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Tag Archives: souls

Finding Answers in a Loss

At the end of last year, my daughter and I joined a volleyball league. Every Friday night until April, I am able to compete for an hour. While the initial reason for participating was to allow my daughter to sharpen her skills during the offseason, I find myself outclassed by much younger and athletic individuals. The ultimate purpose of any sport is to determine who is the best. Thus, when you lose more than you win, human nature begins to search for answers to explain why your team lost.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.,” Matthew 5:4.

In her 2017 song Can’t Live Without, Hollyn sings about someone who doesn’t know what they are chasing after. Using the context of a person driving in rush hour, sometimes you are so busy that lose sight of where you are actually going. Near the end of the lyrics, there is a transition which struck a nerve, ” Some people gotta lose it all to find out what they really want.” Progress, success and victory doesn’t require any need for reflection as positive momentum breeds confidence. Yet, embarrassment, failure and losing leads souls to ponder why.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me., 2 Corinthians 12:9

As a former professional athlete, I hate to lose, even if it’s playing a board game with my family at home. However, my desire to win takes joy away from competing. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states if you get rid of competition, you eliminate pride. Thus, if you take your focus off of winning and turn it toward savoring the opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the final outcome or scoreboard reads. Thanks to Hollyn’s song, I am now able to see the big picture, a father who is able to spend quality time with his daughter. While our team’s record may be mediocre, I have found an answer in a loss.

by Jay Mankus

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Fruit Inspectors

Quality Control is a system for verifying and maintaining a desired level of quality for a product.  Companies accomplish this through careful planning, use of proper equipment, continued inspection, and a corrective plan of action.  The roots of Total Quality Management can be traced back to the early 1920’s when statistical theory was first applied to product quality control.  By the 1940’s, Japan further developed quality control resulting in prosperous manufacturers especially in the automobile industry in the years that followed.

“Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? – Matthew 7:15-16

The Bible refers to a different kind of quality control system.  Jesus urges listeners of his Sermon on the Mount to become fruit inspectors.  Instead of determining the quality of a specific fruit, Jesus wants individuals to discern, examine and observe other human beings.  Afraid of counterfeit, fake and phony people deceiving honest souls, Jesus compares fruit to the content of someone’s character.  Like a mentor steering his students in the right direction, Jesus reveals what to look for when encountering any religious teacher.

Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets], Matthew 7:17-20.

In the passage above, Jesus provides guidelines to follow for fruit inspectors.  The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the church of Thessalonica.  During a visit to Berea, Paul was impressed by a culture of fairness, not jumping to any conclusions.  Paul references their example by encouraging others to test everything that you hear with the Bible to see if it’s true, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Quality fruit inspectors examine the facts, hold on to what is good and discard everything else.  May this blueprint allow you to perfect your ability to become a skilled fruit inspector.

by Jay Mankus

Before Anything Gets Lost It Becomes Loose

Initial signs that there may be something wrong in your life are subtle. Normal wear and tear may result in an occasional squeak or rattle. These vague warning signals may be ignored if time constraints, exhaustion or pressure exists. Unless routine maintenance is performed, cars, possessions, relationships and souls will continue to deteriorate. If no action is taken, things will become loose, fall off and get lost if neglected.

So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down [some of] the trees. But it happened that as one was cutting down a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Oh no, my master! It was borrowed!” – 2 Kings 6:4-5

In the Old Testament, a servant of Elisha began to chomp down some trees along the banks of the Jordan River. The sound of each power HACK, one after another drowned out any hint that this axe was about to break. Borrowed from a neighbor, this servant wasn’t treating this tool in a malicious manner. Rather, the thought of clearing a small section of woods next to the river brought on adrenaline to get this job done as soon as possible.

The man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron [axe head] float. He said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out with his hand and took it, 2 Kings 6:6-7.

Nobody knows the exact time or place when one of your possessions will break. In a span of a few weeks, two cars that I was driving broke down on three different occasions, the last on Interstate 95 this year. How you respond to these unfortunate events will reveal your true character. The only description of this servant in the passage above is a man of God. Instead of complaining, this man immediately turned to prayer and a prophet for help. In an instant, that which was lost is found. May this blog awaken you to the principle before something gets lost it becomes loose.

by Jay Mankus

God Only Knows

Since the United States government shut down in late December 2018, there has been ongoing debates about border security.  Democratic leaders have suggested that building a wall to keep refuges out is immoral.  Meanwhile, Republican supporters claim that a nation without defined borders will not survive.  While this war of words goes back and forth, one voice has been ignored.  Every day, the broken, depressed and hopeless build invisible walls to hide the pain deep within their hearts.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

When individuals begin to see their dreams, goals and hope for success slip away, staying optimistic seems impossible.  Although some may muster up the strength to fake how you feel, most people withdraw from society.  If you don’t have anyone to lean on or share your anguish, walls begin to be erected.  Desperate souls may risk becoming vulnerable, pouring out their heart and soul, but if you reveal this information to the wrong person your situation may get worse.  Thus, where do you go when no one seems to care?

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:22.

In 1954, the Philadelphia doo wop group the Capris released the song God Only Knows.  Written by Ruben Wright, this single had a dramatic impact on Motown singer Marvin Gaye.  Perhaps, this original piece inspired the 2018 version from For King & Country.  God Only Knows can be found on the newly released Burn the Ships album.  The chorus of this song reflects upon daily struggles that human being endure.  “God only knows what you’ve been through; God only knows what they say about you.  God only knows that it’s killing you but there’s a kind of love that God only knows.”  May the lyrics of this attached song encourage you to draw near to God as you experience disappointment and heartache in life.

by Jay Mankus

Just Okay is Not Okay

Every so often an advertising campaign stumbles upon a concept that goes beyond the ability to sell an item, product or service.  AT&T recently introduced “Just Okay is Not Okay,” using a patient in a hospital prior to his surgery.  Upon meeting his doctor, this physician developed a reputation for being average.  To dramatize this point, the doctor about to perform his surgery is coming off of a suspension for malpractice, recently reinstated.  This visualization drives home the point that being just okay is not okay.

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold (invigorating, refreshing) nor hot (healing, therapeutic); I wish that you were cold or hot, Revelation 3:15.

This same principle applies to the spiritual realm.  One of Jesus’ disciples uses the analogy of lukewarm water, neither cold or hot.  John highlights the best qualities of each, invigorating cold showers that wake you up and soaking in a hot tub to massage sore body parts.  Each temperature serves a specific purpose.  Yet, if you want to become more than just okay, individuals must possess a desire for greatness, to be the best you can be.  If you are somewhere in between, without any conviction or drive, you likely won’t amount to much.

So because you are lukewarm (spiritually useless), and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth [rejecting you with disgust], Revelation 3:16.

During an encounter with God in heaven, John reveals how the Lord feels about souls that become lukewarm.  The Amplified Version of the Bible uses the phrase spiritually useless.  Not holding anything back, those who find themselves in this spiritual state disgusts God.  Apparently, the lukewarm taste of wishy washy Christians makes God want to vomit.  Therefore, just okay isn’t okay in God’s eyes.  Rather, seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, Matthew 6:33, then you will move beyond okay to a good and faithful servant.

by Jay Mankus

 

Surviving Your Next Guilt Trip

Guilt is like an invisible lie detector test.  When human beings deny, exaggerate or lie, souls are awakened by pulses inside their body.  This reaction is triggered by consciences, an inner feeling or voice of truth.  The apostle Paul refers to this concept as the invisible qualities of God so that no one is without excuse, Romans 1:18-20.  The dilemma is not if your next guilt trip will arrive, but how will your respond when conviction starts gnawing upon your heart.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

One of the objectives of the modern progressive movement is to de-emphasize absolutes by elevating personal opinions.  As lies are portrayed as truth by members of the media, gray areas expand resulting in a combination of confusion and rationalization.  If the Bible becomes discredited from endless attacks by atheist groups, future generations will look to other sources for moral guidance.  Perhaps, leaders want to return to the days of Old Testament Judges, where people began to do what was right in their own eyes.

If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose], 1 John 1:8-9.

The spiritual dynamic of guilt seeks to bring about humility.  Depression is a natural emotion created by God to make it painfully obvious that individuals can not follow the ten commandments on their own.  Thus, when guilt trips persuade hearts and minds to admit the error of their way, confession opens the door for hope, Romans 5:2-4.  Responding correctly to guilt, unlike Cain who killed his brother, enables contrite spirits to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy.  May the words of 1 John give you a blueprint for surviving your next guilt trip.

by Jay Mankus

Pursuing God While Breaking Bad

The television series Breaking Bad ran from 2008 to 2013 on the AMC Network.  This popular drama starred Bryan Cranston, a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.   The plot thickens when White turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family’s future.  Sometimes when your motives are pure, souls can become lured away, distracted by temptation, resulting in the spiritual version of breaking bad.

As it is written and forever remains written,There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one, Romans 3:10.

The apostle Paul expands upon this concept in a letter to the church at Rome.  The context of the passage above refers to legalistic religious leaders like the Pharisees who attempted to be holy without God’s help.  Paul corrects anyone who thinks otherwise by stating that no one meets God’s standard of perfection.  Thus, when individuals seek to pursue God without leaning on the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming bad can happen to anyone.

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose, Romans 8:28.

The passage above contains a promise.  However, as people go through life, there are accidents, bad breaks and unfair circumstances that don’t make any sense when they occur.  These unforeseen events make embracing this promise from God difficult.  The human mind struggles to grasp the purpose of heart breaking moments, painful experiences and gut wrenching trials.  Nonetheless, as Christians pursue God’s will for their life, don’t be surprised by periods when you are not yourself.  These troubling stretches are marked and stained by immaturity when demons, selfish ambition and worldly desires result in breaking bad until repentance occurs.

by Jay Mankus

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