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What a Waste of Time

During my time pursuing a master’s in theology, I came across an interesting concept.  The Triangle Theory is a Time Management exercise to help examine where your time on earth is spent.  If you draw an isosceles triangle on a blank page of paper, the bottom represents 24 hours in a day.  Depending upon your sleep schedule, 1/3 or 1/4 of your life is spent sleeping.  School or work will take over 8-10 hours per day, leaving a few precious hours to enjoy life, purse passions or relax.   If you want a true barometer of how your time is spent, keep track of 16-18 hours each weekend that most Americans have.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! 25 Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither], 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

Last year I took my family out to lunch, explaining the Triangle Theory as we waited for our food.  Without being too anal, I urged my children to begin to keep track of how they are currently investing their free time.  The purpose of this discussion was to encourage my daughter and youngest son to become vision oriented, focusing their attention and time on fulfilling dreams.  Not leaving myself exempt from this, I began to share the sacrifices that I need to make to write a 100 page movie script each winter, usually lasting until late spring.  Despite how diligent I try to be, I regularly waste an entire weekend to indulge my human nature rather than focus on becoming an accomplished screen writer.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

One troubling question remains, if I truly want to pursue a career in writing, why do I waste so much time?  Perhaps, my former hobby as a long distance runner may help answer my own question.  The thought of running miles never made sense to most of my friends.  Running is a battle of the body and mind, causing most to quit before the love of running is conceived.  The apostle Paul uses a similar analogy, stressing the strict discipline to persist until your ultimate goal is achieved.  While its not easy and you will have more failures than success, may the Triangle Theory serve as a tool to enable you to seize the free time that you have each day.  May you run in such a way, suffering now, as to receive crowns in heaven God has set aside for you.

by Jay Mankus

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Forcing Aside Unbelief

As a former teacher, there is nothing like a great open ended question to promote discussion.  Unfortunately, peer pressure deters many from asking the thought on their mind, afraid of what others may think.  When Jesus visited an obscure town during the first century, an un-named person was not denied, eager to discover if it’s possible to escape God’s judgment and wrath.

And someone asked Him, “Lord, will only a few be saved [from the penalties of the last judgment]?” And He said to them, Luke 13:23.

Jesus responds with an interesting comment in the passage below.  The two greatest obstacles to human beings is unbelief and the attractive nature of sin.  My initial response was Jesus has it backwards, the attraction to temptation should be first.  Yet, based upon the order, unbelief is the reason why people give into and indulge sinful desires.  Thus, Jesus urged this audience to force aside unbelief.

“Strive to enter through the narrow door [force aside unbelief and the attractions of sin]; for many, I tell you, will try to enter [by their own works] and will not be able,” Luke 13:24.

Based upon the content of 1 John 2:15-17, Jesus taught his disciples the importance of fellowship.  When you have fellowship with God, communing in prayer, study and worship, spiritual light in the form of right and wrong will be revealed to you.  However, if you participate in fellowship with the world, unbelief will open your eyes to lust and sensual cravings of the flesh.  Therefore, unless you force aside unbelief via the Holy Spirit, you will be vulnerable to the attractions of sin.  May this blog inspire you to seek the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

A Baptism of Suffering?

As a former high school Bible teacher, I am familiar with the differences between a believer’s baptism, christening and dedication.  Depending upon the denomination, leadership and theology of a church, baptism can be a divisive issue.  During one conversation in college, I was told if I wasn’t immersed, then I wasn’t truly saved.  I don’t think this is what Jesus meant by a baptism of suffering.

I have a baptism [of great suffering] with which to be baptized, and how [greatly] I am distressed until it is accomplished! – Luke 12:50

In the passage above, Jesus begins to reveal the fate that he must endure in the coming weeks.  The disciples could not wrap their heads around Jesus’ comment.  Many of these men believed that Jesus would become an earthly king, rising to power as king of the Jews.  Thus, the twelve disciples ignored Jesus’ warning, focusing on their travel plans for the next day.  To a certain extent, everyone overlooks signs and warnings from friends, distracted by selfish ambition.

Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways], Romans 6:3-4.

The apostle Paul unravels what Jesus means by the statement a baptism of suffering.  At the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, bishops agreed upon the term homoousios.  This means that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are the same substance.  This means that Jesus was perfect, not needing to be purified.  However, as the Lamb of God, without blemish, Jesus needed to fulfill God’s will by suffering and dying on a cross.  Since Jesus completed his mission on earth, modern followers are baptized into Jesus’ death and raised from spiritual death through the power of the Holy Spirit.  May this blog bring clarity to this topic.

by Jay Mankus

Baby Steps

Baby steps are subtle advances in progress.  In the early months following birth, babies don’t possess the agility and strength to stand on their own.  However, as soon as infants begin to figure out how to crawl, many become like run away trains, difficult to catch.  From a spiritual point of view, the first baby step requires gaining access to God.  This occurs when individuals place their faith in Christ, Romans 10:9-10.

Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power], Romans 5:1-2.

According to the apostle Paul, the next step you should take is listening to and reading the Bible, Romans 10:17.  Paul felt so strongly about this baby step that he wrote a letter to one of his young pupils, a teenager named Timothy.  Like a stern teacher, Paul stresses the importance of studying to prove yourself as a workman for God.  Although the Bible is no longer a class or subject in public education, you must become a diligent student of the Word to handle it correctly.

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.

At some point along the way, everyone needs a mentor to guide you throughout life.  In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis warns individuals against getting ahead of yourself.  As you set out to accomplish a goal, success is not defined by reaching the summit.  Rather, success is the process of arriving, one step at a time.  Therefore, if you fall away from God for a period of time, don’t try make amends all it once.  Rather, like an adult forced to learn how to walk all over again, take life one step at a time.

by Jay Mankus

Developing a Heart for Kingdom Things

When you consider common talk radio debates such as who is the greatest, opinions vary.  Some look strictly at physical features.  Others point to sheer strength and overall talent.  Meanwhile, intelligence, personality and wit is not overlooked.  On some occasions, appearance, gravitas and stature can be so impressive that even a prophet of God is fooled.  Such was the case in Samuel’s quest, seeking to find and anoint the next king of Israel.  In a rush to complete this task, Samuel neglected a vital trait, someone with a heart for kingdom things.

So it happened, when they had come, he looked at Eliab [the eldest son] and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:6-7.

As Samuel approached a handsome young man, the oldest son of Jesse, the Holy Spirit spoke.  It’s not clear if a spirit of conviction fell upon Samuel or God appeared in the form of a whisper.  Regardless of the communication style chosen by God, the message was crystal clear, this man is not the one, lacking a heart focused on kingdom things.  Since the heart is hidden from plain view, people can masquerade, pretend and trick others from discovering what’s in their heart.  While Samuel looked to the oldest son of Jesse to find Saul’s replacement, God’s candidate was in the fields, serving as a lowly shepherd.  Also a musician, David relied on God to provide for his daily needs.

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].  “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].  “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.  “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied, Matthew 5:3-6.

During his sermon on a mountain side, Jesus lists a series of qualities, beatitudes that serve as a to do list to develop a heart for kingdom things.  Like a spiritual blueprint, Jesus rolls out a vision to identify qualities Christian should spend their time on earth chasing after.  These characteristics are based upon sacrifice, servanthood and trusting God.  According to Jesus, individuals who pursue kingdom things will be completely satisfied.  While the world will continue to tempt souls to indulge their human nature, the Lord is searching for future leaders to elevate their faith.  May this blog inspire you to develop a heart for kingdom things.

by Jay Mankus

More Than A Feat… It’s a Way of Life

Prior to Fed Ex, UPS and the United States Postal Services, important messages were delivered by a single individual.  Some traveled by boat, others used horses and during the Industrial Revolution via train.  However, in the Old Testament, messengers relied on less conventional methods, camels, donkeys or sandals by foot.  Perhaps, this explains the comment below by a prophet upon receiving good news.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns,” Isaiah 52:7.

The New Testament refers to feet in the context of spiritual armor.  One of the pieces of Roman armor consisted of special shoes with cleats to dig into the ground.  This enabled soldiers to stand their ground when attacked.  The symbolism of these shoes suggests that when your footing is secure, your feet are ready to deliver the gospel of peace.  As faith matures, individuals develop a spiritual hunger, eager to spread the good news about Jesus Christ.

And having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news], Ephesians 6:15.

To a certain extent, the content of your daily conversations reveal your spiritual readiness.  If you are like me, I experience many ebbs and flows, often hot and cold spiritually.  As you open your mouth, what message are you delivering?  Is it demoralizing, encouraging or lame?  Are you positive, negative or somewhere in between?  As Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, strap on your spiritual shoes so that no one misses the reason for this upcoming season.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing God

My first exposure to the true meaning in the Bible came through two college courses.  Biblical and Classical Literature began by reading all 66 books of the Bible and ended with several classics like Beowulf.  My second class, the Bible as Literature wasn’t as interesting.  While examining the symbolism of the Bible with other ancient stories was educational, I don’t think my college professor went to seminary.  These experiences taught me not to read too much into literature.  Rather, take each piece in its original historical context.  Perhaps, this may explain why Joshua urged readers of the Bible to meditate on God’s laws day and night so that important details are not missed or neglected.

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God,” Matthew 5:8.

In the first century, a spiritual leader entered the scene as a vivid story teller, using analogies called parables to captivate an audience.  In the passage above, Jesus lists a series of beatitudes.  According to Jesus, any individual who pursues these spiritual ambitions will be blessed by God.  If anyone wants to develop a pure heart, three traits are necessary: godly character, integrity and moral courage.  These values are a mindset, steps toward becoming spiritually mature.  For those who stay the course, seeing God work in your life won’t be a concept that you read in a book.  Rather, your eyes will be opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit altering, changing and transforming your life.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3:2.

A disciple of Jesus makes an interesting connection in the passage above.  As children, babies cling to their parents, relying on their mother’s milk for food and father’s leadership for direction.  Jesus welcomed little children in his ministry, eager to bless, hold and interact with them.  Yet, when children grow up, innocence is lost as negative adults begin to verbally squash a teenager’s dreams.  John tells first century adults to live in anticipation of God’s promises in the Bible.  Live by faith like children expecting to walk hand and hand with God in heaven.  The key to making this a reality is developing a pure heart.  As hearts become aligned with God’s will, you will see God move in America.

by Jay Mankus

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