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Victories Don’t Come By Accident

Depending upon the nature of a competition, bystanders may suggest that someone is lucky, getting good breaks along the way.  Eyewitnesses to a sporting event might throw out conspiracy theories, blame biased officials or poor conditions to explain an upset or unlikely champion.  However, in the context of prayer, victory does not come by accident.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up, James 4:8-10.

Even those whom drew near to the Lord, walking closely with God during their life experienced moments of doubt.  Job struggled to comprehend the hardships he endured.  Elijah wanted to die after receiving death threat from Queen Jezebel.  Despite being a man after God’s own heart, David wrote against God’s silence in response to his prayers.  Nonetheless, when a persistent prayer enters God’s presence, victory is not far behind.

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? – Luke 18:7-8

At the end of the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus brings up the question of faith.  As the day of Christ’s return approaches, cynicism within this world increases.  The more that bad things happen to relatively good people, human minds wrestle to comprehend God’s logic.  Thus, good results are attributed to coincidence, luck and the yin and yang effect.  However, for those who believe in the power of prayer, victories are not a fluke.  Rather, blessings are a direct correlation to obedience, prayer and submitting to God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Who’s the New Guy?

Despite efforts to create equality in all avenues of life, not much has changed.  While there will always be exceptions to the rule, breaking into new circles, finding a job or getting a promotion is still based upon who you know, not what you know.  Trying to advance to new heights takes an incredible talent, luck or supernatural intervention.  However, every so often someone new arrives on the scene causing the masses to ask, “who’s the new guy?”

The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law, Mark 1:22.

Early in the first century, Jesus had the odds stacked against him.  His birthplace of Bethlehem and residence in Nazareth was a negative, inspiring doubts from even potential disciples, “what good can come from Nazareth?”  Nonetheless, Jesus continued to follow God’s will, gathering a team of twelve disciples before introducing himself to the world.  This wait ended in Mark 1:21-28.  Without an Ivy League Degree or Seminary training, Jesus taught with an authority never seen before or since.  Following a Sabbath in Capernaum, the legend of Jesus was born.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him,” Mark 1:27.

The religious leaders of the day were baffled by the insight Jesus possessed.  The words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 highlight the fact that God’s wisdom is a mystery, hidden from the intelligent in this world.  Subsequently, the only training requirement necessary to tap into this spiritual realm is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.  Regardless of your age, background and knowledge, the Spirit will provide the answers you need in life.  Yet, an invisible force, the sinful nature stands in your way of accessing fruits of the Spirit.  Since with God all things are possible, perhaps people will become attractive to your own relationship with God by wondering, “who’s the new guy or girl?”

by Jay Mankus

Rich in Love

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8

Blessed, fortunate and wealthy are terms associated with being rich.  For some this status is achieved by the luck of the draw, born into it.  Others acquire possessions through years of discipline, hard work and perseverance.  Meanwhile, a few receive this by surprise, like a will as illustrated by Jason, the main character in the Ultimate Gift.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:3

However, one aspect of wealth that is often overlooked is becoming rich in love.  Unfortunately, several obstacles stand in the way: bitterness, impatience and unforgiveness to name a few.  These spiritual barriers prevent souls from passing on the love of Jesus.  Thus, poverty is not only a financial state, it’s also a condition of a wounded heart, a casualty of a fallen world.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. – 1 Corinthians 13:6

The presence of love can be a difference maker.  If genuine, love can transform the angry, pissed off and unlovable.   Perhaps this explains the words of the apostle Paul known as the love chapter is regularly quoted in weddings.  Attributed as one of three theological virtues, love is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, available to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord.  May the words of today’s blog inspire you to become rich in love.

by Jay Mankus

Where Does My Help Come From?

The term apologetics in the context of theology (the science of God) is derived from expressing what you believe and why.  This process takes time to reflect, meditate and verbalize the rationale behind the beliefs you hold dear.  Thus, one of the areas a person may contemplate over the course of their life is this: where does my help come from?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? – Psalm 121:1

Those who claim to be rugged individuals, consisting of discipline, hard work and persistence, often give the credit of their success to how they were raised, trial and error and earning most of what they have received in life.  Meanwhile, victims are on the opposite side of the spectrum, learning to pass the blame for their failures on everyone or anything possible, creating an excuse for each loss, setback and unreached dream.  As for those somewhere in between, the divine, luck the family you are born into usually help to explain why help arrived or never came to the rescue.

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; Psalm 121:2-3.

Looking back on my own personal experiences, there have been too many occasions in the past to write off as mere coincidences.  During my sophomore year of high school, I first sensed the hand of God leading me.  Although I have endured periods where I felt abandoned by God, help eventually was provided by angels, conversations, letters, unusual encounters and whispers from the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, as for me and my household, our help comes from the Lord!

by Jay Mankus

More Than Just A Curse Word

As a resident of the greater Philadelphia area, I understand the passion of Philly fans.  Although the main stream media continues to accuse them of throwing snow balls at Santa Claus, most season ticket holders wear their emotions on their sleeves.  If you add alcohol to a bad call or break, thoughts become verbalized.  Thus, if you attend an Eagles game on a Sunday, God’s name may be used in a slightly different context than church.  Phrases such as “Jesus Christ, God dam it and Holy bleep” are reactions to a sporting event beyond their control.

Outside of the realm of sports, there is another topic of conversation.  If someone begins to experience a string of bad luck, loses in life or turmoil, God is usually the first to be blamed.  The Old Testament nature of God leads individuals to believe God is punishing them for something done in their past.  Yet, when the tide turns toward blessings, praise and rewards for hard work, there is a tendency for adults to take the credit.  Either forgetting or overshadowing God’s role, glory is often stolen by selfish souls.

Regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, the majority will agree that today’s language is merely a byproduct of a fallen generation.  Society has accepted the idea that words need to be spoken, even if people are hurt.  Twitter feeds this notion, giving disgruntled followers a platform to voice their opinion.  Nonetheless, God is more than a curse word or punch line for a comedian.  Rather, Hebrews 4:12-13 reveals that everything will be uncovered, brought to the light, as everyone will have to give an account of what they’ve done and the words they have spoken.

by Jay Mankus

Face Time

Mottos like “Go for the Gusto, Just Do It and Seize the Day” have redefined this generation’s thought process.  Instead of an act like you’ve been there and staying humble mindset, people now crave face time, searching for 15 seconds of fame.  The athlete is striving to make Sports Center, the student Jeopardy and those blessed with an amazing personality hope to get their shot on the next hit reality television show.  Just in case, everyone has their cell phone ready, waiting to hear a call or see a text saying, “you’re on television!”

For me, it was just dumb luck, hanging out at a friend’s 21st birthday in a luxury box at Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium watching a double headers between the Indians and Yankees.  In the early 90’s, both teams were awful, scoring a total of 4 runs combined during a doubleheader.  After an amazing meal, I watched the end of the first game.  Bored by a 1-0 game, I began talking to the girl next to me who brought a bottom of bubbles with her.  When I got up to get another drink, I actually knocked her bottle over, spilling most of what was left.

Feeling bad, I grabbed an extra plastic handle, to make as many bubbles as possible before the liquid evaporated.  Five minutes later, right field was filled with a stream of bubbles.  Cameramen, apparently also bored with the game, located the source of these bubbles, shining their cameras on both of us for about 30 seconds or so.  Once I saw the video monitor to my left, I stood up, hamming up this moment in time, raising my hands up as if I had scored a touchdown.  Before cell phones were common, I received several phone calls at home later that night from friends across the country asking, “we you at an Indians game?”  To my surprise, my accident led to 15 seconds of face time as our picture made Fox Sports, Headline Sports and Sports Center.

As a coach and parent, youth clearly imitate their sports heroes.  While some of the plays I have seen at the youth and high school level are impressive, celebrations during a game are unnecessary, distracting from the concept of sportsmanship.  I’m not saying applause is bad, but showing off and taunting is out of control.  When the Tim Duncan’s of the sports world are overshadowed by flashy players who hog face time, young people need to follow the quiet players who lead by example.  Although those who play games with the right attitude may not receive the praise others get, God is watching and will honor those who do the right thing, 1 Corinthians 9:25.

by Jay Mankus

A Life Perspective of Matthew 6:33

Looking back at the core principles my parents taught me, I learned 3 things lived out by my father: discipline, hard work and honoring the Sabbath.  As a son of an immigrant, my dad persevered as he learned English, eventually becoming a Ivy League student before entering the military.  His service to this country in the Army reinforced these attributes while his Roman Catholic background instilled in him a wholehearted effort to attend church wherever he was and whatever else he was doing.

Although the jealous may give circumstance or luck the credit, its clear that his successful career in sales, nice house at the beach and extended health is directly related to Matthew 6:33.  When an individual begins to seek God first by worshiping the Lord Sunday, starting each day in prayer or studying the Bible, these acts get God’s attention.  If these selfless acts continue with the right motives, the promise of daily bread and other blessings follow.  Sure, maybe my dad didn’t earn as much as he desired or reached the position of his dreams, but I see the fruits of his labor today.

While far from being perfect, I am trying to pass the baton to my own children so that they too may live a life of discipline, hard work and keeping God’s day holy.  Though the hypocrite in me may steer my kids off course from time to time, I can’t help but cling to Jesus promise within Matthew 6:33.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteous and all these things (life, food, drink, clothes and health) will be given to you as well.”  Before 2014 speeds up too fast that you can’t catch up, take some time to slow down, Psalm 46:10, so that the hope of Matthew 6:33 may find you and your family.

by Jay Mankus

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