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Catching Your Dreams

As a former athlete, I understand the concept of setting goals.  At the beginning of each season, I would use a notecard to write down my expectations.  Whether I was running, swimming or playing golf, I tried to raise the bar higher and higher each time I set a personal record.  The only hard part about setting a score or time to beat, eventually you reach a saturation point.  For example, I haven’t bested 69 for 18 holes in golf since my junior year of high school.  Meanwhile, I never came close to breaking 17 minutes for a 5K race after doing it once as a senior.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

I guess what I am trying to say is that as an adult, I spend most of my time chasing dreams instead of actually catching them.  There is an old saying that refers to being close.  This idiom claims that being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  If you want to be the best, losing over and over again to someone slightly better is frustrating.  When you get closer and closer to catching a dream, hope is conceived, turning doubters into believers.  Yet, if progress is never achieved, chasing dreams can become like a dog attempting to catch their own tail.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

The other night I watched the film I Can Only Imagined.  Bart Millard grew up in a dysfunctional family made worse when his mother refused to take Bart with her after moving out.  Left to his abusive father, Bart wanted to chase and catch dreams.  However, the negativity spewed by Bart’s dad bombarded his mind, leaving behind emotional, physical and spiritual scars.  Despite these obstacles, Bart traveled the country with a Christian group called Mercy Me attempting to follow in the footsteps of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.  Yet, it took cancer to inflict his father and redemption to transform his heart before the Lord gave Bart the words to I can only image.  Upon releasing this single on a 1999 album, the Worship Project, Bart finally caught his dream.  May Bart Millard‘s perseverance inspire you to catch your own dreams.

by Jay Mankus

 

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Falling Farther Away

The Freefall is an amusement ride developed by Giovanola. Two generations of this ride were designed and marketed throughout the world by the Swiss company Intamin.  The first series of Freefall rides can be identified by the angled supports at the base of the lift tower.  The second generation were identical, but the tower’s base structure on these variants did not taper outward.  The Freefall ride went out of style near the end of the 1999’s, replaced by new technology such as the Gyro Drop and compressed air tower rides.  What I learned last week is that you don’t have to go to an amusement park to experience falling.

For [it is impossible to restore to repentance] those who have once been enlightened [spiritually] and who have tasted and consciously experienced the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted and consciously experienced the good word of God and the powers of the age (world) to come, and then have fallen away—it is impossible to bring them back again to repentance, since they again nail the Son of God on the cross [for as far as they are concerned, they are treating the death of Christ as if they were not saved by it], and are holding Him up again to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The author of Hebrews suggests that when individuals enter into a personal relationship with God, the Holy Spirit elevates and lifts up your faith.  Spiritual enlightenment gives people access to a heavenly gift, tasting the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  However, if you look back down at your former life, tempted to return, you can expect a great fall.  Modern terminology refers to this as back sliding away from God to indulge in temporary pleasures of the world.  To those who change their course, the passage above compares this behavior to crucifying Jesus on the cross over and over again.  At some point, you have to snap out of this spiritual free fall before its to late.

For if we go on willfully and deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice [to atone] for our sins [that is, no further offering to anticipate], 27 but a kind of awful and terrifying expectation of [divine] judgment and the fury of a fire and burning wrath which will consume the adversaries [those who put themselves in opposition to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

Five chapters later, the author of Hebrews unveils the fate of those falling farther away from God.  The imagery above suggests that some people will just barely get into heaven, by the skin of their pants.  Just prior to any spiritual freefall is marked by idleness, a lack of concentration, direction and guidance.  A disciple of Jesus refers to this as lukewarm, losing your love and passion for Jesus.  If believers do not feed and meditate upon the Word of God, it won’t be long before hearts, minds and souls begin to look back, over the edge toward the world.  Jesus compares this behavior to a farmer who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back, Luke 9:62.  If you want to save yourself from anguish, pain and suffering, fix your eyes on Jesus to avoid future free falls, Hebrews 12:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Making of a Prodigy or A Waste of Time?

Prodigy’s are especially young individuals, endowed with exceptional abilities, talents and qualities.  When coaches, parents or teachers discover this gift, young people are often pushed to see how good or great they can be.  In some cases adults use these special children as pawns, attempting to live their lives through them.  If an endeavor results in a full college scholarship after years of dedication, practice and persistent is rewarded.  Yet; if these prodigy’s get burned out, lose interest or start to hate the sport they once loved, perhaps these years were a waste of time.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established, Proverbs 16:3.

As a former coach, I have seen my share of amazing athletes.  After spending three consecutive years at cross country nationals, I began to see key ingredients in becoming an elite runner.  Through conversations with other coaches and parents, most of the national champions joined a local running club early, some starting at the age of 6.  Meanwhile, as a high school golf coach, a similar connection can be made.  Competition, dedication to practice and a swing coach has resulted in one of the strongest classes of female golfers to come out of the state of Delaware.  I won’t be surprised if a few of these young women end playing on the LPGA tour after college.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, Colossians 3:23.

After I moved back to Delaware two decades ago, a friend gave me the phone number of Max Lucado’s editor.  I spent nearly thirty minutes asking a series of question, wanting to know what it takes to become a professor writer.  After sharing a brief summary of his road to success, one comment stuck out during our conversation.  “If you are going to take this seriously, you need to write full time for seven years to have any chance at getting recognized.”  This year marks my 7th year as an amateur screen writer.  After I submit my two scripts for the 2019 Nicholls Contest by the May 1st deadline, I won’t hear the results until July.  Nonetheless, I have taken a chance, invested hundreds of hours and have become vulnerable to rejection to pursue another dream.  Only time will tell if my attempt at becoming a prodigy writer will result in success or failure.

by Jay Mankus

Removing Any Unwanted Visitors

Now that Easter Sunday is over, some people may be wondering, what do I do now?  Well, one thing is for certain, the closer you get to God, the more of a threat you become to Satan, aka the Devil.  Thus, don’t be surprised by a series of unwanted visitors in the form of demonic attacks, ungodly influences and a wave of temptations to through you off track.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews compares life on earth to a marathon.  Along the way, there will be obstacles, pot holes and unplanned delays meant to trip you up.  As a former angel, Lucifer has the ability to disguise evil in an attractive manner.  These clever attacks delay, entangle and slow down runners.  Therefore, if you want to remove any unwelcomed visitors endurance and perseverance must exist.

And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him,” Acts 5:32.

A first century doctor makes an interesting observation between the Holy Spirit and obedience.  According to Luke, the Holy Spirit is bestowed and poured out upon those who obey God.  Thus, the best way to remove any unwanted visitors is by obeying biblical practices.  As you read the four gospels and continue throughout the New Testament, the anointing of the Holy Spirit is waiting for faithful followers.  As individuals keep in step with the Holy Spirit, this supernatural counselor will enable you to take the necessary steps to remove all unwanted and unwelcomed visitors.  May this bestowing awaken you as you draw closer to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Can’t Stop Talking About It

Bonnie Raitt released the album Luck of the Draw in 1991. The hit single from this album was Something to Talk About. This song was written by Canadian singer-songwriter Shirley Eikhard and recorded by Raitt in 1990. The lyrics contain the line “You’ve got to let me in or let me out” which is designed to draw the attention of others. The premise is let’s give people something to talk about.

For we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard, Acts 4:20.

A similar phenomena began to occur in the middle of the first century. As apostles started to perform miracles like Jesus, eyewitnesses couldn’t stop telling other people what they had just seen. Recounting these events became the daily topic of story telling as adults reveled in miracle after miracle. I guess you can say this was like the first Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum except the exhibits were transformed lives touched by the hand of God.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame, 1 Peter 3:15-16.

In the passage above, Peter refers to proper etiquette when talking to outsiders. Sharing your faith such as letting strangers know how Jesus has changed your life is an important aspect of Christianity. Yet, you want to do this with gentleness and respect, remembering your life prior to Christ. Old Testament practices included Jewish parents recalling events from the patriarchs to their children. Perhaps, its time to reinstitute this tradition today to give families something to talk about every night.

by Jay Mankus

Drifting Back Into Church

For a decade I stood in front of teenagers as a Bible teacher informing students of the importance of attending church. At the time, one of my close friends was a famous author who wrote books on Church Growth and Spiritual Gifts. When I was able to teach a couple of elective courses, I began to implement this material into my curriculum. Thus, I challenged juniors and seniors to ascertain their spiritual gifts. Once discovered students were encouraged to apply these talents within a local congregation or youth group.

But sin, finding an opportunity through the commandment [to express itself] produced in me every kind of coveting and selfish desire. For without the Law sin is dead [the recognition of sin is inactive]. I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death]. 10 And the very commandment which was intended to bring life, actually proved to bring death for me, Romans 7:8-10.

As Easter Sunday approaches I find myself in an awkward predicament. Due to a strange sleep schedule, working nights, my body has become lazy, like the sluggard described by Solomon in the book of Proverbs. After attending church in January, other priorities have replaced church resulting in a three month absence. A rationalizing mind hides behind the two movie scripts I have been working on due May 1st. Despite pulling all nighters writing each weekend, there is no excuse for abandoning a body of believers. Thus, I find myself as a casual attender, like the Christmas and Easter crowd who will flock to mass this weekend.

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! – 2 Corinthians 12:7.

Within two chapters of the Bible, the apostle reveals some sort of secret sin that haunted him. Romans 7 hints to times in life when Paul wanted to do right, but the sinful nature caused him to do that what he despised. Every Saturday night I have intentions to go to church on Sunday, but my flesh has become too weak snuffing out the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the passage above, Paul reveals a physical ailment that hindered his daily life. This pain was a messenger of Satan attempting to steal Paul’s joy. If everything goes as planned, I will be drifting back into church Sunday. However, unless I tame my flesh like 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, I won’t become the man of God the Lord desires.

by Jay Mankus

Flirting with Temptation

Flirting is an experiment with or to show a superficial interest in an idea, activity, or movement without committing oneself to it seriously. This behavior is often blamed on immaturity where an individual behaves as though attracted to or trying to attract someone for amusement. The act of flirting begins with a little dabble, but can result in philandering, teasing or toying with temptation.

Now a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s full knowledge [and complicity] he kept back some of the proceeds, bringing only a [a]portion of it, and set it at the apostles’ feet, Acts 5:1-2.

Peter blames Satan for filling a couples heart with the idea to flirt with temptation. Based upon the context of Acts 4:36-37, Ananias and Sapphira tried to emulate the practices of a man named Joseph. In an attempt to be praised by members of their congregation, they withheld a portion of the proceeds. Perhaps, they weren’t wealthy enough, but wanted to be recognized for their generosity. Whatever their motives, flirting with temptation cost Ananias and Sapphira their lives.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and [secretly] keep back for yourself some of the proceeds [from the sale] of the land? As long as it remained [unsold], did it not remain your own [to do with as you pleased]? And after it was sold, was the money not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this act [of hypocrisy and deceit] in your heart? You have not [simply] lied to people, but to God,” Acts 5:3-4.

In their 2007 song Slow Fade, Casting Crowns illustrates what happens to anyone who flirts with temptation. The first stanza of the lyrics include the line “It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.” James 1:13-15 eludes to a second glance which results in enticement, lust and sinful desires. I guess you can say the second glance plants the seed in your mind to flirt with temptation. According to Jesus’ brother, flirting with temptation results in spiritual death. May this song and passage of the Bible serve as a warning to steer clear of this desire.

by Jay Mankus

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