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Finding Spiritual Spotters

I was a novice weightlifter as I entered college. While I went with friends to local gyms, I didn’t really know what I was doing. When I moved off campus my junior year, one of my roommates was a former high school all-American linebacker. Mike turned our attic into a hardcore gym. Mike introduced me to the concept of spotting someone. When you lose the ability to finish a lift, the spotter comes to your rescue by pushing with you to place the bar into the barbell holder.

When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and when he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy and grew weary. So [the other men] took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and one on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun, Exodus 17:11-12.

Depending upon your age, strength, and the weight you are lifting, you may need one or two spotters. Anytime you’re lifting over 250 pounds, its safer to have 2 spotters, one on either side of the barbell. Yet, if you’re working out with someone like Mike whose body resembled a chiseled rock, one spotter is all you need. One of the roles of a spotter parallels a modern day life coach. Mike weekly challenged, encouraged, and pushed me to become stronger every day.

And Joshua mowed down and disabled Amalek and his people with the sword, Exodus 17:13.

One of the immediate benefits of having a spiritual spotter occurred during the Intramural Ultimate Frisbee title game. The guy who was guarding me was 6 foot 3, just under 200 pounds. While in the end zone, I was practically tackled as my elbow violently hit the ground. Yet, I held on, our team tied the game on the final play and won the championship in overtime. As you find and surround yourself with spiritual spotters, you’ll reach new heights, often well beyond your imagination and dream.

by Jay Mankus

Shutting the Door on Fear

Two first century authors use the imagery of a door to prove their point. The apostle Paul warns Christians against giving the Devil an open door to enter your life. This analogy suggests that you shouldn’t leave a crack or a gap. One of Jesus’ disciples focuses on the positive. This spiritual illustration uses God’s love as a source of superior power to snuff out fear by closing the door.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [g]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear [h]brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.

As I read the passage above recently, my mind turned to 2 Corinthians 10:5-6. Trying to confront the Devil alone is reckless. Yet, when you learn to take your thoughts captive by making them obedient to Christ, shutting the door on fear is possible. If fear feeds on weakened minds that become paralyzed by ungodly beliefs, you’re giving the Devil a foothold to use your fears against you.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him], Ephesians 4:26-27.

One of Jesus’ disciples compares the Devil to a predator that feeds on isolated and wounded Christians. When a door is left ajar or cracked open, fear will enter your dreams while you’re sleeping. Anyone who doesn’t shut the door on fear will allow nightmares to continue to fester. These threats will only intensify as time goes by. This is why shutting the door on fear is essential for all Christians to practice.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 25: For Those Who Wait

A couple of years ago, my work station was moved underneath a flat sorter. Due to the constant noise, I was forced to use ear protection whenever I sit at my desk. The positive side of this change is that I’ve been able to listen to music, podcasts and shows throughout my shift. As I’ve scanned the internet to find new Christian artists, I came across a group called Fireflight.

Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name, Hebrews 13:15.

The best way to describe their music is a mix between Fleetwood Mac and Pat Benatar. Today’s feature song is also the name of one of Fireflight’s 5 albums. The attached video uses an aspiring violinist who has a father who doesn’t support her dream to use her God given gift. As you listen and watch, I pray that the lyrics of For Those Who Wait will inspire you not to give up until fulfilling goals that others said were impossible to achieve.

by Jay Mankus

So That Hope Survives

Ambition, aspiration, cravings, dreams, longings and yearnings are all associated with hope. When theses desires begin to slip away, individuals have to fight with determination so that hope survives. Whenever your confidence is shaken by defeat, failure or a loss, hope is like a dim light surrounded by darkness, ready to be snuffed out by unforeseen events.

But we belong to the day; therefore, let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation, 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

In a letter to a community with a troubled pass, Paul reminds this church that Christians are children of the light. Thus, as the Devil continues to bring and drag up skeletons from your past, don’t let doubt creep into your mind. The longer negative thoughts continue to linger, the closer the enemy comes to achieving his goal, John 10:10.

For God has not appointed us to [incur His] wrath [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 5:9.

The apostle Paul flips the script in the passage above. Instead of always being on defense, Paul takes up the Sword of the Spirit to go on offense, reminding believers of the ultimate prize. God’s end game is salvation, the opportunity to be reunited with Jesus in heaven. Hope is like an exit sign in the distance, the only way to God, John 14:6. When darkness blocks your path from this doorway, hope is what keep souls alive, surviving to live another day.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Sight of God

While special horses are trained to become thoroughbreds, horses can’t see everything in it’s peripheral vision. To avoid horses from becoming distracted or scared, blinders are used to keep the horse focused on what is in front of it. Controlling a horse at 40 miles per hour requires a rare combination of strength and lightness for a jockey. Those jockeys who do the best at keeping their horse focused on the finish line, tend to accumulate more victories.

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, Hebrews 12:1.

Unfortunately, I share similar traits with horses, often veering off course. I tend to become so consumed and fixated on what I am doing that I lose track of time. The clearer you are about your vision in life, the greater the impact you will have in the world. Vision is the ability to think about or plan your future with imagination, insight and wisdom. Whenever I stray from my dreams and goals, my vision grows dim.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

An Old Testament prophet blames a lack of knowledge for those who fail to reach their full potential. At the time that Hosea pens this letter, Israel began to do what was right in their own eyes. Instead of following the ten commandments, many were blinded by worldly beliefs and principles. A similar trend is taking place today as progressive ideas have been embraced by many churches. Thus, losing sight of God becomes an unpleasant reality. If you’re ready to regain focus on God, do so with perseverance, fixated on the cross of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Everything Goes According to Plan

Every so often, I question God’s timing. When my life seems to stand still, moving in slow motion, I get impatient. While this may not happen every month, several times a year I get frustrated by a lack of progress. The Bible suggests human minds struggle to comprehend, fathom or understand God’s grand design. Thus, for now I feel like Job, pondering the purpose of trials in life like the Coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the world.

Then Joseph could not restrain himself [any longer] before all those who stood by him, and he called out, Cause every man to go out from me! So no one stood there with Joseph while he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept and sobbed aloud, and the Egyptians [who had just left him] heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it. And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? And his brothers could not reply, for they were distressingly disturbed and dismayed at [the startling realization that they were in] his presence, Genesis 45:1-3.

Joseph of the Old Testament likely experienced similar mood swings. After sharing vivid dreams with his family, he quickly became despised by his brothers. Sold into slavery as a teenager, Joseph worked his way up to a caretaker for Potiphar’s estate. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s flirtatious wife falsely accused Joseph of rape leading straight to prison. Unlike me, Joseph kept a position attitude until the Lord finally completed his ultimate goal.

But now, do not be distressed and disheartened or vexed and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors, Genesis 45:5-7.

What human beings see as defeat, failure and losses, God uses these moments to prune the dead branches in your life, John 15:1-5. The hard part is remaining in the vine, sticking with Jesus as darkness surrounds you. To those that stay near the Lord, abundant fruits flow in the form of blessings in life. Yet, bitterness, pride and selfish ambition cause many to wander away, trying it on your own. If I could just learn to be more Joseph in Genesis, maybe I’ll begin to see God’s hand as everything goes according to His plan.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Help or Satan’s Hurt

During a trip to Gibeon, King Solomon experienced a special dream one night. According to 1 Kings 3, the Lord appeared to Solomon in this dream, asking him to make a decision between wealth or wisdom. After thoroughly examining his options, Solomon requested a discerning heart and understanding mind. This decision pleased the Lord resulting in a life of blessings, riches and wealth like no other ruler in the Bible.

Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish). Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who cannot be counted for multitude. So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people? – 1 King 3:7-9

In the first century, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a teenage pastor named Timothy. Apparently, Timothy was uncertain and unsure of what position to take on wealth. The passage above provides biblical insight and perspective. While blessings are a sign of God’s favor, Satan uses riches as a vessel for temptation. Thus, when money becomes your god, God’s initial help can quickly turn into Satan’s hurts.

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

You don’t have to look any further than the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 to understand this concept. A younger son became consumed by his share of an inheritance. Before receiving this money, his mind became filled with earthly pleasures. Like an addict who can’t control himself, the prodigal son quickly became Exhibit A for Satan’s hurt. Broke, desperate and homeless, the only way to overcome Satan’s hurt is coming to your senses. May this story of redemption inspire you to embrace God’s help so Satan’s hurt becomes a thing of the past.

by Jay Mankus

Wasting Away

The average hard working American man or woman doesn’t get up on their weekend with plans to waste away a day. Rather, energy level, focus and motivation will dictate one’s degree of productivity. Depending upon how well or poorly your week went, some people will need a mental break, catching up on lost sleep, reading a book or binge watching a favorite show. In a letter to church leaders, Paul suggests that you have to take care of yourself before you can effectively help others.

Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others, Philippians 2:4.

Despite attempts to maximize my own three day weekends, I find myself caught in a web of unproduction, getting less and less done each day off. The Bible refers to this as idleness, a state of laxity often influenced by boredom. The most famous example of idleness occurs in the passage below. Instead of leading the Israel army into battle, King David decides to take an extended Spring Break. This decision began to waste away at David’s soul, participating in adultery, a cover up and murder of Uriah.

In the spring, when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab with his servants and all Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites [country] and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, when from there he saw a woman bathing; and she was very lovely to behold, 2 Samuel 11:1-2.

In their 2010 album, Consider This, Tonight Alive sings about Wasting Away. The lyrics of this song by the same title talks about how dreams are often put on hold by a busy schedule. The excuse to abandon a dream uses the lie, an ungodly belief that “it’s too hard.” Unfortunately, many people blame the fear of failure for not taking risks to follow their dreams. When you come to a point in life where you play it safe day after day, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wasting away.

by Jay Mankus

Searching for a Place to Call Home

The sitcom Cheers coincided with my years in high school and college.  Cheers debuted in 1982 as I entered my final year of junior high school.  The final episode of Cheers aired the week before I graduated college in 1992.  While the content of this show did not glorify God, the theme song of Cheers struck a cord with my soul.  The thought of finding a place where everyone knows your name inspired me to search for my own place, a church to call home.

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua 24:15.

Oddly enough, Match.com was founded in 1993, one year after Cheers went off the air.  Apparently, trying to meet a significant other in a bar setting isn’t an ideal environment.  Over the past 25 years, single individuals have turned to dating apps to meet the person of their dreams.  While relationships do emerge from more traditional means, 40 million Americans annually use online dating services to find a soul mate.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches, Proverbs 24:3-4.

Perhaps, it’s time for a Christian entrepreneur to develop an app that searches for a church to call home.  Like a bad blind date, visiting the wrong church can fill souls with disappointment, frustration and loneliness.  Christians want to find a place like the theme song from Cheers, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.”  This song written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo illustrates an ideal place where you can relate to other people, sharing the burdens and troubles on your heart.  I’m not sure what the future holds, but maybe God will put a person with a Computer Science background into my life to form an app that searches for a church to call home.

by Jay Mankus

Dreams are Like the Stars of Your Destiny

Nightly dreams mainly occur during a stage of sleep known as REM.  This acronym stands for rapid eye movement where brain activity is high, a similar level to being awake.  REM sleep results in the continuous movements of your eyes while you sleep.  Meanwhile, neurologists like Freud and Jung have developed their own theory.  The Dream Theory states that dreams merely come from within the human psyche, exposing what is in your unconscious mind.

For in a multitude of dreams and in a flood of words there is worthlessness. Rather [reverently] fear God [and worship Him with awe-filled respect, knowing who He is], Ecclesiastes 5:7.

When I searched the Bible for another point of view, a Jewish king frowned upon dreaming.  Referred to as one of the wisest men to walk the face of the earth, King Solomon focuses on who to listen to, God or your dreams in the passage above.  Despite this warning, Solomon does have something good to say about dreams in Proverbs 3:24.  Anyone who practices discretion and sound wisdom will be blessed by a deep and sweet sleep.  Later on in this book, Solomon writes about moments in life where dreams, prophecies, revelations and visions are absent, Proverbs 29:18.  When this occurs, rely on God’s laws in the Bible to guide your steps.

And having been warned [by God] in a dream not to go back to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him,” Matthew 2:12-13.

One aspect of dreaming is described in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul uses the phrase keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:25 as a way to follow God.  In the second chapter of the New Testament, Matthew gives two examples of how God uses dreams.  The first is similar to a nightmare, a warning to not go back to Herod.  Moments later, an angel of the Lord appears in Joseph’s dream.  These clear instructions ushered Joseph into action immediately.  God spoke to Joseph through dreams on numerous occasions, each time to direct and guide his steps on earth.

Now Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to [the details of] this dream which I have dreamed; we [brothers] were binding sheaves [of grain stalks] in the field, and lo, my sheaf [suddenly] got up and stood upright and remained standing; and behold, your sheaves stood all around my sheaf and bowed down [in respect].” His brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Are you really going to rule and govern us as your subjects?” So they hated him even more for [telling them about] his dreams and for his [arrogant] words. But Joseph dreamed still another dream, and told it to his brothers [as well]. He said, “See here, I have again dreamed a dream, and lo, [this time I saw] eleven stars and the sun and the moon bowed down [in respect] to me!” – Genesis 37:5-9

In the case of Joseph, his dreams were the stars of his destiny.  Based upon the accounts in Genesis, Joseph possessed a special connection with God.  Some may refer to him as a prophet with others focusing on his gift of dream interpretation.  Whatever the source, the favor of God never left Joseph despite a series of hardships.  While many Christians would have become bitter and given up on hope, Joseph never wavered.  From a practical perspective, if you believe in a dream, destiny or goal, a resolve and will is conceived.  When darkness settles in, faith serves as a compass to keep dreams alive.  May the saying “dreams are like the stars of your destiny” be more than just a slip inside of a fortune cookie.  My the Holy Spirit awaken your soul to reach for the stars as you seek to follow God’s will daily.

by Jay Mankus

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