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From Shallow to Saved

Shallow people often exhibit a superficial nature due to emptiness, ignorance, and or a tendency to be self-absorbed. Looking back at my adolescence, my bout with stuttering and stammering severely stunted my ability to communicate with my peers. Subsequently, I withdrew from society and hid my pain, so I didn’t embarrass myself in public. Meanwhile, I suppressed my feelings by focusing solely on sports which I began to excel at as I entered high school.

And as He was going into one village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. 13 And they raised up their voices and called, Jesus, Master, take pity and have mercy on us! – Luke 17:12-13

Following the decree in Leviticus 13:43-46, the ten lepers in today’s passage were forced into quarantine, banned from entering their village until their leprosy was healed. Whenever a healthy person approached, the Jewish law called for each man to proclaim, “I am unclean.” Jesus didn’t come to judge these lepers, but to free them from their contagious disease. Upon hearing the good news of being healed, perhaps the other 9 lepers were too shallow to thank Jesus for this new lease on life.

Then Jesus asked, Were not [all] ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to [d]recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this alien? 19 And He said to him, Get up and go on your way. Your faith (your trust and confidence that spring from your belief in God) has restored you to health, Luke 17:17-19

When I was in high school, I acted like the 9 lepers who failed to give thanks and praise to God. I was so consumed by what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go that I neglected the Lord. Rather than open my eyes to all the blessings in my life, my shallow nature prevented me from appreciating the obvious. Yet, when I made the decision to make Jesus my Lord and Savior in college, Romans 10:9-11, I was transformed from shallow to saved. A few years later, God completely healed me of my stuttering like the ten lepers who experienced their own miraculous healing.

by Jay Mankus

Embrace Holy Fervor

Since I wasn’t a good student early on in high school, I poured my heart and soul into sports. Whether I was running cross country, swimming, playing baseball or golf, I developed a fervor for greatness. I may have not been the most athletic and physically gifted individual, but I wanted to win more than most of my peers. While I didn’t have much of a social life, I didn’t care as long as I improved daily.

But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live [f]by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.

This is the type of passion the Bible refers to in the passage above. Faith provides a similar adrenaline rush that I experienced as an athlete. However, this conviction comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. Rather than seek to become a winner in a competition, faith is a driving force to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus. When God becomes who you seek to delight, holy fervor is conceived.

A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers. 24 God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:23-24.

During a conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus reveals how a desire for truth can give birth to holy fervor. Despite the flaws in this recently divorced woman’s life, a fire began to burn deep within her heart as Jesus spoke. This is the same sensation I experienced as a freshman in college when I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to make Jesus the Lord of my life. Regardless of what happens this holiday season, make room for Jesus so that you may embrace holy fervor.

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

Where Presence and Practice Intersect

As a former athlete in multiple sports, practicing in the off-season is key to reaching your full potential. Before the days of travel teams and countless weekend competitions, sports junkies like me would hone their skills in local neighborhoods. Spontaneous pick up games would occur every summer day playing 500, steal the bases, interception, and whiffle ball. On rainy days, boards games, cards, and video games passed the time until the weather cooperated. The more I competed and practiced, the presence of improvement began to shine through.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encourages members to practice their faith. While God does show up unannounced from time to time in the form of angels, answered prayers and signs, this doesn’t happen by chance. Peace doesn’t occur simultaneously as soon as you verbalize this word. Rather, peace arrives at the intersection of practice and presence. This develops as faith is exercised through reflection, prayer and thanksgiving. Practicing what you believe gives individuals the opportunity to fail and learn what you need to work on spiritually.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.

According to the apostle Paul, focusing on the positive is a key step toward progressing. As your mind begins to dwell and focus on true and wholesome aspects of life, attitudes and behaviors tend to change for the better. However, Paul doesn’t want Christians to stop here. In addition, keep moving forward by practicing what you have learned from the Bible. The closer you draw near to the Lord, the greater your chances will be to experience the presence of God. Therefore, carry on by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit so that God’s presence appears when faith is practiced.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Give Sin the Attention it Desires

As someone who’s life revolves around sports, the best way I can describe sin is like experiencing a bad losing streak. Sometimes you can try so hard to stop something from happening that your mind gives up before you achieve your desired outcome. Subsequently, you find yourself in bondage, held captive by an invisible force that makes you do the opposite of what you really want, Romans 7:15-16.

In the spring, when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab with his servants and all Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites [country] and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, when from there he saw a woman bathing; and she was very lovely to behold, 2 Samuel 11:1-2.

Sin has a way of casting spells on weak individuals, distracting them from the way out of the mess they’ve created, 1 Corinthians 10:13. In the passage above, David was tired, didn’t feel like going to work so he took the entire spring off. After a few days, David got bored, talking an evening stroll on top of his castle. Instead of being rejuvenated from rest and relaxation, a second glance at Bathsheba caused David to give sin the attention it desired.

But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:14-15.

Perhaps, speaking from personally experience, the earthly brother of Jesus writes about the powerful force known as temptation. When wandering eyes stray from the cross of Jesus toward earthly pleasures, you open the door from sin to come into your life. If enticement, lust and passions are allowed to stick around, sin will take you further than you ever imagined or wanted. Newspaper archives is filled by shocking stories from people of faith who gave sin the attention it desired. This is why we should flee sin, James 4:6-8, while there is time to come to our senses to escape sin’s grasp.

by Jay Mankus

Recalling Minds to the Way of Life in Christ

I was an average student most of my life, often day dreaming in class about what I wanted to do. For example, I spent most of Geometry designing golf courses which explains why I never understood this concentration of math. Until I realized that my grades in high school would impact which college I could attend, my mind was hard to corral. Since academics wasn’t my forte, most of my energy, focus and time was invested into sports. After becoming a Christian in the middle of my sophomore year, the Holy Spirit helped me become a better student by recalling the promises of the Bible to my mind.

For this very cause I sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and trustworthy child in the Lord, who will recall to your minds my methods of proceeding and course of conduct and way of life in Christ, such as I teach everywhere in each of the churches, 1 Corinthians 4:17.

Sometimes the quest for knowledge gets in the way, hindering one’s ability to grow spiritually. Members of the Corinthian Church were raised in a culture that idolized philosophers. While the apostle Paul’s visit to this region in Greece sowed spiritual seeds, after his departure it appears that many went back to their former way of life. After receiving news of their idleness, back sliding from the apostles’ teaching, Timothy is sent as a means to recharge their spiritual batteries. Paul’s goal is to recall minds to the way of life in Christ.

Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him, John 14:6-8.

Seeing in Believing is the name of a 1934 British film. Seven years later author John Dickson Carr wrote the mystery novel Seeing in Believing. German singer Xavier Naidoo, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Adriana Evans also released songs with the same name. During the first century, seeing is believing was a common phrase for those who witnessed a miracle performed by Jesus. Yet, the disciple known as doubting Thomas still had reservations, regularly questioning Jesus. Since modern Christians have to rely on the words of the Bible, as you read these living pages may your minds be recalled to the way of life in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Day Sports Stopped

March 12th, 2020 will go down as the day sports stopped in America. As soon as a member of the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the Coronavirus, the National Basketball Association was the first domino to fall. By the end of this second week in March, Major League Baseball, Nascar, the National Hockey League and the Professional Golf Association all suspended their regular seasons. Meanwhile, in college, March Madness, the NCAA men’s and woman’s basketball tournament were cancelled as well as the entire Spring sports season.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:17-18.

Following the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, sports was used as a means to get the United States back to a somewhat normal life again. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has not let up, shutting down businesses, schools and all professional sports until May at the earliest. If this wasn’t bad enough, major cities across the country have seen a recent spike in cases. Now spreading well beyond New York City, only God knows when this pandemic will end. Thus, for now, not even sports can help unite and uplift this country.

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken, Psalm 34:19-20.

The context of the Psalm above refers to David who pretended to be insane before Abimelech. If you have been stuck in quarantine for the last few weeks, you might be ready to have a similar reaction. The thought of an invisible disease attacking healthy Americans is scary. Thus, when the circumstances surrounding you are beyond your control, hopelessness can set in. Yet, God uses hardship, trials and tragedy like the Coronavirus to get your attention, crying out to the Lord in prayer. Since sports won’t be around anytime soon to cheer you up, look to God for deliverance. May the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit be uplifted by the hope of God’s healing power.

by Jay Mankus

How Bad Do You Want It?

To excel at a high level, many athletes join travel teams at an early age to maximize their full potential. Depending upon an individual’s commitment, desire and overall talent, coaches will push these rising stars to new heights. Parents will continue to fork over thousands of dollars each year with the goal of eventually earning a full college scholarship. The end result often relies on how bad do these student athletes want to compete at the next level.

Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

From a spiritual perspective, God uses free will to reveal who wants it more. Instead of forcing the earth to comply, God introduced the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel in Exodus 20. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ opened the door for Gentiles to be welcomed into God’s family. For anyone who wants to excel spiritually, Jesus summarizes a primary goal: love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul adds another element to how bad do you want to draw near to God. Paul suggests that human bodies are on loan from God. Thus, if you want to reach your full potential as a believer, treating your body as a living temple of God is essential. Those who want it more spiritually will separate themselves via fruits of the spirit. Since talk is cheap, time will tell how bad you want to please God?

by Jay Mankus

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

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