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Tag Archives: Maryland

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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Forgotten Faces, Places and Faiths

George Whitefield doesn’t get much recognition in the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.  Yet, during the Tent Revivals inspired by the first Great Awakening, George Whitefield traveled throughout northern Delaware. preaching along the banks of Pike Creek and as far south as the town that bears his name, St. Georges.  According to colonialist historians, Whitefield began his preaching and teaching in New England under Jonathon Edwards’ leadership.  From here Whitefield traveled to Pennsylvania following William and Gilbert Tennent to each event.  Whitefield also spent time helping Samuel Davies in Virginia as these awakenings using stationary tents led to many converts to Christianity.  Unfortunately, George Whitefield lived in the shadows of two friends from England, Charles and John Wesley.  While Whitefield received notoriety as an inspirational evangelist, the Wesley’s founded the Methodist Church.  As new converts to Christianity in Delaware grew, Methodist churches began to form up and down this state, embracing a methodical application of spiritual disciplines.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite, Isaiah 57:15.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is a 14 mile long body of water that connects the Delaware River to Chesapeake Bay in Northeast Maryland.  From 1822 and 1829, construction on this United States Army Corp of Engineers project faced many obstacles.  Besides financial issues and a changed in plans further south toward the Back Creek branch of the Elk River, the waterway finally opened in 1829 using a four lock system.  The total cost was 3.5 million dollars, the most expensive government project of its day.  During the rerouting of this canal, two cities were cut in half; Chesapeake City, Maryland and St. Georges, Delaware.  While Chesapeake City maintains a steady population fueled by restaurants and marinas on the north and south banks, St. George’s is nearly dead.  To add insult to injury, the bridge constructed to connect northern with southern Delaware was built directly over Main Street.  Thus, unless you visit one of the few dining establishments, not much remains of the town George Whitefield put on the map.

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him, Hosea 6:2.

Like any good thing, even revivals come to an end.  Thus, instead of relying on emotions and a spiritual high, new converts to Christianity need to begin to exercise their faith.  Depending upon your past, this spiritual detox will take time along with pain and struggles of change.  To avoid falling prey to legalism, this transitional period should include an acceptance of rising and falling.  While perfection is unattainable, God simply wants our best effort with an expectation to grow closer to the Lord each day.  Although this sound logical, some faiths will grow cold and die.  When I was a youth pastor out of college, I took a country road to church every Sunday.  One day  I noticed a small church forced to close their doors as the congregation either passed away or moved on to another denomination.  A few weeks later, this abandoned building re-opened as a liquor store, a crushing blow to changing times.  Today, about a thousand churches close their doors each year worldwide.  While the number of believers have remained about the same, the commitment level has softened.  Thus, many Americans have forgotten godly leaders of the past like George Whitefield, towns like St. Georges and their faith in God.  May a new awakening come quickly so that souls will be revived with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as America celebrates Independence Day.

by Jay Mankus

Sticks and Stones Wound Souls

Whenever anyone experiences a series of bad breaks, those close to this individual may begin to wonder why suffering, tribulations and unfortunate events have visited their friend.  In the Old Testament, bad and good were often linked to God.  Thus, a mentality developed to associate anything good with blessings and the bad as some sort of curse from God.  This is the context of the passage below as Job has listened to his friends attempt to explain the freak accidents and natural disaster that destroyed his possessions and took the lives of his children.

“I also could speak like you, If you were in my place; I could compose and join words together against you and shake my head at you,” Job 16:4.

Job calls out those who have made numerous accusations against him.  One of the translations refers to words that can tear you into pieces.  Essentially, Job states that anyone can sit back and point their finger in the direction of blame.  Yet, Job refuses to participate in this futile activity.  Rather, Job turns his attention toward seeking God to find understanding for his recent trials.  In today’s volatile climate of daily verbal assaults against those the media disagrees with politically, this is an important lesson to learn.

A [shortsighted] fool always loses his temper and displays his anger, but a wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back, Proverbs 29:11.

The phrase sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me first appeared in 1872.  Mrs. George Cupples presented this saying as advice in Tappy Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature.  While this piece of wisdom attempts to develop mental toughness, the Bible reveals a different story.  When anger or tempers influence language, critical words inflict wounds to human souls.  While there are no initial bruises like marks from sticks and stones, vulnerable hearts take each blow.  Before anyone person gets hurt or killed like the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, its time to lay down your weapons so that healing may begin now.

by Jay Mankus

Closing Your Eyes on the Poor

Poverty is something you can be born into, forced into by extreme conditions or reached by a series of bad decisions.  Upon graduating from college, I went into social work.  I spent two days a week as a youth director at a church in Rising Sun, Maryland and the rest of my time as a Program Coordinator for the Methodist Action Plan in the inner city of Wilmington, Delaware.  I made just enough to eat and put gas in my car.  To save money I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement for 6 months.  Essentially, I was poor, unable to fulfill my goals in life on my own.  When my church home Cornerstone heard of my plight, a love offering was taken prior to my departure for a youth ministry trade school.  Without any previous conversation, this gift was exactly what I needed to attend this school.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses, Proverbs 28:27.

A little over a year later, I remembered this act of generosity striving to pay it forward.  Thus, when the church I was serving in turned away a homeless college student, I offered the couch in my apartment.  Although, this was an inconvenience to me, the Bible instructs followers to lend a helping hand.  I’m not sure if this lack of privacy led to my decision to leave youth ministry six months later, but I have become jaded.  This negative experience has led me to become selfish, putting my family first.  In the process, I have begun closing my eyes to the poor.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Corinthians 9:7.

If acknowledging a flaw is the first step to recovery, then I must confess that I have turned a blind eye to the poor and needy.  Instead of stopping to listen and lend a helping hand, I pretend that I don’t see those pandering at various intersections.  The Lord has a firm warning to those who ignore the poor.  Solomon suggests curses will follow those who continue to avoid the needy.  May the Holy Spirit help people like me trying to break the bad habit of closing my eyes on the poor.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Faith in Foreclosure

When a home owner fails to pay the debt accrued and owed, the mortgage lender can choose to foreclose on a property to regain their money.   According to a 2015 study, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware have the highest foreclosure rates in the United States.  The highest rate affected the residents of New Jersey where one in every 559 housing units filed for foreclosure after payments were not made.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, Hebrews 10:26.

From a spiritual perspective, Jesus paid the debt for sin accrued over the course of one’s life.  The apostle Paul uses the analogy, for the wages of sin is death, in Romans 6:23.  Yet, the good news lies in the final line, the gift of God is eternal life.  However, when you do mess up, God expects acts of contrition to follow.  Thus, if you treat promises in the Bible as a get out of jail free card, you are in danger of experiencing a faith in foreclosure.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

In an earlier chapter, the author of Hebrews provides a glimpse of a faith in foreclosure.  Whether its an addiction, careless acts or poor choices, some are lured into a false sense of security.  Before being introduced to the Bible’s teachings, individuals can claim to be amoral, not knowing right from wrong.  However, once you have seen the light; enlightened from years walking in darkness, you no longer have an excuse.  Thus, anyone who reaches a faith in foreclosure, must fully repent, turning 90 degrees away from sin, back to God or face the consequences mentioned above.  Turn back to Jesus today while time is on your side.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Solace by the Sea

Depending upon where you grew up, there are areas, places and towns which make you feel at home.  Perhaps it’s childhood memories that you cherish, a location you spent countless hours at or an environment that brings out the best in you.  For me, I find solace by the sea.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock, Psalm 27:5.

As a kid, I spent time playing on the beach at Atlantic City before there were casinos.  Occasionally,venturing to Sea Ilse and Wildwood Crest to stay with friends or visit the boardwalk.  After moving to Delaware, Rehobeth, Fenwick Island and Ocean City, Maryland became seasonal treks, leaving fond memories etched into my mind.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance, Psalm 32:7.

In the Bible, Jesus found solace in going to the mountains to pray, Mark 1:35-39.  David retreated to a cave with friends to lift his spirits, 1 Samuel 22:1-2.  While it’s not mentioned, I’m sure James and John found joy in fishing, especially when the season was right.  Well, my point of today’s blog is to make people think of that retreat destination or resting place which recharges your spiritual batteries.  Discovering and visiting this place often brings life to dead and dying souls back to life.  As for me, I find solace while I recreate in the ocean.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Place That Will Change Your Life Forever

On earth, travel agencies will try to convince clients of a sweet deal, hidden gem or destination that will change your life.  As spring approaches, television commercials will display eye popping images as states hope your summer plans include a family vacation to one their resorts.  While memories can be forever etched into your mind, the thought of work quickly snaps individuals back to reality, ending any memorable getaway.

From a spiritual perspective, people may recall the place they got baptized, the church they were married in or a retreat center where they met God for the first time.  Inside a sanctuary, family’s tend to gravitate toward their favorite pew, stare at magnificent stain glass windows or recall taking their first communion.  According to Exodus 29:37, the altar made for the Tent of Meeting possessed supernatural powers, making those priests who touched it holy.  While not the Tent of Meeting, the altar at a church in Friendship, Maryland changed my life forever.

During my senior year of college, I was asked to serve on a Lay Witness Mission team for a church seeking to revive its congregation.  My role was to be a small group leader for the youth group and its college students, sharing how God had made a difference in my life.  Usually, one of the leaders was asked to share part of their faith journey, a snapshot of their life.  On Saturday night, our leader Ken told me that I would be speaking to the entire congregation Sunday morning.  Caught off guard, my initial instinct was fear, pondering, “how can someone who stutters speak for 15 minutes?”

Subsequently, I was led to pray, asking the Holy Spirit and my roommate to clue me in on what God wanted me to say to several hundred strangers.  Tossing and turning, I was reminded of a song that I brought, called The Altar.  Studying the lyrics in my mind, a vision for my first sermon was conceived, drifting me off into a peaceful sleep.  As I made my closing remarks, I gave an altar call, inviting anyone who was touched by the Holy Spirit to come to the altar while I played Ray Boltz’s song.

To my amazement, one college student literally ran to the altar as soon as the song began.  Others quickly, followed, filling up the semi-circle shaped altar in front of the pulpit.  When the music ended, people were standing in line, waiting to kneel at the altar.  Elders and leaders of the church began to lay hands on those crying, quietly whispering words up to heaven on their behalf.  As I joined the congregation following my message, the senior pastor shared a few words, summarizing these amazing events of this 3 day event, encouraging people to continue lay their burdens up to Jesus at the altar, Matthew 11:28.  On earth, there are countless wonders of the world, but for me, I will never forget this day when lives were changed forever at the altar.

by Jay Mankus

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