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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

The Shell Game

The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis.  As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are.  When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out.  Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child.  Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure.  These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering.  After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell.  Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me.  This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible.  Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others.  During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana.  Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow.  Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong.  When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life.  What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done.  If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain.  While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention.  As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life.  May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.

by Jay Mankus

How Long is this Going to Last?

Fifteen years is a little more than a third of my life to date.  Human beings go through a myriad of change over a decade and a half.  However, how would you respond if God promised you something and you didn’t receive this until fifteen years later.  The anticipation to see this fulfilled would be grueling.  The average person might become frustrated, impatient or may even lose hope.  The passage below written by David details his long wait between being anointed by Samuel as king and actually becoming king of Israel more than fifteen years later.  This nerve wrecking period brought David to his knees to pray.

My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! – Psalm 31:15

When it comes to driving a car, some possess the mindset “ride it until it dies.”  The only lemon I ever brought lasted a few months.  After a small leak in one of my hoses spilled on to the engine, this vehicle was toast, abandoned at a gas station in New Jersey.  Meanwhile, sometimes you are fortunate to possess a car that lasts much longer than it should.  Despite nearing the 200,000 mile mark, my Pontiac Vibe keeps ticking, approaching it’s fifteenth birthday.  Nonetheless, I don’t know how long this car is going to last.

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night, Psalm 90:4.

In the passage above, a Psalmist makes an interesting statement about life.  This individual received some sort a vision of the past, connecting it with the future.  Unfortunately, most people place so much emphasis on time that they lose sight of the present.  While it would be nice to have knowledge of the future, savoring the here and now is a more noble cause.  Therefore, don’t allow anticipation to spoil your mood.  Rather, take life one day at a time so that wondering how long life is going to last doesn’t steal your hope, joy and peace.

by Jay Mankus

The National Anthem, 9/11 and Professional Sports

When I was in high school, the National Anthem had become passe.  Sure, the sporting events that I attended played an old version on a lame sound system, but it was tradition.  Unfortunately, this continued without much meaning, unless of course you were contending for a championship or title.  Like standing for the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of the school day, playing the National Anthem before a sporting event is what you did.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets, Matthew 7:12.

On September 11th, 2001, I was just about to head into work when I received a delivery from UPS.  Without any introduction, this man proclaimed, “the twin towers are on fire.!”  Surprised, I replied, “what?”  As soon as he left,  I turned on the television, watching in awe.  Every week I traveled up to East Rutherford, New Jersey for work, greeted by these towers in the skyline each time I arrived.  A couple of weeks earlier I made a special delivery to the John Hancock building.  After these two buildings fell to the ground, the tradition of the National Anthem became more than just a song.  This one minute and thirty second song became a way to honor, remember and respect those who have died serving America.

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor, 1 Peter 2:17.

One of the perks of my father’s job when I grew up in Delaware was that his company bought season tickets for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies.  When there weren’t any clients in town to entertain, the family was able to attend games a few times a month.  In 1987, my dad scored tickets to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.  To inspire the crowd, Lauren Hart sang God Bless America, the song Kate Smith made famous singing at sporting events.  Although the Flyers lost this game and the series 4 games to 3, I still get chills when I think about the Spectrum rocking at the end of this anthem.  When you put the National Anthem, 9/11 and professional sporting events together, you get a recipe for honor, patriotism and time to pay respect to the veterans of the USA.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faster Faster Won’t You Make It Better Now

Built into the DNA of children is a natural inclination to seek comfort from mothers.  Whether its an accident, fall or scrape, there is something soothing about receiving a hug, kiss or touch from mom.  When I lived in New Jersey, my mother was an EMT.  Perhaps, it was a premonition that I was an accident waiting to happen.  Anyway, when I broke my leg in two places jumping off an above ground pool, did a face plant into the asphalt while riding my bike and nearly lost my finger after it was slammed into a car door I cried out, “faster faster won’t you make it better now?”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

From a spiritual perspective, adults and child alike apply this same concept to prayer.  However, instead of crying out to moms’, individuals are seeking immediate help from their heavenly Father.  In cases of death, illness or sudden trauma, God is the last resort, a life line hoping to turn around a dire situation.  While answers from the Lord vary, desperate times push souls to a sense of urgency.  Depending upon the age, dilemma or energy within each prayer lifted up, everyone is searching for a quick resolution with a happy ending.

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him,” Joshua 24:24.

In the song Faster Faster on Esterlyn Lamps debut album, the lyrics appear to be geared toward a counselor or friend.  In the chorus, an individual who has made poor choices in life cries out at the tops of their lungs, “faster faster won’t you make it better?”  Whether this plea applies to a pastor, teacher or youth pastor, anyone who makes foolish decisions wants to escape the consequences.  Unfortunately, reality paints another picture, often with grime results.  Therefore, don’t wait until something bad happens to get right with God.  Rather, like Joshua in the Old Testament, make your decision today to serve and follow the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Where Liberty and Church Street Meet

Shipping Wars, a reality television show on A&E debuted on January 10th, 2012.  Simulating the competitive nature of this trade, I spent 2 years of my life pursuing this career back in 2000 and 2001.  In order to make money, you have to be willing to spend it up front.  In fact, I once made $2000 in 24 hours, driving an overnight delivery from Wilmington, Delaware to Chicago.  Unfortunately, this never happened again as like most Americans, I struggled to make a living.  Nonetheless, as I drove a weekly route up to East Rutherford, New Jersey, the World Trade Center was always there to greet me in the sky as I drew near.  This beacon of light stood where Liberty and Church Street met.

As the summer of 2001 faded into fall, I made an emergency trip to New York City, passing the twin towers for the last time.  After 9/11, lights lite up where this grand building once resided, but approaching New York was never the same.  When the United States was attacked on our own soil, the pursuit of life and liberty took on an entirely new meaning.  In the aftermath of this terrorist attack, churches experienced an initial awakening, packed for prayer vigils and services.  More than 10 years later, church attendance is declining and liberty is under a different kind of battle, invisible to the human eye.

On the Atlantic Coast of America, most downtown areas are filled with centers for worship.  The further west you travel across the fruited plains, the less this scene is repeated.  As progress occurs in society, traditions tend to fall by the wayside, surpassed by modern thinking.  While atheists are still trying to have the steel cross found in the Twin Towers remains removed from the 9/11 memorial, this relic is a symbol for a lost and dying world, John 3:16-17.  As the Freedom Tower replaces the World Trade Center at Liberty and Church Street, may this day in history never be forgotten, especially on this Independence Day, July 4th.

by Jay Mankus

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