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The Mercy Rule

The Mercy Rule was developed for youth sports to prevent a competitive team from further humiliating a less talented group of athletes.  This phrase is often used in baseball when a team is losing by 10 after 4 innings or 20 when the 3rd is completed.  Essentially, this is like waving the white flag, throwing in the towel or surrendering to a far superior team.  Thus, to save time and further embarrassment for the losing side, umpires invoke the mercy rule.

And David said to Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man, 2 Samuel 24:14.

This weekend I endured the worst inning ever as a player or coach.  Although I once lost an opening day baseball game 31-19, at least my team fought back from a 20 run deficit.  Unfortunately, this night to forget involved double digit walks, errors and mental mistakes, enhanced by a shrinking strike zone leading to a two hour and thirty minute 4 inning game.  As I watched several self-inflicted blunders, I wanted someone to put me out of my misery.

For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you, Psalm 86:5.

In 2014, the film Mercy Rule debuted starring Kirk Cameron.  Using lessons from baseball, family and life, Cameron has produced a film which attempts to build character for those who endure helpless moments.  Whether its coping with issues at work, struggling to watch a child’s less talented team or coming to grips with your own fatal flaws, there are always life lessons waiting to be revealed.  When you’re pushed to the brink, unable to take anymore pain, God has a way of showing you mercy.  In return, may you forgive and show mercy upon deserving and undeserving souls.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Slow Fast

I grew up in a competitive neighborhood, with several talented athletes.  Every summer we had races to see who was the fastest.  Although I did lose to a girl once, most of the time I was a step quicker than everyone else.  This environment led me to become long distance runner, finding my niche in cross country.  Perhaps this may explain why I have become an impatient adult, always in a hurry to get to no where.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; Joel 2:12.

In recent years, my paths have crossed with several individuals who fast at the beginning of each calendar year.  Since I enjoy eating, this spiritual discipline hasn’t come easy, more painful than beneficial.  Some friends have passed on helpful resources like books written by Jentzeen Franklin to help me get over the proverbial hump.  Yet, my heart hasn’t been ready to commit to this until now.

When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach, Psalm 69:10.

While my current weight, the heaviest ever is one motivating factor, another reason to begin a fast is to pave a clear path for my future.  After listening to a few sermons in December, I found the easiest fast if there is such a thing is a Daniel Fast, twenty one days of eating fruits, vegetables and forgoing soft drinks for water.  Based upon Daniel’s experience during his captivity in Babylon, at the end of this period Daniel and his friends appeared healthier than those who ate the king’s food.  Thus, as I ease my way into this fast, I wait in eager expectation of the insight and life lessons the Lord will teach me over this 21 day journey.  If the timing is right, you can start as similar fast any time throughout 2016.

by Jay Mankus

 

A House of Prayer

In this competitive climate, churches are thinking outside the box to attract perspective families and individuals.  One of the latest trends involves offering guests a cafe, food court or cook out to influence people to attend.  Those with more resources may host a week long carnival, summer camp or vacation Bible school to sway those on the fence to join.  Yet, beyond all this window dressing, each congregation should be a house of prayer.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts, Mark 11:15-16.

Perhaps the first century Jews overlooked this fact, turning God’s temple into a Flea Market.  Sometimes funds are low causing leadership to develop alternative views.  Thus, instead of trusting God to supernaturally provide, temple leaders looked toward the world.  Based upon the reaction of the chief priests, their hearts had become hardened, trying to get rid of their main critic.

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” – Mark 11:17.

Any type of competition can take your eyes off of your main purpose.  Unfortunately, during my time as a youth pastor, I lost sight of the fact the church is a house of prayer.  Sure, its nice to be wooed with creative ideas.  Nonetheless, prayer is what will change the hearts of men and woman.  Therefore, as you search for a church to call home, make sure prayer is a core principle, practiced inside and outside its doors.

by Jay Mankus

Loosen Up

Depending upon your personality type, it may be hard to be serious, joke around or relax.  Everyone is wired a certain way so to break out of your norm isn’t easy.  As for me, I tend to be competitive and intense.  Sometimes I wonder if God places me in certain situations to loosen me up.

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them, Mark 10:13.

Based upon the context of Mark 10, it appears the twelve disciples had a tendency to be all work and no play.  Watching from a distance, Jesus intervened, trying to teach a valuable life lesson.  Whether it was the innocence of children or the endless energy most possess, Jesus stressed the importance of welcoming young people.  Perhaps interacting with youth might loosen up the disciples.

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these, ” Mark 10:14.

This passage serves as a reminder to not to forget the next generation.  While you may think you are right, another voice may provide a new or quicker way of doing things.  Beside accepting children, adults would be wise to invest time in nurturing young men and women.  By doing this, you will honor God and leave a legacy of prepared believers to impact those struggling to make sense of these ever changing days.

by Jay Mankus

When Winning Isn’t As Important

In the days following 9/11/01, many Americans used professional sporting events as a vehicle for healing.  In Major League Baseball, the singing of Talk Me Out to the Ball Game was replaced with God Bless America.  At the first Monday Night Football Game in the NFL, a sense of patriotism swept through the crowd, causing tears to flow from my eyes as a giant flag, shaped like the United States of America was stretched across the entire field.  During this period in time, winning wasn’t the only thing.  Rather, playing these games symbolized a sense of normalcy to proclaim to the world, “America will carry on.”

Meanwhile, another community experienced a similar tragedy, placing sports into its proper perspective.  The 2006 film We Are Marshall is based upon the death of 37 football players, 5 coaches, 25 boosters and other staff who perished in a plane crash near Huntington, West Virginia.  Despite wanting to remain competitive, winning had to be placed on the back burner.  To honor the memory of these people, the school president was nudged by students to field a team to fill the void left behind.  In a stirring scene, Matthew McConaughey, who plays head coach Jack Lengyel, redefines winning to include playing with all your heart for 60 minutes.  “If you do this, we can not lose!”

Today, competition has a wide scope from school districts who have banned keeping score to the hard core who keep score in everything they do.  For me, sports was a refuge, a place where I excelled.  The more success I tasted, the cockier I became.  Yet, like many things in life, athletic competition has a way of humbling the proud, bringing each star back down to earth.  However, when I finally gave up my pursuit of playing professional golf, only then did I understand winning isn;t everything.  Whether you have the talent or not, give your dream a shot and let the chips fall where they may.  In the end, winning isn’t as important as knowing that you did everything you could to maximize your God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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