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What a Spiritual Journey Encompasses

While a Christian’s faith begins with a public confession, Romans 10:9-11, the journey that follows is a life-long commitment. One New Testament author compares this to running a marathon in Hebrews 12:1-2. Yet, the apostle Paul provides an accurate description in the passage below of what a spiritual journey encompasses. This comes in the form of a prayer request so that Christians in Colosse reach their full potential.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [[g]special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the [h]full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [[i]in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—Colossians 1:9.

Part of this journey involves discovering your own spiritual gift, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Until these talents are manifested and or unveiled, you probably won’t know the direction or path to take in life. Perhaps, this is why the apostle Paul spent so much time praying for clarity, knowledge and understanding for God’s will in life. Unlike Dorthy who had a yellow brick road to lead her and her friends to Oz, the Holy Spirit is an invisible guide for Christians on this journey of faith.

That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and [j]desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, [k]acquaintance, and recognition]. 11 [We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy, Colossians 1:10-11.

Yet, when everything comes together and the stars align, God’s goal is for Christians to conduct your life in a manner worthy of the Lord. In a letter to a teenager pastor, Paul calls this leader to fan into flame his gifts. Go forth and fulfill what God has called you to do in life. While I long to become a screenwriter in Hollywood, for now God is calling me to post a blog every day so that you may know what a spiritual journey encompasses.

by Jay Mankus

An Essential Part of the Process

Part of the current defund the Police movement is based upon removing discipline from America’s Justice System. Yet, as a former high school teacher, once you remove discipline from a classroom chaos ensues. As District Attorneys in major cities across the country continue to lessen the penalties for breaking the law, this has given birth to a Smash and Grab mentality. When major retailers have given up on certain unsafe locations, this highlights that discipline is an essential part of the process in life.

You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? – Hebrews 12:7

Whether you’re a coach, friend, parent or teacher, disciplining anyone isn’t easy. Proper discipline requires consistency and an immense amount of energy. If the person you are trying to help is defiant and not teachable, you’ll find yourself emotionally drained. Yet, when you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, this will likely hinder any progress that you’ve made in helping this individual. Tough love is difficult to display, but it is an essential part of the path to recovery.

Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all], Hebrews 12:8.

The author of Hebrews compares life to running a marathon, filled with unexpected detours and obstacles along the way. Whenever you’re running, if it’s too hot, you may have to shed various layers of clothing along the way. Over the course of life, people tend to collect and gather unnecessary possessions that can weigh you down over time. Discipline may be used to help you distinguish what’s important from what you no longer need. In the end, parents resort to discipline to shape and train children into the people God wants them to become making this painful exercise an essential part of the process.

by Jay Mankus

The Desire to Become Part of a Greater Cause

I’m the youngest of three with two older sisters, four and five years apart. Because of this age difference, I wasn’t big enough to be included in our neighborhood games. I spent the first 10 years of my life sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone else have fun. When my father got transferred to Delaware, most of the new neighborhood was my age. Despite a severe speech impediment, I found solace in playing board games, sports and video games with kids who became like a second family.

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.

When high school arrived, I joined a sport that I was told no one ever gets cut, Cross Country. Like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, I became a running fool. While the actual act of running was brutally hard, the friends that I made during these 4 years was unlike anything I have ever experienced. One of my favorite memories was going on a long bus ride to Killens Pond State Park to compete in my first ever running invitational. To represent Concord and run for my teammates made me feel part of a greater cause for the first time in my life.

Now there are distinctive varieties and distributions of endowments (gifts, [a]extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit) and they vary, but the [Holy] Spirit remains the same. And there are distinctive varieties of service and ministration, but it is the same Lord [Who is served]. And there are distinctive varieties of operation [of working to accomplish things], but it is the same God Who inspires and energizes them all in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

After my sophomore year of college, I was invited to attend a church service where one of my mentors was speaking. Little did I know that joining this small service of about 20 people, I felt an instant special connection with this church body. Despite meeting inside the entrance of a local high school for 2 years, I felt called to become baptized and to start the process of joining Cornerstone Church. This wasn’t just a neighborhood or a school group, but a body of believers that allowed me to become part of a greater cause to share the love of Jesus throughout Delaware. May you find the same joy that I found in my earlier years.

by Jay Mankus

Pace Yourself

I possess one of those addictive personalities where I tend to follow an all or nothing mindset. When I become passionate about something, I develop the “eye of the tiger” fueled by an intensity to accomplish whatever I set my mind to do. Unfortunately, emotional excitement doesn’t last forever. Subsequently, when I don’t pace myself, I often crash and burn before experiencing the thrill of victory.

Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go, Joshua 1:6-7.

As Israel began to prepare to enter into God’s promised land, Joshua provides advice for spiritually pacing yourself. Joshua suggests that courage can be conceived from reading the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible which were available to the Levitical Priests. As you begin to live in the pages of the Bible, don’t turn away, drift or stray from God’s commands. As you begin to practice keeping the Sabbath holy, pacing yourself is possible.

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success, Joshua 1:8.

Whether you’re running or trying to endure the hectic schedule of a busy work week, meditating and reflecting upon biblical principles will help your sanity. Meanwhile, Joshua suggests that those who maintain a daily time of Bible Study will become prosperous and successful. As you learn to set the spiritual pace for believers to follow, the example that you display daily will inspire others to observe and practice spiritual disciplines.

by Jay Mankus

What a Special Friend Can Do for You

Before the Coronavirus spread to the United States in the March of 2000, my daughter Lydia was thinking about ending her Pole Vaulting career. The 2020 Winter Track Season was blah; not progressing at pole vaulting or meeting any new friends. As a Field Event specialist, not part of any running events, it’s hard to experience the sense of being part of a team. This all changed when Lydia met Bree at the 2020 Winter Track State Meet.

The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

Instead of dreading track, this instant friendship has transformed my daughter’s perspective of this sport. Bree has been like a big sister, introducing Lydia to everyone in the pole vaulting community. In her first two seasons, Lydia enjoyed pole vaulting, but she could live without it. Now that my daughter has been welcomed by the local pole vaulting community, a new desire to improve was conceived. When a special friend enters your life, these individuals take you to new heights, often pushing you closer toward self actualization.

No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends, John 15:13.

In the Old Testament, King Solomon distinguishes the difference between having several acquaintances and a special friend. Genuine friends stick around when everyone else tends to leave during times of hardship. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples refers to the sacrifices that friends make with the greatest being laying down their own life. We all need special friends like Bree. Looking back, if it wasn’t for Bree, Lydia probably would not have broken her school record which she now holds by herself at 9’6″.

by Jay Mankus

A Deep and Clear Knowledge of God’s Will

The only thing on earth comparable to uncovering a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is preparing your body for a triathlon. As a former runner and swimmer, I spent two winters in high school pushing my body to it’s limits. Since my practice schedule rotated with the girl’s team, every other day I would run before swimming. As it got colder, my hair would freeze when I ran after my two hour swim practice. Meanwhile, each summer I would take my boys on long bike trip, somewhere between 10-15 miles. Trying to walk after getting off your bike is hard enough, but finishing a triathlon with a long run takes everything you have just to finish.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

In a letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that discovering God’s will for your life is attainable. However, you must develop the right mindset to make this a reality. Whenever I get lost in the world, filled with countless temporary pleasures, God’s will is put on hold. As a prodigal returns back home to the Lord, rededicating your life back to the Lord isn’t easy, especially when temptations begin to bombard you. Paul compares this with rigid daily disciplines as individuals offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Yet, this is just the initially step before God’s will becomes clear and visible.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—Colossians 1:9.

While writing to the members of the Church at Colosse, Paul shares a brief outline of his prayers. Paul doesn’t want this church to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years like Israel waiting to enter God’s Promised Land. Rather, Paul wants these leaders to begin to ascertain their spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, so that these talents can be put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6. As these God given abilities are brought to light, a glimpse of God’s will for your life comes into focus. Yet, this process often takes years, decades and a lifetime to uncover. If you want to adopt Paul’s prayer for your own life, start this journey today so that a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is unveiled to you soon.

by Jay Mankus

Run into the Tower

As a former runner, my high school cross country coach used a series of different techniques to get our team into shape at the beginning of each season. One of my favorites is known as fartlek training. This intermixes walking, jogging, and sprinting. Depending upon the group you were placed in, the leader with a stop watch sets the pace and gives the command to switch every 2 to 5 minutes. Starting with power walking soon transitions into a steady jog until you go all out, as fast as you can go, until this cycle is repeated several times.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the [consistently] righteous man [upright and in right standing with God] runs into it and is safe, high [above evil] and strong, Proverbs 18:10.

King Solomon uses the Hebrew word לרוץ at the end of the passage above. Solomon could have used הליכה to command his children to walk into God’s strong tower. Another option was to זה מה שאני עושה, by elevating the sense of urgency to a jog. Rather, Solomon doesn’t want people to be apathetic or distracted. Thus, when you find yourself surrounded by a world filled with darkness, run toward to the Lord’s strong and safe tower. This level of urgency is found in those who are upright and in right standing with God.

The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as a high protecting wall in his own imagination and conceit, Proverbs 18:11.

Unfortunately, the gifted, talented, and wealthy often exchange God’s tower for a high wall that they build on their own. Solomon compares this type of person with conceited individuals who possess a great imagination. The apostle Paul refers to a similar character flaw in Galatians 6:7. While things may go well for you for a while, those who trust in themselves will eventually become worn out by living outside of God’s strong tower. In view of this spiritual reality, run into God’s tower.

by Jay Mankus

When You Don’t Have the Strength to Carry On…

Michael W. Smith-Live And Learn – YouTube

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul had his own battle with an illness. Instead fighting off the remnants of the Coronavirus, Paul was ravaged by a messenger from Satan. Apparently, Paul was inflicted by a thorn in his flesh, perhaps a splinter became infected. Based upon the context of the passage below, this condition persisted for a number of months if not longer. Some scholars have suggested that Paul is referring to some sort of demonic oppression that began to wear down his emotional and physical strength.

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 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! 10 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 in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

I was first introduced to today’s two passages by my high school swim coach. Since I only joined the swim team to stay in shape for cross country, I struggled to finish every practice. When you’re running and you trip, you can stop for a moment to retie your laces. However, when your in the middle of a pool, out of breath and tired, you have to keep swimming until you reach the other end. Through my first two years, I only completed a handful of practices. Yet, when I began to take Coach Horne’s advice, Christ became my strength when I was exhausted in the pool.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.

During my sophomore year of high school, my coach also introduced me to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Instead of just being relating this concept to swimming, I learned to apply the Bible to life. While not everyone in these monthly Bible Studies were genuine believers, I tried to become like a sponge, soaking in as much as I could. I guess the best approach to take about implementing the Bible into you life is using the message from Michael W. Smith’s 1989, Live and Learn. No one is ever a completed or finished project. Rather, each day provides opportunities to live and to learn when you don’t have the strength to carry on.

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

Run with Certainty

After spending 4 years running cross country in high school, my college career lasted a week. The coach who recruited me and spoke at my high school banquet didn’t know my name on the first day of practice. Everything that I thought to be true about my potential in college was a lie. I’ve never been a quitter, but I lost my sense of purpose after 5 days. I didn’t have the energy to even make it on the junior varsity team. I guess you can say I lost that loving feeling for running if there is such a thing.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary, 1 Corinthians 9:26.

Intramural sports kept me in shape after I gained the freshman 25. I suppose breaking the dorm record by eating 9 cheese steaks in 30 minutes wasn’t such a good idea. Anyway, as my first set of mid-term exams arrived, I used running as a study break to clear my mind. Some nights I took a slow jog around campus. When finals stared me in the face, running became like a break from life. Listening to the sound track to Rocky IV provided me to the adrenaline to fly around campus before returning to my books.

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.

Thirty years and another fifty pounds later, I have limited my running to the spiritual kind. While eluding to the Corinthian Games, a popular track and field event during the first century, Paul talks about the mindset runners possess. Instead of listening to your body, long distance runners enter a trance like state, focused on what’s ahead while maintaining a steady stride. When you run with certainty, there’s no doubt you’ll cross the finish line. Christian’s don’t leave their old life behind to follow Jesus just hoping to get into heaven. Rather, we run with certainty, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

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