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Sleep Well and Dream Big

The origin of the phrase ‘third time’s a charm’ dates date to ancient times.  Things that come in sets of three have often been associated with good luck. As an element of astrology and fortune-telling, numerology has long been employed to predict future events. From a biblical perspective, the Bible is full of symbolism. The number 3 is used 467 times in the Bible with an imagery of completeness like the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. 12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you, Jeremiah 29:11-12.

During a 4th grade Art Class, a little girl from Wisconsin draw a little picture with a dream beneath it. Molly wrote “one day I am going to complete in the Olympics and win a gold medal.” Fast forward two decades and Molly Seidel competed in her second marathon ever. This race just happened to be the qualifier for the 2020-21 Olympics. Despite her limited experience as a long distance runner, Seidel finished second and earned her spot on Team USA.

A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure, Proverbs 16:9.

After waiting an additional year due to Covid-19, Molly ran in her third marathon earlier today. While she did not earn the medal in her childhood dream, Molly Seidel became the second American woman to ever medal in the Olympic Marathon. The passage above is a reminder that you may have certain aspirations, but the Lord’s purpose prevails. May the bronze medal that Molly Seidel earned today inspire you to sleep well and dream big.

by Jay Mankus


Have You Been Knocked Down??? Perhaps it’s Time to Get Up

Living in South Jersey at the time, I remember my parents taking me to see Rocky I shortly after it debuted in theaters in November of 1976. Despite seeing this film 49 years ago, I still recall how engaged the audience was with Rocky’s character played by Sylvester Stallone. Beside the raucous cheering, total strangers bonded as the fight scene continued until the 15th and final round. Men and women began to cry out, “get up Rocky; get up!” Have you been knocked down in 2020? If so, perhaps it’s time to get up.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

While the Coronavirus has resulted in a living nightmare for countless Americans, the worst year for me was 2012. Before I could enjoying celebrating the start of a new year, I received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing me that my teaching position of 10 years would be terminated at the end of the month. This call was like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of my sails. Beside flying to California for Leanne’s uncle’s 80th birthday party, the next 18 months was filled with disappointment, heartbreak and unemployment.

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:2-3.

At the time, I never thought this trial would end until I landed on my feet at Amazon. If 2020 has left you in the dark, clueless to where to go or what to do, you’re not alone. According to the author of Hebrews, Christians who have passed away are up in heaven cheering you on. Life is compared to a marathon like spectators at the Olympics encouraging tired runners to keep on going until the race is finished. Whatever your current circumstances maybe, don’t let pain keep you down. Rather, get up while there is still time to finish what God has prepared for you to do, Philippians 1:6.

by Jay Mankus

Suppressing the Urge to Quit

Disappointment, heart break and failure are hard to recover from.  The pain from these gut wrenching experiences attacks one’s confidence.  Whenever you lose hope or faith, thoughts about quitting begin to surface.  As soon as this arises, you must suppress the urge to quit.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

The apostle Paul compares life to an Olympic race, similar to a marathon.  Thus, when a spirit of doubt creeps inside your mind, you must battle this like a heavy weight champ.  If you allow negativity to fester, your invisible opponent’s power will strengthen to the point of overwhelming wounded souls.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

When you don’t have the strength to carry on, the apostle Paul introduces a trump card.  Despite the pain Jesus endured, he suppressed any desire to quit by fulfilling God’s plan and purpose.  Therefore, the next time you feel like giving up, call out to Jesus in prayer to suppress the urge to quit.

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

When You’ve Got Nothing Left to Give

In the film National Treasure, Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Gates, a treasure hunter with a tarnished reputation.  Despite trying to warn authorities, no one takes his threat serious, that the Declaration of Independence is in danger.  In life, there are times when you reach a similar fate, when you’ve done everything you can think of, with nothing else to give.

The apostle Paul refers to these moments in life as periods of humility, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.  When you’re successful most of the time, individuals have a tendency to steal the spotlight from God by saying, “look at me!”  Whether you’re watching the Olympics, professional sports and a high school game, the victor receives the spoils.  However, behind the cameras, the losers are forced to face the fact they’re got good enough, with nothing left to give except reflecting on what went wrong.

Today, I find myself at the bottom of the barrel, leaning on the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  As much as I want to be magically healed and return to work now, I am stuck with an aging imperfect body which need times to be restored.  Thus, I have nothing else to give except time.  In my weakness, Christ needs to be strong, to carry me through the frustration of being helpless.  When you’ve got nothing left to give, lean on God’s power to lift you up each time you fall!

by Jay Mankus

Bouncing Back

Super balls, the toy, not the lottery game were always fascinating to me.  If you were in a gym or parking lot, it didn’t take much effort on one bounce to get a super ball to reach 50 feet high.  The rubber inside was perfectly designed to vault into the air, springing up and down for several seconds.  If only human beings could bounce back as quick as these specially designed balls.

The term bounce can either be a noun or verb depending upon your use.  Webster uses a noun when referencing jumping, moving up and down or rebounding an object that has taken a bad bounce.  Meanwhile, a verb is the actually act like bouncing a basketball or rebounding from a fall.  The greatest Olympic example of this is a ski jumper who falls at the end of the ramp, wiping out, falling end over end down a steep hill, crashing and sliding into several different objects along the way.  ABC Sports titled this moment, “the Agony of Defeat,” replaying it each week as a promotional for The Wide World of Sports.

If my kids could have created a video of my 5 second fall during my tubing accident, I might have over 1 million hits on my you tube channel.  However, my initial concern is trying to swallow my pride, get healthy and make a quick recovery.  I am more embarrassed than anything, kicking myself for wasting my personal time from work during this 2 week period.  Despite everything that happened, I still have my life, the ability to walk and my breathing improves daily.  If you’re feeling down today, use the prayer in Colossians 3:23 to bounce back as you rebound from a fall in life.

by Jay Mankus

One Shining Moment

As the 2014 Winter Olympics begin Friday, February 7th in Sochi, Russia, I am reminded of the drama previous events have delivered.  Whether it’s a human interest story, someone rising to the challenge of stiff competition or the 1980 United States Hockey Team who came out of no where to defeat the U.S.S.R. and earn a gold medal one game later.  Thus, as viewers tune in from all over the world to watch next weekend, who will be the next star, who shocks their fellow competitors with one shining moment of gold.

Looking back on my not so allustrious athletic career, most of the sports I played in high school were held off sight in a relatively obscure locations like local golf courses and State Parks.  The only sport I participated in with bleachers was swimming, my weakest talent by far.  Yes, my 200 Individual Medal Relay did earn a bronze medal at the 1986 State Meet held at the University of Delaware’s pool, but my lack of speed cost us the gold.  Yet, in one of my last high school races as a senior, God moved me to swim faster than I ever had before.  Despite dabbling in butterfly, back and free style, the 100 yard breast was my strongest stroke and race.

Leading our arch rival Brandywine by a point heading into the final 2 events, I was facing a cross town swimmer who was 1 second faster on average throughout the season.  Typically, the number 1 swimmer swam the inside lanes, a little faster than the 2 outside lanes due to the wake splashing back into swimmers.  However, just before stepping on the starting block, their top breast stroker switched lanes to shadow me in lane 1.  After 25 yards I was slightly behind, pulling even by the halfway mark.  Since the bleachers were right on top of lane 1, I began to hear a roar from lane 2 as I approached the final turn.  The noise of the crowd, filled me adrenaline, causing me to go faster and faster as I touched the final wall, finish line.  As I looked up, the noise was deafening as members of the final relay applauded my victory by 4 seconds, shattering my PR by 3 seconds.  In addition, our other swimmer passed both of Brandywine’s breast strokers in the final 5 yards to earn second and mathematically clinch the win.

As great as this experience felt, there is only one other shining moment that compares.  While in college I was asked to help out at a lock-in by my high school swim coach who had become a youth pastor.  During the festivities, I was drawn to a kid who was called Satan by his peers.  Yeah, he had a mean streak inside of him that was pure evil, but the Holy Spirit moved me to minister to him.  Layer by layer, like peeling an onion, God began to show me the defense mechanism that he had created to prevent his heart from being broken again.  During an altar call late in the night, I led this young man to invite Jesus into his heart, Romans 10:9-10.  Able to fulfill the words of James 5:19-20, I sensed another round of applause, this time from heaven.  “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who do not repent,” Luke 15:7.  May you experience multiple spiritual shining moments in not just during the Olympics, but throughout life.

by Jay Mankus


As the seasons turn from winter to spring, an annual commotion draws near.  This month long hysteria known as March Madness serves as a drug for college basketball enthusiasts.  When you look beyond the brackets, politics and officiating, you’ll find amazing performances, buzzer beaters and even Cinderella.  Although offense is more entertaining, defense wins championships.  If a team can possess both, their squad becomes an impenetrable fortress on their way to the Final Four.

In life, roles are often reversed.  Arrogance, pride and over confidence lull people to sleep spiritually.  Instead of going on the offensive, many Christians resemble a goalie being bombarded with balls and pucks, trying to secure a daily shutout.  However, in the game of life, if you only play defense, you’ll never score.  This feeble strategy results in exhaustion, mental fatigue and emotional burnout, leading to a spirit of defeatism.

In the days of the apostle Paul, the residents of Corinth were avid sports fans, the host of the Corinthian Games, an Summer Olympic like competition.  This likely explains Paul’s use of athletic terminology in his 2 letters to the members of the Corinthian church.  Trying to connect with their culture, Paul addresses a lack of offensive minded individuals.  In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul reveals why people are failing miserably, they’re not using the proper weapons.  The key to game planning an offensive attack against the devil is through your mind, verse 5.  As soon as you learn how to take each thought captive by making them obedient to Christ, you can begin demolishing spiritual strongholds.  Paul’s further advice in Ephesians 6:10-11 is crucial if you want to begin seeing progress.  Stop being one dimensional, play offense today!

by Jay Mankus

Mind Over Matter

Over the last few decades, the Name It and Claim It movement has gained traction, permeating into mainstream Christianity.  This theological position combines the bible with metaphysics, using faith as a force to speak the truth within an individual’s mind into existence.  Unfortunately, this view fails to address obstacles such as generational sins and sins of the father, Exodus 20:4-5, ungodly beliefs like John 8:31-38, soul spirit hurts in Matthew 11:25-30 and demonic influences, Ephesians 6:12.  In addition, some of these churches now encourage members not to seek a doctor when sick, claiming if they had genuine faith, they would be healed.

I tend to lean toward what I call a Read it and Believe it view of Christianity.  In other words, as you read and study the Bible, you begin to learn God’s precious promises.  As you examine how the Israelites and first century church leaders claimed these promises, you can apply these same principles into your own prayer life.  During trying moments, you might want to use prayers of King David or Jesus himself as an outline for prayer.  Faith in this context is in the word of God, not your own mind.  Belief is exercised through the power of the Holy Spirit as described in 2 Peter 1:3-4.  According to this passage, God has given us everything we need for life in the form of the Holy Spirit.  In my mind, this is a more realistic and accurate view of a biblical life.

During my tenure as a high school Bible teacher, I slowly began to see how weak individual minds were.  Not in an intellectual sense, but in their belief, confidence and power of God to change their current situation.  Many of my students had given up hope that their circumstances could ever improve.  Divorce, heartbreak and trials poisoned their minds with doubt, leading many to dwell on matters beyond their control.  This mindset can develop into a defeatism mentality, creating Christians who never successfully take their minds captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  This is likely why the name it and claim movement has become attractive to so many Christians today.

To my knowledge, there are only 2 clear examples of mind over matter in scripture.  The first is used by the apostle Paul in the context of an athlete training for the Corinthian Games, similar to the modern day Olympics.  Runners must force their minds to overcome the pain they are experiencing so that one can push their body beyond a normal limit, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.  Practice and training prepares a runner for the various competitions in life.  Meanwhile, the disciple Peter is referring to having a certain mindset, one like Jesus in 1 Peter 4:1.  This use of the mind relates to the thought process which helps you endure your current state, enabling you to reach the goal or end result you desire and seek to obtain.  This mindset is accessible when Christ is Lord over all areas of your life.  Therefore, as 2012 draws to a close, my prayer for 2013 is that people begin to scratch the surface of the love and power of God, Ephesians 3:14-21.

by Jay Mankus

Cross Country

2011 National Championship Meet

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize.  Run in such a way as to get the prize,” 1 Corinthians 9:24.  The apostle Paul is referring to the Corinthian Games when he writes this biblical truth, a first century pre-Olympics competition.  This passage applies to modern day cross country, a sport which consists of 7 runners, where the top 5 places count with runners 6 and 7 serving as blockers.  Like golf, the team with the lowest score wins.

When my 2 boys, James and Daniel, seen in the caption above, competed in the Yes Athletics National Championship Meet the past 3 years, they didn’t expect to win.  Rather, they were seeking to reach obtainable goals like running their PR, personal best or finish in the top 100 in the nation.  Unlike most sports where there are obvious winners and losers, cross country runners are racing against the clock.  The apostle Paul suggests that runners who compete in a race should make sure they run an honorable race with perseverance, fixing their eyes straight ahead, gazing at the cross, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Personally, I have experienced cross country on 3 levels.  The first as a runner in high school.  Beside the freshmen hazing, being thrown into the Brandywine River, it was best atmosphere I have ever been a part of as an athlete.  From the conversations during practice, to team dinners prior to Saturday invitationals and the overall camaraderie, there is nothing like cross country.  Where else can you rescue passed out runners, carry them to their coach and console a teammate who begins throwing up.

Second, as I have enjoyed watching races from a parents’ perspective.  What other sport allows you to talk to a total stranger, cheer for athletes you’ve never seen before and discover someone’s life story in 15-20 minutes while the race is ongoing.  The only draw back is depending on the course layout, sometimes parents have to run just as far as their children to reach the 1 and 2 mile marks before getting to the finish line.  Within the cross country community, there is a special bond which often draws unlikely people together to become close friends as they follow their children throughout their running career.

Finally, as a coach, I had the privilege to be around a middle school team for 3 years.  While their energy was sometimes too much for me to handle, I loved seeing each runner improve, often lowering their PR’s after a race.  Coach Heiddy, the woman I succeeded for a season, possessed an amazing mix of compassion and toughness to gently urge these young runners to improve.  One of the greatest accomplishments as a coach was watching every member of our team run their PR in a race last fall after Heiddy and I videoed their form.  This mental picture equipped each athlete to live out 1 Corinthians 9:24.

I played several sports at a competitive level, golf and ultimate frisbee as a professional.  Yet, nothing compares to the experiences I have had in cross country.  What Eric Liddle said  in Chariot’s of Fire is true for many cross country runners, “when you run, you feel God’s pleasure!”  Though many athletes hate running, there is a threshold you can cross which helps explain 1 Corinthians 9:27.  Once a runner’s mind learns to block out the mental anguish and pain, you can run like Forrest Gump, just not across America and back.   Anyway, “run Forrest run” and one day soon, who knows, I may see you at a cross country race!

by Jay Mankus

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