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How Relevant are You?

I spent the majority of my years as a student in obscurity, afraid my stuttering would embarrass me in some way.  It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I began to become relevant, serving on student council, volunteering to help build the class float for homecoming and reaching out to individuals throughout the school.  Whether popularity makes you relevant or not, I came into my own as a human being, with the highlight turning my parents basement into a nightclub for one Christmas evening during my freshmen year of college.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? – James 2:14

In the years that followed, inconsistency is the best term that describes my life.  I had my moments in the spot light, playing sand volleyball at Geauga Lake in its hey day, serving as a journalist for Travel Golf Media and store manager of Michael Jordan Golf at O’Hare International Airport.  However, I consider these personal accomplishments, not something that makes you relevant.  The best way to explain relevance is by quoting Larry the Cable Guy, ” get ur done!”  Yet, what if you invest your time and energy into things that are trivial?

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead, James 2:17.

From an eternal perspective, my most relevant year was 1993.  I spent the first portion at a youth ministry trade school called Tentmaker’s, fine tuning my spiritual gifts.  The next three months involved applying this new found knowledge as a counselor and teacher at a boarding school for career underachieving junior high students.  The final six months of 93 were my finest, serving as a youth pastor in Columbus, Indiana.  These days were the epitome of relevance, meeting my wife to be in the final month of this year.  Yet, for now, I struggle to find relevance, distracted by the stress of life.  Although its nice to reminisce from time to time, its never to late to become relevant again.  May we all strive to find our place in this world so that our deeds, faith and work will not be done in vain.

by Jay Mankus

Places Where Dreams Die

According to the 1993 film, Rudy Ruettiger was an average athlete and middle of the road student with dreams that seemed far fetched.  Thus, Rudy took a job at a local Steel Mill, buying some time.  When his best friend Pete dies in an accident at the mill, Rudy finds himself at a crossroads.  During the funeral Rudy comes to the realization, “if I don’t leave now my dream will never happen,” dying at a dead end job.  Standing at a Greyhound Bus Station, Rudy’s father shares a series of ungodly beliefs, filled with negativity, hoping his son stays.  Deep down Rudy Ruettiger sensed that remaining in his hometown was another place where dreams can die.

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear, Ecclesiastes 5:7.

Meanwhile, Homer Hickam faced his own set of struggles illustrated in the 1999 movie October Sky.  Playing the role of the younger brother, Homer could never escape the shadow of big brother Jim, a football star destined for a college scholarship.  Despite his efforts, Homer was unable to compete with his brother’s popularity or talents.  After his father’s work related injury, Homer drops out of high school to become a coal miner attempting to follow in the footsteps of his dad. Yet, Homer’s new job couldn’t quench a passion for rockets.  Fueled by his teacher Miss Riley, Homer leaves the occupation where his dream would have died in the mine to participate in a science fair that altered the course of his life.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, Ephesians 3:20.

Unfortunately, most people fail to become famous, rich or successful, ending up in a place where their dreams disappear.  Some are forced by financial constrains to keep multiple jobs just to survive, fighting a losing battle with debt throughout life.  Others endure destructive relationships that often end with another mouth to feed, divorce or years of regret.  Within all these distractions, time flies by causing dreams to be altered, downgraded or pushed back until nothing is achieved.  If you have ever reached this point like me, you need an inspirational friend like Pete who speaks words of encouragement.  Or a mentor like Miss Riley who will uplift your spirits, challenge you and instill in you perseverance to press on through places where dreams die until you taste the abundant life Jesus promises, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

 

Who’s Promoting Who?

With holiday shopping about to commence, everyone could use a little extra money to prevent from going into debt.  However, dollar bills don’t grow on trees thereby forcing individuals to think outside the box.  Those currently in the job force are trying to figure out, how can I get promoted or what do I need to do to get to the next pay grade?

Unfortunately, popularity, who you know and those who play the system the best often surpass individuals with more talent.  Subsequently, promotion is dependent on unseen powers, opening the eyes of bosses to elicit favor.  During the life of Joseph, a pattern begins to form, illustrating this principle, Genesis 39:2-5, 20-21.  Despite unforeseen trials, God continued to bless the actions of Joseph.

In the end, getting a new job, keeping the one that you have or receiving a raise is not always clear.  Although consistency, hard work and going the extra mile are crucial elements, the Lord opens and closes doors, dismissing and promoting people to their current place in life.  I don’t always know why bad things happen to God honoring souls, yet in God’s perfect timing, Ecclesiastes 3:11, He will promote you to the place where you belong.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Spiritual Break Dance

Back in the 1970’s, a new movement was born in the inner cities across America.  While theories exist as to whom, where and how this form of expression began, one thing is known.  Rap music was the inspiration behind break dancing.  Although this style has faded in popularity, don’t be surprised if you see intricate footwork, spinning headstands, tumbling and elaborate improvised movements.

Over the weekend, I was listening to music for several hours, trying to find something to fall asleep to.  Before I collapsed into a peaceful state of bliss, the lyrics to one song struck me, Love Break Me by Ocean’s Above.  This song may not lead you to dance, but it will urge curious souls to contemplate a spiritual transformation.  When the love of Jesus enters a human heart, a spiritual break dance commences.

Ravi Zacharias grew up in India.  After unsuccessfully attempting suicide, a Christin hospital worker reached out to him and gave his mother a Bible to read to Ravi out loud before being released.  These words touched his heart, Romans 10:19, leading to a life of service to God.   Now a successful author, motivational speaker and ministry founder, Ravi is performing a spiritual break dance on his way to heaven.  Don’t sit on the sideline.  Rather, get up, go to the dance floor and a bust a new move today!

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Go a Little Further

When I was growing up, it wasn’t cool to be smart or raise your hand to answer questions in class.  Students who strove to go a little further became labeled brown nosers and teacher’s pets.  As a high school teacher for 10 years, this mentality still exists, present in 90% of the classes I taught.  Unfortunately, this negative peer pressure steers some individuals away from over-achieving, leaving it behind for fame, popularity and social status.  The end result of this cultural phenomena is a society which does just enough to get by.

In the book of Genesis, there is a boy who fits the brown noser, teacher’s pet stereotype.  However, this boy refused to lower his personal standards.  Instead, Joseph went above and beyond the expectations of others.  Although, his brothers wanted to kill him, despite being sold into slavery and falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Joseph went a little further, Genesis 39:21-23.  Inspired by God, Joseph’s work ethic led him to run an estate, prison and eventually the nation of Egypt, Genesis 41:29-30.

During his sermon on the mount, Jesus took this concept one step further in Matthew 5:41-42.  When you go the extra mile, you exceed and surpass what a typically person would do.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37, Jesus demonstrates what going a little further resembles: a model of care, compassion and consideration.  Furthermore, Matthew 25:35-36 breaks down what an individual can specifically do.  Finally, the apostle Paul encloses a prayer within Colossians 3:17, 3:23 to remind Christians of their motivation for going a little further.  Pay it forward today!

by Jay Mankus

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