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Mind Games

As a teenage boy, I wasn’t charismatic or eloquent. I struggled to maintain a B average and entered high school at 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. While competing in sports was my first love, attractive females began to get my attention. Unfortunately, I was so small and quiet, that I was invisible when other guys were around. Subsequently, dating was something that I longed for, but was unable find someone that liked me more than a friend.

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

What made matters worse was a severe speech impediment. When I opened my mouth, I never knew if I was going to embarrass myself in class or actually spit something out. I could visualize what I wanted to say, but my mind would play tricks on me. The longer this condition persisted, I began to develop an ungodly belief that I would never be able to share what was in my heart and on my mind.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

After entering into a personal relationship with Jesus as a sophomore in high school, I was introduced to the promises of the Bible. When I learned about my own internal struggles in Galatians 5:16-18, the miracles of Jesus gave me hope. My prayers began to focus on healing my stuttering so that this mind game would end. Twenty years after my condition was first diagnosed, the power of the Holy Spirit finally broke through. While the Devil still tries to remind me of my past, the Bible has steadied my faith as this spiritual mind game continues today.

by Jay Mankus

What a Special Friend Can Do for You

Before the Coronavirus spread to the United States in the March of 2000, my daughter Lydia was thinking about ending her Pole Vaulting career. The 2020 Winter Track Season was blah; not progressing at pole vaulting or meeting any new friends. As a Field Event specialist, not part of any running events, it’s hard to experience the sense of being part of a team. This all changed when Lydia met Bree at the 2020 Winter Track State Meet.

The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

Instead of dreading track, this instant friendship has transformed my daughter’s perspective of this sport. Bree has been like a big sister, introducing Lydia to everyone in the pole vaulting community. In her first two seasons, Lydia enjoyed pole vaulting, but she could live without it. Now that my daughter has been welcomed by the local pole vaulting community, a new desire to improve was conceived. When a special friend enters your life, these individuals take you to new heights, often pushing you closer toward self actualization.

No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends, John 15:13.

In the Old Testament, King Solomon distinguishes the difference between having several acquaintances and a special friend. Genuine friends stick around when everyone else tends to leave during times of hardship. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples refers to the sacrifices that friends make with the greatest being laying down their own life. We all need special friends like Bree. Looking back, if it wasn’t for Bree, Lydia probably would not have broken her school record which she now holds by herself at 9’6″.

by Jay Mankus

When Inspiration Means More than It’s Original Source

Throughout the course of your life, there will be ample individuals who will let you down. Some of these people may be a former mentor, highly regarded colleague or a member of your own family. Nonetheless, human nature will result in the downfall of many friends, leaders and quality members of society. If you have ever received advice, encouragement or wisdom from someone, at that moment in time the inspiration means more than the source.

Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My name receives and accepts and welcomes Me, Matthew 18:4-5.

For example, 17 years ago this month, former Christian singer Ray Boltz announced to his family that he was gay. Apparently, these feelings had troubled his soul prior to Boltz coming out of the closest. To most of his fans, this was a total shock, coming out of the blue. When this announcement first went public, some Christians bookstores responded by banning his music. While I understand the point they were trying to make, Boltz’s music remains inspirational today despite his reputation being ruined as a biblical musician.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in and acknowledge and cleave to Me to stumble and sin [that is, who entices him or hinders him in right conduct or thought], it would be better (more expedient and profitable or advantageous) for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the seam Matthew 18:6.

You don’t have to be in a rock group to fall from God’s grace. There are enough distractions in this world to quickly become entangled by sin, ensnared by addiction or become vulnerable to adopting a bad habit. However, Jesus does draw a line when your actions, behaviors or words lead a little child astray. This is where anyone who is hanging by thread must be cautious to not go beyond the point of no return. Yet, despite all of our imperfections, God still provides shining moments when someone is inspired by something you’ve done or said. This is why inspiration means more than it’s original source.

by Jay Mankus

Stopping to Take a Deep Breathe

The idiom “taking a deep breathe” refers to pausing for a moment to calm and compose yourself. If you work in a stressful environment like me, taking a personal day or vacation is essential to prevent emotional or physical burnout from occurring. Removing yourself from deadlines, hectic circumstances and pressure for a while is good for your own mental health.

“Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth,” Psalm 46:10.

One of the Psalms of the Bible is entitled God the Refuge His people. This chapter is dedicated to the chief musician. The sons of Korah wrote this song, Psalm 46, set to soprano voices. The end of this piece contains one of the most famous and quoted stanzas of the Bible. When disappointment, hardships or trials begin to stress you out, the Psalmist urges believers to slow down by being still before God.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower], Psalm 46:11.

No matter how many friends or relationships you may have, there will always be at least one moment in time where no one will know what to say to you. When comfort can not be found by human means, the Lord is always available. Thus, when you reach a point of despair, stop to take a deep breathe. As you do, pour out your heart to God in prayer so that Selah is achieved, a peace that surpasses all understanding.

by Jay Mankus

Focusing on the Darkness Within

According to a 2015 article in Time Magazine, the top ten television shows of all time include Friends, Breaking Bad, the X-Files, Game of Thrones, Seinfeld, the Sopranos, Saturday Night Live, I Love Lucy, Mad Men and the Simpsons.  While five of these programs were comedies, the others contain adult content, graphic images and violence.  Based upon the series chosen on this list, American audiences are searching for something to laugh at and tune into nteresting dramas.  In order to grab someone’s attention, producers focus on the darkness within souls to spice up weekly episodes.

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so if your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive], your whole body will be full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. 23 But if your eye is bad [spiritually blind], your whole body will be full of darkness [devoid of God’s precepts]. So if the [very] light inside you [your inner self, your heart, your conscience] is darkness, how great and terrible is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

When tragedy strikes in the form of mass shootings, blame immediately goes to guns and gun owners.  After the facts reveal the true motives of any massacre, some of these events may be blamed on terrorism, others on bullying and some remain unexplained.  Whatever the inspiration may have been, rarely do experts, media panels or psychologists point the finger in the direction of Hollywood.  From time to time, mature video games that desensitize the frailty of life receive a portion of the blame.  Yet, unless a shooter survives their day of reckoning, no one will ever know for certain why school shootings happen.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 1:5-7.

The word light appears 272 times in the Bible.  Meanwhile, darkness is mentioned 162 times.  Two of Jesus’ disciples highlight the positive aspects and negative concerns of these terms.  According to Matthew, darkness is like a poison that corrupts hearts internally before external actions magnify evil from within.  John takes a different approach, comparing light to a truth detector.  Anyone who pretends to be a Christian while maintaining a relationship with darkness is a fool.  The ultimate goal is to expose any darkness within you by daily reading and studying the Bible.  Although Christians can’t control what Hollywood or others do, the decisions that you make will determine your destiny.  May the light of Christ guide you through the darkness.

by Jay Mankus

Lifting Up Friends to You

There will be moments in life where you will feel helpless.  Even if you are near a loved one, sometimes fate is out of your hands.  Whether you are talking about an accident, heart attack or illness, the only thing you can do is pray.  Perhaps if more people were proactive, lifting up friends to God daily, you wouldn’t have to face as many emergencies in life that some are forced to endure.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

King Solomon eludes to the power of friendship in the Old Testament.  Whenever you find an individual who shares a common interest, hobby or passion, an instant bond often develops.  If nourished, friends can quickly become like close members of the family.  According to Solomon, there is a tendency to accumulate as many friends as possible, but those who seek quality relationships over quantity will be rewarded.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13.

One day Jesus uses a gardening analogy during a conversation with his disciples.  Just as a gardener cares for, prunes and nourishes plants under his or her care, a good friend does the same thing.  Likely referring to his impending death on a cross, Jesus brings up the greatest act a friend can demonstrate.  Sacrificing, serving or laying down your own wants and needs for a friend reveals love.  While this commitment may not be possible for everyone, the least you can do lift up friends in prayer to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Accusations Without Reason

Over the last 23 years, more than 2000 inmates have been exonerated after being falsely accused of a crime.  Unfortunately, these individuals spent more than 10,000 years combined before the truth set them free.  This time away from family, friends and void of freedom can never be returned.  Yet, this statistic serves as a remainder to never make accusations without reason.

Do not accuse anyone for no reason— when they have done you no harm, Proverbs 3:30.

Exaggerations, lies and untruths are nothing new.  Perhaps, Solomon came to the conclusion that the sinful nature serves as a defense mechanism.  Whenever accusations, blame or indictments come your way, human nature’s first reply is usually “I didn’t do it!”  Nonetheless, DNA tests, lie detectors and modern scientific devices have been created to prevent further injustices from occurring.

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers, Proverbs 21:15.

Following their exoneration of rape charges, Duke Lacrosse players David Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty have joined the Innocence Project.  This organization files appeals on behalf of individuals wrongfully punished for crimes they never committed.  When an innocent poor person can’t afford a good defense team, this group and others like it fight for the little guy.  May this blog inspire you to defend and stand up for those falsely accused in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

When Love Passes You By

On earth, time can serve as an enemy, separating you from the people you care about most.  Like a high speed coaster, the twists and turn in life can distract you from connecting with friends, fellowship or mentors.  Thus, when the weekend rolls around, I often find myself on the outside looking in as love passes me by.

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes, James 4:14.

While driving home from work, I heard the song In a Moment by Halfway Past Forever.  Don’t waste your time searching for the you tube or lyrics as I don’t think it exists.   Anyway, the chorus talks about having love pass you by.  If you allow the world to dictate the pace at which you live your life then you too are in danger of letting love pass you by.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, 2 Peter 3:8.

As my oldest son experiences his final year of high school with home coming festivities this weekend, I feel compelled to slow down, take a look around and reach out to those whom I hold dear.  Don’t let yourself fade into a time warp, wishing you could relive a moment in time.  Rather, seize each day that you have with those you care for so you assure yourself that love won’t pass you by.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Last Rites

No one except God knows what will be your last day, meal or words.  In the case of Jesus, I guess you can say He was born to die, causing a wide range of emotions.  As the Passion Week approached, interactions with family, friends and disciples would be his last, causing the praises of Hosanna on Palm Sunday to be replaced with “Crucify Him.”

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. – Luke 19:10

Today, when doctor’s sense the end is near, Catholics call a priest to perform last rites.  Otherwise known as the sacraments of anointing the sick, if death is expected, Penance and Communion is also offered to prepare one’s soul for the afterlife.  Once complete, family members gather around to savor the remaining moments of life together.  The closest thing that I’ve ever experienced was the day my grandfather died, holding his hand one last time before his last breath.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” John 11:25.

While hanging from a cross on Good Friday, there were only two more things left on God’s agenda.  First, Jesus gave hope to one of two criminals hanging from an adjacent cross, offering Him the promise of paradise for his repentant words.  Second, as the oldest son, Jesus wanted to make sure Mary was in good hands, commanding John of Zebedee to watch after his mother.  Though no last rites where necessary for Jesus, a perfect man, Hebrews 4:14-16, Jesus gave up His spirit with one final comment, “it is finished!”

by Jay Mankus

The Curse of the Worst

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be hoodlums.  Well, that’s not exactly how the song goes, but all parents hope their children choose their friends wisely.  Others pray over their kids, asking the Lord to bless each with godly influences.  Unfortunately, many youth fall prey to the trap, “just because I hang around them doesn’t mean I will act like them.”

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33

This concept is nothing new as the Psalmist describes the subtle metamorphosis an individual goes through in Psalm 1:1.

1) Young people choose to walk with a group of people, searching for acceptance in a friend, gang or posse.

2) Over time, youth begin to share similar beliefs, gradually standing for the same issues and things.

3) Finally, before they realize it, evil rubs off as teenagers join in the same behavior of their crew.

Subsequently, the curse of the worst reaches even godly souls, causing attitudes, hearts and words to go down hill.

Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.- Psalm 135:18

Even good intentions can’t escape the spiritual principle known as “you reap what you sow,” Galatians 6:7.  The only way to break the grips of this curse is through a spiritual infusion of the Word, Romans 10:17.  A little dose won’t do.  Rather, wayward souls need to soak their hearts and minds in the Bible, Romans 12:1-2.  Developing this spiritual act of worship will reverse the curse of the worst, setting the lost free from the bondage of sin.  May the prayers of parents revive their children to walk in the ways of the Lord, 1 John 2:6.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

 

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