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A Conscious Decision

As an adult, there will be many memorable moments in your life. When things are going good, you may be having such a great time that you forget your responsibility as a parent. While coaching and teaching at Red Lion, I neglected my family, spending countless hours each week grading papers, preparing lesson plans and overseeing my golf team. In my free time, I played on a church softball team every Friday night. About 10 years ago, I was so consumed with my own life that I had become an absent father.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

One night I was able to watch James play in a Little League baseball game. His team lost 2-1, but James hit an inside the park home run. The only other time James got up he doubled, but go stranded on base as the game ended. I was surprised to see James batting 10th. Sure, every parent believes that their child is better they actually are, but batting at the bottom of the lineup didn’t make sense. After a conversation with a neighbor, I discovered James used the coaches son’s bat without asking. Thus, James was punished by his coach. This petty act led me to make a conscious decision to become more involved in the lives of my children. The following year I became one of James’ coach, the first of 7 straight years coaching or managing a team for Greater Newark Baseball.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

Like I have mentioned in previous blogs, I do everything to the extreme. I’m either all in or mentally unattached. This conscious decision has made me spend most of my free time in the last decade attending activities, competitions and sporting events. Although I don’t have the friendships that I once did outside my home, I am seizing every moment left that I have with Daniel and Lydia before they graduate high school. I definitely don’t have the energy that I once did, but I am doing my best to be an active and supportive father. Looking back, maybe I could have done things differently, but I don’t regret my conscious decision to make my children and family a major priority.

by Jay Mankus

Time Matters

There are moments in life that are overshadowed by accidents, hardship or other unforeseen events. Just when you find yourself on the verge of a breakthrough, something beyond your control breaks your momentum. Unfortunately, most people never regain this mojo, quickly disappearing. As time goes by, priorities often change due to new responsibilities. Thus, as the days of your youth fly by, now in my rear view mirror, time matters.

Remember [earnestly] also your Creator [that you are not your own, but His property now] in the days of your youth, before the evil days come or the years draw near when you will say [of physical pleasures], I have no enjoyment in them—Before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened [sight is impaired], and the clouds [of depression] return after the rain [of tears]; Ecclesiastes 12:1-2.

The most quoted chapter, Ecclesiastes 3, points to the concept that there is a season and time for every matter and purpose. In the 1984 film Footloose, Kevin Bacon plays a high school senior, Ren who fights city hall to restore dancing so that a class prom can be held. Ren’s girlfriend Ariel played by Lori Singer, gives him a series of Bible verses as the pastor’s daughter. The force that drives Bacon’s character is the belief that “this is our time.”

In the day when the keepers of the house [the hands and the arms] tremble, and the strong men [the feet and the knees] bow themselves, and the grinders [the molar teeth] cease because they are few, and those who look out of the windows [the eyes] are darkened; When the doors [the lips] are shut in the streets and the sound of the grinding [of the teeth] is low, and one rises up at the voice of a bird and the crowing of a cock, and all the daughters of music [the voice and the ear] are brought low; Ecclesiastes 12:3-4.

In the passage above, King Solomon uses a series of symbols to illustrate how time flies by on earth. The days of your youth end in a flash, like a twinkling of your eyes. Perhaps this explains the origin of carpe diem, found in book 1 of the Roman poet Horace’s work Odes. While this Latin phrase literally means “pluck the day,” Horace’s goal was to seize the moment before time slips away. Since time matters, make sure you seize each day the Lord gives you on earth, making the most of the opportunity to live.

by Jay Mankus

When the House of Your Dreams Fades Away

If you are not careful, you can allow life to get away from you. Distractions, the gruel of work and unguided years have caused me to lose track of time. It seems like only a few years ago that my three kids all attended the same school where I taught. At this moment in time, everything seemed so clear as I was on the way to building the house of my dreams.

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

Nearly a decade later, our house is nearly empty, two years away from having all of my children in college. After hearing Casting Crowns’ song House of Their Dreams the other night, conviction filled my soul. The words of these lyrics ring true as I find my family trapped in our own worlds despite living under the same roof. Recognizing this is one thing, but coming all together as a Christ devoted family requires an act of God.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28.”

Sure, prayer and fasting will help, but I can’t expect my family to change until God changes me first. Instead of asking, correcting and urging others to take action, I need to closely evaluate and examine my own life first. During the youth ministry trade school that I attended following college, I learned that the enthusiasm of a leader never exceeds that of its audience. Therefore, if I want to restore the house of my dreams, I need to pray “Lord change me first!”

by Jay Mankus

God is not Slow…You are Just Holding Him Up

I am one of those individuals who is always in a hurry, eager to find the most efficient and quickest route to where I need to go. I don’t do slow well, especially when I’m stuck in rush hour traffic. Rather, I follow the motto from Top Gun, “I feel the need; the need for speed!” While I don’t promote reckless driving, I hate wasting time, especially when it comes to making the most of each day.

And you shall eat it thus: [as fully prepared for a journey] your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment [proving their helplessness]. I am the Lord., Exodus 12:11-12.

When God revealed his plan for Israel’s exodus out of Egypt to Moses, the Lord uses the term haste. Haste refers to excessive speed, urgency of movement or action. Basically, God is telling Israel to hurry up, “it’s time to go into the land that I promised you.” Although Israel did flee Egypt, this sense of urgency didn’t last long. A trip that should have taken 35 days, just over one month, ended up lasting for forty years.

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.

Immediately following the chapter known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, the author warns individuals about getting tripped up. While God desires to pour out blessings upon your life each month, backsliding, detours and getting lost often results in years without producing spiritual fruit. Before you can reach your full speed and potential in life, you have to get untangled from any web of sin currently slowing you down. As you break free, may you begin to see that God is not slow, you’re just holding Him up.

by Jay Mankus

Re-examining the Anointing of Jehu

Sometimes the message that God is trying to communicate to you doesn’t make sense initially. Take the prophet Elisha for example, who is about to retire, but is called by God to anoint a new king . The passage below details instructions given to Elisha to follow. The first two verses seem clear, but the end of verse three raises some concern. “Why is God telling me to run? What is going to happen immediately following my anointing for me to flee?”

And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets and said to him, Gird up your loins, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. When you arrive, look there for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi; and go in and have him arise from among his brethren and lead him to an inner chamber. Then take the cruse of oil and pour it on his head and say, Thus says the Lord: I have anointed you king over Israel. Then open the door and flee; do not tarry, 2 Kings 9:1-3.

During the anointing of Jehu, Elisha reveals several accomplishments that this new king will fulfill during his reign. One of these promises is to overthrow queen Jezebel. Perhaps inspired by this prophecy, Jehu doesn’t waste anytime. The passage below details Jehu’s encounter with Jezebel. Jehu’s call to action was simple, “who is on God’s side?” Two of the three body guards of Jezebel, knowing of her evil deeds, took Jehu’s advice, throwing Jezebel off a balcony, falling to her death.

Now when Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and beautified her head and looked out of [an upper] window. 31 And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, [Have you come in] peace, you Zimri, who slew his master? 32 Jehu lifted up his face to the window and said, Who is on my side? Who? And two or three eunuchs looked out at him. 33 And he said, Throw her down! So they threw her down, and some of her blood splattered on the wall and on the horses, and he drove over her, 2 Kings 9:30-33.

While the example I have chosen is extreme, procrastination is a major factor that prevents many individuals from achieving their full potential. A sense of urgency is rarely demonstrated. People pften fall into the trap, “I have plenty of time to do this or that.” Yet, as each passing day goes by without acting, time becomes your enemy. As I re-examine the anointing of Jehu, the call for action should be for today, not tomorrow. Don’t second guess yourself. Rather, seize the day just as King Jehu was a man of action.

by Jay Mankus

Acts 29

The title of today’s blog is a trick question. While I was a young Christian in college listening to a motivational speaker, he asked the audience to open their Bibles and turn to Acts 29. Most of the room was flipping through the beginning of the New Testament, unable to find this page or chapter. This search continued for several minutes until one bold individual spoke out, “there is no chapter 29, Acts only has 28 chapters.”

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.

This pop quiz left many in the room embarrassed. As the speaker began his lesson, this opening question served two purposes. First, this man urged believers to become better students of God’s Word. Second, to view life in terms of an unfinished chapter of the Bible where God uses modern Christians to fulfill the great commission, Acts 1:8. This 60 minute speech made a long lasting impact on my life, instilling a desire to ascertain God’s will for my own life, Romans 12:1-2.

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 12:2.

To prepare for today’s blog, I did a search for Acts 29 for fun to see what I would find. To my surprise, Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church planters who seek to carry on the work of the apostle Paul. This ministry is characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation as churches are planted throughout the world. One of my searches located beliefs and theories that Acts 29 is simply missing. Since Acts 28 does not reveal the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome, common sense suggests there must be another chapter. Whatever the reason for this abrupt ending, may this blog inspire you to seize each day with a renewed desire to fulfill the great commission.

by Jay Mankus

Appointed and Destined

The term appointed refers to a time or place decided on beforehand. Mainstream education often associates appointed with “white privilege,” not fair to those excluded from this process. Yet, this allotted, designated and pre-ordained time or place is chosen by God. When individuals delay, ignore or reject God’s calling, another is selected like David in 1 Samuel 16 to take someone else’s place.

And I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that is appointed and destined for you to do,’ Acts 22:10.

Sometimes this appointing requires assistance from another person or group. When Saul who became the apostle Paul was blinded by bright lights from heaven, an unidentified person led him by his hand to Damascus. God often uses extreme circumstances to awaken souls to obedience. Subsequently, Saul’s blindness persuades him to become open to accepting Jesus as Lord.

But since I could not see because of the [glorious intensity and dazzling] brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus, Acts 22:11.

The phrase destined for greatness doesn’t always amount to success. Freewill gives human beings the ability to accept, reject and wait to act upon the calling of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul was a rare exception, making the most of his faith in Christ. Sure, each generation will have a Billy Graham to carry it’s spiritual torch. Yet, the only way the appointed fulfill their destiny is daily obeying God by resisting temptation.

by Jay Mankus

Compelled and Obligated

During a visit thirty miles south of Ephesus, the apostle Paul feels compelled to reach out to nearby church leaders. This desire pushed Paul to summon for elders in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. Apparently, the Holy Spirit informed Paul that this would be the last time he would see these individuals. Like a sense of duty, Paul does not hold anything back, compelled to give one more inspiration speech.

And now, compelled by the Spirit and obligated by my convictions, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, Acts 20:22.

In the passage above, Paul communicates the connection between being compelled by the Holy Spirit and obligated to follow biblical convictions. Keeping in the step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, requires a drive and urging from God. As the Spirit prompts you to seize the day, making the most of an open door, an opportunity to use your God given talents, your degree of conviction will make the difference. When conviction is lacking, souls will bypass the Holy Spirit to indulge their sinful nature. Thus, many discard, ignore or reject their obligation to follow God’s calling.

So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but not to our flesh [our human nature, our worldliness, our sinful capacity], to live according to the [impulses of the] flesh [our nature without the Holy Spirit]— 13 for if you are living according to the [impulses of the] flesh, you are going to die. But if [you are living] by the [power of the Holy] Spirit you are habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body, you will [really] live forever, Romans 8:12-13.

In a letter to Christians at the church in Rome, Paul uses tough love to reinforce the importance of being compelled and obligated to Christ. Two chapters later, Romans 10:9-10, Paul eludes to those who have believed in their hearts and confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. For those who make this commitment, this public confession requires a transformation from giving into your flesh to living in the power of the Holy Spirit. As believers daily and habitually put to death their sinful deeds, the Holy Spirit compels souls to act via an obligation fueled by biblical convictions.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Season

In 1983 I was an incoming high school freshman eager to participate in a fall sport.  At 100 pounds and five feet tall, I was too small for football.  Concord’s soccer team had just won a state title so nearly one hundred boys tried out to make this team.  Fortunately, our paper boy was a runner, making the sports section of Wilmington’s News Journal after each race.  When I found out the cross country team didn’t cut anyone, I started my first of what I thought would be four seasons.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

While running 5-8 miles a day in the heat wasn’t initially appealing, the individuals on Concord High’s cross country team welcomed me like I was joining a new family.  The aches and pains of running were soothed by loving teammates who accepted me despite my size and stuttering.  As the youngest child of three whose sisters were both in college as I entered high school, cross country quickly became my extended family, caring for one another before and after each race.  What other sport do you find complete strangers hugging one another after a race or holding someone up after collapsing at the finish line so they don’t cramp up.

Someone said to Him, “Look! Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside asking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples [and all His other followers], He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven [by believing in Me, and following Me] is My brother and sister and mother,” Matthew 12:48-50.

This encouraging environment has made me an advocate for cross country.  While serving as a youth pastor in Indiana, I spent Saturday’s cheering on teenagers from my church.  As a former runner, I was able to counsel the disappointed and motivate others to continue to improve.  Running distances from 2.1 to 3.1 miles requires trial and error, going out at various paces to determine the best strategy for each course.  The elite often use large invitationals as throw away races to see how fast they can go out before they die, falling way off the pace.  While watching the Corinthian Games, similar to the Olympics, the apostle Paul writes about mental toughness, pushing your body to the limit to reach your full potential in the passage below.

Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

In my final year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to coach my two boys at Red Lion.  The previous coach set up a running club three days a week for elementary students to go along with coaching the junior high team.  This allowed Daniel to run with his older brother James., creating a competitive atmosphere.  Recognizing where I was as a runner at this age, I implemented fun days to keep the casual runner interested, giving 8th graders input to choose a fun practice each week.  Meanwhile, I pushed eager runners toward qualifying for the Yes Athletics National Championships as the East Regional was held an hour south of our school.  Over a 3 year period, I drove runners to nationals at Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.  This experience enabled students to compete against the best runners in the country.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Over the past 7 years, I have been a cross country parent, watching my two sons run for St. George’s.  Since my daughter Lydia has fallen in love with volleyball, Daniel’s senior year will be my final season attending Cross Country races.  Before I become a volleyball groupie, the reality of saying goodbye to cross country will be sad.  However, I do have a unique opportunity to run in a 5K prior to this fall’s county race known as the Old Timers Race.  Unfortunately, this requires getting into shape and running in the heat.  I haven’t started training yet, but as Daniel’s first race approaches this week, running to various mile marks with serve as  a warm up.  There is an old saying that states “Father Time remains undefeated.”  Yet, God has given me one final season to seize each day that I am blessed to watch my son Daniel complete.

by Jay Mankus

 

Leaving God’s Footprint Behind

The Roman lyrical poet Horace first coined the Latin phrase carpe diem.  When translated into English, carpe diem loosely means to “seize the day.”  This may explain why professor John Keating, a poetry teacher played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society references this expression.  When applied to a Christian faith, believers should be focused on leaving God’s footprint behind.

For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both himself and others] and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah, through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.  And Barnabas left for Tarsus to search for Saul; Acts 11:24-25.

Luke introduces a man named Joseph in Acts 4:36-37 who developed the nick name Barnabas, “son of encouragement” for his generous donations to the church.  When Jesus’ disciples were skeptical of Saul’s conversion to Christ, it was Barnabas who defended his faith, Acts 9:27.  In the passage above, Luke reveals the secret behind Barnabas’ success, full of the Holy Spirit.  At some point, God called Barnabas to disciple Saul, investing one year of his life to nurture his faith.

And when he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For an entire year they met [with others] in the church and instructed large numbers; and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, Acts 11:26.

By the time these men left, Antioch became a symbol of God’s footprint on earth.  As members of the church emulated the life and teachings of Jesus, community members referred to this group of believers as Christians.  Today, Professor William Rees is the father of carbon footprints, derived from a paper, Environment and Urbanization, written in 1992.  While Christians should be good stewards of the earth God created, the Holy Spirit is searching for individuals who want to leave behind God’s footprint wherever you go and whatever you do.

by Jay Mankus

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