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A Habitual Faith

As a child, exceling as a student did not come naturally to me. Playing sports did, but only baseball was easy and natural. If I wanted to get better, habitually practicing was my goal. I spent most of my free time playing ball outside, hitting tennis balls against the side of our house and playing the course golf course that I created in my backyard. Unfortunately, I wasn’t gifted with great size or strength, so I learned to be gritty, willing myself to get better and enhance my skills daily.

But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts], 1 John 1:7-8.

When I became a Christian at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I began to apply these same principles to my faith. I started a Bible Study at my house, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. My drive to become a better Christian led me to join a weekly accountability group, attend a Methodist youth group religiously every Sunday night and pursue opportunities for monthly retreats. By my senior year, I was appointed the Program Director for my FCA huddle meetings at Concord High School.

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action], 1 John 1:9.

Yet, this is not what a habitual faith resembles. During a Christian retreat in college, pastor Tommy Nelson introduced me to “Spit Baths.” Pastor Nelson was referring to Christians who schedule time with God daily, but their Bible Study and prayer times are short and meaningless. This message has stuck with me over the years, urging me to dig deeper into God’s Word and pour out my heart to God in prayer. Genuine habitual faith occurs when believers naturally keep in step with the Holy Spirit, daily sharing with others what God is teaching you about the Bible and how it applies to life. May this blog inspire you to pursue a habitual faith.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 207: Victory Belongs to Jesus

Today’s song comes from a man who was drafted by the New York Mets to pursue a professional baseball career. Following his college career at a Community College in Mount Carmel, Illinois, Todd Dulaney believed the Lord was calling him to become a professional athlete. Yet, like any journey with God, you approach crossroads and as time passed Todd’s true calling was as a gospel singer.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? 56 Now sin is the sting of death, and sin exercises its power [i][upon the soul] through [j][the abuse of] the Law. 57 But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.

Victory Belongs to Jesus is based upon the words of the apostle Paul in the passage above. While Todd doesn’t directly quote this verse in the lyrics, he sings about Jesus’ victory over death. While the Jewish leaders who convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus instead of Barabbas, John 18:40, God waited three days to complete this incredible comeback victory in the form of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

by Jay Mankus

When God Gives People Time to Repent

I spent five seasons as a youth baseball coach. As a former pitcher myself, the mound can be a lonely place when you can’t find the strike zone. I developed a reputation for pulling pitchers too soon, not giving young players the chance to work their way out of trouble. However, according to one of Jesus’ disciples, God does gives wayward people time to repent.

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.

Unfortunately, God’s timing and mine rarely coincide. Whether you’re stubborn, rebellious or wayward, God doesn’t force anyone to repent. Rather, as individuals get closer to the bottom of the barrel, coming to your senses varies, Luke 15:14-17. As desperation lingers and a sense of urgency is conceived, sinners come forward on their own, trying to catch up with God.

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:16.

Ian Murray’s book Revival and Revivalism sets the scene for America’s poor spiritual state in 1799. It only took 23 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence for the spiritual climate in the United States to deteriorate. Like the condition of the prodigal son in Luke 15, when God gives people time to repent a spirit of confession forms within broken hearts. May the power of the Holy Spirit be poured out once again upon this country to ignite another spiritual awakening in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 77: Get It Right

Today’s featured song comes from a group that began in Brainerd, Minnesota. Silverline is one of those Christian rock bands that have been overshadowed and replaced with soft rock that Christian radio stations prefer to play. I initially discovered Silverline while searching for new music online. However, their lyrics on ballads like Too Far Gone from Silverline’s Lights Out album have moved me to listen more.

A wise man’s heart turns him toward his right hand, but a fool’s heart toward his left, Ecclesiastes 10:2.

Back when Chip Kelly became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, he intergraded music into drills and practices. This inspired me to create 4 different mixes which I played at baseball practices. Get It Right was one of the first songs on mix number one. Instead of getting it right spiritually, I spent time in between drills to instill proper techniques. If you want to get your life back on track, Get It Right is a good place to start.

by Jay Mankus

Embrace Holy Fervor

Since I wasn’t a good student early on in high school, I poured my heart and soul into sports. Whether I was running cross country, swimming, playing baseball or golf, I developed a fervor for greatness. I may have not been the most athletic and physically gifted individual, but I wanted to win more than most of my peers. While I didn’t have much of a social life, I didn’t care as long as I improved daily.

But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live [f]by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.

This is the type of passion the Bible refers to in the passage above. Faith provides a similar adrenaline rush that I experienced as an athlete. However, this conviction comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. Rather than seek to become a winner in a competition, faith is a driving force to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus. When God becomes who you seek to delight, holy fervor is conceived.

A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers. 24 God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:23-24.

During a conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus reveals how a desire for truth can give birth to holy fervor. Despite the flaws in this recently divorced woman’s life, a fire began to burn deep within her heart as Jesus spoke. This is the same sensation I experienced as a freshman in college when I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to make Jesus the Lord of my life. Regardless of what happens this holiday season, make room for Jesus so that you may embrace holy fervor.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Able?

The first organized sport that I played after moving to Delaware was basketball. Unlike baseball which is more of an individual sport when you’re batting, I learned that you needed all five players on the court to be on the same page. If someone forgot their position and role, the play our coach called didn’t work. During a timeout, I can remember one of the coaches asking, “are you able to do this?”

And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, But for [a]Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed, Genesis 4:4-5.

According to Moses, Able was the second child born on earth to Adam and Eve. While his older brother Cain followed in his father’s footsteps as a farmer, Able decided to become a shepherd. Perhaps Cain was pressured by dad to carry on the family business. Whatever the reason, Abel seemed to delight in his new trade. This contentment inside of Able made Cain envious and jealous.

[Prompted, actuated] by faith Abel brought God a better and more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, because of which it was testified of him that he was righteous [that he was upright and in right standing with God], and God bore witness by accepting and acknowledging his gifts. And though he died, yet [through the incident] he is still speaking, Hebrews 11:4.

This internal struggle forced God to intervene in Genesis 4:5-7. Apparently, God approached Cain and spoke to him about what was going on. Commenting about his depressed appearance, God asks an open-ended question. “Are you able to master the sinful thoughts crouching at the front door of your soul?” This question is repeated every time human beings are confronted by a tempting situation today. The next time you find yourself in a similar state as Cain, are you able to overcome sinful desires?

by Jay Mankus

A Swing and a Miss

Mark Reynolds struck out 223 times during the 2009 Major League Baseball Season. This record in futility was nearly broken by Adam Dunn, Chris Davis, and Yoan Moncada in the last decade. Perhaps, some of these players requested to be benched late in the season to avoid replacing Reynolds for the most strike outs by a hitter in a season. Over the course of a season, batters can strike out on a caught fouled tip, go down looking or with a swing and a miss.

But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. 17 And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene. So it is with Hymenaeus and Philetus, 2 Timothy 2:16-17.

In a letter to a teenage pastor, the apostle Paul uses an analogy that is similar to a swing and a miss. Since baseball wasn’t invented until 1839 by Abner Doubleday, Paul uses an archery expression. According to a Creation Today article, the term sin in the Bible comes from archery. To miss the mark in Greek literally means to sin. Therefore, whenever you fail to do what God wants you to, this miss has eternal consequences.

Who have missed the mark and swerved from the truth by arguing that the resurrection has already taken place. They are undermining the faith of some, 2 Timothy 2:18.

When Christian leaders missed the mark in the first century, Paul wasn’t afraid to call these individuals out. Hymenaeus and Philetus were called out by name for undermining the faith of others. What were these two men guilty of? They did not keep to the Scriptures of truth, but deviated from them by using justification to rationalize their behavior. Since everyone misses the mark and swings and misses, Romans 3:9-12, confess your sins as soon as possible so that healing and reconciliation can begin.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Let Discouragement Keep You Out of the Game

Beside Christmas morning, my favorite day of the year as a child was Opening Day of Little League Baseball. The smell of freshly cut grass, dressing up in a brand new uniform and hearing my name called during the opening ceremonies inspired me to play baseball. When I finally reached the majors as a twelve year old, I was the lead off hitter and starting pitcher. After nearly homering on the first pitch of the season, I was left stranded at second base. After this hit, it was all down hill as I never made it out of the first inning. If ESPN was covering this 31-19 loss, the analyst’s would describe my pitching performance as “getting lite up and rocked.”

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint, Galatians 6:9.

This shocking result haunted me for a couple of years. Instead of fighting through adversity, I often took myself out of the game, losing confidence in my ability to pitch. The harder I threw, the further the ball flew, putting my head down on numerous occasions after giving up home runs to opposing batters. I went from standing tall on the mound to losing my love for this game. No one likes to lose and the more I did as a pitcher, I doubted that I would ever taste success again. Just prior to my only season of high school baseball, my 8th grade coach believed in me. Although the rest of our staff threw harder and were more talented, I had a better command of the strike zone. Thus, when I was named the opening day starting pitcher, I longed for redemption. This time I struck out the side in the first and pitched a complete game, earning the victory.

So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only [j]being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:10.

After watching episode 12 from Season 2 of Joan of Arcadia, I was inspired to write this blog. Joan was fighting her own battle with confidence. Following an embarrassing encounter with her guidance counselor, Joan was told she had no future at a four year college. This news caused Joan to lower her expectations, deciding to attend a trade school rather than apply to colleges. After meeting a tutor, receiving encouragement from her mother and support from a friend, Joan realized that she took herself out of the game of life. Discouragement kept Joan on the bench, afraid of another embarrassing setback. Using an uncanny gift for Rock, Paper, Scissors, Joan challenges two of the smartest students in school to this game. After easily defeating the first boy, Joan faces her brother Luke in a best of three duel. Despite losing in overtime, Joan realizes that it’s time to get back in the game. If you’re afraid of defeat, may this blog inspire you to face your fear of failure by getting back into the game of life.

by Jay Mankus

A Conscious Decision

As an adult, there will be many memorable moments in your life. When things are going good, you may be having such a great time that you forget your responsibility as a parent. While coaching and teaching at Red Lion, I neglected my family, spending countless hours each week grading papers, preparing lesson plans and overseeing my golf team. In my free time, I played on a church softball team every Friday night. About 10 years ago, I was so consumed with my own life that I had become an absent father.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

One night I was able to watch James play in a Little League baseball game. His team lost 2-1, but James hit an inside the park home run. The only other time James got up he doubled, but go stranded on base as the game ended. I was surprised to see James batting 10th. Sure, every parent believes that their child is better they actually are, but batting at the bottom of the lineup didn’t make sense. After a conversation with a neighbor, I discovered James used the coaches son’s bat without asking. Thus, James was punished by his coach. This petty act led me to make a conscious decision to become more involved in the lives of my children. The following year I became one of James’ coach, the first of 7 straight years coaching or managing a team for Greater Newark Baseball.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

Like I have mentioned in previous blogs, I do everything to the extreme. I’m either all in or mentally unattached. This conscious decision has made me spend most of my free time in the last decade attending activities, competitions and sporting events. Although I don’t have the friendships that I once did outside my home, I am seizing every moment left that I have with Daniel and Lydia before they graduate high school. I definitely don’t have the energy that I once did, but I am doing my best to be an active and supportive father. Looking back, maybe I could have done things differently, but I don’t regret my conscious decision to make my children and family a major priority.

by Jay Mankus

Some Days You Have It… Some Days You Don’t

Watching a sporting event can be like a television drama with unexpected twists and turns.  As this presentation enfolds, it won’t take long to determine who is playing up to their potential and who is having a rough night.  Baseball and golf events are prime examples as a hall of fame pitcher will have a night or two where it looks like there are throwing batting practice in a homerun derby.  Meanwhile, David Duval, a former British Open champion started his opening round of the 2019 British Open one under par through six holes.  Twelve holes and 20 over par later, a professional golfer shot 90 for 18 holes.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity, Proverbs 24:16.

You don’t have to play a sport to experience this strange phenomena.  As a former teacher, some days I was on a roll, coming up with amazing examples to highlight my lesson plan.  Then, out of the blue, I went through periods where I struggled to get my point across as students looked dazed and confused.  Although preparation is necessary for any type of teaching, more time spent planning doesn’t always translate into success.  While there isn’t a Bible verse that contains a direct link, all I can say to explain these occurrences is that “some days you have it and some days you don’t.”

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, Psalm 73:26.

Solomon and the Psalmist provide advice for individuals who experience failure on days where they don’t have it.  King Solomon states that the righteous keep getting back up no matter how many times they fail.  Meanwhile, the Psalmist points to trusting in God to help you overcome disappointment and failure.  King Solomon also encourages believers to learn from mistakes so that you don’t repeat epic failures from your past.  No one likes to fail, but when you do lean on the hope in relief of God’s mercy, Lamentations 3:21-23.

by Jay Mankus

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