay young despite his aging body.  Yet, for many individuals, becoming hollow is now a reality, struggling to become whole again.  As senior citizens retire and enter assisted living communities, they have to maintain an activity or hobby to keep hope alive.  If not, the lonely will spend their remaining years on earth wasting away in a rocking chair, like an empty shell, hollow and unfulfilled.

by Jay Mankus

Behind the Tears

If you enjoy binge watching shows on Netflix, then you will see how Hollywood screenwriters reveal a character’s past.  As a film or series unfold, bad, evil or troubled souls have a flashback which unveil secret scars.  Whether someone was abused, beaten, criticized, teased or verbally assaulted, behind the tears explains why someone has turned out to be the person that they have become.  Although this new information provides some insight into behavior patterns, it doesn’t justify wrong actions.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them, Luke 7:37-38.

In the passage above, a first centurion woman had chosen to become a prostitute.  Although Luke doesn’t share the details of why she chose this lifestyle, she doesn’t seem very happy or fulfilled.  Based upon her tears, this erotic expression of love left a void in this woman’s heart.  Perhaps, Jesus’ message of being saved from sin led this woman to crash a social party.  While the whole room was judging her due to her tarnished reputation, Jesus enabled himself to be anointed by a well known harlot.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little,” Luke 7:44-47.

In 1992, an alternate praise group called the Violet Burning released the Song of the Harlot.  Appearing on the Strength album, this song illuminates this passage in the Bible.  The author places an interesting stanza within the lyrics “I’ve cried a million tears maybe more so many times I have been the whore.”  Behind the tears, individuals try to grasp why sinful tendencies have become too overwhelming to control.  While most do not choose the path of a harlot, other addictions often steal the joy for life.  The only consolation for sinners enslaved by addiction is the promise of forgiveness proclaimed by Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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