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Tag Archives: heart

You Only Get One Life

As the 2018 National Basketball Association kicked off their season in Boston this week, I am reminded of a tragedy from the past.  Len Bias was the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, selected by the Boston Celtics.  This former all American who played at the University of Maryland was primed for greatness.  Yet, during a post draft party, Len decided to try Cocaine, apparently for the first time.  This fateful decision induced cardiac arrhythmia resulting in Bias’ death two days later.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

I was about to start my senior year of high school when I first heard of Len Bias’ death.  Growing up ninety minutes from College Park, Maryland, this news was devastating.  To make matters worse, I lost one of my best friends to cancer during my sophomore year of college.  When my grand father passed away, it was tough to deal with, but at least he lived a full life.  However, when a young person, who hasn’t entered the prime of their life is taken away by death, this reality is hard to accept.  Unfortunately, human beings don’t have nine lives like cats who seem to escape death on numerous occasions.

But if your heart turns away and you will not hear and obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you will certainly perish. You will not live long in the land which you cross the Jordan to enter and possess, Deuteronomy 30:17-18.

During his farewell address as leader of Israel, Moses pours out his heart to his followers.  In the middle of his speech, Moses urges the crowd to be careful to make wise decisions.  According to the passage above, each choice you make on earth leads to one of two destinations: life or death.  Since you only get one life to live, choose life.  This isn’t a video game where you get to hit a reset button to receive a new life.  Rather, actions have consequences, especially when poor choices are made.  Therefore, may the words of Moses speak to your heart as you seek to make the most of the life God has given you.

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

It’s Time To Get Involved

During the first century, thousands of people followed Jesus.  Like a grass roots movement, many were eager to become a disciple.  Unfortunately, Jesus already chose 12 men to become his disciples and another 72 to serve as a ministry team to prepare towns for upcoming visits.  Thus, when a man healed by Jesus in the passages below wanted to get involved, Jesus sends him to the next logical place, his home town.

Jesus did not let him [come], but [instead] He said to him, “Go home to your family and tell them all the great things that the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you,” Mark 5:19.

In my first decade as a parent, I was too consumed by other interest outside of my home.  During these initial years, I played in a competitive men’s softball league, coached high school golf and spent a majority of my free time grading papers.  One night I was able to watch my son play baseball.  In his first at bat, James hit a homerun.  During his second at bat, he doubled, but was left on base.  His team lost 2-1.  When I saw he was batting 10th, I asked a neighbor who knew James’ coach.  I found out that James was punished for using an expensive bat without asking.  This event inspired me to finally get involved, spending the next 5 years coaching youth baseball.

So he [obeyed and] went away and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten Hellenistic cities] all the great things that Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished, Mark 5:20.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that you need to become great in your home before you can have an impact on your community.  As I have heard several pastors proclaim, “happy wife, happy life,” getting involved starts in your home.  When your family begins to notice a transformation within your own life, you can move outside into your community.  This is easier for a demon possessed man who is now is his right mind.  Yet, as the Holy Spirit begins to move within your heart, mind and soul, God can use you if you’re willing to get involved.

by Jay Mankus

A Lesson about the Human Mind

The word mind appears 95 times in the original King James Bible translation.  Many of these references appear in the New Testament.  The Greek word noús is the God-given capacity of each person to think.  This is where the concept of reason is derived, the mental capacity to exercise reflective thinking.  Thus, as an individual reads the Bible for the first time, the idea of an invisible supernatural force may be difficult to grasp.

But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters], 1 Corinthians 2:14.

The apostle Paul addresses this struggle in the passage above.  Today, agnostics, atheists and scientists  reject initial thoughts of the Spirit of God.  To intellects, taught to expand their mind with natural and worldly ideology, biblical teachings seem absurd, foolish and illogical.  While debating, discussing and sharing the good news about Jesus to educated men, Paul came to the conclusion that many were incapable of understanding spiritual truths.  These stubborn souls are blinded by minds steeped in age old traditions.

But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature]. 16 For who has known the mind and purposes of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes], 1 Corinthians 2:15-16.

In May of 2008, Hollywood released Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Crystal Skull.  This film is based upon gnosis, the knowledge of spiritual mysteries.  After a pursuit for an ancient crystal skull, the climax reveals that knowledge belongs to aliens, higher beings beyond earth.  You don’t have to see this movie to be informed.  Rather, the passage above unlocks the secret to this life.  The Holy Ghost, an invisible counselor guides those who place their faith and trust in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.  When you let God in, the Holy Spirit opens your mind to spiritual truths once hidden by a sinful nature.  May this blog inspire you to develop a Christ like mind.

by Jay Mankus

The X Factor of Growth

The term X factor refers to a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.  In the context of a sporting event, the X factor could be a replacement, substitute or specific play that changes the momentum of a game.  This may be an unlikely hero or a star who seizes the moment by coming up clutch.  In the 1996 film Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays Roy McAvoy, a driving range golf professional who qualifies for the United States Open.  This reckless golfer takes unnecessary chances, following the motto, “each shot is a defining moment.  Either you define the moment or the moment defines you.”

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to]eating meals together and to prayers. 43 A sense of awe was felt by everyone, and many wonders and signs (attesting miracles) were taking place through the apostles, Acts 2:42-43.

During the first century, few churches had a physical building.  Some met in local synagogues, others met outdoors on the outskirts of town, but most gathered in homes.  According to Luke, this decision was the X factor in promoting spiritual growth.  As people from different ethnic backgrounds began to meet for fellowship, prayer and spiritual discussions, a special bond formed.  This spiritual climate set the stage for a revival, the first Great Awakening in history.  Outsiders were curious, hungry for what these followers of Christ demonstrated and possessed.

And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Savior] were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. 45 And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need, Acts 2:44-45.

Based upon the passage above, poverty was eliminated by this generous group of believers.  Whenever a member of the church had an emergency, problem or need, wealthy members sold their possessions to cover any cost or expense.  Ultimately, the X factor for any congregation is when people become the hands and feet of Christ.  This isn’t done out of a desire to be recognized.  Rather, genuine love keeps no record of wrongs, giving out of the goodness of your heart.  May the Holy Spirit inspire you to be the X factor in your community.

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

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