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Tag Archives: peace

Overcoming Periods of Darkness While Living in the Wilderness

Following the Exodus out of Egypt, Israel spent 40 years living in the wilderness. This time served as a transitional period before entering God’s promised land. While the Bible refers to a wilderness, in reality the Jews spent their days in the hot desert sun and nights surrounded by snakes and scorpions. Spending a week or weekend in the wilderness camping or hiking can be rejuvenating. However, living off the gird for an extended period of time requires a complete trust in God to provide daily bread.

And I will confirm with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land, and [My people] shall dwell safely in the wilderness, desert, or pastureland and sleep [confidently] in the woods, Ezekiel 34:25.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic inflicted America in 2020, state mandated quarantines have separated family members, friends and neighbors. While some states have eased these restrictions during the month of May, I still haven’t been able to visit my parents. Due to speculation of a second wave of COVID-19 striking communities who don’t practice social distancing, these past 3 months have created a new type of wilderness, living inside your home most of the time. At some point faith has to trump fear, trusting God that life will soon return to a new but safe normal.

And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing, and I will cause the showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing [of good insured by God’s favor], Ezekiel 34:26.

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the prophet Ezekiel refers to a covenant of peace. For those of you struggling during this period of darkness and uncertainty, the verses above serve as a glimmer of hope. Ezekiel promises to keep those living in the wilderness safe from evil beasts. Meanwhile, Ezekiel refers to a hill of blessing, showering God’s people with grace and favor. While you may not sense peace at the moment, I pray that this biblical promise encourages you. When the wilderness is replaced by normalcy, perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation for the little things in life that we have all taken for granted.

by Jay Mankus

Far from Oppression

The term fear is mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous. When fear is left to linger without confronting, this invisible force can ravage hearts and minds. When ideal conditions are present, oppression is conceived. Oppression is the prolonged cruel and unjust treatment that often debilitate souls.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you,] John 16:33.

While speaking to his disciples, Jesus revealed a plan to be far from oppression. After telling these 12 men that he would be killed, a spirit of fear likely hovered over their minds. Sensing this attack, Jesus comforts these individuals with a promise, sending a counselor following his departure. Encouraging these individuals, Jesus calls for acts of courage, to be undaunted in the face of fear.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.

Apparently, this message got through to at least one of the disciples. The passage above suggests that you too can be far from oppression if you do not fear. The key is seeing Jesus’ role in conquering fear. Perfect love drives out fear, expelling any traces of terror. As you mature spiritually, fears that once held you down, slide quickly to your side. The ultimate goal is to reach full maturity of love so you steer clear of oppression.

by Jay Mankus

The Ocean Raging Inside of Me

Depending upon how your parents were raised, you will likely reflect these traits. My father who was born in Lithuania is your prototypical European stoic, taught to greet others with a handshake. Meanwhile, my mother grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania where offering a hug was a common manner to greet a friend or family member. Like any teenager, I went through a series of phases where I wore my emotions on my sleeves until I began to hold everything in as the ocean raging inside of my soul intensified.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls,] Matthew 11:28.

When Jesus addressed a first century crowd in the passage above, He understood that it’s unhealthy to go through life living in isolation. No matter how mentally tough you are, everyone reaches a breaking point. To avoid being weighed down by heavy burdens on your soul, Jesus promises to give you rest. His only request is to lay your burdens at the foot of the cross. Jesus wants to part the seas raging inside of your soul. God doesn’t want to see broken hearts crippled by this internal battle.

Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne, Matthew 11:29-30.

In their 2013 song the Oceans from the Other Side album, Tonight Alive sings about this internal struggle. While you may seem fine externally, internal strife can paralyze souls as each day becomes a struggle. If you are honest with yourself, everyone has inner demons, secrets that you are afraid of being exposed. Yet, until you implement Jesus’ request from above, freedom is just an empty word. Thus, if you want fast acting relief, try the spiritual Rolaids, Jesus, to calm the raging oceans inside of you.

by Jay Mankus

Letting Things Roll Off Your Back

Mammals such as otters and seals have very greasy fur which serves as protection from becoming water logged. Meanwhile, waterfowl such as ducks possess greasy feathers which enables beads of water to roll off their backs. This is where the saying “let things roll off your back” is derived. This simile is an expression of encouragement urging a friend not to let criticism, disappointing news or hardship bother them.

One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid anymore, but go on speaking and do not be silent; Acts 18:9.

During the apostle Paul’s second missionary journey, a mob of unbelieving Jews began to follow him from city to city. These individuals disrupted his teaching and made threats upon his life. By the time Paul reached Corinth, modern day Greece, stressed consumed his soul. One night the Lord appeared in a vision, urging Paul to let things roll off his back. Continue doing what I called you to do, keep speaking without fear.

For I am with you, and no one will attack you in order to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So he settled there for a year and six months, teaching them the word of God [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ], Acts 18:10-11.

Based upon the promise above, God placed a remnant of believers in Corinth. Some of these individuals such as Gallio were in leadership positions to shield Paul from harm. Subsequently, Paul experienced 18 months of blessings, peace and spiritual revival. Paul sent 4 letters to the church of Corinth, 2 of which are found in the New Testament. When you let things roll off your back like Paul, the possibilities are endless.

by Jay Mankus

How to Recover From a Demoralized Soul

Every time I hear, read and see a news story about suicide, part of me wonders how bad were things in someone’s life to follow through with killing themselves?  Breaking news of the latest victims to suicide, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade is a daily reminder of a growing number of demoralized souls that exist within society.  According to Matthew 27:3, guilt and remorse convinced Judas Iscariot to take his own life.  With most of the disciples hiding to escape the same fate of Jesus, there was no one to talk Judas out of this ill fated decision.

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.

Besides suicide, other demoralized souls tend to follow in the footsteps of the woman mentioned in John’s gospel.  When broken hearts, jaded minds and fragile souls stop caring, some go looking for love in all the wrong places.  During a conversation within John 4:15-18, Jesus talks to a woman who had gone through five failed marriages.  To avoid another divorce, she decided to live with her latest boyfriend, afraid of what the future may hold.  Whether you are currently in a relationship or not, the Bible does provide solutions to recover from a demoralized soul.

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” [for temptation does not originate from God, but from our own flaws]; for God cannot be tempted by [what is] evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion). James 1:12-14.

If you listen to certain television evangelists, their messages paint a rosy colored perspective on life, emphasizing only the positive.  Unfortunately, this is far from reality, something Jesus’ earthly brother addresses in the passages above.  Trials should not only be expected, but embraced by believers.  These unsettling events provide opportunities for growth, to cope, deal with and develop maturity.  Each day offers teachable moments, like a pass fail test to let you know your strengths and weaknesses.  The key is refusing to give up or quit, despite how you may feel.  The ultimate goal is to remain steadfast, leaning on friends, family and faith to get you through trials and tribulations.  As long as you understand what you are up against, joy and peace is attainable via the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  The next time you are demoralized, cry out to Jesus in prayer to find comfort for your soul, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

Its Just Not Fair

The Bible contains two categories of commandments within Exodus 20:1-17.  Commandments one through four are focused on loving God.  The final six are classified as civil based upon how God wants individuals to treat one another.  During a first century conversation with religious leaders, one scholar tried to get Jesus to de-emphasize one of the commandments.  Sensing this trap, Jesus responds with one of the most famous lines in Scripture, Matthew 22:37-40.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Then, love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the key to obeying the ten commandments.  Unfortunately, mankind is unable to obtain this goal due to the sinful nature.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

As a parent, trying to keep peace in a household of five is a difficult task.  Whatever I do, one of the three will cry foul and perceive some sort of favoritism.  While you may try to defend yourself like me when accused of a bias, I’ve learned that there is only one thing that I can say, “its just not fair.”  Instead of instilling this fact of life within education, Common Core Curriculum is setting children up for failure when they reach the real world.  I’m not sure what happened to Darwin’s teaching on survival of the fittest in public schools, but this concept does apply to the cruelness of life on earth.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, James 3:17.

Failure is a weekly part of adulthood.  However, its how you respond to obstacles, setbacks and trails that will dictate your future.  Anyone can cry and complain, by casting blame and giving excuses, but what good is this?  Jesus’ earthly brother writes about embracing wisdom from above.  Those who look upward instead of inward will find hope, mercy and peace.  Those who can’t get over past mistakes will end up like the faithless Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years.  As you battle your own struggles with fairness, may you be drawn to Jesus’ two simple pieces of advice.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you don’t apply this, you’ll come face to face with groans of “its just not fair!”

by Jay Mankus

 

Mental Health: Exploring What Well-Being Means

According to preliminary reports, Nikolas Cruz was suffering from mental health issues before entering a Parkland Florida high school with a gun on Valentine’s Day.  Some people close to the family believe the death of his adopted mother last year only worsened his condition.  Perhaps, this might explain behavioral problems that resulted in the expulsion from two private schools.  Yet, if mental health refers to a level of psychological well-being, what does this really mean?

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace, Romans 8:5-6.

Who determines what level of behavior or emotion is satisfactory and what is unsatisfactory?  Depending upon the measurement or standard applied, experts might come to different conclusions.  Another factor relates to the role that faith and religion should play in this discussion.  On a recent episode of the View, Joy Behar mocked vice-president’s Mike Pence’s Christian faith.  Behar believes that anyone who hears God speak to them either through Bible Study or prayer is a sign of mental illness.  This comment received laughter and applause from the audience.  Sadly, no one is laughing days after 17 people were killed with more in critical condition in south Florida hospitals.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ, Colossians 2:8.

The Bible uses a two part process to decipher mental health from mental illness.  According to the apostle Paul, those who dwell and focus on spiritual things experience peace of mind.  Meanwhile, those who reflect upon earthly cravings lead to unfulfilled lives, void of purpose and meaning.  Anyone who falls into this second catalog is vulnerable to human traditions and philosophies of the world.  In a recent confession, Nikolas Cruz said he acted upon the demons in his mind, a byproduct of his obsession with guns and violent video games.  Therefore, if you want to alter your current state, set your heart and mind on things above.  This is accomplished through daily Bible study, fellowship with other believers and prayer.  May a desire to exercise this practice elevate the well-being of your mental health.

by Jay Mankus

Doing Whatever It Takes

As a parent, I can anticipate failure before a grade is given or the final score is relayed.  The secret to this insight is simple, hard work is often rewarded and laziness is penalized.  For me, the most painful aspect of parenting is seeing the potential your child has yet being unable to convince them to do whatever it takes to ensure success.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.

For those of you who coach or teach, this same dilemma exists.  How do you express someone’s gifts or talents without trying to live your life through them?  In the film Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams plays a psychologist who is introduced to a genius played by Matt Damon with a troubled past.  These secret scars, hidden from plain view prevent Will from doing whatever it took to apply his knowledge in a positive manner.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” John 14:15.

Today, the future is bright, but too many young people don’t have the resolve necessary to see their dreams come true.  Sure, the average teenager wants to have a great life, but this doesn’t happen with a snap of your finger.  Only the disciplined, driven and hungry will begin to see the fruits of their labor.  Thus, a parent can encourage, inspire or motivate their offspring.  In the end, a parent can only pray that their child develops a zeal to follow God’s will on earth.  The key to this fulfillment is doing whatever it takes.

by Jay Mankus

 

Serenity

If you over hear a conversation at work, follow social media or watch the news, serenity is one of the last things you will find.  Perhaps, if you travel to the Caribbean, retreat to the mountains or go on vacation, signs of serenity will emerge.  Unfortunately, many people rush through life, becoming distracted by concerns, stress and worries.  These burdens make the possibility of experiencing a calming, peaceful and tranquil environment doubtful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

When I was younger, I wanted to be older, able to freely roam the earth like the prodigal son.  Now that I am old, I wish I enjoyed and savored the days of my youth.  Besides going to school and playing sports, I had it made.  Sure, there are always periods or phases that you would like to forget, but the teenage years should have been the best.  Yet, puberty, self-esteem issues and giving into temptation often derails childhood dreams.  Meanwhile, the older you become, the more complicated life gets.  These negative influences make serenity a foreign concept.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you, Isaiah 26:3.

The Old Testament offers some advice to those who seek to find serenity.  First, Solomon implores individuals to place their trust in the Lord.  According to this former king, those who practice this by faith will receive insight as God straightens your path through life.  Second, the prophet Isaiah talks about developing a mindset.  Peace, a by product of serenity is obtained by fixing your mind on God.  If you feel overwhelmed by the chaos that exists daily, may these words inspire you to find a state of freedom from the storms and disturbances within this life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Where Did My Joy Go?

At the beginning of any relationship, there is an anticipation that consumes your body.  Similar to adrenaline, there is a rush each time you hold hands, embrace or hear the sound of this significant other’s voice on the phone.  As you experience this initial stage of courtship, your mind can’t keep thinking about the person you love.  Joy abounds every moment you spend together.  Then, little by little over time, joy disappears.

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

This pattern also affects individuals who enter into a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10.  Introductions to faith occur in various places, from Bible studies, one on one conversations, spiritual retreats and revivals.  When you begin to connect with God through prayer, study and worship, a peace that surpasses all understanding begins to emerge.  As you interact with other believers, this spiritual bond deepens, filling souls with the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, hardship, temptations and worries in life suffocate the joy most people have for the Lord.

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full, John 16:24.

Within a letter to the church of Rome, the apostle Paul urges individuals who are single to avoid marriage unless called to do so.  The context of these words refer to the struggle to keep Christ first when married.  No matter how disciplined, focused and strong you are, the weight of the world can easily erode joy for life.  Thus, while you may not have the feelings you once possessed, faith is designed to carry you through the rough stretches in life.  If faith without deeds is dead, the same concept applies to joy.  This explains why my joy for life has vanished.  In view of this, make sure you rely on the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, so that joy will return and live again.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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