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Only One

In the realm of sports, there is only one champion each year. While ties can and do occur in the Olympics with individuals sharing a gold medal, professional sports continue into overtime until a champion is crowned. The longest playoff game in major sports history was a 13-12 World Series Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. This October 29th, 2017 game lasted 10-innings, totaling five hours and 17 minutes.

Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears, 2 Samuel 7:22.

As time passes, team secrets may leak out, revealing elements of cheating. Whether this involves stealing signs, the use of banned substances such as steroids or investigations like Spy Gate, champions and championships become tainted. When talent isn’t good enough, the rules are bent, erased or stretched to enhance a team’s chances of winning. In recent history, commissioners of several sports have adjusted the record books to place asterisks next to certain accomplishments. These decisions ultimately leave in doubt who is the best in a sport or who is the only one who didn’t cheat.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5.

In the spiritual realm, no one compares to the God of the Bible. After an encounter with the prophet Nathan, King David comes to the conclusion that there is no one like God. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul clearly states that there is only one mediator between God and man. Throughout history many have claimed to have a secret connection with God, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is one of a kind. Unlike any other religious leader, the founder of Christianity ascended into heaven and remains the only living God. While there will always be doubters, skeptics and those unwilling to believe, Jesus remains the only one, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

Coronavirus Choices

Prior to March 12th, 2020, most Americans were carrying on with their normal routines. Yet, when breaking news reported Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had contracted the Coronavirus, sports lovers were in for a rude awakening. The National Basketball Association immediately suspended their season. This initial decision inspired the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to suspend their seasons as well. By the end of this week, more dominoes fell as the NCAA’s March Madness Basketball Tournament, the Player’s Championship and two Nascar Races were cancelled.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

With most sporting events put on hold for a minimum of 2 weeks, possibly a month, the Coronavirus has altered the lives of sports enthusiasts. Instead of lounging around at home to watch a game, going to a sports bar with friends to enjoy college basketball or catching highlights on ESPN, new habits will have to be formed. Whether you are stuck at home watching your children, under a self imposed quarantine or forced to find something else to do when your initial plans were cancelled, perhaps the Coronavirus pandemic is a blessing in disguise.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

After binge watching a series on Amazon Prime with my wife early this weekend, I felt compelled to go outside and do something. Bored out of my mind, I took my kids golfing Saturday morning. Despite a beautiful day, the COVID-19 scare kept most golfers off this course, Their loss was my gain, playing 18 holes in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. Although Americans have been infected, placed under quarantine or lost their lives, the Coronavirus is changing the way people live their lives. What I call Coronavirus Choices is forcing individuals to re-think their diet, sleep habits and sanitary rituals. While only God knows how long this pandemic will last, may you use your new free time at home to make better choices daily.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus Does Everything Well

When Bo Jackson began to play professional baseball for the Kansas City Royals and football for the Oakland Raiders during his off-season in 1989, Nike took full advantage.  In one of the most successful marketing campaigns in American history, the Bo Knows movement took off spawning a series of advertisements, commercials and clothing lines with this slogan.  Christian T-shirt companies even got in on this fad by creating its own brand of Jesus Knows merchandise.  The idea behind this concept is that Jesus does everything well.

They were thoroughly astounded and completely overwhelmed, saying, “He has done everything well! He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!” – Mark 7:37

After being an eye witness to ones of Jesus’ miracles, the region of Decapolis developed a similar sentiment.  Known as the ten Hellenistic cities, based upon books of wisdom found in Catholic Bibles, Jesus’ presence left these crowds in awe.  According to Mark, the citizens were impressed by every aspect of Jesus’ life.  This includes his interactions with strangers, overall manners, teaching and willingness to help people in need.  Jesus was one of a kind, demonstrating the love of God daily.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1.

In a letter to the church of Corinth, the apostle Paul urges his readers to emulate Jesus Christ.  Jesus didn’t just preach a sermon, shake hands afterward and go back into his family room to chill out the rest of the day or night.  Rather, Jesus seized each day, making the most of his 33 years on earth.  The best way to honor the person who did everything well is to imitate his daily practices.  First century converts to Christianity living in Antioch took their faith so seriously that residents began to say, “hey, you remind me of Jesus.”  In a dark world looking for truth, may you strive to do everything well like Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Mistakes Last a Life Time

In the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on former NFL wide receiver Randy Moss entitled Rand University, this feature focuses on how hard it is for minorities to make it in professional sports.  Two high school teammates of Moss, Sam Singleton Jr. and Bobbie Howard refer to a generation curse, causing most talented athletes from Rand, West Virginia to end up drinking in the 7 Eleven parking lot every weekend wondering what might have been.  Whether its drugs, poverty or giving into temptation, sometimes poor choices result in mistakes that last a life time.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire, James 1:14.

While Sam Singleton Jr. received a football scholarship to Notre Dame and later went on to play a few seasons for the Chicago Bears, Sam is one of the exceptions to this Rand rule.  Bobbie Howard is more like the norm, unable to ditch his addiction to alcohol and pot.  After being drafted by a Major League Ball club, Bobbie was on his way to becoming a professional baseball player.  Unfortunately, despite showing great promise, one failed drug test sent him packing, released by an unnamed team.  At the conclusion of this film, Bobbie breaks down in tears, claiming his life is an example of when a mistake lasts a lifetime.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.

What people seek and what individuals often receive are usually 2 different things.  At some point, people can become their own worst enemy.  Like a prodigal in denial, life often takes a downward spiral, reaching a new bottom floor with each passing year.  Most don’t get a second chance like a teenage I knew at my first church as a youth pastor.  The first time he ever drove drunk was his last, dying instantly after colliding with a tree.  If only souls could break out of their spiritual funk before its too late?  Perhaps, the sad story of Bobbie Howard may serve as a wake up call or reality check before one more mistake lasts a lifetime.

by Jay Mankus

How Can It Be So Bad to Take Your Own Life?

On Monday night, former MLB starting pitcher Tommy Hanson died of a massive organ failure following a drug overdose at age 29.  Last August, legendary actor Robin Williams who made millions of dollars in Hollywood also took his own life.  Unfortunately, the older I become, the lists of deaths by suicide continue to rise.  Thus, I wonder how can it be so bad to want to end your own life?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

In a 2013 study, suicide was the second leading cause of death among teenagers.  Some of these statistics can be attributed to bullying.  Others may be related to an unhealthy family or living arrangements.  When you add on depression, low esteem and unguided youths, perhaps individuals come to a point where they think, “it can’t get any worse?”  Meanwhile, some may believe dying is less painful than facing reality.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life, John 3:16.

At the heart of this deception is the Father of Lies, Lucifer.  The more isolated individuals are the louder these whispers become.  Invisible to the eye, demonic spirits cherish each perishing soul.  Yet, beyond the pain of life is a purpose, greater than anyone realizes.  If those who have taken their own life just tasted the abundant life promised in the Bible things would have been different.  For now, all you can do is learn from history, avoid demonic doldrums and set your mind on a higher purpose.  And if it get’s any worse, hold on to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

The Replacement

In life you always have to be prepared for the unexpected.  Death, injury or sickness is a daily occurrence causing companies, organizations or teams to search for a suitable replacement.  The NFL has created practice squads, MLB has its minor leagues and most businesses use interns to ascertain a potential substitute if necessary.  While each system may have its own flaws, management understands this vital role to insure their success in the future.

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, Acts 1:21.

Following the suicide of Judas, feeling guilty after betraying Jesus, the disciples were short one person.  Based upon the leadership structure, continuing without a treasurer would have been futile.  Thus, one of Jesus’ last commands to his disciples was to find a replacement.  Although the method chosen was unusual, the lots that were cast fell upon Matthias.

Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles, acts 1:26.

Sometimes the Bible and God doesn’t make sense.  This is one of those occasions.  Yet, when I thought about this for a moment, casting lots is similar to prayer.  You have a 50/50 chance.  If you want to get technical, 33.3 % as God can either answer your request, deny it or respond with not now.  Therefore, whether you’re looking to replace an athlete, co-worker or spiritual leader, don’t forget to add prayer to your decision making process.  Whatever you decide, may the Lord give you wisdom when the time comes to choose a replacement.

by Jay Mankus

 

Cures for the Cold

As a former resident of the Twin Cities during the winter, even if it was for just 3 months, I know the bone chilling effects of cold weather.  Each evening, I ran 3-5 miles when thermometers dipped below zero.  On a night in February, it was close to -20 without the wind chill as I started my jog.  A couple of blocks down the road, my hair grew icicles.  After a quarter mile, I felt my body beginning to shut down.  Without a thought, I made a quick u-turn to head for home.

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh, Ezekiel 11:19.

One of the most obvious cures for the cold is the creation of shopping malls.  Beside Woodfield Mall in Chicago, nothing compares to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.  Built on the old site of Metropolitan Stadium, former home to the Vikings of the NFL and Twins of MLB, this mall contains an amusement park, movie cinema and 400 stores.  In this wasn’t enough, an expansion project looks to add an ice rink, dinner theater, hotels and waterpark.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me, Psalm 51:10.

However, there is another cure for the cold that is often overlooked.  This one focuses on warming up a cold and weary heart.  Sure, a hot cup of chocolate, warm fire or steaming bath will provide a temporary fix.  Yet, what can you do to re-energize your soul?  When I come inside to a numb heart, the best remedy I can recommend is a quiet time with God.   Opening the Bible, you will find nourishing words of encouragement.  May the promises within get you through the dreary months of winter.

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord, Psalm 112:7.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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