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The Best Day of Your Life

Desirable, excellent, and the preeminent quality are words used to describe best. Yet, in every crowd, there is a skeptic,  an individual inclined to question and or doubt all accepted opinions. Thus, what you consider to be the best day of your life, another spectator sees things differently. Unless you exhibit emotion and passion, overflowing to everyone in attendance, others won’t be motivated to celebrate with you.

And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way. Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me, John 14:4-6.

After introducing the concept of eternal life to his disciples, a doubting Thomas isn’t convinced. This news should have been life altering, but one unbelieving soul brought down the entire group. In an instant, Jesus changed the momentum, revealing a spiritual truth. Jesus is the answer to Thomas’ concern, the way to conquer fear and prevail over death. Making a decision to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior could be the best day of your life.

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. 11 The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed, Romans 10:9-11.

If you had to rank your best 10 days on earth, the birth of child, a wedding day, or a life altering promotion will likely make this list. However, news of friends making a decision to follow Jesus are some of the most memorable days of my life. Obtaining and reaching life long goals has been satisfying, but the greatest news that any parent hears is the sound of their children dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

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

Joy is a Choice

The book definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure that results in happiness. Meanwhile, rejoice refers to expressing great delight that is inspired by this source of joy. When internal joy is expressed in an external manner, individuals experience elation, gratification, and jubilation. Like momentum in a sporting event, the presence of joy can transform lives. brimming and bubbling over with a new found confidence.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In a letter first century to Christians scattered throughout the world due to religious persecution, the earthly brother of Jesus suggests that joy is a choice. Based upon the passage above, joy is a mindset that you maintain regardless of the circumstances. Whether you encounter hardships, trials or temptation, joy is a byproduct of faith. As Christians mature over time, the spiritual fruit of joy is conceived in your life.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Unfortunately, joy is a rare quality in a world filled with anxiety, sadness, and worry. Instead of exuding joy, negative atmospheres and climates overwhelm troubled souls. Thus, misery tends to drown out any glimpses of hope. When joy is absent, the apostle Paul urges believers to rely on prayer to alter your mood. Therefore, if joy is a choice, make sure that the Holy Spirit provides the spark needed to keep this spiritual fruit alive.

by Jay Mankus

Inspiration Doesn’t Follow a Schedule

The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something is known as inspiration. This invisible force tends to reveal itself in the form of artistry, creativity, flair, imagination, and vision. While attending a youth ministry trade school more than 25 years ago, I was introduced to Green Light Thinking. This exercise channels inspiration from our minds on to a piece of paper. During this 5 minute period, there is no such thing as a bad idea, writing down every inspirational thought.

Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

According to the apostle Paul, authors of the Bible were inspired by divine forces. Whether morning, day or night, inspiration doesn’t follow a schedule. Like momentum that fluctuates back and forth in a close athletic competition, spectators are on the edge of their seats until the end of the game. This is the type of anticipation that Christians should experience each time they open up the Word of God. When hearts and minds become open to the spiritual realm like a sponge, inspiration will flow.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future], John 16:13.

During a conversation with his disciples, Jesus unveils what the Holy Spirit will resemble when it arrives on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2. This invisible Spirit is like a personal guide to direct you toward the Truth, the meaning of life. There isn’t a set place or time to meet. Rather, the Holy Spirit counsels those of you who are paying attention, keeping in step with this inspirational force, Galatians 5:25. Despite what your daily schedule may bring, may you be open to the possibility so that you go with inspiration when it arrives.

by Jay Mankus

The Place Where Momentum Dies

Acceleration, briskness, expeditiousness and tempo are words associated with momentum. This invisible force is often played out during competitions as individuals or teams excel, clicking on all cylinders. When someone goes on a roll, confidence becomes contagious, spreading to teammates. Unfortunately, as quickly as this energy arrives, one error, mistake or mental lapse will cause momentum to vanish. The place where momentum dies is within the human mind.

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being spiritually impassioned, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John; Acts 18:25.

Whenever human beings become tired, artificial means are relied upon to stoke physical momentum. Coffee, caffeine and energy drinks are drank daily to awaken senses so that maximum effort is achieved at work. When one drink starts to wear off, another is consumed to ensure that momentum is maintained. While artificial methods often develop results, drinking too much caffeine can result in unpleasant side affects such as muscle tremors, nervousness or an upset stomach.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. 25 If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit], Galatians 5:24-25.

The Bible refers to a spiritual momentum. At the start of Paul’s third missionary journey, a Jews named Apollos felt spiritually impassioned by the Hebrew Scriptures which he studied daily. In a letter to the church at Galatia where Apollos first learned about Jesus, Paul credits this momentum on the spiritual discipline known as keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. However, Paul suggests that spiritual momentum is broken by appetites and passions from within. This sinful nature causes weakened minds to give into temptation. Thus, until you crucify these spiritual barriers, you won’t be able to become empowered by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Slipping Away

Normaly, the phrase slipping away is used in a negative context.  Competitors may experience a sure victory slip away as momentum leads their opponent to a shocking comeback victory.  Meanwhile, pastors use this term when Christians begin to develop unhealthy habits, slowly slipping further and further away from God.

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me, John 15:4.

Yet, Jesus refers to slipping away as a means to get away from the distractions in this life.  As crowds following Jesus’ earthly ministry got out of control, having a quiet time alone with God became increasingly difficult.  Thus, Jesus made a habit of sliping away, withdrawing to an isolacted location to listen to and pray to his heavenly father.

I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned, John 15:5-6.

If you aren’t careful, its easy to begin to make excuses for not spending quality time with God.  Busy schedules, important meetings and working hard to pay the bills are valid reasons to maintain a full schedule.  Nonetheless, if you want to be all you can be spiritually, you must remain connected to Jesus.  If you don’t, you may find yourself slip sliding away like a prodigal heading in the wrong direction.

by Jay Mankus

Here’s What You Missed

If anyone has played baseball or watched a game as a parent, you know the impact an umpire has on this game.  One call can change the momentum or outcome of a game.  Yet, in all of the games that I have attended my favorite line from disgruntled parents is “hey ump, you’re missing a good game.”

And Eli’hu the son of Bar’achel the Buzite answered: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you,” Job 32:6.

In the days of the Old Testament, a young man stood back and watched Job’s friends debate Job on why bad things happen to good people.  Long into this process, Elihu can not contain himself any more.  Thus, he felt the need to share his perspective.  One translation of the Bible states, “here’s what you missed.”

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

With the advancements in technology, most professional sports now use instant replay to challenge calls that don’t go their way.  Unfortunately, in the game of life, many things are missed.  Some are falsely accused of an act done by someone else.  Others are prematurely judged when they stand up for individuals deemed politically incorrect.  Yet, there will always be minds you can’t persuade.  Therefore, despite whatever bad calls go against, remain steadfast and God will reward those who persevere to the end.

by Jay Mankus

Real Faith in Rough Times

In sports, it doesn’t take much to decipher contenders from pretenders.  As a season lingers on, the cream usually rises to the top.  Sure, there will always be cinderellas or underdogs, but momentum only takes you so far.  Thus, when push comes to shove, the heat of competition distinguishes champions from losers.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ, Romans 10:17.

Faith is not as easy to measure.  Some denominations encourage a quiet faith, allowing your actions to speak for themselves.  Meanwhile, other churches are vocal, focusing on evangelism, preaching and salvation.  The methods used by these ministries can be offensive, rubbing outsiders the wrong way.  This is when God places people in rough times so that real faith can blossom.

Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep, Acts 7:60.

One of the apostles named Stephen found himself in a life and death situation.  Based upon the events of Acts 7, keeping his faith private would have saved Stephen’s life.  Yet, something inside of him felt keeping quiet would be a form of compromise.  Therefore, between a rock and a hard place, Stephen became one of the first Christian martyrs, stoned to death for his faith.  His response to this persecution demonstrated real faith in a rough time.

by Jay Mankus

 

Struggling to Find Momentum

Scientifically, momentum measures the mass and velocity of a moving body.  Meanwhile, in sports this term is like a changing of the tides, an invisible wave that can alter the outcome of a game.  When “Old Mo” is on your side, everything seems easy, falling into place with ease.  Yet, as momentum slips through your fingers, a sense of hopelessness sets in.  If you don’t believe me, just ask the Houston Oilers, who squandered a 32 point lead in the second half, losing to the Buffalo Bills in overtime on January 3rd, 1993.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, Matthew 7:26.

Those who don’t follow or play sports likely have a different understanding of momentum.  Perhaps you’ve tried to diet, exercise or workout on a regular basis.  This first couple of days or week may run smoothly.  Then, busyness, distractions and exhaustion weaken your initial commitment.  Before you develop a solid routine, any roll that you may have experienced is broken and gone, causing you to start all over again.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well, Matthew 6:33.

As I struggle to find my own spiritually momentum, I have reflected on past victories as well as what lead me to find this rhythm.  These days seem so long ago as I’ve forgotten the taste of success.  Thus, its back to the drawing board, trying to sort out where I’ve gone wrong so the future can be bright once again.  In these days of disappointment, life lessons can provide a foundation to build upon, starting with prayer, Bible Study and worship.  Yet, a splash and go pit stop just won’t cut it.  Therefore, if you’re struggling to find your momentum, set first the kingdom of God and He will make your paths straight.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Cruel Reality of Sports

When the clock strikes zero at the end of any competition, their is usually a winner and loser.  Though a regular season game may result in a tie, in the playoffs, this isn’t an option.  Whether you’re talking about the National Championship, Super Bowl or Olympics, only one team or individual will walk off as the victor.

From a personal perspective, I once blew an eight shot lead during the Club Championship; then lost in an 18 hole playoff.  When things start to slip away, as momentum goes in the opponents direction, a helpless feeling grips your body.  This tide often results in the agony of defeat, something I’ve tasted on numerous occasions.  Unfortunately, this is the cruel reality of sports.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. – 1 Corinthians 9:25

Therefore, as Ohio State and Oregon fans go to sleep tonight, one will celebrate into the midnight hours while the loser will ponder what could have been.  For the senior players, several will be playing their final game, trading in their jerseys for a career in their field of study.  Perhaps, this is why the apostle Paul wrote the words of 1 Corinthians 9:25.  Like of the motto of Little League, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game!”  May these words stick with you the next time you experience the cruel reality of sports.

by Jay Mankus

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