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Resting on this Hope

When I was a child watching sporting events, there always seemed to be someone holding up a John 3:16 Sign. I was too young realize that this was one of the most iconic verses in the Bible. The gospel author who wrote down Jesus’ words to a Pharisee named Nicodemus appears to refer to this in the passage below. The hope that Christians are resting on is the promise of eternal life.

And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless), 1 John 3:3.

In this age of war, the Coronavirus, and death, the thought of another world is promising. Yet, the skeptic will exclaim that “this sounds too good to be true.” Like the moving scene in Shawshank Redemption, you have two choices in life: get busying living or get busying dying? Or as Moses explains in his farewell address in Deuteronomy 30:15-16, every decision that you make in life will either draw you toward life or death.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

Perhaps the point that John is trying to make is that without the concept of heaven, we have no hope. Returning to Shawshank Redemption, hope is what kept Andy alive while being in prison. Yet, for Red hope is dangerous, any empty promise for someone sentenced to life in prison. Faith is resting in the promise of the passage above. Christians place their trust in Jesus and rest in the hope of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

A Gratitude Adjustment

In this age of the Coronavirus, inflation and war with Russia invading Ukraine, gratitude has been pushed to the back of the line. When the world you are living in is literally falling apart, it’s hard to acknowledge the positive aspects of life. Watching breaking news stories on cable only makes me even more depressed. Before any sense of appreciation disappears completely in 2022, a gratitude adjustment is essential to keep hope alive.

Then one of them, upon seeing that he was cured, turned back, [c]recognizing and thanking and praising God with a loud voice; 16 And he fell prostrate at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. And he was a Samaritan, Luke 17:15-16.

Today’s passage comes from a first century physician. Instead of giving medical details of how these ten lepers were healed, Luke appears to be baffled. Based upon the end of verse 14, “as they went, they were cured and made clean,” the anticipation in the minds of these ten men played a crucial role. While nine walked faster and faster as if racing to see who could get to the priest first, one leper stopped, looked down and realized that he was miraculously healed.

Then Jesus asked, Were not [all] ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to [d]recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this alien? – Luke 17:17-18

Perhaps the other nine men were so eager to resume a normal life that they forgot to thank Jesus. Meanwhile, the Samaritan leper, who already understood what it felt like to be under appreciated in life was moved by God. Jesus was sent to call the Jews back to repentance, not the Samaritans. However, like the Samaritan woman at a well in John 4, a spirit of gratitude filled each of their hearts. When you slow down enough in life to see where you’ve been and what God has done, gratitude is the first step toward healing and happiness.

by Jay Mankus

Carrying the Burdens of Others this Year

One of Daniel’s friends from college received an urgent call from his mother a few weeks ago. Cristian’s father was taken to the hospital, battling for his life. Carrying the burden of his friend, Daniel jumped in his car and drove Cristian to Connecticut, only stopping for gas and food. While they were able to make it in time, the Coronavirus claimed another victim. This is one burden that other believers should carry.

Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also. Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and [a]troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete [b]what is lacking [in your obedience to it], Galatians 6:1-2.

I was introduced to concept of carrying the burdens of others while on a mission trip in college. One evening I took a walk with two friends. After a brief moment of small talk, a spirit of confession fell upon all three of us. Before the night was over, each of us shared secrets sins that we had kept buried deep inside of our hearts. This special conversation helped me realized the importance of laying our burdens at the feet of the cross, Matthew 11:28-30.

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. 13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive], Colossians 3:12-13.

Most people don’t bare their soul the first time you meet. Rather, healing takes time by becoming a consistent source of compassion. Instead of telling others that you know how they feel, the best thing you can do is listen attentively. As you develop and demonstrate the biblical qualities listed in the passage above, hurting people will open up when the timing is right. Until this day arrive, continue to carry the burdens of others this year.

by Jay Mankus

A Lament for Covid 19

A lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. One Old Testament writer developed the nickname of the weeping prophet. Unfortunately, every time Jeremiah seemed to receive a message from the Lord, it made him cry or brought sadness to Israel. Perhaps, this was the inspiration for the Book of Lamentations. Whatever the reason, certain events like Covid-19 bring a similar cry for help today.

And I say, Perished is my strength and my expectation from the Lord. 19 [O Lord] remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery, my wandering and my outcast state, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me, Lamentations 3:18-20.

Since the Coronavirus struck the United States in 2020, more than 770,000 lives have been snuffed out by this deadly plague. Despite having access to vaccines in 2021, Covid 19 has now taken more lives in the United States this year than 2020, 386,233 and counting. You would think that as more Americans get vaccinated the death toll would steadily decline, but this is not the case.

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not, Lamentations 3:21-22.

When science doesn’t have the answers or a cure, Jesus is the last line of defense. In the passage above, Jeremiah takes a dire situation and changes his perspective. Instead of focusing on what can’t be done, Jeremiah remembers all the past miracles performed by God in the Bible. Despite how bleak your future may be, hold on to Jesus as you lament to the Lord for a real cure for Covid 19.

by Jay Mankus

Joining the Fellowship of Faith

The origin of fellowship comes from the Greek word koinonia. This comes from the ancient Greek prefix koinos. Like anything in life, human beings tend to share common interests. As these individuals get to know one another and gather together, fellowships are formed. The goal of any fellowship is to pursue a shared interest or aim as one united body. The question is are you going to remaining on the sidelines or join the fellowship of faith.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [[i]morally] to all people [not only [j]being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

The first century church didn’t have lavish buildings with immaculate worship centers as a common meeting place. Rather, generous and wealthy church members opened the doors of their homes. Based upon the accounts in the New Testament, pot luck dinners were shared each week to get to know other people. When you’re having a rough week, Paul encouraged believers to keep meeting together.

So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the [c]hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word. 24 And let us consider and give [d]attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching, Hebrews 10:23-25.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews paints a picture of what can happen when fellowships begin to love one another. When you have a spiritual brother or sister to hold you accountable, you have a reason to hold fast to your faith in Jesus. As you study the Bible with other Christians, this is one way to join the fellowship of faith. While the Coronavirus has disrupted many social functions in churches around the world, don’t be afraid to join the fellowship of faith in 2022, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

God’s First Patient in Need of Mental Health

The summer of 2021 has brought back a sense of normalcy for those who have endured and survived the Coronavirus. Yet, a series of professional athletes from multiple sports have confessed an internal struggle that few people rarely verbalize. As golf and tennis stars have failed to meet and surpass their own expectations, depression, emotional distress and a lack of confidence has taken a toll on players like Naomi Osaka and Bubba Watson.

And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed, Genesis 4:4-5.

After his parents were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Cain was forced to farm on less fertile land. In fulfillment of the punishment placed upon Adam for his disobedience, Genesis 3:17, trying to plant crops in an arid climate made Cain’s trade increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, Cain’s little brother Abel was prospering as a shepherd. When a root of bitterness grew within Cain’s heart, God tried to intervene with a face to face conversation.

And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. And Cain said to his brother, Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. And the Lord said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper? – Genesis 4:6-9

As earth’s first mental health session began in the passage above, Cain wasn’t very happy with what God was suggesting. Apparently, God could sense the envy and jealousy brewing within Cain’s heart. As this festered, evil thoughts entered into Cain’s mind. Instead of pushing back the idea of murder, the Devil convinced Cain to follow in his father’s footsteps of disobedience. Don’t wait until it’s too late to to break the sins of your parents, Exodus 20:5. Don’t be afraid to pour out your heart publicly so that healing and restoration can begin, James 5:16.

by Jay Mankus

What a Special Friend Can Do for You

Before the Coronavirus spread to the United States in the March of 2000, my daughter Lydia was thinking about ending her Pole Vaulting career. The 2020 Winter Track Season was blah; not progressing at pole vaulting or meeting any new friends. As a Field Event specialist, not part of any running events, it’s hard to experience the sense of being part of a team. This all changed when Lydia met Bree at the 2020 Winter Track State Meet.

The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

Instead of dreading track, this instant friendship has transformed my daughter’s perspective of this sport. Bree has been like a big sister, introducing Lydia to everyone in the pole vaulting community. In her first two seasons, Lydia enjoyed pole vaulting, but she could live without it. Now that my daughter has been welcomed by the local pole vaulting community, a new desire to improve was conceived. When a special friend enters your life, these individuals take you to new heights, often pushing you closer toward self actualization.

No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends, John 15:13.

In the Old Testament, King Solomon distinguishes the difference between having several acquaintances and a special friend. Genuine friends stick around when everyone else tends to leave during times of hardship. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples refers to the sacrifices that friends make with the greatest being laying down their own life. We all need special friends like Bree. Looking back, if it wasn’t for Bree, Lydia probably would not have broken her school record which she now holds by herself at 9’6″.

by Jay Mankus

Progressively Passionate About God

If you ask a liberal college professor their thoughts about Jesus of Nazareth, progressive isn’t a word that you will hear. However, Jesus spent his last three years on earth surrounded by twelve men. Jesus’ ministry is the very definition of progressive: developing gradually; in stages; proceeding step by step. Jesus was the living Word of God, John 1:1-3. His display of love exemplified the fruits of the Spirit well before the apostle Paul wrote Galatians 5:16-25.

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope], Philippians 3:10.

Shortly after his ascension into heaven, Acts 1:9, the Day of Pentecost added passion to this progressive movement. Rather than condemn and punish wrong action and behavior, grace gave hope to those who didn’t deserve it, Romans 5:8. As the apostles become filled with the Holy Spirit, this progressive passion transformed the first century church, Acts 2:42-47. Poverty was eliminated as Christians saw their neighbors as one big extended family.

For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, That each one of you should know how to [c]possess (control, manage) his own body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, Not [to be used] in the passion of lust like the heathen, who are ignorant of the true God and have no knowledge of His will, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul compares the church to a well oiled machine. This body with many parts recognizes that each member has been given a special gift, trait or personality designed to share with others, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. As long as these talents are freely offered, passion continues to flow. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has stunted the growth of many, quenching passion. Nonetheless, if you are willing to develop your faith in a progressive manner, passion will return as believers keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Lord It’s Been So Long

If you’re not careful, life can be like a white water rafting trip. Once you’re on the river, there is danger lurking around every corner. Depending upon the classification and level of rapids, each one can come fast and furious. Unless there is some sort of break in between for your mind to relax, there will be no rest for the weary. Anyone who finds themselves on a wild ride may be so focused on survival that taking time to spend with God is like a blip on a radar screen.

Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, and said to them, Get up this way by the South (the Negeb) and go up into the hill country,18 And see what the land is and whether the people who dwell there are strong or weak, few or many,19 And whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 And what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is timber on it or not. And be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes, Numbers 13:17-20.

In his 1993 song, Power and Promise, Brett Williams uses the phrase, “Lord It’s Been So Long.” The context of these lyrics date back to Moses waiting to enter God’s Promise Land. In the second stanza, Williams refers back to the anguish Mary felt while her brother Lazarus was dead for 3 days. When signs of God’s power or presence is absent, invisible to your eyes, staying optimistic in times of trouble is difficult. This is where faith comes into play.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him]. 11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep, John 11:9-11.

However, when basic spiritual routines like going to church, reading the Bible or praying stop occurring, God fades from your memory. While the Coronavirus may have been an excuse for some to use in 2020, it’s time to reconnect. The imagery of Luke 15:20 pictures the Lord as a concerned parent, patiently waiting on the front porch for prodigals to come home. Until lost souls come to their senses, this reconciliation is put on hold. Therefore, if you find yourself distant from God, today as good as any day to open up by saying, “Lord, it’s been so long.”

by Jay Mankus

Removing the Element of Doubt

There are 72 accounts in the Bible that mention doubt. This feeling of uncertainty prevents human beings from achieving their full potential. This is what Abraham Maslow calls self-actualization, reaching the top of the pyramid as our hierarchy of needs are met. One of the greatest barriers standing in our way is doubt. Jesus said to first century followers, “a lack of belief is keeping you from a mountain top experience,” Matthew 21:18-22. Meanwhile, Jesus’ earthly brother refers to doubt as a series of crashing waves, propelled by strong winds.

Now the wife of a son of the prophets cried to Elisha, Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. But the creditor has come to take my two sons to be his slaves. Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? Tell me, what have you [of sale value] in the house? She said, Your handmaid has nothing in the house except a jar of oil. Then he said, Go around and borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels—and not a few. And when you come in, shut the door upon you and your sons. Then pour out [the oil you have] into all those vessels, setting aside each one when it is full, 2 Kings 4:1-4.

The aftermath of the Coronavirus has taken a toll on small businesses across the country. The dreams of many hopeful entrepreneurs have been dashed, leading many in the same position of the woman in the passage above. Down to her last jar of oil, this woman was desperate, just hoping to survive. The solution to her problem didn’t sound too promising, collecting as many empty containers from her neighbors as possible. Yet, similar to Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, the oil inside of her only jar kept flowing.

So she went from him and shut the door upon herself and her sons, who brought to her the vessels as she poured the oil. When the vessels were all full, she said to her son, Bring me another vessel. And he said to her, There is not a one left. Then the oil stopped multiplying. Then she came and told the man of God. He said, Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons live on the rest, 2 Kings 4:5-7.

According to a Charles Schwab’s 2019 financial study, 59% of Americans live pay check to check. Another 2019 survey discovered that 65% of Americans own their own home. Depending upon your current financial status, future goals may need to be altered. Yet, until the element of doubt is removed, you’ll never reach your full potential. This is where faith must swoop in to replace doubt. When lingering thoughts of doubt chip away at one’s inner confidence, a belief in the power of the Holy Spirit is crucial to removing the element of doubt. In the passage above, debts were paid off and retirement became a reality. Just believe!

by Jay Mankus

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