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Where Presence and Practice Intersect

As a former athlete in multiple sports, practicing in the off-season is key to reaching your full potential. Before the days of travel teams and countless weekend competitions, sports junkies like me would hone their skills in local neighborhoods. Spontaneous pick up games would occur every summer day playing 500, steal the bases, interception, and whiffle ball. On rainy days, boards games, cards, and video games passed the time until the weather cooperated. The more I competed and practiced, the presence of improvement began to shine through.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encourages members to practice their faith. While God does show up unannounced from time to time in the form of angels, answered prayers and signs, this doesn’t happen by chance. Peace doesn’t occur simultaneously as soon as you verbalize this word. Rather, peace arrives at the intersection of practice and presence. This develops as faith is exercised through reflection, prayer and thanksgiving. Practicing what you believe gives individuals the opportunity to fail and learn what you need to work on spiritually.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.

According to the apostle Paul, focusing on the positive is a key step toward progressing. As your mind begins to dwell and focus on true and wholesome aspects of life, attitudes and behaviors tend to change for the better. However, Paul doesn’t want Christians to stop here. In addition, keep moving forward by practicing what you have learned from the Bible. The closer you draw near to the Lord, the greater your chances will be to experience the presence of God. Therefore, carry on by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit so that God’s presence appears when faith is practiced.

by Jay Mankus

A Place Where Peace and Harmony Reign

If you stop to observe your own environment, peace may be a rare commodity. Whether it’s driving in a car, going grocery shopping or a day at work, the rat race called life causes many to become stressed out. If you can’t change the external forces around you, Ephesians 6:12, it’s time for an internal transformation. The apostle Paul provides a blueprint for those who want to find peace and harmony in Colossians 3.

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always], Colossians 3:15.

This process begins with a new attitude, mindset, and perspective, Colossians 3:1-4. Paul encourages first century Christians to look beyond the present by focusing on eternity. However, before minds can fully change, one must put aside past addictions and bad habits. Like a trip to the cleaners, as individuals begin to put on their new self via the fruits on the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, finding peace and harmony is possible.

Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts, Colossians 3:16.

In the passage above, Paul provides a spiritual recipe by mixing the Bible with songs of praise. Just as faith comes directly from listening to and reading the teachings of Jesus, Romans 10:17, singing biblical truths stirs human souls. Unfortunately, there are temporary pleasures lurking around every corner to trip you up or lead you to revert back to your former way of life. Therefore, if you want to find a place where peace and harmony reign, sing a new song to the Lord, Psalm 33:3.

by Jay Mankus

Born to Win

C.S. Lewis defines progress as the process of arriving in his book Mere Christianity. Meanwhile, winning is gaining victory in a contest or competition. If you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably keeping score of your wins and losses daily. However, if life is more like a marathon than a sprint, pacing yourself and participating in strict training is essential for success. If you believe in Romans 8:28-29, then you are born to win.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? – Jeremiah 12:5

If this is your destiny, it’s easy to become overconfident along the way. This complacency often results in poor training habits, becoming out of shape spiritually. The analogy above is designed to illustrate what you can handle and what you can’t. If you aren’t able to be competitive in a race against other men, you won’t have a shot at progressing to the next level. When you’re born to win, just showing up each day won’t get it done.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; Hebrews 12:5.

Integrity is doing what’s right when nobody is looking. Therefore, being born to win requires added responsibility. The context of the passage above begins with an image of dead Christians, looking down from heaven, cheering you on as you compete in the race of life. The author of Hebrews encourages readers to keep your eyes on the prize, fixated on the cross of Christ. Just like keeping your head up while running maintains your momentum, keeping your eyes on heaven will secure victory in the end, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Open Up the Doors

The expression “open doors” is mentioned 180 times in the Bible. Many of these passages pertain to closed doors as opportunities to act quickly fade away. Bible scholars indicate that open doors signify communication and agreement. As doors begin to close or in some cases slam shut, the opposite is true. This is the foundation of the meaning of open doors in the Bible.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint, Galatians 6:9.

Depending upon how your day, week or month is going, you may not have the energy to respond to the invitation of an opened door. If you’ve had a bad run of luck, a negative thought life may lead you to think, “well what’s the point anyway?” The longer you wait for God’s invitation, doubt will replace confidence. Before a spirit of defeat sets in, the apostle Paul encourages members of the Church at Galatia to hang in there by not giving up hope.

So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:10.

The most famous passage on open doors occurs in Revelation 3:20-21. The door described here is unique, only containing a door knob/handle on one side. Since God’s side of the door is missing a handle, the only thing the Lord can do to get our attention is to knock. Thus, if you’re distracted or not paying attention, you will miss the opportunities God gives you daily to act. Therefore, open up the door as soon as God begins to knock.

by Jay Mankus

Some Days You Have It… Some Days You Don’t

Watching a sporting event can be like a television drama with unexpected twists and turns.  As this presentation enfolds, it won’t take long to determine who is playing up to their potential and who is having a rough night.  Baseball and golf events are prime examples as a hall of fame pitcher will have a night or two where it looks like there are throwing batting practice in a homerun derby.  Meanwhile, David Duval, a former British Open champion started his opening round of the 2019 British Open one under par through six holes.  Twelve holes and 20 over par later, a professional golfer shot 90 for 18 holes.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity, Proverbs 24:16.

You don’t have to play a sport to experience this strange phenomena.  As a former teacher, some days I was on a roll, coming up with amazing examples to highlight my lesson plan.  Then, out of the blue, I went through periods where I struggled to get my point across as students looked dazed and confused.  Although preparation is necessary for any type of teaching, more time spent planning doesn’t always translate into success.  While there isn’t a Bible verse that contains a direct link, all I can say to explain these occurrences is that “some days you have it and some days you don’t.”

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, Psalm 73:26.

Solomon and the Psalmist provide advice for individuals who experience failure on days where they don’t have it.  King Solomon states that the righteous keep getting back up no matter how many times they fail.  Meanwhile, the Psalmist points to trusting in God to help you overcome disappointment and failure.  King Solomon also encourages believers to learn from mistakes so that you don’t repeat epic failures from your past.  No one likes to fail, but when you do lean on the hope in relief of God’s mercy, Lamentations 3:21-23.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting for Good Things to Come

Waiting is contrary to human nature.  When you see something that you like or want, the concept of waiting seems pointless.  Yet, as I look back on my on life, there are certain things that I wasn’t ready to possess.  A lack of maturity, given something instead of earning it and forcing the issue are all contributing factors.  Perhaps, waiting is a tool God uses to prepare individuals for the future.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him, Lamentations 3:25.

When you don’t have the financial means to afford a place to live, food to eat or resources like a vehicle, even atheists may offer up prayers for their current situation to improve.  If there is no one on earth to lean on, its only natural to look up the heavens and hope for better days.  The Bible encourages souls to seek God instead of seeking alternative routes or taking short cuts.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14

David compares waiting to a spiritual exercise like working out.  Waiting requires a gut check, seeing if you have what it takes to stick it out.  This process involves concentration, focus and a willingness to finish what you start.  Those who receive what they have been waiting for tend to appreciate what they now have.  Therefore, if you want to pursue a noble cause, trust God as you wait for good things to come.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Your Personality

Charisma, magnetism and presence separates one person from the next.  These qualities are built into human beings like DNA.  Some individuals are born with charm, gravitas and hutzpa, naturally flowing out of their souls.  Other people like me rely on confidence to display their personality.  Unfortunately, when things don’t go your way, depression can cause you to forget or lose sight of who you are and the person God wants you to be.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

In their song, Back to the Start, Esterlyn writes about this topic.  While I am not sure if losing your personality is possible, you can lose your way.  When and if this occurs, the author of this song encourages anyone struggling to go back to the start.  Conviction, guilt and remorse has a way of eating at souls.  This nagging feeling can suck the life out of those who dwell on the negative.  Thus, before things get any worse, go back to the foot of the cross, where grace, mercy and forgiveness can be found.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is easier said than done.  Those who give into the desire to strive for perfection usually end up disappointed.  Meanwhile, the temptation to be in control entices individuals to place their sole trust in themselves.  This ill-fated decision blinds minds from God’s willingness to provide daily bread for those who believe.  If today’s blog finds you losing touch with your personality, go back to the start so that your confidence will be placed in the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

When God Uses Less Than Perfect Places

Due to prejudices that exist, accomplishments of certain individuals are brushed aside, ignored or neglected.  During Black History Month in America, its important to recall how God can use less than perfect places to further His will on earth.  In the Old Testament, God sends Abraham to Gerar during a time of famine.  Oddly enough, when translated into English, Gerar means to drag off roughly.  Infested with Philistines, a land of giants eager to display their dominance over others is the city that God chose as a place of refuge for the founding father of Israel.  Sometimes trusting God requires extreme faith, overlooking clear and present dangers for hidden treasures revealed in the future.

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines, Genesis 26:1.

In the early first century, certain towns had become a haven for criminals.  Nazareth developed a reputation for being a tough place to live, with rampant crime.  These reports poisoned the mind of Nathanael, doubting if any good could ever come out of this place.  Despite the evidence leading to Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, many were skeptical.  Instead of listening to rumors, Philip encourages his friend to just come and see, to find out for yourself.  Unfortunately, stereotypes stifle people from different backgrounds from really getting to know each other.  Perhaps, the enemy, the Devil uses this strategy to prevent intimate friendships from developing on earth, keeping atheists from taking a leap of faith to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip, John 1:45-46.

I have spent the majority of my life on earth living in or near Wilmington, Delaware.  I spent three years at an inner city school, Harlan Elementary, using sports as a way to connect with African Americans and Hispanics.  When I was on the basketball court at recess, I wasn’t a cracker or honkey.  I was a normal kid trying to fit in by doing what he loved.  Today, Wilmington is often in the news for the wrong reasons, ranking in the top ten for murder rates for its size and number one in teenage pregnancy.  Sure, for those teens trapped in this hopeless environment, the percentages for success isn’t high.  Yet, if God can use places like Gerar and Nazareth, then anything is possible for those who believe, Matthew 21:22.

by Jay Mankus

Folding Under Pressure

As a parent with three teenagers, I am introduced to the latest usage of sayings.  From time to time, I may question my children about their culture expressions.  For those that make sense, I add to my reputare when the timing is right.  One such term is folding, referring to someone who caves under pressure.

A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left, Ecclesiastes 10:2.

One of the common news stories of 2017 are the various reports of whistle blowers.  When administrators, co-workers or research uncovers wrong doing, many people remain quiet, afraid to get someone in trouble.  Solomon categorizes this type of behavior as foolish, folding under peer pressure to not do that which is right.

For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, 1 Peter 3:17.

Being a whistle blower takes guts.   Sometimes this may result in losing your job.  The courageous won’t care if friends are lost or relationships severed.  As Peter encourages individuals in the passage above, it’s better to suffer for doing good.  Therefore, if you find yourself in a compromising situation in the future, take this advice from the Bible so that you don’t find yourself folding under pressure.

by Jay Mankus

 

Manifestions of Thanksgiving

When I write about subjects or topics foreign to me, I try to reference experts in their fields.  Prior to becoming King of Israel, David was a harpist.  Biblical accounts reveal David was hired by King Saul.  According to the prophet Samuel, David was called into the king’s room whenever Saul was being oppressed by demonic spirits.  The sound was so pleasing to Saul’s ears that these spirits would disperse soothing the king’s soul.

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Ephesians 5:19.

Today, music has the same affect on me, serving as motivation or simply uplifting my spirits.  Music is so powerful that some teenagers can’t concentrate, think or sleep without music playing in the background.  Yet, one of Lucifer’s nicknames is the angel of song.  Thus, everyone needs to be careful of the content played.  Any sort of subtle compromise can open the door for foreign spirits to enter your life.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord, Psalm 40:3.

To nullify this surprise attack, the apostle Paul encourages individuals to make melodies in their hearts to God.  Whether this is in the form of humming, singing or whistling, this practice results in a spirit of thanksgiving.  Although some may attempt to fake this practice, replaying positive lyrics within your minds can and will alter your mood.  Those who develop a mindset for songs of worship and praise will begin to display manifestations of thanksgiving.

by Jay Mankus

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