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So You Think That You are in Control?

As a struggling perfectionist, I like to think that I can accomplish whatever I set my heart and mind on. Although I am blessed to have succeeded in achieving many of my goals in life, the older I become, the more I seem to experience failure. With defeat comes doubt, making the idea of victory a foreign concept. Meanwhile, just when I think I am heading in the right direction, God throws me a curve. While fasting and praying this week, it’s safe to say that I am not in control.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses a sports analogy, referencing the Corinthians Games, a famous Track & Field competition. The only problem with athletics is the finality of it all as there is only one winner. Everyone else who falls short ends up a loser, often disappointed by the outcome. In a world of over 7 billion inhabitants, there is always some better than you, eventually taking your championship, crown or title. No matter how hard you train, you can’t control the determination of someone else who wants it more than you.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Boxers and runners daily seek to push their bodies to the limits. This desire enables the world’s greatest athletes to break records every year. Yet, you can only go so far as the human flesh has it’s breaking point. In the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual element to this discussion. This comes to a climax in another letter, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where Paul realizes, “in my weakness Christ is strongest.” Therefore, as the spiritually mature acknowledge that they are not in control, God’s power will fall upon you.

by Jay Mankus

How Happiness Happens

A recent survey found that only 1 out 3 Americans are truly happy with their current life. While this feeling of contentment is a temporary state, only a third of those who participated were found to be joyful and satisfied. This makes me wonder, how does happiness happen? How can individuals use the beginning of a new year and decade to turn their frown around?

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you,” Luke 6:38.

Best selling author Max Lucado’s newest book provides biblical insight to explain How Happiness Happens. While watching Fox and Friends over my Christmas Break, I caught Lucado’s interview to promo his latest project. Based upon this brief segment, Lucado draws upon Jesus’ teaching on giving, “it’s better to give than receive.”

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered, Proverbs 11:24-25.

King Solomon provides another perspective on giving in the passage above. It’s unclear if Solomon is speaking about his own life or merely referring to the sowing principle. Regardless of this context, those who learn to freely give without expecting something in return will be blessed by God and others. As 2020 commences tomorrow, my prayer is that you may begin to understand how happiness happens.

by Jay Mankus

A Man of Few Words

Bitterness, covetous, discontent, envy and resentment are words associated with jealousy.  A day doesn’t pass without me envious of individuals blessed with a great personality.  Some people are never at a loss with words, always knowing what to say and when.  Although I spent a decade teaching high school students, day to day conversions have never come easy for me.  While I may a desire to be the life of the party, I am normally a man of few words.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer, Psalm 19:14.

Perhaps, this loss for words goes back to my childhood, born with a severe speech impediment.  Beside being teased, the act of opening my mouth was an adventure.  I never knew when I was going to stutter, but when I started I couldn’t verbalize a coherent word.  These experiences led me to shy away from talking, afraid of another stuttering spasm that often triggered me to hyperventilate.  This embarrassing past has influenced me to become a man of few words.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him, Colossians 3:17.

Yet, one man’s weakness has yielded a hidden treasure.  Instead of speaking, the Lord had another plan for my life.  With a few mentors in high school who just happened to be teachers, a seed was planted for the love of communicating.  As the years past, poetry led to short stories and song writing.  From here, doors opened to publish a monthly news letter which led to a staff writer position.  As words continued to flow from within, a man who spoke few words can’t stop thinking of new topics to write about daily.  Thus, as I post my 2700th blog today, I have come to terms with my own limitations.  It’s okay to be a man of few words as long as I Express Myself for God.

by Jay Mankus

Fulfilling the Common Good

Good is one of those words that is overused.  As absolutes are becoming replaced by opinions fueled by cable news and talk radio, what is good and what is bad varies.  In the days of the Old Testament, Judges began to do what was right in their own eyes, removing the Bible as a measuring stick.  Similar to modern day humanism, anything that feels natural is deemed good.  On the other hand, anything that results in unpleasant experiences is considered bad.  Those who adopt this mentality place self seeking endeavors above the common good.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

During the first century, there was some confusion due to how God was allocating spiritual gifts among church members.  Apparently, jealousy distracted Christians from accomplishing the common good for society.  People who were blessed with special abilities that demonstrated God’s extraordinary powers were placed in higher esteem that those with more traditional gifts like discernment and hospitality.  This rift within Corinth inspired the apostle Paul to remind believers that without displaying love, spiritual gifts are meaningless, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

“Each of us… must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good.  Our individual fates are linked, our futures intertwined.  And if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains,” President Jimmy Carter 1978.

Jimmy Carter is the last evangelical Christian to hold the presidency of the United States.  Although most Americans would refer to the Carter presidency as a failure, this man has held a higher calling.  Known for his service to Habitat for Humanity, founded in his home state of Georgia, Carter has embraced the concept of providing homes for the homeless.  While most former presidents end up going on book tours, concentrate on speaking engagements or traveling the world, Carter volunteered his time to build homes.  The quote above serves as a great example of what it means to fulfill the common good.  Just as the city of Babel came together with a common purpose to erect a tower, Christian’s united under one spirit can move mountains.

by Jay Mankus

This One is For You

At any period in time, individuals will find themselves in either one of two states, blessed or in need.  This status can change at a moments notice, from having a high paying position with great benefits to being unemployed.  For those of you have endured the embarrassment of losing your job, this experience can be humbling.  Yet, life goes on, with or within out you.  The one thing God is eager to see is how will you respond to adversity?

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

The odd thing about life is that sometimes when you think you are the person in need, someone else enters your life to help you realize how blessed you truly are.  When I moved off campus in college, I used fast food restaurants as places to study.  As long as you bought something to eat, refills were unlimited so I never ran out of caffeine.  One morning I went to McDonald’s for breakfast, celebrating the two for two dollar breakfast sandwich deal.  After quickly snarfing down my first sausage and egg McMuffin, I noticed a man who appeared to be homeless.  Before taking a bite of the second one, conviction consumed my soul.  Thirty seconds later, I got up, walked over and said, “this one is for you.”

But we commend ourselves in every way as servants of God: in great endurance, in sufferings, in hardships, in distresses, 2 Corinthians 6:4.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul was diligent in his daily preparations.  The passage above reveals the mindset Paul possessed as a follower of Christ.  Paul wasn’t caught off guard or surprised like modern naïve Christians.  Rather, Paul knew the cost of serving God, making this known to fellow believers in the letter above.  To a certain extent, Paul appears to view himself as being blessed by God, always searching for opportunities to help others.  Despite criticism, pushback and rumors, Paul was determined to honor God whatever the cost.  This example should inspire people today to locate the down trodden, needy and poor; then extend the love of Christ by paying it forward, “this one is for you.”

by Jay Mankus

 

Decisions and Destinies

Dehydration, exhaustion and reaching the point of being mentally spent are good reasons to take a break.  No matter how disciplined, focused or strong you may be, everyone needs to take the time to rest and recover.  However, if this period takes longer than expected, dreams, goals and visions may be in jeopardy.  This is where decisions and destinies are linked as different avenues lead to success and failure, victory and the agony of defeat.

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies, 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

My first introduction to the term idleness came through a common expression, “the early bird gets the worm.”  The point of this saying encourages individuals to be active, diligent and persistent.  Those who emulate these traits are rewarded with consistent results on the way toward securing an eternal destiny.  Meanwhile, the dazed, distracted and emotionally tired are proceeding toward a different destiny, void of significant accomplishments.

The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor, Proverbs 12:24.

Solomon is much more blunt while discussing idleness.  The analogy mentioned above suggests that your ultimate destiny is determined by the daily choices you make.  Anyone who seizes the day by maximizing the opportunities that God gives you will be blessed, earning favor and financial gain.  On the other side of the spectrum people will end up in some sort of blue collar job, often grueling which may feel like forced labor.  Therefore, if you want to pursue high hopes in this life, make sure daily decisions are guided by a mind set on the destiny you are eager to achieve.

by Jay Mankus

SWAG

Swag is one of those words that has evolved over time.  Initially short for swagger, swag is a personality trait which naturally flows out of confident individuals.  Professional athletes display this by playing to the crowd, swaying and strutting after successful impacts during a competition or game.  Journalists sometimes equate swag with gravitas, inner qualities that attract others to want to be around those who possess this special gift.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Recently, I stumbled upon an acronym for swag, Spiritual Wonders Anointed by God.  Although my employer refers to swag as stuff we all get, I know from experience not everyone receives the same allotment in life.  Rather, some people are more blessed than others, attaining and obtaining much more than the average person.  While a portion of success can be linked to dedication, hard work and perseverance, God’s role in swag can not be denied.

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14.

Spiritual wonders anointed by God can be explained by guardian angels or ministering spirits.  Without divine intervention, there may be some of you who would not be alive today if it wasn’t for this insight and protection.  Meanwhile, swag can be developed from a permanent meaningful lasting relationship with God.  As one begins to pray, study the Bible and worship the Lord each week, the Holy Spirit living inside of you can produce swag.  As a new year approaches, may the Lord inspire you to draw near to God so that your faith will flourish in 2018.

by Jay Mankus

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