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Afraid to Tell Her of Your Love

An inciting incident in a screen play is a story that upsets the status quo and begins the story’s movement forward. According to author and story guru John Truby, narrative drive is the forward propulsion of a story. When communicated in the right manner, this serves as a page turner, captivating audiences as viewers want to find out what will happen next. The inciting incident in my own life was the death of a good friend from high school. Since I was afraid to tell her of God’s love while she was battling cancer, her passing created a spirit of conviction within my heart for this to never happen again.

You have heard of my earlier career and former manner of life in the Jewish religion (Judaism), how I persecuted and abused the church of God furiously and extensively, and [with fanatical zeal did my best] to make havoc of it and destroy it. 14 And [you have heard how] I outstripped many of the men of my own generation among the people of my race in [my advancement in study and observance of the laws of] Judaism, so extremely enthusiastic and zealous I was for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when He, Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), saw fit and was pleased, Galatians 1:13-15.

In a letter to the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul writes about his previous life before entering a relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11. The first chapter of Galatians serves as a blue print for telling your own personal story about how you came to faith. This outline begins by sharing how you acted, behaved and lived your life prior to making your spiritual decision. The second part is simply when and how you were introduced to God. The final step of a testimony is explaining how your life has been changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. For some of you, this process may still be in it’s infancy. Yet, as time passes, light will expose traces of darkness that still exists within you.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God, 2 Peter 1:7-8.

To ensure that I was not afraid anymore, I sought out accountability groups, Bible Studies and Christian groups on campus to deepen my faith. I set up a duel internship at a Bible Fellowship Church in Ohio to spark my passion for youth ministry. I spent a decade serving as a Bible Teacher at a Christian High School and the last nine years sharing my journey with God by writing daily devotionals at Express Yourself 4 Him. I’d be lying if I haven’t fallen short in the area of fear. Yet, faith is a process of rising and falling, talking steps back and marching forward. My end goal is to no longer be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus so that when an opportunity to share my faith arises. When fear disappears, you will be prepared to give an answer for the faith that you now have, 1 Peter 3:15-16, this Easter Season.

by Jay Mankus

What Would the Bible Say about You?

At the end of his letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul thanks those who worked quietly behind the scenes. Without these men and women, Paul’s ministry journeys would not have been possible or successful. Beginning with a deaconess and woman who opened her home as a congregational meeting place, Paul wanted to ensure that their contributions were not minimized or overlooked. Unlike the gospels where woman and children are excluded from the overall count of individuals present, Paul places women first on his list.

Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, That you may receive her in the Lord [with a Christian welcome], as saints (God’s people) ought to receive one another. And help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many including myself [shielding us from suffering]. Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, Who risked their lives [endangering their very necks] for my life. To them not only I but also all the churches among the Gentiles give thanks, Romans 16:1-4.

In another letter to the church at Galatia, Paul breaks down his entire life into three stages. Galatians 1:11-24 serves as an outline for sharing your faith by detailing your life before knowing Jesus, your conversion experience and transformation since making this decision. While every faith story contains peaks and valleys, portions of your testimony will connect with or touch other souls. One of Jesus’ disciples urges first century Christians to be prepared, always ready to provide the reason for the hope that you have in God, 1 Peter 3:15-16.

[Remember me] also to the church [that meets] in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was a firstfruit (first convert) to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked so hard among you. Remember me to Andronicus and Junias, my tribal kinsmen and once my fellow prisoners. They are men held in high esteem among the apostles, who also were in Christ before I was. Remember me to Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, that one tried and approved in Christ (the Messiah). Remember me to those who belong to the household of Aristobulus, Romans 16:5-10.

As I turn our attention toward today, I’m curious about what modern writers might say. Would you receive a shout out like Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila or be out-shined by other believers? As you go to work, reside in a neighborhood and let your guard down at home, what do people notice? According to my children, I drive too fast, I’m impatient and too opinionated. Are your daily actions full of light or do moments of darkness blur the love of Jesus inside of you? The book of Acts ends abruptly. Some scholars suggest that either the final chapter was never fully completed or simply missing. When judgement day arrives, what will God say about you? Only time will tell so make the most of the days that the Lord gives you.

by Jay Mankus

Remember Where You Came From

Whether your life has turned out to be a success, disappointment or some where in between, its always important to remember where you came from.  Depending upon how you were raised, you’ve likely developed stereotypes about certain occupations, places or people.  Over time these views will either be reinforced or shattered.  Whatever happens make sure you remain humble so you don’t miss out on meeting special people.

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; Galatians 1:13.

Paul was a religious zealot who initially persecuted and gave the order to kill the apostle Stephen.  Thus, after his conversion to Christ many were hesitant to believe his faith was real.  This backlash inspired Galatians 1, a summary of his testimony.  It wasn’t until Paul began his missionary journeys when fellow Christians began to accept and embrace him as a genuine believer.

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, Galatians 1:15.

While my past isn’t as radical as Paul, I still have issues to overcome.  Years of stuttering stunted my communication skills and ability to draw close to others.  Periods of depression still cause me to withdraw at times, wandering away from the people I love.  Yet, because of God’s grace, I have hope for the future.  Despite my own imperfections, God sent His one and only Son to die for my sins.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down without accepting God’s free gift of eternal life.  When you remember where you came from, you will likely find a sinner saved by God’s grace.

by Jay Mankus

The Paralysis of Sin

Terms like debilitating, immobility and incapacity describe symptoms of paralysis.  Those individuals whose lives are turned upside down by accidents, disease or extreme events are forced to go with life with several new obstacles to overcome.  Unfortunately, paralysis can attack souls through the presence and spread of sin.

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate, Romans 7:15.

The apostle Paul highlights how sin impacts individual actions.  Similar to an addiction, bad habit or compulsive behavior, the ability to maintain self-control is lost.  This phenomena is not exempt for Christians as anyone who plays with fire in the form of temptation will eventually get burned.  Thus, even a missionary like Paul was paralyzed by sin.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin, James 4:17.

One of the people who has made the greatest impact on my life is Skip Wilkins.  After becoming a high school All-American in 4 sports, Skip was paralyzed while water skiing before his senior year.  When colleges heard of his accident, all 2000 plus full scholarships were rescinded.  Skip’s faith helped him overcome this setback and eventually became a motivational speaker.  If it wasn’t for Skip Wilkins testimony, I still might be paralyzed by sin.  Yet, because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, you too can be set free from sin as there are no wheel chairs in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Imprints on Heaven

While listening to a sermon over the weekend, I was challenged to reflect on what if any impact I’ve had during my days on this planet.  Jesus and the apostle Paul, shared a similar message, urging their listeners to begin to store up treasures on earth, Matthew 6:19-21 and Colossians 3:1-4.  If heaven does exist and Jesus went ahead to prepare the way, John 14:2, then its time you and I begin the imprinting process.

Although minor in many ways, my first mark involved music.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I felt compelled  to inform people of God’s love.  Sorting through a vast collection of Christian music in college, I created a mix that I began to give to individuals, just as a high school friend did for me.   Trying to introduce people to contemporary artists, one particular creation entitled A Father”s Love struck a cord with several friends and strangers.  In the days of writing letters, words of encouragement appeared in the mail box, confirming that I was on the right track.

My greatest inscription occurred during a Lay Witness Mission, a fancy name for a retreat geared toward reviving souls for a  spiritually dead or dying congregation.  Beside being an active participant during youth group activities, my main responsibility was to share a brief testimony, what God was teaching me or doing in my life.  At a moment’s notice, I was suppose to be ready.  Well, I waited and waited and waited.  Finally, on Saturday night, I was told I would be talking to the entire congregation.  After praying with my roommate that night, the Lord took over so when the appointed time came, I opened my mouth and the Holy Spirit spoke.  Before finishing, I offered up a call for action, then played a song.  As I looked up, some were actually running to the altar, dedicating their lives to Jesus.

Since this day, I guess I can include my wife, kids and a decade as a Bible teacher.  However, in between the victories, there have been plenty of moments of failure, idleness and periods of self-indulgence.   When you taste defeat, the best pill to swallow is humility, an important practice to keep you on the narrow path to heaven, Matthew 7:13-15.  As the second coming of Jesus draws near, don’t forget to leave your imprints on earth while heaven awaits for those who call on the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

 

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