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Return to Me

As a parent, it’s difficult to have all of your children follow the narrow path described in Matthew 7:13-14 throughout life.  On the surface, there isn’t anything attractive, cool or hip in the eyes of the world to stay an extended period of time.  While former generations of adults might have coerced, demanded and forced their kids to go to church and youth group, the overall results have been mixed.  Good parenting doesn’t always lead to mature teens.  Nor does abandonment by one or both parents always produce disobedient souls.  Various factors, influences and variables eventually shape young people into the people they become.  Regardless of this outcome, it’s never too late to return to Jesus.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Luke 15:10.

In a series of stories about getting lost, Jesus uses sheep, a sentimental coin and a rebellious son to illustrate his point.  These parables have made Luke 15 one of the most read chapters in the Bible.  Although the parable of the lost son gets most of the attention, the end of the lost coin reveals one of God’s most important qualities.  Unlike a human father who may turn his back on disobedient children, God the Father is standing on the front porch, waiting for you to come home.  Whenever someone decides to return home, there is a celebration in heaven for every repentant sinner.  Perhaps, guardians angels play a role in this human U-turn, away from the world and back toward God.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, Luke 15:16.

Regardless of how stubborn a person may be, everyone has a breaking point.  The human spirit can only take you so far until souls crack.  A first century doctor refers to this point as coming to your senses.  For the Jewish prodigal mentioned in the passage above, he was broke and homeless.  However, this is only half of the story.  This young man spent his inheritance, squandered it on wild living and had become a lowly servant at a pig farm.  According to Jewish law, pigs are unclean, unfit to eat.  Yet, this son became so desperate for food, he longed to eat the slop fed to these animals.  This humbling circumstance opened the door for repentance and a return home.  May this blog inspire anyone heading off in the wrong direction to return back to Jesus, 1 John 1:7.

by Jay Mankus

An Anchor for the Soul

Prior to the Bronze Age, ships typically relied on rocks as an anchor.  The ancient Greeks placed several placed rocks, bags of sand or wooden logs filled with lead into a basket.  Leading up to the 19th century, the manufacturing process of anchors was imperfect.  The curve feature of modern anchors did not appear until 1813 when Pering, a clerk from Plymouth Yard introduced this feature.  Time has perfected this vital piece of equipment, saving the lives of countless crewmen from running aground during the storms of life.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, Hebrews 6:19.

According to the author of Hebrews, hope is a spiritual anchor for the soul.  Without signs of hope, the human spirit can wilt, pushed to a breaking point.  If you ever feel like giving up, the Bible provides a valuable solution.  When an individual throws an anchor overboard, the bottom is invisible, relying on the tension of the chain to determine if you’ve struck the bottom.  In the same way, God’s unchanging nature is rock solid, fulfilling the promises He has made in the past.  This is the anchor for troubled souls.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

Every day on earth is like taking a journey out to sea.  You never know what you will find, who or what you will encounter and how quickly the weather will change.  When the unexpected arises, who will you trust?  Some have gotten into the habit of relying in their own abilities.  Although God has given everyone certain qualities, leaning on the Lord will help you ride out troubled waters.  Whatever life throws at you, don’t forget about the anchor for the soul.

by Jay Mankus

Making Yourself Available

In my younger days, I had a hard time saying no to those who asked a favor or needed something done.  Gullible and naive, I thought I had unlimited energy, pressing on to serve others.  When I approached 40, I reached my breaking point, crashing and burning from years of overextending myself.  Subsequently, I have gone into social hibernation, still healing and numb from my last year as a high school teacher.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12.

By removing yourself from a community, you miss out on the blessings of relationships.  Initially, it feels good to be unattached, flexible to do or go where you want.  However, God created individuals to be in fellowship with one another, sharing burdens, concerns and joys.  Thus, I miss the interaction, joint projects and sense of belonging that friends provide.  Therefore, as I am about to end my Daniel Fast, its time to make myself available once again.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality, Romans 12:13.

Unlike professional athletes who retire when they have lost their ability to compete, a Christian is suppose to serve for a life time.  The author of Hebrews compares life on earth to a marathon which require perseverance, pacing yourself one day at a time.  Some where along the way, I removed myself from the game of life, sitting in the bleachers ever since.  While I may not have the passion I once possessed, its time to fan into the flame my spiritual gifts.  I’m not sure where this will take me or what I will do, yet I sense the Holy Spirit’s calling, “make yourself available.”

by Jay Mankus

 

What Do You Do… When You’re All Tapped Out

The term tapped out refers to reaching a point of emptiness, unable to go any farther.  A mother breast feeding her child may hit a wall, unable to produce any more milk.  Despite an infant’s cries, mom is done.  A keg on a college campus is bound to dry up, tapped out from over use.  However, one of the most common examples today relates to a parent or student, burning the candle at both ends until they crash and burn from sheer exhaustion.

1. Acknowledge your condition – Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray, James 5:13a.

In the prime of my life, I worked 90 hours a week as a youth pastor.  On my only day off, I led a Bible Study at McDonald’s in the morning, drove to Cincinnati to meet a friend (a 90 minute drive one way) and came back by dinner time to attend an adult Bible Study which required extensive reading.  Sure, this sounds like a lot, but I was young.  After my wealthy church rejected a plea for a homeless guy, I let him stay on my couch at my apartment for six months.  To justify my raise after one year, my responsibilities tripled to include Confirmation, Coaching High School Basketball and Helping out with Young Life.

2. Find someone to confide in – If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up, Ecclesiastes 4:10.

Sometime after the first six months, I became comfortably numb, running on fumes.  Since I didn’t have anyone to intervene, I reached an emotional breaking point, unable to give anymore.  Thus, 14 months after starting my dream job, what I was born to do, I was forced to take a step back.  So… what do you do when you’re all tapped out?  Well, I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail with a mentor from high school, a former coach and Fellowship of Christian’s Athletes director.  Looking back now, most of this weekend was a blur, yet I needed to retreat before I could go any further.

3. Find a quiet place to meet with God – Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed, Mark 1:35.

Before he became king of Israel, David had his own issues.  The king, who just happened to be his best friend’s dad was trying to kill him, jealous of his fame from defeating Goliath.  A man without a country, David fled for a cave, encouraged by 400 men, soldiers who had became friends.  Despite being anointed as king by Samuel, David had to wait and wait and wait some more.  Just as the mountains served as a retreat for me, this cave was like an oasis, able to shoot the breeze, wondering where to go and what to do next.  Fellowship in these close quarters likely developed friendships for a lifetime.

4. Publicly confess your sins – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed, James 5:16a.

To provide a woman’s perspective, I can’t help but mention the woman described in Matthew 9.  If you think you’ve had a tough life, just listen to her sob story.  Suffering from a bleeding disorder, she saw every specialist possible until she ran out of money.  Broke and still unhealed, she was probably forced to beg like the homeless.  Yet, fearful of contracting what she had, this woman was forced beyond the cities gates to live among the outcasts in society.  Financially tapped, healing appeared unattainable until a man named Jesus worked the earth.

5. Find rest for your soul – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, ” Matthew 11:28.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Coasting on Cruise Control

If you’re traveling cross country in a car or planning a long day trip, the invention of cruise control is a nice luxury.  Although vacation traffic may limit your opportunities, open highways, especially at night, provide a chance for drivers to rest their legs.  With only a few weeks of summer remaining, try to get away for a little R & R coasting on cruise control.

From a spiritual perspective, coasting through life is something that you want to avoid.  Unfortunately, there is where I find myself, using a busy work schedule as an excuse.  Somewhere in the last month, I’ve lost my spiritual mojo.  As a result, my devotional time is sporadic, prayer life lame and influx of the Holy Spirit is wading.  Like the classic line from Star Trek, I feel like Captain Kirk’s frequently request to Scotty, “I need more power!”

Regardless of your circumstances, sooner or later everyone grows tired, Isaiah 40:29-31.  When you reach your breaking point, find yourself exhausted or wake up spiritually numb, God saw this coming.  In these days of desperation, running on empty, you might find yourself crying uncle, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.  While coasting on cruise control led you to this state, yielding to the Lord will help you rise up from the ashes of despair.  Fan into flame 2 Timothy 1:7 so that the only coasting you do in life is driving in the country.

by Jay Mankus

 

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