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Run with Certainty

After spending 4 years running cross country in high school, my college career lasted a week. The coach who recruited me and spoke at my high school banquet didn’t know my name on the first day of practice. Everything that I thought to be true about my potential in college was a lie. I’ve never been a quitter, but I lost my sense of purpose after 5 days. I didn’t have the energy to even make it on the junior varsity team. I guess you can say I lost that loving feeling for running if there is such a thing.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary, 1 Corinthians 9:26.

Intramural sports kept me in shape after I gained the freshman 25. I suppose breaking the dorm record by eating 9 cheese steaks in 30 minutes wasn’t such a good idea. Anyway, as my first set of mid-term exams arrived, I used running as a study break to clear my mind. Some nights I took a slow jog around campus. When finals stared me in the face, running became like a break from life. Listening to the sound track to Rocky IV provided me to the adrenaline to fly around campus before returning to my books.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Thirty years and another fifty pounds later, I have limited my running to the spiritual kind. While eluding to the Corinthian Games, a popular track and field event during the first century, Paul talks about the mindset runners possess. Instead of listening to your body, long distance runners enter a trance like state, focused on what’s ahead while maintaining a steady stride. When you run with certainty, there’s no doubt you’ll cross the finish line. Christian’s don’t leave their old life behind to follow Jesus just hoping to get into heaven. Rather, we run with certainty, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Overusing the Enjoyments of this Life

The apostle Paul uses the Greek word koʹsmos in a letter to the church at Corinth. When translated into English, this refers to the figure and form of the world. Meanwhile, the book of Galatians goes into further details in what is described as desires of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21. These natural tendencies begin with sexual immorality and end in full blown lust. Perhaps, this is what Paul means by overusing the enjoyments of this life.

And those who deal with this world [overusing the enjoyments of this life] as though they were not absorbed by it and as if they had no dealings with it. For the outward form of this world (the present world order) is passing away, 1 Corinthians 7:31.

At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul mentions a letter sent to him by members of the church inquiring about marriage, relationships and remaining single. This entire chapter is devoted to educating Christians to a biblical world view on these topics as well as including Paul’s own opinion. As a man who felt called to remain single, Paul wasn’t distracted by the enjoyments of life which other men were tempted by and often indulged in.

My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord; 1 Corinthians 7:32.

In the passage above, Paul reveals the secret to his spiritual success, free from the anxiety and distress of relationships. Instead, Paul’s mind is able to clearly focus on the things of the Lord. Like anything in life, the less distracted you are, the easier it is to concentrate on fulfilling God’s will for your life. Colossians 3:1-4 provides advice for overusing temporary pleasures. When hearts are set on eternity, pleasing the Lord is made possible by purging and taking captive distracting thoughts from your mind, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6.

by Jay Mankus

Can Tough Love Go Too Far?

Bill Milliken wrote a book entitled Tough Love in 1968. Milliken refers to tough love as an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run. While modern scholars point to Milliken as the originator of this term, the apostle Paul appears to have used a similar strategy in the first century. When I first read the passage below, my initial thought was that Paul went a little too far by handing a sinner over to Satan. Paul’s explanation for this punishment was to bring about repentance.

So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5.

According to 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth isn’t what we now know as 1 Corinthians. The purpose of this initial letter was to address a spiritual emergency. Based upon the beginning of chapter 5, a sex scandal reared it’s ugly head in the form of incest. Some Bible scholars have suggested that the tone of Paul’s initial letter to Corinth was so harsh and over the top with tough love that it was excluded from consideration from the Bible during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

Not [meaning of course that you must] altogether shun the immoral people of this world, or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether! 11 But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of [Christian] brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater [whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God], or is a person with a foul tongue [railing, abusing, reviling, slandering], or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. [No] you must not so much as eat with such a person. 1 Corinthians 5:10-11.

After Paul’s anger cools off, parameters are set to avoid similar incidents from occurring within the church. Paul’s advice is centered around taking careful considerations about who you associate with. To avoid becoming like the Amish, Paul provides a series of guidelines for the friends that you make and keep. The goal isn’t to shun the world. Rather, Paul references Psalm 1:1 to highlight who you walk with, stand with and join. Maybe tough love can go too far, but when used to protect vulnerable souls from walking away from God, it is an effective tool to bring about repentance.

by Jay Mankus

The Tears of Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The metal framework of this landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel. This gift from France was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Three years later, Eiffel completed his own masterpiece in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the first symbol of the Statue of Liberty has been forgotten. Initially, the purpose of this erection of Lady Liberty served as a seal of the friendship between France and the United States. At her feet is a broken chain of slavery designed as a symbol of freedom. Meanwhile, The inscription on the tablet she is holding contains JULY IV MDCCLXXVI, the day of the Declaration of Independence for the United States.

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off], Galatians 5:1.

Between 1886 and 1924, nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States through the New York Bay on their way to Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that achieving the American dream was now a possibility for new arrivals. Ellis Island became the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for 62 years from 1892 until 1954. To those entering this body of water at night, the uplifted torch of Lady Liberty was a welcoming sign and was meant to enlighten those who passed by. As the 250th anniversary draws near, revisionist historians are quickly disposing of America’s rich history. A day doesn’t go by without news of another statue removed or threatened from a downtown area. If this trend continues, there will be nothing left to remind citizens of America’s past mistakes and victories.

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:13-14.

While the tears of Lady Liberty continue to fall as America goes through an identity crisis, the Bible provides hope for the hopeless. In a letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul reminds individuals of this region that Jesus came to liberate sinners. Instead of being held captive by addiction, God wants everyone to experience spiritual freedom. Yet, bad habits have a way of ensnaring souls, similar to a yoke of slavery. Whenever you allow your sinful nature to get out of hand, reigning in your flesh can take months or years to regain control. Thus, if you are looking for a glimmer of hope, love is the answer. Paul references the golden rule, “loving your neighbor as yourself.” This reminder can be traced back to the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus reveals love is conditional. If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you, Matthew 6:14-15. May your own acts of love inspired by the Holy Spirit turn Lady Liberty’s frown into a smile.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Discouragement Keep You Out of the Game

Beside Christmas morning, my favorite day of the year as a child was Opening Day of Little League Baseball. The smell of freshly cut grass, dressing up in a brand new uniform and hearing my name called during the opening ceremonies inspired me to play baseball. When I finally reached the majors as a twelve year old, I was the lead off hitter and starting pitcher. After nearly homering on the first pitch of the season, I was left stranded at second base. After this hit, it was all down hill as I never made it out of the first inning. If ESPN was covering this 31-19 loss, the analyst’s would describe my pitching performance as “getting lite up and rocked.”

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, Galatians 6:9.

This shocking result haunted me for a couple of years. Instead of fighting through adversity, I often took myself out of the game, losing confidence in my ability to pitch. The harder I threw, the further the ball flew, putting my head down on numerous occasions after giving up home runs to opposing batters. I went from standing tall on the mound to losing my love for this game. No one likes to lose and the more I did as a pitcher, I doubted that I would ever taste success again. Just prior to my only season of high school baseball, my 8th grade coach believed in me. Although the rest of our staff threw harder and were more talented, I had a better command of the strike zone. Thus, when I was named the opening day starting pitcher, I longed for redemption. This time I struck out the side in the first and pitched a complete game, earning the victory.

So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [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 6:10.

After watching episode 12 from Season 2 of Joan of Arcadia, I was inspired to write this blog. Joan was fighting her own battle with confidence. Following an embarrassing encounter with her guidance counselor, Joan was told she had no future at a four year college. This news caused Joan to lower her expectations, deciding to attend a trade school rather than apply to colleges. After meeting a tutor, receiving encouragement from her mother and support from a friend, Joan realized that she took herself out of the game of life. Discouragement kept Joan on the bench, afraid of another embarrassing setback. Using an uncanny gift for Rock, Paper, Scissors, Joan challenges two of the smartest students in school to this game. After easily defeating the first boy, Joan faces her brother Luke in a best of three duel. Despite losing in overtime, Joan realizes that it’s time to get back in the game. If you’re afraid of defeat, may this blog inspire you to face your fear of failure by getting back into the game of life.

by Jay Mankus

Confronting Your Phobias

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in cooperation with the American Psychiatric Association outlines several of the most common phobias. If you were wondering how many actual phobias exist on earth, there is no official list provided by the DSM. Phobias typically fall within one of five general categories: fear of animals, the natural environment, getting hurt or sick, specific situations like driving or flying and a generic non-related category referred to as others. Clinicians and researchers make up names for new phobias as the need arises by using Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes.

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.

My initial phobia was the fear of heights after visiting the Empire State Building as a children. After several bizarre encounters with snakes and spiders in high school, these two are now at the top of my list. Confronting poisonous snakes and spiders sounds illogical and stupid. Yet, at some point you have to face your fears by trusting in God. Like many things in life, this is easier said than done. Although I have confronted by fear of heights, I still feel uncomfortable looking out the window of a tall building. Nightmares often hinder one’s ability to confront your own phobias. Just like the scene in Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford complains, “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?”

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

In an episode of Joan of Arcadia, Amber Tamblyn is asked by God to join the diving team. After a verbal beat down from his girl friend Grace about never taking am uncalculated risk in life, Joan’s brother Luke played by Michael Welch also tries out for the team. Like two fish out of water, neither have the talent to actually make the team, but will they conquer their phobias? This season 2 episode challenged me to examine my own life. Have I stopped taking risks in life? Am I afraid of what others may think instead of doing the right thing? In this age of the Cancel Culture, common sense must be balanced with conviction. However, if you want to confront and conquer your phobias, faith is essential to achieve success.

by Jay Mankus

Juggling Your Way Through Life

The oldest known depiction of juggling was discovered in the Beni-Hassan tombs. Images of woman juggling were found among acrobats and dancers on a crypt wall that dates back to the middle-kingdom of ancient Egypt. The modern word for juggling was derived from the English term jogelin. This refers to entertaining others by performing tricks. Contemporary jugglers have perfected this physical skill by throwing objects in the air, catching them and throwing them back up.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls, Matthew 11:28-29.

After watching an episode of Joan of Arcadia that features juggling, today’s blog was conceived. Although the Season 2 Episode 8 is entitled Friday Night, Judith persuades Joan to use juggling as a Physics project. During this show, Joan meets a man who shares a parable. A man who weighs 190 has to carry three 10 pounds boxes over a bridge. The only problem is that this foot bridge has a maximum weight capacity of 200 pounds. The only way this man could make it across in one try was by juggling these 3 boxes.

For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne, Matthew 11:30.

Using a story line from this episode, life has a way of throwing many things at you. Sometimes unexpected trials come in bunches, overwhelming souls with multiple burdens. Unless you have a friend to share this load, pain and weight, individuals are forced to juggle what they can. If you are alone, the weight of circumstances, ordeals and situations can suck the life out of you. When you reach this point or stage in life, you need to learn how to unload unexpected burdens. In the passages above, Jesus provides a blueprint to release these burdens as a form of prayer. When anxieties, concerns and worries don’t go away, keep juggling.

by Jay Mankus

Drawn in Diverging Directions

Diverging refers to following a different direction or path. Whenever you make a decision to diverge, you want to become different, going against the flow. In this Progressive Age, those who diverge should be celebrated for being interested in new ideas, findings and opportunities. Unfortunately, backlash from the Cancel Culture Movement is using political correctness, progressive ideology and social justice to shame individuals who deviate from the norm.

My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord; 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly matters—how he may please his wife—1 Corinthians 7:32-33

The apostle Paul introduces the concept of spiritual divergence in a letter to the church at Corinth. While trying to explain his perspective as a single man, Paul points to friends who were drawn in diverging directions. If you understand the concept of happy wife, happy life, spouses feel compelled to please their soul mates. Based upon Paul’s own encounters with married Christian brothers, devotion to God often slips as wives become a greater priority than the Lord.

And he is drawn in diverging directions [his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God]. And the unmarried woman or girl is concerned and anxious about the matters of the Lord, how to be wholly separated and set apart in body and spirit; but the married woman has her cares [centered] in earthly affairs—how she may please her husband, 1 Corinthians 7:34.

Whether you are single, married or recently divorced, everyone experiences cycles. Periods where you draw close to God and years when you drift apart. Days. weeks and months when you are disciplined and focused on seizing the moment only to fall back into bad habits, drawn back into diverging directions. This is where maintaining a healthy balance comes into play between work and recreation. As long as free will exists, people will continue to be drawn in diverging directions. As you diverge, make sure that you don’t stray too far from home.

by Jay Mankus

The Royalty of Loyalty

What is royalty? Is it diplomats, heads of state, or members of the royal family in England? While royalties are a sum of money paid to authors, composers and real estate agents, royalty is designated specifically for people of royal blood or descent. In the Old Testament, Jonathon was the son of King Saul, Israel’s first king. If his father didn’t deviate from God’s commands, Jonathon would have been next in line to become king.

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own life. Saul took David that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own life, 1 Samuel 18:1-3.

Meanwhile, loyalty are actions that naturally flow out of one’s character. These attributes are highlighted by allegiance, devotion, dependability and faithfulness. Rarely, does an individual possess both royalty and loyalty. However, in the case of Jonathon, he cared more about protecting his best friend’s life than becoming Israel’s second king. As soon as Jonathon saw that David was a man after God’s own heart, they developed a strong bond.

But on the morrow, the second day after the new moon, David’s place was empty; and Saul said to Jonathan his son, Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today? 28 And Jonathan answered, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, Let me go, I pray, for our family holds a sacrifice in the city and my brother commanded me to be there. Now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers. That is why he has not come to the king’s table, 1 Samuel 20:27-29.

When King Saul became consumed with jealousy, he sought take David’s life. This tested Jonathon’s loyalty, serving as a mediator to protect and stand up for his friend. Unfortunately, Saul was so blinded by his hatred of David that he lost the ability to be reasonable. Despite this rising tension within the royal family, Jonathon never forgot about the covenant he made with David. This display of love makes Jonathon the royalty of loyalty.

by Jay Mankus

Conjugal Rights

From time to time, I will come across foreign concepts when I study the Bible. While studying a chapter written by the apostle Paul, one translation uses the term conjugal rights. Conjugal refers to marriage and the relationship of a married couple. The rights in this context applies to sexual relations, regarded as exercisable in law by each partner in the covenant of marriage. According to the beginning of chapter 7, the Corinthian Church wrote Paul a letter wanting to know what Christian’s should believe about relationships, remaining single and marriage.

But because of the temptation to impurity and to avoid immorality, let each [man] have his own wife and let each [woman] have her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights (goodwill, kindness, and what is due her as his wife), and likewise the wife to her husband, 1 Corinthians 7:2-3.

While this chapter in the Bible isn’t R rated like the Song of Solomon, Paul does go into graphic details. Conjugal rights includes goodness, kindness and loving spouses as Christ loved the church. This final call to love serves two purposes. The first is designed to live out your faith when you are with your soul mate. The second is a safe guard against controlling your spouse by using sex as a form of manipulation. Paul reminds couples that partners don’t have exclusive authority over their mate’s body. Rather, part of making vows to become one includes marital rights.

For the wife does not have [exclusive] authority and control over her own body, but the husband [has his rights]; likewise also the husband does not have [exclusive] authority and control over his body, but the wife [has her rights]. Do not refuse and deprive and defraud each other [of your due marital rights], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves unhindered to prayer. But afterwards resume marital relations, lest Satan tempt you [to sin] through your lack of restraint of sexual desire, 1 Corinthians 7:4-5.

While there may be exceptions to abstaining from sex for a mutually agreed upon time, Paul is clear about the dangers. When a communication gap occurs, often due to anger, Ephesians 4:26-27, the Devil has a way of ruining relationships. When you add this factor to a growing number of Christians addicted to pornography, temptation is awaiting and lurking around every corner of the internet, social media and television. In view of this dark reality, offering your spouse conjugal and marital rights is essential to save the institution of marriage in America.

by Jay Mankus

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