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Tag Archives: joy

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

The Giving and Taking of Life

Twenty four hours ago, I was celebrating my oldest son’s wedding.  As I witnessed James and Emma’s love for one another, an overwhelming sense of joy touched my heart.  This event highlights a blessing from God as the giver of life in the form of gifts from above, James 1:17.  Unfortunately, I received a text a few hours ago informing me that my uncle John, my dad’s oldest brother, passed away this afternoon.  This wave of emotions has reminded me of the giving and taking of life.

So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself, and he sat [down] among the ashes (rubbish heaps), Job 2:7-8.

Every month or so I stumble upon a television evangelist who paints the Christian life through rose colored glasses.  These messages follow the same script, promising that the moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, all of your troubles will disappear.  While new believers will possess a new found hope, this depiction of life is not realistic.  With every blessing, individuals will also endure hardship, pain and suffering.  According to Job, you have to accept the good with any bad that comes your way.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still cling to your integrity [and your faith and trust in God, without blaming Him]? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the [spiritually] foolish women speaks [ignorant and oblivious to God’s will]. Shall we indeed accept [only] good from God and not [also] accept adversity and disaster?” In [spite of] all this Job did not sin with [words from] his lips, Job 2:9-10.

In the passage above, Job’s wife speaks as if thinking out loud.  As she witnessed the boils covering her husband, anguish, grief and frustration motivated her response to “curse God and die.”  In the heat of the moment, knee jerk reactions are a common occurrence.  Nonetheless, if you are looking for answers to why God allows bad things to happen to good people, Job nails it!  You must accept the good with the bad.  According to one of Jesus’ disciples, going through trials are designed to build character, 1 Peter 1:6-7.  Therefore, If you want to possess a realistic approach to life, roll with the punches as you experience the giving and taking of life.

by Jay Mankus

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