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What Are You Waiting For?

While attending a leadership trade school six months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I was challenged to expand my comfort zone.  Following eight hours in a classroom setting, nightly assignments forced me to go to local malls to develop my conversational skills by talking to complete strangers.  One of the more meaningful projects was creating a 25 year mission statement.  This involved career, ministry and personal goals that I wanted to accomplish before turning fifty.  As I approach the half century mark next month, I feel like time has passed me by.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

After getting married in 1995, my wife Leanne and I were active participants in youth ministry at a church in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  A mutual goal was to volunteer at a local church when our three children were teenagers.  Although I taught high school for a decade, my oldest son was in eighth grade my final year teaching.  For one reason or another, I find myself waiting for the perfect time which has now come and gone.  Subsequently, my oldest so James is married, Daniel is a senior in high school and Lydia a sophomore.  This week I heard God’s still small voice whisper, “what are you waiting for?”

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that,” James 4:13-15.

My daughter attended a youth group last year which she enjoyed.  This church provides a youth oriented church service on Friday night, but busy Spring and Summer schedules has kept our family from investing time there.  Just as the Holy Spirit convicted me earlier in the week, common sense is now pleading me with “what are you still waiting for?”  Perhaps, future blogs will share a proactive approach to God’s calling.  Yet, for now all I can say is that I have failed to invest my time wisely.  Therefore, it’s time to act now before our home becomes an empty nest.

by Jay Mankus

Distortions of Truth

During my senior year of college, I became president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the University of Delaware.  With any type of leadership position, there are numerous responsibilities that you must face and fulfill.  My first week on campus was spent sitting at a table in different venues, meeting and greeting incoming freshmen as well as transfers who wanted to know what our group had to offer.  During an outdoor event later that week, I was positioned next to a Make Cannabis Legal table.  A reporter for our college newspaper thought this was ironic, Christians and pot together, stopping by to ask me a few questions.  When the article was posted, I realized that I was set up as what I said was taken out of context.  This was my first encounter with a distortion of truth.

As it is written and forever remains written, There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God, Romans 3:10-11.

Five years later I attended a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Sixty five thousand men filled this stadium eager to hear Colorado University football coach Bill McCartney.  One of my co-workers at Four Winds Golf Club, who wasn’t a believer, was amazed by this speech.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the headlines which led Chicago’s nightly news.  Roughly six million people lived in Chicago at the time of this event who heard reporters interview women who opposed the Promise Keepers movement.  These protestors labeled participants as anti-woman, bigots and sexists.  The coverage suggested that several hundred women marched outside the stadium, standing in unison against Promise Keepers.  However, the press failed to tell their six millions viewers that there were only ten protestors on Friday night and two on Saturday.  Nonetheless, the media had a specific narrative that they wanted to communicate and the only way to execute this plan was through a distortion of truth.

All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one,” Romans 3:12.

In the last few months, there hasn’t been a day without some sort of news story on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process.  From week to week, there have been twists and turns creating a media feeding frenzy.  The initial stage began by trying to collect and uncover all of Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions on previous court cases and decisions.  After an extensive examination, Senate hearings followed with days of questioning.  Despite allegations, criticism and doubt, Brett Kavanaugh passed the second phase with relative ease.  On the verge of a senate confirmation vote for this Supreme Court nominee, Democrats have unleashed a desperate attempt to derail this process by smearing this man with a series a sexual assault allegations going back to Brett’s high school days.  A letter leaked to the press resulted in another hearing with an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.  While compelling, this didn’t satisfy every senator, leading to a seventh FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.  If you watch cable news, ninety percent of the coverage on Kavanaugh has been negative with an odd talking point, “guilty until proven innocent.”  Perhaps, a distortion of the truth?

This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:22-23.

This current Supreme Court nomination process reminds me of a previous election in the state of Washington.  When the candidate who was suppose to win lost, there was a series of recounts done.  Each time the individual who lost picked up a number of votes.  By the third recount, the democrat was victorious with the republican departing quietly into the night.  If this current standard, going back to your days in high school is applied to future judges or politicians, there will be no one left to run for these offices.  No matter how hard you try to do the right thing daily, sooner or later you will fall, giving into the temptation on earth.  Human beings are imperfect people, full of distortions that deviate from truth.  According to the apostle Paul, the only way to overcome mankind’s flawed human nature is by coming to faith in Christ.  As you reflect upon current events in the United States, may you pause to consider what’s reality important, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus


Listen, Obey and Yield

During the last half century, I have been fortunate enough to attend, listen and participate in numerous inspirational events.  I went to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during a Billy Graham Crusade to hear NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White speak.  Shortly after getting married, I heard former Colorado football coach Bill McCarthy address a crowd of sixty five thousand men during a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field.  I spent a year under the spiritual leadership of Alistair Begg, the voice of Truth for Life ministries at the Chapel in Solon, Ohio.  Finally, I spent another year soaking in the knowledge of John Ortberg via Community Services at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois.

But even as he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were [greatly] afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, My Chosen One; listen and obey and yield to Him!” – Luke 9:34-35

Many of these speeches invigorated my soul, eager to live out my faith.  Yet, there is one message that stands alone in the Bible.  In the passage above, there were only four people present.  Beside Jesus, James, John and Peter were on a mountain that was engulfed by clouds.  This formation is similar to a heavy fog, limiting your visibility to a couple of feet.  Within this cloud, the voice of God the Father spoke.  To make sure there isn’t any doubt, God identifies Jesus as his own son.  Believing that brevity is clarity, God the Father shares seven words.  The command is simply: listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found there alone. And they kept silent, and told no one at that time any of the things which they had seen [concerning the divine manifestation], Luke 9:36.

Listening means to be attentive, concentrate, hang on and keep your ears open.  Obeying is the act of accepting, bowing, carrying out, deferring to and submitting to that which is being recommended.  Yield refers to bear, contribute, fetch, gather, provide and realize the plan.  In this context, the calling that God has designed for your life.  According to the passage above, theses three disciples were in awe, reflecting upon what had just happened.  None of these men revealed this event until after Jesus rose from the dead.  Although there were only three eye witnesses, God’s message to modern believers hasn’t changed.  Listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Going a Little Fargo Than Before

In the last 48 hours, there have been two school shootings.  The first was thwarted by a retired police officer on campus who immediately took out the shooter.  This heroic story from Dixon, Illinois was buried by most newspapers and omitted by the majority of cable news outlets on Thursday.  Meanwhile, today’s massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas has left ten dead.  If recent campus shootings with fatalities tend to dominate national news, then expect this coverage in Texas to go a little further than the Parkland, Florida frenzy from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence, Psalm 11:5.

Twenty two years ago, the film Fargo debuted in theaters.  At the beginning of this movie, there is a disclaimer stating this is based upon a true story, changing the names to protect the victims and survivors.  However, a recent article entitled Fargo: True Story or Work of Fiction calls into question the brutal nature of these crimes and murders.  In 2014, FX created a television series based upon Fargo starring Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks.  Just from my initial observations, the violence in this series devalues life and as well promoting individuals to seek revenge.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah 53:5.

Instead of solely blaming guns on these recent school shootings, perhaps its time to expand the suspect list to include movies, music and video games that exhibit violence.  Several of these tragic events are premeditated, inspired by years of bullying.  Others are demonically influenced after evil thoughts are sown and conceived into human minds.  According to recent investigations into murders by MS 13 gang members, Satanic worship is also to blame.  I don’t have all the answers to these growing number of school shootings, but I pray that the media doesn’t use survivors as pawns to repeal the second amendment.  May God’s angels surround the families and parents who will go asleep tonight without their children.

by Jay Mankus



I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

They Found the Secret

Dr. V. Raymond Edman was the president of Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois.  Before his death, God put a burden on Dr. V’s heart to study the abundant life, mentioned by Jesus in John 10:10.  This quest led to the creation of a series of short biographies from godly men and women throughout history.  In the end, this compellation was comprised into the book, They Found the Secret.

From my own personal experiences, I had to go on missionary trips in America to uncover the secret of abundant life.  Whether it was inner city Philadelphia with City Team Ministries, South Carolina and Tennessee through Group Ministries or taking youth groups to North Carolina and Kentucky as a youth pastor, the only living examples of this joy for life were found in the most unlikely places.  I have met widows, homeless and dirt poor individuals who were grateful for every thing they had, the clothes on their back and a place to lay their heads.  Although I thought God wanted me to come and repair the homes, trailers and shacks of the needy, the Holy Spirit led me on these trips to restore my own life.

Maybe this is why Jesus includes Matthew 6:19-24 in his sermon on the mount.  Unfortunately, money complicates things, often changing people for the worse.  Like the words of Revelation 2:4, addressed to the Ephesians, money can tempt Christians to lose their first love, exchanging money for an intimate relationship with God.  Personally, I don’t have an answer for the abundant life, but I do know where it lies.  Somewhere between Leviticus 26:1-4, Psalm 119:9-11 and John 10, this abundant life is accessible by grace through faith in Christ, Ephesians 2:1-10.  Like the apostle Paul’s words nearly 2000 years ago, “press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” Philippians 3:12.  May you and I each discover and experience this abundant life some day soon!

by Jay Mankus

A Wedding Day Prayer

Seventeen years ago today, I vowed to marry Leanne Marie Wagner.  Since Leanne comes from a big family, our wedding was planned around her families every other year Thanksgiving family reunion in Illinois.  Despite both of us serving in youth ministry leading up to our engagement, Pastor Shawk would not agree to marry us unless we partook in 9 months of pre-marriage counseling.  St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois didn’t mess around, taking marriage seriously.

Prior to our wedding day, I was only in charge of one thing, the music.  While our DJ from Indiana had most of his equipment stolen a few weeks before the reception, God provided enough music to last the entire reception.  To make his life easier, I created a mix of all the songs for special occasions.  At the wedding, our good friend Matt Shepherdson, worship leader for Axis, a Gen X ministry of Willow Creek Community Church at the time sang one of 2 solos, Perfect Love by David and the Giants.  The other solo was sung by my best friend in youth ministry at that time, Phil McMurry singing All the Darkness by Steve Wiggins, the lead singer for Big Tent Revival.  Since Leanne and I both enjoy Christmas music, we decided to conclude our wedding with Joy to the World.

Before the wedding, God impressed upon me a wedding day prayer that was printed on the inside of our wedding bulletin.  Since I had already seen some divorces from friends from high school, I wanted to make sure that our vows lasted forever.  Below is this prayer.

When the high emotions of our wedding are over and the thrill of the honeymoon is gone, all that remains in the will of two people in the Lord and hard work.  With time, each of our imperfections will rise to the surface, showing themselves daily.  There will be failed expectations, broken promises and disappointment in our hearts.  Even when two people are in love, marriage can fail.  However, there is a perfect love, a love which never fails nor disappoints.  This love is found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As Leanne and I begin to recognize our own imperfections, we must look to Jesus for help.  We can try to change, yet only Jesus can transform our imperfections.  Therefore, we rely on Christ for our source of strength.  For His LOVE is perfecting our weaknesses so that we may learn how to love one another the way God intended for us in the Bible.  This is perfect love!

by Jay Mankus

p.s. – I want to thank Leanne for enduring with me all these years.  Both of us have experienced hardships over the past few years, hanging on to the Lord through these storms!  As Steven Curtis Chapman sings, I will go there with go!  For always and forever!

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