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A Celebration of Faith

In between sports seasons, I take my youngest two, Daniel and Lydia, to play frisbee golf on Saturdays.  Usually, lunch is involved, either before or after to encourage participation.  Once we reach our favorite course at Canby Park, some discs go way off course, often requiring a search and rescue crew.  These undesirable terrains include winding creeks, sticker bushes and wild vegetation.  It’s not uncommon to get cut and bleed profusely without recognizing it right away.

And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household, Acts 16:32-33.

A similar phenomena happened to the apostle Paul and Silas in the passage above.  Twenty four hours earlier, these men were beaten with rods.  According to Luke, each were struck several times, Acts 16:23.  After being thrown into a dungeon and feet fastened to stocks in an agonizing position, their initial pain was redirected in another direction.  Despite this momentary setback, a time of prayer and worship served as a distraction.  Caught up in the excitement of a jailor and his family coming to faith in Christ, Paul and Silas forgot about their bloody wounds.

Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ], Acts 16:34.

When human hearts and minds are set on things above, temporary pains fade away, Colossians 3:1-3.  Jesus taught his disciples to become fishers of men, winning souls to believe in God.  Whenever individuals witness a spiritual transformation, it’s a cause for a celebration.  Following the baptism of a jailor and his entire family, a party is thrown like a modern day church reception.  As the lost come to their senses, a celebration of faith is in order.  According to Luke, angels celebrate in heaven each time a sinner repents, Luke 15:10.

by Jay Mankus

Tasteless

Shortly after I got married, I began to play disc golf regularly.  During a round at Brandywine Creek State Park, my friend Dave and I threw a couple of discs into high grass.  Prior to the rise in Lyme Disease cases, checking for ticks never entered my mind.  Oddly enough, each of us contracted this debilitating condition.  While on vacation in Montana, my skin revealed the classic bullet, an obvious sign of Lyme Disease.  Unfortunately, Dave’s condition went undiagnosed for months.  Although Dave eventually recovered, he permanently lost his sense of taste.

“Therefore, salt is good; but if salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? – Luke 14:34

A first century doctor refers to a spiritual condition in the passage above.  Jesus uses the analogy of expired salt to illustrate this point.  Tasteless salt is similar to a Christian who does not practice the principles of the Bible.  According to Jesus, disciples should add spiritual flavor to the lives of outsiders, those unfamiliar with the concept of Christianity.  When believers blend into the world like chameleons, Jesus refers to these individuals as tasteless.

It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words,” Luke 14:35.

Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when you are called out by a co-worker, friend or mentor.  In this case, unsalted Christians are useless, like trash needing to be thrown away.  When joking around with my sons, my video game skills are often described as trash.  Since I know this to be true, rarely practicing, I can laugh along with my children.  However, when Jesus calls lukewarm believers tasteless and trash, this is no laughing matter.  If this blog finds you struggling and unproductive in your faith, may the Holy Spirit inspire you to refuel by studying the Bible daily, praying and seeking to worship God seven days a week.

by Jay Mankus

Whole in One

I witnessed a hole in one for the first time as a caddy at Concord Country Club in Pennsylvania while in high school.  As a player, I came close several times, hitting the pin, lipping out and hanging on the edge of the cup without falling.  Finally, during my 10 year coaching career, I reached this dream during my team’s 4 day seeding tournament in 2006.  On the 3rd hole at Frog Hollow, a short par 3 playing about 135 yards, I hit a pitching wedge 3 days in a row.  Playing as a marker to insure no cheating took place, I hit the pin on one bounce, ricocheting 20 feet away during the first  round, making par.  On day 2, I hit a 3/4 wedge that landed just short, hula hooped around the hole, staying out, 2 feet away for an easy birdie.  The next day, I hit nearly the identical shot, but this one to my amazement dropped in for an ace.  The only draw back is I had to buy drinks, soda, for every member of my team and a few parent drivers.  Five years later, playing disc golf with all 3 of my children, I experienced another hole in one on the 18th hole at White Clay Creek State Park, buying slurpees for the family.

To be whole means to stay in one piece, unbroken or undamaged by people, obstacles or trials in life.  Synonyms of whole include complete, entire, intact and unabridged.  Though the thrill one receives from accomplishing a hole in one is exhilarating, this feeling quickly fades, especially when you hit your next bad shot.  On the day I had my one and only golf hole in one, I made double bogeys on 3 of the last 4 holes to shoot 40.  After a topsy-turvy round of golf, you get to start fresh with a brand new scorecard the next time you play.  Unfortunately, in life once you’ve become broken, scars remain deep within your soul.  These memories can haunt individuals like nightmares, serving as a barrier to prevent someone from becoming whole again.  When a sin or sins enters life as an impulse, one of the hardest things to do is to forgive yourself once you’ve indulged.  When the aftermath of 2 Samuel 11 is exposed by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-17, King David had to pick of the pieces to his life and reputation.

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The words of Psalm 103:1-13 unveil a series of lessons God taught David on his journey to become whole again.  Beginning in verse 8, God’s nature is filled with compassion, grace and love.  Rather, than treat us as we deserve, God’s memory is erased of our wrong doing, fading into infinity.  All God asks is for those who seek his name is to fear Him, with reverence.  The apostle Paul shares a similar message in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, detailing the attributes of God, encapsulated by an agape love.  If you have tried on your own without success, like the woman in Matthew 9:20-22, cries out to Jesus, He is the only one who can make you whole.  Learn to let go like David did after committing adultery and murder, as you allow the giver of life to restore you back to where you belong, James 1:18, made whole in One God.

by Jay Mankus

When Joy Reemerged

On New Year’s Day, 2012, my oldest son, James and I played in a Disc Golf tournament.  After a small entry fee, James and I played well enough to earn a Frisbee, placing in our age brackets.  Before leaving, I also received money for winning a closest to the pin contest, 3 feet away.  We celebrated on the way home, going out to lunch with our 2 brand new discs.  Before last night, this was the last time I experienced joy.

This mood was broken by a chilling a phone call, a lost job and 18 months of hopelessness.  While I thought earlier in the year my luck was going to change, subtle signs from the Lord clearly revealed Chick-fil-A was not going to be in my future.  Falling apart on the inside, the prayers of dear friends and my church, has carried me across a barren desert of disappointment.

Deep in my heart, the only place I initially felt called was to coach Daniel, my younger son’s baseball team in Newark.  During my month as a Marketing Director, I was convicted by my lack of time with family.  In my absence, Coach Adrian, Coach Alex and my wife stepped in to fill the void left by me.  The team held their own, hovering above 500 before I returned.

Last night, winning the league championship culminated one of the most gratifying seasons ever as a coach.  Beside a few errors and base running blunders, every player contributed to score and or prevent runs from scoring.  Emotionally fragile at times like my last 18 months, everyone kept their composure until the final out.  The cherry on top is news earlier in the week of receiving a full time position with Amazon, with a start date set for next week.  I thank the Lord for holding me together and providing these blessings so that joy could reemerge.

by Jay Mankus

A Week In Paradise


In this economy, its hard to imagine anyone having enough time or money to afford a week long trip to the West Coast during the school year.  With a summer vacation road trip traveling across the country to the Grand Canyon and back already etched in my families distant memory, I didn’t think anything could compare.  However, thanks to my extended family, most of our expenses were covered, opening the door for a memorable week in paradise.

This journey began in Ontario, not Canada, at the John Wayne International Airport in California.  After a night in Corona, not the beer, rather staying with a cousin playing pool and embracing palm trees surrounded by mountains, it was off to the Pacific Ocean.  Following my first In and Out Burger, without knowing about the secret menu, my feet first touched the chilly waters at New Port Beach before my daughter found a sand dollar adjacent to the Huntington Beach pier.  An amazing meal at Ruby’s Diner even made the pelican poses for pictures before another scenic drive through the mountains toward Palm Springs.

Even getting lost and paying the same toll twice on 2 different scenic toll roads couldn’t damper my spirits, uplifted by the view of the Pacific in the background and the pictures engraved in my mind of the Coachella Valley from my honeymoon 17 years ago.  A trip to Indian Canyons, the largest oasis in the world, was like going back in time to the days of Adam and Eve walking in the Garden of Eden.  Hiking on these trails and similar vistas on the Lykkan Trail above Palm Springs was like re-enacting Moses’ voyage up Mount Nebo to see the Promised Land before his death.

My first trip to the Salton Sea, playing disc golf in Palm Desert and experiencing Monterey Country Club from the fairway, yes I did hit it straight, was like the icing on top of a birthday cake.  However, like the classic line from Jerry Maguire, my vacation wasn’t complete until family arrived.  As nearly 100 relatives came to La Quinta to honor Uncle Tom’s 80th birthday, the conversations I had, interactions with others and time spent with my own family completed me.  Simply put, this trip was like a tiny glimpse of heaven, a week of paradise in sunny California.

by Jay Mankus

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