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JFK and Jesus

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States.  Prior to his assassination in November 1963, JFK’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961 contains one of the most powerful comments ever made by a sitting president. “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  This statement was a request to urge citizens to become active participants in making America a better place to live.

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen, 1 Peter 4:9-11.

While JFK was a political leader, Jesus developed a spiritual following, curing, hearing and teaching a new philosophy about life.  This message included a demonstration of what it means to serve others by laying down his own life.  Jesus practiced what he preached, laying down his life by dying on a cross.  In modern times, Christians tend to be too me focused, expecting God to show up and do something miraculous.  Yet, if believers applied JFK’s challenge to Christianity, prayer lives would be transformed by a mind searching for ways to serve God daily.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul implies that the local church needs your help.  Just like the old Uncle Sam posters used to recruit soldiers, Paul urges the church of Rome to take an inventory of the present gifts and talents.  When a piece or part is missing, the body of Christ does not function as the Holy Spirit and God desires.  Therefore, when you add JFK’s speech to Jesus’ selfless example, volunteers begin to come forward.  Instead of 10% of a church body doing 90% of the work, applying spiritual gifts within a congregation fills in the missing parts.  Therefore, don’t ask what your country can do for you.  Rather, ask God how you can serve your local church and community by praying to God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Greatness Starts at the Bottom

Michael J. Fox starred in the 1987 film the Secret to My Success.  Fox plays Brantley Foster, a college graduate who gets laid off shortly after moving to New York City.  The premise of this movie is based upon the American Dream, starting from the very bottom and moving your way up through a company gradually to the top.  Like most college grads today, Fox found himself overqualified for most positions, but underqualified for the high paying positions.  While fictional in nature, Fox uses a worldly approach to get to the top.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” – Matthew 18:1

During a long walk between towns, the disciples lagged well behind Jesus.  At the back of a long caravan, the disciples began a heated debate on who was the greatest disciple.  While the author fail to address the content of this argument, below are a few likely positions that were taken.  Often brash, Peter begins by saying, “well Jesus did proclaim I am the petra, the rock upon which God will build his church on earth.”  John interrupts, “wait a minute, Jesus also said I am the one whom  he loves the most.”  James, brother of John, jumps into the fray “that’s nice boys, but Jesus called me first.”  When the disciples finally caught up, Jesus addresses this issue.

He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 18:2-3.

The passage above is one of two main passages about the being the greatest in heaven.  Mark 9:35-37 builds upon this concept, suggesting that whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant to all.  One thing you can say about Jesus is he practiced what he preached.  Despite healing and performing miracles daily, Jesus encouraged these people keep quiet, remaining humble throughout his earthly life.  If you combine these passages, there are two traits to consider.  First, maintain the innocence of a child by emulating your heavenly father.  Second, put the needs and wants of others before yourself.  If you want to be great on earth, start today by serving those in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

You Don’t Deserve Until You Serve

I spent most of my teenage years attending a Roman Catholic Church.  While this tradition style of service can become boring quickly, every so often I was surprised by a timely message.  One of the heroes of the church was Mother Teresa.  This Catholic nun turned missionary dedicated her life to helping and serving the less fortunate.  Despite living most of her adult life in poverty, Mother Teresa became the hands and feet of Christ.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves, James 1:22.

When certain things in life don’t go my way, I have a tendency to complain.  Gripping to God, I can’t believe that I was passed over while someone else got the honor or position that I sought.  This unproductive practice didn’t make me feel better or resolve any of my unanswered questions.  Yet, a recent whisper from the Holy Spirit helped me understand my current plight, “you don’t deserve until you serve.”

“So the last will be first, and the first last,” Matthew 20:16.

In the Parable of the Workers in the Field, Jesus illustrates the importance of service.  Trying to give a glimpse of what heaven is like, the temptation to compare yourself with others leads to meaningless debates.  Those who accept God’s free gift of eternal life by receiving as your own, Romans 10:9-10, all receive the same reward, a place in heaven.  Yet, some devote their entire lives to God while others become Christians on their bed beds.  This discrepancy in time make some jealous, expecting a greater reward for their additional years of service.  Nonetheless, Jesus is clear, “the first will be last and the last first.”  Or in modern terms, you don’t deserve unless you serve.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Lost Words of JFK

Beginning in 2008, Lost Tapes debuted on Animal Planet.  This horror series featured a combination of legendary creatures like Bigfoot as well as supernatural ones such as vampires.  Each episode begins with a presupposition, “what if researchers have a real life encounter, able to film their experience.”  These lost tapes are later found by some one who stumbles upon this evidence, serving as a warning to steer clear of specific places or regions.

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday, Isaiah 58:10.

In the real world, revisionist historians are now are work, trying to hide the Christian heritage upon which America was founded.  Most people don’t realize that many schools on the East Coast were created by churches to help educate children.  Tools such as the New England Primer introduced the alphabet with verses of the Bible that were memorized for each letter.  This is just one portion of history scrubbed from modern text books, teachings that are now lost and forgotten.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another, Galatians 5:13.

The media is also good at suppressing audio soundbytes, news stories and previous statements that are contrary to the progressive moment.  One of my favorites statements comes from John F. Kennedy, “ask not which this country can do for you; but what you can do for this country.”  These lost words could revolutionize this country if practiced.  Yet, modern politicians want to create needy citizens who can’t live without government.  Subsequently, a generation of “what’s in it for me” has crippled the progress of our culture.  May these forgotten words of JFK inspire individuals to a live a life of faith, service and patriotism.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Heroes Journey

In 1949, the concept of the Heroes Journey was introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  While this narrative pattern commonly appears in films, this outline can also be found in mythology, psychology and religion.  Campbell’s outline involves 12 stages which takes a character from the ordinary world to the special world and back.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things, Hebrews 13:8.

The reason why people watch the same movies year after year is that the heroes journey enables individuals to identify with certain actors and actresses.  As fictional characters reveal their flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, people can relate to similar trials in their own life.  Subsequently, deep down inside viewers root for their favorites to reach to top of the mountain after facing adversity.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness, Romans 12:6-8.

For someone who struggled with stuttering the first 20 years of my life, I always knew what I wanted to say, but rarely expressed what was in my heart and mind.  As an amateur screen writer, the Heroes Journey provides a valuable resource to make my aspirations come true.  However, before I proceed, I must study these 12 stages like trying to ace a test.  Once I fully grasp the Heroes Journey, I can begin to craft films that may one day end up on your favorites list.  Until then, I need to keep plugging away with an unyielding resolve to make my dreams come true.

by Jay Mankus

 

Discernment, a Weather Forecast or None of the Above

My favorite college professor at the University of Delaware taught Physical Geography.  During my interactions with Dr. Mather, he urged my to pursue a career in Meteorology.  Beside a Major League Baseball hitter, what other occupation allows you to be wrong 80% of the time and still keep your job.  Although his teaching made me eager to learn about weather systems, I felt called to go into youth ministry after graduating from college.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them, 1 Corinthians 12:4.

Following a semester of teaching poetry to junior high students at a boarding school in West Virginia, I sensed an ability to discern hidden things.  This gift initially took the shape of writing, ranging from poetry, song writing and short stories.  However, fourteen years ago this week God revealed an a new venue.  One night, I couldn’t sleep, feeling like someone I knew was in trouble.  So I started to pray for everyone I could think of when I heard a knock on our front door.  My next door neighbor went to labor, three months premature.  This time of prayer continued until I got word she and her new daughter were okay.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work, 1 Corinthians 12:5-6.

When I was younger, I tried to be well round.  However, the older I become, it’s obvious that they are certain things I was never created and designed to do.  Thus, I press on, specializing in my areas of expertise.  Whether its discernment, a weather forecast or none of the above, strive to excel in what you do best.  As for me, I continue to write, hoping one day to be a successful author or screen writer.  Until this day arrives or my gifts shift in a new direction, I pray that the Lord honors the service of utilizing my God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Humility and Tears

During a period known as the Healing Revivals of the 1950’s, prosperity theology first became prominent in the United States.  Yet, the origins of the prosperity gospel can be traced back to the New Thought Movement which began in the 19th century.  Based upon the teachings of Malachi, referencing the storehouses of heaven, those who embrace this theology emphasizes that God will deliver his promises of the Bible for those who believe.  Unfortunately, this mindset differs from the ministry of the apostle Paul.

I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents, Acts 20:19.

In a meeting with the elders of Ephesus, Paul gives a farewell address, preparing church leaders for a time when he will longer be with them.  Paul’s description of his service is interesting, similar to words shared in Philippi.  To avoid becoming prideful, Paul felt led to pursue meekness.  Despite the victories Paul experienced, he admits that ministry can be painful, especially when someone you love abandons or leaves the faith.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12.

Warning a community of believers from complacency, Paul suggests to diligently work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Sure, part of the journey of faith is to pray for and cling to God’s promises.  However, genuine faith involves overcoming hardship, leaning on God’s grace in times of trials.  Thus, as this new year continues, may you follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul by practicing humility and crying out to the Lord in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

 

Are You Ready to Jump In?

Every so often I will come face to face with a crisis.  Usually, its a mom or dad not paying attention to their children, wondering off into trouble.  Sometimes I become the good Samaritan, reaching out just in time to prevent an accident or fall.  Unfortunately, this is rare, often consumed with my own life, oblivious to everything else around me.  Thus, I’m not ready to jump in.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross, Mark 15:21.

One Friday morning, a man was minding his own business, possible thinking about what he was going to do over the weekend.  Suddenly, commotion from the crowds standing along the street peeked his curiosity.  Going over to see what was going on, a soldier called out, demanding his help.  Though its unclear if he was a willing participant, Simon jumped into action, carrying a cross for a pitiful soul, full of blood, bruises and open flesh.

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 term Christian was first derived in the town of Antioch.  Faith wasn’t just a spoken word.  Rather, the followers of Jesus displayed the same love, peace and servanthood of their former leader.  Pleasantly surprised by these acts, citizens began to say, “hey, you must be one of those Christ followers?”  Overtime this phrase was condensed to simply Christian.  In view of this historical fact, may you be compelled to jump into action, following in the footsteps of Jesus, 1 John 2:6.

by Jay Mankus

 

Dr. Md; Is There a Doctor in the House?

Illness can be a mystery, especially when no obvious symptoms are present.  One day you feel great; the next you struggle to get out of bed.  As more and more doctors retire after a generation of service, the desperate will continue to cry out for help, “is there a doctor in the house?”

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.- James 5:15

Since 2012, I’ve battled a severe sinus infection that I can’t seem to shake.  Headaches, fevers and periods of fatigue have whittled away my faith of ever improving.  Perhaps, my condition are side affects from lyme disease that I first contracted in 1999.  Whatever the reason for my recent ailments, I pray that a doctor will come to my rescue with the correct diagnosis and cure.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 1:2

Nonetheless, sometimes God allows a person to suffer without any signs of recovery.  According to 2 Corinthians 12:7, the Lord struck the apostle Paul with a thorn in his flesh.  This condition prevented Paul from becoming proud during his successful ministry on earth.  Despite crying out for healing, his request did not get answered.  Although I am currently waiting for insight, all I can do is trust God that one day soon my pain will fade away.

by Jay Mankus

 

To Hell With You

The other night at Bible Study, an impromptu discussion broke out about how hypocritical Christians can be.  In fact, every year people who are seeking God become turned off by churches, pastors and modern day Pharisees who care more about traditions than displaying the love of Jesus.  Instead of continuing their search, hurt people have decided to stay at home, finding other things to do on Sunday.

In business, there was a an old principle called the 3/10.  For every good experience an individual has, they will tell 3 other people.  However, whenever a customer encounters poor service, they reach out to 10 people, sharing their disappointment and frustrations.  Recently, a new ratio has replaced the 3/10 now known as the 11/4 principle, with the negative being the higher number.  Since first impressions often have lasting affects, if you’re not careful, someone might say, ” to hell with you and your religion!”

 

Unfortunately, the reality in life entices most people to get a little too comfortable, caught off guard by unknowing observers.  As a result, Christianity becomes less and less attractive to Americans due to the bad taste of judgmental believers.  In the end, something has to give, either the offended will give God another try or immature followers of Jesus will grow up by starting to resemble the son of God.  Whenever you are on the road of life, Matthew 7:13-14, may God nudge you back in the right direction.

by Jay Mankus

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