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Reaching a Point Where You Can Come and Go Freely

Anytime a child leaves home for college or a new job, a true sense of independence is realized. Unless you have a roommate, for the first time in life aspiring students don’t have anyone to tell them when to come or go. This freedom can be liberating with the whole world ready for you to explore. While the mature will be able to handle this, there are many college students and young adults who experience their own version of the prodigal son or daughter.

Jesus used this parable (illustration) with them, but they did not understand what He was talking about.So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door [a]for the sheep, John 10:6-7.

While the passage above isn’t the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus provides the Bible’s version of the Motel 6 slogan. Instead of saying, “we’ll leave the light on for you,” Jesus introduces his open door policy for his followers. Referring to Himself as the Door, Jesus is the way to heaven. Unfortunately, countless individuals look for an alternate route, trying to find a back or side entrance. This invitation isn’t forced, but Jesus encourages his sheep to come and go as they please.

All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture, John 10:8-9.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee in life. Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario of thieves and robbers who will disrupt your life. During these exchanges, you may have valuable possessions stolen from your car, house or place of work. This is what happens when sheep venture outside of God’s pen. Freewill allows any Christian to come and go as they wish. No one is forcing you to go to church, pray or read the Bible. Yet, if you want to experience the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, listen to and obey the Shepherd. Then you will reach a point where you can come and go about life freely.

by Jay Mankus

Praying for Participation and Sharing

Early on in a new school year, trying to get students to participate and share their thoughts can be difficult. As a former high school teacher, the only willing participants tend to be the class clown and teacher’s pets trying to earn brownie points. When all of their curriculum, education, and teaching methods fail to produce increased participation, don’t be afraid to pray for students to open up their hearts in your classroom.

[And I pray] that the participation in and sharing of your faith may produce and promote full recognition and appreciation and understanding and precise knowledge of every good [thing] that is ours in [our identification with] Christ Jesus [and unto His glory], Philemon 1:6.

In an obscure first century epistle, the apostle Paul writes to one of his servants in the ministry. While writing from prison, Paul prays for the participation in and the sharing of testimonies. As Christians reflect upon how they came to faith in Christ, your personal story will strike a nerve with a specific audience. The more you find opportunities to weave your faith into daily conversations, other people will begin to appreciate and understand your relationship with God.

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully, 1 Peter 3:15.

One of Jesus’ former disciples chimes in on this topic as well. Simon Peter who was never afraid to voice his opinion appears to have gotten wiser in his later years. Based upon the passage above, Peter learned the necessity to be courteous and respectful when sharing his faith. One of my favorite hymns in college was Blessed Assurance which promotes sharing your faith. Whenever I hear the chorus, “this is my story, this is my song,” I am inspired to participate and share my faith. This continues to be a worthy cause to pray for daily.

by Jay Mankus

A Little Bit of Kindness Can Go A Long Way

In the King James Version of the Bible, the actual term for kindness is one word “lovingkindness.” Loving kindness is found 30 times in this translation of the Bible. The most famous passage where kindness is found is known as the Fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. According to the apostle Paul, kindness is a reflection of the Holy Spirit living inside of a human being. When displayed, a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

But love your enemies and be kind and do good [doing favors [z]so that someone derives benefit from them] and lend, expecting and hoping for nothing in return but [aa]considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your recompense (your reward) will be great (rich, strong, intense, and abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind and charitable and good to the ungrateful and the selfish and wicked. 36 So be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these], Luke 6:35-36.

Jesus has a different standard for his followers. Christians are expected to not only love their enemies, but to pray for them as well. When kindness is poured out upon the heart broken, poor and total strangers, souls are encouraged and uplifted. Unfortunately, in this age of social media, kindness is a lost art. Rather than share kind comments, posts and tweets, gossip, slander and trashing others has taken center stage.

 Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). 32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you, Ephesians 4:31-32.

The apostle Paul reveals in the passage above how to overcome negativity. Instead of allowing yourself to be poisoned by the darkness in this world, Paul calls Christians to be compassionate, tenderhearted and understanding. Despite how other individuals may treat you, genuine kindness is learning how to forgive as Jesus forgave you. When this perspective becomes fully grasped, a little bit of kindness can go a long way in changing your spheres of influence for the better.

by Jay Mankus

Touching the Top of the World

Erik Weihenmayer is not your typical mountain climber. Erik’s first big climb was a mountain in Denali back in 1995. This accomplishment inspired Weihenmayer to want to reach the top of the world. Not bad for a blind man who took 6 blind Tibetan teenagers on his 2001 expedition where his team successfully reached the north side of Mount Everest. After this amazing feat, one of Erik’s mentor said, “don’t let climbing Everest be the highlight of your life.”

Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory (the splendor, magnificence, preeminence, and excellence) of them, Matthew 4:8.

This comment struck a nerve within Erik. Like any ambitious athlete, Weihenmayer began to search for his next mountain to climb. More than a decade later, Erik decided to take to the water, going between the mountains. On September 7th, 2014 Erik set out to Solo Kayak the entire 277 mile stretch of the Grand Canyon. Using his ears to steer him through the white water rapids of the Colorado River, Erik’s remaining senses made this feat possible.

And he said to Him, These things, all taken together, I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! For it has been written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve, Matthew 4:9-10.

When I look back on my own life, I’ve been told by numerous people that I couldn’t do this or that. While sometimes these individuals were correct in their assessment, I haven’t let the concerns of others prevent me from touching the top of the world. While I don’t have any aspirations to climb Mount Everest, I do want to live the abundant life promised by Jesus in John 10:10. As I draw near to God, I pray that I might possess the faith of Erik Weihenmayer so that the Holy Spirit will lift me to new heights.

by Jay Mankus

The Witching Hour

As the practice of witchcraft spread through Europe, the Roman Catholic Church prohibited activities between 3 and 4 in the morning beginning in 1535. This paranoia spread across the Atlantic Ocean to colonial Massachusetts, spawning the Salem Witch Trials. Between February 1692 and May 1693, a series of hearings and prosecutions of people took place as all were accused of practicing witchcraft. Thirty individuals were found guilty and nineteen were executed by hanging, (fourteen women and five men).

So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, using the same words. 45 Then He returned to the disciples and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of especially wicked sinners [whose way or nature it is to act in opposition to God]. 46 Get up, let us be going! See, My betrayer is at hand!-Matthew 26:44-46.

While Jesus predicted his betrayal, it was during the witching hour when Judas led the chief priests and elders to Jesus’ location. Meanwhile, Jesus is wrestling with fulfilling God’s will, becoming obedient to death on a cross and the other 11 disciples were too tired to pray. Jesus’ advice to his disciples to overcome falling prey to evil is “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41. Every year after the NFL Draft, there is a rookie symposium for the newest draft class. A common message is repeated year after year, “nothing good ever happens after midnight.”

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. 21 Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good, Romans 12:19-21.

While walking to class one day at college, I noticed a female student carrying a Bible in one hand. On the surface, it appeared this young woman was a Bible believing Christian. After complimenting her boldness for not hiding her Bible in a backpack, her response caught me off guard. Without hesitation she replied, “I read it every Day so I know how to pray against God.” This brief encounter opened my minds to zealous witches, hungrier than most believers. In the passage above, the apostle Paul provides advice on how to overcome the witching hour. Rather than become overwhelmed by evil, overcome evil with good, by the love of Jesus in your hearts.

by Jay Mankus

Not In Your Own Strength

According to Levi, the disciples left the Last Supper singing a hymn as Jesus led these men to the Mount of Olives, Matthew 26:30. In the hours that followed, Jesus unveiled a powerful message to those who were listening. “The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak, Matthew 26:41. The context of this comment helps explain why the disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray for an hour late at night. Each of these disciples were relying on their own strength.

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight, Philippians 2:13.

While writing a letter to members of the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul appears to point to this spiritual principle. As a former Jewish zealot, Paul understood his own human limitations, Romans 3:10-12. Old Testament prophets spoke of man’s sinful tendencies, a nature that no one is immune. Rather than develop ungodly beliefs, Paul is clear that it is God who is the source of your desire and energy.

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 4:13.

Two chapters later, the apostle Paul repeats himself with slightly different terminology. Instead of focusing on external actions that are visible, Paul concentrates on the internal. If human bodies are willing, it is Jesus living side of human hearts that empowers Christians to change for the better. Therefore, the next time you hear “it is Christ who gives you strength,” it is not you, but the Lord who is the human energizer.

by Jay Mankus

Your Love

Depending upon the Bible that you read, the word love appears 310 times in the original King James Version. As newer translations have been created, anyone who reads the New International Version, love is mentioned 551 times. If you dig deeper, these passages refer to one of five different types of love. The Hebrew word Ahab and four Greek terms: Agapao, Agape, Phileo, and Eros. Each of these express love from either God’s perspective (unconditional), family oriented (brotherly) or selfish (sensual).

And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], Philippians 1:9.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul refers to love in action. One of the ways Christians demonstrate love is by praying for other people. While writing a letter to a specific church with fond memories, Paul directs his prayer toward their love. Paul’s prayer focuses on a two fold display of love. First, to develop a greater depth of acquaintance, perhaps seeing other people as God sees and loves them. Finally, to deepen one’s comprehension and discernment of God’s unconditional love.

So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble], Philippians 1:10.

As Paul’s letter to Philippi continues, Paul shares his goal for the spiritual growth of these believers. Instead of rambling on and on in prayer, Paul’s mind is laser focused. These expectations set a high bar to follow, but how your love is lived out can change a family, neighborhood or place of work. Following the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, many apostles lived each day as if Jesus was going to return before nightfall. This mindset began to fulfill the Great Commission, Mark 16:15 and transformed the way Christian’s love.

by Jay Mankus

Coming Back Stronger in 2021

As the National Football League ends their 2020 regular season this weekend, 18 teams will miss the playoffs. After having high hopes at the start of 2020, these coaches and players have failed to win the necessary amount of games to earn a postseason birth. While 14 teams will advance with their eyes on a Super Bowl Championship, the remaining teams will turn their attention to the off-season. As fan bases start to play the “what if” game in their minds, owners and general managers will begin to sit down to ascertain what went wrong and why?.

For it is easier for a camel to enter through a needle’s eye than [for] a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. 26 And those who heard it said, Then who can be saved? 27 But He said, What is impossible with men is possible with God, Luke 18:25-27.

You don’t have to be part of a professional organization to have aspirations to come back stronger in 2021. Depending upon your age, career and occupation, you either spent a lot of time at work or most of your time stuck on home. Perhaps, some of you began a new hobby in 2020, revealing a hidden gift or talent. Meanwhile, others may feel like you wasted too much time in front of a television, eager to break this habit in 2021. Thus, as a New Year approaches, make sure whatever resolution(s) you do make for 2021 are centered around coming back better and stronger this year.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19.

The only resolution that I kept in 2020 was making Jesus more of a priority. Using Mark 1:35 as a model, the first thing that I did when I came home from work in the morning was read the Bible and pray using a journal. I was diligent for most of the year, keeping this vow nearly every week. Instead of rushing through my quiet time to get it done, I had several spiritual breakthroughs. This led to some of the most profitable days I have had writing. While I don’t know what 2021 has in store for me, I do know that the Lord will provide everything I need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

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

Progressively Acquainted with Christ

The Progressive Corporation was founded in 1937 and has grown to one of the largest providers of car insurance in the United States. Whether it’s all the commercials using Flo as its’ spokesperson or the new sign guy, television advertisements have increased business national wide. The term progressive refers to developing gradually, proceeding step by step. Progressivism in the United States is a political philosophy and reform movement designed to alter the Constitution to keep up with the times.

Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything—in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us—[see to it that you come to the front now and] abound and excel in this gracious work [of almsgiving] also. I give this not as an order [to dictate to you], but to prove, by [pointing out] the zeal of others, the sincerity of your [own] love also, 2 Corinthians 8:7-8.

In a letter to the Corinthian Church, the apostle Paul uses progressive in the context of a personal relationship with God. As individuals begin to open the Bible, learn how to pray and open their hearts to worship, this acquaintance grows. As concepts like grace begin to be introduced, a bond is formed with an invisible being, As crazy as this might seem to the un-churched, Christians seek a progressive acquaintance with God.

For you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing), [in] that though He was [so very] rich, yet for your sakes He became [so very] poor, in order that by His poverty you might become enriched (abundantly supplied), 2 Corinthians 8:9.

If you follow the example of Jesus detailed in Mark 1:35, the Lord should be your first priority. Proceeding step by step in faith, a progressive acquaintance is formed. Instead of a casual, on today off tomorrow relationship, a permanent meaningful tie develops. As prayers are answered and miracles seen, a fire ignites within souls to want more and more. Thus, don’t let the Coronavirus sever your connection with God. Instead find time in your schedule daily so that you are progressively acquainted with Christ.

by Jay Mankus

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