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Jesus: The Master of All Trades

While attending a youth ministry trade school following college, I read a book entitled The Master of all Trades. The author used miracles performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John as a case study. When I studied each of these accounts, I realized that Jesus was proving his mastery over a series of elements. Although I can’t remember the author’s name or find the book online, this comparison provides a clear illustration that Jesus indeed is the master of all trades.

Eight Miracles In The Gospel Of John  

  1. Water Into Wine John 2:1-11
  2. Healing the official’s son John 4:43-54.
  3. The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda John 5:1-9 
  4. The Feeding of the 5000 John 6:1-14.
  5. Walking on the Water (John 6:16-25).
  6. The Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41).
  7. Raising Lazarus From The Dead (John 11:1-44).
  8. Casting net into sea catching 153 fishes (John 21:5-8).

When Jesus turns water into wine, he defies the laws of science and reveals his mastery over quality. In the process of healing an official’s son, Jesus conquers distance by healing this boy from afar. While visiting an invalid at a pool, lingering with this condition for thirty-eight years, Jesus shows his mastery over time. During the feeding of the 5000, Jesus shows his ability to overcome the odds, able to provide no matter how great the quantity. In a storm, Jesus walks on water to highlight his power over the elements on the earth.

There are also many other signs and miracles which Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written (recorded) in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting and relying upon Him you may have life through (in) His name [through Who He is], John 20:30-31.

At the end of John’s gospel, it’s clear that thousands of miracles performed by Jesus were left out of the Bible. John merely selects 8 that illustrate Jesus’ mastery of all trades. The final 3 give hope to those who seem to be in an irrevocable situation. Whether you’ve been without one of your 5 key senses from birth, on the verge of death, or failing miserably in your career, Jesus has the power to alter your current situation. As long as you believe, the master of all trades can do wonders for you and your family.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of a Lie

While spending 3 years of my life in full time youth ministry, I attended several conferences, seminars and workshops. One of the most beneficial aspects of these events was learning new Ice Breakers. Although not every idea worked, I found that playing telephone once a year forced my students to become better listeners. Also known as Chinese Whispers, one teenager starts by reading a written down message or sharing a short story. This information is shared via a whisper over and over again until the last person recounts what this initial message has morphed into.

Truthful lips shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is [credited] but for a moment. 20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who devise evil, but for the counselors of peace there is joy. Proverbs 12:19-20.

The first participants of telephone were Adam and Eve. Despite knowing the only rule established by God, Genesis 2:16-17, each were intrigued by what a crafty serpent had to say. As soon as the boundary lines were set in the Garden of Eden, both knew that the Tree of Knowledge was off limits. Nonetheless, Eve began to entertain the thought planted into her mind. Instead of telling this snake to scram, Adam began to second guess God. This is the power of a lie, convincing yourself through good intentions to justify wrong actions. Since this day of deception, human beings have become more and more gullible, falling for lie after lie.

No [actual] evil, misfortune, or calamity shall come upon the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil, misfortune, and calamity. 22 Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight, Proverbs 12:21-22.

Since the death of George Floyd, a few riots have been fueled by false reports posted on Twitter. By the time this lie was exposed, it was too late as city streets, local businesses and neighborhoods resembled a war zone. Instead of double checking sources to confirm the accuracy of a report, cable news and the print media have become sloppy, jumping the gun so to speak. While President Trump refers to these felonious accounts as “Fake News,” the Bible calls this lying. In the passage above, King Solomon doesn’t speak kindly to those who distort, exaggerate or fib a little. If a politician in cooperation with the media tells a lie over and over again, sooner or later the masses will believe this to be the truth. This is the power of a lie.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

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

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

The Night I Met Satan in a Bowling Alley

By the beginning of my junior year in college, I felt called to pursue a career in youth ministry. To follow this calling, I began to volunteer in as many ways as possible to prepare myself for the future. I served as an assistant youth director for junior high students at my home church in Wilmington. Meanwhile, I sacrificed several weekends to help out with service projects, retreats and weekly youth related events.

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate, Proverbs 8:13.

When one of my mentors from high school asked me to help out at a lock in, an overnight action packed activity, I jumped at this opportunity. High school students were dropped off at a local bowling alley before being driven back to the church in vans afterward. Serving as an adult, I wanted to sit back and listen, observing this group of teenagers. It didn’t take long to recognize the boy that everyone referred to as Satan. Beside being obnoxious, this boy kept running up behind bowlers, hitting and pushing them just before releasing their ball. This behavior continued for an hour.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” Romans 12:19.

Instead of being confrontational and preachy, I sat down with this boy, trying to find out what made him tick. I guess you can say understanding Satan became my project for this night. As the evening wore on, I stuck to this boy like glue, hoping to limit his emotional outbursts. When my patience wore off, I began to confront and rebuke Satan, “why are you trying to live up to this nickname?” Feeling compelled to go deeper, the Holy Spirit filled me with probing questions to get to the heart of this boy’s issue.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, Ephesians 6:12.

Normally, I don’t like to press people. Yet, after midnight, I spent an hour peeling away Satan’s onion, one layer at a time. My conversation revealed a broken home, a strict father and having no concept of love. Following a time of prayer in the chapel, the spiritual influences of Satan on this boy’s life was finally broken. This experience as a volunteer inspired me to devote 15 years of my life to youth ministry. As I found out as a college student, nothing is impossible with God as the boy that was called Satan gave his life to Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, before this lock in concluded.

by Jay Mankus

What Are You Waiting For?

While attending a leadership trade school six months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I was challenged to expand my comfort zone.  Following eight hours in a classroom setting, nightly assignments forced me to go to local malls to develop my conversational skills by talking to complete strangers.  One of the more meaningful projects was creating a 25 year mission statement.  This involved career, ministry and personal goals that I wanted to accomplish before turning fifty.  As I approach the half century mark next month, I feel like time has passed me by.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

After getting married in 1995, my wife Leanne and I were active participants in youth ministry at a church in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  A mutual goal was to volunteer at a local church when our three children were teenagers.  Although I taught high school for a decade, my oldest son was in eighth grade my final year teaching.  For one reason or another, I find myself waiting for the perfect time which has now come and gone.  Subsequently, my oldest so James is married, Daniel is a senior in high school and Lydia a sophomore.  This week I heard God’s still small voice whisper, “what are you waiting for?”

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” James 4:13-15.

My daughter attended a youth group last year which she enjoyed.  This church provides a youth oriented church service on Friday night, but busy Spring and Summer schedules has kept our family from investing time there.  Just as the Holy Spirit convicted me earlier in the week, common sense is now pleading me with “what are you still waiting for?”  Perhaps, future blogs will share a proactive approach to God’s calling.  Yet, for now all I can say is that I have failed to invest my time wisely.  Therefore, it’s time to act now before our home becomes an empty nest.

by Jay Mankus

The One Thing In Life That Brings Out Your Best and Worst

Before attending a youth ministry trade school back in 1993, there was a series of books I needed to read prior to my first class.  How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Bringing Out the Best in People are the two that I remember the most.  Carnegie’s book opened my eyes to practical principles for making friends naturally as well as the art of persuasion.  Meanwhile, Bringing Out the Best in People introduced me to the 3 C’s: Don’t criticize, complain or condemn other people.  When I began to tame my tongue by steering my words in a positive direction, my life ascended toward greatness.  From a personal, social and spiritual perspective, 1993 was the best year of my life.

Now if we put bits into the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. And look at the ships. Even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines. In the same sense, the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See [by comparison] how great a forest is set on fire by a small spark! – James 3:3-5

In the years that have followed, I have never come close to this level of joy and satisfaction.  There have been periods, glimpses of greatness, but each time I quickly came back down to earth.  The reason for my fall lies in the tongue.  According to Jesus’ earthly brother, the tongue is like a rudder on a ship.  When rudders begin to malfunction, ships lose control, going off course.  Following a two year stint as a youth pastor, I let my conversation slip, spitting out destructive, harsh and negative comments.  The longer I allowed my tongue to be undisciplined, it didn’t take long to descend to some of the lowest points in my life.  Like any frustrating moment, human tongues feed off of misery, unleashing vicious thoughts formally kept silent deep inside your mind.

But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. 10 Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts], James 3:8-10.

In the passage above, James reveals the danger of the tongue.  No matter how disciplined you may be, you can only hope to contain this aspect of your flesh.  When you open your mouth, only God knows what will come it.  One day you may be filled with blessings; the next followed by curses.  James urges first century readers of his letter to consider their moral obligation to God.  The words and vocabulary that you choose should reflect a reverence for God.  In addition, your mind should be influenced by God’s precepts as you meditate day and night on these principles.  Without taking this advice seriously, your conversations will resemble a roller coaster ride, with highs that uplift others and lows that cut to the heart.  May this blog challenge you to transform the content of your words in 2019.

by Jay Mankus

An Infusion of Enthusiasm

While attending a youth ministry trade school back in 1993, I received a couple of 3 ring binder notebooks.  The training material for Tentmakers Youth Ministry was close to two thousand pages on content, taking seven weeks to complete.  This intense active learning leadership course required my full attention, living out the principles I was being taught at my host family.  Nightly assignments were designed to take you out of your comfort zone, forced to interact with strangers at church, local malls and neighborhoods to finetune your conversational skills.  During this two month stretch, I was infused with enthusiasm, driven and encouraged by like minded classmates.

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but [only] those who are sick, Matthew 9:11-12.

Today, when enthusiasm fades, joy disappears and my energy to do anything is gone, I retreat to find something meaningful in life.  Recently, I came across a quote from this class.  “The excitement of a group never exceeds that of its leader.”  What this statement suggests is that leaders must learn to be self-sufficient, able to recharge their own excitement level.  Although people within various groups may encourage and spur you on, leaders need a daily infusion of enthusiasm.  Without this spiritual discipline, finding motivation to make it through each day, even leaders will lose their vigor for life.

Go and learn what this [Scripture] means: ‘I desire compassion [for those in distress], and not [animal] sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call [to repentance] the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to change], but sinners [those who recognize their sin and actively seek forgiveness],” Matthew 9:13.

Jesus addresses this issue during a first century conversation.  Righteous zealots were concerned that Jesus and his disciples were compromising their faith by socializing with sinners.  However, Jesus uses logic to show these Pharisees the error in their thinking.  The healthy, individuals who have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus, have learned to be self-sufficient spiritually through a daily dose of prayer, reflection and worship.  The sick, people who have lost their way, need Christians to leave their comfort zones to expand the body of Christ.  Therefore, the more you experience an infusion of enthusiasm for the lost, God can use you to be a light in a dark world to turn to you for answers.  May this blog inspire you to use your daily time with God, praying and reading the Bible as an infusion of enthusiasm.

by Jay Mankus

What am I Doing and Where am I Going?

I was introduced to the concept of evaluation early on as a youth director.  Through conferences, seminars and a youth ministry trade school, I learned the importance of gaining feedback from participants.  During my decade of teaching high school, I incorporated this into my curriculum, encouraging students to be critical, honest and fair.  After years of fine tuning, the last day of each class I asked five questions.  What did you like?  What did you dislike?  What topic(s) did I not spent enough time addressing?  What topic(s) did I spent too much time covering?  What changes would you make to improve this class?  After giving students five minutes in silence to write down their opinions, I gave individuals an open forum to express their feelings verbally if so inclined.  While some discussion were brief, others carried on for several minutes.  These papers were collected, stored in notes books and became the foundation for improving my curriculum each summer.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

Unfortunately, outside of the classroom it’s easy to become so consumed with life that you forget what you’re really doing and where your going?  Thus, I must confess that as I write blog after blog, I often forget the purpose for Express Yourself 4Him.  Initially, I wanted to create a modern day diary using the Confessions of Augustine as my inspiration.  The autobiography of this 4th century theologian from Hippo details Augustine’s conversion to Christ and the evolution of his understanding of the Bible.  As Augustine reflected on life while sitting on his back porch, the Holy Spirit began to unveil pieces to the puzzle called life.  Over the weekend, God convicted me of my haphazard nature, sensing a need to become more focused.  Thus, in the coming days, weeks and year, I plan on focusing on two main areas.  First, continue to use the Bible to help explain and understand current events.  Second, become more interactive by using the comments I receive as a source for future blogs.  If I don’t help my readers address their concerns, issues and problems of others, I’m missing an opportunity to use my God given gift.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you, Psalm 32:8.

If you have ever played a team sport team, sometimes the play called by a coach is flawed.  If you are quick or shrewd enough, you might be able to freelance enough to turn a loss into a gain.  This same concept applies to life.  There will be circumstances, days and scenarios where what normally works is ineffective.  Therefore, you have to improvise, change while on the fly.  This is where individuals must learn to place their sole trust in the Lord.  Yes, like anything else, this can be scary, requiring blind faith.  Like the Psalmist suggests above, this leap of faith involves counsel, instruction and teaching.  If you really want to make sure you are on the right track, Bible Study, prayer and worship is available to most everyone.  As I start my sixth as a blogger in February, I pray that the Lord enables me to keep in step with the Holy Spirit so I can minister to those in need.

by Jay Mankus

When Confidence Fades Away

There was a time in my life when I believed that I could do anything.  A few months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I felt like I was missing something.  This emptiness led me to pursue a leadership trade school in Minnesota called Tentmakers.  Following my completion of this youth ministry training in March of 1993, I was equipped with the tools I was previously missing.  This training propelled me to new levels of confidence.  Unfortunately, beginning in 1994 this confidence faded away, never to fully recapture again.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

During my fifteen years of coaching, I’ve seen similar situations occur on the athletic field.  Golf is probably the one sport where confidence is essential.  One day golfers may flirt with shooting par and the next can’t break 50 for 9 holes.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen dominant pitchers be unhittable one day and the next can’t find the strike zone.  Confidence is like fuel that drives individuals.  When it runs out its easy for people to become lost, a shell of who they once were.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

There is a term which refers to someone floundering, flopping back and forth without any sense of direction.  This state is often a by product of confidence that fades away.  If you have ever reached this point in life like me, Solomon encourages people to lean on God.  While you may not regain the heights you once obtained, the Lord promises to restore hope to those who have endured the pain of lost confidence.

by Jay Mankus

Closing Your Eyes on the Poor

Poverty is something you can be born into, forced into by extreme conditions or reached by a series of bad decisions.  Upon graduating from college, I went into social work.  I spent two days a week as a youth director at a church in Rising Sun, Maryland and the rest of my time as a Program Coordinator for the Methodist Action Plan in the inner city of Wilmington, Delaware.  I made just enough to eat and put gas in my car.  To save money I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement for 6 months.  Essentially, I was poor, unable to fulfill my goals in life on my own.  When my church home Cornerstone heard of my plight, a love offering was taken prior to my departure for a youth ministry trade school.  Without any previous conversation, this gift was exactly what I needed to attend this school.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses, Proverbs 28:27.

A little over a year later, I remembered this act of generosity striving to pay it forward.  Thus, when the church I was serving in turned away a homeless college student, I offered the couch in my apartment.  Although, this was an inconvenience to me, the Bible instructs followers to lend a helping hand.  I’m not sure if this lack of privacy led to my decision to leave youth ministry six months later, but I have become jaded.  This negative experience has led me to become selfish, putting my family first.  In the process, I have begun closing my eyes to the poor.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Corinthians 9:7.

If acknowledging a flaw is the first step to recovery, then I must confess that I have turned a blind eye to the poor and needy.  Instead of stopping to listen and lend a helping hand, I pretend that I don’t see those pandering at various intersections.  The Lord has a firm warning to those who ignore the poor.  Solomon suggests curses will follow those who continue to avoid the needy.  May the Holy Spirit help people like me trying to break the bad habit of closing my eyes on the poor.

by Jay Mankus

 

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