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Rapt in God’s Power

When I read the passage below last week, I was reminded of one special night in college. Earlier in the evening, I attended a night of prayer sponsored by one of the Christian groups on the University of Delaware’s campus. At first, I was hesitant, afraid I might stutter as I prayed out loud. Yet, with each passing hour I became wrapped in God’s power. After this time of prayer concluded, I was so spiritually pumped up that I went on a prayer walk with a friend, witnessing to anyone who passed by.

I was in the Spirit [rapt in His power] on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a great voice like the calling of a [i]war trumpet, Revelation 1:10.

Based upon the context of the passage above, John was rapt in God’s power. Similar to a student seeking to absorb every word of a professor like a sponge, John was fixated on the voice speaking, John describes a mental state which people refer to today as being in the zone. While training for the upcoming cross country season in high school, some nights I entered into a trance as my body went into cruise control. This intense concentration is similar to what the apostle Paul calls keeping in step with God’s Spirit,

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [[d]full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

One of the best ways to keep in step with the Holy Spirit today is by reading and studying the Bible. Like a body builder working on every muscle in their body, meditating on biblical principles taps into God’s promises to His followers. When I start writing my blogs for the week, I often receive rhemas. These thoughts flow from a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to my attention with application to a current situation or need. When you draw near to God as James 4:8 instructs, rapt in God’s power can become a reality.

by Jay Mankus

The Walkers Prayer

From 1983 to 1986, I ran over 1,000 miles on grass and pavement. Over the summer to prepare for the upcoming Cross Country season, I averaged running 30 miles per week with 150 miles for months when I felt ambitious. After a friend from college introduced me to a section of Psalm 18, I turned this verse into a prayer before I went for a jog. Yet, the context of the passage below is based upon a shepherd approaching rocky terrain. These words serve as a prayer to avoid twisting an ankle as you walk.

For who is God except the Lord? Or who is the Rock save our God, 32 The God who girds me with strength and makes my way perfect? – Psalm 18:31-32

Following a reconstructive surgery on my ankle during my junior year of high school, I was forced to wear a soft cast for five years. Whether I was going to school, off to practice or heading off for a run, this cast took a couple of minutes to slip on and tie the laces to secure my ankle. Before I finished tightening up this cast, I often said a silent prayer to God to protect my ankle from any major contact. If I ever overextended myself following my surgery, my left sock was soaked in blood at the end of the day.

He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places, Psalm 18:33.

There was a time when I took walking for granted. As a teenager and gifted athlete, I never thought about twisting my ankle unless I was going hiking on rocky terrain. Yet, my accident while running and subsequent surgery has forced me to place my faith and trust in the Lord whenever I go for a walk. If you do claim Psalm 18:33 as the Walkers Prayer before going outside, I can’t guarantee that you won’t slip. However, as you approach dangerous terrain, look down and watch each step so your feet are secure.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 53: Purify

During my first summer as a full-time youth director in Indiana, my church hosted 30 students from the Netherlands. One of my responsibilities was to give these teens a tour of downtown Columbus when their group first arrived. While playing tour guide for a day; I met a teenager who was desperately missing his European Techo Music. Today’s feature song comes from the group 65dBA who I discovered in a Christian bookstore on my quest to share Jesus with these Netherlanders.

And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless), 1 John 3:3.

One of my favorite pastimes in high school was going dancing. I first learned to dance at a Concord High School Homecoming with my cross-country teammates. Once I developed as a dancer, I went to a local disco night club called Pulsations. When I first listened to today’s song Purify by 65dBA, I felt like I was at a college nightclub. While today’s song may not be for everyone, if you appreciate modern dance, disco or techno music, this song is for you.

by Jay Mankus

Intense and Unfailing Love

My parents took me to see Rocky I in the theaters in 1976. When Rocky III debuted 6 years later, this coincided with an inner desire to become a great athlete. The theme song Eye of the Tiger was a daily goal, striving to possess the same intensity of a prized fighter in each of my sports competitions. Two years later, I became a running machine while training for cross country just like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. Unfortunately, my high school years were full of intensity but lacked love and understanding.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and [e]disregards the offenses of others], 1 Peter 4:8.

Intense refers to an extreme degree, force, or strength in which you pursue something. While intense is often associated with competitions, Peter urges first century Christians to pursue their spiritual lives with the same passion. In the passage above, Peter appears to reference Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:14-15. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, forgiving and loving others is essential for being forgiven by God. This is the purpose and reason for pursuing intense and unfailing love.

You have granted me life and favor, and Your providence has preserved my spirit. 13 Yet these [the present evils] have You hid in Your heart [for me since my creation]; I know that this was with You [in Your purpose and thought], Job 10:12-13.

Whether I like it or not, I have become more like my father as I grow older. My passion for sports has faded, put on hold to become a better father and spiritual life coach for my children. While I am far from the earthly father that God wants me to be, the missing ingredient is an unfailing love like Jesus. Regardless of what has happened in life, all bitterness, grudges, and pain must be released and let go of for good. If I can exchange my intensity for sports and replace it with God’s unfailing love, forgiveness and reconciliation will become a reality on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Watch Your Step

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was founded in 1971. Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to help protect the Nation’s workers on the job. This bill led to the creation of OSHA one year later to set and regulate safety standards. OSHA is the reason why signs like Watch Your Step exist today. Unfortunately, when the government is allowed to micromanage every step you take at work, human beings aren’t able or allowed to freely exercise common sense.

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 [[f]in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same ([g]identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

I don’t see myself as clumsy, but I sure do find my share of dips, holes, and roots that I trip over and fall into every month. When I was 16, falling into one particular hole altered my athletic career and changed my life. I was running cross country against the two boys that finished one two in the state meet my senior year. This hole was hidden by a pile of leaves, making it invisible to me. Just behind the lead pack with a mile to go, I twisted my ankle, kept running and ripped my ankle bone out of its socket.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). 17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do. 18 But if you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law, Galatians 5:16-18.

Following my surgery, I was forced to wear a soft cast for 4 years to protect my ankle. While I did recover physically, I never reached my full potential as an athlete. In college I stumbled upon Psalm 18:33 that I turned into a prayer every time that I went running. This one incident makes me cautious every time I visit a park. Watch your step has a new meaning to me as I have suffered the consequences of talking a bad step. If you want to avoid future holes and pitfalls in life, incorporate these verses into a daily prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Embrace Holy Fervor

Since I wasn’t a good student early on in high school, I poured my heart and soul into sports. Whether I was running cross country, swimming, playing baseball or golf, I developed a fervor for greatness. I may have not been the most athletic and physically gifted individual, but I wanted to win more than most of my peers. While I didn’t have much of a social life, I didn’t care as long as I improved daily.

But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live [f]by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.

This is the type of passion the Bible refers to in the passage above. Faith provides a similar adrenaline rush that I experienced as an athlete. However, this conviction comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. Rather than seek to become a winner in a competition, faith is a driving force to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus. When God becomes who you seek to delight, holy fervor is conceived.

A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers. 24 God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:23-24.

During a conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus reveals how a desire for truth can give birth to holy fervor. Despite the flaws in this recently divorced woman’s life, a fire began to burn deep within her heart as Jesus spoke. This is the same sensation I experienced as a freshman in college when I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to make Jesus the Lord of my life. Regardless of what happens this holiday season, make room for Jesus so that you may embrace holy fervor.

by Jay Mankus

When Death Lost It’s Grip on Me

If you have ever walked through a Haunted House or Forest, one of the methods used to inflict fear is by being grabbed by an unseen hand. Part of this role play often involves taking and keeping a firm hold of your arm or leg without warning. Despite how scared you may be during this experience, it is only temporary. In the passage below, the apostle Paul explains why and when fear of death lost it’s grip on human beings.

For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death). 54 And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished [h]forever) in and unto victory, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.

My junior high years were the lowest in my life. Despite attending church every Sunday, I struggled with depression daily. In my darkest days, I was suicidal, thinking of ways to end my life. Little did I know that God began to send loving Christians and mentors into my life to keep me alive. These individuals encouraged me to seek God not in a religious manner, but pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now sin is the sting of death, and sin exercises its power [i][upon the soul] through [j][the abuse of] the Law. 57 But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose], 1 Corinthians 15:56-58.

I resisted these offers until a nervous breakdown during a cross country practice. When a girl that I liked messed with my mind, this was the last straw before I lost complete control. Shortly after this experience, I was invited to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event. Following an inspirational speech my Skip Wilkins on December 4th, 1984, I gave my life to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10. The moment I made this decision, death lost it’s grip on me, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

The Desire to Become Part of a Greater Cause

I’m the youngest of three with two older sisters, four and five years apart. Because of this age difference, I wasn’t big enough to be included in our neighborhood games. I spent the first 10 years of my life sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone else have fun. When my father got transferred to Delaware, most of the new neighborhood was my age. Despite a severe speech impediment, I found solace in playing board games, sports and video games with kids who became like a second family.

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

When high school arrived, I joined a sport that I was told no one ever gets cut, Cross Country. Like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, I became a running fool. While the actual act of running was brutally hard, the friends that I made during these 4 years was unlike anything I have ever experienced. One of my favorite memories was going on a long bus ride to Killens Pond State Park to compete in my first ever running invitational. To represent Concord and run for my teammates made me feel part of a greater cause for the first time in my life.

Now there are distinctive varieties and distributions of endowments (gifts, [a]extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit) and they vary, but the [Holy] Spirit remains the same. And there are distinctive varieties of service and ministration, but it is the same Lord [Who is served]. And there are distinctive varieties of operation [of working to accomplish things], but it is the same God Who inspires and energizes them all in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

After my sophomore year of college, I was invited to attend a church service where one of my mentors was speaking. Little did I know that joining this small service of about 20 people, I felt an instant special connection with this church body. Despite meeting inside the entrance of a local high school for 2 years, I felt called to become baptized and to start the process of joining Cornerstone Church. This wasn’t just a neighborhood or a school group, but a body of believers that allowed me to become part of a greater cause to share the love of Jesus throughout Delaware. May you find the same joy that I found in my earlier years.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Aerobics

Aerobics is a vigorous exercise designed to strengthen the heart and lungs. Besides running, swimming and walking which most of you can do by yourself at home or in your neighborhood, there are an unlimited supply of videos on aerobics. Whether you follow along to a workout video or you tube, there are numerous ways to get back into and stay in shape. However, if you keep putting this off day after day, you’ll lose all motivation for physical exercise.

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. 26 Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

The apostle Paul introduces readers to the concept of spiritual aerobics. Using the host city of the Isthmian Games as a backdrop, a prestigious track and field event held during the off years of the Olympics, Paul references the strict training of these athletes. Spiritual aerobics is designed to strengthen your heart, soul and mind. Whether you’re reading the Bible, praying or participating in a worship service, these exercises energize your spiritual life.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-12.

The author of Hebrews takes spiritual aerobics to the next level, comparing this to running a marathon. I once ran 15 miles in an afternoon training for my senior year of cross country in high school. While one of my teammates easily cruised through the final few miles, I struggled to finish as my legs got heavier and heavier with each stride. The key to spiritual aerobics is unloading and throwing off anything that is holding you back or slowing you down. Instead of dreading the race called life, keep your head up and fix your eyes on Jesus so you will find the strength to make it to the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

Above and Beyond the Call

The backdrop of the New Testament takes place during the Roman Empire. Unless you were a Roman citizen, you had to do a little extra to get noticed. Scholarly versions of the verse below refer to a practice of impressment by the Roman law on Jews. Therefore, when Jesus urges listeners of the Sermon on the Mount to go the extra mile, this action serves as a plea to go above and beyond the call.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles], Matthew 5:41.

As a parents of 2 boys who ran cross country and a girl who does spring track, I haven’t met many teenagers who love to run. There were a few on St. Georges track team that won back to back state titles, but runners appear to be a dying breed. Running is one of those hobbies that you have to work at, requiring discipline, focus, and mental toughness. When asked to run an additional mile, few have the energy to be up for this challenge.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. 27 But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

In the passage above, Paul is appealing to athletes and sports fans. As a home of the Isthmian Games, Corinth would host this Track and Field Event every two years. This would run opposite of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. To win at this level of competition requires commitment, dedication, and resolve. The average person is content to do what is asked of them. However, if you want to step up your game, going the extra mile will persuade Christians to go above and beyond the call.

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