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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

Discipline, Fasting and Nutrition

Staying active can help your metabolism from slowing down.  According to an article on Livestrong.com, thermogenesis, the food processing part of your metabolism actually remains fairly steady throughout your adult life.  This is where discipline comes into play, resisting the urge to satisfy the earthly desires of hunger.  In the context of Olympic athletes, the apostle Paul refers to the rigid training necessary to compete at this level.  Like a boxer preparing for a title bout, discipline is essential to get yourself in the best possible shape to reach your full potential.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 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 9:26-27.

Hunger is often dictated by the overall mood you are in.  Upon hearing bad news, appetite can be lost.  When a secret service agent, a body guard to the king receives news of Israel’s vulnerable state, Nehemiah is brought to tears.  This weeping inspired a fast, crying out to God in prayer for a plan to restore the walls surrounding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s fast lasted for a season, three to four months.  At the conclusion of this fast, detailed in chapter 2, God provides a clear vision, a plan of action to quickly restore this structure.  During any fast, abstaining from food for a period of time, tends to alter your perspective, seeing life or situations through God’s eyes.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its [fortified] gates have been burned (destroyed) by fire.”  Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

When Babylon takes Israel captive in the Old Testament, chief officials brought some young boys to Babylon.  The goal was to retrain these young men into the ways of Babylonian traditions.  When a commander forced these men to alter their Jewish diet, a few refused to adhere to this daily ration.  Rather, Daniel came up with a ten day test.  This combination of fruit, vegetables and water is known as the Daniel fast.  At the end of this ten day challenge, those who participated with Daniel appeared to be healthier than those who ate the king’s finest food.  Learning to balance exercise with nutrition not only makes you feel better, but improves your overall appearance.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8.

In the past decade, churches have challenged members of their congregation to participate in a fast each January.  Depending upon the pastor, fasts vary from a Daniel fast, media fast to a strict fluid only fast.  Over the last four years, I have done a nutrition based fast, giving up soda and other unhealthy foods I tend to eat.  I have had mixed results.  During the first fast, I was focused and dedicated, losing nearly twenty pounds in January.  Unfortunately, my latest fasts have been unproductive.  I guess I entered each of these without my heart truly into it.  Thus, the lack of results speaks for itself.  As a new year approaches, may the Holy Spirit prepare your hearts and mind now so that your next fast will be transformational.

by Jay Mankus

A Split Decision

In the context of boxing, split decisions occur when judges view a contest from opposing points of view.  Unlike unanimous decisions where there is a clear victor, contestants may sway judges by a great comeback or regaining control of a fight.  While modern technology and social media use round by round scorecards today, no one knows what the judges think until the final results are announced at the end of each bout.

 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand, Matthew 12:25.

Throughout the course of each day, arguments tend to result in split decisions depending upon your worldview.  These disagreements can create divisive debates that divide rather than unite.  After President Trump’s comments last Friday in Alabama about National Football players kneeling during the national anthem, professional athletes, owners and most of the media created a firestorm.  After these attacks went viral, citizens from the heartland, Nascar and veterans chimed in to support their president.  A week later, a split decision still exists, with convincing arguments on both sides.

 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges, Matthew 12:27.

During the first century, another controversy began to brew.  The Pharisees felt like Jesus was making a power play, introducing a new concept to Judaism.  This teaching was heresy in the eyes of religious leaders.  Jealous of Jesus’ ability to heal, a rumor spread about Jesus working behind the scenes with the Devil to fool everyone.  Using logic, Jesus began to poke holes in their theory, responding with the two passages above.  These words remind me of today’s current debate over standing or kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.  In the end, if America doesn’t come to a point where people agree to disagree, the end will be in sight.  Therefore, the next time you attempt to play the role of judge and jury, take a step back and let God be the ultimate judge.

by Jay Mankus

 

Lying on the Line Until It Disappears

As a former teacher, boundaries are essential to define, maintain and uphold with consistent discipline to ensure a healthy learning environment.  The moment this line is challenged, pushed or questioned, reason must be ready to account for these dissenters.  If seeds of doubt enter this discussion, lying spirits will lie on the line until it disappears.

Outside the classroom, the world has ample examples to illustrate this fact.  Do you remember when Bill Clinton, during his impeachment hearing responded, “it depends on what the meaning of the word is is?”  Unfortunately, this has become a common tactic for politicians to avoid answering the question at hand.  Bobbing and weaving like a champion boxer, truth is disappearing as lying is blocking the line of integrity.

Where did honesty go?  Do we have to put out an APB, all points bulletin, to locate it?  Perhaps, communities need to begin to police each other, like the old days when every child had multiple parents where there’s wasn’t around.  Instead of justifying poor actions, making excuses for bad behavior and playing the victim card, individuals need to start Lent early by giving up lying before the line of right and wrong disappears forever.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

No Mas

When boxing was in its hay day in America, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran were in their prime, slugging it out in 3 title bouts.  On November 25th, 1980, the Louisiana Super Dome hosted their first rematch as Leonard tried to regain the WBC Welterweight belt he lost in their first fight.  Nicknamed Manos de Piedra by his native Panama, Duran’s hands of stone  appeared mortal.  Near the end of the 8th round, Roberto gave up, waving his gloves in the air, signaling his surrender to the referee.  A stunned crowd and opponent, waited for an explanation.  In response, Duran replied, “no mas, no mas; no more boxing!”

Sometime around 1465 B.C. a similar duel took place in Egypt.  When Aaron and Moses threatened Egypt with a series of plagues if their king, Pharaoh did not allow the descendents of Israel to offer sacrifices to God in the desert, tensions flared, Exodus 7:8-13.  To counter God’s power, Pharaoh called on the magicians and sorcercer’s of his day, who relied on secrets arts passed down to them, Exodus 7:11.  These wise men went toe to toe with God for 3 rounds equaling each miracle performed by Aaron using the staff God gave Moses.  However, when the 4th plague began, Exodus 8:16-19, the magicians knew they were beaten.  Instead of saying No Mas like Duran, they broke the bad news to Pharaoh in Exodus 8:19, “this is the finger of God that can’t be duplicated.”

 

Within the pages of John 15:1-8, Jesus uses a parable to help people understand a secret to life.  On your own, you are limited, powerless to reach your full potential, John 15:6.  However, if you choose to stay connected to the vine, Jesus, by making time for prayer, study and worship, you will bear great amounts of spiritual fruit, John 15:5.  In order to obtain this spiritual state, you have to reach a breaking point like Roberto Duran and Pharaoh, proclaiming “no mas!”  Just as the apostle Paul learned the hard way, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, when you are at your weakest, Christ is strongest, ready at a moment’s notice to come to your rescue.

by Jay Mankus

Did God Really Say vs. It Is Written

Until God gave Moses the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, any command, decree or law was passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation.  In the book of Genesis, God spoke directly to people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph informing each of His will and plan for their life.  Therefore, when a serpent began to speak with Eve in the garden of Eden, she knew the boundaries God established in Genesis 2:16-17.  Thus, the battle between did God really say and it is written began.

Using the same main strategy of deception that worked in the garden, Satan meets his toughest opponent in a desert east of the Jordan River, Matthew 4:1.  Jesus prepares for this battle for the masses with 40 days of prayer and fasting, enabling Him to be spiritually in tune with God the Father.  Hungry but not weak of mind, Jesus reminds Satan of his rules violation at the beginning of this conflict, Matthew 4:4.  Not deterred, Satan pushes on with plan B.

Conforming to his challenger’s playbook, Satan quotes the Bible hoping to place Jesus into a corner, forcing Him to act.  Alert and confident in the Spirit’s leading, Jesus squashes Satan’s efforts by correcting the words of scripture taken out of context, Matthew 4:7.  In one last desperate move, Satan offers Jesus the authority Adam lost in the Garden of Eden, a consequence of original sin.  Cool as a cucumber, Jesus knocks Satan out of the arena with a jab using the right scriptural response, Matthew 4:10.

Unfortunately, this battle rages on today in public education, on college campuses and in the liberal media.  Satan has persuaded historians to rewrite the events of this battle, confusing the minds of countless, convincing the uninformed that Did God really say has won.  If you want to set the record straight, you must test everything, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, cling to what is good and boldly proclaim it is written as the victor, Acts 4:29.

by Jay Mankus

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