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A Celebration of Faith

In between sports seasons, I take my youngest two, Daniel and Lydia, to play frisbee golf on Saturdays.  Usually, lunch is involved, either before or after to encourage participation.  Once we reach our favorite course at Canby Park, some discs go way off course, often requiring a search and rescue crew.  These undesirable terrains include winding creeks, sticker bushes and wild vegetation.  It’s not uncommon to get cut and bleed profusely without recognizing it right away.

And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household, Acts 16:32-33.

A similar phenomena happened to the apostle Paul and Silas in the passage above.  Twenty four hours earlier, these men were beaten with rods.  According to Luke, each were struck several times, Acts 16:23.  After being thrown into a dungeon and feet fastened to stocks in an agonizing position, their initial pain was redirected in another direction.  Despite this momentary setback, a time of prayer and worship served as a distraction.  Caught up in the excitement of a jailor and his family coming to faith in Christ, Paul and Silas forgot about their bloody wounds.

Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ], Acts 16:34.

When human hearts and minds are set on things above, temporary pains fade away, Colossians 3:1-3.  Jesus taught his disciples to become fishers of men, winning souls to believe in God.  Whenever individuals witness a spiritual transformation, it’s a cause for a celebration.  Following the baptism of a jailor and his entire family, a party is thrown like a modern day church reception.  As the lost come to their senses, a celebration of faith is in order.  According to Luke, angels celebrate in heaven each time a sinner repents, Luke 15:10.

by Jay Mankus

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Some Days You Have It… Some Days You Don’t

Watching a sporting event can be like a television drama with unexpected twists and turns.  As this presentation enfolds, it won’t take long to determine who is playing up to their potential and who is having a rough night.  Baseball and golf events are prime examples as a hall of fame pitcher will have a night or two where it looks like there are throwing batting practice in a homerun derby.  Meanwhile, David Duval, a former British Open champion started his opening round of the 2019 British Open one under par through six holes.  Twelve holes and 20 over par later, a professional golfer shot 90 for 18 holes.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity, Proverbs 24:16.

You don’t have to play a sport to experience this strange phenomena.  As a former teacher, some days I was on a roll, coming up with amazing examples to highlight my lesson plan.  Then, out of the blue, I went through periods where I struggled to get my point across as students looked dazed and confused.  Although preparation is necessary for any type of teaching, more time spent planning doesn’t always translate into success.  While there isn’t a Bible verse that contains a direct link, all I can say to explain these occurrences is that “some days you have it and some days you don’t.”

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, Psalm 73:26.

Solomon and the Psalmist provide advice for individuals who experience failure on days where they don’t have it.  King Solomon states that the righteous keep getting back up no matter how many times they fail.  Meanwhile, the Psalmist points to trusting in God to help you overcome disappointment and failure.  King Solomon also encourages believers to learn from mistakes so that you don’t repeat epic failures from your past.  No one likes to fail, but when you do lean on the hope in relief of God’s mercy, Lamentations 3:21-23.

by Jay Mankus

Proving Your Faith

I spent most of my youth pursuing sports, playing a different sport each season.  One of the best ways to get more playing time is practicing during the offseason.  Unfortunately, when you are the best or one of the top athletes in a sport like me, I got complacent, lost my drive and was surpassed by others boys as I got older.  Since sports is so focused on statistics, coaches placed an emphasis on proving yourself game after game and week after week.

22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 23 After considerable time had passed [about three years or so], the Jews plotted together to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the city’s gates day and night so they could kill him; 25 but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. 26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple, Acts 9:22-26.

If you take the Great Commission literally, Matthew 28:16-20, (Jesus’ plan to spread the gospel throughout the earth), proving yourself spiritually is based upon the degree to which you share your faith.  According to the passage above, Saul spent somewhere between 2 to 3 years doing this.  According to Luke, Saul used his upbringing as a Jewish zealot and knowledge of the Old Testament to convince his listeners that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Despite Saul’s efforts, this wasn’t good enough to be accepted and embraced by Jesus’ disciples.  Basically, Jesus’ inner circle believed that Saul hadn’t done enough to prove that his faith was genuine.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] 15 If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective], James 2:14-17.

An earthly brother of Jesus gives a broader view of how an ordinary person can prove their faith.  Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, James believed that his oldest brother was a liar and lunatic.  When you read the passage above, James is using his own life as an example.  At some point, James’ own faith became inoperative and ineffective.  Genuine faith is alive and active, producing spiritual fruit or planting seeds of faith.  Therefore, if you want to prove your own faith, make sure that you  in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  By doing this, your faith will come alive for others to hear and see.

by Jay Mankus

Enduring a Spiritual Identity Crisis

If you enjoy or follow sports, success is defined by winning and losing.  Despite how many victories a team earns over the course of a season, if a championship is not won, fans lose hope.  In the meantime, coaches, players and stars who endure humiliating loses in the playoffs are labeled as chokers, overrated and trashed throughout social media.  Those who seek to self identify themselves using these standards will experience disappointment, failure and shame unless titles are won.  Thus, its not uncommon for people to go through some sort of identity crisis.

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant, 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Non-athletes tend to use a different set of standards.  Depending upon your career choice, degrees earned and annual salary, value is placed upon your life.  Intelligence, social status and wisdom add or subtract to how the world views your importance.  Anyone called into the ministry, social work or has a low paying jobs are looked down upon by the upper class.  If you let this bother you, then you may be tempted to adopt worldly standards.  The longer you allow yourself to be defined by rich or poor, wins or losses and success or failure, the more likely you will go through a spiritual identity crisis.

It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening], 1 Corinthians 13:5-7.

When I moved to Chicago after getting married, living among millionaire neighbors, I tried to fit in initially.  Unfortunately, the best job I could find was making thirty thousand dollars a year, chump change to everyone around me.  Attending Willow Creek Community Church on Wednesday nights helped alter my perspective.  As I began to hear, read and meditate upon God’s standards in the Bible, my soul was comforted by the fact God keeps no records of wrong.  Therefore, if you ever feel like your life doesn’t measure up to the world’s standards, use biblical principals to overcome any spiritual identity crisis that you may endure.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Come Up One Shot Short

Unlike most sports, golf doesn’t use a running clock with a set number of periods or quarters.  Rather, tournaments consist of a defined number of holes depending upon the degree of competition.  For the past sixteen years I have spent the two days after Memorial Day watching the Delaware High School State Golf Tournament.  My first ten years were spent as a head coach, the last six as a parent and volunteer on the state committee running this event behind the scenes.  Over the past two decades, I’ve seen more heartbreak than jubilation.  One golfer endured 180 shots over 18 holes while a recent senior missed out on qualifying for states by one stroke two years in a row.  In view of this, how do you move on when you come up one shot short?

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, Colossians 1:11-12.

When I experienced disappointment, failure and setbacks as a teenager, one adult suggested that I go back to the drawing board.  The point of this idiom encourages those who fail to go back to the beginning, hoping to figure out what went wrong and why.  During my final spring at Concord High, my last golf season got off to a miserable start.  After two embarrassing losses, I spent an afternoon playing 36 holes in the rain.  Channeling my anger in a positive manner, I refused to repeat the same stupid mistakes for the rest of the season.  This day served as a turning point, when God gave me a resolve to do whatever it took to reach my full potential.  By the end of the season, I was leading the state tournament after day one and despite fading on the back nine during the final round, a top ten finish resulted in all state honors.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

Sometimes, individuals are given back stage access, able to interact with celebrities and stars.  Such was the case for the earthly brother of Jesus who never believed until the resurrection.  The words from the passage above were inspired by the attitude demonstrated by Jesus throughout his life.  Jesus didn’t dwell over bad breaks, criticism or results that didn’t meet his own expectations.  Rather, Jesus remained steadfast despite coming up just short from time to time.  Therefore, when you come up one shot short in life, ask the Holy Spirit for the resolve to press on until dreams, goals or visions are fulfilled.

by Jay Mankus

 

Serenity

If you over hear a conversation at work, follow social media or watch the news, serenity is one of the last things you will find.  Perhaps, if you travel to the Caribbean, retreat to the mountains or go on vacation, signs of serenity will emerge.  Unfortunately, many people rush through life, becoming distracted by concerns, stress and worries.  These burdens make the possibility of experiencing a calming, peaceful and tranquil environment doubtful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

When I was younger, I wanted to be older, able to freely roam the earth like the prodigal son.  Now that I am old, I wish I enjoyed and savored the days of my youth.  Besides going to school and playing sports, I had it made.  Sure, there are always periods or phases that you would like to forget, but the teenage years should have been the best.  Yet, puberty, self-esteem issues and giving into temptation often derails childhood dreams.  Meanwhile, the older you become, the more complicated life gets.  These negative influences make serenity a foreign concept.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you, Isaiah 26:3.

The Old Testament offers some advice to those who seek to find serenity.  First, Solomon implores individuals to place their trust in the Lord.  According to this former king, those who practice this by faith will receive insight as God straightens your path through life.  Second, the prophet Isaiah talks about developing a mindset.  Peace, a by product of serenity is obtained by fixing your mind on God.  If you feel overwhelmed by the chaos that exists daily, may these words inspire you to find a state of freedom from the storms and disturbances within this life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Orchestrator of Comebacks

The phrase comeback is often associated with sports.  A retired boxer may get the itch to regain the title belt he gave up.  After walking away due to injury, a new medical procedure gives a former star one last chance for glory.  Following a successful career in the armed services, a former athlete tries out for a team seeking to fulfill a life long dream.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled, John 11:33.

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of individuals get to play a professional sport.  Thus, everyone else has to go to school, pursue a trade or find out the hard way that life can be a long and lonely road.  Without any cameras, reality show or viewers to cheer you on, average people struggle to survive.  Yet, those who refuse to accept defeat make an upturn by rallying, fueled by a spirit of determination.  Anyone on the verge of giving up needs the orchestrator of comebacks.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” – John 11:40

There are two factors that initiate a comeback.  The first is heart felt compassion that inspires individuals into action.  The second involves an unswerving confidence in God’s power to make the impossible reality.  Raising someone who has been dead for more than three days would be considered one of the greatest comebacks ever.  The passage above highlights the resurrection of Lazarus, a close friend of the family.  When the odds are stacked against you and science says it’s not possible, there is only one person to call; the orchestrator of comebacks, aka the Son of the Living God.  Reach out to Jesus today.

by Jay Mankus

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