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When There’s Not Much to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving

This year will be the first Thanksgiving for my wife Leanne without a living parent. Meanwhile, this will be the first Thanksgiving for me without my sister Kathie who is battling blood clots and cancer. While my parents are still living, each have been hindered by a slew of health-related issues in 2022. Subsequently, when there’s not much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, you have to find a siler lining.

Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, 20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, Ephesians 5:20.

One of the ways the apostle Paul remained thankful in the midst of trials was through music. Rather than click on a car stereo or You-Tube, Paul writes about singing his favorite songs from church. Whether you’re humming a chorus in your head, playing an instrument or raising your voice in song, singing has a way of taking a mental break from any pain you’re currently experiencing. Anyone who dwells upon biblically based lyrics will be elevated toward a more thankful spirit.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.

If this doesn’t work, Paul urges Christians to turn to prayer. This shouldn’t be haphazard. Instead, prayer should become a state of mind, unceasing throughout your day. Paul suggests that praying is a means to will yourself toward a thankful heart. Unfortunately, the root of bitterness has a way of ruining the mood to pray. Once prayer ceases minds turn their attention away from the Lord and race to anxiety, doubt and worry. If you’re struggling this Thanksgiving to be thankful, may the advice in the passages above turn your week around.

by Jay Mankus

Getting Your Emotions Under Control

One of Israel’s former kings describes time in the context of seasons. Just as Christmas is associated with winter in the northern hemisphere, every month brings with it a series of emotions. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, King Solomon follows sorrow with laughter. Since nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, James 4:13-14, you have to be ready to keep your emotions under control at all times.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition ([b]definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God, Philippians 4:6.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul touches on mental health. Apparently, members of this church with dealing with a growing amount of anxiety. Rather than try to handle this on your own, Paul encourages Christians to actively pray for the circumstances that are bringing you stress. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by emotions, be thankful for any little victory that you experience daily.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that [c]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 [d]garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:7.

When you create a list of things that challenge your mental health, include these petitions as a daily part of your prayer life. Building on the words of Luke 1:37, the apostle Paul suggests that God has the ability to give you the strength to endure any situation that you face, Philippians 4:13. If you search for the peace of Christ, this tranquil state will enable any believer to get and keep your emotions under control.

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

Blessed to Be Alive

The half-century mark is five decades on this special planet called earth.  As the clock strikes twelve midnight, ending August 13th to commence August 14th will mean that I have reached fifty years of age in 2019.  According to numerology, the number fifty symbolizes the total man.  This favorable number marks grace, kindness and regeneration. Karl von Eckartshausen, an author, German Catholic and philosopher, who lived to see the founding of the United States of America referred to reaching fifty as the number of illumination.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” Jeremiah 1:5.

I was born the day Hurricane Camille formed as a tropical depression.  A few days later this massive storm struck the Gulf Coast, the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to hit the United States.  Perhaps, this was a foreshadowing of the life that I would live.  I have survived earthquakes, floods, a microburst and a tornado.  I escaped a head on collision, a freak boating and tubing accident to make it to what I call Hawaii 50.  Nonetheless, I have a lot to be thankful for, truly blessed to be alive.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them, Psalm 139:13-16.

My spiritual birth occurred on December 4th, 1984, during my sophomore year of high school.  My spiritual father was my high school swim coach and Science teacher.  As the leader of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Concord High, Mr. Horne coached, directed and guided new believers toward seeking God’s will for our lives.  While I didn’t always take a straight line or path, the Holy Spirit empowered me to become a Bible teacher, youth director an aspiring writer.  I’m truly blessed to be married to Leanne who gave birth to our 3 wonderful children.  I’m not sure what the Lord has planned for me in the years to come, but I pray that I keep in step with God’s Spirit so that I don’t miss my next calling.

by Jay Mankus

Dueling Forces

Whether you accept this premise or not, there are dueling forces that exist on earth.  Previous illustrations have depicted an angel with wings whispering into one ear, with a demon urging individuals to do the exact opposite.  Former atheist C.S. Lewis referred to this invisible tug of war as dualism.  This theological term believes there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

The apostle Paul applies spiritual elements to dualism in the passage above, revealing the Holy Spirit as the positive force and sinful nature as a series of negative impulses.  The presence of this spiritual battles make appreciating the little things in life difficult.  As soon as your heart is pierced by conviction, minds are bombarded by disparaging thoughts to diminish that which you should be thankful for.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 about taking your thoughts captive.

For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

One of Satan’s objectives is to turn joyful Christians into cynical souls, void of any excitement, hope or life.  When cold water is poured out over a blazing fire, it does little to extinguish the flames.  However, as steady rains persist like Tropical Storm Florence, drenching tired and weary believers with a deluge of trials, it doesn’t take long for even the strong to become comfortably numb.  In view of this harsh reality, prepare your heart, soul and mind for the powers of darkness, Ephesians 6:12.  Submit to God, resist the Devil and let your faith become rooted in Christ so that future storms won’t hinder your ability to appreciate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Only A Car

When I was a child, I amassed a sizable collection of Hot Wheels.  Birthday and Christmas gifts brought a challenge course, race tracks and a special case to organize all my vehicles.  Before Atari and Cable television existed, I spent many rainy days racing cars inside.  Since most parents couldn’t afford a new car, Hot Wheels were a marketing tool to introduce children to sports cars.

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, Colossians 3:10.

Although many of my friends became obsessed with automobiles in my teenage years, my dad’s background as an immigrant to this country kept me grounded.  This upbringing ingrained in me an ability to be thankful for what I had.  However, I did have a wealthy neighbor whose parents always brought their son the latest and greatest electronic devices.  When these gifts were flaunted in front of me, I was jealous of his families wealth.  Yet, you can’t buy love as toys are just an earthly possessions.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:14-15.

During my last winter break in college, I got into an argument with my parents.  Like a typical adolescent, I stormed out of the house to blow off some steam.  On the way to my friend Dave’s house, I got into a fender bender, hitting the car in front of me.  This situation could of have been worse, but the man that I hit didn’t care about fixing his old car.  Despite receiving a ticket for reckless driving, the words of this man struck a nerve in my heart by saying, “it’s only a car.”

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him, Colossians 3:17.

A few years later I was on my way to work in Chicago when a flock of geese starting walking across the road.  As I slowed down, the lady behind wasn’t paying attention, skidding and ramming into my back bumper.  Since my vehicle was approaching the 200,000 mile mark, I remembered the words of the good Samaritan from Delaware.  Paying it forward, I passed on the same message to this young woman, “don’t worry about it, it’s only a car.”

by Jay Mankus

 

When Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter

The moment a student enters the work force something happens internally.  I’m not sure if its related to specific occupations, but mindsets begin to change.  As soon as individuals get comfortable, there’s a common practice to think ahead like “I’m going to do this or that.”  However, every once in a while you’re confronted with a situation that makes you realize tomorrow doesn’t matter.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,” James 4:13.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, it felt like a normal day.  I checked on my son before picking up my daughter from volleyball camp.  Upon my return, my son was in tears, insisting on wanting to go to the hospital.  Usually able to shake off pain, something inside of Daniel knew things weren’t right.  Twenty four hours later, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

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.

One of Jesus’ earthly brothers writes about one of his regrets in life.  For nearly thirty years, his big brother was the son of God, yet he never believed until after the resurrection.  Subsequently, James came to the conclusion that tomorrow doesn’t matter as long as today is present.  Therefore, despite the grief and uncertainty I am currently enduring, there is still plenty of time to grow, learn and be thankful before the sun sets.

by Jay Mankus

 

You’ll Never Know Unless You Try

When I was younger, I thought I was better than I actually was.  I would talk smack, emotionally annoy opponents and wouldn’t back down from a confrontation.  Over time I have mellowed, learned the importance of humility and found contentment in my retirement from sports.  Yet, I’m thankful that I wasn’t afraid to fail as a professional golfer.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

As I step away from competition, my son James faces a similar dilemma.  Despite being a state champion pole vaulter and 3 time all conference golfer, playing division one sports in college is a whole new ball game.  Thus, he has to decide do I risk embarrassment, humiliation or do I play it safe by avoiding disappointment?  My message to him is you’ll never know unless you try.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.

In my first golf mini-tour event, I shot 48 on the front nine, shaking so badly it was hard to swing a club.  I could have hung my head, quit or withdrawn from this competition.  Yet, I battled, birdieing the 10th, finding my rhythm on the back nine.  I never made any money nor did I reach the P.G.A. tour, but I walked away from this game knowing I did everything in my power to succeed.  Thus, whether you are my son, a friend or a stranger I meet along the road called life, you’ll never know your ultimate destiny unless you try by utilizing your God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Cry of the Ungrateful

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard,” Matthew 20:1

Any time you get your hopes up, there is always the possibility for disappointment.   Expectations can be a dangerous thing, especially when this breeds impure motives.  Whenever you bring an earthly mindset into an untimely trial, the cry of the ungrateful is conceived.

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner, Matthew 20:10-11.

In the parable of the workers in the Vineyard, Jesus addresses the cry of the ungrateful.  Human nature leads one to believe that those who work harder or longer will receive more than newcomers.  However, Jesus dismisses this comparison of those by using the analogy of heaven.  Though the apostle Paul does refer to eternal crowns, receiving  the gift of eternal life should lead to a thankful heart.

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you,” Matthew 20:13-14.

As difficult as it was for some of these workers to get over the fact that each was paid the some wage despite the amount of hours in the vineyard, there is a truth to embrace.  The solution to overcoming an ungrateful spirit is developing a heart like Barnabas.  Despite his reputation of an encourager, Acts 4:36-37, the apostle Paul possessed far greater God given talents.  Instead of blocking his way, Barnabas moved aside so that Paul’s gifts could be fanned into flame.  Therefore, don’t allow jealousy to give birth to an ungrateful heart.  Rather, in humility consider others more important than yourself.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Second Chance at Sight

In the 1988 film, Scrooged, Bill Murray is looking for a second chance in life.  Meanwhile, Alfre Woodard, playing Murray’s secretary Grace Cooley, prays for a Christmas miracle.  Inspired by visits from Christmas ghosts of the past, current and future, Murray risks his job by highjacking a live Christmas program to communicate the meaning of Christmas.  In the process, Cooley’s son who hadn’t spoken a word in years, breaks his silence at the conclusion of this live event.

As for me, I’ve received a second chance at sight.  Only a few people were aware of the pain I endured for 2 months this fall.  Unable to bear it any longer, I went to my eye doctor to see if I needed glasses.  Thinking old age was the main culprit, a set of tests revealed that my retinas were swollen, filled with fluids.  As the initial medicine made my condition worse to begin with, the nightmare of not being able to read things like the Bible was a real possibility.  However, 2 weeks later, God has given me a second chance at sight.

Therefore, as you open presents this Christmas season, don’t overlook the most precious gifts of all.  Whether its your senses, friendships or the memories of those who are no longer with you, Christmas is a time of second chances.  A season of forgiveness with the birth of a Savior, Matthew 1:21, who came to give you a new leash on life.  This Christmas, I got a second chance at sight.  As for you, may the power of the Holy Spirit reveal to you what you should be most thankful for.

by Jay Mankus

 

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