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Born to Win

C.S. Lewis defines progress as the process of arriving in his book Mere Christianity. Meanwhile, winning is gaining victory in a contest or competition. If you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably keeping score of your wins and losses daily. However, if life is more like a marathon than a sprint, pacing yourself and participating in strict training is essential for success. If you believe in Romans 8:28-29, then you are born to win.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? – Jeremiah 12:5

If this is your destiny, it’s easy to become overconfident along the way. This complacency often results in poor training habits, becoming out of shape spiritually. The analogy above is designed to illustrate what you can handle and what you can’t. If you aren’t able to be competitive in a race against other men, you won’t have a shot at progressing to the next level. When you’re born to win, just showing up each day won’t get it done.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; Hebrews 12:5.

Integrity is doing what’s right when nobody is looking. Therefore, being born to win requires added responsibility. The context of the passage above begins with an image of dead Christians, looking down from heaven, cheering you on as you compete in the race of life. The author of Hebrews encourages readers to keep your eyes on the prize, fixated on the cross of Christ. Just like keeping your head up while running maintains your momentum, keeping your eyes on heaven will secure victory in the end, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Obstacles that Block the Power of the Holy Spirit from Shining Through You

The phrase “old self” appears 91 times in the Bible. Meanwhile, taking off the old self occurs 22 times in the New Testament. The “old self” refers to your unregenerate life prior to entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Colossians 3:5-9. In a letter to the Church at Colosse, the apostle Paul calls members of this congregation to put to death their old self. Experiencing the abundant life in Christ, John 10:10, is not possible until previous attitudes, behaviors, and mindsets have been transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, 20 Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Galatians 5:19-20.

Unfortunately, the desires of the flesh are opposed to the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:17. These earthly desires create a spiritual barrier that blocks, hinders, and stunts spiritual growth. Similar to Jesus’ analogy of light and darkness in Matthew 6:19-23, if the darkness of your past still lurks and resides within you, how great is this darkness? Revelation 3:15-16 refers to these type of Christians as lukewarm, cooled by an unwillingness to let go of your old self. Symptoms of this condition are listed above and below. If any of these character flaws rise to the surface, it’s time to put to death your old self.

Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Galatians 5:21.

According to the apostle Paul, the only way to break free from addiction, bad habits, and earthly cravings is by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Until you yield complete control over to God, sinful desires will continue to ravage your soul. A new life in Christ isn’t meant to be discarded after your love for Jesus fades away. Rather, the author of Hebrews refers to this spiritual journey as a marathon, Hebrews 12:1-3, with members from heaven watching and urging you to keep going. Like any race, you may have to stop and walk for a while, but with the Holy Spirit at your back, change is possible if you believe and persevere.

by Jay Mankus

Have You Been Knocked Down??? Perhaps it’s Time to Get Up

Living in South Jersey at the time, I remember my parents taking me to see Rocky I shortly after it debuted in theaters in November of 1976. Despite seeing this film 49 years ago, I still recall how engaged the audience was with Rocky’s character played by Sylvester Stallone. Beside the raucous cheering, total strangers bonded as the fight scene continued until the 15th and final round. Men and women began to cry out, “get up Rocky; get up!” Have you been knocked down in 2020? If so, perhaps it’s time to get up.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

While the Coronavirus has resulted in a living nightmare for countless Americans, the worst year for me was 2012. Before I could enjoying celebrating the start of a new year, I received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing me that my teaching position of 10 years would be terminated at the end of the month. This call was like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of my sails. Beside flying to California for Leanne’s uncle’s 80th birthday party, the next 18 months was filled with disappointment, heartbreak and unemployment.

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:2-3.

At the time, I never thought this trial would end until I landed on my feet at Amazon. If 2020 has left you in the dark, clueless to where to go or what to do, you’re not alone. According to the author of Hebrews, Christians who have passed away are up in heaven cheering you on. Life is compared to a marathon like spectators at the Olympics encouraging tired runners to keep on going until the race is finished. Whatever your current circumstances maybe, don’t let pain keep you down. Rather, get up while there is still time to finish what God has prepared for you to do, Philippians 1:6.

by Jay Mankus

Get Your Mind Right with Belief

Doubt is a natural instinct which serves as a protective predisposition within human minds. Excessive inclinations to always doubt is a byproduct of success being rare and failure a normal occurrence. This hindrance to one’s life prevents individuals from reaching the level and potential God desires for you. If you find yourself reading today stifled by doubt, it’s time get your mind right with belief.

For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit’s] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free, 2 Timothy 4:6.

The context of the passage above is Paul’s final letter before his death. While in prison awaiting his death sentence, Paul writes to encourage a teenage pastor. When an expected outcome ends up falling apart in front of your eyes, maintaining a positive outlook on life is difficult. Thus, Paul reminds readers today that achieving life’s goals requires perseverance. Whenever you suffer your next defeat, carry on with a new found belief.

I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

Like an athlete who leaves everything out on the field, Christians are called to fight to the very end. Instead of trying to sprint a marathon before burning yourself out, you must pace yourself in this race called life. As a former cross country runner, I always wondered why some of my opponents would sprint ahead of me before slowing down to walk. This doesn’t make any sense. In the same manner, if you want to get your mind right, do so with your heart and soul fixed on Jesus, Colossians 3:1-4.

by Jay Mankus

Keeping the Faith

Faith is derived from the Latin term fides meaning confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. Personal beliefs, convictions, and expectations add to someone’s faith. During his closing remarks in a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul brings up an overlooked aspect of faith. Referring to a spiritual element, faith is not only conceived but Christians must remain part of it.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Perhaps, Paul learned this from one of Jesus’ disciples. In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus uses his own personal experience. Apparently, many first century Christian began turning their faith on and off like a light switch. When faith becomes dormant, it’s a sign that you have become disconnected from God. This trend suggests that your heart and mind is being controlled by your flesh, not God’s Spirit, Romans 8:5.

What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:14-17.

When the apostle Paul commands followers “to keep the trust and holy fervor,” he is reminding believers that faith and deeds go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Based upon first century historians, James did not believe that his brother Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until the resurrection when James came to faith. Since life on earth is like a marathon, keeping the faith consists of abiding in and acting upon your love for Jesus Christ. May this blog inspire you to keep your faith active.

by Jay Mankus

Bring Me Back

Sometimes life is like being placed into a giant maze without a map.  Whenever you make the wrong turn, its like one step forward, two steps back.  As soon as you hit a dead end, you have to go back to where you started, retracing your steps to find a way out.  If you don’t have any helper, guide or visible signs, this journey will last much longer than expected.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

The Bible serves as a road map to bring you back to God’s desired destination.  During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares life to a series of roads.  The most popular ones are like interstate highways, well defined and marked.  However, Jesus uses the analogy of a small path to illustrate the road to heaven.  Somebody has cleared the path, but if you stray off to the left or right, its easy to lose your way.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews refers to a great Hall of Faith, saints who have showed people the way to heaven.  Comparing life to a marathon, completing this race requires endurance and persistence.  When I get up each morning, I don’t always feel like doing the right thing.  There are plenty of days when I am exhausted, tired and worn down with little motivation to stay on track.  The group Evanescence sings about this state in their song Bring Me Back to Life.  This blog and song are dedicated to those who need to be brought back into God’s presence.

by Jay Mankus

Removing Any Unwanted Visitors

Now that Easter Sunday is over, some people may be wondering, what do I do now?  Well, one thing is for certain, the closer you get to God, the more of a threat you become to Satan, aka the Devil.  Thus, don’t be surprised by a series of unwanted visitors in the form of demonic attacks, ungodly influences and a wave of temptations to through you off track.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews compares life on earth to a marathon.  Along the way, there will be obstacles, pot holes and unplanned delays meant to trip you up.  As a former angel, Lucifer has the ability to disguise evil in an attractive manner.  These clever attacks delay, entangle and slow down runners.  Therefore, if you want to remove any unwelcomed visitors endurance and perseverance must exist.

And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him,” Acts 5:32.

A first century doctor makes an interesting observation between the Holy Spirit and obedience.  According to Luke, the Holy Spirit is bestowed and poured out upon those who obey God.  Thus, the best way to remove any unwanted visitors is by obeying biblical practices.  As you read the four gospels and continue throughout the New Testament, the anointing of the Holy Spirit is waiting for faithful followers.  As individuals keep in step with the Holy Spirit, this supernatural counselor will enable you to take the necessary steps to remove all unwanted and unwelcomed visitors.  May this bestowing awaken you as you draw closer to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Second Wind

The concept of a second wind derives from running.  This phenomenon refers to a distance running often in the context of a long road race or marathon.  When athletes hit the proverbial wall, breath, energy and motivation fades.  Scientists have come up with two logical explanations for this phenomena.  Some believe the second wind is a result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the buildup of lactic acid within muscles.  Others point to endorphin production as the source of the second wind.  Whatever the reason, I believe God also plays a role in this process.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:29-30.

A famous Old Testament prophet eludes to the second wind.  Using an illustration of an eagle nursing eaglets, this imagery help people visualize the invisible.  Despite the jubilation of any child, energy will disappear, crashing and falling in the form of an afternoon nap.  Instead of encouraging her young to walk, mother eagles prod them out of the nest to begin flying.  As eaglets grow tired or start falling toward the ground, adult eagles intervene to rescue their young from any harm.  In the same way, our heavenly father can and does use second winds to propel his children to complete and fulfill God’s will.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

Every work week in America, human beings rely on coffee, energy drinks or soda to get them through each day.  This dose of caffeine imitates a second wind.  As individuals begin to grow sleepy, these beverages serve as drugs to boost you through grueling, long or tiresome work days.  However, has anyone whispered up a pray to God for strength?  Are people relying on a higher source for power or has earthly substances become a replacement for God?  Perhaps, this blog will make you think twice the next time you go to grab some caffeine.  Maybe, you too will come to the conclusion that God is a major source for second winds.

by Jay Mankus

Three Ways God Saves Us From Ourselves

Young people can be naïve, unaware of the dangers that lurk outside of their comfort zones.  Thus, when individuals turn eighteen or twenty one, a thirst for freedom causes many to enter situations that result in a free fall.  This is where God steps in, swooping down like an eagle to save an eaglet who still doesn’t know how to fly on their own.  Unfortunately, the average person fails to recognize, see or thank the invisible presence who saves us regularly.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:31.

When you do earn your wings, there are other factors in life that can halt your growth in a split second.  The apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a marathon.  For those of you who experienced running in some capacity, everyone sooner or later hits a mental wall.  When you do reach this point, human nature tells you to stop, rest a while or simply quit, never to run again.  As soon as this whisper arrives, God intervenes sending angels, the Holy Spirit or other runners to encourage you to keep going until you cross the finish line.  This second sign also goes unnoticed as many participates fail to acknowledge God’s hand, saving you from defeat or failure.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

The final way God saves us from ourselves is through our perspective of trials and tribulations.  Since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, perfection does not exist.  There is no perfect family, job, neighborhood or state.  Each has it’s frustrating, irritable and negative influences.  Those who seek perfection in any aspect of life will always be disappointed.  Therefore, if situations won’t change, God has to transform your attitude of unpleasant experiences in life.  This process is like sanctification, taking a lifetime to complete.  Yet, only those who trust in the Lord and lean not in their own understanding will see life through the eyes of Christ.  As you stand in the storm clouds of life, may God save you by adopting the attitude and mind of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Suppressing the Urge to Quit

Disappointment, heart break and failure are hard to recover from.  The pain from these gut wrenching experiences attacks one’s confidence.  Whenever you lose hope or faith, thoughts about quitting begin to surface.  As soon as this arises, you must suppress the urge to quit.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

The apostle Paul compares life to an Olympic race, similar to a marathon.  Thus, when a spirit of doubt creeps inside your mind, you must battle this like a heavy weight champ.  If you allow negativity to fester, your invisible opponent’s power will strengthen to the point of overwhelming wounded souls.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

When you don’t have the strength to carry on, the apostle Paul introduces a trump card.  Despite the pain Jesus endured, he suppressed any desire to quit by fulfilling God’s plan and purpose.  Therefore, the next time you feel like giving up, call out to Jesus in prayer to suppress the urge to quit.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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