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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

The Conqueror’s Crown of Glory

As a former coach for nearly two decades, there are numerous ways to motivate athletes. Some respond to food, others want to get their names in the newspaper, and a few do whatever it takes to win. Each of my three children possessed a little bit of these desires. My oldest son James wanted to know what place he needed to get to earn a medal. My middle child Daniel was the best all-around athlete in the family who is most passionate about winning. Meanwhile, my daughter Lydia is easily motivated by deals that I make with her based upon performances. Whatever it takes, set a goal and reward this once achieved.

And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the [a]conqueror’s crown of glory, 1 Peter 5:4.

As a former runner, Chariots of Fire was one of my favorite movies in high school. The inspiration behind this title comes from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn “Jerusalem.” Chariots of Fire follow two athletes who win gold medals for Great Britain at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. While Harold Abrahams is the more gifted runner, Eric Liddell runs to glorify God through his faith. However, when his best chance to win gold is moved to Sunday, Liddell is able to convince his coach to switch races so that he doesn’t break his vow to keep God’s Sabbath holy, Exodus 20:8.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is referring to the Isthmian Games that were hosted by the city of Corinth. This ancient Track and Field Event took place in non-Olympic years. After archeologists uncovered remains of Corinthian pubs, it’s likely that many who attended the Isthmian Games would stop by, have a drink, and talk about this sporting event. Appealing to Corinth’s rich sports history, Paul wants to remind his readers of the Conqueror’s Crown of Glory. Since only three contestant’s win a medal, live your life in such a manner that you will receive an eternal crown that will last. This should be your ultimate goal in life, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

To Teach or Not to Teach?

While growing up in high school, teaching was considered one of the lowest paying occupations. Most of the teachers I grew to admire coached multiple sports or had another job in the summer to pay their bills. Without realizing it, the majority of my friends in college went on to major in Education. Something about teaching attracted me, leading me to eventually become a youth pastor and Bible teacher. Almost 10 years have passed since I taught my last class so as I look toward the future the question is to teach or not to teach?

Not many [of you] should become teachers ([a]self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation], James 3:1.

I don’t miss the countless hours creating Power Point Presentations for my next lecture. Nor do I miss all the emails and phone calls from disgruntled parents wondering why their child didn’t receive a certain grade. Ditto on mind numbing hours spent grading homework assignments, quizzes and tests every weekend. Yet, when you connect with a student or begin to get through to someone that you almost gave up on is what I miss most about teaching. Shaping the minds of future leaders is why I was called to teach in the first place, a form of giving back to society.

Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Yet, the Bible has high standards for anyone called to teach. Whether you’re leading a small group, filling in as a substitute or make teaching your career, are you ready to be held accountable? I was fortunate to leave education before Common Core was enforced. Based upon my interactions with a few teachers still in the field, Common Core hinders an individual’s ability to be creative. The older I get, the less likely I would consider a return to the classroom, but never say never when God is involved. All I can do now is keep in step with the Holy Spirit to see what the future holds, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Is an Intervention Necessary in 2022?

Every family has at least one member who looks like they are about to lose it. Perhaps, this individual’s name came up during private conversations over the holidays. Maybe this name has become a punch line for “did you hear what Uncle Larry did this time? Yet, you’ve been concerned for a while, but haven’t had the guts to come out and say it. If you’re slightly convicted about any of the following, maybe 2022 is the perfect time for an intervention.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

As a former coach and teachable, it’s hard to watch one of your prized pupils self destruct. While there may be a few moments when you are able to stop the bleeding so to speak, if someone doesn’t want to change this free fall will continue. Sometimes friends and or parents may enable certain behaviors, hoping that the person in need will simply grow out of this phase. If nothing changes for the better, prayer and intervention may be your only two remaining options.

Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he fall [into sin]. 13 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not [b]adjusted and [c]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [d]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

An intervention is the act of interfering with the outcome or course especially if a serious condition exists. In the passage above, the apostle Paul refers to a way out of temptation. Yet, when individuals are enticed and baited by lustful passions, they are not looking for a way out. Subsequently, this is where Christian leaders must come side by side those who are fighting a losing battle. Any successful intervention begins with a mature believer helping the lost find the way out of temptation. If this situation arises in your life, this year is the time to act and intervene.

by Jay Mankus

When A Slither of Hope Remains

The word slither can be used to describe a small slice of something. If you have ever found yourself caught on a bush full of thorns or you accidently brush up against a small fiber, slithers can inflict pain. Depending upon how deep these slithers penetrate your skin, blood and scars reveal the size of this object. Whenever you endure a series of defeats, failures or losses in life, hope can shrink like a tiny slither, difficult to see.

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully, 1 Peter 5:6-7.

In my final season of coaching Majors, baseball players age 10-12, I lost a majority of my team from the prior season. Thus, I was forced to alter my expectations before the season began with a young team without much talent. To make matters worse, my best pitcher broke his arm on opening day. With my only leader in a cast for most of the season, the losses began to pile up. Moral victories took on a new meaning when my team got to play a full six innings instead of losing by the mercy rule.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

Whether you’re a coach, individual or parent, defeat can take a toll on fragile souls. The more you experience failure, the concept of success and victory often disappears, fading from your memory. Thus, as a spirit of defeat settles in like a stationary front that stalls over you, you must press on. In this rainy season, hopeful hearts must persevere as negativity reigns. When only a slither of hope remains, cry out to Jesus while there is time left to alter an outcome.

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

Stop Blaming Your Past for Present Transgressions

After more than 20 years of coaching and teaching, I have encountered a plethora of sad stories. Whether its broken homes, death, divorce, suicide or teenage pregnancies, each dire situation is heart breaking. When teenagers go through these trying circumstances, common sense may cause adults to go easy on these individuals. Yet, how long do you allow present transgressions to be blamed on past trials?

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The Bible has a complete different take on hardships that people experience on earth. The apostle Paul refers to sufferings as opportunities for growth. Paul sees the spiritual element as trials help shape character, endurance and hope. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus urges believers to rejoice each time you undergo hard times. Just like Paul, James reveals that extreme situation tests your faith, resulting in maturity and perseverance.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

This blog was inspired by events which took place a decade ago. I was an elder on a church board that oversaw a large Christian school. When times got tough, some of my friends quit this board, opening the door for the pastor to get his way. In the end, I witnessed the ugly side of Christianity as hypocrisy blinded believers I once looked up to. When this fiasco finally ended, the school was sold and church closed its doors. The institution I believed in, fought for and served vanished overnight.

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 4:11-12.

One of Jesus’ disciples reminds me that my ordeal is not strange or something that I should be surprised by. Rather, earthly trials serve as a purifying process, removing self as you draw closer to Christ. Unfortunately, I have allowed this painful experience to cause me to lose hope in the church. Instead of regularly attending the past 2 years, I have relied on television sermons as a substitute. Over the past few days, conviction has brought this transgression to the surface. Thus, it’s time to stop blaming the past for my decision to not join a church. May this conviction continue until I finally get involved in a local church.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Time To Get Involved

During the first century, thousands of people followed Jesus.  Like a grass roots movement, many were eager to become a disciple.  Unfortunately, Jesus already chose 12 men to become his disciples and another 72 to serve as a ministry team to prepare towns for upcoming visits.  Thus, when a man healed by Jesus in the passages below wanted to get involved, Jesus sends him to the next logical place, his home town.

Jesus did not let him [come], but [instead] He said to him, “Go home to your family and tell them all the great things that the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you,” Mark 5:19.

In my first decade as a parent, I was too consumed by other interest outside of my home.  During these initial years, I played in a competitive men’s softball league, coached high school golf and spent a majority of my free time grading papers.  One night I was able to watch my son play baseball.  In his first at bat, James hit a homerun.  During his second at bat, he doubled, but was left on base.  His team lost 2-1.  When I saw he was batting 10th, I asked a neighbor who knew James’ coach.  I found out that James was punished for using an expensive bat without asking.  This event inspired me to finally get involved, spending the next 5 years coaching youth baseball.

So he [obeyed and] went away and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten Hellenistic cities] all the great things that Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished, Mark 5:20.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that you need to become great in your home before you can have an impact on your community.  As I have heard several pastors proclaim, “happy wife, happy life,” getting involved starts in your home.  When your family begins to notice a transformation within your own life, you can move outside into your community.  This is easier for a demon possessed man who is now is his right mind.  Yet, as the Holy Spirit begins to move within your heart, mind and soul, God can use you if you’re willing to get involved.

by Jay Mankus

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

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.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.

by Jay Mankus

When Confidence Fades Away

There was a time in my life when I believed that I could do anything.  A few months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I felt like I was missing something.  This emptiness led me to pursue a leadership trade school in Minnesota called Tentmakers.  Following my completion of this youth ministry training in March of 1993, I was equipped with the tools I was previously missing.  This training propelled me to new levels of confidence.  Unfortunately, beginning in 1994 this confidence faded away, never to fully recapture again.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

During my fifteen years of coaching, I’ve seen similar situations occur on the athletic field.  Golf is probably the one sport where confidence is essential.  One day golfers may flirt with shooting par and the next can’t break 50 for 9 holes.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen dominant pitchers be unhittable one day and the next can’t find the strike zone.  Confidence is like fuel that drives individuals.  When it runs out its easy for people to become lost, a shell of who they once were.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

There is a term which refers to someone floundering, flopping back and forth without any sense of direction.  This state is often a by product of confidence that fades away.  If you have ever reached this point in life like me, Solomon encourages people to lean on God.  While you may not regain the heights you once obtained, the Lord promises to restore hope to those who have endured the pain of lost confidence.

by Jay Mankus

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