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At the Intersection of Success and Failure

C.S. Lewis was a well educated atheist who sought out to prove that God does not exist. Some might say that this quest ended in failure as Lewis went on to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord. This journey to disprove God altered Lewis’ career path in life as he became a famous author and theologian. Prior to his death in 1898, Lewis left behind a series of famous quotes. My two personal favorites are “It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.” The second comes from Mere Christianity, “success if the process of arriving.”

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The latter quote suggests that one must fail several times before you draw near to success. For example, if you play baseball, failing to get a hit in 7 out of 10 plate appearances is considered good. The current average batting average in Major League Baseball in 2021 is 220. This means that most professional hitters are failing nearly 80% of the time. If you combine this lack of success with local weather forecasters who tend to get their daily predictions right once or twice a week, Americans are surrounded by failure.

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with the great majority of them, for they were overthrown and strewn down along [the ground] in the wilderness. Now these things are examples (warnings and admonitions) for us not to desire or crave or covet or lust after evil and carnal things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:5-6.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to remind the Corinthian Church of Israel’s failures. These past errors, mistakes and sins serve as lessons from the past. As I drive around to various places, my photographic memory often triggers a collection of memories within my mind. Yet, as I pass a little league field and two vacated churches, the pain of a defunct baseball league and closed churches hit home. Am I failure because I wasn’t able to save these three organizations or was it God’s will for these things to come to an end? When you’re surrounded by failure, it’s hard to press on. Yet, when you are weak, Christ is strong, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, so with God I go on.

by Jay Mankus

Pharmakia

The Greek word pharmakia appears five times in the New Testament. Outside of the book of Revelation, the only other reference of pharmakia occurs in the passage below. Pharmakia is where we derive the English term pharmacy. However, this word can also refer to sorcery and witchcraft. What the apostle Paul is trying to express in the acts of the sinful nature is that human bodies can come under the influence of a foreign spirit such as wine or a demonic entity.

Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:20.

In the passage below, one of Jesus’ disciples has a vision of the future. This image narrows in on what will happen in the last days on the earth. According to John, there will be a lack of personal responsibility. Instead of confessing sins, people will choose to justify and rationalize their own actions. This form of denial is similar to an individual under the influence of a drug who is not in their right mind.

And the rest of humanity who were not killed by these plagues even then did not repent of [the worship of] the works of their [own] hands, so as to cease paying homage to the demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor move. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their practice of magic (sorceries) or their sexual vice or their thefts, Revelation 9:20-21.

If Satan can appear as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, what you see can be deceiving. The term sober is found 12 times in the Bible. If your mind is affected by some form of pharmakia, your decision making will be impaired. Therefore, if you want to overcome the various temptations which lurk around every corner in life, being sober is essential. Despite laws to legalize marijuana, a gateway drug, be sober so that you can take your stand against future Satanic schemes, Ephesians 6:12.

by Jay Mankus

Understanding the Seasons of Change

According to Genesis 2:4-6, the earth’s atmosphere was initially like an open canopy. According to Moses, underground springs bubbled up from beneath the surface to water the earth. Prior to the flood, there was only one season with a tropical climate similar to a greenhouse effect. Before the heavens opened up to bring rain for the first time, the springs of the earth burst forth, Genesis 7:11. This passage suggests some sort of enormous volcanic eruption like the super volcano in Yellowstone National Park. As massive clouds of volcanic ash blocked out the sun, the first age began, setting in motion the four seasons that exist today.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up,A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

King Solomon provides a famous analogy about seasons of change in the passage above. Just as winter gives way to spring, spring introduces summer before summer fades to fall, the cycle is completed by a return to winter. Solomon refers to specific events that take place every year and throughout your life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 suggests that there is a time and place for everything. According to Solomon, God makes everything beautiful in His time as healing allows broken souls to mend and recover. Yet, for anyone undergoing an extremely difficult period in their life, understanding the seasons of change takes time.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

If discovering God’s will for your life can take a couple of decades, discerning the seasons of change involves deep thought and reflection. You may want to pursue a specific career or dream, but when failure causes you to change course, figuring out where to go next takes time. I still remember when I felt God calling me to become a golf professional, then a youth pastor followed by a Bible teacher and golf coach. Each time I thought, surely this is God’s will for my life until the seasons of change left me unemployed. One New Testament author gives great advice for understanding the seasons of change in Hebrews 12:1. If you treat life like a marathon, you have to push through the pain to run with perseverance so when the seasons do change, you’ll be ready to adjust and move on.

by Jay Mankus

An Unlikely War Hero

The 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge was based upon a World War II American Army Medic named Desmond Doss. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Desmond was a hillbilly from Lynchburg, Virginia. While donating blood at a nearby hospital, Desmond met a cute nurse who became the love of his life. Despite his desire to get married, as lines at local recruiting centers continued to form, Desmond followed his calling to enlist.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

While Desmond thought he was signing up to become an Army medic, he was placed in an infantry with the expectation of becoming a soldier. As a devout Seventh Day Adventist, who was raised to keep the Sabbath and keep his vow to never kill, Desmond found himself in the middle of a moral dilemma. When Desmond verbalized his convictions to his commanding officer, this didn’t go over to well with the rest of his squadron.

No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends, John 15:13.

Until the Battle of Okinawa, Desmond Doss was considered the weak link. However, as his fellow soldiers fell to the ground, wounded one after the other, Desmond’s instincts kicked in. Before this battle was over, Desmond became a real life Forrest Gump, retrieving and saving the lives of 75 injured soldiers. Desmond’s act of bravery was rewarded by becoming the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. May Desmond’s story inspire you to hold fast to your convictions so that you’ll be prepared to follow God’s calling.

by Jay Mankus

When Satan Hinders and Impedes Your Spiritual Progress

Every day a new set of obstacles arise with the sun. Some of these challenges are recognizable, allowing individuals to easily side step these obstructions. Unfortunately, many of these impediments will come as complete surprises, catching the average citizen off guard and unprepared for what lies ahead for the future. Thus, when the sunsets to end your day, many are left scratching their head mumbling, “how did this happen and why?”

But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a little while in person, [of course] not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great longing to see you face to face,18 Because it was our will to come to you. [I mean that] I, Paul, again and again [wanted to come], but Satan hindered and impeded us, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18.

In the first century, the apostle Paul didn’t believe in bad luck. Rather, when strange things started to happen to hinder and impede his most recent missionary journey, Paul blamed Satan. When your spiritual opponent is able to masquerade as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14, faith must be elevated. If the enemy is the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, it time to start fighting back with spiritual weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:7-8.

One of Jesus’ disciples shares his own recollection of Satan’s attacks. As Peter was about to celebrate a victorious moment in his life, Matthew 16:16-18, a few moments later everything changed. Peter goes from a spiritual hero to being accused of being on Satan’s side, Matthew 16:22-23. When Satan hinders or impedes your spiritual progress, it’s essential that you take your thoughts captive. Just as Jesus used fasting and prayer to overcome temptation, Matthew 4:1-11, be vigilant so you can withstand the next spiritual attack that you’ll face. When you draw near to God, the Devil flees, James 4:7.

by Jay Mankus

Engaged and Energized

While engagement is often associated with the process leading up to marriage, to be engaged refers to an active, engrossed and involved state. I’ve never thought of prayer in the context of being engaged. However, when the apostle Paul found an isolated spot to pray, Mark 1:35, his concentration was fixated on God. Paul wasn’t just hoping and wishing for an answer to prayer, he expected God to perform a miracle.

We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

One verse later, Paul refers to being energized by faith. As Christians begin to pray with an unceasing desire, this is often accompanied with a sudden boost of energy. When you add and incorporate promises in the Bible to prayer, faith is strengthened. Prayer is an act of putting the needs of others before yourself as you pour out your heart to God. When prayer becomes a daily habit, a spirit of service is conceived.

Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

In the first century, there was a belief that Jesus would return in their own lifetime. For those individuals who witnessed Jesus rise from the dead, there was a sense of urgency to seize each day on earth, Galatians 6:9-10. This is the motivation that the apostle Paul refers to in the passage above. If you want to make the most of your life on earth, engage yourself in prayer so that your faith is energized to keep on serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Under Construction

Depending upon the city, state or region you live in, summer time commences a season of construction. If these projects are out sourced to private businesses, construction is usually completed on time or ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the state of Delaware usually takes a few years to start and another five years to finish what should have taken a year or two at most.

For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it? – Luke 14:28

A first century doctor overhears a conversation between Jesus and Pharisees. The parable above occurs at the end of this discussion. The context of this passage refers to the high expectations that Jesus has for his disciples. Before starting any new project, Jesus wants his followers to consider the cost before jumping in head first. If you want to finish what you start in this life, it’s okay to say no.

Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him, 30 Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish, Luke 14:29-30.

In their song Local Construction, Reliant K compares areas of your life that are never done to local construction. When I was a student, it always took me twice as long to complete a homework assignment than my friends. Sometimes this was because I didn’t know what I was doing and on other occasions, what I was learning didn’t click initially. There are certain things in life that are never done despite how hard you work on it. Since something in your life or in your community is always under construction, consider the cost you before you commit to your next project in life.

by Jay Mankus

Radical Grace Theory

Critical Race Theory is analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. This philosophy began in the 1970, but officially was organized in 1989 at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory. Today, you will find curriculum for Critical Race Theory in businesses, colleges, and public education.

[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all [everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person], Colossians 3:11.

While there will always be isolated pockets of racism in any city, state or nation, pushing Critical Race Theory endangers Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s dream and vision for America. Quoting his 1963 speech, Dr. King longed for a day when his “four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Since Critical Race Theory stresses victimology rather than personal responsibility, character has been de-emphasized by this movement.

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]. Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no profit (advantage, avail) to you [[a]for if you distrust Him, you can gain nothing from Him], Galatians 5:1-2.

The weakness of Critical Race Theory is that it takes God and faith out of the equation. If you listen to Dr. King, one of his most famous quotes is, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Perhaps, Martin was referring to one of the two Bible passages listed above. Part of the apostles teaching in the first century includes a church body where all distinctions vanish. As people enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, radical grace transforms individuals to become color blind. This is the radical grace theory that all nations should embrace and practice.

by Jay Mankus

A New Generation of Bereans

The apostle Paul wrote two letters to a teenage pastor in the first century. Serving as a spiritual mentor to Timothy, Paul provides a glimpse of what you should expect in the future. Paul warned of a time when individuals will begin to believe what their itching ears want to hear, 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Like a group of teenage girls chatting at a lunch room table, it won’t be long before urges to gossip using exaggeration spreads from one table throughout a school.

Now these [Jews] were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

During two separate trips to nearby cities, Paul experiences two distinct mindsets. Paul’s initial encounter in Thessalonica is like most large cities in the United States today, Acts 17:5-6. Like a scene from 2020, a mob mentality developed in the streets of Thessalonica. Unbelieving Jews served as agitators, doing whatever it took to prevent Paul’s ministry from winning over hearts and minds to Jesus.

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. 22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.

One day later, Paul was impressed by the character of the Bereans. Unlike the Thessalonians who believed whatever they heard, the people of Berea developed a system for testing concepts and theories with God’s Word. After listening to a recent sermon on TBN, America needs a new generation of Bereans to rise up today. Rather than caving to the Cancel Culture, this nation needs noble individuals guided and inspired by biblical convictions. This is my prayer for future generations.

by Jay Mankus

You Can’t Quantify Feelings

Science is based upon the collection of data. This information is accumulated through a series of experiments using trial and error to quantify the difference between fact and fiction. Quantify refers to assessing, calculating, evaluating, gauging, sizing up and weighing the results. Theories are developed and formed based upon observing similar outcomes over and over again. One thing that scientists all agree on is that you can’t quantify feelings.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? 10 I the Lord search the mind, I try the heart, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings, Jeremiah 17:9-10.

One Old Testament prophets warns Jews of the dangers of feelings. If human hearts are deceitful, you can’t trust your feelings to be accurate. According to Jeremiah, hearts and minds can play tricks on you, resulting in waves of emotions. Meanwhile, feelings are temporary, often fleeting and fading from one thing to the next. Unless you are in love, feelings tend to change like the weather.

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses], Hebrews 11:1.

Since you can’t quantify feelings, the author of Hebrews reveals how faith is the vehicle designed to take the place of feelings. Faith serves as assurance like a spiritual heart beat to keep Christians going. When hope is absent or invisible, faith is the foundation for belief in God’s existence. While feelings often end in disappointment, living by faith and not by sight encourages others to do the same. When faith is lived out daily, blind hope can be quantified.

by Jay Mankus

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