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Losing Sight of God

While special horses are trained to become thoroughbreds, horses can’t see everything in it’s peripheral vision. To avoid horses from becoming distracted or scared, blinders are used to keep the horse focused on what is in front of it. Controlling a horse at 40 miles per hour requires a rare combination of strength and lightness for a jockey. Those jockeys who do the best at keeping their horse focused on the finish line, tend to accumulate more victories.

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.

Unfortunately, I share similar traits with horses, often veering off course. I tend to become so consumed and fixated on what I am doing that I lose track of time. The clearer you are about your vision in life, the greater the impact you will have in the world. Vision is the ability to think about or plan your future with imagination, insight and wisdom. Whenever I stray from my dreams and goals, my vision grows dim.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

An Old Testament prophet blames a lack of knowledge for those who fail to reach their full potential. At the time that Hosea pens this letter, Israel began to do what was right in their own eyes. Instead of following the ten commandments, many were blinded by worldly beliefs and principles. A similar trend is taking place today as progressive ideas have been embraced by many churches. Thus, losing sight of God becomes an unpleasant reality. If you’re ready to regain focus on God, do so with perseverance, fixated on the cross of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When I Get Around To It

Prior to the second week in March, busyness could be used as an excuse for not getting around to doing something that you deem important. Depending upon your normal work schedule, certain unexpected things can alter your list of priorities. When businesses, cities and states began to issue work at home orders if possible, priorities changed overnight. Instead of using time as a lame excuse, free time at home is what many households had until their states began to re-open.

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides, Matthew 6:33.

In the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes some time to focus on motives and priorities. Unfortunately, the invisible forces of worry tend to distract individuals from what’s important in life. Instead of trusting God to provide daily bread, minds and thoughts often race out of control. By the time you find yourself in bed, what you didn’t get around to do is held off until tomorrow. Thus, for people like me, another opportunity to meet with God is missed.

And in the morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed, Mark 1:35.

Tired of rarely keeping my New Year resolutions, I have taken extreme measures to avoid skipping my daily time with God. Although I am not a morning person, I do have an advantage to practicing Jesus’ morning ritual. Since I work nights, I arrive home early 4 days a week. While I haven’t carried out my plan every day this year, I usually read a section of the Bible and pray before going to sleep. Instead of waiting until I get around to it, my first few moments at home in the morning are spent with God. Don’t fall prey to the when I get around to it trap. Meet with God right now!

by Jay Mankus

The Fine Line Between Compromise and Tolerant

According to Luke, a woman named Lydia was the first believer at the church of Thyatira, Acts 16:14. This church first met outside along the banks of a nearby river. After the apostle Paul baptized the members of her household, Lydia convinces Paul to stick around for a few days. Following Paul’s departure for Philippi, the disciple whom Jesus loved gives an update on the church at Thyatira. John begins with a list of positives. However, in an attempt to appease others, there was one obvious blemish.

But I have this against you: that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess [claiming to be inspired], and who is teaching and leading astray my servants and beguiling them into practicing sexual vice and eating food sacrificed to idols, Revelation 2:20.

Whenever an individual comes to faith in Christ, God meets us where we are in life. Nonetheless, there is an expectation that as you develop, learn and mature spiritually, you should draw closer to God. The New Testament calls new Christians to be set set apart by living according to the standards of the Bible. Jesus’ goals for his followers is to become Light in this World and Salt of the Earth. Yet, when uninformed Christians become lazy, without checking the Bible first, subtle compromises are conceived.

I gave her time to repent, but she has no desire to repent of her immorality [symbolic of idolatry] and refuses to do so, Revelation 2:21.

The term tolerate allows for the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one does not necessarily like or agree with. Based upon the acceptance of Jezebel’s teachings, false practices were embraced by the church at Thyatira. This is known as Syncretism, the blending of religion with cultures and schools of thought. Whenever Christians deviate from the Bible to merge with social norms, the fine line between compromise and tolerant is broken. The next time you have an urge to blend in like a chameleon, remember God’s call to shine like the stars, Philippians 2:15.

by Jay Mankus

Pray Like You Mean It

Sike was a common expression used while I was in high school. “Sike” is a slang used to exclaim that are messing with someone. On numerous occasions either a friend or myself would get serious for a moment. A couple of my friends were even able to fake a tear only to cancel what was just said by saying, “sike.” Following a slight hesitation of silence, laughter often followed. Looking back, I wonder if this is how God feels when you pray fervently for a miracle, only to fall back into old sinful habits.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me, Psalm 51:1-3.

According to an Old Testament prophet, a shepherd boy named David possessed a special quality, 1 Samuel 16:7. This trait was hidden until David began to pray. Samuel eludes to this gift as a heart after God. To have a heart after the heart of God implies if one admits their sin by repenting, their heart will be cleaned and purified like the heart of God. The words of the passage above were inspired when David’s affair with Bathsheba was exposed by Nathan. Overwhelmed by guilt, David is not messing around.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

Unfortunately, many first century Christians treated prayer like a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” from Monopoly. Instead of turning away from sin, those on the verge of giving into temptation used pray as a source of forgiveness. This mindset was perverted, rationalizing that the more you sinned, the more God’s grace was poured out upon you. The author of Hebrews corrects this ungodly belief in the passage above. Continuing in a downward free fall without repenting of sin is like ending a prayer with sike instead of Amen. In view of this, start praying like you mean it.

by Jay Mankus

The Spark that Makes Dreams Come True

Modern plows are large farming structures that implement one or more blades fixed in a frame drawn by a tractor. These expensive pieces of equipment are essential for farmers who own hundreds of acres of land. Back in biblical days, this technology wasn’t available, forced to rely on horses, mules or oxen. These animal driven plows were used for cutting furrows in the soil and turning it over, to prepare for the planting of crops.

Do I say this only on human authority and as a man reasons? Does not the Law endorse the same principle? For in the Law of Moses it is written, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the corn. Is it [only] for oxen that God cares? – 1 Corinthians 9:8-9

As the first son of Adam, Cain found farming to be a thankless trade. This likely explains why Abel decides to become a shepherd, moving his flock once the land became arid. Abel’s initial success combined with Cain’s struggles sowed a seed of jealousy within Cain’s heart. This is the exact opposite thought that the apostle Paul suggests in a letter to the church of Corinth. When you begin to plow, you should expect God to bless your effort as long as you give 100%.

Or does He speak certainly and entirely for our sakes? [Assuredly] it is written for our sakes, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher ought to thresh in expectation of partaking of the harvest. 11 If we have sown [the seed of] spiritual good among you, [is it too] much if we reap from your material benefits? – 1 Corinthians 9:10-11

Paul seems to be referring to self fulfilled prophecies. If you think you are going to have a bad day, the probability increases that a bad day will come. However, if you remember how God has provided for you in the past, you’ll be more optimistic about plowing in hope of a productive harvest. Therefore, if you want to claim God’s promises in the Bible, faith is the spark that makes dreams come true.

by Jay Mankus

When Bad Things Start to Happen

According to C.S. Lewis, there are 2 theories which explain why bad things happen to good people: dualism and the Christian view.  Dualism believes there are 2 independent powers, one good and another bad that are in conflict with each other resulting in good or bad things.  The Christian view is based upon Galatians 5:16-18, detailing the cosmic battle between Lucifer and the Holy Spirit.  The X-Factor is freewill as whenever temptation results in a bad choice or decision, the lives of innocent bystanders are at risk.

For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:17.

As a former assistant and playing professional, I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen on golf courses.  To the average spectator, the final result is what matters.  However, the slightest gust of wind can ruin a great shot that only the player hitting a golf ball knows.  Meanwhile, an amateur, casual golfer or kid have hit foul balls that glance off a tree, bounce down a cart path and skip over a water hazard, ending up on the green.  Now, that’s a miracle!  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many of these go my way on a golf course.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:12.

One of the hardest parts of life is seeing a rising star’s life cut short due to cancer, a car accident or suicide.  To make matters worse is standing there at a funeral watching parents grieve, grasping to make sense of their loss.  At the end of one ceremony, a mother whispered into my ear, “I pray that the words you taught my daughter in Bible class were etched upon her heart.”  When bad things start to happen, the frailty of life is put into perspective, Job 34:15.  From dust man was created and to dust we will return.  All we can do now is enjoy each day the Lord gives us on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Standing by Your Child’s Side

Life is filled with a series of phases and stages that you go through and experience. At this point in life, I am entering my 19th year as a parent cheerleader. As long as schools re-open this fall and sports follow, I will be spending my final two years turning my attention toward my daughter’s accomplishments. Today, my youngest son’s final competition as a high school athlete came to an end. I was praying for a story book ending to highlight Daniel’s dedication and hard work to become an established golfer. As his front nine was derailed by back to back 3 putts, I was tempted to walk away. Yet, when a child’s dreams turn into a nightmare, God reminded me to stand by Daniel’s side when things fall apart.

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.

At the beginning of his 12th chapter, the author of Hebrews makes an interesting observation. Referring to saints in the previous chapter who have gone home to be with the Lord, their new role is to be cheerleaders in heaven. These witnesses are praying and watching, hoping for the best. These individuals all contain one crucial quality, a faith to stand upon the promises of an invisible God. Based upon their spiritual accomplishments, these spiritual warriors set the bar high. This tough act to follow often makes me humble as the read and study the Bible. I probably would have wilted under the pressure these men and women faced. Yet, the grace of God offered in the New Testament gives me the strength to tarry on.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers, Galatians 6:9-10.

The apostle explains the importance of standing by the side of your child in the passage above. When the walls around your child start falling down and collapsing upon them, parents need to be a source of encouragement. A light of hope to help our boys and girls try to climb out of pits of despair. Perhaps, this is when moms and dads need to remind our children of brighter days. When they dominated in Little League, scored the game winning goal, won a race, made the play of the game or led their team to a championship. For those of you parents still in the cheerleader stage of parenthood, fight off the urge to criticize officials, refs and umpires. Don’t be that parents who’s tyrant goes viral on social media, becoming infamous for the wrong reasons. Although your child may lose their composure in the heat of battle, stand by their side with the hands, feet and love of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Time to Tune Out the News

Whenever I pick up my phone or turn on my computer, current event stories appear. Some messages stream across my screen with a red headline, breaking news. Meanwhile, when I go to check my emails, I am bombarded by advertisements, headlines and news stories. While driving to work, every half hour, whether I like it on not, I’ll receive the latest on COVID-19 cases in Delaware on the radio. I don’t have to be a prophet to accurately speculate about what I will hear or see. The updated numbers of Coronavirus deaths in my state and the nation. This is followed by what President Trump did wrong today or some new offensive tweet.

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country, Proverbs 25:25.

I just returned from my first of two planned summer vacations with family. This time my wife and her sister rented a house in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While I am more of a beach person, there is something special about an unobstructed mountain view. Both floors of this RB&B Rental was designed to hang out, enjoy the view and play games. After taking a series of pictures, I barely picked up my phone. Despite having a new 4K television, the only thing watched were a couple of movies. Most of our time was spent eating, hanging out and playing cards. Whenever I go a few days without listening to or watching the news, I have a much more positive aspect on life.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord, Psalm 112:7.

Prior to cell phones and computers, a nightly news cast was necessary. However, with the advancements in technology, these days are coming to an end. As of today, there are more than 300 streaming services in the United States. The average American family subscribes to 3-4 streaming providers. If this trend continues, cable and it’s many news networks will become extinct. Sure, some news outlets will be forced to alter their approach or be limited to a headline news format. Nonetheless, if you tune out the news now, you’ll probably be a happier person. As news stories become more and more politically motivated, getting caught up in destruction, gossip and slander of people you probably don’t know personally is a waste of time. The choice is yours but as for me, I’m ready to tune out the news. When I do, my phone will give me the updates I need.

by Jay Mankus

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

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