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Looking Through a Key Hole

My dad’s mother, an immigrant to this country, spent most of her time in the United States living in Binghamton, New York.  Beside working as a nurse at a local hospital, my grandmother rented out the second floor of their house which consisted of three separate apartments.  After her three sons graduated from college, Joanna continued to work at this hospital but left these spare rooms vacant.  During my childhood, these upper rooms provided an excellent place for hide and go seek.  Due to squeaky wooden floors, you were forced to tip toe, spying through open keyholes in antique doors.  From this vantage point, you could check to see who was coming or wait until someone revealed their hiding place.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Prior to high tech security systems with hidden cameras, most modern front doors contained a peek hole to look through before opening the door.  This safety feature protected children from unwanted strangers like the classic scenes from Home Alone and Uncle Buck.  However, these peek holes were not always used for wholesome reasons.  Over the years, some have fallen prey to voyeurism, using binoculars, open key holes and peek holes to feed fleshly desires.  Those who give into these ungodly desires open the door for pornography that leads to reprobate minds.  While each individual is vulnerable to different types of temptation, Jesus urged his own disciples to watch and pray so that the Holy Spirit will override earthly desires.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, James 4:7.

Jesus’ earthly brother chimes in with his own advice.  In the first chapter to first century believers, James 1:13-15 claims that temptation is not God’s fault.  Rather, the process of giving into sin is a series of compromises, often subtle that lead careless souls on the verge of going beyond boundaries defined by the Bible.  Thus, James commands his readers to resist the Devil by submitting yourself to God.  Meanwhile, the apostle Paul adds another piece of this spiritual puzzle, 1 Corinthians 10:13, when tempted look for the way out of your predicament.  If there is one song that demonstrates the danger that lurks on the other side of a keyhole it’s the children’s classic O Be Careful Little Eyes.  May this blog inspire you to avoid taking a second glance so that the urge to sin is quickly broken by eyes fixated on the cross of Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

You Might Want to Check This Out

Whenever a student enters their first semester of high school or college, transitioning to this next level can be difficult.  Some professors and teachers understand this, providing subtle hints during lectures.  The more serious might exclaim, “what aren’t you writing this down.”  Meanwhile, savvy veterans tend to be more entertaining, coughing in gest “this seems like a good test question,” winking to anyone paying attention.  Ultimately, I learned that anytime facts, information or statistics were repeated, it was something I should definitely study.

If your hand causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]! It is better for you to enter life crippled, than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] – Mark 9:43-44.

During a first century speech to his disciples, Jesus repeats the same sentence almost verbatim three times.  The subtext above this passage in my Bible reads Dire Warnings,  I don’t mean to be Captain Obvious, but you might want to check into this beginning with Mark 9:44.  Since the previous verse mentions hell, this statement refers to an eternal reality.  From a literal stand point, Jesus highlights a constant gnawing on human flesh in a place without any escape from fire.  Jesus’ dire warning is to scare souls straight from this state of eternal suffering.

If your foot causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]! It would be better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell, 46 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] – Mark 9:45-46

Jesus’ advice to avoid this destination is through the Old Testament practice of purging.  While Jesus isn’t telling people to physical remove parts of your body, the actual call to action refers to removing the source of temptation within your life.  For an alcoholic its getting rid of any beverages that might cause you to stumble.  Those addicted to pornographic must place filters on computers, cancel mail subscriptions and remove all magazines that promotes lust.  Everyone has a weakness.  There is no such thing as a superman or super woman.  Rather, each must meditate, pray and act immediately upon conviction so that any traces of temptation are removed.  May you be successful in this constant battle to avoid the wrong eternal destination.

by Jay Mankus

 

Friends Along the Way

As a child, there was nothing like a sleep over, especially if it meant going away with a friend or neighbor’s family.  High school brought class trips, spending a day or weekend on a field trip.  College introduced the concept of road trips, going some where at the spur of a moment, chilling and hanging with buddies.  For those who marry, weddings result in Honeymoons and if kids arrive, family vacations in the future.  Ultimately, as you go through life alone or with a significant other, each day serves as an opportunity to become friends along the way.

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, Luke 8:1.

If you use the Bible as a source, Jesus lived in relative obscurity, serving as a carpenter in Nazareth.  Single and living with his mother, Jesus wasn’t searching for a woman or seeking to build his business.  Rather, Jesus was waiting until the Holy Spirit revealed the ideal time to begin his earthly ministry.  When this moment arrived, Jesus spent a majority of his time on the road, traveling from town to town with his twelve disciples.  As people began to receive healing, experience miracles and transform their lives, a bond developed between Jesus and his followers.  I guess you can say Jesus was a model for finding friends along the way in life.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told the parable of the Sower, Luke 8:4.

As I look back on the past 6 years of my writing, there is only one earthly person I can credit for my progress.  Spencer Saints who has his own travel blog entitled Friends Along the Way, Friendsalongtheway.org, is the person who encouraged me to pursue a writing career.  Through the years, Spencer introduced me to a writer’s group, started his own and steered me in the right direction as I began to write movie scripts.  We all meet friends along the way in life, but few express how they feel before they are gone.  May this blog inspire you to reach out to those who have helped you along the way, especially during the bleak moments in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Will to Move On

When I was sixteen, a doctor told me I would never run again.  After tearing all the tendons in my left ankle, the bone twisted 90 degrees in the wrong direction.  The best case scenario given to me prior to my operation was that I would walk with a limp after placing a screw to hold this bone in place.  Despite the obstacles I faced, the prayers of the saints gave me the faith to move on.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17.

By the time I reached my 21st birthday, stuttering was the next trial standing in my way of expressing myself verbally.  Attacks would come out of no where, causing me to lose my breath and confidence to speak.  One evening, a college roommate named Mike had a vision as I walked into our apartment.  Hanging out with a few believers from church, a circle engulfed me as these men began to lay hands on me.  The prayers proclaimed pleaded with God to free me permanently from stuttering.  Subsequently, God gave me the will to persevere.

“While you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus,” Acts 4:30.

My latest dilemma may be my greatest to date, a bout with glaucoma.  Once again, the odds are not on my side nor is science in my favor.  Yet, I serve a God who has raised the dead, cured the sick and given sight to the blind.  The mystery of the unknown will be tough to handle.  Nonetheless, I trust in a living God who has performed miracles in the past.  Therefore, I stand in awe, leaning on God’s grace who provides the will to move on.

by Jay Mankus

 

Handing off the Baton

In a track relay race, participants need to hand off a baton between a set distance.  Individuals may drop this and still continue, but if anyone wander outside of their lane judges can disqualify an entire team.  During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States woman’s 400 x 100 team failed to finish after dropping their baton.  However, after a video review, a replay revealed another woman in an adjacent lane caused this drop to occur.  Thus, the woman were allowed to re-qualify following an appeal, going on to win the gold medal.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

In life, some compare passing off a baton to raising children like Dr. Jeff Myers in his book Passing the Baton.  At some point, parents have to let go, knowing they have done all they could do with the time given.  Yet, if you are like me, there are some regrets.  There were conversations I didn’t have, issues I didn’t properly address and life lessons I didn’t impart.  Nonetheless, what’s done is done.  I can’t change the past.  All I can do is learn from my mistakes and do a better job with my last 2 kids before they leave for college.

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart, Proverbs 29:17.

Upon dropping my son James off to college, I thought came to my mind, “its time to trust the Lord.”  Sure, as long my oldest resides in my home, I’m still responsible to encourage and nurture his faith.  Yet, the best thing I can do is pray that the faculty and staff of Liberty University challenges James and pushes him to new heights.  While nothing in life is guaranteed, I am holding out hope that the Christian influences at this institution will lead James to discover his calling on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Live It Up

 

As I child, I didn’t have many worries in this world.  Sure, I had fears of heights and snakes, but I was naive about all the work my parents had to do to provide for the family.  While my mom and dad each worked full time jobs, I spent most of my time living life to the fullest.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil, Ephesians 5:15-16.

Now on the other side of the spectrum, I tend to let the stress in life steal my joy.  Instead of demonstrating a child like faith, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle in life.  Thus, the notion of living it up is far from my mind, a distant memory of my childhood.

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise, Proverbs 20:1.

Some adults never grow up after college, continuing to party, enjoying each weekend off.  Beside being costly, this isn’t how God wants individuals to celebrate life.  Rather, the Lord longs for the day when people embrace fellowship, rely on prayer and follow the apostle’s teaching.  May this guideline in Acts 2:42 spur believers on to live it up.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Final Weigh In

During my sophomore year of college, my parents moved from Delaware to Cleveland, Ohio.  In my first summer, I met some friends working at a local country club, one whom I instantly clicked with.  When he wasn’t serving as my sand volleyball partner, Eddy wrestled for Cleveland State.  Always conscience of his weight, Eddy shared about the discipline and sacrifices necessary to make weight for his matches.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way, Daniel 1:8.

Today, my oldest son James deals with a similar issue on a weekly basis.  Before each Pole Vault competition, you have a weigh in before a judge.  Depending upon the scale, your pole is determined based upon your weight.  Thus, if you weigh just a pound over the legal limit, you are forced to use a heavy pole, not as flexible as the lighter ones.  A few weeks ago James had to lose five pounds in 24 hours just to compete.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food, Daniel 1:15.

Following ten days of eating fruits and vegetables, there was a noticeable difference between Daniel and rest of those in the king’s service.  While there wasn’t a scale to step on, Daniel and his Jewish friends found favor with God.  Under different circumstances, I had one last weigh in upon completing my Daniel Fast.  To my surprise, I lost 16 pounds in 21 days.  Although part of me wants to continue to lose weight, that’s not my main priority.  One day everyone will have their final weigh in on judgement day.  When this day arrives, may the grace of God be merciful on this sinner.  Prepare now for your own final weigh in.

by Jay Mankus

 

Waiting for a New Name

Benedict Arnold, John Wilkes Booth and Bernie Madoff are names associated with a negative connotation.  Poor choices in life led each to develop a bad reputation.  Unfortunately, when individuals commit an unwholesome act, many are unable to break free from the consequences of actions.  Thus, even today, many are waiting for a new name.

Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children, Genesis 32:11.

Once formed in high school or college, infamous nicknames can haunt people for years.  Indecent acts may result in being labeled as easy, loose or a whore.  Those who tend to exaggerate become known as liars, losing the trust of their peers.  While a few may be able to alter this stigma, most are stuck with the shame of their past.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome,” Genesis 32:28.

In Genesis 32, Jacob has an encounter with God.  Known as cunning, a deceiver and for being a momma’s boy, the Lord knew this character would not be a positive influence going forward to lead his chosen people.  Thus, following a night of wrestling, Jacob held on for dear life, earning him the name Israel.  In the same manner, those who enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10, are given a fresh start.  Therefore, if you’re waiting for a new name, hit the reset button today to receiving the free gift of eternal life.

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

 

 

A Power Nap

While experiencing college, I discovered sleep was overrated.  During my sophomore year, I averaged five hours tops.  However, in the few spare moments that I had, I began to indulge in short naps, laying down for 15 to 30 minutes before resuming homework.  Subsequently, a strange phenomena occurred, waking up with a burst of energy as if I had slept for hours.

All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep, Jonah 1:5.

Although the experts claim individuals are at their best when having 8 hours of sleep per night, naps serve as a good alternative.  On the flip side, sleep can also act as a diversion, especially if someone is struggling with depression or merely attempting to escape reality.  Running away from God on a boat heading toward Tarshish, hurricane force winds caused the ship he was on to fill with water, Jonah 1:3-4.  Napping in the hull, this short rest prepared Jonah for a three day adventure inside a whale.

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm, Mark 4:39.

Meanwhile, others use naps to test individuals, seeing whether or not pupils can survive on their own.  Thus, Jesus napped during the Bible’s White Squall, waiting to see how his disciples would respond.  Screaming like little girls in a haunted house, the twelve disciples woke up Jesus, assuming they were going to drown.  Unfazed, Jesus’ power nap allowed him to calm this storm with a few words.  Beyond the realm of sleep, an invisible force called the Holy Spirit is waiting for God’s children to get plugged into.  When and if Christians do, perhaps they too can experience the surge from a power nap,

by Jay Mankus

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