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Troubled Waters

Bridge Over Trouble Water spent six weeks as the number one song in America, sweeping the Grammy Awards in 1971.  The inspiration behind this Simon and Garfunkel classic are connected to Elvis Presley.  A member of the Swam Silvertones, Reverend Jeter became good friends with Paul Simon providing biblical imagery.  Meanwhile, a song from the Everly Brothers album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” influenced the lyrics which formed Bridge Over Trouble Water.

When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and they got into a boat and started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It was already dark, and Jesus had still not come [back] to them. 18 The sea was getting rough and rising high because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed three or four miles [and were near the center of the sea], they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat; and they were [terribly] frightened, John 6:16-19.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have a physical bridge to cross when storms stir up troubled waters.  Some people get caught by an unexpected squall, holding on for dear life until this weather system dissipates.  Meanwhile, those on shore try to survive hurricane force winds that create a tidal surge, causing the ocean to overtake land.  Those residents who endured Hurricane Florence and Michael now understand the concept of troubled waters.

Peter replied to Him, “Lord, if it is [really] You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:28-30

On two different occasions, Jesus was with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee.  During a gale which engulfed their boat, Jesus was asleep, likely testing these men to see how they would respond.  After waking up Jesus, these men acted like little boys who expected to die at sea.  The other encounter reveals Jesus walking on water, approaching the disciples boat at night.  Initially, fog made Jesus look like a ghost until Peter volunteered to join Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work], Hebrews 12:1-2.

From a spiritual point of view, Jesus serves as an invisible bridge.  The only way to access this structure is by faith.  As soon as Peter got out of his boat, he actually walked on water.  Yet, the moment Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink.  When individuals focus their attention on the storms surrounding them, most sink like Peter.  However, when you fix your eyes on Jesus, faith offers you a bridge to walk over troubled waters.

by Jay Mankus

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Is It Really That Simple?

In the past year, a couple of comedians from Hollywood have referred to individuals who pray to God as being mentally ill.  While children have a tendency to have make believe friends, adults who talk out loud to an invisible God seems strange.  Although non-believers may refer to this sight as a sign of mental illness, this spiritual practice is an act of faith.  One day Jesus’ disciples were floundering as novice prayers, asking the son of God for help, to teach them how to pray effectively.

“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you,” Luke 11:9.

In the beginning of Luke chapter 11, Jesus gives his disciples an outline for praying known as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father.  This is similar to modern day acronyms like ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication or PRAY: petition God, repent, adoration for God and your own needs.  After receiving this basic format, perhaps one of the disciples pondered, is it really that simple?  In the passage above and below Jesus responds with the attitude, desire and will necessary to develop a powerful prayer life.

For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened, Luke 11:10.

First, don’t be afraid to ask God.  Since the Lord is all knowing, just verbalize any desire on your heart and thought on your mind.  However, when you do pray, be diligent, eager to hear and see the power of prayer at work in your life.  If any prayer is denied, in limbo or unclear, demonstrate persistence like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.  Jesus doesn’t want passive prayers.  Rather, keep on knocking, wrestling with God in prayer as you seek answers to prayer in the context of God’s will.  For those who seek a deeper relationship with God, may you come to a point when you can honestly say, prayer really is this simple.

by Jay Mankus

Obedience to God Brings Opposition

Depending upon the church you attend or attended, pastors focus on different aspects of Christianity.  Some emphasize altar calls, asking convicted hearts to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  Others challenge believers to live out their faith seven days a week, being a light to the world outside of church.  Unfortunately, few discuss a painful reality, obedience to God brings opposition from the world.

“If the world hates you [and it does], know that it has hated Me before it hated you,” John 15:18.

In the past two months, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been verbally crucified by the media daily.  While sexual assault accusations have received most of the headlines, you have to read between the lines understand the motivation behind these attacks.  First, Kavanaugh is a devout Catholic who isn’t afraid to express his faith.  Second, Kavanaugh will likely defend and protect pro-life cases.  Thus, an obedience to support life in the past has alarmed abortion activists to attack this man of God.

19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love [you as] its own and would treat you with affection. But you are not of the world [you no longer belong to it], but I have chosen you out of the world. And because of this the world hates you, John 15:19.

No one wants to be hated.  Human nature creates a desire within to be embraced and loved.  Yet, one day Jesus revealed a side of Christianity to his disciples that is hard to grasp.  Obedience to God brings opposition?  Really?  Well, if your life is a living example of Christ, shining light into darkness, this will expose flaws within the lives of others.  Thus, this will lead to resentment and in some cases hatred.  Therefore, if you want a complete perspective of what to expect as a Christian living in 2018, obedience to God brings opposition from the world.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Not Over Until You Quit

If you have ever coached, played or watched a little league baseball game, you know that no lead in safe.  My oldest son James played in the 11-12 year old championship game two years in a row.  The first game went into extra innings as each team went ahead, lost the lead only to tie the game in their last at bats.  Running out of pitchers, James came on in relief, pitching the 7th and 8th.  Needing one out to close out the game, an error let in the tying run.  In the bottom of the 8th, James was left on the mound while the opposing team celebrated.  One year later, the championship game went into the 9th, but this time his team walked off champions.  I hope these 2 games helped teach my son that it’s not over until you quit.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” Matthew 21:22.

During my sophomore year of college, my ultimate frisbee team reached the finals.  From a talent stand point, my team didn’t deserve to win based upon merit.  Down the entire game, I threw a Hail Mary pass as time was about to expire.  Laying on my back, I watched as my throw sailed over two teammates in the end zone.  However, a gust of wind miraculously keep the frisbee in the air long enough for our fastest player to make a game tying catch.  In overtime, a defensive stop gave us a chance to take our first lead of the game.  While making a catch in the end zone, a 6 foot 3 inch 200 pound defender landed on my arm.  Somehow by the grace of God, I held on seal the victory.  This experience taught me to never give up.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

After the crucifixion of Jesus on a cross, one disciple committed suicide, others went into hiding and a few returned to their former trades.  On the eve of Easter Sunday, Jesus’ mother,  Mary Magdalene and other women went to ceremonially prepare Jesus’ body.  Perhaps, some of them went to this cave, tomb hoping for a miracle.  Upon their arrival, an angel of the Lord delivered incredible news.  If someone can rise from the dead, then nothing is impossible.  Thus, these godly women learned a valuable life lesson, its not over until you quit.  Therefore, despite whatever trials you may endure, don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

by Jay Mankus

The Road to Mental Toughness

As an athlete, no one wants to be labeled soft.  This term can refer to being physically weak, emotionally unstable or immature mentality.  During my early years as a baseball pitcher, cross country runner and golfer, I let bad breaks rattle me.  When I was squeezed by an umpire, tired due to heat and experience a sudden wind gust blowing my ball into a hazard, I lost it.  Depending upon how I felt, I would cry, complain or become enraged by failure.  These setbacks exposed my lack of mental toughness, prompting me to start heading down this path to see what I was missing.

But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, 2 Timothy 3:16.

As a Christian, a trainer from Tentmakers Youth Ministry brought this weakness to my attention during a leadership training seminar.  To condense this observation, an advisor demonstrated how my emotions were influencing everyone around me.  When I was on fire for God, I lifted up everyone in the room that I walked into.  Unfortunately, whenever I was depressed, I didn’t want anyone to be happy, sucking the life out of a room.  This spiritual immaturity caused me to leave my youth ministry position in Columbus, Indiana after 16 months.  If I was mentally tough, I might still be in youth ministry.  Yet, I burned myself out after working 7 days a week for a year.

And how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness]. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; 2 Timothy 3:15-16.

December 4th will mark my 34th anniversary of publicly proclaiming my faith in Christ.  The main lesson I have learned on the road to mental toughness is that the Bible plays a crucial role.  The apostle Paul details in the passage above the usefulness of God’s Word.  While there will always be areas of my life where I regress, the Bible has become a source of guidance, inspiration and wisdom.  The more I read, study and meditate upon God’s precepts, the stronger my mind becomes.  As I attempt to grow closer to the Lord daily, my prayers include a desire for my children to develop and display mental toughness.  May this blog encourage you to evaluate your own mind so that you too will strive to pursue the road toward mental toughness.

by Jay Mankus

Dueling Forces

Whether you accept this premise or not, there are dueling forces that exist on earth.  Previous illustrations have depicted an angel with wings whispering into one ear, with a demon urging individuals to do the exact opposite.  Former atheist C.S. Lewis referred to this invisible tug of war as dualism.  This theological term believes there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war.

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts], Galatians 5:16.

The apostle Paul applies spiritual elements to dualism in the passage above, revealing the Holy Spirit as the positive force and sinful nature as a series of negative impulses.  The presence of this spiritual battles make appreciating the little things in life difficult.  As soon as your heart is pierced by conviction, minds are bombarded by disparaging thoughts to diminish that which you should be thankful for.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 about taking your thoughts captive.

For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do, Galatians 5:17.

One of Satan’s objectives is to turn joyful Christians into cynical souls, void of any excitement, hope or life.  When cold water is poured out over a blazing fire, it does little to extinguish the flames.  However, as steady rains persist like Tropical Storm Florence, drenching tired and weary believers with a deluge of trials, it doesn’t take long for even the strong to become comfortably numb.  In view of this harsh reality, prepare your heart, soul and mind for the powers of darkness, Ephesians 6:12.  Submit to God, resist the Devil and let your faith become rooted in Christ so that future storms won’t hinder your ability to appreciate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Passport

Twenty five ago I met the criteria to participate in the Canadian PGA Tour Qualifying School at Morningstar International on Vancouver Island.  Upon receiving my letter of acceptance, I set out to obtain my first passport.  Since I had roughly five months to make my travel plans, I wanted to make sure everything was in place before May.  Fortunately, I picked up my passport a week before I flew out to the west coast.

Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise], 2 Corinthians 5:5.

Trying to get a passport today is much more complicated, taking a minimum of six weeks, but usually two to three months.  First, you must gather the proper documentation before you apply in person or online.  Documents include a U.S. birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship or  Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Before a passport can be processed, you must present a photo ID, usually a drivers license, and go to an approved location for a passport photo to be taken.  The final portion involves your travel plans within a country or multiple countries.

So then, being always filled with good courage and confident hope, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises], 2 Corinthians 5:6-7.

The Bible refers to a spiritual passport.  According to the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit is received by all those who believe and profess that Jesus is Lord.  This invisible passport is like a seal from God, a promise that one day you will be welcomed into the gates of heaven.  However, while you are here on earth, God wants Christians to walk by faith.  When your sight deceives you, place your hope and trust in the promises within the Bible.  Whatever you are going through, don’t forget to apply for your spiritual passport, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

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