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No Doubt About It

One of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church is a time of prayer during each mass. Depending upon the congregation or priest, a list of prayers is usually read out loud. Following each individual request, the audience responds with “Lord hear our prayer.” One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this in the passage below. According to John, God does hear these prayers and there’s no doubt about it.

And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him, 1 John 5:15.

It’s not uncommon for children to adopt an invisible friend when they are young. While parents may be uneasy about this behavior, this is the power of the imagination of a child at work. Similar to Robin Williams’ adult character in the film Hook, age and time have a way of sucking the joy out of parents. Rather than revel in the innocence of being young, the Devil has a way of wearing down faith, John 10:10.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? 21 And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a [n]firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:20-22.

During a first century walk, Jesus teaches his disciples a powerful lesson about pray. This isn’t a meaningless imaginary exercise where you pretend to talk to an invisible God. Rather prayer is maximized when Christians approach God without doubt. Having belief and faith takes prayer to the next level. To those who pray without a doubt begin to move the mountains blocking God’s path for you.

by Jay Mankus

Leaving God’s Footprint Behind

The Roman lyrical poet Horace first coined the Latin phrase carpe diem.  When translated into English, carpe diem loosely means to “seize the day.”  This may explain why professor John Keating, a poetry teacher played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society references this expression.  When applied to a Christian faith, believers should be focused on leaving God’s footprint behind.

For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both himself and others] and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah, through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.  And Barnabas left for Tarsus to search for Saul; Acts 11:24-25.

Luke introduces a man named Joseph in Acts 4:36-37 who developed the nick name Barnabas, “son of encouragement” for his generous donations to the church.  When Jesus’ disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion to Christ, it was Barnabas who defended his faith, Acts 9:27.  In the passage above, Luke reveals the secret behind Barnabas’ success, full of the Holy Spirit.  At some point, God called Barnabas to disciple Saul, investing one year of his life to nurture his faith.

And when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For an entire year they met [with others] in the church and instructed large numbers; and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, Acts 11:26.

By the time these men left, Antioch became a symbol of God’s footprint on earth.  As members of the church emulated the life and teachings of Jesus, community members referred to this group of believers as Christians.  Today, Professor William Rees is the father of carbon footprints, derived from a paper, Environment and Urbanization, written in 1992.  While Christians should be good stewards of the earth God created, the Holy Spirit is searching for individuals who want to leave behind God’s footprint wherever you go and whatever you do.

by Jay Mankus

Awakenings

The summer of 1969 is filled with a rich resource of history.  Beside the Bryan Adams song which debuted in June of 1985, one of the most famous musical festivals of all time took place in upstate New York.  Woodstock began August 15th, 1969 and concluded four days later in Bethel, New York near White Lake.  While legendary artists, famous bands and iconic performers took turns on stage, a major medical breakthrough in the Bronx, New York was overshadowed.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation], Matthew 11:28.

Based on a true story, neurologist Oliver Sacks attempts to recount a series of awakenings within a mental hospital that took place during the summer of 1969.  The 1990 film Awakenings starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams highlights the doctor patient relationship of the first to awaken from over two decades in a catatonic state.  After convincing a Bronx administer to use an expensive experimental drug therapy on one patient with family consent, a little boy breaks 18 years of silence, coming to life as an adult.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:29-30.

The older I become, the more I observe individuals who enter a trance life state, hiding disappointment, frustrations and pain within their heart.  The past can hold a series of burdens which can suck the joy out of any life.  Even those who possess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are at risk.  The only way for a true awakening to occur begins by placing your burdens at the foot of the cross.  As you pray for healing, hope and peace, may the Holy Spirit awaken your soul like those revived in the summer of 69.

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

 

Traumatized

 

One of the medical websites I researched lists 5 specific categories of trauma.  Complex, Early Childhood, Medical, Refugee and Traumatic Grief.  The actual definition of this term refers to any experience that inflicts deep distress or is emotionally disturbing.  This state is often induced by accidents, injuries or witnessing someone die.  Anyone who endures such an event can be traumatized for hours, days, weeks or months.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you, 1 Peter 5:7.

Anyone alive during the life of Christ may have seen one of the most brutal ways to die.  After receiving up to 39 lashing in the public square, Jesus carried a cross until Simeon took over and then was crucified.  Even those who despised Jesus’ message, must have felt pity or remorse at some point.  Despite his innocence, Herod followed Jewish tradition, setting the criminal Barabbas free as a mob demanded Jesus to die in his place.  If those who have seen this gore in the Passion of the Christ struggle to watch, image the trauma exhibited by those who were disciples and followers of God’s son.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron, Psalm 107:13-16.

One of the difficult signs of trauma is that its often invisible.  Sure, body language, facial expressions and posture reveal someone who is mourning.  Yet, wounds to the soul go unnoticed, lingering for months, years or in worse case scenarios, a lifetime.  In certain cases, guilt causes some to remain traumatized until they forgive themselves.  This situation is played out in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams playing a psychologists tells Matt Damon, an orphan its not your fault.  If you find yourself trying to recover from a traumatic events, may the prayer of the Psalmist above provide the words to receive the healing that you seek and strive to achieve.

by Jay Mankus

 

Lost?

The hit series Lost ran for 6 seasons on ABC beginning in 2004.  When a plane crashes off a mystical island in the South Pacific, passengers hoping to arrive in Los Angeles are forced to struggle to survive.  While many are eager to find a way off this island, others are grateful to have a new leash on life.  Whenever anyone reaches a cross roads in life, you might wonder, “am I lost or merely in uncharted territories?”

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” – Luke 15:8

Though most people think getting lost is for those directionally challenged, there are two other possibilities.  In the film Top Gun, after Goose dies, Maverick played by Tom Cruise becomes mentally lost, unable to concentrate while trying to fly his fighter jet.  Meanwhile, if anyone has ever endured a painful childhood, you might suffer from soul spirit hurts like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, trying the understand why he was abused.

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him, Matthew 4:11.

Whether you are physically, mentally or spiritually lost, its essential to receive the support that you need.  After overcoming the Devil’s temptations, angels came to Jesus’ aid.  During a counseling session, Robin Williams playing the role of a psychologist lets Will know, “it’s not your fault.”  Finally, when everyone gave up on Maverick, his Flight Commander Viper provided the boost he needed to tarry on.  In the same way, all believers should extend a helping hand to anyone who looks or seems lost.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Lost Days

I’m not sure how or why it happens, but a couple of times each year I wake up and a week, month or season has suddenly vanished.  Perhaps, my tunnel vision is too blame, so caught up by my job, project and other pursuits that I failed to slow down to embrace life.  Subsequently, I am left to wonder what did I miss on these lost days.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, James 4:14.

Unfortunately, you can’t get these moments in time back.  Although the catch phrase to the soap opera theme song Days of Our Lives may be simple, “like sand through an hour glass, these are the days of our lives,” its so true.  The apostle Paul concurs, comparing each day to a fine mist which disappears as soon as the sun comes out.  The only question remaining: what is the best approach to prevent future opportunities from slipping through your hands?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil, Ephesians 5:15-16.

The answer lies in a powerful Latin saying, Carpe Diem, seize the day.  One of my favorite scenes from the movie Dead Poets Society occurs on the first day of class.  Trying to avoid the normal boring routine, Robin Williams who plays English teacher John Keating, takes his class for a walk down the hall.  Using school history as a teachable moment, Williams provides hope for those struggling with the lost days.  May you exercise your faith by savoring the time you have left with your children, friends and family.  Seize today!

by Jay Mankus

How Can It Be So Bad to Take Your Own Life?

On Monday night, former MLB starting pitcher Tommy Hanson died of a massive organ failure following a drug overdose at age 29.  Last August, legendary actor Robin Williams who made millions of dollars in Hollywood also took his own life.  Unfortunately, the older I become, the lists of deaths by suicide continue to rise.  Thus, I wonder how can it be so bad to want to end your own life?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

In a 2013 study, suicide was the second leading cause of death among teenagers.  Some of these statistics can be attributed to bullying.  Others may be related to an unhealthy family or living arrangements.  When you add on depression, low esteem and unguided youths, perhaps individuals come to a point where they think, “it can’t get any worse?”  Meanwhile, some may believe dying is less painful than facing reality.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life, John 3:16.

At the heart of this deception is the Father of Lies, Lucifer.  The more isolated individuals are the louder these whispers become.  Invisible to the eye, demonic spirits cherish each perishing soul.  Yet, beyond the pain of life is a purpose, greater than anyone realizes.  If those who have taken their own life just tasted the abundant life promised in the Bible things would have been different.  For now, all you can do is learn from history, avoid demonic doldrums and set your mind on a higher purpose.  And if it get’s any worse, hold on to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Leave in Haste… Or You Might Become Deceased

On Monday, August 11th, 2014, America lost one of its icons in Hollywood.  Whether it was playing Mrs. Doubtfire, Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society or a psychologist in Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams was a star brighter than life.  However, deep inside his soul, riches, fame and fortune couldn’t replace a heart of depression that only Christ can fill.  Subsequently, this talented actor took his own life, unable to leave in the haste sinful thoughts.

Moses makes an interesting observation in Psalm 90:8-9.  Apparently, God uses supernatural measures to bring secret sins into the light.  Whether you’re a leader of a nation like Moses, head of your household or superstar such as Robin Williams, the truth about your bad habits, flaws and weaknesses will rise to the surface.  Don’t wait to be found out, Psalm 90:9.  Rather, leave your sinful desires in haste, James 4:7 or groans of regret will keep you in the dark on the verge of death.

I won’t speculate on why Robin Williams committed suicide, but I do know countless individuals have moments where death is entertained as a viable option.  Unfortunately, sin has a way of corrupting one’s mind, polluting a person’s rationale thinking.  If you stay in this mental state too late, the pawns of the Devil will steal any joy that remains, kill hope and make self-destruction seem like a good idea.  Fight back these urges now, leave in haste or you too might become deceased.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Saving the Best for Now

Attending weddings are often a family affair, seeing relatives that you’ve only heard stories of or seeing others you haven’t seen for years.  Whether you are on the bride or groom side, marriage is meant to publicly celebrate the union between a husband and a wife, where two individuals become one flesh, Matthew 19:4-6.  Although not mentioned in John 2:1-11, the rabbi overseeing the proceeding likely quotes Genesis 2:24 during the vows portion of the wedding in Cana that Jesus and his family attended.

Based upon the accounts in chapter 1, only 6 disciples had been selected by Jesus, with 6 more to complete his ministry team.  This passage also suggests Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father had been dead for sometime.  The final piece of the puzzle insinuates that Mary is a close acquaintance to the parents of the bride as she is concerned about how her friend would be perceived if they ran out of wine at the reception, with some carrying on for 3-4 days.  If this is true, these elements help explain Jesus’ comment, “my time has not yet come,” Joseph’s absence from the text and Mary’s anxious reply to her son.  An observer to all of these occurrences is James, the author of the Catholic Letter and younger brother of Jesus.

Although his earthly ministry was not suppose to start yet, Jesus felt compelled to obey 5th commandment, Exodus 20:12, “honor your father and mother.”  The perfect child, Jesus calls the servants at the party to listen to his instructions, John 2:6-8.  Knowing the miracle had been done from a distance, Jesus orders the master of the banquet to receive a cup from one of the 6 stone jars, filled with water.  Remaining in the background, Jesus allows the bridegroom to take credit for the choice wine created by the son of God.  The master of the banquet refers to his sip as, “saving the best til now!”

An eyewitness of this miracle, James probably never forgot what his oldest brother had done, a special memory etched in his mind.  Perhaps James 4:13-17 is a small glimpse of the lesson God taught him in Cana.  You may love your past or can’t wait for a future event, but all that matters is the here and now.  Therefore, don’t worry about what could of or should have been and avoid the temptation of what may be.  Rather, live out Colossians 3:17 today as you save the best for now!

by Jay Mankus

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