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When Something is Missing

When I was younger, I wasn’t much of a student. Easily bored while sitting in class, I relied on gym class and sports to get me through each day. When I became old enough for youth group, I applied a similar strategy. The thought of hanging out with people my own age each Sunday night enabled me to endure an hour long church service. To me youth group was like a rite of passage, a weekly event that I never wanted to miss.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:20.

After becoming a youth director at a Methodist church in the country following my graduation from college, I made the assumption that teenagers would just show up like I did. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case as I struggled to get a half dozen teens to come out each week. About a month into my tenure, I realized that something was missing. Students were being forced to get up early by their parents to attend Sunday School prior to the worship service. Thus, many youths developed the mindset, “well, I went to Sunday School, that should suffice.”

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation, Romans 10:9-10.

Whenever you are forced to do something, there is a degree of resentment that may enter your soul. If you just attend church or youth group as a favor to friends or parents, faith becomes nothing more than a religious exercise. What is missing in the lives of many church goers is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Whenever someone takes ownership of their faith, you turn the corner spiritually. Instead of dreading church, awakened souls take ownership of their faith when the void in human hearts is replaced by Christ.

by Jay Mankus

What Do You Remember?

A 2016 research study has shown that children exposed to trauma don’t forget it, as previously believed. In an attempt to suppress these painful experiences, these individuals engage in denial as a defense mechanism. These findings peaked my interest as I blocked out most of second grade. While writing a paper for Childhood Development in college, I had to interview my parents about my behavior as a child. As I asked my mother a series of question, I began to realize why I tried to conceal these memories. My stuttering had become so severe that even my own mother regularly couldn’t understand what I was trying to say.

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! – Psalm 25:7

When my father was transferred to Delaware a year later, this move was a blessing in disguise. The neighborhood in north Wilmington, Delaware that I called home until college was amazing. While some friends like Brad moved away a few years after I arrived, Jeanette, Steven and Richie helped make this a smooth transition. Although I still battled spouts of stammering and stuttering, this community became like an extended family. Every summer I couldn’t wait to get up so that I could play outside until dark. On rainy days, Atari and epic games of Monopoly passed the time. These interactions in North Minister fueled my love for competition and sports.

Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people, Nehemiah 5:19.

While fond memories from your past are nice to cling to, the Bible reveals what individuals should remember. The Psalmist writes a prayer for change, seeking to forget the wayward decisions of their past. Meanwhile, a servant of the king pleads that God remembers only the good that he has done. The apostle Paul reveals God’s ultimate Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Once the perfect lamb of God (Jesus) died on a cross for our sins and rose from the dead, God no longer sees our imperfections. Thus, this is what our heavenly father wants individuals to remember while residing on earth.

by Jay Mankus

The Joy of Parenting

As a parent with 3 children over the age of 15, my days of having a full house are nearing an end. This reality has prompted me to make my two younger children a weekly priority. When I came home from work earlier this week, there was a sticky note for me from my son Daniel. Hoping to play frisbee golf after class, I made arrangements to have lunch and play afterwards. While neither of us played that well, spending a couple hours together brought joy to my heart.

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist, 1 Corinthians 8:6.

When I got back home, I remembered that my daughter Lydia had a volleyball at 3:45. Despite an urge to be lazy, I jumped in the shower, got dressed for work and rushed out the door. Despite some traffic, I arrived as the first serve was being struck. I’ve seen better performances, yet being able to watch Lydia play the sport she loves was worth the 30 minute drive. The team had some good stretches of play, but watching Lydia set the match winning spike was priceless.

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? – Malachi 2:10.

My efforts to be a good parent was just one day. The God of the Bible does this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, keeping watch over his spiritual children on earth. Rarely, do I comprehend the joy that comes from being a parent. Since we live in a society and world that is becoming more and more negative, hearing a positive story is a rarity. Yet, I feel compelled to write this blog today to proclaim parenting is not dead. It’s not easy, but as parents study the Bible to train children in the way they should go, the joy of parenting is experienced.

by Jay Mankus

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

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

 

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