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Living an Undaunted Life

Living an undaunted life is not being intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger, or disappointment. Saying you will do this and actually rising above the hand you are dealt in life are two different things. While God called one man to be his voice for the nation of Israel, Moses began to dwell upon his speech impediment. Frustrated by Moses’ response, God gives him a pep talk to fulfill God’s will for his life.

And Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, I am not eloquent or a man of words, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and have a heavy and awkward tongue. 11 And the Lord said to him, Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the dumb, or the deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Is it not I, the Lord? – Exodus 4:10-11

As someone who was born with a severe stuttering problem, thinking about what you want to say and actually saying it clearly is like asking for a miracle. Based upon the passage above, Moses struggled to imagine a life without stammering and stuttering. This mental block took time to overcome as Aaron was initially given to Moses as a security blanket. Subsequently, living an undaunted life had to wait.

Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and will teach you what you shall say, Exodus 4:12.

Despite this transition, Moses gradually develops the courage to confront Egypt’s King face to face. While Pharaoh tried to duplicate the initial plagues with magicians, God hardened his heart over and over again. Hebrews 11:24-29 highlights Moses’ maturity from daunted to undaunted. If God can use a stutterer to lead Israel to the Promised Land, there is hope for you and me to transform from fearful to undaunted.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 54: Delicate Fade

Today’s featured song comes from the group Common Children. Perhaps using a play on words, children make plenty of mistakes, especially early in life. Subsequently, the lyrics of Delicate Fade refer to the stains of time. From a spiritual perspective, stains come from sin, producing dirty laundry that darkens human souls. The first step toward maturity is recognizing that you can’t live life on your own.

For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me, Romans 7:15-17.

Of all the Christian groups that I listen to, Common Children has one of the best classic rock sounds. While the lyrics on their albums aren’t that inspirational, the musicians and singing keep me coming back for more. As for Delicate Fade, the lyrics talks about the scars that occur throughout life. Some of these scars are external while others remain inside our hearts. As you deal with these scars, may you turn to Jesus to find comfort for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

The Journey Toward Maturity

Maturity is one of those traits where there is always room for improvement. Depending upon the situation, you never know when tantrums from your childhood may rear its ugly head. There is something about pressure and stress that often brings out raw emotion. Whenever you fail these social pop quizzes, it’s a painful reminder that you still have a long way to go on the journey toward maturity.

As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving, Colossians 2:6-7.

The apostle Paul compares maturity to planting a tree in a good location. The Psalmist writes about the ideal environment down by a river side so that roots can get fresh water daily, Psalm 1:1-3. Jesus tells a story about 4 basic soils, 3 of which have limitations that will hamper and stunt your growth, Matthew 13:18-23. Only when you plant yourself in a fertile environment will maturity begin to blossom.

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.

The earthly brother of Jesus refers to opportunities for growth in the passage above. Despite how frustrated and irritated you may become, trials and temptations serve as a way to work out your rough edges. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples compares difficult situations to proving grounds where your faith is tried and tested. The more things that are thrown at you, your journey toward maturity will be accelerated as long as you cling to faith in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Other Side of the Universe

As an aspiring screen writer, I listen to a dozen podcasts each week. My goal is to extract golden nuggets of information so that I can implement these concepts into my own scripts. The more I listen, I find myself on the other side of the universe, possessing a completely different worldview. Instead of recognizing God, many of these experts use similar vocabulary. Rather than blame or credit God, the universe is in control of whatever happens in life from a Hollywood perspective.

It is God Who sits above the circle (the horizon) of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; it is He Who stretches out the heavens like [gauze] curtains and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in, Isaiah 40::22.

One Old Testament prophet disagrees. Isaiah died as a martyr, sawed in two rather than deny his faith. Despite this cruel ending, Isaiah recognized who was in control of the universe. In the passage above, Isaiah alludes to God’s omnipresence. Life isn’t simply a random set of events that plays out in the universe. Rather, Isaiah recognized the words of Jesus’ earthly brother before they were written, James 1:2-4. Trials occur on earth as a form of preparation, leading to maturity as time goes by.

By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible, Hebrews 11:3.

C.S. Lewis gives one of the best explanations of different worldviews in Mere Christianity. Lewis uses Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. Human nature is a starting point where all human beings can relate to and understand. In the section entitled What Christians Believe, Lewis highlights virtues like prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude that everyone share. However, Theological virtues are limited to Christians via the Holy Spirit. Until someone enters into a relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, people will remain on the other side of the universe without knowing God.

by Jay Mankus

If You Can Not Stand the Heat…Get Out of the Kitchen

Harry S. Truman coined the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” in 1942. The context of this expression refers to heat as those things in life that bother you. The kitchen is symbolic of the entire situation, the source of the heat, prone to boiling over. Over the years, stand has been replace with handle, yet the overall meaning hasn’t changed.

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.

Perhaps, Jesus relayed a similar message to first century believers. The passage above was written by Jesus’ earthly brother, likely quoting something said or taught. Life isn’t designed to remain in a cool, air conditioned unit. Rather, God uses the heat provided by hardships to stretch your comfort zone. These difficult encounters provide opportunities for growth, exposing your flawed, vulnerable and weak areas in life.

[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

One of Jesus’ disciples compares life to a furnace, serving as a purifying process, like a kiln to a potter. If you aren’t tested by out of control circumstances, you won’t know what you were capable of or can handle. Thus, as unpleasant as these events may be, trials and tribulations play a big part in life, serving as mechanisms to build character, endurance and a steadfast spirit. Therefore, the next time God turns up the heat on you, embrace the moment until your assignment is complete.

by Jay Mankus

Stop Blaming Your Past for Present Transgressions

After more than 20 years of coaching and teaching, I have encountered a plethora of sad stories. Whether its broken homes, death, divorce, suicide or teenage pregnancies, each dire situation is heart breaking. When teenagers go through these trying circumstances, common sense may cause adults to go easy on these individuals. Yet, how long do you allow present transgressions to be blamed on past trials?

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The Bible has a complete different take on hardships that people experience on earth. The apostle Paul refers to sufferings as opportunities for growth. Paul sees the spiritual element as trials help shape character, endurance and hope. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus urges believers to rejoice each time you undergo hard times. Just like Paul, James reveals that extreme situation tests your faith, resulting in maturity and perseverance.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

This blog was inspired by events which took place a decade ago. I was an elder on a church board that oversaw a large Christian school. When times got tough, some of my friends quit this board, opening the door for the pastor to get his way. In the end, I witnessed the ugly side of Christianity as hypocrisy blinded believers I once looked up to. When this fiasco finally ended, the school was sold and church closed its doors. The institution I believed in, fought for and served vanished overnight.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:11-12.

One of Jesus’ disciples reminds me that my ordeal is not strange or something that I should be surprised by. Rather, earthly trials serve as a purifying process, removing self as you draw closer to Christ. Unfortunately, I have allowed this painful experience to cause me to lose hope in the church. Instead of regularly attending the past 2 years, I have relied on television sermons as a substitute. Over the past few days, conviction has brought this transgression to the surface. Thus, it’s time to stop blaming the past for my decision to not join a church. May this conviction continue until I finally get involved in a local church.

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

Who Really Deserves the Credit

A few days leading up to my son James’ wedding, my wife and I received praise and thanks.  Emma’s father Pete mentioned twice, once at the rehearsal dinner and during his wedding toast of the blessing that James been to Emma and their family.  While the hand of God is ultimately responsible for my son’s maturity, there are others who deserve credit as well.

The one who is taught the word [of God] is to share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his spiritual and material support], Galatians 6:6.

In 1988, a man named Ray Boltz was asked to write a song for Pastor Appreciation Sunday.  Upon completion, the lyrics of Thank You serve as a reflection, looking back at all the people in life who has directed, guided and helped individuals draw closer to Jesus.  When I think about James, I can’t forget all the Christian teachers at Red Lion who taught, nurtured and inspired James from kindergarten to eighth grade.  From his first, Mrs. DeMaio to his last, Mrs. Beattie, I thank God for everyone in between who has shaped and touched James’ life.

Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. 10 So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers), Galatians 6:9-10.

I don’t know how this story will end, James’ new life with Emma.  Yet, as a parent, I am committed to pray for, fast if necessary and build up this young couple.  Sometimes parents expect children to behave, mature and become a finished product in their time, not God’s.  Thus, all I can do is seize the opportunities that become available.  Despite how I feel or what I see from my own perspective, the apostle Paul commands believers to persist in doing good.  While I’m waiting, I want to thank all of you who have poured your own life into my son James.

by Jay Mankus

Love and Forgiveness

Every neighborhood has an observer.  This individual makes a hobby out of being in the know.  In the process of gathering information, gossip may distort fact from fiction.  Nonetheless, finding out what’s going on becomes an obsession.  For these personality types, digging up dirt on others produces an adrenaline rush.  Anyone who follows down this path begins to develop the mindset of a Pharisee.

Jesus, answering, said to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they had no means of repaying [the debts], he freely forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” – Luke 7:40-42

In the first century, Jesus was regularly invited to dine with religious leaders.  Instead of trying to impress other guests, Jesus used each meal as an opportunity to minister to others.  After an uninvited prostitute approached Jesus to anoint his body with an expensive jar of perfume, commentary, murmurs and preconceived judgments were made about Jesus.  Frustrated by the lack of maturity displayed by the adults in this house, Jesus shares a parable to expose the heart of this matter.

Simon answered, “The one, I take it, for whom he forgave more.” Jesus said to him, “You have decided correctly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house [but you failed to extend to Me the usual courtesies shown to a guest]; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair [demonstrating her love], Luke 7:43-44.

Jesus tells a story about two debtors who did not have the ability to pay back their amount owed.  After finishing, Jesus turns to Simon, a Pharisee, asking a couple of questions.  This conversation exposes the flaw of most Pharisees, concentrating on judging others rather than displaying love and forgiveness.  Jesus warns the guests about falling into this harmful mindset.  In the end, if you want to be forgiven, you must love much.  Forgiveness and love follow the sowing principle.  Those who love much are forgiven, but those who love little, forgive little.  May this parable speak to your heart, inspiring a desire to love and forgive like Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little,” Luke 7:47.

The Enemy of Our Souls

How you ever noticed the large-scale systematic plan that is occurring worldwide?  This clever marketing scheme distracts individuals from the real problem, the enemy of our souls.  The 2017 version of the film It has recently become the top grossing horror film of all time, amassing over 300 million in sales.  I’m amazed how people can take a diversion to a theater to experience their monthly fright night, yet fail to recognize the personal demons that terrorize individuals daily.  This invisible war is crushing, destroying and wounding human souls who don’t know what to do or how to fight back.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes, Ephesians 6:10-11.

Roman soldier’s were equipped with spikes on the bottom of their sandals.  Similar to techniques used during the Revolutionary War, battalions were taught to hold the line of defense so that the enemy could not come up from behind for a sneak attack.  Prior to any battle, Roman soldiers began to dig in like a baseball player entering the batter’s box.  This practice enabled warriors to secure their footing, entrenched and ready to fight.  Unfortunately, most people are caught off guard, flat footed, unable to stand up against the schemes of the Devil.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, Ephesians 6:12-13.

As a former teacher, I made plenty of mistakes.  Some from a lack of experience, maturity or wisdom.  As I reflect upon this decade of my life, one common error that haunts me is overlooking specific details.  In the passage above, verse 12 gets most of the attention, unveiling the spiritual realm that exists in another dimension.  Yet, the end of verse 13 is the key, the solution to the enemy of our soul, making sure that you have done everything to stand.  Do you start end day with Bible Study, take time to pray, make the effort to fellowship with believers, seek out godly council and worship the Lord in song?  Depending upon your exposure to Christianity, this check list may be shorter or longer.  Nonetheless, if you truly want to live the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, you have to prepare like a soldier gearing up for battle.  May this blog arm you with necessary resources to protect your soul.

by Jay Mankus

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