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The Hope of a New Day

Ten years ago, I was on my way to a family re-union in California. This trip served as a pain killer to avoid the reality of being unemployed. While sitting in an airplane on a cross country flight, I listened to the song Up and Up by Reliant K. The lyrics of this song examines life as a way to become a better version of yourself. Part of the chorus uses the hope of a new day as a source for motivation.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord. 12 Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer, Romans 12:11-12.

One of the greatest promises in the Bible is made by a weeping prophet. Jeremiah had a tendency to be a bearer of bad news as Israel was going through a period of rebellion and stubbornness. Lamentations 3:21 serves as a transition, “But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation.” This hope of a new day is due to the Lord’s compassion, mercy and loving-kindness.

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 provides advice for anyone who is on the verge of losing hope. Those who never lag in zeal, burn with the Holy Spirit in your heart, and are aglow with God’s resurrecting power will find hope. Paul uses the imagery of a natural spring, bubbling out of the earth, overflowing so that the thirsty can fill their empty jugs with water. May the song Up and Up help you celebrate the hope of a new day.

by Jay Mankus

Doubting God’s Ability to Intervene

Doubt has a tendency to deteriorate one’s confidence. People who doubt on a regular basis experience uncertainty. This uneasy feeling intensifies when you see things you can’t control. Meanwhile, if things don’t go according to plan, you may begin to wonder why God is allowing this to happen to you. If conditions or situations don’t improve, it won’t be long until you doubt God’s ability to intervene.

Then King David answered, Call Bathsheba. And she came into the king’s presence and stood before him. 29 And the king took an oath and said, As the Lord lives, Who has redeemed my soul out of all distress, 1 Kings 1:28-29.

This lack of confidence in an invisible God isn’t rare. Rather, anyone who seeks to become self-reliant may end up finding substitutes for God. Sigmund Freud refers to the Hero Complex which is an inherent desire and compulsion to help people. Yet, as these individuals attempt to become a super human being, it often leads to their own demise. Desire, inspiration and motivation only lasts so long.

If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of [b]the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, James 1:5-7.

Subsequently, this is where one must remember historical accounts of past miracles performed by God and His followers. In the passage above, the earthly brother of Jesus places faith into a storm at sea. Life can erode faith as the winds increase, causing waves to grow higher and stronger. However, as souls become distressed by external forces, this is where faith must intervene. When Christians access the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4, belief in God’s ability to intervene is restored and intensifies.

by Jay Mankus

What Love Can Do for You

From a musical point of view, the Beatles were one of the most influential bands of all time. Despite being from England, the sound of the Beatles was embraced by Americans and idolized as their popularity grew. From a spiritual perspective, there isn’t much that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and I agree upon. However, there was one project released as a non-album single in July 1967 that I believe in. The title “All You Need is You” said all you need to say.

For I have derived great joy and comfort and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints [who are your fellow Christians] have been cheered and refreshed through you, [my] brother. Therefore, though I have abundant boldness in Christ to charge you to do what is fitting and required and your duty to do, Philemon 1:7-8.

One of the apostle Paul’s first century letters highlight what love can do for your life. Paul is reminded by comfort, encouragement and joy derived from the love of Jesus poured out upon him from fellow believers. When the hearts of a saint are full of the Holy Spirit, love bubbles over as a form of spiritual refreshment. Paul’s advice to one of the servants on his ministry team is to do what it fitting and required as a child of God.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith ([b]your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! 14 Let everything you do be done in love (true love to God and man as inspired by God’s love for us), 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Paul takes a different direction in a letter to the Church at Corinth. Love doesn’t come naturally. Rather, you need to be alert daily, regularly on your guard and stand firm in your faith. As Christians maintain their conviction and devotion for God, love can keep you going even when you don’t have the strength to carry on. According to Paul, love should be your motivation for everything you do, loving others as Christ loved the church.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Aerobics

Aerobics is a vigorous exercise designed to strengthen the heart and lungs. Besides running, swimming and walking which most of you can do by yourself at home or in your neighborhood, there are an unlimited supply of videos on aerobics. Whether you follow along to a workout video or you tube, there are numerous ways to get back into and stay in shape. However, if you keep putting this off day after day, you’ll lose all motivation for physical exercise.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. 26 Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

The apostle Paul introduces readers to the concept of spiritual aerobics. Using the host city of the Isthmian Games as a backdrop, a prestigious track and field event held during the off years of the Olympics, Paul references the strict training of these athletes. Spiritual aerobics is designed to strengthen your heart, soul and mind. Whether you’re reading the Bible, praying or participating in a worship service, these exercises energize your spiritual life.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-12.

The author of Hebrews takes spiritual aerobics to the next level, comparing this to running a marathon. I once ran 15 miles in an afternoon training for my senior year of cross country in high school. While one of my teammates easily cruised through the final few miles, I struggled to finish as my legs got heavier and heavier with each stride. The key to spiritual aerobics is unloading and throwing off anything that is holding you back or slowing you down. Instead of dreading the race called life, keep your head up and fix your eyes on Jesus so you will find the strength to make it to the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

Terms of the Eternal and Timeless Purpose

Terms are a word or phrase used to describe a thing or to express a concept, especially in a particular kind of language or branch of study. In the context of the Bible, the Old Testament begins with Plan A, B, and C. Genesis begins with the creation of human beings, designed to become stewards of this newly formed planet. However, when this authority over the earth was lost in the Garden of Eden, a new plan was set into motion, Genesis 3:15. Plan B was briefly altered in Genesis 6:13 as God hit the reset button when desecration, a lust for power, and violence spread throughout the world. Plan C was forced to take a detour as well, Genesis 11:3-5 as human motivation did not coincide with the Lord’s grand design.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others]. And I will bless those who bless you [who confer prosperity or happiness upon you] and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed [and by you they will bless themselves], Genesis 12:2-3.

When the dust settled, the terms of the eternal and timeless purpose of God was re-established with Abraham and fulfilled by Jesus, John 3:16-17. However, when you try to understand the countless whys along the way, King Solomon says it best in Ecclesiastes 3:11. “God will make everything beautiful in His time.” Like an artist who spares no expense or time until their work is complete, the apostle Paul details the eternal and timeless purposes in Romans 8:28-29. Each individual life is a blank tapestry, prepared in advance by God, Philippians 1:6, brought to completion as you yield control of your life over to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10. As Christians become recreated in Jesus, mindsets change to see yourself as one of God’s works in progress, Ephesians 2:10.

[The purpose is] that through the church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere. 11 This is in accordance with the terms of the eternal and timeless purpose which He has realized and carried into effect in [the person of] Christ Jesus our Lord, Ephesians 3:10-11.

Perhaps this explains the words of King Solomon, warning those who try to push God off to the side, Proverbs 19:21. No matter how frustrating it may be, God’s plans don’t always coincide with your heart’s desire, Proverbs 16:9. When your steps are altered, you have to realize that your time table is different from God’s. Like the process of sanctifying grace, this gradual change takes a lifetime to be completed. To follow these terms, perseverance is a necessary attribute if you want to finish what God began in you, Hebrews 12:1. While I don’t always comprehend or understand God’s eternal and timeless purposes, Christians are called to be faithful, not always successive. Whenever you are in this journey called life, make a decision to follow Jesus so you can become all that God wants you to be.

by Jay Mankus

Bring Me Back

Sometimes life is like being placed into a giant maze without a map.  Whenever you make the wrong turn, its like one step forward, two steps back.  As soon as you hit a dead end, you have to go back to where you started, retracing your steps to find a way out.  If you don’t have any helper, guide or visible signs, this journey will last much longer than expected.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

The Bible serves as a road map to bring you back to God’s desired destination.  During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares life to a series of roads.  The most popular ones are like interstate highways, well defined and marked.  However, Jesus uses the analogy of a small path to illustrate the road to heaven.  Somebody has cleared the path, but if you stray off to the left or right, its easy to lose your way.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews refers to a great Hall of Faith, saints who have showed people the way to heaven.  Comparing life to a marathon, completing this race requires endurance and persistence.  When I get up each morning, I don’t always feel like doing the right thing.  There are plenty of days when I am exhausted, tired and worn down with little motivation to stay on track.  The group Evanescence sings about this state in their song Bring Me Back to Life.  This blog and song are dedicated to those who need to be brought back into God’s presence.

by Jay Mankus

Upset: Dejection or Motivation?

When individuals do not experience a desired outcome, a wave of emotions come forth. As reality sets in, the finality of failure can be unsettling. In the context of sports, when the better team on paper with more talent loses, this is considered an upset. When players walk off a court or field staring defeat in the face, there are two logical options: dejection or motivation.

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.

Like any grieving process, souls initially become dejected. Depression, despair and unhappiness are like bumps in the road toward healing. However, if you don’t experience a moral victory or taste success soon, hearts can become heavy. Glimmers of hope are like rays of sunshine to help people realize that they are going to make it through another storm.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Anyone who hates to lose will find some sort of motivation to avoid a similar fate. After getting cut from his high school basketball team, Michael Jordan went on to earn a college scholarship, make the NBA and become one of the greatest players of all time. Instead of dwelling on self pity fueled by dejection, motivation can bring you out of desolation. Like Jesus said while talking to his disciples, “anything is possible with God.”

by Jay Mankus

An Infusion of Enthusiasm

While attending a youth ministry trade school back in 1993, I received a couple of 3 ring binder notebooks.  The training material for Tentmakers Youth Ministry was close to two thousand pages on content, taking seven weeks to complete.  This intense active learning leadership course required my full attention, living out the principles I was being taught at my host family.  Nightly assignments were designed to take you out of your comfort zone, forced to interact with strangers at church, local malls and neighborhoods to finetune your conversational skills.  During this two month stretch, I was infused with enthusiasm, driven and encouraged by like minded classmates.

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but [only] those who are sick, Matthew 9:11-12.

Today, when enthusiasm fades, joy disappears and my energy to do anything is gone, I retreat to find something meaningful in life.  Recently, I came across a quote from this class.  “The excitement of a group never exceeds that of its leader.”  What this statement suggests is that leaders must learn to be self-sufficient, able to recharge their own excitement level.  Although people within various groups may encourage and spur you on, leaders need a daily infusion of enthusiasm.  Without this spiritual discipline, finding motivation to make it through each day, even leaders will lose their vigor for life.

Go and learn what this [Scripture] means: ‘I desire compassion [for those in distress], and not [animal] sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call [to repentance] the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to change], but sinners [those who recognize their sin and actively seek forgiveness],” Matthew 9:13.

Jesus addresses this issue during a first century conversation.  Righteous zealots were concerned that Jesus and his disciples were compromising their faith by socializing with sinners.  However, Jesus uses logic to show these Pharisees the error in their thinking.  The healthy, individuals who have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus, have learned to be self-sufficient spiritually through a daily dose of prayer, reflection and worship.  The sick, people who have lost their way, need Christians to leave their comfort zones to expand the body of Christ.  Therefore, the more you experience an infusion of enthusiasm for the lost, God can use you to be a light in a dark world to turn to you for answers.  May this blog inspire you to use your daily time with God, praying and reading the Bible as an infusion of enthusiasm.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting for the Kingdom of God

Deep inside of human beings, there exists a purpose and reason for getting out of bed each day.  This invisible drive may change from time to time depending upon your career, job or motivation level.  When this sense disappears, fades or becomes unclear, mustering up enough energy to make it through a day turns into a chore.  The Bible refers to this term as vision.  This perception guides believers through trials and tribulations, remaining focused on your ultimate goal.

When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent and respected member of the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God—and he courageously dared to go in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus, Mark 15:42-43.

In the first century, there was a man who found himself torn between his occupation and purpose for living.  According to a couple of verses, Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin.  This ruling council was essentially the Jewish High Court, the supreme court for religious debates.  Yet, this position didn’t satisfy Joseph’s soul, longing for something more.  This spiritual thirst conceived a desire to wait for the kingdom of God.

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body, John 19:38.

According to Luke 10, there was a secondary group of disciples chosen.  These seventy two individuals are not mentioned by name.  Yet, it appears Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple, perhaps working behind the scenes as one of these 72.  The crucifixion of Jesus served as a wake up call for Joseph, knocking on Pilate’s door while Jesus was still hanging from a cross.  Three hours earlier, at noon, the day turned to night.  This cosmic event is detailed by several first century historians.  This sign from God convinced Joseph that the kingdom of God was at hand.  May the Holy Spirit open your eyes today so that you too will respond to current events with a sense of urgency like Joseph of Arimathea.

by Jay Mankus

 

God’s Second Wind

The concept of a second wind derives from running.  This phenomenon refers to a distance running often in the context of a long road race or marathon.  When athletes hit the proverbial wall, breath, energy and motivation fades.  Scientists have come up with two logical explanations for this phenomena.  Some believe the second wind is a result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the buildup of lactic acid within muscles.  Others point to endorphin production as the source of the second wind.  Whatever the reason, I believe God also plays a role in this process.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:29-30.

A famous Old Testament prophet eludes to the second wind.  Using an illustration of an eagle nursing eaglets, this imagery help people visualize the invisible.  Despite the jubilation of any child, energy will disappear, crashing and falling in the form of an afternoon nap.  Instead of encouraging her young to walk, mother eagles prod them out of the nest to begin flying.  As eaglets grow tired or start falling toward the ground, adult eagles intervene to rescue their young from any harm.  In the same way, our heavenly father can and does use second winds to propel his children to complete and fulfill God’s will.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

Every work week in America, human beings rely on coffee, energy drinks or soda to get them through each day.  This dose of caffeine imitates a second wind.  As individuals begin to grow sleepy, these beverages serve as drugs to boost you through grueling, long or tiresome work days.  However, has anyone whispered up a pray to God for strength?  Are people relying on a higher source for power or has earthly substances become a replacement for God?  Perhaps, this blog will make you think twice the next time you go to grab some caffeine.  Maybe, you too will come to the conclusion that God is a major source for second winds.

by Jay Mankus

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