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Having a Foot on Both Sides of the Fence

The term “on the fence” became a popular expression beginning in 1828.  The original context was applied by Carl Schurz, insisting on political independence, rather than appeal to everyone by sitting on both sides of an issue.  Not much has changed in the last 2 centuries as politicians have perfected the art of straddling hot button topics with one foot on either side of an argument.  In an attempt to dodge what individuals really believe, vague comments seek to win the approval of as many voters as possible.

To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, And the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection].  The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; But arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline, Proverbs 1:6-7.

From a spiritual perspective, the fence represents biblical principles.  On one side of this divider is the Bible designed to keep evil out by instilling commands, decrees and precepts from God.  This land is based upon a higher calling, to use abilities, gifts and talents to glorify God.  The opposite side consists of assumptions, elementary theories and worldly traditions.  This region encourages self gratification, indulgence and promotion.  These areas are polar opposites unless you want to fit in like a chameleon.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ, Colossians 2:8.

The book of Proverbs is designed to shed light on this issue.  As an earthly father looking back on his life, King Solomon attempts to bestow wisdom upon one of his sons.  Like any worried parent, Solomon sees the evil within the world that gradually bewitches, deceives and poisons the minds of teenagers.  Thus, Solomon wrestles to pen the exact words to keep his children on the right side of this invisible fence.  May the fear of the Lord serve as a guiding light to ensure that your own offspring follows the narrow path detailed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Songs to Get You Through the Storms in Life

When radio was in it’s prime, I spent summer days as a teenager hanging out on my back deck with friends listening to music.  Except for all request lunch hours, you could guess which dozens songs were played on an hourly loop until the next set of singles were released.  The only thing comparable from this era that remains today is Delilah Radio.  One of the few DJ’s to survive advances in technology, Delilah’s nightly show plays songs to get it’s listeners through the storms of life.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6.

Like the various genres that exist, my tastes in music has evolved over time.  Early on, I turned to songs from Air Supply, Chicago and REO Speedwagon to get me through trying times.  Unfortunately, some of these songs made me more depressed, especially ballads by Chicago.  Thus, I began searching for something more meaningful.  Lyrics with encouraging, positive and uplifting messages.  My good friend Mindy introduced me to a new sound, inviting me to my first Christian concert.  My swim coach Ken Horne who also served as the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s school huddle leader, furthered my knowledge of this brand of wholesome music.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27

These two individual inspired a life long quest to uncover hidden gems.  This lead me to discover a huge Christian warehouse where I could listen to music before buying it.  Meanwhile, Jackie, the former owner of the Sonshine House was my guide to find my favorite songs played a new local Christian station.  When I didn’t have anyone to ask, I developed a successful system based upon album covers.  Those artists who spent a little extra money on design and graphics usually produced solid tunes.  Sure, I bought plenty of duds void of any decent songs, yet I pressed on to share my passion with others.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him., 1 Samuel 16:23.
On this journey, I came across Christians who practiced legalism, referring to any secular form of music as being inspired by the Devil.  Years later I read a quote from Wes King in an article on the difference between Christian and secular music.  King’s opinion struck a cord with me that I have adopted.  “There are two types of music, that which glorifies God and those that glorify self.”  Depending upon your preference, you need to make sure you don’t get caught up judging the opposing side.  Rather, it’s best to seek and tell others about those songs which help you overcome the storms in life.  Below is a list of artists and topics that have helped me endure various hardships in life.
Crying Out for Help: Breathe on Me by Jennifer Knapp
Coping with Suicide: For Annie by Petra
Finding Answers: Is There Anybody Out There by Secondhand Serenade
Finding New Life: The Lost Get Found (remix) by Britt Nicole
God’s Presence: Hold On by Stellar Kart
Holding on to Hope: The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz
Loneliness: He Won’t Let You Go by The Kry
Long Distance Friendships: Somewhere Somehow by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith
Overcoming Addiction: Pull by Curious Fools
Perseverance: For Those Who Wait by Firefight
Starting Over: A Father’s Love by Billy Crockett
Seeking Forgiveness: When God Ran by Benny Hester
Starting Over: Back to the Start by Esterlyn
Struggling with Integrity: Get it Right by Silverline
Struggling with Problems in Life: Therapy by Reliant K
The Fullness of God: The Love of Christ by Wes King
Overcoming Failure: Perfect Love by David & the Giants
Overcoming Self-Esteem Issue: Mirror by Barlow Girl
When You’re About to Quit: Six Candles by FM Static
When You’re Losing Faith: Faith Like That by Jonah 33
by Jay Mankus

The Sons of Thunder

Nick names provide a window into a person’s soul.  Although some may be based upon an embarrassing moment, humorous personality or sarcasm, nicknames serve as terms of endearment, sobriquet or a tag that sticks.  If you allow yourself to become vulnerable in a social setting, sooner or later you too will receive one.

In the first century, two young fisherman were given an unusual nickname in Mark 3:17, known as the sons of thunder.  Growing up on their father’s boat, James and John likely passed on fishing stories to the disciples.  The origin of this label has 3 possible explanations.  First, since fisherman like to go out in the rain, perhaps whenever the boys went along with dad, it began to thunder.  On the other hand, thunder can also represent someone with a bad temper, wearing emotions on your sleeves.  Finally, since voices echo on water, each might have possessed a loud voice, bouncing off the water like thunder.  Whatever the source, people are watching to see who you really are.

Most of the nicknames I accrued over time occurred in either high school or college.  Blue Jay, Mank the Tank and Praying Mantis are just a few of the ones that come to mind.  While reflecting on this topic, I began to wonder, how will people remember me?  Was I a hypocrite, jerk or pain in the butt?  I’m sure some of my former students have strong opinions either way.  Though people will continue to dole out nicknames, make sure the one’s you earn glorify God.

Feel free to share your favorite nick name and the context in which it was coined.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Consolation Prize

Finishing second stinks, especially when are so close you can taste victory, only to have it slip out of your hands.  Losing can be just as painful if you are a finalist for an open position only to receive a dear John letter or worse yet, the silence of not receiving a courtesy call.  Professional athletes who fail to win a title often say there is only one champion, everyone else are losers.  Unfortunately, history fails to remember those who almost succeeded or nearly won, unless you enjoy seeing runner up banners.

Like game shows that give out consolation prizes for contestants failing to win anything, God devotes a portion of scripture to such a scenario.  According to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the apostle Paul recognized that only one runner in each event of the Corinthian Games, a pre – Olympic competition,  went home with a crown, first century trophy.  God wants each participant in life to treat each day like a new race, giving each one their best.  Therefore, whether you win or lose, you can sleep good at night knowing your actions glorified God on that day.

The Psalmist also comments on consolation prizes.  Psalm 94:18-19 refers to someone who has had a rough day, slipping and about to fall.  Held up by love, God provides consolation to this individual in the form of joy within their soul.  Thus, if you are having a bad day like me, may be you can find solace in this passage, claiming it for yourself as a personal prayer!  Keep your head up, shake off defeat and get back up for round 2, with the God who avenges wrong on your side, Psalm 94:1.

by Jay Mankus

Breaking Bad

A friend recently turned me onto the drama, Breaking Bad.  Debuting in 2008, this storyline features Walter White, a high school teacher who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  Struggling to provide for his family, Walter turns to a former student, Jesse Pinkman to avoid leaving a legacy of debt.  Using his knowledge of chemistry, Mr. White starts up a methamphetamine ring to create a slush fund of savings.

Breaking bad is nothing new, a growing trend since the first act of disobedience  in Genesis 3:6.  An old testament prophet uses similar terminology in Malachi 2:10-12, referring to the broken faith of Jews, highlighted by their acts of unfaithfulness.  Even one of the holiest men who ever lived, the apostle Paul, confesses his own shortcomings in Romans 7:15, 17-18.

Northwest General Hospital

If this wasn’t enough, the United States of America is in their 5th decade of breaking bad.  Kicking God out of public education during the 1960’s opened the door for abortion on demand in the 70’s.  The establishment of cable television in the 1980’s brought immorality, pornography and sexual innuendos into many American homes.  With moral antennas lowered, the 1990’s brought brief nudity and cursing to public television through the hit series NYPD Blue.  Edgy commercials, custom malfunctions and reality shows continued to push the envelope in the 2000’s.

As my 3 children grew up in this shewed culture, I hate to see what the next 50 years will bring their kids.  If Animal Planet’s Tanked 2013 season premiere is any indication, I’m horrified.  Without any warning, in a show often geared for kids, the 2 main characters Brett and Wayde used the word jackass several times, doing a special tank for one of the main stars in the movie series.  As individuals, media outlets and nations slide down this slippery slope, there is only one who hasn’t lowered their standards, Hebrews 4:15-16.  Go against the flow, look up to Jesus and make a conscious decision to glorify God, 1 Peter 2:11-12, so that breaking bad doesn’t enter your mind!

by Jay Mankus

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