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Rediscovering the American Spirit

While Hurricane Harvey and Irma have received most of the headlines this month, another human interest story hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.  As Americans watched images of devastation, flooding and property loss from these storms, compassionate hearts have been compelled to act.  Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watts thought maybe he could raise some money using social media.  More than thirty million dollars later, donations continue to pour in.  Meanwhile, average citizens with boats, trailers and trucks have driven to Texas to aid in the search and rescue of stranded homeowners.  Countless others have provided clothes, diapers and water for victims who have lost everything except their lives.  In the face of adversity, these hurricanes have revived the American Spirit.

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up, Ecclesiastes 4:10.

From a historical perspective, King Solomon is considered one of the wisest human beings to ever walk the face of the earth.  In the passage above, Solomon points to the goal Israelites should strive to achieve.  Human beings can be fragile, often in need of a social companion.  Whether this is a classmate, co-worker or friend, life is easier when you have someone close to pick you up after a fall.  Sometimes falling refers to a physical act, but others struggle with a lack of confidence, depression or insecurity.  Based upon the context of Genesis 2, Adam spent a portion of his life searching for a suitable helper.  Initially, Adam looked for companionship among animals, likely taking some home as pets.  Yet, at some point these relationships didn’t suffice, eventually resulting in God creating Eve.  The Lord in his infinite wisdom understood the power of one person helping another in need.  Like the pay it forward movement, as one person demonstrates random acts of kindness, other good Samaritans are motivated to join in.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him, Luke 10:33.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus uses an analogy to illustrate what happens every day.  Sometimes people get into an accident, need help or are stranded along side of the road.  The people that should come to the rescue like priests and religious people use a busy schedule as an excuse to continue on their way.  The social outcast like the Samaritan ends up saving the day.  One of the points Jesus is trying to make is which one are you?  Are you going to remain on the sideline, failing to lend a helping hand to the countless who lost a home or family member?  Or will the selfless response by J.J. Watt inspire you to abandon your own worries to reach out to someone less fortunate?  Many the power of the Holy Spirit fall upon the volunteers in Florida and Texas to rediscover the American Spirit.  Although there will be other natural disasters in the future, I pray that this kindred spirit of giving continues to impact the lives of individuals forced to start over from scratch.  When communities love their neighbors as themselves, this world becomes a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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A Man Can Only Take So Much Failure

Parents tend to possess unique ways of motivating their children.  Over the years, most learn which buttons to push and which to avoid.  In the 1996 film Invincible, Kevin Conway plays Vince Papale’s father.  After thinking about backing out of an open try out hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles, Conway addresses Vince played by Mark Wahlberg.  Using reverse psychology, Conway suggests, “Vince, maybe you should sit this one out.  A man can only take so much failure.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

While I have watched this movie several times, this quote struck a cord in my heart for the first time last weekend.  To an extent, this expression is true as human beings can only handle so much.  Over time, everyone reaches a breaking point that leads to depression, heartbreak or suicide.  Thus, when you approach, near or reach this desolate place, it’s essential to turn your attention to God’s grace and mercy as instructed by the passage above.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong, 2 Corinthians 12:10.

The unlikely journey of Vince Papale from bartender to professional football player parallels the life of the apostle Paul.  Vince relies on his friends to get him through the loss of his wife and child.  Meanwhile, Paul places his trust in Christ alone.  The man who once persecuted Christians and gave the order to have Stephen executed ends up becoming a follower of the movement he once despised.  When individuals come to a crossroads in life, you have to eventually choose.  You may have two or multiple paths to decide from.  Yet, if you resolve to fulfill a childhood dream, make sure humility results in leaning on God’s power as a man can only take so much failure.

by Jay Mankus

An Infusion of Worship

Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, I’ve been consumed with depression.  Anyone trying to keep up with this story has been bombarded with a media frenzy.  Cable news stopped normal programming to air hourly updates, carry eyewitness reports and talk to panelists about their professional opinions.  The more I listened and watched, the worse I felt.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth, John 4:24.

After experiencing a few days of media silence this week, attempting to remove the negativity from my life, a thought came to my mind.  The Bible suggests that human beings were created to worship God.  When individuals drift off course away from this divine purpose, meaning and purpose for life fades.  Thus, those who reach this point like me need an infusion of worship to revive your soul.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship, Romans 12:1.

Yesterday, I replaced the radio with Christian music from my car stereo.  As soon as a few inspirational songs came on, my mood was transformed.  Instead of arguing with talk radio callers and the host, my mind was swayed by the lyrics I began singing along to.  This spiritual infusion gave me the boost I needed to make it through the day.  However, this shouldn’t be a once in a while practice.  Rather, if you want experience a permanent infusion of worship, set aside time daily for worship by offering your body up as a living sacrifice.

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

Hope verses Heart-break

Anticipation, day dreaming and utopia are synonyms for hope.  Like an anxious child eager to open presents on Christmas morning, hope is like a promise waiting to be unwrapped.  The only problem is sometimes the hype doesn’t live up to your own expectations.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

When desires are unfulfilled, a wave of agony, dire and sadness replace inner joy.  In these moments of disappointment, its easy to overreact.  However, if you are not careful, heart-break can lead to depression.  If healing does not occur, hope can fade like the setting sun.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18.

If this blog finds you down in the dumps or recovering from a broken heart, the Bible provides two words of encouragement.  The first urges individuals to rely on prayer in times of trouble.  Prayer serves as a source of hope.  Meanwhile, if your spirit has been crushed by a relationship, tragedy or uncertainty don’t lose hope.  God promises to surround you with either angels, friends or strangers to get you through the tough times in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Layer of Protection

God designed human beings with a layer of protection known as skin.  Internally, the rib cage serves as a chest protector to protect life’s most vital organ.  Meanwhile, the skull surrounds the brain,  the think tank of the body.  Yet, there is an invisible layer of protection that few people talk about.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it, Proverbs 4:23.

While dreaming the other night, I began to think about all the things in life I want to accomplish but never have to date.  The longer my list became, the worse I felt, resulting in an overwhelming sense of remorse.  Before a state of depression filled my soul, God intervened with a layer of protection.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him, John 3:17.

One of the misconceptions individuals make about God is that He wants to punish people.  However, one of Jesus’ disciples reveals the truth about His visit to earth, to save mankind.  To prevent sinners from future nervous breakdowns, angels, divine intervention and supernatural forces are unleashed to serve as a layer of protection.  While powers of darkness may claim some victims, the Lord continues to offer a message of redemption.

by Jay Mankus

 

Going to the Dump

Every  summer I was exposed to a local dump in Maine.  Since our cabin did not have garbage pick up, guests were expected to take all their trash to be disposed of at the county recycling center.  The smell of the bags in the August heat was fowl, but this was all part of the complete experience of going to the dump.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.

While addressing the masses one day, Jesus refers to a different kind of dump.  The context of this discussion is based upon individuals carrying around baggage.  Whether its depression, stress or worry Jesus doesn’t want people to go through life alone.  Rather, when trash in life begins to pile up, drop to your knees to unload the garbage you have collected.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

The world proclaims he who dies with the most toys wins.  Yet, when people pass away your body will eventually become dust.  Thus, our bodies are on loan from God.  The Holy Spirit is the source of life for human souls.   The opposing force known as the sinful nature wages war by bombarding minds with trash from life.  To combat this weapon used by the Devil, go to the dump daily to unload worries in prayer which God replaces with rest.

by Jay Mankus