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Hollow

When my parents moved to Delaware, I developed a sense of adventure by exploring this new state.  A creek in my backyard flowed into a large forest, protecting a tributary that led into the Delaware River.  I spent hours fishing each summer with a net.  After I brought back my catch in a bucket, I attempted to build a dam to preserve my collection.  Unfortunately, after each major storm, the dam overflowed freeing these big and colorful fish.  Nonetheless, when I was younger I woke up with excitement, eager for what would happen each day.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things, Isaiah 45:7.

As time has passed, dealing with failed dreams and goals have taken a toll on my soul.  After receiving two rejection letters from Hollywood last night, my joy for life has been replaced by anxiety, dread and disappointment.  Instead of seizing future moments of free time that I do have, depression has placed me into a state of misery.  The child like faith that I once possessed is drowning in self pity causing me to develop a half glass empty attitude.  Like a tree that looks healthy on the exterior, somewhere along the way I have become hollow inside.  Perhaps, I have become afflicted by spiritual termites, gnawing on my heart.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed, 1 Peter 2:24.

The book definition for hollow is having a hole or empty space inside.  Synonyms include empty, vacant, void and unfulfilled.  Muhammad Ali once said “age is whatever you think it is; you are as old as you think you are.”  As a professional boxer, Ali demonstrated mind over matter to stay young despite his aging body.  Yet, for many individuals, becoming hollow is now a reality, struggling to become whole again.  As senior citizens retire and enter assisted living communities, they have to maintain an activity or hobby to keep hope alive.  If not, the lonely will spend their remaining years on earth wasting away in a rocking chair, like an empty shell, hollow and unfulfilled.

by Jay Mankus

A Whopper of a Fishing Tale

After my two older sisters graduated from high school, family vacations were centered around common hobbies that I shared with my father.  My father usually took most of the month of August off, allowing time to bond with his family.  When I wasn’t off playing golf, several hours were spent in a boat combing Thompson Lake for an ideal fishing location.  The locals would tell stories of a legendary fish, hiding in the numerous caverns at the bottom of this massive lake.  Yet, except for my dad’s recording setting catch of a northern pike and some memorable battles with large bass, nothing of biblical proportions ever developed.

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said, “And we are coming with you.” So they went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. As morning was breaking, Jesus [came and] stood on the beach; however, the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish [to eat along with your bread]?” They answered, “No,” John 21:3-5.

When I entered college, my father planned a few Spring Break trips to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  A typically week consisted of 3 to 4 rounds of golf with fishing scheduled in the afternoon or early evening.  At dinner the night before of one of our outings, my father overheard someone at the bar talking about blues swimming/running up the coast.  It just so happened that we weren’t scheduled to go golfing so we followed this lead to a fishing pier on the Atlantic Ocean.  The first hour was slow, with one or two bites on the entire pier.  Then, it happened, blue fish after blue fish, like a scene of Jesus feeding the ten thousand, fish kept biting cast after cast.  When our cooler was full, we kept fishing, giving several away to strangers who missed a whooper of a real fishing tale.

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat (starboard) and you will find some.” So they cast [the net], and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great catch of fish. Then that disciple (John) whom Jesus loved (esteemed) said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer tunic (for he was stripped for work) and threw himself into the sea [and swam ashore]. But the other disciples came in the small boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish, John 21:6-8.

In the last chapter of the four gospels, John records an amazing fishing story where Jesus locates a school of 153 fish that were brought ashore.  Peter spent an entire night trusting in his own abilities, coming up empty, embarrassed to tell Jesus that he had struck out.  Instead of giving up, Peter humbled himself by following Jesus’ advice.  Successful fisherman show the resolve and will to never quit.  The thought of coming back empty wasn’t an option so Peter obeyed Jesus’ instructions.  This passage reveals an important message, when you fail, try, try again.  Those who are remain faithful to God’s calling will reap a harvest similar to a whooper of a fishing tale.

by Jay Mankus

Inside the Ropes

My wife spent several years working for a company which received VIP passes to sporting events. During a four year span, my family and I got infield passes to the Nascar Race at Dover Downs, a.k.a. the Monster Mile. These tickets gave me access to see victory lane, the pit crew area and a meet and greet with a driver, Ryan Newman. Two years later, my wife received Club House passes to Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour event in Washington D.C. During a rain delay, I talked with a caddie who was eating lunch on the patio, waiting for his player to hole a short putt for par on the 18th green. These experiences brought me inside the ropes, getting up close and personal with professional athletes and their inner circle.

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in [to the city] from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. 27 Following Him was a large crowd of the people, including women who were mourning and wailing for Him. 28 But Jesus, turning toward them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have never nursed,’ Luke 23:26-29.

The Bible has several examples of individuals gaining access inside the ropes. The passage above details a man who didn’t volunteer. Rather, Simon became a part of Jesus’ crucifixion story, sent in to carry the cross for Jesus when his strength faltered. Due to Jewish ceremonial rules, crucifixions took place outside the city gates on a hill called Golgotha. The passage above doesn’t detail how long Simon carried Jesus’ cross, but based upon the topography of Jerusalem this likely occurred while going up a steep hill. This is the first and last reference of Simon of Cyrene in the Bible, yet its a subtle way of how the Lord could use individuals who make themselves available to serve God.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and walked wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and arms, and someone else will dress you, and carry you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now He said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And after saying this, He said to him, “Follow Me [walk the same path of life that I have walked]!” – John 21:18-19

While Simon of Cyrene was inside the ropes, another Simon, a member of Jesus’ inner circle was hiding. Fearful that they might face the same fate as Jesus, all the disciples except John watched from a distance. Prior to news of Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples were hiding in a room, wondering what they were going to do now that Jesus was dead. According to John 21, Peter went back to his former trade, staying up all night fishing. A man on shore gave Peter insight about where the fish were. Initially skeptical, Peter begrudgingly agrees to follow his advice culminating in a record catch. Immediately following this, Jesus forgives Peter for his public denial. In the passage above, Jesus prophesies about Peter’s death, crucified upside down. As the Holy Spirit provides believers to access inside the ropes, God expects great things to those who follow the same path as Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Going Back to Your Former Way of Life

Following Jesus’ death and Judas’ suicide, half of the disciples began to contemplate what to do with the rest of their lives.  Apparently, Peter already made up his mind, deciding to go back to his former trade as a fishermen.  Based upon the passage below, it didn’t take much to convince several others, spending a night on the Sea of Galilee.  This short passage highlights what happens when people lose faith.  In many cases, the spiritually lost return to their old ways, to their former life before Christ.

Simon Peter, and Thomas who is called Didymus (the twin), and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, as well as [John and James] the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said, “And we are coming with you.” So they went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing, John 21:2-3.

After a failed night at sea, these six men were dejected, striking out every where they went.  Desperate for redemption, these disciples take advice from a man standing on the shore.  As soon as their nets caught a large school of fish, John put two and two together, recognizing the man on shore as Jesus in resurrected form.  In the greatest fishing story within the Bible, the disciples hauled in 153 fish.  Like grilling on your own deck, Jesus set up a charcoal fire, starting to cook these fish as they were brought to shore.

So when they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire set up and fish on it cooking, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three [of them]; and although there were so many, the net was not torn, John 21:9-11.

The term charcoal fire appears only twice in the Bible.  The first mention occurs just before Peter denies Jesus a third time, warming his hands over a charcoal fire during a cold night.  Perhaps, Jesus choses this form of fire to remind Peter of his past transgression.  During a private meeting in John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter if he loves the him three times, reminiscent of Peter’s public denial.  Between the smell of the charcoal fire and these three questions, Jesus is sending a message to Peter. “Why did you revert to your former way of life?  Look at me; I’ve risen from the dead.  Are you ready to get back into the game; eager to feed my sheep, the church?”  The next time you find yourself reverting back to your former way of life, remember this chapter of the Bible so that you remain connected to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Something’s Gotta Give

Depending upon where you reside, you might come in contact with individuals who exhibit alarming qualities.  Some people go through life pretending to possess certain beliefs, principles and virtues.  Unfortunately, these qualities are rarely demonstrated, cheap words void of action, behavior or any semblance of consistency.  To successfully confront these type of people, you have to speak in hypothetical terms.  Like a client during a session with a psychologist claiming they have a friend who has an issue, when in reality they are the person in the story.  Thus, you have to carefully approach certain situations in question with kid gloves.

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”  Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:5-7.

This is the strategy the prophet Nathan takes in the passage above.  Nathan knew King David, a former shepherd, would respond to injustice committed against one of his previous occupations.  This story spoke to David, enraged by what the awful outcome.  Like a fisherman using the perfect bait for a specific fish, David bought the hypothetical analogy hook, line and sinker.  The illustration uncovered David’s act adultery with Bathsheba, the killing of her husband and eventual marriage.  When truth reveals the darkness of sin, something’s gotta give.

But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him, John 11:10.

As more and more people grow up without attending church, this upcoming generation uses the amoral excuse, not knowing right from wrong.  The Bible uses darkness or night as imagery to explain illustrate those who attempt to avoid following or live by rules in this life.  However, you can only be amoral for so long, Romans 1:2o.  According to the apostle Paul, there are countless invisible qualities that daily reflect the presence of God.  These signs like a sunrise, sunset or rainbow shine light into the darkness of this world.  Sooner or later, God will send someone into your life to challenge, convict or inspire you to come clean by confessing previous transgressions.  The next time light magnifies a blatant flaw in your life, something’s gotta give.  When it does, choose repentance over rebellion.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Helping the Oppressed

According to a 2011 study, nine millions Americans struggle with sexual addiction.  Some of the affected are former victims of abuse, rape or were exposed to pornography early in life.  Depending upon the degree or severity of these addictions, it’s clear that someone needs to be the hands and feet of Jesus to help the oppressed.

Flee from sexual immorality.  Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body, 1 Corinthians 6:18.

While all addictions should be taken seriously, sexually immorality is different, causing individuals to sin against their own body.  Like any temptation in life, the more you indulge by giving in, the harder it becomes to stop.  Thus, anyone who loses control by engaging in sexual addiction becomes held hostage by lust, unable to resist time after time.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;  but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death, James 1:13-15.

The context of the passage above uses a fishing illustration.  A good fisherman knows where the fish are and how to lure their out of hiding.  In the same way, Satan knows your weakness and how to entice you to take the bait until you are hooked on sin.  In view of this reality, three things must change to help the oppressed.  First, any addict must purge themselves from the environment that leads to sin.  Second, you must admit and confess publicly that you have a problem.  Finally, you need to find an accountability partner to insure that a relapse does not occur.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another, Proverbs 27:17.

After graduating college, I met a friend in Ohio who was seduced by his baby sister when he was twelve.  Following a young adult Bible Study one night, we began to open up to each other about our current spiritual struggles.  In the next few weeks, deep conversations continued without any spiritual healing.  Frustrated by a lack of progress, the two of us agreed to enter into an accountability relationship, meeting weekly at a restaurant.  This wasn’t easy as topics like masturbation, pornography and sexual immorality were brought up.  However, if you want to be completely healed from any type of addiction, tough love is essential.  Therefore, if you want to help someone you know who is oppressed, make an effort to connect weekly so that the path toward healing may begin.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floundering in the Faith

When a hooked fish is pulled out of the water, self defense mechanisms kick in.  This results in flapping, pulling and tugging trying to escape.  Sometimes Christian face similar uncomfortable environments.  Certain situations force individuals to either sink or swim with many end up floundering in their faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

Comfort zones are nice to have growing up, but eventually you need to leave this place of safety to experience the real world.  Attitudes might deter you, behaviors offend you and language may shock you.  Nonetheless, faith is a series of trials and errors, taking risks, failing and getting back up.  Sitting at home, afraid to fail is like a having a flawed faith.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

When you get over the hump, people can begin to take ownership of their faith.  Growing pains develops perseverance, providing opportunities to trust in the Lord and lean not on your understanding.  Unfortunately, its easy to revert back to the past, clinging to former desires of your heart.  This crisis of faith is what Jesus’ brother refers to in the passage above.  If you hold on just long enough, God blesses those who stand the test of time by holding fast to faith in Christ.  Stop floundering and start swimming in the Spirit today!

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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