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It’s Only A Car

When I was a child, I amassed a sizable collection of Hot Wheels.  Birthday and Christmas gifts brought a challenge course, race tracks and a special case to organize all my vehicles.  Before Atari and Cable television existed, I spent many rainy days racing cars inside.  Since most parents couldn’t afford a new car, Hot Wheels were a marketing tool to introduce children to sports cars.

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, Colossians 3:10.

Although many of my friends became obsessed with automobiles in my teenage years, my dad’s background as an immigrant to this country kept me grounded.  This upbringing ingrained in me an ability to be thankful for what I had.  However, I did have a wealthy neighbor whose parents always brought their son the latest and greatest electronic devices.  When these gifts were flaunted in front of me, I was jealous of his families wealth.  Yet, you can’t buy love as toys are just an earthly possessions.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:14-15.

During my last winter break in college, I got into an argument with my parents.  Like a typical adolescent, I stormed out of the house to blow off some steam.  On the way to my friend Dave’s house, I got into a fender bender, hitting the car in front of me.  This situation could of have been worse, but the man that I hit didn’t care about fixing his old car.  Despite receiving a ticket for reckless driving, the words of this man struck a nerve in my heart by saying, “it’s only a car.”

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him, Colossians 3:17.

A few years later I was on my way to work in Chicago when a flock of geese starting walking across the road.  As I slowed down, the lady behind wasn’t paying attention, skidding and ramming into my back bumper.  Since my vehicle was approaching the 200,000 mile mark, I remembered the words of the good Samaritan from Delaware.  Paying it forward, I passed on the same message to this young woman, “don’t worry about it, it’s only a car.”

by Jay Mankus

 

A Split Decision

In the context of boxing, split decisions occur when judges view a contest from opposing points of view.  Unlike unanimous decisions where there is a clear victor, contestants may sway judges by a great comeback or regaining control of a fight.  While modern technology and social media use round by round scorecards today, no one knows what the judges think until the final results are announced at the end of each bout.

 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand, Matthew 12:25.

Throughout the course of each day, arguments tend to result in split decisions depending upon your worldview.  These disagreements can create divisive debates that divide rather than unite.  After President Trump’s comments last Friday in Alabama about National Football players kneeling during the national anthem, professional athletes, owners and most of the media created a firestorm.  After these attacks went viral, citizens from the heartland, Nascar and veterans chimed in to support their president.  A week later, a split decision still exists, with convincing arguments on both sides.

 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges, Matthew 12:27.

During the first century, another controversy began to brew.  The Pharisees felt like Jesus was making a power play, introducing a new concept to Judaism.  This teaching was heresy in the eyes of religious leaders.  Jealous of Jesus’ ability to heal, a rumor spread about Jesus working behind the scenes with the Devil to fool everyone.  Using logic, Jesus began to poke holes in their theory, responding with the two passages above.  These words remind me of today’s current debate over standing or kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.  In the end, if America doesn’t come to a point where people agree to disagree, the end will be in sight.  Therefore, the next time you attempt to play the role of judge and jury, take a step back and let God be the ultimate judge.

by Jay Mankus

 

When the Sins of Your Past Return

There is a powerful scene within the 2000 film the Patriot which references the concept of generational sins.  Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a Colonel of a militia within the Continental Army.  Martin’s son Gabriel who serves under his father requests to know what happened in the French and Indian War that made him a hero.  Initially refusing to comment, Martin unveils his act of revenge during the battle at Fort Wilderness.  Following his confession, Martin shares about praying to God for forgiveness so that the sins of his past won’t return.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, Exodus 20:5.

For some reason, Exodus 20:5 is omitted from the ten commandments despite being right in the center of this passage.  During a seminar I attended in college I discovered this omission.  Perhaps, there was an attempt to condense these commands into short bullet points.  Yet, generational sins are one of the greatest barriers to faith in this age.  Recently, scientists have discovered a genetic link passed on to children making them more susceptible to common addictions of their parents.

‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation,’ Numbers 14:18.

This trait is highlighted throughout the Old Testament as you study family trees.  Abraham passed on lying to Isaac who was deceived by his son Jacob with his blessing.  David committed adultery which led to the birth of Solomon whom felt it necessary to acquire 700 wives and 300 concubines.  If you look close enough, there are probably bad habits within your children that you once demonstrated or still struggle with.  Instead of playing the blame game, maybe you should follow in the footsteps of Benjamin Martin by pleading with God to avoid the sins of your past from returning.

by Jay Mankus

Trampled

Every year panic triggers some sort of horrific event.  Whether its at a concert, escaping a fire or fleeing a terrorist attack, fear often leads to individuals to trample upon anyone who gets in the way.  In 2008, a Walmart employee from Long Island, New York died after wild shoppers on Black Friday began running to claim limited specials once the doors were opened.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd, Acts 17:5.

Unfortunately, there is more than one way to be trampled.  Anyone who uses social media can be verbally run over following a post that offends and upsets followers.  Several teenagers have committed suicide in the past 5 years shortly after being bullied, embarrassed or harassed by their peers.  While some of the content posted was self-inflicted, a spirit of gossip is encouraging many to pile on with one sarcastic comment after the other.

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends, Proverbs 16:28.

I hope that some day soon the citizens of America will come to their senses.  Sure, I like a good laugh, but it appears the line between right and wrong has shrunk.  Subsequently, innocent people are being trampled and discarded without any remorse or sorrow.  Trashing anyone who disagrees with your worldview is not the answer.  Instead, may God have mercy on us, extend grace to the hurting and save this divided nation from further trampling.

by Jay Mankus

 

God’s Role for Hardship

Back in the days when the rod of correction was a useful parenting tool and not child abuse, I remember what my parents said a few times.  I don’t remember the exact words but it was something like, “this is going to hurt me more than you” just before the spanking began.  In the years that followed, I was a quick learner, only needing a couple of paddles to straight me out.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it, Hebrews 12:11.

As an adult, things aren’t as clear for me and it was for my parents.  More analytical now, I wonder how God uses events like hardships as a form of discipline.  Are there certain things we deserve for past transgressions?  Is the current storm one faces some sort of a generational curse brought upon by ancestors?  Until a friend brought these theological terms to my attention nearly a decade ago, I didn’t have a clear understanding of hardship.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, Exodus 20:5.

Sometimes I feel like life is some sort of spiritual boot camp.  Pushed to the brink at times, just when I am about to quit, Jesus gives me the strength to carry on.  However, there are still plenty of unanswered questions, things that I may need to wait until heaven to comprehend.  Yet, for now, I know there is a reason for the trials I endure.  I just hope that I learn quickly like my days as a child so I don’t have to spend more time suffering.  Through the ups and downs in life, may the Lord give you wisdom to persevere and overcome.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiveness for Having Such a Thought

If you have ever taught, then you’ve heard some pretty shocking things come out of children.  During my first day of teaching 7th Grade, I was surprised by the conversation within my homeroom.  Apparently, several of my students had a television in their own room, able to watch a plethora of cable movies.  Thus, as a new teacher in a Christian school, I couldn’t believe what was coming out of the mouths of these youth.

Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart, Acts 8:22.

Peter had a similar encounter with an adult during the first century.  Perhaps Simon was a spoiled child growing up, getting whatever he wanted.  Thus, this privileged mindset led Simon to request something he would later regret.  Jealous of the apostle’s healing power, Simon’s thought process led him to attempt to bribe Peter for access to the Holy Spirit.  Floored by this gesture, Peter went off, demanding an immediate apology from Simon.

Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me,” Acts 8:24.

Sometimes a lack of discipline causes individuals to think out loud.  Subsequently, when a careless word is spoken, repentance is necessary.  Since no one is perfect, its essential to admit when you’re wrong.  Thus, whether you are Simon or a participant of a verbal blunder, don’t forget to ask forgiveness for such a thought as this.  The sooner you confess your wrong doings, the quicker you can experience the fullness of God’s grace.

by Jay Mankus

What Do You Do… When You’re All Tapped Out

The term tapped out refers to reaching a point of emptiness, unable to go any farther.  A mother breast feeding her child may hit a wall, unable to produce any more milk.  Despite an infant’s cries, mom is done.  A keg on a college campus is bound to dry up, tapped out from over use.  However, one of the most common examples today relates to a parent or student, burning the candle at both ends until they crash and burn from sheer exhaustion.

1. Acknowledge your condition – Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray, James 5:13a.

In the prime of my life, I worked 90 hours a week as a youth pastor.  On my only day off, I led a Bible Study at McDonald’s in the morning, drove to Cincinnati to meet a friend (a 90 minute drive one way) and came back by dinner time to attend an adult Bible Study which required extensive reading.  Sure, this sounds like a lot, but I was young.  After my wealthy church rejected a plea for a homeless guy, I let him stay on my couch at my apartment for six months.  To justify my raise after one year, my responsibilities tripled to include Confirmation, Coaching High School Basketball and Helping out with Young Life.

2. Find someone to confide in – If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up, Ecclesiastes 4:10.

Sometime after the first six months, I became comfortably numb, running on fumes.  Since I didn’t have anyone to intervene, I reached an emotional breaking point, unable to give anymore.  Thus, 14 months after starting my dream job, what I was born to do, I was forced to take a step back.  So… what do you do when you’re all tapped out?  Well, I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail with a mentor from high school, a former coach and Fellowship of Christian’s Athletes director.  Looking back now, most of this weekend was a blur, yet I needed to retreat before I could go any further.

3. Find a quiet place to meet with God – Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed, Mark 1:35.

Before he became king of Israel, David had his own issues.  The king, who just happened to be his best friend’s dad was trying to kill him, jealous of his fame from defeating Goliath.  A man without a country, David fled for a cave, encouraged by 400 men, soldiers who had became friends.  Despite being anointed as king by Samuel, David had to wait and wait and wait some more.  Just as the mountains served as a retreat for me, this cave was like an oasis, able to shoot the breeze, wondering where to go and what to do next.  Fellowship in these close quarters likely developed friendships for a lifetime.

4. Publicly confess your sins – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed, James 5:16a.

To provide a woman’s perspective, I can’t help but mention the woman described in Matthew 9.  If you think you’ve had a tough life, just listen to her sob story.  Suffering from a bleeding disorder, she saw every specialist possible until she ran out of money.  Broke and still unhealed, she was probably forced to beg like the homeless.  Yet, fearful of contracting what she had, this woman was forced beyond the cities gates to live among the outcasts in society.  Financially tapped, healing appeared unattainable until a man named Jesus worked the earth.

5. Find rest for your soul – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, ” Matthew 11:28.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Relationship between Emotions and Worship

Mood swings are common, swayed by victories or defeat throughout life.  Yet, the pulse of emotions can be directly tied to your degree of worship.  Huh?  Are you sure about that?  Well, after examining the lives of Cain and Abel, God honors those whose heart is in the right place.  However, anyone who holds back, offering a lame attempt at worship will not receive what they desire.

And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.  And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. – Genesis 4:4-5

Despite one’s shortcomings in life, God can see right through the fake, phony and superficial.  While the world places an emphasis on appearance, height or stature, the Lord looks at the heart of mankind, 1 Samuel 16:7.  Known as the well spring of life, Proverbs 4:23, this organ regulates the human body.  Thus, the greater an individual pours out their soul in worship, the more likely God will be inclined to accept and bless their gifts.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Those who sense God’s favor and or presence tend to control their emotions.  Meanwhile, anyone who feels rejected by God may turn sour, opening the door for anger to influence their behavior.  Depressed and jealous, Cain sought revenge instead of repentance.  Losing control of his emotions, Cain did the unthinkable, killing his baby brother.  Before you do something you might regret, take your spiritual pulse by evaluating your commitment to worship.  God willing, one day you will develop a Matthew 6:33 mentality, by placing your trust in an invisible God who continues to provide daily bread.

by Jay Mankus

 

Living in First Class for a Day

As a son of an immigrant to this country, I understand the concept of hard work.  Although I never saw my dad much as a kid, I knew he was trying to provide a better life for our family.  Subsequently, I didn’t become obsessed with fashion or style in my teenage years.  Rather, I learned to appreciate what I had despite being jealous at times by peers who flashed their wealth.

However, I haven’t been excluded from certain luxuries in life.  Every so often, I have been privileged to be a guest of first class.  When the opportunity presents itself, I’ve been blessed by attending the Stanley Cups Finals, Monday Night Football games and double header of a Cleveland Indians in a Luxury Suite.  While each experience has special memories, nothing compares to this past weekend’s NASCAR Race at the Monster Mile.

My wife’s company was given Infield Passes for Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover Downs.  These tickets included a Meet and Greet with Ryan Newman, tour of the garage area and access to the Quick and Loans Hospitality RV all day long.  With my kids tagging alone, my family was spoiled, living in first class for a day.  This event gives me a new appreciation for NASCAR as well as everything that goes on behind the scenes at a race.  Whenever you have a special invite in the future, seize the moment and thank God for the special chances you get to live in first class for a day.

by Jay Mankus

Why is God Taking so… Long?

In this day and age, waiting is like praying for patience, nobody wants to do it.  The essence of waiting involves one of two options: either stay where you are or delay your plans until something happens.  However, if you’re not in a safe place common sense will urge you to move.  Meanwhile, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might overlook the obvious sign God has provided.

In Psalm 22:1, David’s prayer mirrors Jesus’ words in Matthew 27:46.  David went from the out house as a lonely shepherd, living in country fields under the stars to the penthouse, anointed as the next king of Israel in 1 Samuel 16:13.  However, the catch was David had to wait until Saul’s death until this dream became a reality.  A whirl wind took David to the king’s palace as a servant to the king, playing his harp, to a battle field, defeating Goliath and to a cave fleeing the wrath a jealous king, literally running for his life.  This is the context in which David felt forsaken and forgotten, unable to wait any longer.

Meanwhile, Jesus spent 6 hours hanging from a cross before his death.  Without any pain killers, Jesus endured excruciating  pain as 3 modern railroad sized spikes went through each hand and both ankles.  If this wasn’t bad enough, insults and mocking followed, carrying on for hours.  Grasping for air to breath, having a conversation to share his final words was exhausting.  Thus, God the Father went silent, allowing His Son to finish the task that Jesus was sent to earth to complete, Luke 19:10.  Not able to wait any longer, Jesus gave up his spirit, succumbing to the natural forces of life.

Perhaps, Hebrews 12:4 was placed into the pages of the Bible for impatient people on earth.  Despite the trials you encounter in life, God reminds mankind that at least you didn’t have to shed your blood on a cross.  With this subtle reminder, may God fill you with the spirit of Isaiah 40:28-31.  If you find yourself tired, weary and lacking understanding, may the wings of eagles lift you up as wait on God.  In your weakness of impatience, God is strong, carrying you periodically when you can’t tarry on, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  Although I don’t know why God is taking so long to reveal His plan to me, I am clinging to His promise of a brighter future, Jeremiah 29:11.

by Jay Mankus

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