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Man Verses Self

Nine years ago, I entered my first Screenwriter’s contest. Like a fish out of a water, I have stumbled my way through the past decade, making rookie mistakes without even realizing it. Yet, 2021 has served as a year of enlightenment, opening up my eyes to crucial techniques that separate a mere novice from a professional screen writer. As I work on my latest project for the 2021 Nicholls Fellowship Screenplay Competition, there is an internal battle brewing within my mind. I find myself caught somewhere in between Man verses self, who I want to become and what I need to change to reach my self-actualization as a writer.

For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it, Romans 7:15-16.

The origin of Man verses Self comes from a literary form of story. This is brought to life when a character is their own adversary. In these types of parables, an individual possesses a bad habit, flaw, or weakness that prevents this person from reaching their full potential. My current project is based upon my own severe speech impediment as a child. Subsequently, whenever I tried to express feelings in my heart or thoughts within my mind, fits of stammering and stuttering always shut these conversations down. The more frustrated I became, the worse my condition got, causing me to become my own worst enemy.

However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. [I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.] – Romans 7:17-18.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul opens up about a private matter. Paul refers to a thorn in the flesh, either a physical ailment or a metaphor for an ongoing spiritual condition. Apparently, Paul’s struggles was not isolated, extending for years. Paul devotes an entire chapter to highlight mankind’s internal tug of war between the carnal nature and God’s promised Counselor, John 14:26. No matter how disciplined and strong that you may be, Paul was not able to control his sinful nature in Romans 7. Thus, Man verses Self is more than a literary form, it’s a journey of faith that forces Christian’s to confront the dirty laundry of their past. The Bible’s advice to conquer any internal struggle is by crucifying your old self and replacing it with the newness of living in Christ, Colossians 3:1-9.

by Jay Mankus

Removing the Debris that’s Blocking Your Path of Faith

Last week Hurricane Isaias’ path went through the state of Delaware. Although Isaias was downgraded to a tropical system by the time it struck Delaware, this storm spawned a record breaking tornado. Leaving a path of destruction for more than 29 miles, I left for work on Tuesday unaware of what I would face. While my commute normally takes a little over 30 minutes, a closed bridge and 3 other detours led to a 90 minute ordeal.

Now Jesus, again sighing repeatedly and deeply disquieted, approached the tomb. It was a cave (a hole in the rock), and a boulder lay against [the entrance to close] it. 39 Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days! – John 11:38-39

At one point when I realized I would be a minimum of 30 minutes late, I thought about turning around to go home. Yet, with my co-worker on vacation, I pressed on. Since all the traffic lights in Middletown were out, police officers were directing traffic, unable to warn drivers of less traveled roads also blocked by fallen trees. Since my only other option was backed up for several miles, I drove 10 miles out of the way to finally arrive.

Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger], John 11:40-42.

In the passage above, Jesus is consoling two sisters whose brother Lazarus passed away. Angry at Jesus for not arriving earlier to heal her brother, Martha’s faith is wavering. During a prior visit, Jesus said that these women would see the glory of God. Lazarus’ death served as a boulder, blocking Martha’s path of faith. Unable to remove this stone by herself, Martha gathered family and friends so that Jesus could enter Lazarus’ tomb. Before this day was over, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, opening Martha’s eyes to the possibilities when faith is not blocked. May this story inspire you to remove any stone currently blocking your path to belief.

by Jay Mankus

Do Not Miss Your Moment

The best part of any new year is that you have a clean slate, a fresh start. As the 20’s commence on January 1st, the possibilities of what may happen are limitless. Your first day, meal, pay check, vacation, etc. However, when you wake up for the first time, make sure that you don’t miss your moment, Ephesians 2:10, what God has prepared in advance for you to do this year.

When Jesus raised Himself up, He said to her, Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you? 11 She answered, No one, Lord! And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more, John 8:10-11.

One of the things that keeps individuals from reaching their full potential are addictions, bad habits and disobedient acts. Unless conviction elicits a sense of urgency, most people will tarry on with a mediocre life, void of any major accomplishments, dreams or goals fulfilled. The danger of sin is that spiritual separation will prevent you from recognizing God’s will for your life, distracted by temporary pleasures on earth.

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:14

In the case of Esther, God used her cousin Mordecai to help her see why God enabled her to became queen. This wasn’t just a coincidence, Esther’s moment on earth had arrived to be a vessel for God. Apparently, the pressure got to Esther, asking Mordecai and as many Jews as possible to fast and pray for her. When you don’t think you can fulfill God’s will, ask other believers to pray for you so that you don’t miss your moment to shine.

by Jay Mankus

Serve or Be Served… The Latter is More Enticing

When professional athletes struggle to reach their full potential, videos are examined to see what bad habits or flawed fundamentals are present.  Unfortunately, in life most people don’t have film to examine.  Rather, individuals are forced to rely on friends, self reflection or therapists to turn floundering careers around.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap, Galatians 6:7.

One of the forces at work which determines positive or negative results in the Sowing Principle.  What comes around goes around is an earthly way to describe the biblical expression: you reap what you sow.  Essentially, if you serve others, the Lord will honor this decision by sending unexpected blessings in times of need.  Meanwhile, if the idea of being served by others entices you, the rewards for this choice will be temporary; resulting in a permanent void inside of your heart.

“Give and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you,” Luke 6:38.

Jesus explains this concept to his followers in the verse above.  In the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13, Jesus uses the imagery of a harvest to illustrate this principle.  Those who are planted within a fertile soil, environment, production increases.  Thus, if you reach a point in life where you are disciplined, grounded and serving others with your God given gifts, it’s possible to experience bountiful blessings.  Yet, if you feed your sinful nature, pursuing selfish desires, temporary pleasures will quickly vanish leaving a trail of heart break.  The choice is yours.

by Jay Mankus

Something is Missing

In the realm of Marvel Comics, each super hero has a weakness.  Despite their power and strength, beneath the surface lies a kryptonite, a force that evens the playing field.  If these figures allow this element to remain in their presence, their impact on society is minimized.  The same can be said about normal human beings who experience mediocre lives, struggling to ascertain what’s missing, preventing you from reaching your full potential.

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:8.

Although its probably over analyzed in sports, each year a Cinderella team comes out of no where to contend and sometimes win a championship.  On paper, there’s no logical explanation for this.  Yet, when individuals and a group come together to form perfect chemistry, an atmosphere for success is achieved.  Despite what the experts may say, when you surround yourself with the right people, you will be surprised by results that follow.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12.

A thought occurred to me yesterday at work, something is missing in my life.  My enthusiasm, joy and passion for life is gone.  As I tried to put my finger on the real issue, another message came to me.  The missing ingredient for me is a church home.  Prayer and a personal quiet time reading the Bible can only take you so far.  After experiencing the demise of Red Lion Evangelical Free Church and School up close as leader, its been hard for me to go all in, afraid of getting hurt again.  Yet, if I want to reach the summit of my potential, the missing link for me is committing 100 % to a congregation that I can serve in.

by Jay Mankus

 

Losing Your Edge

Staying on top, being the best at any job, skill or trade isn’t easy.  If you are fortunate to reach the summit of a profession, there is always someone new, stronger or younger ready to take your position.  In the film Top Gun, Cougar was the number one fighter pilot in his squadron before a mid-air altercation with a bogey caused him to lose his edge.  Thus, Maverick played by Tom Cruise and Goose, Anthony Edwards, were waiting in the wings to take over.

“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?” – Mark 7:18

In  the first century, the twelve disciples were the Cougar among spiritual leaders.  Although Luke 10:1 refers to 72 others, a minor league for training to become elite disciples, these twelve men were chosen to be part of Jesus’ flight school.  Nonetheless, their exposure to Jesus’ miracles, teaching and wisdom caused their hearts to become numb.  Thus, Jesus goes off on their flawed thinking, trying to reprogram their minds set on human traditions.  When Judas Iscariot lost his edge, committing suicide following his betrayal of Jesus, Matthias was selected to take his place in Acts 1:26.

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” – Mark 7:21-23.

Today, America’s churches is searching for a new Top Gun, to soar above the sinful nature lurking to attack hearts.  This internal battle has caused many great rising stars to crash and burn before reaching their full potential, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6.  In the skies, there are spiritual bogeys, demons, evil spirits and powers of darkness hoping to shoot you down.  Despite these adversaries, Jesus has equipped his crew with spiritual weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  May the leaders of the future be armed, 1 Peter 4:1, with the right stuff to maintain their edge fueled by strength in Christ,  Philippians 4:13.

by Jay Mankus

Who is this Masked Man?

The name Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla probably doesn’t ring a bell.  However, the legendary stories past down after his death in 1810 gave birth to Zorro.  By 1919, author Johnston McCulley created the character of Zorro causing a generation to wonder, “who is this masked man?”

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” – Mark 4:38

By AD 30, another individual was blowing the minds of his followers.  While traveling by boat, Jesus and his disciples were confronted by a white squall.  Fear spread throughout this vessel except for Jesus, taking an afternoon nap.  Disappointed by the panic of grown man acting like scaredy cats, Jesus awoke confronting their situation.  With a few words, the storm ceased.  Looking at each other in shock, twelve men began to murmur, “who is this masked man?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. – Mark 4:39

Unfortunately, people continue to doubt God today.  Despite generational blessings, modern miracles and unexplainable events, faith continues to fade.  Disappointment, hard luck and troubled souls have become beaten down, losing the spirit of optimism.  Perhaps, society needs church leaders to shine the light of Christ so that those in the dark may began to ponder, “what’s different about that person?”  May the legend of Zorro and the Son of God inspire souls to reach their full potential in Christ, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Another Day Flushed Down the Toilet

There was a time in my life when I was highly motivated, eager to reach my full potential.  Unfortunately, I now experience periods of  apathy, not caring how productive I am on my days off.  Like a malaise, time ticks away while reclining in my chair.  Before I can snap out of it, another day is flushed down the toilet.

While watching a reality show last, Jon Taffer, host of Bar Rescue, reached out to a family owned business in Staten Island, New York.  Initially successful, three brothers let their establishment become inundated with a motley crew of bikers.  In desperate need of an intervention, Jon uses tough love to convict this family of their inadequacies.  When push comes to shove, you either need to stand up to face your fears or your dreams will be flushed down the toilet.

If you find yourself heading in the wrong direction, accountability from a co-worker or friend is essential to stay on track.  Proverbs 27:17 suggests that accountability sharpens those who engage in and practice it.  Therefore, if you don’t want another day to be lost to idle time, get involved now by meeting a friend in need.  Unless you do, there’s a good possibility that another day will be flushed down the toilet.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Don’t Be So Koi; Unleash Your Potential

Koi fish, also known as nishikigoi in Japan, are domesticated carp kept for decorative purposes, usually in water gardens.  However, koi have an unique characteristic, growing only as large as their environment allows.  Thus, if you have a small fish tank, their size will be stunted to a few inches.  When given the opportunity, koi can grow to nearly 4 feet in size, but only in the right conditions like a large pond or lake.

In life, many individuals are afraid of the unknown, the areas beyond their comfort zones.  Subsequently, most people limit their potential, scared to take a chance or risk embarrassment outside in the big sea.  Instead of blossoming, souls tend to settle for mediocre lives, secure in the safety of their normal surroundings.  Unfortunately, this is not the plan God called his disciples to follow, Mark 16:15-18.

Today, Christians leave this responsibility for pastors, preachers and teachers, excluding themselves from Jesus’ command.  Although the harvest is still ripe for the picking, Matthew 9:35-38, the sidelines are flooded, me included, with believers too self-absorbed with life to get into the game.  In view of this unsettling truth, break away from patterns of idleness.  Don’t be so koi; rather unleash your potential by fanning into flame the gifts you have t offer, Romans 12:3-8.

by Jay Mankus

Imagination in Captivity

As a child, everyone has moments where one day dreams of an ideal career, goal or vision of a bright future.  Something about the energy of youth, inspires one to climb the ladder of success, striving to be the best you can be.  Unfortunately, somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, a Debbie downer, glass half empty person or realist brings you back to earth by reminding you of all the obstacles standing in your way.  It is here, where imagination becomes imprisoned, held captive by fear.

On the corner of Average and Great, at the crossroads in life, choices dictate the path you follow.  Will failure lead you to turn around toward the Lane of Shame?  Does money inhabit your chances to reach for the stars?  Or do you suffer from paralysis by analysis, standing on the curb, still trying to decide?  My imagination has designed 2 dozen golf courses, composed nearly 20 songs, several games, a complete movie script and a novel in the works.  However, currently, my imagination is in captivity, with a few disks, documents and notebooks full of potential, yet void of success.

At these moments in life, one must call on the wisdom of Solomon, 1 Kings 3:4-9.  If I am to rescued from these chains, I need God to send me wise men or women to show me how to display the potential I possess.  When patience is tested like Abraham, waiting 18 years for God to give his wife a child, the true heart of man is exposed.  If Thomas Edison can attempt 9,999 ways how not to make a light bulb, I guess I can endure a few more days, weeks, months or years in captivity.  May God grant me a spirit of perseverance so that one glimmer of hope will lead to a spiritual light within me for the world to see.  In my mind, I can see freedom, faith and a finished product.  Until then, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

by Jay Mankus

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