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Promote Your Progress and Joy

Advance, boost, contribute to, develop, encourage, and further are words associated with promote. While modern promoters often serve as agents for professional athletes, one of the basic responsibilities for a Christian is to promote faith. Although this sounds easy to do, sharing the Bible with individuals who are hostile to God, Romans 8:7, can be thankless. However, if you see the big picture, winning souls, joy overflows when you lead someone into a personal relationship with Jesus.

Since I am convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and stay by you all, to promote your progress and joy in believing, Philippians 1:25.

While writing to a church that he helped build, Paul expresses his allegiance to Philippi. This commitment involves promoting their spiritual progress and joy of believing in Jesus. To an apostle, preaching and sharing the Gospel is the most important thing in the world. While there are other sources of good news that exist, to Paul, nothing compares to Jesus. This concept inspired the words of Philippians 4:6-7, as the peace of God surpasses all understanding.

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.

The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Rome. As faith is promoted, God fills Christians with hope, peace, and joy. As individuals begin to discover and fulfill God’s will for your life, this joy can overflow, bubbling over out of an abundance. Yet, when progress is put on hold, joy can quickly disappear. Like a car put in neutral, idle Christians lose their spiritual momentum. Therefore, if you want to get back on track, promote spiritual progress and the joy from faith in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Canceling of Our Shortcomings

One of the core messages of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, is the spiritual reality of God’s grace. Acronyms of grace often describe this as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God’s activity toward human beings rains down forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation from heaven. This unmerited favor from God serves as a spiritual do over to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

[So that we might be] to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace (favor and mercy), which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Ephesians 1:6-7.

In the beginning of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unravels God’s grace. Grace is lavished upon the children of God in the form of love. Instead of condemning transgressions, the blood Jesus shed as the perfect lamb of God has redeemed guilty sinners. Romans 5:8 clearly describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ act of love; “But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Ephesians 1:8.

King David prophesized about this spiritual reality in Psalm 103:12. As far as the east is from the west refers to God’s infinite love. In other words, God’s love is equivalent to infinity. When you add everything together, the canceling of our shortcomings is made complete. Luke 2:10 describes Jesus’ birth as good tidings of great joy. Perhaps Luke was exhibiting forward thinking, knowing that the promised Messiah of the Old Testament would soon cancel our shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

Joy is a Choice

The book definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure that results in happiness. Meanwhile, rejoice refers to expressing great delight that is inspired by this source of joy. When internal joy is expressed in an external manner, individuals experience elation, gratification, and jubilation. Like momentum in a sporting event, the presence of joy can transform lives. brimming and bubbling over with a new found confidence.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In a letter first century to Christians scattered throughout the world due to religious persecution, the earthly brother of Jesus suggests that joy is a choice. Based upon the passage above, joy is a mindset that you maintain regardless of the circumstances. Whether you encounter hardships, trials or temptation, joy is a byproduct of faith. As Christians mature over time, the spiritual fruit of joy is conceived in your life.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Unfortunately, joy is a rare quality in a world filled with anxiety, sadness, and worry. Instead of exuding joy, negative atmospheres and climates overwhelm troubled souls. Thus, misery tends to drown out any glimpses of hope. When joy is absent, the apostle Paul urges believers to rely on prayer to alter your mood. Therefore, if joy is a choice, make sure that the Holy Spirit provides the spark needed to keep this spiritual fruit alive.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Extinguish Eternal Fire

During a visit to a prison in 1868, poet William J. Reynolds was inspired to write a hymn. Using the image of a camp fire, Reynolds opening stanza starts with the following words. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And soon all those around will warm up to it’s glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love; once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.” When the Holy Spirit fills newly devoted followers of Christ, faith becomes contagious like the classic song Pass It On.

And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper]. 15 See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.

Unfortunately, rumors of apathy and complacency began to plague the Church at Thessalonica. Instead of passing on God’s love, first century Christians started pouring cold water on the spiritually optimistic. As a former Roman Catholic who was forced to attend mass every Sunday, I know what’s like not to want to be in church. While in college, I first encountered charismatic Christians, eager and passionate about worshiping God every week. Looking back, I was lukewarm, prematurely judging these on fire believers.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.

Based upon the passage above, apparently some Thessalonians were suppressing the joy of other first century Christians. Perhaps, envy played a part in this behavior. When someone has a passion that is missing from your own life, defense mechanisms often trigger crude and unusual reactions. If you finding yourself lashing due to jealousy, you should consider Paul’s advice. Faith shouldn’t be regulated by your emotions. Rather, worship should consume your soul daily, thirsty for God’s Word which serves as fuel for eternal fire.

by Jay Mankus

Divine Visitations

According to a 2020 survey, 77 percent of Americans believe in the concept of a guardian angel. Meanwhile, a number of celebrities have recently opened up about their own divine visitation. Jurassic Park star Chris Pratt told Esquire Magazine about a man from Hawaii who brought him a message from God while he was homeless. Denzel Washington saw an angel as child and met a woman a few days later who shared a prophecy about his future fame. Samantha Fey goes into further details about these accounts in an article entitled True Stories of Heavenly Encounters with Angels.

And behold, that very day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, [which is] about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things that had occurred. 15 And while they were conversing and discussing together, Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them. 16 But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him, Luke 24:13-16.

When a first century doctor writes about another divine visitation, it’s worth examining his story. According to Luke, 2 of Jesus’ disciples had planned a trip to the village of Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday. This 7 mile walk gave those traveling ample time to talk. Apparently, the resurrected Jesus blended into the crowd, asking a series of questions. Based upon the words of Luke, Jesus is curious about what these men remembered. The other members of this group can’t believe these are being asked. Nonetheless, Jesus’ personality goes unrecognized for the entire day until they broke bread together. As soon of their eyes were opened, Jesus vanished, likely into the setting sun.

Then they drew near the village to which they were going, and He acted as if He would go further. 29 But they urged and insisted, saying to Him, Remain with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. So He went in to stay with them. 30 And it occurred that as He reclined at table with them, He took [a loaf of] bread and praised [God] and gave thanks and asked a blessing, and then broke it and was giving it to them 31 When their eyes were [instantly] opened and they [clearly] recognized Him, and He vanished (departed invisibly), Luke 24:28-31.

Whether you’re talking about biblical events or modern day encounters, why does this happen? Why is it necessary for God to send a messenger to human beings? Perhaps a busy schedule has distracted individuals from what they were meant to do? Maybe Christians have lost their way, lost their confidence or broken dreams have caused people like me to stop and pick up the pieces? These brief visits serve as a spark to reignite your joy for life. While some may provide promises that never come to fruition, divine visitations are necessary to help the lost get found, the broken healed and the wayward back on track. May this blog give you the boost that you need to carry on with the rest of your life in 2021.

by Jay Mankus

Starting Over in 2021

ξεκινώντας από την αρχή is the Greek word for starting over. Meanwhile, the Latin expression for starting over is iterum incipi. When translated literally into English this refers to again, a second time. As 2020 is thankfully ushered out for good, it’s time to hit the reset button. While no one knows for sure how long the Coronavirus will stick around, starting over with a blank canvas gives me hope of a brighter future.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

Despite earning a nickname as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah 9:1 and Jeremiah 13:17, there is a glimpse of positive news. In the passage above, the Lord finally gives Jeremiah a message of hope. These future plans includes blessings, dreams and a final outcome worth waiting for. Therefore, if you still haven’t gotten over the worst pandemic in the last century, the Bible provides some encouraging news.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; 31 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired, Isaiah 40:30-31.

Another Old Testament prophet provides an analogy that most adults can relate to. Between the spread of Covid-19, forced closures of businesses and the stress of trying to stay alive, 2020 has worn out countless souls. Thus, as many have lost their energy and joy for life, it’s time to place your faith in God’s hands again. Just as eaglets trusted their parents renew their strength, it’s time to place your faith in God to start over in 2021.

by Jay Mankus

Christmas is a Time for Second Chances

The retail calendar is an endless cycle, constantly moving from one celebration to the next. As soon as Halloween festivities end, stores are transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. Meanwhile, on television a month of horror flicks are replaced with movies about joy, thanksgiving, and praise. When Thanksgiving Dinner’s wind down, Christmas shopping comes to life or should I say ignite. Whether you wait in lines or do most of your purchases online, consumerism doesn’t overshadow the fact that Christmas is a time for second chances.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. 25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly puzzled (astonished, bewildered), saying, Who then can be saved [from eternal death]? – Matthew 19:24-25

During a first century conversation, the 12 disciples became deflated following a parable shared by Jesus. The point of Jesus’ analogy was to illustrate that individuals aren’t good, holy or strong enough to save themselves. Attempting to be some sort of superhuman Christian, the disciples became depressed, painfully aware of their limitations. As despair began to set in, Jesus’ words served as a swing in momentum, “anything is possible with God.” Yes, even those of you who need a second chance this Christmas.

But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God, Matthew 19:26.

George Bailey, played by James Stewart, needed a visit from an angel to notice just how wonderful his life was. A ruthless TV-network chief played by Bill Murray in Scrooged needed to witness his own death to realize what was truly important in his own life. As you sit down at some point this Christmas to watch one of the classics films, the Lord wants to remind you that forgiveness, grace and mercy is available every day, Lamentations 3:31-25. For Christmas is the season of second chances, a fresh start and a new beginning in life. Seize this opportunity to begin again with God, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

When a Joy Ride is Interrupted by Stress

The term joy is found over 150 times in the Bible. When you add similar expressions such as “joyful” and “joyous”, joy is mentioned over 200 times. While the phrase joyride refers to a ride taken for pleasure, usually in an automobile, a New York City judge derived this term in the context of stealing cars or reckless driving. Nonetheless, when a joyous occasion rejuvenates your soul, lives glide through days with a positive mindset.

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice! Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. Philippians 4:4-6.

Unfortunately, moments of joy are often rudely interrupted by stress and worry. There are 40 different passages in the Bible that address the topic of stress and hard times. Meanwhile, worry is used 38 times in the Bible. One of the greatest examples of a joy ride being interrupted by stress is found in Matthew 16. Peter goes from being praised by Jesus in verses 17 and 18 to being rebuked moments later in Matthew 16:22, “get behind me Satan.”

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them], Philippians 4:7-8.

During a letter written to Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul felt the need to encourage those overwhelmed by stress and worry. Instead of allowing the enemy to ruin your days of joy, Paul provide advice to stay positive. When you can’t find anything in your life to be thankful for, rejoice in the Lord. Pray for a forbearing spirit so that anxiety, uncontrollable circumstances and stress will roll off your back. The next time your joy is interrupted, let the peace of Christ settle you down.

by Jay Mankus

The Fight to Survive

The song I Will Survive was written and composed by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. The first recording of this song was done by Gloria Gaynor in 1978. As a top-selling song, I Will Survive became a popular disco anthem. The lyrics just prior to the opening chorus reads “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?” This line leads into “Oh, no, not I, I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive, I will survive, hey, hey.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

Over the past 9 months, the fight to survive has taken on a new meaning. Between the Coronavirus, the lock down designed to flatten the curve, wearing masks in public and the stress to keep up with your bills has worn down countless souls. Meanwhile, as individuals have been stuck inside their homes, addiction, abuse, depression and suicide has skyrocketed. All it takes is just one more setback to push people over the edge, losing the will to live and survive. While I’ve probably been more fortunate than most in 2020, I too have known individuals who have lost their battle with COVID-19.

In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—Ephesians 2:2

While some have blamed God for this worldwide plague, the Bible points to a spiritual enemy. Jesus calls this character a thief, seeking to kill your dreams, steal your joy and eliminate the concept of hope. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul eludes to the spiritual dimension where Lucifer reigns, commanding demons to attack at a moments notice. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 provides advice, directions and insight to deal with these dark powers. The only way to fight back is by using spiritual weapons. May this blog encourage you to not lose hope so that you will survive your next trial.

by Jay Mankus

What is God Waiting for You to Do?

I’ve never been at great student. Assignments that others finished in class took me twice as long to complete. Whether this was due to a lack of concentration or day dreaming, I never really developed a sense of urgency when it came to school. While several of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to do following graduation, I changed my major three times before my junior year of college. Taking the 5 year plan, I narrowed down my future to becoming a golf course architect or youth pastor.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

During a dual internship with golf during the day and ministry at night and on the weekends, God was waiting for me to make a decision. Since I was too blunt to become a successful architect, I followed my heart into the ministry. However, indecision caused me to bounce around from position to position: Summer Workcamp Coordinator, Youth Director, Boarding School Counselor and Teacher. Being curious isn’t bad, but at some point God wanted me to become stable, staying in one place long enough to see the fruits of my labor.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you, Philippians 1:6.

Over the past 2 decades, I’ve stayed in two places for 18 years. While I’m no longer in the ministry, this blog has to suffice for now until I figure out what God wants me to do next. Of course freewill gives me the option to do whatever I want. Yet, I’ve learned that keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, brings me joy that surpasses all understanding. Therefore, as I linger for now, unsure of my next assignment, I pray that I have the faith to walk through this door when it opens.

by Jay Mankus

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