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Tag Archives: heart

You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask

December is the season for watching Christmas classics.  Every year networks have some sort of X number of days, re-airing animations, children and hallmark Christmas shows.  Recently, I sat down while my wife and son were watching Home Alone.  I can’t remember the last time I saw this film, but one scene got my attention.  Attending a Christmas Eve service, Macaulay Culkin is talking to his neighbor in the back of the church.  This discussion reveals a broken relationship between a father and son without any communication for years.  After this man gives Macaulay advice, Macaulay turns the tables, “you’ll never know unless you ask your son?”

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive, Colossians 3:13.

Throughout this country, previous disagreements create tension over holidays spent together.  When maturity is present, differences can be overcome.  Unfortunately, when arrogance, bitterness or pride enters the equation, relations turn cold.  As a former teacher and youth pastor, I have listened to a number of heart breaking stories of families falling apart.  Emotions tend to make individuals say things that they often regret.  A few careless words in the heat of the moment can divide the closest of friends.  After cooling off, if you want to make amends, you’ll never know until you ask.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses, Mark 11:25.

One of the hardest parts of uniting two people who are convinced that the other is at fault lies in the principle of forgiveness.  According to Jesus, prayer should incorporate reflection, thinking about anyone that you are holding a grudge against.  The purpose of this practice is to reconcile, making right previous wrongs done by you or approaching others whom you haven’t forgiven for a past transgression.  The apostle Paul builds upon Jesus’ words, adding the concept of bearing with each other.  In the final scene of Scrooged, Bill Murray proclaims it’s never too late to find forgiveness.  Therefore, if you are alone and afraid this Christmas, wondering if reconciliation is possible, you’ll never know unless you ask.

by Jay Mankus

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It’s Time To Drop Your Own Stone

One aspect of human nature is an inclination to pile on.  Whether this is criticizing, joking or teasing, when everyone is doing it, your conscience may be confused.  Despite sensing that this behavior is wrong, the temptation to make fun of someone no one likes often promotes a knee jerk reaction.  At the end of the day, the desire to conform influenced you to cast a stone that inflicted pain.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  – John 8:3-5

Old Testament law can be construed as harsh, with no room for grace.  One day the religious leaders tried to ensnare Jesus, putting him in position to oversee the death of a woman caught in adultery.  The passage above gives a brief summary on the context, seeing if Jesus would fulfill the law of Moses.  Instead of talking, Jesus bent down to begin writing in the sand with his finger.  Although the content is unknown, whatever was drawn began to convict hearts.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,”  John 8:7.

To avoid knee jerk reactions on this day, Jesus posed a question for everyone in the crowd to consider.  If you think this woman is guilty, go ahead, pick up your stone and throw it.  However, if sin is living in you, you could be next?  According to the remainder of this passage, little by little, individuals dropped their stone and went home.  Perhaps, twitter followers, negative people and those who have a tendency to overblow situations need this reminder.  Maybe you will come to the same conclusion I recently did.  It’s time to drop your own stone.

by Jay Mankus

 

Trying to Survive in a World Void of Love

If you have your own twitter handle or follow daily tweets, hatred is regularly spewed.  Feelings, opinions and thoughts once keep inside human minds are now given a venue to be unleashed without any filter.  This sets the stage for a cruel environment as critics pick apart individuals that they disagree with, dislike or simply pile on.  This is the atmosphere children and adults are forced to deal with, trying to survive in a world void of love.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him,” Leviticus 19:17.

While technology wasn’t an issue, evil affected civilizations in the days of the Old Testament.  Moses addresses hatred that spread throughout the twelve tribes of Israel.  According to the passage above, bitter hearts were influencing relationships with neighbors.  Anyone who allows jealousy, hurt feelings or past encounters to prevent you from giving others the benefit of doubt incurs sin.  In many cases, lack of reason hampers love from being displayed.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen, 1 John 4:20.

The disciple whom Jesus loved gives his own take on why love is fading away, rarely displayed by anyone.  John believes people are afraid to be honest, caring more about being politically correct than being truthful.  Thus, a growing number of people offer lip service void of any signs of love.  This pattern must cease, replaced by humble hearts hoping to change.  While public education continues to focus on self esteem, love is derived from a spiritual transformation, Galatians 5:22-23.  When hearts are reborn, Romans 10:9-10, love is possible.  Unfortunately, love can’t be forced upon people, it occurs naturally as the Holy Spirit touches souls.  The only way to survive a world void of love unscathed is by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit through which love comes forth.

by Jay Mankus

Developing An Attitude of Gratitude

As Christmas Day draws near yet again, it appears the Grinch Who Stole Christmas isn’t just a Dr. Suess classic.  Rather, a lack of thanksgiving is turning hearts once full of joy into Ebenezer Scrooge.  While 24 hours of Christmas music attempts to put people into the Christmas spirit, demons whispering Bah Humbug are drowning out carolers in the streets.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,  Ephesians 5:17-18.

I’m not sure the initial reason, but a song writer felt called to create a piece entitled the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Perhaps, modern times need a composition to prepare souls to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us.  If Thanksgiving Day is used properly, this celebration could kick start the 12 Days of Thanksgiving, enabling a spirit of thanks to be transformed into an attitude of gratitude.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:19-20.

The apostle Paul provides a blue print for this evolution in a letter to the church at Ephesus.  The ungrateful tend to drown their sorrows in alcohol.  Meanwhile, the expense of gift giving can steal your joy for this special season.  To avoid this common fate, turn bitterness into praise by humming Christmas classics.  As this is practiced daily, perspectives slowly change from self-gratification toward a heart of service.  If you want to change for the better, start keeping a journal of reasons to be thankful.  When healthy practices become a habit, an attitude of gratitude will be established.

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

Looking for Answers in ALL the Wrong Places

Between self help books and talk shows, these avenues have become popular sources for finding answers to problems in life.  Internet sites like You Tube have a plethora of videos for almost everything that you need to do around the house.  Instead of seeking the advice of godly counsel, elders, parents or guardians, most people are becoming self-sufficient formulating answers on their own.

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, Psalm 13:2-3.

In the days of his youth, David spent the majority of his time as a shepherd.  Watching over his families flock, David regularly stayed out in the fields overnight, guarding these sheep.  There wasn’t a book on how to ward off bears or wolves.  Rather, David was forced to trust in the Lord, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide this flock to green and safe pastures.  Like in the passage above, David turned to prayer when he didn’t know what to do.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person, Colossians 4:6.

Unfortunately, I tend to get distracted, looking for answers to my problems in all the wrong places.  Instead of finding comfort, joy and peace, I regularly experience disappointment.  According to the apostle Paul, there is only one source who leads to peace, Philippians 4:6-7.  However, Jesus told his disciples the only way to find life is lose it.  Anyone not one hundred percent devoted to God has a tendency to go back to the ways of the world when hardship or suffering arises.  Therefore, if you’re tired of uncertainty, start looking upward toward heaven instead of within .

by Jay Mankus

 

 

When Hope Hurts

I was watching a documentary last weekend on the Christmas Day tsunami in 2010.  This event took many tourists in Indonesia by surprise, unaware of the signs of impending doom that was about to strike.  Just when eyewitnesses of this tragedy thought it was safe, another powerful wave appeared, stronger than the previous one.  Those who found a secure location above the carnage, watched helplessly, hoping for the best.

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

With family, friends and sightseers separated from their loved ones, the waiting began.  Due to the extreme currents of these rivers of debris, the topography of these resorts were unrecognized after this tsunami.  These condition made it difficult to find those carried away.  Shortly afterward, missing persons bulletin boards and internet sites began to emerge.  Hoping for good news, thousands waited for days, unsure of the fate of their children, parents and spouses.  This is when hope hurts.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you, Psalm 39:7.

As someone who recently received a phone call bearing bad news, this can be devastating.  Whether it’s an accident, cancer or a rare illness, waiting to hear the condition of a loved one produces a heavy heart.  The permanence of death is a tough pill to swallow.  Sure, from time to time, there will be miracles that defy science, but the grave is the final resting place for everyone.  Therefore, as you endure moments in time when hope hurts, place your trust in the Lord.  By doing this, healing comes in the morning, Lamentations 3:23.

by Jay Mankus