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The Ground to Play

If it wasn’t for recess, I wouldn’t have survived my twelve years in public education. The playground was a place of refuge for me. This was the only place in school where talking wasn’t necessary. Despite being short for my age until high school, my passion for sports quickly shined through. I may not have been strong, but I was fast and obsessed with winning. Meanwhile, this ground to play hid my severe stuttering from my peers. The more I competed at recess opened my eyes to the kind of athlete I could become.

Listen then to the [meaning of the] parable of the sower: 19 [h]While anyone is hearing the Word of the kingdom and does not grasp and comprehend it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the roadside. 20 As for what was sown on thin (rocky) soil, this is he who hears the Word and at once welcomes and accepts it with joy; 21 Yet it has no real root in him, but is temporary (inconstant, [i]lasts but a little while); and when affliction or trouble or persecution comes on account of the Word, at once he is caused to stumble [he is repelled and [j]begins to distrust and desert Him Whom he ought to trust and obey] and he falls away, Matthew 13:18-21.

At a recent LIV Golf clinic for kids in New Jersey, Commissioner Greg Norman shared a power message about competing in sports. Norman encouraged these youngsters to play as more sports as possible as these avenues provide a ground to play. Sports helps you see your strengths while revealing weaknesses as well. Meanwhile, if you want to get better, sports teach the competitive discipline to reach your full potential in life. Yet, for now sports provide the ground to compete and play for kids.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the pleasure and delight and glamour and deceitfulness of riches choke and suffocate the Word, and it yields no fruit. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the Word and grasps and comprehends it; he indeed bears fruit and yields in one case a hundred times as much as was sown, in another sixty times as much, and in another thirty, Matthew 13:22-23.

Jesus shared a first century parable based upon the different environment’s children are born into and are forced to confront in life. After speaking to a crowd, the disciples wanted to know further details about Jesus’ parable. Uses farming an analogy, there are 4 different types of soils farmers face. The first three all have limitations that stunts growth. The ultimate goal is to manage farms so that after years of discipline and hard work, fertile soil yields a great harvest. In the meantime, find ground to play with.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 151: All You Zombies

As someone who grew up 30 minutes from Philadelphia, I was influenced by local radio stations in the Tri-State area of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. While I was in high school the Hooters, the rock band, not the restaurant chain received national recognition. The song that put this Philly based band on the map was All You Zombies. After hearing this song recently, I was amazed at the biblical references.

Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not [practice] what I tell you? – Luke 6:46

The lyrics begin with Moses before Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt. The second stanza refers to the 10 Commandments followed by Noah’s project of building an ark prior to the presence of rain on earth. The Hooters provide a brief history lesson of the Old Testament in an attempt to wake up all the zombies, Christians just going through the motions in life. May this classic inspire you to awaken your faith.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 81: Welcome to the Jesus Movement

It’s not very often that Junior High School aspirations become a reality. Yet, for the Christian blues-rock group Three Crosses, this is exactly what happened. Lifelong friends from New Jersey, Steve Pasch and Ralphie Barrientos formed Three Crosses in 1995. When my wife Leanne was a youth director in Chicago, we took the youth group to see Three Crosses during one of their tours.

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

Three Crosses is best known for their moving worship songs. Yet, Welcome to the Jesus Movement is one of those tunes that provides a great song with solid lyrics. When you add songs like The Stone Was Rolled Away, Christians can prepare their minds to celebrate a resurrected Lord. If you ever want to uplift your soul, play the first two Three Crosses albums and the Holy Spirit will stir and touch your heart.

by Jay Mankus

The Casting Grounds

While growing up in New Jersey, my father took the entire month of August off of work. Since my father was in sales, he discovered a cabin for rent on a Thompson Lake in Maine. This experience opened my eyes to dirt roads and weekly trips to the dump. My father loaded up the back of our station wagon with trash bags and the kids were responsible for throwing them out the back. Little did I know that visiting these casting grounds 45 years ago prepared me for unloading my own burdens to the Lord in prayer.

Casting the [c]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [d]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [e]watchfully, 1 Peter 5:7.

Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, life is filled with daily anxieties, concerns, and stress. If you don’t have someone to talk to on a weekly basis, these burdens will accumulate quickly. As a child, my only worries were making new friends and praying that one of my stuttering fits didn’t occur at school. Unfortunately, the older you get, life seems to become more complicated with overwhelming stress that can suck the life out of your soul. This is the context in which Jesus is referring to in the passage below.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [o]ease and relieve and [p]refresh [q]your souls.] 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([r]relief and ease and refreshment and [s]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [t]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne, Matthew 11:28-30.

One of roles of prayer is to provide a spiritual casting ground where troubled and worn-out Christians can unload their burdens. The key is you have to let go of each individual concern and let God cast it as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:10-12. Don’t take back these anxieties, concerns, and worries after you have said Amen. Rather, cast these burdens like I threw trash bags at the local dump in Maine. If you have to, use visualization to unload all of your troubles so that after praying you will find rest for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Let Marriage be Held in Honor

In my earliest years as a child living in New Jersey, divorce wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. After moving to Delaware, I was introduced to this term when one of my friends mom got divorced twice. During my teenage years, it was still uncommon to enter a home where parents were divorced. Yet, as I entered high school, more and more adults began to give up on failing marriages.

Let marriage be held in honor (esteemed worthy, precious, of great price, and especially dear) in all things. And thus let the marriage bed be undefiled (kept undishonored); for God will judge and punish the unchaste [all guilty of sexual vice] and adulterous, Hebrews 13:4.

Perhaps this trend was encouraged by popular shows like Mash which regularly showed members of the Army cheating on their spouses. Distance and loneliness was seen as an acceptable reason for breaking marriage vows. At some point in the 1980’s, affairs, flings and one night stands aired weekly on major network television. Once cable arrived, temptation and sexual fantasies trampled this once sacred vow.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]. 22 He who finds a [true] wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord, Proverbs 18:21-22.

This Bible may be considered an old fashion book with values that no longer applies to modern day life. Yet, King Solomon makes an interesting observation in the passage above. The words you speak, the people you hang around and the beliefs that are formed will shape your destiny. These self fulfilled prophecies will either produce healthy or failed marriages. May this blog persuade you to hold marriage as an honorable and sacred tradition.

by Jay Mankus

Whenever You Move… Don’t Trouble Your Mind with the Unknown

Moving is one of those events in life that provides a chance for a fresh start. Yet, when a move is beyond your control, saying goodbye to close friends and neighbors can be extremely difficult. I moved a few times as a child with the second from New Jersey to Delaware. While it was hard to leave my baseball friends, the neighborhood in Wilmington my parents moved into became like a second family to me.

[Urged on] by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go, Hebrews 11:8.

While reading the Bible earlier in the week, I was reminded of Abram’s move from Haran. Genesis 12:1-3 details God’s conversation with Abram, similar to a calling from God or tugging on your heart that you might experience today. Abram was 75 years old when he left everything that he knew to start a new life with his nephew Lot. Faith enabled Abram to enter the unknown of a foreign land.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition ([b]definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that [c]tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall [d]garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

Sometime in the summer of 2022 I’ll be moving to South Carolina. This will be my first move in nearly 25 years. Yet, if I listen to the advice found in the Bible, I shouldn’t trouble my mind about the unknown. Nor should I allow anxieties of making new friends concern me. The best thing I can do is lift up all my worries to God in prayer. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am seeking a peace that transcends all understanding as I wait for this day to come.

by Jay Mankus

Ready or Not Here I Come

Despite being over 50, I still have fond memories of my childhood. After my father was transferred from New Jersey to Wilmington, I’ve spent most of my life living in the state of Delaware. As a child, Jeanette’s house became the meeting place for neighborhood kids. Summers were spent playing board and video games during the day. At dusk, it was time for Hide and Go Seek, lasting until our curfews. If you were it, you would count to 100 before yelling, “ready or not, here I come.”

But what does it matter, so long as either way, whether in pretense [for personal ends] or in all honesty [for the furtherance of the Truth], Christ is being proclaimed? And in that I [now] rejoice, yes, and I shall rejoice [hereafter] also. 19 For I am well assured and indeed know that through your prayers and a bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) this will turn out for my preservation (for the spiritual health and welfare of my own soul) and avail toward the saving work of the Gospel, Philippians 1:18-19.

The apostle Paul uses a similar expression in his letter to the Church at Philippi. Instead of referring to a childhood game, Paul talks about one’s willingness to face death. Upon receiving tragic news, one man has a vision of what will happen after he dies, Job 1:20-21. This harsh reality comes as Job mourns following the death of his children. If Job wasn’t ready for death prior to this tragedy, he came to accept his future fate.

This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death. 21 For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity], Philippians 1:20-21.

The apostle Paul puts his own spin on Job’s realization. While writing to one of the churches that he helped plant, Paul introduces believers to upward thinking. Instead of fearing death, Christians should embrace it by placing their trust solely in Jesus. As fear of death begins to fade, committed followers can truly say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Since life is like a blimp on a radar screen, James 4:14-15, ready or not, here I come.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

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

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

The Glitch that Makes You Great

A glitch is defined as an irregularity or malfunction that suddenly appears. Synonyms include breakdown, defect and flaws that are often noticeable. When any type of glitch is revealed within a human being, embarrassment, humility and a loss in self-esteem follow. If this glitch becomes a major weakness in your life, how can this glitch become a strength?

And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted, 2 Corinthians 12:7.

Within a letter written to members of the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul unveils a secret scar. It’s unclear whether this is an addiction, chronic illness or some form of demonic oppression. Whatever the reason, this condition hampered Paul’s ability to function daily. While you may not consider this imperfection a glitch, Paul is forced to rely on God to get through each day.

Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

In the first century, there was only one spiritual leader who matched Paul’s charisma. Acts 18:24 mentions Apollos, described as cultured, eloquent and well versed. Other passages in the New Testament suggest that Apollos became a great preacher, far superior than Paul. This inferiority complex led Paul to turn his attention toward writing. While Apollos’ sermons have been forgotten, Paul’s words in his letters live on in the pages of the Bible.

So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:10.

Growing up in New Jersey, stuttering became my glitch. While the apostle Paul endured a thorn in his flesh, I battled a silent tongue. Although my heart and mind had plenty of things that I wanted to express, nothing coherent came out of my mouth. This 21 year struggle turned my attention to writing, developing a love and passion for this new hobby. If it wasn’t for my own glitch, stuttering, this blog wouldn’t exist. Thus, this is how the Lord transformed my glitch from a weakness into a strength. May the power of the Holy Spirit speak so your heart to help you see the glitch that makes you great in God’s eyes.

by Jay Mankus

Unusual and Remarkable Kindness

When my parents moved from New Jersey in 1977, Delaware was considered part of the south. As a boy struggling with stuttering, the southern hospitality bestowed upon me eased my concerns about making new friends. This unusual and remarkable kindness did not fade away, remaining as long as I lived in this neighborhood. However, when I moved back to Delaware in the late 1990’s, the influences of nearby large metropolitan cities has slowly erased southern hospitality. While you will cross paths with kind people, unusual and remarkable acts are rare.

And the natives showed us unusual and remarkable kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed and received us all, since it had begun to rain and was cold, Acts 28:2.

After enduring a northeaster for two weeks at sea, all 276 passengers made it to shore before their ship was lost. While on the island of Malta, Luke makes an interesting observation. It’s unclear if the island natives developed an unfair reputation or they went the extra mile for these helpless souls, but they were overwhelmed by Malta’s kindness. Despite a cold and rainy day, a large fire was started to provide warmth. While this tribe may not have ever heard of the parable of the Good Samaritan, their actions were in line with God’s love.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil, Luke 6:35.

In this age of social media where eyes are fixated on cell phones, electronic devices or game consoles, experiencing unusual or remarkable kindness is uncommon. Perhaps, this is a direct result of inaction, forgetting to practice loving and praying for your enemies. Sure, when you go to a restaurant, you will find talented hosts and hostesses that make dining out worth your time and money. Yet, when motives are impure, the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated can disappear. May this blog inspire you to strive to live out God’s love through unusual and remarkable acts of kindness.

by Jay Mankus

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