RSS Feed

Tag Archives: swimming

The First Small Group Leader

Mark 1:35-39 describes one of the first nights Jesus spent with the new leadership team that He handpicked. These twelve men went on to become known as the 12 disciples of the Bible. The secret to Jesus’ success as a small group leader was an early morning prayer and walk in the wilderness. According to John Mark, this hour of power revealed to Jesus where to go and what to do. Jesus invested three years of his life pouring his heart and soul into these men to prepare them for his departure; setting an example to follow.

Another also said, I will follow You, Lord, and become Your disciple and side with Your party; but let me first say good-bye to those at my home. 62 Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God, Luke 9:61-62.

The next step for any small group leader is to identify future leaders in your group. At some point, Jesus recognized James, John, and Peter as his inner circle, Luke 9:28-36. Jesus brings these three men along with him on special occasions, leaving the other nine disciples behind. This includes Jesus’ transfiguration in the mountains, resurrecting a little girl from the dead, and the healing of others close to death. Beside teaching each of these men about God’s spiritual powers, Jesus likely wanted to see how each of them responded to dire situations.

Now after this the Lord chose and appointed seventy others and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come (visit). And He said to them, The harvest indeed is abundant [[a]there is much ripe grain], but the farmhands are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out like lambs into the midst of wolves, Luke 10:1-3.

Jesus wasn’t content with one ministry team. Rather, Jesus selected an additional 72 disciples to serve the Lord. According to Luke, Jesus chose and appointed these people based upon their commitment and willingness to surrender their lives as a servant of God. To avoid being overwhelmed, Jesus sends out 36 teams of two with specific instructions to follow in Luke 10. Like a swimming instructor, Jesus wanted to see who would sink and who would swim. As modern churches continue to encourage members to join a small group, don’t forget the Bible’s first small group leader and His advice left behind in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 26: World to Wait

While swimming in the Pacific Ocean for the first time a decade ago, I enjoyed Newport Beach and nearby Huntington Beach. After getting hungry, my family walked to the Huntington Beach Pier to Ruby’s, the restaurant that overlooks the Pacific. If you want to know where I’m going with this, today’s featured song is by the group Staves Acre which is from Huntington Beach, California.

I will give great praise and thanks to the Lord with my mouth; yes, and I will praise Him among the multitude, Psalm 109:30.

Staves Acre provides my go to mix at the start of every shift to get blood pumping through my body. The genre of Staves Acre is a cross between classic rock and metal. A few of their songs sound like Rush while others provide more of a metal sound of the 1990’s. As for today’s song, World to Wait provides a great sound with lyrics designed to create a sense of urgency within your soul. I hope you enjoy Staves Acre.

by Jay Mankus

Undisturbed by Fear

The response known as fear starts in the region of the brain called the amygdala. This unpleasant emotion is often intense as individuals perceive and or recognize a dangerous threat. Depending upon the degree of fear that you encounter, physiological changes may produce behavioral reactions that conceive phobias. One of Jesus’ disciples suggests that reaching a certain level of faith allows Christians to be undisturbed by fear.

Let him turn away from wickedness and shun it, and let him do right. Let him search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. [Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!] – 1 Peter 3:11

As a child growing up in Delaware, I’d had many strange encounters with snakes. I’ve had snakes slither in between my feet while cutting the grass, fall from trees right in front of me and stop right next to me while swimming in a creek. These experiences conceived a reoccurring dream while in college. Similar to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the snake in my nightmare is coiled up before instantly launching toward me to strike and bit me

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

This phobia of snakes haunted me throughout my childhood. That is until a conversation in college opened my eyes to the meaning of this dream. The snake was symbolic of the Devil whom I spent a lifetime running away from in fear like a coward. The Holy Spirit was calling me to confront this fear with the knowledge of the promise in the passage above. When Christians begin to pray for and claim a spirit of power, love and self-discipline, you will eventually become undisturbed by fear.

by Jay Mankus

The Reward

Rewards are given in recognition of one’s achievement, effort or service. When I was a child, television visually portrayed reward as a treasure chest filled with gold coins at the end of a rainbow. As a former competitive athlete, I longed to reach the medal stand, settling for a bronze in the Delaware State High School Swimming Championships. Yet, with each new calendar year, records are erased as everyone starts fresh with a clean slate.

But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out], Hebrews 11:6.

The Bible eludes to an eternal reward. The author of Hebrews takes this one step further, pointing to the Rewarder. The context of this passage is the Hall of Faith, spiritual heroes who left their legacy and mark during their lifetime. Faith is the invisible force which separates an average Christian from a generational leader. Regardless of how hopeless a situation may be, fixing your eyes on the cross of Christ during the marathon called life is crucial to receiving God’s reward.

Blessed (happy, [c]to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him, James 1:12.

The earthly brother of Jesus provides another perspective of this reward. James lays out the requirements that are necessary to receive the crown of life. The apostle Paul confirms how you get started on this journey, Romans 10:9-11. Yet, to get from the start to the finish line, you’ll need “the Eye of the Tiger.” James 1:2-4 details the qualities that you must develop and possess along the way. Like training for the Olympics, discipline will carry you all the way home, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

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

A Deep and Clear Knowledge of God’s Will

The only thing on earth comparable to uncovering a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is preparing your body for a triathlon. As a former runner and swimmer, I spent two winters in high school pushing my body to it’s limits. Since my practice schedule rotated with the girl’s team, every other day I would run before swimming. As it got colder, my hair would freeze when I ran after my two hour swim practice. Meanwhile, each summer I would take my boys on long bike trip, somewhere between 10-15 miles. Trying to walk after getting off your bike is hard enough, but finishing a triathlon with a long run takes everything you have just to finish.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. 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 12:1-2.

In a letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul suggests that discovering God’s will for your life is attainable. However, you must develop the right mindset to make this a reality. Whenever I get lost in the world, filled with countless temporary pleasures, God’s will is put on hold. As a prodigal returns back home to the Lord, rededicating your life back to the Lord isn’t easy, especially when temptations begin to bombard you. Paul compares this with rigid daily disciplines as individuals offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Yet, this is just the initially step before God’s will becomes clear and visible.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things—Colossians 1:9.

While writing to the members of the Church at Colosse, Paul shares a brief outline of his prayers. Paul doesn’t want this church to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years like Israel waiting to enter God’s Promised Land. Rather, Paul wants these leaders to begin to ascertain their spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, so that these talents can be put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6. As these God given abilities are brought to light, a glimpse of God’s will for your life comes into focus. Yet, this process often takes years, decades and a lifetime to uncover. If you want to adopt Paul’s prayer for your own life, start this journey today so that a deep and clear knowledge of God’s will is unveiled to you soon.

by Jay Mankus

When You Don’t Have the Strength to Carry On…

Michael W. Smith-Live And Learn – YouTube

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul had his own battle with an illness. Instead fighting off the remnants of the Coronavirus, Paul was ravaged by a messenger from Satan. Apparently, Paul was inflicted by a thorn in his flesh, perhaps a splinter became infected. Based upon the context of the passage below, this condition persisted for a number of months if not longer. Some scholars have suggested that Paul is referring to some sort of demonic oppression that began to wear down his emotional and physical strength.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

I was first introduced to today’s two passages by my high school swim coach. Since I only joined the swim team to stay in shape for cross country, I struggled to finish every practice. When you’re running and you trip, you can stop for a moment to retie your laces. However, when your in the middle of a pool, out of breath and tired, you have to keep swimming until you reach the other end. Through my first two years, I only completed a handful of practices. Yet, when I began to take Coach Horne’s advice, Christ became my strength when I was exhausted in the pool.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.

During my sophomore year of high school, my coach also introduced me to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Instead of just being relating this concept to swimming, I learned to apply the Bible to life. While not everyone in these monthly Bible Studies were genuine believers, I tried to become like a sponge, soaking in as much as I could. I guess the best approach to take about implementing the Bible into you life is using the message from Michael W. Smith’s 1989, Live and Learn. No one is ever a completed or finished project. Rather, each day provides opportunities to live and to learn when you don’t have the strength to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

The Smallest Level of Faith is Hope

Martin Seligman’s research on learned helplessness was a inspired by a study using laboratory rats. In this particular experiment, rats were placed into water for an extended period of time. After ten minutes of fervently swimming to stay alive, the rats began to give up, drowning. A second experiment was launched to focus on learned helplessness. This time rats were removed from the water after 9 minutes, each were dried off and given food before repeating this process. The second time these rats fought for 15 minutes and the third they remained swimming for half an hour.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself,] Ephesians 2:8-9.

A series of parables shared by Jesus became etched into the mind of a first century doctor. Three particular stories inspired an entire chapter, Luke 15. The common element of these 3 parables is the length at which God will go out of his way to rescue the lost. Whether you have gone astray like a lost sheep, misplaced a valuable possession, or have chosen to go your own way like the prodigal son, God is waiting with open arms to welcome you back. If God can save undeserving sinners of the past, there’s no reason not to believe that God won’t save you or me either.

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5.

The message of salvation provides a glimmer of hope for the faithless. Just like the rats who were rescued from the water in the experiment above, God sent Jesus to seek and save those who are lost, Luke 19:10. Prior to hope entering your life, doubt resides within most minds, taking control over your thought life. Therefore, the smallest level of faith is hope, Hebrews 11:1-6. Since you have to start some where, allow hope to enable you to overcome learned helplessness.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

When Did Your Ministry Begin?

During his Sunday broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Jentezen Franklin told stories of visiting his grandfather as child. Growing up in a family of musicians and preachers enabled Jentezen to develop ministry skills prior to becoming a teenager. These experiences sowed a desire within Jentezen to become a pastor. Looking back, this is where his ministry was conceived. Shortly after listening to this sermon, I received a text informing me that my spiritual mentor Ken Horne had passed away. This news led me to ponder, when and where did my ministry begin.

And Peter answered them, Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38.

As an individual with an addictive personality, when I accepted Jesus into my heart in December of my sophomore year, it taken take long for me to become a Jesus freak. This spiritual pursuit began attending Fellowship of Christian Athlete huddle at Concord High, led by my swim coach Ken Horne. Afraid of stuttering, I spent the next year listening, absorbing everything that I heard. From here I started attending a Methodist youth group, experienced my first Lay Witness Mission revival weekend and went on as many Christians retreats as possible. Several of these moments involved Ken, delegating to me various leaderships roles as my faith grew.

Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent (to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins), Acts 17:30.

While in college, Ken gave me my first opportunity to preach. This weekend in Friendship, Maryland was like having all the stars align in my favor. Beside having an amazing time and connecting with several young people, my stuttering disappeared. Whenever I opened my mouth, the Holy Spirit spoke through me as a vessel for God. My friend Maureen had passed away the previous year from cancer so the message God put on my heart was “It’s Time to Stop Playing Games by Getting Right with God.” At the end of my message I played the song Feel the Nails by Ray Boltz. Before the song concluded, several members of this church ran to the altar. This one event in 1990 cemented my calling and it was here where my ministry began.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: