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Overcoming Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Upon graduating from the University of Delaware, I accepted a position as a Summer Work Camp Coordinator. Since the pay wasn’t great, I took a part time job as a Youth Director to put gas in my car. For the first six months of my adult life, I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I depleted all of my savings, without the funds for food or gas. This is my story of overcoming anxiety and panic attacks.

Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? 32 For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all, Matthew 6:31-32.

A prosperous future was certainty is doubt, but I knew that God had something better for me. As a desperate man, I found as many odd jobs that I could to survive. In my spare time, I practically lived at Cornerstone Church. I led an Accountability Group and Bible Study at night and painted whenever I wasn’t working. Despite the anxiety and panic living inside of me, serving God daily helped keep me in the present. In my poverty, I put my complete faith and trust in the Lord.

But seek ([z]aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ([aa]His way of doing and being right), and then all these things [ab]taken together will be given you besides. 34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble, Matthew 6:33-34.

Jesus addresses anxiety and panic attacks in his Sermon on the Mount. Instead of directing his message toward human beings, Jesus uses the birds of the air as a way to illustrate how God provides for all creatures. Since God created human beings in His own image, how much more does and will God provide for you and me? Subsequently, when I was $400 short of being able to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, my church took a love offering for me. I received the exact amount that I needed. In the years that have followed, I don’t always feel peace, but I know the Lord will provide daily bread to survive.

by Jay Mankus

The Secret to Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones first sang about the inability to find satisfaction in their 1965 hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. When one’s expectations, needs, or wishes go unfulfilled, an uneasy feeling begins to consume souls. As individuals begin to compare their lives with successful people, focuses shift from what you have to what you don’t. Thus, the invisible and unseen blessings that could lead to satisfaction are often ignored, resulting in a troubled heart.

I was made very happy in the Lord that now you have revived your interest in my welfare after so long a time; you were indeed thinking of me, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am, Philippians 4:10-11.

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul finds himself in chains, behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit. Instead of allowing bitterness to overwhelm his heart, writing a letter to the Church at Philippi appears to have brought a sense peace to Paul, Philippians 4:7. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to encourage these first century saints to focus on the positive aspects in life, Philippians 4:8. In the passages that follow, Paul reveals the secret to finding satisfaction.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. 13 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:12-13.

This secret includes 3 key principles. The first is remembering God’s purpose for your life, Jeremiah 29:11. The second piece of advice is relying on God’s Spirit within you to make a change for the better, Philippians 4:13. Finally, if you want to find satisfaction, redeem God’s promises for your future, Philippians 1:9-10. Whatever formula that may be out there, nothing is guaranteed in this life. Thus, until you begin to put Jesus’ words into action, Matthew 7:24, satisfaction is just another word.

by Jay Mankus

The Dispensation of the Spirit

From a theological point of view, dispensation is a distinctive arrangement; a period in history that forms the framework through which God relates to mankind. The traditional definition is an exemption from a rule or usual requirement. In the context of the church, dispensation is permission to be exempted from the laws and or religious observances. As spiritual leaders, pastors, and teachers share the gospel message each week, peace, pardon, righteousness and salvation, spiritual joy and comfort are expressed.

Why should not the dispensation of the Spirit [this spiritual ministry whose task it is to cause men to obtain and be governed by the Holy Spirit] be attended with much greater and more splendid glory? – 2 Corinthians 3:8

According to the apostle Paul, this dispensation of the Holy Spirit is done in accordance with his church planting ministry. As spiritual seeds are sown by explaining the mystery of faith, people are drawn to gain access to this living water, John 4:11-14. As individuals make decisions to become born again, John 3:4-6, new believers take baby steps, Galatians 5:25, as they learn the process of being governed by the Holy Spirit. However, making a transition from the flesh to the Spirit doesn’t come easy, Galatians 5:16-18.

For if the service that condemns [the ministration of doom] had glory, how infinitely more abounding in splendor and glory must be the service that makes righteous [the ministry that produces and fosters righteous living and right standing with God]! – 2 Corinthians 3:9

The passage above eludes to sanctifying grace, the transitional process while participating in a new divine lifestyle. This transformation does not occur overnight. Rather, this progression takes a lifetime as you learn to discard your old self by putting on Christ, Colossians 3:1-5. The passage above refers to the ministration of doom. Paul mentions the condemnation which awaits transgressors who live according to Old Testament law. Thus, as Jesus fulfills the promise of a Messiah, the Savior of the world in the New Testament, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit is now available to those who believe.

by Jay Mankus

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

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