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Building From Scratch

If you have ever been forced to finish someone else’s project, what appears to be easy on the surface often contains several underlying issues. If this happens to be a physical building, there is always a risk that specific steps were missed or skipped along the way to save time. Meanwhile, the materials that you would have chosen can’t be added unless you want to start over from scratch. Another element is brought up by Jesus is Luke 14:28, before starting any project, you have to consider the costs, time and money. Don’t start something that you know you won’t be able to complete.

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation, Romans 15:20.

In the letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul reveals an interesting ministry strategy. Instead of building upon what others have taught, Paul felt compelled to go to areas and regions where the gospel had never been heard. After dealing with the Judaizers, a religious sect that added elements of Judaism to salvation, Paul realized that it was easier to start a church from scratch. Trying to undo bad habits, confusion and spiritual damage done by the Judaizers within the Galatian church reinforced Paul’s belief.

Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand,” Romans 15:21.

As most small businesses in America lay dormant, unable to open until social distancing policies have been eased, perhaps some will have to start over from scratch. If rent can’t be paid or expenses need to be cut, perhaps some will become more like Amazon, using the internet for sales. While this may not be possible, the creative have plenty of time now to develop, plan and strategize for the future. Although there will be many obstacles, visible and invisible, I pray for all the small business owners that God will give you a vision to implement once the Coronavirus pandemic subsides.

by Jay Mankus

A Place Where the Sun No Longer Shines

Up until a few years ago, my Christmas shopping destinations included a couple of local Christian Bookstores. Whether I was looking a Bible, the newest Christmas CD or an inspirational gift, I went to explore to see what I could find. Whether I left empty handed or not, the people I encountered made every trip worthwhile. I could write an entire chapter in a book about my previous conversations at Christian bookstores throughout the country.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, John 1:5.

The one store which has made the most impact on my life was called the Sonshine House. During my first year of teaching Bible at Red Lion Christian Academy, I discovered that one of my students’ mom was the owner. This was sort of a reunion as Jackie, the former owner, helped me build my Christian music collection while in college. This woman of God was always encouraging, like a ray of sunshine in a dark world.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” John 8:12.

Due to the popularity of companies like Amazon, Apple Music and other online competitors, most local Christian Bookstores have vanished. While there may be a few local establishments like Blockbuster, abandoned store fronts are a sign of the times. Instead of promoting malls, retail shops and town centers, a growing number of people would rather shop online. Although this may be more convenient, the social aspect of life is being ignored. May this blog inspire you to become a light for Christ in places where the sun doesn’t shine spiritually.

by Jay Mankus

Being Phased Out

If you work for a big company, sooner or later you will experience the pain of being phased out.  Sometimes this may be certain positions or an entire department that are eliminated to reduce cost and save money for shareholders.  Industries like coal may be phased out in my lifetime by cleaner, more efficient energy.  Meanwhile, other famous companies file for bankruptcy due to a lack of vision.  Richard Sears began using printed mailers in 1888 to advertise watches and jewelry.  This eventually gave birth to the Sears Catalog in 1943.  However, when Amazon was established in 1995 using the internet as an online catalog, Sears didn’t change their business model in time to save their company and customers.

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place, Acts 12:16-17.

When Herod Agrippa I gave orders to have James the brother of John executed, Peter became a marked man.  According to Luke, religious leaders encouraged the king of the Jews to arrest and put Peter to death following the Passover celebrations.  While imprisoned, an angel of the Lord led Peter to escape.  However, based upon the passage above, Peter went into hiding, keeping a low profile.  It was during this period that the Lord rose up a godly man who would surprise Peter spiritually.  Saul who changes his name to Paul in Acts 13 is used to phase Peter out.  When the Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria heard the gospel message, Peter was no longer needed as God raised him up to reach a Jewish audience.  A new voice was necessary to introduce the Gentiles to the good news about Jesus.  Thus, Peter is replaced by Paul to start the final phase, taking the Bible to the ends of the earth.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

According to the book of Revelation, Jesus will not return until every land, nation and tribe has a chance to either receive or reject Jesus as Savior, Romans 10:9-10.  This final phase is approaching 2,000 years and no one knows how much longer the Great Commission will take to complete.  Sure, there will always be guesses, projections and speculation, but only Jesus knows when this mission will end.  No one likes to be phased out, especially when you are forced to sit on the sidelines as someone else takes your place.  Nonetheless, if you aren’t gathering for God, you are likely scattering by leading others astray.  If this occurs, don’t be surprised if God sends someone else to finish the job that you were assigned.  This might result in being phased out by a believer who is more spiritually prepared than you.  However, failure does not mean the end.  Learn from your past mistakes so that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to be ready the next time God calls.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

More Than a Citizen

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American mystery drama film by Orson Welles.  This tale is based upon an influential and wealthy newspaper tycoon inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst.  There is another citizen who flew under the radar during his life.  John Wanamaker established one of the first department stores in the United States within his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  However, Wanamaker was more than an American merchant.  His life was devoted to civics, politics and religious virtues.

But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves, Luke 22:26.

If you visit downtown Philadelphia, you will find a statue of John Wanamaker outside of city hall. Wanamaker was a descendant of the Lenape Indians, the native tribe of this region.  Despite serving as U.S. Postmaster General, there is only one word engraved on John Wanamaker’s statue: citizen.  While Wanamaker could have been remembered for his business, generosity and political service, his legacy was that of a citizen. Perhaps, serving as secretary of the Philadelphia YMCA from 1857 to 1861 laid a foundation of faith that fueled Wanamaker throughout his life on earth.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20.

America has radically changed since Wanamaker’s death in December of 1922.  Amazon has replaced his vision for local department stores.  Technology has transformed the way individuals communicate via the internet, phones and social medial.  Despite all of these changes, it’s never too late to become a citizen.  This is more than simply being an inhabitant of a particular town or city.  Rather, the Bible calls individuals to serve others.  Paul takes this one step further possessing dual citizenship, seeking God’s will on earth while eagerly awaiting the afterlife.  While everyone has big dreams and goals in life, devoting yourself to Jesus will inspire you to become a better citizen in your neighborhood.

by Jay Mankus

If You Take the Time to Listen

My evenings at Amazon vary as I try to fix any problems before product gets shipped out to customers.  Typically, free time is rare as I am usually exploring and examining some sort of defect.  However, the other night I was selected to be part of a survey, asked a series of questions by a human resource staff member from Seattle.  Due to an initial technical glitch, I was able to talk to a co-worker.  This five minute conversation opened my mind to the importance of listening.

Then a woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink”— For His disciples had gone off into the city to buy food— The Samaritan woman asked Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life),” John 4:7-10.

My co-worker was in her first week in a new position.  When my initial phone calls failed to go through, she had to email her manager to figure out what to do.  As we both waited, I discovered that this young woman had lyme disease for ten years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.  Since she never had what is called a bullseye, a tell tale sign of lyme disease, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her for a decade.  I shared of my own struggles twenty years ago from this same disease.  As I talked, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering, “this is what happens when you take the time to listen.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not get thirsty nor [have to continually] come all the way here to draw.” 16 At this, Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I do not have a husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. You have said this truthfully,” John 4:15-18.

When I read the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was a masterful communicator, never wasting an opportunity to interact with a stranger.  Despite the political tension between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus goes out of his way to talk to a woman who has a history of bouncing from one relationship to the next.  After five failed marriages, this woman was trying to love without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  During an intense back and forth, Jesus plants a spiritual seed within this woman for faith to grow.  When you take the time to listen to another person, God can use you to offer a message of encouragement, healing and hope.

by Jay Mankus

The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Only God Knows When Your Next Emergency Will Arrive

Nearly five years ago, I was finishing up a normal day of work at Amazon.  After bruising a rib during a sledding accident the week earlier, I wasn’t moving too well but felt fine.  Thirty minutes before the end of my shift, I sneezed.  A few minutes later, I started having trouble breathing.  I sat down, thinking everything would be fine.  Moments later I collapsed as a co-worker rushed to get a paramedic on site.  Before I knew, I was rushed to a hospital in the back of an ambulance, placed into a Cat-Scan machine to see what was wrong.  The diagnosis, two broken ribs and a partially collapse lung.

So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself, and he sat [down] among the ashes (rubbish heaps), Job 2:7-8.

In the aftermath of my emergency surgery, I was forced to take a leave of absence.  Despite a signed note from my doctors, I wasn’t cleared to return for five weeks.  This event caused a major financial strain as well as delaying a promotion for another five months.  Although my insurance covered most all my hospital bills, I owned over three thousand dollar for two ambulances, one to the hospital and the other to Christiana for my operation.  No matter how prepared you may be in life, only God knows when your next emergency will arrive.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still cling to your integrity [and your faith and trust in God, without blaming Him]? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the [spiritually] foolish women speaks [ignorant and oblivious to God’s will]. Shall we indeed accept [only] good from God and not [also] accept adversity and disaster?” In [spite of] all this Job did not sin with [words from] his lips, Job 2:9-10.

My wife Leanne and I recently started a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class.  This course covers financial planning topics throughout nine sessions.  While I can’t make any judgments from one week, the goal of this small group study is to prepare couples and families for financial emergencies.  In the passage above, Job and his wife argue following the death of their children in a horrific storm, possibly a tornado.  While Job’s wife had given up hope, Job’s relationship with God helped him remain optimistic.  Since only God knows the future, make sure you start planning for the future now so that you become a good steward of the resources God provides.

by Jay Mankus

I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

The End of an Era

On February 23rd, Family Christian Bookstores announced that all 240 stores were going out of business.  The dominance of Amazon and popularity of i-tunes was too much to compete with over time.  When you add in the fact that only 3 out of 10 Christians ever visited these stores, I guess you can say they were destined to fail.  As for me, this eliminates my monthly experience of exploring, listening and purchasing new music.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being, Psalm 104:33.

Prior to college, the majority of my music collection was secular.  However, this all changed when I was introduced to the Sonshine House, a Christian music store 15 minutes from campus.  The former owner, Jackie Johnson, was a good sport, regularly listening to me sing a chorus of a song before leading me to the actual artist and album.  Jackie’s passion rubbed off on me, resulting in 3 decades of pursuing inspirational music.

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:19.

Although I am not sure where I am going to go to keep up with cutting edge artists, I won’t allow this hobby to die.  One of my goals in life was to run my own Christian Radio Station, creating a business plan, call letters and weekly programming.  Yet. after the FCC updated the fees for playing songs to a third party, this added expense wasn’t worth the investment.  While one era comes to an end, I pray that Christians will develop another avenue to allow aspiring artists, bands and musicians to flourish by sharing their God-given talents.  In addition, I will continue to  share you tubes of these artists whose song enhances each blog title.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Unusual Path to Success

During a sleepless night off, I began channeling surfing to find something entertaining.  Using the scroll down future, I found a show entitled Finding Success Through Failure.  Hosted by John Stossel, this Fox Business Channel program examined unusual beginnings of famous companies.  For example, following a forty dollar fine for forgetting to return a video to the store, the concept to Netflix was born.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

For those entrepreneurs who fail multiple times, Stossel interviewed a couple of guests who honed in on grasping what went wrong during failed ventures.  These people go through a purification process using trial and error as a teaching aide.  Meanwhile, the spoiled, unprepared and weak often quit at the first sign of adversity.  Real life is not a fairy tale.  Rather, there are usually several road blocks, directional arrows and u-turns along the way before you arrive at the dream job.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

When life throws you a curve ball, sometimes you have to reinvent yourself.  Five years ago I had aspirations of becoming a college professor, starting at a new community college.  When that plan was thwarted, I went into survival mode, throwing things up in the air to see what stuck.  Although I have found a home at Amazon for now, I believe I have what it takes to write movie scripts.  While I may not get to the career my choice, I’m ready to take the unusual path to success wherever it takes me.

by Jay Mankus

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