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Assisting God Behind the Scenes

An assist in basketball is a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a basket or field goal. While the exact origin of an assist in this sport is unknown, the most common assumption is that it came from earlier times when pay phones were available across the US. Giving a stranger a dime to complete their call derived the term assist. From a spiritual perspective, angels regularly assist God behind the scenes. Sometimes in the form of a guardian angel or nudge you in the right direction.

Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place, 10 There shall no evil befall you, nor any plague or calamity come near your tent. 11 For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]. 12 They shall bear you up on their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone, Psalm 91:9-12.

The Psalmist makes it clear about the role angels play in life. As Christians learn to draw near to God, it’s like going on a camping trip. If you are the kind of person who enjoys making a fire, as your relationship with God strengthens, the presence of the Holy Spirit is sensed daily. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the Lord sends angels to accompany, defend and preserve you as your walk with Jesus. This is the kind of assistance that angels provide.

Are not the angels all ministering spirits (servants) sent out in the service [of God for the assistance] of those who are to inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14

In the New Testament, one author devotes an entire chapter to the relationship between angels and Jesus. At the conclusion of this section, the purpose of angels is revealed. Angels are ministering spirits, servants sent out to assist God. The ultimate goal of angels is to lead human heart toward eternity in heaven. One of Jesus’ parables illustrate the celebration that goes on in heaven when a lost sheep that has been lost is found and brought home, Luke 15:1-7.

Bouncing Back from Defeat

Winston Churchill once defined success as going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.  I wish I was familiar with this quote during my final two seasons as a youth baseball coach.  I can’t remember how many games my team lost as defeat became of way of life.  Since these 2 teams only won 4 games, just one in my final season, celebrations were few and far between.  This likely explains Churchill’s emphasis on enthusiasm, learning from each failed attempt to ensure the same mistakes of the past aren’t repeated in future battles.

For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory, Deuteronomy 20:4.

In my first and only season as a head basketball coach, my players never experienced defeat, going 13-0.  The only time this team trailed at the half was in the city championship game, down by 10 points.  Clawing back in the second half, these players fought hard to send the game into overtime.  On the final play in overtime, my sixth man collected a weak side rebound, tipping the ball in at the buzzer.  When perfection is achieved, enthusiasm comes naturally.  Yet, as a coach, sometimes failure serves as a wake up call.  If a team despises losing, the fear of defeat motivates players to do everything in their power to ensure victory.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

Last Friday I received news that Hollywood rejected my latest screen play.  While this news should have been devastating, my soul was comforted by a Winston Churchill quote I heard on the radio.  C.S. Lewis defined success as the process of arriving in Mere Christianity.  A century earlier, Thomas Edison discovered 2000 ways how not to produce electricity before finally inventing the incandescent lightbulb.  If you can learn one thing from history it is that failure is a necessary evil to spur souls on to reach their ultimate goal.  As for me, I’m not sure if I will ever write a successful movie that is bought or produced by Hollywood.  Nonetheless, if I turn to Christ who strengthens me, my enthusiasm for writing will return so that my dream of writing one screen play per year in retirement may soon become a reality.  This is how I plan to bounce back from defeat.

by Jay Mankus

 

Taking as Many People with You as Possible

During a visit to the city of Corinth, the apostle Paul discovered a passionate group of sports fans.  Instead of modern sports like basketball or football, Corinthians embraced Track and Field as host of a Summer Olympics type of annual event.  Thus, Paul felt compelled to use words in one of his letters that appealed to this culture.  Within 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul compares evangelism with a race, hoping to win as many people as possible to Jesus Christ.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Years earlier, Jesus reveals an interesting concept to his disciples in the passage above.  While speaking about persecution, Jesus provides a heavenly perspective to a common event followers of Christ will encounter.  Human nature tends to make individuals fearful of what other people think of you.  However, Jesus warns the disciples about worrying about the wrong thing.  Rather, be on guard against the Devil, the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, who uses temptation to ensnare souls toward a life in hell, eternally separated from God.

Who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time, 1 Timothy 2:6.

The Bible is filled with promises about life and the future.  John 3:16-17 reveals why God the Father sent his son Jesus to earth.  Upon completing God’s will for his life on earth, Jesus gave himself up as a ransom, paying the price for the sins of mankind.  This selfless act made it possible for fallen creatures to have a place in heaven, John 14:1-4.  Thus, anyone who makes their eternal reservation, 1 John 5:13, should want to take as many people with you as possible.  May the hope of a new year inspire souls to fulfill the great commission, Mark 16:15-16 so that the afterlife will serve as a great big family reunion in the sky.

by Jay Mankus

Stop It or Drop It

Some where in the distance past, coaches, educators and school officials looked the other way so that elite athletes could bring fame and fortune to their institutions.  Exhibit A is Dexter Manley, former defensive end for the Washington Redskins,  who was never able to read above a 4th grade level, yet teachers covered up this glaring weakness.  On the field, he was a terror in college and in the NFL, yet every time Dexter opened a book, the fear of reading gripped him.

Meanwhile, if you wanted to play basketball at the University of North Carolina, apparently going to class was optional according to Rashad McCants, a member of the 2004-05 national title team.  In their ivory tower in Indianapolis, Indiana, their national headquarters, the NCAA talks a good game, yet corruption, double standards and power has gone to their heads.  Like participants in the Tour de France, its hard to know who is cheating and who is playing by the rules.  If the media would forgo favoritism and begin to address this series issue, using athletes to make colleges millions of dollars annually, perhaps professional sports would not have as many problems as they do today.

Unfortunately, no one can escape the words of Galatians 6:7-8, “you reap what you sow!”  If all students were treated equally, several of today’s star athletes would have never made it past high school.  Nonetheless, like a good soap opera, the media plays along for a while until public pressure forces them to pull the plug, exposing players, teams and leagues for their cover up.  However, its time for the media to do their job early on, to address these scandals quickly .  If not, staying quiet due to powerful and wealthy boosters, cable news might as well drop their complaints since they too are part of the problem.  Stop it or drop it!

by Jay Mankus

 

Blocking Yourself

On November 26th, 2013 something unusual was caught on film during an NCAA college football game between the University of Florida and Georgia Southern.  If it wasn’t bad enough losing to a I-AA football team, a replay revealed 2 Gator offensive lineman were actually blocking each other as if their eyes were closed on one play.  When the national media got a hold of this clip, these 2 players were further embarrassed, weekly making ESPN’s Not Top 10 low lights.  Blocking yourself or in this case you own teammate ranks up their with Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble, returned by the New England Patriots for a touchdown during the 2012 NFL regular season, a legendary not top 10 moment in sports.

In basketball, players are allowed to set picks, also known as screens to help others get open.  As long as an individual has set their feet without moving, the play is legal.  However, when someone get’s careless or sloppy with their body position, the play is deemed illegal as a foul is called resulting in a turnover or foul shots.  Unfortunately, life is filled with examples of blocking yourself.  The loud mouth often talks too much, ruining their reputation with uncalled for remarks.  The gossiper can’t resist the temptation of distorting the truth, caught up in a web of lies that will one day explode in their face.  Meanwhile, negative people will lose favor among co-workers, family and neighbors limiting their full potential on earth.

From a spiritual perspective, Christians and non-Christians alike regularly block God from pouring out his blessings.  According to Jesus’ earthly brother, complaining, grumbling and impatience serve as a barrier between God and mankind, James 5:8-9.  Furthermore, any unwholesome comment that comes out of your mouth grieves the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 4:29.  Instead of blaming God for your misfortune, get out of the way or you will continue blocking yourself from obtaining God’s promises in the Bible, Jeremiah 29:10.  Although its hard to admit, often I’m my worst enemy, getting in the Holy Spirit’s way with self conceit, Galatians 5:25-26.  May this blog inspire you to reflect, pondering if anything is causing you to block yourself from God?  Whenever something comes to mind, please leave a comment below to help others in life’s journey.

by Jay Mankus

       

Bouncing Back

Super balls, the toy, not the lottery game were always fascinating to me.  If you were in a gym or parking lot, it didn’t take much effort on one bounce to get a super ball to reach 50 feet high.  The rubber inside was perfectly designed to vault into the air, springing up and down for several seconds.  If only human beings could bounce back as quick as these specially designed balls.

The term bounce can either be a noun or verb depending upon your use.  Webster uses a noun when referencing jumping, moving up and down or rebounding an object that has taken a bad bounce.  Meanwhile, a verb is the actually act like bouncing a basketball or rebounding from a fall.  The greatest Olympic example of this is a ski jumper who falls at the end of the ramp, wiping out, falling end over end down a steep hill, crashing and sliding into several different objects along the way.  ABC Sports titled this moment, “the Agony of Defeat,” replaying it each week as a promotional for The Wide World of Sports.

If my kids could have created a video of my 5 second fall during my tubing accident, I might have over 1 million hits on my you tube channel.  However, my initial concern is trying to swallow my pride, get healthy and make a quick recovery.  I am more embarrassed than anything, kicking myself for wasting my personal time from work during this 2 week period.  Despite everything that happened, I still have my life, the ability to walk and my breathing improves daily.  If you’re feeling down today, use the prayer in Colossians 3:23 to bounce back as you rebound from a fall in life.

by Jay Mankus

King of the Court

Being honored as part of the home coming court would have been nice, but I didn’t even make the ballot.  Although becoming king of a basketball court was a dream, this white man’s got no game.  However, there was one place where I did shine for a season.  Believe it or not, I was king of the sand volleyball court.

During my final 2 summers of college, I teamed up with a wrestler from Cleveland State University, Eddy Z.  Whenever I wasn’t working at the country club or playing golf, I spent most of my free time on the old sand volleyball court at Geaugua Lake, now called Geaugua Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom.  Sure, I had other hobbies like singing karaoke at Rick’s Cafe, dancing at one of the night clubs on the Flats in downtown Cleveland and traveling, yet sand volleyball became my passion.

After taking a volleyball class at the University of Delaware, I was able to rebuild strength in my surgically repaired ankle and extend my vertical jump beyond 30 inches.  This knowledge was utilized as I played Wallyball in the winter, winning an intramural title on a coed team with Doug, Liz and Rosie; later losing to the men’s and women’s volleyball team in the finals of a co-ed March Madness style 32 team field.   Despite having several flaws in my techniques, my will to win overcame these deficiencies.

Eddy was quick like lightning, able to dig or get to any ball in the fenced in arena, developed an amazing skyball serve and set the ball as good as anyone I have ever known.  Meanwhile, I perfected a windmill serve, causing a fast downward motion, cupping my hand to create a knuckle ball affect.  In the end, Eddy and I probably lost 3 matches in 2 years, beating teams from Ohio State, Miami of Ohio and Kent State on a regular basis.  On 1 summer day, we played 8 straight hours, only stopping to drink water before dispatching the next team.  Though we shared the court with other season pass members and visitors to Geaugua Lake, whenever I entered the gate, I felt like I was king of the court.

Now, old, mostly bald and grey, all I have are the memories of the music, the wave pool crashing next door and the cheers from the crowd after another point won.  However, today, there is a new king.  While, not exactly new, yet new to those who choose to follow Him.  Despite the gifts or talents you have been given, without this king life is incomplete, John 10:10.  May you come to know the true King of the Court, awestruck by his glory and wonder, Psalm 19:1-6.

by Jay Mankus

You Are What You Think: Champion or Loser

Self fulfilling prophecy refers to one’s positive and negative expectations of an upcoming event which influences a person or group in a manner toward fulfilling their expectations.  The optimistic individual will tend to keep a good attitude regardless of the circumstance often resulting in a positive outcome.  Meanwhile, pessimists become flustered by the littlest trial, over acting like a drama king or queen, pushing pitiful souls toward disaster.  If you’re not careful, you can become what you think, unless of course the mind of Christ resides within you, 1 Corinthians 2:16.

One of the greatest examples of this theory goes back to 1993-94, coaching high school basketball in Indiana.  Except for our center, 6’4″ 250 pounds with hops, we didn’t have a team which intimidated others by our size.  However, each player grasped their defined role, shared the basketball and developed a hunger for victory.  During the regular season, we finished undefeated, never trailing for a second, tied at the outset of each game before taking a quick lead, usually by double digits.  In the city championship semi-final game, a last second 3 pointer by our opponent sent the game into overtime, before winning comfortably by 6.

 
However, the finals were a different story, disrupted by the host team’s fans, we never got into a flow for the game.  Facing our first deficit of the season, my team was down by 10 early, cutting the lead to 8 by halftime.  Like the locker room speech in Remember the Titans, our players wanted to remain perfect, without a blemish on their record.  Little by little, my team widdled the lead down to 2 points in the final minutes.  When we tied the game at 57, we needed one more defensive stand to have a shot to win.  After a solid defensive rebound and timeout, my team set up for one last shot.  Packing in their zone to take away our big man, we replaced our power forward with an extra shooter, our 6th man.  Though our best shooter missed with 3 seconds left on the clock, a long rebound to the weak side provided just enough room for our sub to float into the air to catch and tap in the miss before the buzzer sounded.  We believed and were crowned city champions.

In life, people are gifted in different areas.  Whether one is blessed in academics, athletics, drama, music or wisdom, you become a champion or loser within your mind.  Sure, there are various degrees and levels in each field, but the battle for success lies in your own mind, James 1:5-8.  The storms, waves and whitecaps in life will knock you down from time to time, leaving a sour taste.  Yet, don’t let a defeat or loss turn into a lifestyle.  Rather, guard your heart, Proverbs 4:23 and take your thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 so the memories of losing will be demolished.

by Jay Mankus

Big Brother

Initial thoughts of this title may lead people to images of the CBS reality show created by John de Mol.  The political savvy will likely be drawn in a different direction, thinking of the nickname for the federal government in the United States.  However, for the sake of brevity, today’s blog will address the idea that God is like a big brother.

Bully’s exist in every shape and form.  Whether this individual is a class mate, co-worker, neighbor, stalker or world power, from time to time, everyone needs a helping hand.  Psalm 125:1-2 suggests the Lord serves as a mountain of protection.  When your back is against the wall, pinned down by the travails of life, you need a big brother to come to the rescue.

When I was a 6th grader, I was a minority, attending an inner city Elementary with 90 % of the students either African American or Hispanic.  Since I was only 4’11” certain days were a living hell.  On a rough day, one of several bully’s attempted to shove me into a locker, in the process of closing the door on me.  Seeing my dire situation, God intervened sending a living giant to my aid.

Andre, one of my basketball friends during recess, 6 feet tall and close to 200 pounds in stature, easily put this bully in his place.  Throwing this student around like a rag doll,  Andre continued this drubbing until the boy vowed to never touch me again.  While your prayers might not be answered as direct as this one, don’t forget that God is like big brother, waiting to defend his younger siblings.

by Jay Mankus

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