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Slipping Away

Normaly, the phrase slipping away is used in a negative context.  Competitors may experience a sure victory slip away as momentum leads their opponent to a shocking comeback victory.  Meanwhile, pastors use this term when Christians begin to develop unhealthy habits, slowly slipping further and further away from God.

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me, John 15:4.

Yet, Jesus refers to slipping away as a means to get away from the distractions in this life.  As crowds following Jesus’ earthly ministry got out of control, having a quiet time alone with God became increasingly difficult.  Thus, Jesus made a habit of sliping away, withdrawing to an isolacted location to listen to and pray to his heavenly father.

I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned, John 15:5-6.

If you aren’t careful, its easy to begin to make excuses for not spending quality time with God.  Busy schedules, important meetings and working hard to pay the bills are valid reasons to maintain a full schedule.  Nonetheless, if you want to be all you can be spiritually, you must remain connected to Jesus.  If you don’t, you may find yourself slip sliding away like a prodigal heading in the wrong direction.

by Jay Mankus

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Magnifying Confidence

If you have a tendency to be analytical like me, you might over think things instead of relying on common sense.  Yet, you can’t deny the difference confidence makes within an athlete, Christian and student.  Uncerainty can stiffle souls, causing individuals to be hesitant, without conviction to act.  However, confidence transforms lives, taking quiet soft spoken individuals to new heights.

When Jesus saw their [active] faith [springing from confidence in Him], He said, “Man, your sins are forgiven,” Luke 5:20.

One day Jesus was teaching in a home when crowds surrounded the building.  By this time in history, Jesus’ healing powers had become legendary as no condition was impossible to cure.  This knowledge empowered a few friends to climb on top of the roof, carrying their friend who was paralyzed.  Eager to get Jesus’ attention, these men cut open a few tiles and lowered their friend to Jesus’ feet.

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.

This act of faith impressed Jesus and one of four gospel authors.  Luke magnifies confidence by referring to belief, energy and passion linked to those who trust in God’s power to transform lives.  Luke uses the imagery of a spring, bubbling over out of the ground.  When Christians stop focusing on the cants in this life and begin to open their minds to the possibilities with God’s help, confidence is magnifed.

by Jay Mankus

The Price of Victory

As a former high school coach, I am aware of the price of victory.  The temptation to win at all costs can leave a trail of corruption in its wake.  As a cross country coach, I took runners to compete in nationals three straight seasons.  The best any of my runnes finished was 25th, not bad for a Christian school in Delaware, following the rules set by the state.

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! – 1 Corinthians 9:24

Unforunately, my former school made national headlines, banned from competing in the state tournament in football after our team got too good, too fast.  Since I wasn’t one of the coaches, I don’t know what rules were glanced over or stretched to the limit.  Yet, an asured state title was denied, leaving players disapointed and heart broken.  However, there is a silver lining as Red Lion’s program has produced three current NFL players with a potential for 1 first round pick in the 2019 draft class.

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]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing], 1 Corinthians 9:25-26.

Eariler this week, Urban Meyer, head football coach of Ohio State University was placed on administrative leave for failing to report an incident of domestic abuse by one of his assistant coaches.  A three time national champion coach with Florida and Ohio State, Meyer has developed a reputation for building programs the right way.  Yet, recent reports have disclosed that Urban took chances on players with questionable character.  The only way to reign in these players was with domineering and hard nosed coaches.

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 9:27.

As a former resident of Ohio, news of Meyer’s demise is sad.  However, maybe Urban’s decision to make winning a greater priority than integrity will serve as a wakeup call for current coaches thinking about cutting corners.  The apostle Paul writes a letter to the church in Corinth about the Corinthian Games, the Olympics of the first century.  Paul warns his audience about the price of winning.  If only one can be the champion, compete in such a way as to win the respect of your fellow competitors.  May these words encourage future coaches to focus on character rather than wins and loses.

by Jay Mankus

What are You Still Lacking?

If you asked a recent high school graduate the same question after completing a four year degree in college, perspectives would likely change.  Human nature tends to make young people think they are infallible.  When you add knowledge, wisdom and a wealth of information to this equation, some will likely think they know it all, now smarter than their parents.  This is the state we find the rich young ruler in the passage below, only lacking one thing in life.

A certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially and morally] good except God alone, Luke 18:18-19.

Searching for eternal security, this man sought out Jesus, hoping to discover the secret to possessing eternal life.  Immediately, Jesus catches this ruler off guard by demonstrating humility, giving God the credit for his goodness.  From here Jesus turns his attention to God’s standards in the Torah, the first five books in the Old Testament.  Obtaining knowledge of the Bible is one thing, but applying these principles separate average believers from genuine people of faith.  Perhaps, this rich young ruler thought he could enter heaven by being a good person.

You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not testify falsely, Honor your father and your mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these things from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk],” Luke 18:20-22.

There are two invisible forces which drag and nudge souls in different directions.  The Holy Spirit convicts hearts and minds, revealing imperfections and shortcomings.  Meanwhile, the sinful nature is more accommodating, making those who stray from God think more highly about themselves than they should.  While the Spirit led the apostle Paul to claim he was the greatest sinner of all in 1 Timothy 1:15, my flesh made me feel better the further I slipped away from God in college.  This spiritual dilemma exists today, compared to a spiritual war in Galatians 5:16-18.  Thus, if you really want to know what are you still lacking, draw close to God and He will make you whole.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Message from Molly

Today if anyone wants to research a foreign topic, people often rely on Google, Wikipedia or reach out to Alexia or Siri for information.  In one click of a mouse, everything you want to know instantly pops up on a mobile device or tablet.  However, before computers, libraries provided a vast collection of historical records waiting for those hungry for knowledge.  The Farmer’s Almanac gives insight into previous trends, allowing land owners to ascertain which is the best crop to plant.  Indians relied on wisdom passed down from previous chiefs to survive harsh winters and flourish during the harvest season.  Seeking advice is a good practice before making important decisions for your future.  Yet, sometimes even the least unlikely sources divulge powerful life lessons that should be heard and incorporated into your life.

Now these things [the warnings and admonitions] took place as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

Prior to this week, I never knew who the Poker Queen was or anything about the woman who earned this nickname.  Nonetheless, the 2014 memoirs and 2017 film Molly’s Game introduces the world to Molly Bloom.  When Molly’s ski accidently fell off during her final run of the woman’s moguls, any hopes of qualifying for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah disappeared.  Prior to entering law school, Molly moved to Los Angeles, California to start the next phase of her life.  A job as a personal assistant introduced Molly to a weekly poker game between celebrities and Hollywood stars.  The professional athlete within Molly drove her to quickly become an expert of the game of poker.  This passion opened the door for a thriving business, networking with the rich and famous to run high stake poker games.  This uncontrollable rush took its toll, sending Molly into a ethical and moral tailspin.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold, Proverbs 22:1.

To avoid a spoiler alert, I will focus on the honorable message Molly sends at the conclusion of the film Molly’s Game.  After tabloids leaked a list of former players from a deposition, sworn evidence given by Molly, her reputation was tarnished.  Despite growing financial issues, Molly refused to hand over her laptop and phone to the prosecution.  These devices contained damaging details which would have ruined families and relationships across the country.  Molly was holding the winning lottery ticket in her hand, offered millions of dollars to hand over this dirt.  Nonetheless, Molly has decided to protect her former players rather than betray them for money.  Why you may ask?  In a few closing remarks, Molly replied, “the only thing I have left is my reputation.”  While her book and film may suggest its already questionable, Molly has chosen to defend her name rather than cash in the poker chips that she is holding.  May this message from Molly Bloom inspire you to devote your life toward developing a godly reputation.

Jby Jay Mankus

The Stubborn Things in Life

In the past, stubbornness was associated with a mule.  This saying referred to the determination not to change one’s attitude or position.  The mule is the offspring of a donkey and horse, often relegated as a beast of burden.  Perhaps, as this animal grinds its way through life, forced to do grueling work, stubbornness is merely a byproduct of its trade.  Mules aren’t the only things on earth that succumb to stubbornness.

“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or of his mother, and when they reprimand and discipline him, he will not listen to them,” Deuteronomy 21:18.

During his political career, John Adams faced opponents who were unwilling to change their positions.  These interactions led the second president of the United States of America to once say “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Unfortunately, if you repeat a lie over and over again, those who don’t do their research are vulnerable to being deceived.

They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard,’ Deuteronomy 21:20.

Moses compares stubbornness to alcoholism in the passage above.  Anyone who drinks too much will come under the influence of foreign spirits.  Meanwhile, those who are strong willed struggle to accept ideas, beliefs and notions unfamiliar to their life.  Evidence, facts and truth are meant to set people free from stubbornness.  Yet, human minds are just as obdurate as a mule.  Therefore, if you want to break away from the stubborn things in life, set your heart and mind on things above, Colossians 3:1-4.  This process won’t happen over night, but with time God can transform your life if you are willing.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting for Good Things to Come

Waiting is contrary to human nature.  When you see something that you like or want, the concept of waiting seems pointless.  Yet, as I look back on my on life, there are certain things that I wasn’t ready to possess.  A lack of maturity, given something instead of earning it and forcing the issue are all contributing factors.  Perhaps, waiting is a tool God uses to prepare individuals for the future.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him, Lamentations 3:25.

When you don’t have the financial means to afford a place to live, food to eat or resources like a vehicle, even atheists may offer up prayers for their current situation to improve.  If there is no one on earth to lean on, its only natural to look up the heavens and hope for better days.  The Bible encourages souls to seek God instead of seeking alternative routes or taking short cuts.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

David compares waiting to a spiritual exercise like working out.  Waiting requires a gut check, seeing if you have what it takes to stick it out.  This process involves concentration, focus and a willingness to finish what you start.  Those who receive what they have been waiting for tend to appreciate what they now have.  Therefore, if you want to pursue a noble cause, trust God as you wait for good things to come.

by Jay Mankus

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